Tearjerker by Steve Berman

[dropca[]T[/dropca[]he wonderful things about anthologies is you never know when you’re going to stumble upon something wonderful. The odd thing is, I never intended to pick up Paper Cities in the first place. It just sort of fell off the shelf at my local library and, due to the weird location on it, I wasn’t sure where to reshelve it. Which is kind of peculiar since I used to work in a library. But basically I decided it was just easier to check it out rather than figure out where to drop it for the shelf clerk.

Flipping through the book, I happened to land on Steve Berman’s Tearjerker, a wonderfully dark tale of addiction and ruin. In a city scarred and quarantined after a cataclysmic event that granted special powers to only some of the inhabitants, young Gail finds herself for some old sisters who peddle in dependancy. Their big thing is the addictive tears of a little girl named Brennan. Even Gail can’t keep herself from lapping at the sad child’s cheeks.

I used to smoke. I was never what anyone would call a heavy smoker, but at the worst it was 5 or 6 in a day. I quit cold-turkey five years back after an incredible encounter with a pair of red foxes. It wasn’t especially hard but when I tell people about my former hobby they sometimes look at me like I’m Mother Theresa when I know that to be a lie. However, I do know the feeling of being aware of how bad something for you is, knowing that it is killing you slowly, but still doing it anyway, over and over again.

Gail’s not quite there in her addiction. She’s only aware of her needs, her wants. Not, necessarily, the consequences. What is interesting to me is that these addictive tears are not what’s actually killing any of them. There is someone worse in this story with a poison wholly more potent than the tears, but also more innocent.

Tearjerker originally appeared in the urban fantasy anthology Paper Cities. It’s also available in Berman’s collection Second Thoughts: More Queer and Weird Stories.

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