The unnamed narrator and others have to leave when they came. She (or he?) takes her pet canaries and as much seed as she can carry. Others, she notes, takes clothes or emergency rations. A woman who had been rich on earth brought a bottle of perfume.
The reader is not told who “they” are, but the narrator says they have killed nearly the entire population of earth and now, they are taking away those few left alive to… somewhere.
The story is sad and creepy. One thinks immediately of a canary in a coal mine, a bird who signals danger to humans by dying, an early warning of trouble to come.
As with her earlier story, “The Interview,” author JR Gershen-Siegel is builds a nice atmospheric little tale from to barest bones. Again, the reader doesn’t know whether the narrator it male or female, nor are there names for any of the characters, let alone the birds. Just the same, the reader can see enough of the world through the narrator’s eyes to see what is going on to make it work.
I found this story more transparent than the earlier one, however, and saw the end coming from a mile away.
According to the author interview in Theme of Absence, JR Gershen-Siegel is a Lambda Literary Award nominee. Her work is published by Riverdale Avenue Books and Writers’ Colony Press. She advises new writers to finish the project in front of them, “even if you think Act III is a mess.”
The story can be read here.
Author: JR Gershen-Siegel
First published: Theme of Absence, March 29, 2019