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"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

Ballgown Road

Melissa Mead lives un Upstate NY, not far from Balltown Rd. Here's a link to her web page: carpelibris.wordpress.com.

The only way to reach Ballgown Road is from an overgrown path that local wags call "Knot Street." There's nothing on it but a tree at the end. An old, gnarled, leafless tree with a hollow heart.
Women put all kinds of things into that tree. Broken glass. Wedding rings. Impossibly tiny baby shoes. Then they step forward, with their eyes open. Always with their eyes open.
Some flinch and back away. Some scrape their faces on the tree, and beat their hands bloody against the unyielding bark. And some walk through the tree, onto Ballgown Road.
There's always light on Ballgown Road, even when the sky is dark. And, of course, there are the ballgowns.
Silk, velvet, satin. Trimmed with fur, lace, embroidery. You can always tell the new arrivals. While others dance, they marvel at their new splendor, stroking soft fur trimmings and admiring impossibly tiny stitches.
Some dance clumsily, unsure in their unaccustomed finery, stumbling, out of rhythm with the coaxing, swirling music that always flows through the air of Ballgown Road. Some skip and spin with the delight of a child taking her first steps. Some find partners and swing each other in broad, free circles, laughing.
And you can always tell the ones who have been there the longest, the ones who have danced from one end of Ballgown Road to the other. They pause in the dance, looking about themselves with curious eyes, as though seeing new colors in the world. They touch the trees that line the road like green guardians.
They find one tree among the many, always vibrant and green, with a hollow at its roots waiting like cupped hands.
Women leave all kinds of things behind in the hollow. Fear. Shame. Despair.
They strip off their glamorous, borrowed finery, and walk away from Ballgown Road in the clothes they arrived in. Jeans, nightgowns, sweaters. But they walk straighter, more steadily, toward the world they'd left behind, with their eyes open.
Always with their eyes open.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Author Comments

This story came about thanks to a friend mistyping Balltown Road, in Schenectady, NY. Schenectady also has a Nott St. One thing led to another, and here's the result.

- Melissa Mead
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