On International Women’s Day, several of the best writers in SF/F today reveal new stories inspired by the phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted”, raising their voice in response to a phrase originally meant to silence.
The stories publish on Tor.com all throughout the day of March 8th. They are collected here.
She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted. As she stood over the god taped down to the kitchen table, Caroline knew this was the only way to win Hyeon’s attention.
“Watch me,” she said to Hyeon, who leaned against the counter on the opposite wall, her eyes glittering. “Don’t look away.”
All of Hyeon’s eyes blinked slowly, in a concentric pattern. How beautiful, thought Caroline. Hyeon was a god: sharp, lean, and bright with power, nothing like Caroline’s small god, whose restrained limbs trembled against the wooden tabletop. “You’ll regret doing this,” said Hyeon. Her voice was quiet, but it rang hard in Caroline’s ears. “The two of you are bonded.”
Caroline hated having been chosen by a small god, whose presence was so quiet that most people forgot she was there. “I don’t want her,” she told Hyeon. “I want you. Let me prove it to you.”
Watch me, she thought. Not the rest of my family. Not my cousin Jinny, who you love so much. Tonight, look only at me.
Her mother’s cleaver was a familiar weight in Caroline’s hand, and she used it to crack the hard, woody shell enclosing the small god’s body. The small god cried out, muffled by tape over her mouth. An oversweet odor spilled out between Caroline’s fingers.
She fought off the nausea and childhood memories of hiding in her god’s arms during thunderstorms, burying her face against the soft moss growing across the god’s skin, breathing in that damp flower scent.
She glanced up. Hyeon’s eyes seared into hers. But she didn’t tell Caroline to stop.
Caroline was already bonded. But Hyeon was about to choose a human companion. If Caroline could have Hyeon, then maybe her family would realize that she was worth just as much as Jinny.
Caroline prized the hard edge of the skin away from the small god’s body, revealing the fluttering, glistening flesh beneath. God blood clung to her gloves and started to eat through them, releasing a sharp, medicinal scent. With each new cut, Caroline’s own skin ached and throbbed.
She dug with the knife, her heart burning, and the god beneath her sobbed.
There. A soft, pearlescent bubble, nestled at the base of the small god’s throat. Power and light sang through its membrane. An offering worthy of an unclaimed god.
When she cut it away, the small god gasped and went still. The world blinked out. Pain and emptiness gaped in Caroline’s chest, and she cried out, dropping the knife. Memory swallowed her. She was a child again, and a strange new god, small, mossy-skinned, and beautiful, was perched on her windowsill. It smiled gently at her.
My name, said the small god, is Nara. And I have chosen you, Caroline, because I believe you are special.
When Caroline came to, she was on the floor in tears, the small god’s brightest part clenched in her fist.
Hyeon was gone. On the table, Nara’s remains were already crumbling into dust.
Alyssa Wong studies fiction in Raleigh, NC, and really, really likes crows. She was a finalist for the 2016 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her story, “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” won the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Short Story and the 2016 World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize, the Bram Stoker Award, the Locus Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award. Her work has been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Nightmare Magazine, Black Static, and Tor.com, among others. Alyssa can be found on Twitter as @crashwong.