Witch of the Weave
by Henry Szabranski
I’ve recently discovered that Clarkesworld magazine’s back issues are available online for free, including podcast form. I’m not usually an audiobook fan just because I prefer to have the text in front of me. But it’s a personal goal this year to read more short fiction. Cozying up in bed at the end of a long day and listening to a full story that’s only an hour long (or less) has become a treat that I really look forward to! You can read or listen to this story in its entirety here.
In Witch of the Weave, we meet Skink and Percher, siblings who are struggling to eek out survival. They used to live in the Motherman, complete with luxuries like a library and a tribe of family members who loved them.
But after the razorbugs wrought a slew of destruction, they abandoned the shelter of the Motherman’s body and were launched into a foreign world beyond the mists. Now they must rely on only each other within the weave – giant tubes that provide both passage and shelter.
Skink is young though, with debilitating headaches and twisted feet she can’t walk on. Percher either carries her or she must swing through the weave.
Then Skink and Percher are woken by a surprise visitor. It turns out they’re not the only ones left alive in the world. But when these visitors find out what Skink can do with her mind and the weave, they treat her with wariness.
Witch, they call her. Patternmaker.
Skink has a special extra sense about the weave. There’s a living intention and purpose out there among the massive tubes. Elusive. Hard to grasp but she can feel it. But Skink is young, naive. She has no idea that the thing, the creature living in the weave is like a black widow spider, crouched and waiting to pounce on the patterns locked away within Skink’s brain.
The imaginative world-building in this short story was fantastic and awe-inspiring. Every single second of the story is packed with action, from start to finish. There is never a dull moment where you’re left yawning. At the very first line, you’re dropped into the weave alongside Skink and Percher, fighting to survive in a strange, foreign world.
Though the beginning starts out with a pretty grim overview of the world and it’s desolation, the ending provides a glimmer of hope that there might be even more strange and unusual worlds to explore, just waiting for you on the horizon.
What is some of your favorite world-building you’ve ever read? Let me know in the comments!