Reviews: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

Shorts: Bedtime Story

Bedtime Story is a powerful bit of flash fiction, showing the winding down of humanity after a devastating plague. We see the decline of a small town and a deep friendship beyond death. It’s filled with tragedy and a longing for a home that’s gone.

BEDTIME STORY

James Sallis
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August 2018

Spoiler

STORY

I’m always in awe of authors who can pack so much into such a small space. The story shows the aftermath of a plague by going building by building through a small town, discussing the decay and the vibrant community it once was. We follow a man come home to retrieve his lost friend. Their bond in death is just as strong as it was in life, and there’s a deep tragedy to this man and his resignation at the end of the world. The final paragraph is a brilliant conclusion, acting as a foreboding prophecy for the downfall of humanity.


CHARACTERS

The main character doesn’t say much, but we know this friendship provides the central meaning to his life. The town respects him as is evidenced by the few survivors he comes across. There’s no drama, no heartbroken tear, he simply says hello, finds his friend and drives away. You can sense the underlying emotion, especially in his willingness to take his friend’s body after he’s died of what I assume is a very contagious plague. It’s powerful to see a friendship that strong.


SETTING

We see small town America, rundown after the decline of government, commerce and population. A diner remains open, barely running on steam. Storefronts are boarded up, streets unclean, nobody walking about. A rundown house acts as a makeshift hospital. It’s not far from the truth for a lot of small towns that have been drying up over the past few decades. One sees the tragedy of small town life when the majority of your friends and neighbors have left you behind.


CONCEPTS

Apocalypse, Virus, Aliens, Plague

Interested in more stories like Bedtime Story? Check out more reviews in our The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction section.

Photo by Christopher Windus on Unsplash

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