Into The GrayInto The Gray by Margaret Killjoy
My rating: 5/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

“I know a better place than your room at the inn,” I said.

“If you’re not a working girl, there’s no shame to be seen with you.”

“I know a place, a better place, where the wind runs cool off the water. Where I can rinse, where you can rinse, where we’d taste our best for one another while only the deer of the forest look on.”

“You’ve done this before,” he said. He was hungry at my words, at the thought of watching me bathe.

I had. Twice before. He would be my third.

“So have you,” I said.

“What do I call you?” he asked.


“A harlot’s name.”

“Fitting, then,” I said, starting out for the edge of town with him in my wake. I didn’t ask his name, because I didn’t care to know it and because no one would ever call him it or anything else again.

this is one of the best free tor shorts i’ve read in a while: a transgirl thief-cum-assassin in the romantic service of a mermaid (the good hungry kind with teeth built for more than a pescatarian lifestyle), who lures her would-be lovers into her true love’s tranquil pool where they are devoured messily before the couple passes leisurely afternoons of lovemaking together.

She was beautiful. In the usual ways, yes, but she was also beautiful in the ways that anyone might become, when you get to know the secret language of their body and their lives. She’d been alive so long, seen so much, developed so much beauty. The longer I might know her, the more of her hidden beauty I might unearth.

but fish-human relationships have always been complicated and theirs is no different, although it’s a refreshing reversal of The Little Mermaid‘s self-abnegating forfeiture of her fishself. The Lady of the Waking Waters isn’t giving up her voice for no one, and even though she’s the Splash-kind of mermaid who can transition between legs and tail without the agonizing pain andersen presents, she’s happy with the terms of their relationship, so if laria wants more, it’s on her to source the magic to make it all possible. which she will, albeit bitterly:

It wasn’t fair, that she could walk and swim and I had to choose forever between one or the other. It wasn’t fair that I should be the one who would sacrifice for us to be together, when it would be so much easier for her.

and then other things happen that make laria’s complaints about this problem seem quaint, because if there’s one thing fairy tales have taught us, it’s that things can always get worse.

it’s a bittersweet story about what we are willing to risk or sacrifice to hold on to an impossible love whose loss is inevitable and what previously unthinkable compromises suddenly seem acceptable when they’re the only offer on the table; the only way to be together. it’s also a nice balance between action and character, dark and light themes. these are the kind of tor shorts i love the most, and this one sits up there in that small, select group of five-star free tor shorts that kicked my heart’s ass at just the right time.

read it for yourself here:…

read my reviews on goodreads

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