“Nell” by Karen Hesse

“Nell” is a new story up on Tor.com this week. Read it here. (It’s reprinted from an anthology, What You Wish For, published by Book Wish Foundation, 2012) The story is told from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl who’s been 12 for about a hundred years, but in different bodies:

One winter night in my twelfth year, my father hit me and hit me and did not stop. …When the mist faded, I was inside another body. She had been ill, the girl whose body I now inhabited. But she was gone and I was there. What happened to her I don’t know. What happened to my first body I cannot say. But I learned quickly to adapt to a new life.
And I learned to prolong that life for months, though never for more than a year. And that’s how it continues. The children whose bodies I take are always twelve. I keep them alive as long as I can. But sometime during the year their bodies fail and I lift out of one and slip into another.
I am always dying. I am never dying. I have died and died and died again, but I do not stay dead.
Tonight another twelfth year ends.

The story of Nell is interwoven with “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen. (It helps to know the Andersen tale, although it is not necessary, as the vital parts are included in this story.) On a bitterly cold night, Nell waits for her end to come, as she thinks it must. But she then becomes aware of another girl, in the cold and dark outside her comfortable home, who is in peril.

Spooky, quiet, and suspenseful… this is one you should read.

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