Shades Within Us: Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders

Shades Within Us: Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders

Shades Within Us: Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders

Shades Within Us: Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders


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Recommended by Booklist, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Locus, and Foreword Reviews.

Journey with twenty-one speculative fiction authors through the fractured borders of human migration to examine the dreams, struggles, and triumphs of those who choose or are forced to leave home and familiar places.


An American father shields his son from Irish discrimination. A Chinese foreign student wrestles to safeguard her family at the expense of her soul. A college graduate is displaced by technology. A Nigerian high school student chooses between revenge and redemption. A bureaucrat parses the mystery of Taiwanese time travellers. A defeated alien struggles to assimilate into human culture. A Czechoslovakian actress confronts the German WWII invasion. A child crosses an invisible border wall. And many more.

Stories that transcend borders, generations, and cultures. Each is a glimpse into our human need in face of change: to hold fast to home, to tradition, to family; and yet to reach out, to strive for a better life.

Featuring Original Stories by Vanessa Cardui, Elsie Chapman, Kate Heartfield, S.L. Huang, Tyler Keevil, Matthew Kressel, Rich Larson, Tonya Liburd, Karin Lowachee, Seanan McGuire, Brent Nichols, Julie Nováková, Heather Osborne, Sarah Raughley, Alex Shvartsman, Amanda Sun, Jeremy Szal, Hayden Trenholm, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Christie Yant & Alvaro Zinos-Amaro.

Introduction by Eric Choi and Gillian Clinton

Edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law

The anthologies in this series (Strangers Among Us, The Sum of Us, Where the Stars Rise, Shades Within Us) have been recommended by Publishers Weekly, Booklist (American Library Association), Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Locus, Foreword Reviews, and Quill & Quire.

Praise for Shades Within Us

"Addresses issues surrounding migration and borders at a very poignant moment in history . . . despite being speculative, many of these stories read like they were ripped from present-day headlines . . . this collection do a great job of asking readers not only to reflect on their own lives but also to consider the lives of others." —Booklist

“An engaging collection of poignant travel through time and space. Highly recommended for its breadth of stories that look at having to leave home-or discover it.” —Library Journal

“An intriguing addition to short story collections.” —School Library Journal

"With each story, the authors expand their settings and reality into a universe of broader potential to make sense of the tensions that plague the twenty-first century. Even as they represent foreign existences, the problems remain the same—family, love, belonging, identity, survival . . . take a fresh approach to their subjects and conjure terrifying futures brought on by climate change, greed, and corruption of power. Political and daring, this collection adds to the future imagined by Philip K. Dick, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, and Aldous Huxley." —Foreword Reviews

"Shades Within Us is a timely collection that invites us to ask whether we still do (or still should) live in a space of national borders and national definitions of identity. It invites us to use our speculative imagination to think through new ways of understanding selfhood in relation to the borders, boxes, and categories that are placed around us." —Speculating Canada

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781988140056
Publisher: Laksa Media Groups Inc.
Publication date: 09/08/2018
Series: Laksa Anthology Series: Speculative Fiction
Pages: 408
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.91(d)

About the Author

Seanan McGuire is a Campbell, Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award winning author of the Wayward Children series, the October Daye urban fantasy series, the InCryptid series, and other works. She also writes darker fiction as Mira Grant. Seanan lives in Seattle with her cats, a vast collection of creepy dolls, and horror movies, and sufficient books to qualify her as a fire hazard. Keep up with her at, or on Twitter as @seananmcguire.

