Content note: Enslavement.
One thing I love about digging through journal archives is finding stories that feel specifically pertinent and present. Reading Russo’s story in the UK in fall 2020, in the wake of the British government deciding, no, actually, it doesn’t need to bother with feeding children during school breaks and holidays, the opening lines of the story hit with a special punch:
“If, as it is stated in the Code of Padrel the Great, that eating is no crime, then it follows by corollary that neither is feeding a criminal offense.”
When a forgotten punishment vault is discovered, revealing prisoners who have been sealed up for a thousand years, undying and crying out for food, Fonell, Canly, Vamma and the others are all faced with the question: What do you do? When Onjar says “You want to call the bloody government in? What’ll they do?”, it’s hard for both them and me, as the reader, not to agree. Fonell calls in his lawyer from Zerna, and Zerna is the one quoting Padrel. And then everything spills over into a dramatic conflagration of the importance of family, the value of a human being, and the fact that “No life is insignificant.”
This was a hard read, a good story. Really good. Chilling and bitter and hopeful and everything in between.