The Animal Women: by Alix E. Harrow

“Something beautiful and wild and red-toothed woke up in us. And we were not nothing anymore.”

As a young man I only ever identified years by their accompanying pop culture tags - 1968 was the year of the Beatles' White Album and Where Eagles Dare and Disch's Camp Concentration; later and older with it, I gleaned a little of history and politics and 1968 became the year of the Paris uprising, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and the founding of the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland. The year changed from one of pop culture tags to body bags. Lately I had the pleasure to read Alix Harrow's story, The Animal Women, and 1968 changed again.

Young Candis falls into the company of a group of women living in a cabin on the edge of the woods. While the locals see only their colour, she sees their shapes, shapes which she attempts to capture on camera, but which are declined even by her light meter. The women register on the townsfolk only in relation to the racial strife which continues to creep across America as the year progresses. We are privy to it as a school year, and Candis is made extra-curricular by events beyond her control as she learns that the wounds these women bear have healed as more than themselves, as though they have fashioned the weals and welts into weapons of a feral kind. In a text which transforms adjectives into body doubles, Candis is placed in danger by her association wth the animal women, and learns herself how to fashion her wounds thus.

The Animal Women can be read at the Strange Horizons website in two parts, here and here.

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