Robert Swartwood was born in 1981. His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Postscripts, Chizine, Space and Time, elimae, Wigleaf, PANK, and The Los Angeles Review. He is the author of several novels and the editor of Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer.
on July 11, 2011 :
Steven is in the delicate age of ten years. He is dead and that is how it should be. Recently, he has started to hear a beating sound coming from somewhere outside that attracts him. He knows that it is dangerous but cannot resist. His parents doesn't hear the sound and neither do his best friend Jimmy. One evening Steven heads out with a shovel to find the source of the alluring tones. And thus he seals his fate.
This is a beautiful story that caught my interest already in the already in the first words:
” Like everyone else he knew, Steven’s heart did not beat. Instead it lay dead in his chest, as docile as his brain and his lungs and his soul. So when he first heard the faint beating sound coming from outside his bedroom window, he didn’t know what to think.”
To me this is about a boy who not only breaks a taboo, but shows courage. Even if his actions are intuitive and not based on any rational considerations he, literally, follows his heart. The story is not only beautiful, but even a little cute, which is extremely rare and perhaps will never again appear on this blog. The ending is also sad but still beautiful. A little bit like how Astrid Lindgren was sometimes combined the forgiving and beautiful with the unjust and sad. As in her short story Sunnanäng.
Robert Swartwood here sets the gray, sad death in contrast to the colorful, pulsating life. There is no advanced philosophy that the author engages, but the simple message is appealing and gives the story a sense of modern fairy tale. The element in which the effective and steadfast Hunters surround the little boy brings to mind historical events where adults driven by duty fulfill their mission without regard to an innocent child.
Robert Swartwood wrote this short story in 2004. It was printed 2010 in James Roy Daley's anthology Best New Zombie Tales vol. 1. It can be found of course in that anthology, but can also be read online for free and it is also included as bonus in the e-book The Dishonored Dead.
(reviewed long after purchase)