An Unkindness of Ghosts
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Read between December 19, 2018 - January 12, 2019
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“Please!” he said, rubbing the sides of his fists against his bloodshot eyes. “Trust me. Have I ever once over the course of our acquaintance done anything but aid and protect you?” “You have done many things other than aid and protect me over the course of our—acquaintance,” Aster said, stuttering over the word. She didn’t know why it hurt to hear their relationship reduced to something so small. “What have I done but keep you safe?” he asked. “Do the meals you take keep me safe? Your baths? The books you read?” she countered, more bewildered than enraged. “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t ...more
Magdalena
I have never seen characters navigate neuroatypical communication pitfalls before, and this was such a balm.
12%
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The precisionist in her hated oral history and memory and that flimsy, haphazard way people spoke about the past.
13%
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Aster knew where this was going, one of those Sovereignty speeches about redemption and justice. How beatings were good. How each strike undid one sin. If Aster’s eyes weren’t forced shut, she’d be rolling them. Why guards quoted this nonsense to justify themselves was beyond her. The whole point of occupying a position of power was that you got to do what you wanted with impunity. It seemed a waste of time to bother with rationalizations.
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History wanted to be remembered. Evidence hated having to live in dark, hidden places and devoted itself to resurfacing. Truth was messy. The natural order of an entropic universe was to tend toward it.
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Ghosts is smells, stains, scars. Everything is ruins. Everything is a clue. It wants you to know its story. Ancestors are everywhere if you are looking.
18%
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“Finish him. Death ends a issue. A fight makes it fester on and on. I taught you better than to open doors you can’t close.”
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You got to document. That’s what our work is, as womenfolk, memorating any way we can. Do you count yourself among us?
22%
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The overseer’s mare was standing on her hind legs. Lune’s notebooks. Maps made of gospel, seals, devil summons. Mangled memories. Giselle’s curious ravings. The horse trotted off and Aster followed after until she was tracking the ghosts of X deck with her mother’s radiolabe. It ticked and ticked and ticked, but whenever she turned, there was only absence and cold. She hid in a cavern on a moon made of ice in the cloak the old woman gave her, rabbits all around. They were rotting away and Aster had to amputate their feet. Their severed paws made a path in the snow leading out to the horizon. ...more
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I don’t know if he’s ever hurt me in that way adults can hurt children. I certainly have no memory of it. But then, I have no memory of most of my childhood. Aster tells me she thinks I was hurt so badly that the only way I could go on was to pretend so hard that it didn’t exist until it was true, but what happened still lives in my body, like a witch’s curse. It is neither here nor there.
27%
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sadness is the hardest thing to breed out of a bloodline.
41%
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It was hard to imagine the dead having adventures. It was hard to imagine her as a person at all.
44%
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Magical godbeings were par for the course in Ainy’s stories, and didn’t necessarily lead to much excitement, but angry mothers meant bloodshed and trauma.
45%
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Aster loved the hermit women in her Aint Melusine’s stories. As a child, she fell asleep to the images Ainy’s descriptions conjured. Wooden cottages and herds of goats. Porridge and gnarled walking sticks. These feral witches always had on them a pipe and a cough and a curse.
53%
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He didn’t speak, and though only a few cubits separated them, Aster felt that to touch his hand she’d have to first journey across a gulf the width of the universe itself, which she understood from her studies of physics was constantly expanding.
55%
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People were so often mean that when they weren’t, there was a tendency to bestow sainthood upon them.
56%
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This was always the case when people asked if you knew what something meant. They didn’t want you to know it. They wanted to be able to explain it themselves, to prove themselves bearers of esoteric knowledge.
60%
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Aster was obsessed with bifurcation. Wholes were foreign to her. Halves made more sense. A split nucleus could end Matilda’s tiny universe. She wanted to be the knife. She wanted to be knived.
77%
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Memories could not be unmemoried, only shuffled so as not to be in the forefront of things.
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There were worse things than being a motherless child. Without a past, Aster was boundless. She could metamorphose. She could be a shiny, magnificent version of herself.
89%
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In my language, there is no word for I. To even come close, you must say, E’tesh’lem vereme pri’lus, which means, This one here who is apart from all. It’s the way we say lonely and alone. It’s the way we say outsider. It’s the way we say weak.
Magdalena
Perfect.