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As he’d done on every morning since Barícolé’s curse fell upon the city, he first looked to the window on the opposite side of the street. Dark and empty, it brought a familiar worry about Galvea. They’d been friends all their lives. He couldn’t remember a day in those twelve years they hadn’t spent at least in part together — until recently. As he rubbed the blear from his eyes, the bellcart called again and fear chased away his drowsiness. Fear always followed the questioning bell.
Enoch reached for the silver handbell resting on the windowsill. Everyone knew by now: answer as soon as you hear. This was the only way to reckon the living from the soon-to-be-dead, because those unable to answer never had very long before they withered down to near nothing.
Again the approaching bell. Cling.
Enoch answered. Ting. From his parents’ room came two more replies. Ting. Ting. This had become the rhythm of their lives.
Cling. Ting. Ting. Ting.
The not-knowing was just as terrible to Enoch three months into the curse as it had been on the first night. At each ringing not knowing his answer to the question issuing from the metal of the bell. Waiting for the reassuring sound of his reply. And then the vacuum in which he waited to know his parents’ answers. The darkened window across the street was worst of all, never knowing whether Galvea’s handbell rang.
The Questioning Bell – Jason Baltazar
The Early History of the Moon – Karolina Fedyk
Ways to Face the Firing Squad – Anna Zumbro
Heartwood – L. Chan
Q: What’s your favorite story?
A: Just one favorite short story? I don’t want to dodge the question—but there are so many short stories that had changed me and made my world bigger, having to pick one is just cruel. However, when I’m thinking of a favorite story now, the first one that comes to my mind is “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” by Octavia E. Butler. Butler’s writing is precise and ruthless; she doesn’t spare her readers. And why would she, if she’s about to tell a story of sickness and depersonalization? But ruthlessness itself isn’t what makes this story so powerful—it’s Butler’s empathy and understanding for, and of, the world she created.
Karolina Fedyk’s story “The Early History of the Moon” will be published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 19 May 2017. Subscribe to our e-mail updates so you’ll know when new stories go live.
Jason Baltazar is Salvadoran American, originally from the Appalachian corner of Maryland. He currently lives with his wife and cat in Lawrence, Kansas, where he is a graduate student at the University of Kansas.
Jason Baltazar’s story “The Questioning Bell” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 26 May 2017. Subscribe to our e-mail updates so you’ll know when new stories go live.
Q: What is your favorite fairy tale and why?
A: When I was younger, I read a collection of different tellings of “Beauty and the Beast.” I’ve always been fascinated by that story (and, especially, by the library in the Disney version).