Beneath Ceaseless Skies #107, November 1, 2012

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #107, November 1, 2012

Reviewed in this issue are:

“After Compline, Silence Falls” by M. Bennardo
“They Make of You a Monster” by Damien Walters Grintalis

Perhaps it is only fitting that we should have darker tales at this time of the year. Both stories in this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies involve death and dying in ways that court the horrific.

“After Compline, Silence Falls,” by M. Bennardo tells the story of an isolated Trappist monastery with a very strict abbot. Between their vows and the monastery’s isolated location, the brothers have few options when they are visited by a witiko, a creature that was once human, but resorted to cannibalism. After that, the more it eats, the hungrier and more brutal it becomes. Of course, the brothers don’t realize that the witiko is among them until they start experiencing unusual events. In one instance, the skeleton of a resident mouser cat shows up in a barley bin that has less grain in it than it should. Eventually, the brothers have to confront the witiko and contemplate whether or not their own sins might lead them down a similar path.

Mr. Bennardo has given us a tale rich with the details of monastic life. His characters are believable; their challenges are commensurate with their abilities; and, the revelation they share at the end of the tale is in keeping with what one might expect from such a community.

Damien Walters Grintalis’ hero, Isabel, is a strong and determined young woman. Unfortunately, she’s not strong enough to change her fate. “They Make of You a Monster” follows Isabel through her punishment for doing the forbidden – practicing magic. After restraining herself when her father died, Isabel acted out of instinct when her lover, Ayleth, was in peril. Isabel’s actions saved Ayleth’s life but at a cost greater than could be imagined. Under the auspices of an evil King, Healers torture magicians and change them so that their magic does the opposite of what it originally did. As others are brought into the dungeon, Isabel witnesses the Healers’ cruelty and sees the outcome of their “healing.”

The story Ms. Grintalis shares here is potent and made me curious about exactly what had been done to Isabel to make of her a monster. Though we never see all of the gory details, enough is described that perhaps what isn’t is better left to the imagination. In the end, Isabel is faced with a choice that, considering her circumstances, she can’t be blamed for making.

A version of this review appears on the Tangent Online website.

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