I’ve only written two stories where I finished them and went, “I’m going to sell this.” As a writer, you live for those moments – it must be what Babe Ruth felt like when he pointed to the bleachers and smashed the run.
One of them was “As Below, So Above,” which was picked up by Beneath Ceaseless Skies and was later made into a PodCastle audio production. The other was this story: “‘Run,’ Bakri Says,” perhaps the most powerful story I’ve ever written. It’s certainly the only story to get a “Recommended” from Lois Tilton over at Locus, a notably tough reviewer who’s slammed some of my previous work. (Writing a tale that impressed her was one of my minor goals for this year, so I’m especially proud.)
This story is about a girl and her mad scientist, terrorist, time-travelling brother. It starts like this:
“I just want to know where my brother is,” Irena yells at the guards. The English words are thick and slow on her tongue, like honey. She holds her hands high in the air; the gun she’s tucked into the back of her pants jabs at her spine.
She doesn’t want to kill the soldiers on this iteration; she’s never killed anyone before, and doesn’t want to start. But unless she can get poor, weak Sammi out of that prison in the next fifty/infinity minutes, they’ll start in on him with the rubber hoses and he’ll tell them what he’s done. And though she loves her brother with all her heart, it would be a blessing then if the Americans beat him to death.
The guards are still at the far end of the street, just before the tangle of barbed wire that bars the prison entrance. Irena stands still, lets them approach her, guns out. One is a black man, the skin around his eyes creased with a habitual expression of distrust; a fringe of white hair and an unwavering aim marks him as a career man. The other is a younger man, squinting nervously, his babyfat face the picture of every new American soldier. Above them, a third soldier looks down from his wooden tower, reaching for the radio at his belt.
She hopes she won’t get to know them. This will be easier if all they do is point guns and yell. It’ll be just like Sammi’s stupid videogames.
“My brother,” she repeats, her mouth dry; it hurts to raise her arms after the rough surgery Bakri’s done with an X-acto knife and some fishing line. “His name is Sammi Daraghmeh. You rounded him up last night, with many other men. He is — “
Their gazes catch on the rough iron manacle dangling from her left wrist. She looks up, remembers that Bakri installed a button on the tether so she could rewind, realizes the front of her cornflower-blue abayah is splotched with blood from her oozing stitches.
“Wait.” She backs away. “I’m not — “
The younger soldier yells, “She’s got something!” They open fire. Something tugs at her neck, parting flesh; another crack, and she swallows her own teeth. She tries to talk but her windpipe whistles; her body betrays her, refusing to move as she crumples to the ground, willing herself to keep going. Nothing listens.
This is death, she thinks. This is what it’s like to die.
This story is in the latest issue of Asimov’s, available at many fine bookstores – or, if you have no bookstore available, you can purchase the latest issue for your Kindle for a mere $2.99.
And I feel so strongly about this story that I’ll do something I’ve done for only one other tale – if you buy this because you read the excerpt here and don’t like it, I’ll give you your money back. That’s right; $2.99 in your pocket if you think it stinks. I did that for “A Window, Clear As A Mirror” and had no takers, and I’m pretty sure this won’t disappoint anyone.
Anyway, take a look.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.