Playscape follows the tragedy of a mother who has lost her child at a public park and the ensuing evolution of the case against her. We follow from the perspective of another mother who knew her. Opinions continue to evolve from sympathy to blaming the mother to personalizing the tragedy. The child has disappeared without a trace in a park with few trees and many people present. While it seems like a murder mystery from the start, it becomes something else entirely by the end. A comment from the protagonist’s child sets off chilling thoughts.
There’s something off about the park slide and you start to wonder: is there some hidden depth to the slide that we’re not seeing? Is this ‘hole’ in the slide a portal to some nightmare world? Or did someone really take this woman’s child? At the end, we’re left in a state of unease as the mother looks up and sees some kind of hole. That’s all we get from the story and it creates this state of unease as you try to imagine what’s really going on here.
I’m impressed by the author’s ability to lure us into a seemingly every day story, gradually building the tension until we’re met with a fantasy or science fiction element that’s neither explained or explored. It leaves your mind to wander aimlessly, much like the main character. We somehow become the mother, worrying about her kids, worrying about someone taking them, worrying that something strange is happening in this park where a mother lost her child. It’s terrifying and expertly crafted.
Written by Diana Peterfreund
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction