The Last Worders

by Karen Joy Fowler


“The Last Worders” is a fantasical story with some horror elements that definitely leaves you with a chill at the power of words. The short story was published in The Years Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. The story centers around twin sisters who have journeyed to the fictional town of San Margais chasing after a boy they have both fallen in love with to make him choose between them. On the journey we learn more about the twins, the town, and the poetry that seems to bind them together in a mesmerizing and faintly eerie story that is ultimately about the power of words to unify and to destroy us all.

This was definitely a creepy story more in the strange familiarity and yet alien nature of the town. The girls as well were fascinating to read about as they continuously had their identities mistaken and switched and constantly battled to keep things even between them in a world that couldn’t even tell them apart. The history of the town being interwoven throughout the story was very alien and strange with its talk of the power poetry held in San Margais’ history of slavery and civil war and superstition. The ending tied things back to the beginning in a disturbing way and definitely was one of those fills you with dread horror stories.

Charlotta and I had a policy never to order the same thing off a menu. This was hard, because the same thing always sounded good to both of us, but it doubled our chances of making the right choice. Charlotta ordered a pizza called El Diablo, which was all theater and annoyed me, as we don’t like hot foods. El Diablo brought tears to her eyes and she only ate one piece, picking the olives off the rest and then helping herself to several slices of mine.

She wiped her face with a napkin, which left a rakish streak of pizza sauce on her cheek. I was irritated enough to say nothing about this. One of the Italians made his way to our table. “So,” he said with no preliminaries. “American, yes? I can kiss you?”

We were nothing if not patriots. Charlotta stood at once, moved into his arms, and I saw his tongue go into her mouth. They kissed for several seconds, then Charlotta pushed him away and now the pizza sauce was on him.

“So,” she said. “Now. We need directions to the closest internet cafe.”

The Italian drew a map on her place mat. He drew well; his map had depth and perspective. The internet cafe appeared to be around many corners and up many flights of stairs. The Italian decorated his map with hopeful little hearts. Charlotta took it away from him or there surely would have been more of these.

You can read this short story for free online at the Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet website. Here is the direct link to the story story “The Last Worders”.

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