Susan Forest is a three-time Prix Aurora Award finalist for short fiction and a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her novel (Bursts of Fire), the first in a seven-volume epic fantasy series, the Addicted to Heaven Saga, will be out in 2019 from Laksa Media, followed by Flights of Marigolds. Her collection of short fiction, Immunity to Strange Tales, was published by Five Rivers Publishing. She has published over 25 short stories which have appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and OnSPEC Magazine, among others. Susan has co-edited three anthologies (Aurora Award winning Strangers Among Us, The Sum of Us, Shades Within Us) on social issue-related themes with Lucas K. Law. Susan is the past Secretary for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

Lucas K. Law is Malaysian-born freelance editor and published author who divides his time and heart between Calgary and Qualicum Beach. With Susan Forest, he co-edits Aurora Award winning Strangers Among Us, The Sum of Us, and Shades Within Us. Lucas is the co-editor of Where the Stars Rise with Derwin Mak. He has been a jury member for a number of fiction competitions including Nebula, RITA and Golden Heart Awards. When he isn't editing, writing, or reading, he is a corporate and non-profit organization consultant in business planning and development.

Read an Excerpt



Rich Larson

Girasol watches as her mother shakes the entanglers out onto the hotel bed. They are small and spiny. They remind her of the purple sea urchins she was hunting in the netgame she can't play anymore, because they had to take the chips out of their phones and crush them with a metal rolling pin before they left Las Cruces.

She is not sure she will be able to swallow one. It makes her nervous.

Her mother plucks the first entangler off the bedspread and peers at it. Her mouth is all tight, how it was when they checked in and the clerk passed her the little plastic bag.

"Peanut butter or grape jelly?" she asks, because she took a fistful of condiment packets from the breakfast room.


Her mother peels the packet open and rolls the entangler inside, globbing it in pale purple. Girasol takes it in her hand, getting her fingers sticky, and stares down at it. Ten points, she thinks. She puts it in her mouth.

She gags it back up. It pokes in her throat and she thinks she can feel it squirming a little, like it is alive. Her eyes start to water.

"Squeeze your thumb in your fist when you do it," her mother says. "Squeeze hard."

It takes three tries, and when it finally stays down Girasol is gasping and trying not to sob. Her throat is scraped raw. Her mother rubs between her shoulder blades, then takes the second entangler and swallows it. Her face twitches just once. Then she goes back to rubbing Girasol's back.

"My brave girl," she coos. "Brave girl, sunflower. Do you feel it?"

"I don't know. Yes."

For a few moments, Girasol feels only nausea. Then the entangler starts to prickle in her gut. Warmer, warmer.

"You should feel it."

"I do. I feel it."

"It should feel like a little magnet inside your belly."

"I feel it."

Her mother's voice is stretched out like it might snap. "Okay."

* * *

They test the entanglers outside, on the cracked and bubbled tarmac of the parking lot. Emptiness on all sides. Their motel is last in a ragged row of gas stations and stopovers, after which there is only the highway churning away to horizon. In the far far distance, they can see the Wall: a slouching beast of concrete and quickcrete latticed with swaying scaffold. Workers climb up and down it like ants; drones swarm overtop of it like flies.

Girasol has never seen the Wall in real life before. It makes her feel giddy. Her teacher only showed them photos of the Wall in class, and had them draw a picture of it on their smeary-screened school tablets.

While Girasol drew, the teacher stopped over her to ask, in a cheery voice, what her parents thought of the Wall. She gave the answer her mother told her always to give: their country was so good that bad people always wanted to come in and wreck it, because they were jealous, and the Wall was good because it kept them out. Then the teacher asked Fatima, and then Maria, but nobody else.

Girasol is still staring off at the Wall when her mother's charcoal-coloured scarf drops over her eyes. She feels her mother's strong fingers knot it behind her head.

"Count to ten, then try to walk to me."

"In English?" Girasol asks, because she knows the other way, too. She tried to teach it to Brock on the swings, but a supervisor heard and told her it was bad to be a show-off like that.

"However you like."

Girasol plugs her ears so she won't hear her mother's footsteps, and she counts aloud, fast, unodostrescuatro, all the way to ten. When she stops counting, the world is very quiet. She can feel the sun soaking her hair and a breeze kicking up dust against her bare shins.

"Mama?" she calls, even though she knows it is cheating.

Her mother says nothing back; Girasol hears only the distant rumble of autotrucks on the highway.

