“Exiles” by Sean Meriwether from So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction (Lethe Press, 2009). Edited by Steve Berman.

This story was disarming. First, it distracted me because it was written in the second person present tense, ala Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. Then it introduced the concept of the main character, you, being someone for whom all the stars had just aligned: new boyfriend, place in the city, first novel about to be released. The picture was so rosy I knew something bad had to happen, but still, the brutality of what did was shocking. Because of the “first novel” bit and the extremely believable way the viewpoint character processes the story events, I found myself tensed with horror, wondering “This didn’t really happen, did it?”

The irony being, of course, things like the one described happen every day. They’ve happened to people I know. Yes, people, plural. What I meant to ask was “Did this really happen to the author of this piece?”

The viewpoint character struggles to find a way to move forward after being attacked. He spirals down into despair and self-pity, until strange things begin to happen. He senses an otherworldly being in his midst, and goes to investigate.

I tell you, I have never been so relieved as I was with this story to spy a word coming up ahead in the text and remember “Oh right, this is spec fiction. There’s magic.”  It was so realistic to that point, I’d forgotten.

Go on this journey, you won’t be sorry. Yes, the beginning is jarring, but the ending is hopeful. Go.