Published in Asimov’s, July 2011.
Humans have colonized Lutania, where Stephen works as a data analyst for the Agency. He’s an antisocial fellow who rudely avoids his co-workers and prefers the company of the simple settlers in their farming villages. His three-year gig on Lutania is nearing its end, when he’ll be transmitted back to Earth. This process necessarily involves the loss of all memories accumulated during the last 29 days before transmission. Agency rules prohibit employees from working after their Day 40, a stricture that Stephen resents and fears, for reasons he doesn’t quite articulate to himself. Or perhaps that he can’t remember. Stephen seems to have a secret from himself.
A character study of a person who lives on the fringes of normality, or perhaps further off. He has a strong aversion to the indigenes, who seem to be able to read minds; can they see the secret he keeps hidden from himself? There are some oddly idyllic scenes when he enjoys himself alone in the native Lutanian forests, but this is not where he chooses to take his enforced vacation. A very subtle horror story. I wish the premise were more credible.
Lois Tilton, Locus
- Terror at the Crossroads: Tales of Horror, Delusion, and the Unknown, edited by Emily Hockaday and Jackie Sherbow
(Collected in The Peacock Cloak from Newcon Press)