But in her belly, the entangler twitches. Tugs. Girasol thinks of the silly game they used to play in their apartment, where her mother asks ¿por qué el girasol se llama el girasol? and Girasol pretends not to know and asks why, why, why, and her mother lifts her up and says porque gira gira gira hacia el sol, and while she says it they spin in a dizzy circle, girando like a sunflower searching for the sun.

Girasol turns on her heels, following the tug of the entangler. As she starts to walk, she remembers all the cracks in the tarmac and hopes she will not trip. Step, pause, step. She stretches out her hands as the tug grows stronger. Eventually she touches the rough fabric of her mother's sleeve.

She yanks the scarf down and beams. "Tag, you're it."

Her mother nearly smiles. "They work," she says. "Good."

They take turns with the scarf, practicing over and over, as the sun sinks, turning the dusty sky red and stretching their shadows long and spindly. They learn how to follow the entanglers' subtle twists and turns so they can track each other even moving.

Girasol is taking one last turn with the scarf over her eyes when the entangler in her stomach suddenly bucks and writhes. She thrusts out both hands, but instead of her mother's shirt, she touches something slippery and caked with grime. Her nostrils fill with a smell like summer storms, but stronger and more chemical.

She yanks the scarf down.

The Cheshire Man is tall and pale and bony. His coat looks like it is made of moulting plastic, layers on dust-caked layers, and he wears a wide-brimmed hat. His eyes are set deep in shadows like bruises.

"You lied," he says, in a strange buzzing voice. "You said she was older. I don't take children."

Girasol realizes her mother is behind her now, hands gripping her shoulders a little too tight. "She already swallowed the entangler," she says.

"I could take it back out," the Cheshire Man says, and Girasol flinches away, as if he might plunge his long skeletal fingers right into her belly. He looks down at her, then back to her mother. "You understand the risks. She doesn't."

"The risk is we die," Girasol says. Her mother told her that, back before they left Las Cruces.

The Cheshire Man crouches down, folding his long frame uncanny quick, and looks her in the eye. She can see the bones of his face almost poking out his skin. She tries not to be frightened.

"And do you have an impeccable understanding of death, girl?" he asks, in that voice that sounds like he has wasps inside his mouth.

Girasol inhales. "Auntie Maria is dead," she says. "Papa is dead. Daniel and Juanita are dead. If we stay, we will be dead, or be in a build camp."

"What a good little loro you are." The Cheshire Man straightens up, and slides his hands against each other, once, twice. Girasol sees his palms are crisscrossed with scars. "On your head be it," he says, not to her but to her mother. "Come."

He turns and starts to walk, and Girasol sees an old dented van idling on the highway shoulder. She can just make out the moving silhouettes through the window. She walks hand-in-hand with her mother, whose grip is clenched slick, and remembers what loro means right as they arrive at the van. Parrot.

The Cheshire Man hauls the door open, rust screeching on rust. There are men and women huddled inside. Some of the women have scarves around their heads. Some of the men have uncitizen brands on their brown forearms. They all look scared.

Girasol pauses there. "I am not a parrot," she tells the Cheshire Man.

His mouth stretches out in a grin that seems too wide for his face, like it might split in two. "If only you were. You could fly instead of quantum walk."

Her mother nudges her from behind and she climbs inside.

* * *

The van does not drive itself, which seems strange and dangerous to Girasol. The Cheshire Man steers it with the emergency wheel instead. At the same time, he swipes and jabs at the holo display on the dash, which shows swarms of red and green that make no sense to Girasol. He is skyping with three or four different people about windows and satspots and things she has never heard of before, his voice clipped tight as he switches between the calls.

In the back of the van, nobody speaks. A very old woman is trying to swallow her entangler, even as they bounce and jolt along, and Girasol silently shows her to squeeze her thumb inside her fist while she does it. She gets it down before they leave the highway and carve out into the desert. The van's tires plow up dust, and Girasol suspects this is how they are staying hidden from the drones, in this cloud of swirling sand.

The sky outside is dark when they stop. Everyone troops out of the van to stand in a ragged semi-circle, blinking at each other in the gloom. The Wall is even closer now, close enough that Girasol can see the outer fence and the barracks and construction equipment. In all other directions she only sees desert.

