Short story: “The Ghost of a Girl Who Never Lived”

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“The Ghost of a Girl Who Never Lived,” by Keffy R. M. Kehrli

First appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show (read online here); released as episode 330 of Escape Pod on February 2nd, 2012 (read and listen here)

4,100 words

I liked this story but it suffered from comparison to “Second Person, Present Tense,” a favorite of mine. The family is less fleshed out and for that reason less interesting. The main character is too passive for my taste. At twelve, she’s more a child than an adolescent; she can’t bring herself commit to any particular plan, she can’t even make up a name for herself.

I also got a bit confused by the scene changes. The story jumps back and forth in time a lot. It keeps returning to the scene in which the non-Sara hides in the loft. On a reread, the time jumps strike me as unnecessary, since the situation is disorienting enough without narrative trickery. Anyway, the loft scene lacks tension because of the character’s passivity: “I realize then that I’m not trying to run away; there’s nowhere to go.”

The ending is great, though. It must have taken a lot of restraint to imply the aftermath without showing it. The real/complete Sara will read the non-Sara’s lone diary entry. She’ll wonder about the media attention. She’ll probably notice her family treating her differently, remembering the stranger they brought home. She’ll grow up. And if there’s any justice, her mother will never forget the words “Sara’s dead, Mom.” Mom.

Incidentally, it seems likely that the non-Sara is Sara, suffering from amnesia and dissociation. Which doesn’t make any of this less disturbing. Maybe Sara’s copy failed because she didn’t want to come back.

Edit: Some interesting news!