Original Short story: All That We Carry, All That We Hold

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by Damien Angelica Walters

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Damien Angelica Walters’ short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in various anthologies and magazines, including The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2015, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume One, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, and Apex. “The Floating Girls: A Documentary,” originally published in Jamais Vu, is on the 2014 Bram Stoker Award ballot for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction.
Sing Me Your Scars, a collection of her short fiction, is out now from Apex Publications, and Paper Tigers, a novel, is forthcoming from Dark House Press. You can find her on Twitter @DamienAWalters or online at http://damienangelicawalters.com.

 

I.

My father carried me away from the monsters when I was six.

People milled about, laughing and shouting and clapping, and the sugary smell of cotton candy filled the air, the sweetness tainted by the press of so many bodies. Off to the side sat a carousel and Ferris wheel, both creaking and clacking like old soldiers’ bones, their tinny music bouncing in the spaces between the voices and chaos.

My father propped me on his hip and wove his way through the crowd to the front. The day was warm, but not hot, and I pressed my face into his shoulder, breathing in the smell of his shirt — the scent of Teddy after he took a bath in the washing machine — while the people around us smelled of frenzy, unpredictability, danger.

We moved slowly while people jostled us this way and that, but eventually we came to a stop and he turned me around so I could see. There, the monsters.

They weren’t real monsters, but I was six, and the huge metal shapes appeared as such. The metal was sleek, the ships streamlined, silvery-blue arrowheads glittering in the bright sun. The windows resembled angry eyes; the open hatches on the side, waiting mouths. People filed in and out, smiling faces all, but their smiles, their teeth, were too big.

My father’s voice was soft as he whispered close to my ear: “Look at the ships, babygirl, look at the ships. And we get to go inside and see them first.”

I couldn’t find the words to tell him I was afraid the ships would gobble us up if we went inside, gobble us up and carry us away to some strange place where there were no Teddies or toy trains or Daddies to keep me safe. Instead, I tried to be brave because Daddy was so excited, but I couldn’t. I squirmed in his arms, squeezed my eyes shut, and the tears rushed out, hot and unstoppable.

“It’s okay,” he said. “It’s okay, babygirl. We don’t have to go in. We don’t. I promise.”

END EXCERPT

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