She can feel fear mixing up with excitement in her stomach, and she can feel the entanglers, too. Now that there are so many of them, it's like being in a web of invisible cables, all of them stretched taut. She is glad she can still tell which one is her mother's. It pulls a little stronger than the others.

Girasol hears the sound of tearing circuitry and the glug-glug of something being poured; a moment later the sharp smell of gasoline makes her eyes water. The Cheshire Man emerges, wordlessly motioning them backward. There is a dull thump, a whoosh, and the back of the van bursts into crackling flame.

"We will be moving quickly in single file," the Cheshire Man says. "We will stop when I raise my fist. We will go when I lower it."

He strips off his coat and lets it slither to the sand. He is bare-chested underneath it, work coveralls peeled down to his waist.

"Even with the entanglers, your bodies can't handle prolonged exposure. There will be two detours before we can exit a safe distance past the border."

In the harsh firelight, Girasol sees something rust-red and far larger than an entangler rippling in his pale abdomen. He takes off his hat and sets it delicately on the folds of his coat.

The entangler in Girasol's gut starts to writhe, drawing her toward the Cheshire Man. In the corner of her eye, she sees a few other people stumble forward.

Her mother squeezes her hand tight as they shuffle into line. "Ready, sunflower?" she whispers. "Ready, Girasol?"

The Cheshire Man takes two precise steps to the right and stretches out his hand. Girasol blinks hard, because his bony fingers are no longer there, disappearing into the air like he slipped them into his pocket.

"This way," he says, then walks forward and vanishes completely.

The woman at the front of the line gives a strangled cry of surprise. She looks back over her shoulder, murmurs to her family in a language Girasol doesn't know, then follows the Cheshire Man. She disappears.

Girasol's heart is pounding. Her mother told her, back in Las Cruces, about the quantum walk. About the world having different layers that never meet, except for when a man who was maybe not quite a man shredded through them. About the inside-out tunnel they would take. But she hadn't pictured it like this, with the burning van and the stench of scared sweat and people eaten up by the dark one by one.

"I'm not ready," she says. "Mama, I'm not ready. I don't feel brave."

"Me neither," her mother murmurs. "We'll have to do it first, and feel brave later."

The pull of the entangler gets stronger and stronger as the line moves forward, until the man with the wiry beard and nylon jacket in front of them says que Dios nos ayude and steps into nothingness. Girasol closes her eyes, pretending she is back in the parking lot practicing. Clutching her mother's hand behind her back, she steps forward.

* * *

Girasol is underwater, or something like it. Her hair is rippling around her head and she can feel soft pressure against her skin. She opens her eyes and sees blue all around her, a ghostly glowing blue lit by swimming sparks. She takes a sharp startled breath.

There is air, but it feels thick and strange in her mouth, and the Cheshire Man smell is so strong it scorches the back of her throat. It feels like she is standing on something solid, but under her feet she only sees the same glowing blue expanse. Far below her are dark shifting shapes.

The entangler twists in her stomach. She spins, following it, and sees the men and women from the van huddled together, the Cheshire Man towering over them counting heads. But where is her mother? She rubs her hand, where she can still feel the warm imprint of fingers.

One of the men beckons for her; she sees the uncitizen brand pink and shiny on his forearm and wonders how he got the chip out of it and if he crushed it with a rolling pin. She shakes her head at him. She is not going anywhere until her mother appears. She starts to count, unodostrescuatrocinco, fast like her fluttery heart.

On dieciséis, her mother is suddenly standing off to the side. Girasol darts to her, surprised that her feet press against the invisible surface, and seizes both her hands.

"My God," her mother says, looking around. "My God. How do you feel, Sunflower? Do you feel ..." Her mouth fishes open and shut. "Do you feel fine? Oh, my God."

Girasol wants to tell her it looks like they are underwater, like in her netgame where she explores the ocean, but her throat feels all tight so she only nods. They join the others. The Cheshire Man looks different. His arms and legs seem too long and skinny for his body and she can't see his eyes in the shadows of his face.

