Instead of Let’s Pretend, Let’s Become

A review of Claire Humphrey’s “Nightfall in the Scent Garden” in Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing (ChiZine Publications, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover image of Imaginarium 2013 courtesy of ChiZine Publications
Cover image of Imaginarium 2013 courtesy of ChiZine Publications. Cover art by GMB Chomichuk

Every day children create worlds, dream up and invent universes separate and different from our own… but what happens when those worlds are invested with so much power that they become real? Claire Humphrey’s “Nightfall in the Scent Garden” is a love note, and a journal of crushing pain from Faustine Fiamma to her one time love Rosa Mundi.

The girls would tell stories together, creating new worlds through their words, giving each other names of power and creating new identities in their new worlds. When Rosa Mundi creates a mother for herself, a wise-woman, the Queen of Air, as a replacement for her real mother who was drunk and neglectful. But, sometimes the fantasy doesn’t match the desire… it isn’t always an escape.  Sometimes our fantasies can be as binding as our realities. The Queen of Air is just as unpleasant as Rosa’s real mother, and she finds herself losing her life to the draining power of the Queen. But, Faustine, like a modern Faust, makes a deal for her love, and Rosa drifts away as her memory of the fantasy world and the significance of Faustine’s sacrifice drains away. With her life restored, but the fantasy world removed, Rosa loses her sense of wonder and exploration and settles into a life of monotonous normalcy. She stops telling stories.

Claire Humphrey reminds us that fantasies can be dangerous, they come with a cost, but life is richer for having them.

To find out more about Imaginarium 2013, visit ChiZine publications’ website at . You can find out more about Claire Humphrey at her website at

Derek Newman-Stille

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