“Attachments,” by Kate Wilhelm, is the opening story in the Nov/Dec 2017 issues of “Fantasy and Science Fiction,” which is one of my favorite magazines. According to the novelet’s introduction, Wilhelm’s first story in F&SF was in 1962. She’s an established, experienced writer and it really shows in this piece.
“Attachments” opens with a a young woman in a creepy/picturesque ruin in England. We soon see that she’s from the USA and that she’s there with a friend… and also that something is horrifically wrong. As the story unfolds we see that it’s a ghost story, both literally and figuratively. Drew, the protagonist, has 2 ghosts attached to her who want her to do things for them; Drew’s abusive ex boyfriend lurks in the background, a constant threat to her both mentally and physically. Drew has to figure out how to deal with the ghosts on her back, how to solve their problems, and then how to solve the problems in her own life.
It’s a well written story. Drew is interesting and we get glimpses of her life, both current and past. The ghosts’ plan is flawed, but desperate plans often are. She, and they, need to be creative in coming up with a solution. The metaphor isn’t THAT obvious, but it’s there… Drew is asked to free ghosts from a prison, and must also free herself from the ghosts of her past.
It’s a fairly gentle story with a bit of menace that’s quickly neutralized.
“Attachments” is a solid piece that leaves me curious about Wilhelm’s other work.