Short Story Rec: “Dustbaby” by Alix E. Harrow in Shimmer #27

The whole story is free to read here.

Grief, in my experience, is a lot like dust. It turns food gritty and sour, it sifts onto your pillow as you sleep and burrows into every pore of skin, and you can never truly be rid of it.

I am only thirty, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about grief. I’ve grieved in a lot of different ways, but I’ve (so far, and thank god) never lost a child. I also have a fascination with the Dust Bowl. These two interests are not miles apart. The Dust Bowl was a time of horrific grief for many. It was a time where the earth itself revolted in an unexpected carnage so blistering and total that no one knew what to do to survive it, and many didn’t. The dust literally ate people alive, or it starved them out. It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s true.

I have a book I’ve been working on periodically for the last couple of years about pregnancy. It’s a sort-of body-horror book where I’m trying to capture the utter weirdness of pregnancy, the way it makes your own body alien to you while at the same time connecting you to its intricacies in a new and haunting way.

Harrow’s story brought all of these odd little thoughts and interests of mine together in her story about a lonely, heartbroken woman on a dying farm who finds a mysterious baby in the dust. The story’s style reminds me of Flannery O’Connor or Steinbeck–plain-voiced and gothic at once. Like O’Connor there is in Harrow’s story a current of destruction and a current of resurrection undergirding the story.

It’s brutal and sad and sweet. I loved it. You might, too.