Friday, March 23, 2012

Story of the Week: The Red Thread

Ephiny Gale's "The Red Thread" in the Winter 2012 issue of Silver Blade builds on the East Asian stories of the "red string of fate" or "red thread of destiny." According to the Chinese version of the myth, an invisible red string, tied around the ankles, connects people who are destined to become lovers and marry. The connected people are soul mates, and though the string may stretch and tangle, it never breaks.

Gale's version begins with the first memory of her protagonist.

His earliest memory is of Christmas morning. He has just turned three and sees a blood red thread tied around his right ankle. He stumbles to his feet. He follows it away from the Christmas tree, away from the lights, away from his mother with her golden heart necklace and his father with his calloused hands....

His mother chases after him and brings him back before he gets very far beyond the garden, but he will spend the rest of the story following his own thread and those of others. For some unexplained reason, he is blessed or cursed with the gift for seeing the invisible threads. Through observation, he learns what the threads mean. While chasing his thread down a street, he comes across a middle-aged couple who are holding hands.

[T]hey catch his attention because their strings don’t stretch out from their legs like the long red lines on a map. The taut thread starting at the woman’s leg finishes inches later around the man’s ankle. He stares. The thread is glowing.

Unfortunately, the threads of his parents do not connect like those of the couple. His parents are not soul mates. The knowledge depresses him as does his failure to trace his thread to his own soul mate. At a party, he sees two classmates with a connecting thread that is not glowing. He introduces them and their thread lights up when they shake hands. After finishing high school, he becomes a very successful and professional matchmaker boasting a moneyback guarantee. He finds his mother's soul mate and introduces them. His parents eventually divorce.

His efforts to find his own soul mate remain unfullfilled. He has relationships with other girls. He tells himself that he needs some experience. He travels to Canada, Greenland, and finally to England. Along the way, he falls in love and gets engaged but leaves the girl before marrying. He knows she is not his soul mate. He finds the end of his thread in "a small, isolated cottage in the English countryside," but when he enters to find the Christmas present for which he has been waiting twenty-nine years, it's not what he was hoping for. No, she's not an ugly troll or something like that. It's far worse.

Gale tells her story from a distance. We're not enmeshed in the details of time and place. Some might accuse her of telling rather than showing but her narrative strategy works in this case and when we do enter the action, she uses the occaision to make a strong point. And what is the point? Is not finding your soul mate as horrible as the protagonist fears? Is seeing the red threads a blessing or a curse?

To learn more about Ephiny Gale and her writing, visit her website at

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