Review of William Broom, “Kill the Witchman”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 306 (June 18, 2020): read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.
This is a story about the malleability and unreliability of memory. Dumu, the narrator, initially knows neither his name, his past, nor his motives. He is nevertheless in relentless pursuit of the witchman, Ketan, who has the power to implant false memories in anyone’s mind. “This is the power of a witchman: memory is wet clay in his hands. What you remember is what he wishes you to remember, and nothing else.” What Dumu comes to remember is that he is Ketan’s brother and that Ketan’s son, Nazd, is his much-loved nephew. But are these “facts” true, Dumu wonders, or false memories implanted by the witchman? This question—What is real?—is one readers must grapple with, too. It makes the story a somewhat frustrating read, since nothing in it can be taken at face value. Yet Broom is a talented writer and his story forces readers to confront the slipperiness of our own memories and what that implies about our own perception of reality.