SH Flashback: “Until Forgiveness Comes,” by K. Tempest Bradford

A new entry in my weekly Strange Horizons retrospective.

This week's Strange Horizons Flashback story:

Until Forgiveness Comes,” by K. Tempest Bradford
Another unusual format: An NPR-like radio news report from a very alternate history, about the anniversary of a devastating train-station bombing. This is another one that makes me cry every time I read it. (Published in 2008.) (2,000 words.)
“Marcus has only seen his father's face in pictures and on the anniversaries when Titus's ghost returns to relive those final moments.”

(See also the full list of Flashback stories.)




I love the unusual format of this story; I always thought it would make a great audio piece. And I love the sense of the deeply worked-out alternate history, especially in such a brief space. I especially love that even though it's very clearly a 9/11 story, it's not only a 9/11 story; the alternate history adds both distance and resonance, makes the story more universal while situating itself firmly in an alternate specificity.

And I love the heartbreaking fragments we see here of people's lives torn apart. The multiple viewpoints: some people wanting to put the past behind us, others saying we need to keep it present.

And most of all, I love that final paragraph, about Dierdre, the bomber's widow; the complex tangle of emotions, the compact melange of grief and the attempt to forgive.

I was going to end there, but having said that, I now want to add a particularly personal note: It was weeks ago that I scheduled my post about this story for this week; so it's entirely a coincidence that this turned out to be the week when I talked for the first time, by phone, with relatives of the woman who killed my father. In their pain and their puzzlement, I think I heard some echoes of the ending of Tempest's story. As noted above, I always cry when I read this story; but this time, it made me really sob. Cathartic, at a time when I think I needed that without realizing it. Thank you, Tempest.

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