I admit it, I am a total sucker for short stories. I love that the happily ever after between characters can blossom in only a few pages. It is almost an instant gratification that, as readers, we can read a whole love story in under an hour. However, not all short stories are created equal. The condensed format makes them very difficult to write. There is so much to pack into a few pages that a lot of the time readers can feel cheated, like we missed out on fundamental world building or character development. But every once in a while, a short story is so well crafted, so well written that we just can’t forget it. That’s the way I feel about Marjorie M. Liu’s “Six” from the 2007 anthology Holidays Are Hell.
“Six” begins in the back room massage parlor in the heart of Shanghai. Our heroine, Six, is there working undercover for Squad Twelve, an elite secret military force. She’s investigating the murder of the Foreign Minister’s wife. Unfortunately, this puts her in the middle of some seriously intense trouble — something paranormal that her training has not prepared her for.