“Isis in Darkness” by Christopher Barzak from So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction (Lethe Press, 2009). Edited by Steve Berman.
Isis (birth name Iris Smith) has run away to the city to escape a rough home life. Right away she meets Rem, who invites her to the abandoned church where he and two of his friends, Lola and Meph, are squatters. They welcome Isis into their created family without ever pushing her to reveal details about herself.
The thing is, Isis isn’t your typical runaway, and neither are the others. Rem and company style themselves “Orphyns”, one jump from regular street kids because each one has an unusual ability. It’s tempting to say a superpower, but that would be incorrect. None of them can control their unique talent, or even work it to their advantage. They’re more misfit toys that mutants ala Marvel’s X-men. Consequently, they’re living hand-to-mouth, pulling things from dumpsters, begging change, spending what little cash they have at thrift shops, to get what they cannot find for free.
Just at the point when Isis starts to let her guard down with Rem he has a run-in with a member of the group he calls the Nothings. Things go south quickly, and it falls to Isis to try to save him.
This is a great set-up for a much longer work. I’d love to read a novel about these characters and their adventures, or even an entire series of books. Then again, maybe it could be a television series or a movie. That’s not far-fetched. The author’s novel One for Sorrow was just turned into the film Jamie Marks is Dead, featuring Liv Tyler and Judy Greer, among others. I was hoping that film would make it to the Louisville GLBT film festival, happening this weekend, but alas, no dice.