SH Flashback: “How to Hide Your Heart,” by Deborah Coates

Here’s the next Strange Horizons Flashback story:

How to Hide Your Heart,” by Deborah Coates
A man who hunts monsters meets a woman who’s really good at driving. (Somewhat NSFW.) (Content warning for hints of bad things in character backstory.) (Published in 2008.) (5,300 words.)

He’s a hunter. And the things he hunts live in the shadows in every town he comes to. So he watches people and files them away and he’s become an expert in who will help because he asks, who he can con or threaten into helping, who will help and never know they did it. And he never finds, in all those little bits of help that come his way, what he’s forgotten he ever wanted, someone who knows the score and stands up with him anyway.

(See also the full list of Flashback stories.)




I suspect that to some people, this story reads like Supernatural fanfic, but I don’t think I had seen Supernatural when we bought this story. The premise/ground situation mostly made me think of the old roleplaying game Stalking the Night Fantastic, though it’s pretty different from that, too.

But the premise isn’t the core of what the story is about, for me. For me, this is another story that does a good job with one of my favorite themes: one person reaching out and making contact with another. And in this case, that’s mixed with fascinating hints of Beth’s story. I particularly like this line:

”What did you think?” she asks. It’s a shy question, as if she hates herself for asking, as if she wants to take it back immediately, as if no one has ever noticed this thing she is so brilliant at and she wants, like bright sparks against a midnight sky, to, just this once, be seen.

I almost used that as the pullquote here, but I think it’s not quite as representative of what the story’s about. But I would totally read more about Beth. If you, too, want to read more about Beth (and Paul), see the sequel to this story, “What Makes a River,” published at in 2010.

And if you like this story, you might also like Deb’s Hallie Michaels novels, which I don’t think are set in the same world but seem to me like they have a somewhat related feel.

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