This story has taken a rather circuitous path to publication. Some years ago, I participated in a challenge to write a story based on this image from the artist Jacek Yerka: "The Secret Garden." I love Yerka's art, ever since my brother happened across the book he did that paired his art with Harlan Ellison's brief stories inspired by Yerka's work. (Enjoyed the art more than the prose, to be honest...) So I was excited to participate that month. The story won that challenge but struck out on finding a good fit with any markets.
So after it had been rejected a number of times, I happened to be participating in the annual WYRM's Gauntlet competition, and I ended up as the runner-up. One of the awards (in addition to a cash prize) was a crit of a short story by one of their editors. So I got some good feedback on that there, revised it, sent it out some more. Still struck out.
I actually didn't think it would be a good fit for HFQ, but finally decided last summer to give it a try with them. And they loved it! We did go through some more edits to make it an even better story at that point and get it to the story you can read now in the issue.
HFQ also will sometimes do audio versions of excerpts from their stories. So acclaimed narrator Karen Bovenmeyer narrates the first...roughly half of the story. So if audio is your thing, give that a listen. And then be sure to read the rest to learn what happens!