royalty-free-writing-clipart-illustration-1146779This novelette appeared in Lightspeed, 04-2014.

Gravity reverses so that things fall into the sky. Even the moon is pushed away so it goes into orbit around the sun. People and things fly off into space. Toby has just broken up with his girlfriend Sophie, and the upturned world seems to be symbolic. Toby saves his girlfriend’s goldfish Bubbles and Dawnie, a little girl from a swing set near his house. They set off to deliver Bubbles, tied together with a rope, clinging to things and seeing various other survivors of the disaster. They stay a while with two women who are making a rope ladder to explore the universe. Dawnie leaves with the women and Toby goes on and finds Sophie. When they fail to patch things up, Toby becomes Bubbles for a moment, trapped in a Seven-up bottle. Going to the bath to get aspirin for Sophie, Toby finds her dead lover. He takes Bubbles to a nearby hanging lake and sets him free. Watching Bubbles, Toby realizes that up and down is just a matter of perspective. Headed home, he stops at the women’s house and climbs down their rope ladder into nothingness.

I like the allegory here. It’s something mostly shutout of this year’s crop of nominees. Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a young Dutch writer and the translation doesn’t quite make this into smooth, contemporary English. The slight awkwardness is a shame, as it’s a very well-done story. Four stars.