I found the seed of this story in an odd little remnant of a dream. In the dream, I opened my door and discovered a small faceless doll at my feet. I bent to pick it up and just as I turned it over, I abruptly woke. The rest of the dream was lost forever, but that image stuck with me all day–the colors bleak and muted, and the weight of people’s eyes on me, even though I was alone at my door. It became the prompt for “When the Slipling Comes to Call.” While I wrote it, I was thinking a lot about the ways in which large groups of people can be controlled with different types of fear, how compliant we can become to all sorts of atrocities in the name of “not making trouble” or “being a good citizen” or because “it’s always been this way.” I wanted (and maybe even needed) to see someone overcome that. Against the backdrop of larger national and global unrest, so many of us also live personal revolutions every day just by continuing to exist and persist, despite pervasive systematic biases and abuses. Those personal revolutions add up, so I felt it was important to make Madeline a person who had played by the old fear-based rules right up until she decided to resist–even if she failed against the Slipling, I felt she’d won something just by changing her outlook and trying to change the system.
When the Slipling Comes to Call
by N.R. Lambert
She rises. The ache of eons and a cold night brittle her bones. She cracks them one at a time, and sometimes all at once, like tree branches snapping in an ice storm. The stone floor of the hovel is chilled with October’s first frost, but it doesn’t bother her, her feet never need touch the floor. She hovers over it, knotted fingers dragging tangles of dark hair from her face and eyes.
Her slick black tongue flicks the melting frost from her flaky gray lips as she goes about gathering the scraps of bone, hair, and skin she needs to make her Littles. One by one, she stuffs them with dead leaves and other rot. She ties off the dollies’ necks with gut string, then tops each Little with a smooth clay head–the vessel–blank faces reflecting nothing of their fates or those of the ones to whom they’re tied.
The Slipling fills her basket. (Continue Reading…)