Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No. 9)

In reviews,

“There’s something wrong with the sky. Don’t slow down. Don’t stop. Please, don’t stop.”

Easter and Chaz are on the run, and they’re being followed by a red light in the sky.

It’s hard to say more about this story. Much of it takes place inside Chaz’s head. We find out that they murdered two people – Chaz did the deed, and Easter was the seemingly unwilling accessory. They are driving away from the scene of the crime in the dead of night. The story takes place in disjointed flashes between the road and the farmhouse where the couple were murdered.

It’s when I read stories like this that I wonder how much the formatting on the Kindle app actually corresponds with the author’s intention. In this case, it does seem that she wanted it to be one long paragraph. The effect is harrowing, reminding me of Franz Kafka’s The Castle (which I only finished half of) and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Chaz is very at peace with himself, but Easter is driven by guilt.

I suppose the red light symbolises her conscience rather than a drone, and Easter’s name must mean something. When she kills herself, this dream-like night ends in spirit if not in truth. Perhaps the red light is God, and Easter’s death is some kind of ironic contrast between Jesus dying by God’s word to save humanity, and Easter dying by ‘God’s word to… assuage her guilt? It feels as though her character truly dies back in the kitchen when Chaz unexpectedly slits the couple’s throats, and that only her shocked shell has been accompanying him through the night.

Shallow literary analysis aside, I enjoyed the psychological journey of this story, even if I didn’t really understand it. Whisper Road (Murder Ballad No. 9) is by Caitlín R. Kiernan, first published as part of her anthology Dinosaur Tourist. I read this in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Eleven, edited by Jonathan Strahan.