PC019: Galatea

By Vylar Kaftan
Read by Rachel Swirsky
First appeared in Heliotrope (full text online)

Since I moved to the city, I’ve been dying piece by piece. It’s not really the smog, or the crowds, or my tiny apartment above the Arabic bookstore, or any of the things that bother most people. It’s the way people hurry around, their faces to the sidewalk, darting through the streets like ants swarming over a dead lizard. City life is fractured into thousands of pieces–faceted like the view from insect eyes. Maybe it makes sense to ants. To a small-town girl like me, it’s overwhelming.

The problem is that I’ve been here long enough to start dying. I lost two fingers last week. They fell off while I was sleeping. I found them next to my pillow in the morning, and put them in a shoebox with my big toe.

Rated PG. Contains alienation from community and spirit.

Please visit the thread on this story in our forums.

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13 Responses so far

  1. 1

    querkus said,

    August 5, 2008 @ 9:08 am

    I felt a great kinship with your character. My mate and I moved to a city from a small town setting before he became disabled.
    Now I am the sole support and main care giver for my family.
    It’s easy when you are far from family and friends (and though I know lots of people here )to feel like you are falling apart or the city is chewing on you.

  2. 2

    Benjamin said,

    August 5, 2008 @ 6:14 pm

    What a feeling of utter despair I got listening to this story!

    The author really captures the main character, Julie’s hopelessness and the frustrating almost listless guess-work that she and the artist attempt.

    Large cities can really suck out your soul and leave you dry and empty, if you let them.

    I really agree with the message of the piece as I read it: let go of your fear! It’s the fear that paralyzed all human relations and smothers real life in a city, especially American ones.

    Fear is really our worst enemy.

  3. 3

    Audita Sum said,

    August 6, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

    Really nice story. It caught my attention more than usual, plus it was just… good. It actually reminded me a little of Pseudopod’s fare.

  4. 4

    Christopher Reynaga said,

    August 7, 2008 @ 2:29 am

    Great story, Vylar. I’ve always had a whimsical place in my heart for body parts kept in a shoebox, like old photos.

  5. 5

    LittleLotus said,

    August 7, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

    This story was fantastic, loved it to pieces, but I can’t tell if it truely is fantacy. It reminds me too much of science fiction in how the problem arises of the disapearing, falling apart, and decomposition of the city folk. Yet, the ending is beyond fantacyin that she becomes what the city believes she should be. Great reading and great story! Thank you!

  6. 6

    Vylar Kaftan said,

    August 8, 2008 @ 12:00 am

    Thanks for the comments. I’m glad people are enjoying the story.

    Some background, if anyone’s curious. “Galatea” was written during the Clarion West Write-a-Thon a few years ago. I was wondering what to write about when a friend called me from Japan. He told me about how alienated he felt from the people around him. His words reminded me of how alone and strange I feel in big cities, particularly next to tall buildings. Julie emerged from that feeling.

    Trent was a character that had been floating around my head for a while–part sculptor, part performance artist–and it seemed like the two of them should meet. For me, most stories emerge from characters and what happens when two unrelated ones meet in a common setting.

  7. 7

    Rachel said,

    August 8, 2008 @ 4:09 am

    Vylar, would you be willing to say what city you had in mind when writing? I pictured San Francisco, but many of our readers on the forums seemed to imagine NYC.

  8. 8

    Shawn said,

    August 8, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

    I could see a lot of symbolism in this story that I could apply to my own life. However, I did not particularly like the story it felt to much like fiction and not fantasy. This story was like going to a hamburger stand and ending up with a cucumber sandwich. Again not that it was a bad story it just does not match up with what comes to mind with a floating castle. Please, PLEASE bring back the magic…

  9. 9

    Vylar Kaftan said,

    August 8, 2008 @ 1:46 pm

    I did visualize San Francisco, yes.

  10. 10

    LaShawn said,

    August 11, 2008 @ 12:54 pm

    I knew the ending as soon as Galatea made her first appearance. Didn’t stop me from listening, though. I liked Julie’s transformation, and towards the end, as important pieces fell off of her, I felt her despair and fear. Nicely done!

  11. 11

    Shiatis said,

    August 14, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

    Predictable, but enjoyable. My question is what the “mature listener” warning was for in the intro? Because someone’s hair fell out?

  12. 12

    Spork said,

    September 22, 2008 @ 6:51 pm

    I can suspend my disbelief for a lot of things. Talking animals, flying carpets, centaurs, magic in general.

    But, I can’t believe people would continue to live in a city that makes their bodies fall apart a piece at a time.

    For that reason, the entire premise is flawed, and the resulting story product is stupid and painfully irritating.

  13. 13

    Rachel Swirsky giving a reading at Borderlands in San Francisco, July 23 7:30 | Alas, a blog said,

    August 25, 2010 @ 4:08 am

    […] I haven’t personally encountered Amelia Beamer before, but Vylar Kaftan, Pat Murphy, and Tim Pratt are all amazing authors. Pat Murphy may be most famous for her story “Rachel in Love”. As for Tim Pratt and Vylar Kaftan, I can recommend work of theirs that I’ve published on PodCastle: Tim Pratt’s “Cup and Table” and Vylar Kaftan’s “Galatea”. […]

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