"Single file," he repeats. "We do not want to create unnecessary ripples."

They start to walk, Girasol in front of her mother so she can swing her hand back and feel her mother's hand if she wants to. A few people murmur to each other, awed whispers, but the Cheshire Man puts a bony finger to his lips and they fall silent. Soon there is no breath to speak besides. The Cheshire Man moves quickly with long jerky steps, and Girasol has to jog to keep her place in line. The very old woman has a limp, but she limps fast.

Girasol wonders about the air that feels so thick and tingly in her lungs. It might have too much CO2 in it, which her teacher said came from cars and factories before she quickly said that America had the very least of it in the whole world, nothing like China where people had to wear hazard suits on the subway.

By the time the Cheshire Man raises his fist for them to stop, they are all panting. The man with the wiry beard is bent double.

"We'll make our first exit here," the Cheshire Man whispers. "Stay quiet. Stay alert." He reaches forward and, with nothing but his long pale hands, makes a tear in the air. Girasol feels her entangler shiver. The Cheshire Man steps through, and everyone hurries after him, the one man still clutching his stomach and grimacing.

Girasol takes a last look at the blue haze, then at her mother, who gives her a nod. She steps through the dark gap and comes out in the normal world, with night sky over her head and dirt under her feet. This time it takes only an instant for her mother to appear beside her. Girasol feels dizzy. She tries to get her bearings: the Wall is still ahead of them, but the exterior fence is behind them. They're in the restricted zone, where border guards are allowed to shoot who they like.

"Down," orders the Cheshire Man's buzzing voice. He is already bellied out in the dirt like a starfish; the others drop down to join him. One of the women is frozen until her companion yanks her arm. Girasol sinks to her stomach. Her mother is on one side of her. The very old woman is on the other.

Girasol hears the sound of a motor approaching. Her hands get sweaty. She can see headlights as the jeep rumbles toward them, and she can hear loud rough voices. She can imagine the men who match them: thick shoulders, bristly faces, black combat rifles strapped to their bodies. She has seen plenty of them in Las Cruces. They are friendly to her, and friendly in the hungry way to her mother.

They would not be friendly now. Girasol clenches her mother's hand as the sound grows louder. The very old woman turns her head just slightly, and gives Girasol a slow wink.

The jeep does not stop. The engine sound fades away, and Girasol, relieved, scrunches up her whole face to wink back.

"Up," says the Cheshire Man. He sets off, bent low, and a few metres later, he vanishes. Then the other men and women, one after another, and Girasol thinks how strange it will look in the dust, all the footprints ending in the same place.

* * *

Girasol's ears are filled with screaming. She fumbles for her mother's hand. Finds it. They are back in the blue, sparks drifting over their heads. Something else is drifting with them, too, and that is what the two women with headscarves are screaming at.

"Don't look, don't look, don't look," her mother says.

Girasol looks. At first, her eyes cannot make sense of it. Bunches of muscle, raw red. Jagged pieces of bone. Bits of skull and teeth orbiting through a fine mist of blood. Then she sees strips of nylon jacket mixed into the floating mass and knows that it was a person before. It was the man with the wiry beard.

Her stomach heaves but nothing comes up, maybe because of the entangler. The Cheshire Man stalks over. His face is drawn. He reaches into the mass of meat and bone.


Excerpted from "Shades Within Us"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law.
Excerpted by permission of Laksa Media Groups Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

FOREWORD Lucas K. Law,
INTRODUCTION Eric Choi & Gillian Clinton,
INVASIO Karin Lowachee,
HABITAT Christie Yant,
CRITICAL MASS Liz Westbrook-Trenholm,
HOW MY LIFE WILL END Vanessa Cardui,
IMAGO Elsie Chapman,
SHADES OF VOID Alvaro Zinos-Amaro,
SUPERFREAK Tonya Liburd,
VOICES Tyler Keevil,
AFTERWORD Susan Forest,

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