Prior to this issue of BCS, I had not read anything by Aliya Whiteley. But after reading this excellent story—perhaps the creepiest tale I’ve read since Megan Arkenberg’s “All In Green Went My Love Riding” in Asimov’s last year—I’ll be primed to read whatever she publishes next.
“The Spoils” takes place on a world plagued for generations by creatures collectively called the Olme, the latest of which may be the last of its kind. To touch any part of an Olme, even once its dead, marks a person with a foul stench nothing can wash away no matter how long the person lives. Whiteley’s story depicts a gruesome ritual in which various people—for example, the man who first encountered the dying creature—are presented with the eye, or a toenail, or some other part of the Olme. In describing the effects such “gifts” have on the people who receive them, Whiteley also gives us a vivid description of a bifurcated society—some surface dwellers, others cave dwellers—which the existence of the Olme apparently helped create.
If you’re a fan of horror stories—and even if you’re not—I think you’ll like this story.