STARLINGS by Jo Walton preview: “Unreliable Witness”
In celebration of the release of Jo Walton’s STARLINGS, Tachyon presents glimpses from some of the volume’s magnificent tales.
by Jo Walton
know if this is the same tape as last time, because They keep moving
things around and stealing them. I don’t know who does it. It may
be the staff here, or my own family when they come to visit, or the
aliens, but somebody’s always doing it—taking my glasses, my
tapes, my TV remote, anything I put down for a second. I don’t
think it’s the other residents. I used to think that, but I don’t
think they’re that organised. Some of them are a bit senile, to
tell you the truth, can’t remember what they’re talking about,
never mind that it’s time to go and steal my biscuit. They’re not
methodical enough to plague me like that. Still and all, whoever it
is, I’ve managed to get a blank tape and the machine at the same
time. I tested it and heard my horrible quavery voice, but it works.
in then, straight to it, who knows how much time I have left before
somebody bothers me. My name is Katherine Whippleshaw, and I’m
eighty-nine years old. Last week I was visited by an alien.
said his name was Tom. I’d never seen him before. He looked years
younger than anyone I’ve seen for months. He looked as if he was
about twelve. He put his head around my door and said, “Mrs.
Whippleshaw? Can I talk to you?” I agreed, of course. It’s very
boring in here. People treat me as if I’m an idiot. It’s not just
stealing my things. I mean it’s very annoying that anything gets
stolen if I let it out of my hands for a second, but I’ve learned
how to cope. I keep my handbag on my shoulder, and the remote in one
hand all the time, even when I’m eating. Oh, and my glasses on a
chain around my neck. That was Kim’s idea. Kim’s my
granddaughter. She’s very clever. She gave me the chain. I was
disappointed at the time because it wasn’t a book.
one time, even after They’d got at all the other books in the world
and made the print jump up and down, Kim could still find me books I
could read. I remember the day even she couldn’t find any any more,
when she brought me a new Anthony Burgess and the lines were
wriggling. I could have cried. Well, I did cry. I didn’t behave
well at all. I didn’t even feel as bad as that when John died, as
if there was nothing at all worth carrying on living for. I used
words I’ve never used, words I’d heard men on the sites using,
wasn’t even sure what some of them meant, but I shouldn’t have
said them to Kim. Kim understood I was just upset and frustrated, but
Janice was there, and Janice thought this was a sure sign I was
losing my mind. Oh, wait until you’re eighty-nine, my proper little
daughter-in-law, wait until They’re conspiring against you and
taking your books away before you’re so quick to judge.
For more info on STARLINGS, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story