Nominated for 2013 World Fantasy Award: Short Story
This is the second time I’ve read Meghan McCarron’s “Swift, Brutal Retaliation”, a story focused on the aftermath of the too young death of the brother of Sinead and Brigid with both their escalating war of pranks on each other as well as their desire to help the ghost of their dead brother find peace.
That’s a gross simplification, of course, and when you get down to the heart of the story, what “Swift, Brutal Retaliation” seems to really be about is grief. The grief of parents, the grief of sisters, the grief of the deceased, and how that grief and anger manifests throughout a family. How losing that son and brother through a drawn out illness changes the dynamic, most likely irreparably.
“During Ian’s last few months, their mother was usually busy taking care of him. When he died, they had briefly hoped she would recover her interest in their well-being, but instead her caring engines shut down completely. She spent whole days in her room; the girls had no idea what she did in there. If they put their ears to the door, they heard the television, but they had the eerie feeling it wasn’t being watched.”