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2015 Stories 66 - 72

More slow catching up on reviews.

The following are all from Damien Angelica Walters’ collection Sing Me Your Scars, from Apex Books: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/products/sing-me-your-scars. These stories comprise the book’s second section, Part II: And The Now.

66. RUNNING EMPTY IN A LAND OF DECAY   The relatively short length and breezy style of this story is fitting given that it centers on the great American obsession: running/jogging. Short and breezy doesn’t mean comedic, however. The setting seems modern at first but we quickly realize we’re in a post-Apocalyptic near-future with very little evidence that anyone has survived other than our main character. It’s a tightly-told story, with no unnecessary details: how the zombie apocalypse happened isn’t important compared to the MC’s mental state and recent personal history.

67. SCARRED    I admit to a personal bias in favor of this story. When Fireside magazine ran their Kickstarter to fund issue #2, one of the perks was to be Tuckerized into a story by Damien, and “Scarred” is the story she Tuckerized me into, as the loving but in-the-dark husband of a woman who is scarred physically and emotionally by her ability to send quick-acting cancer into anyone whose name she carves into her own skin. Violet’s inner struggle is apparent to her husband, but the struggle is hers alone to win or lose, and the author drives home how hard it is to resist old habits and temptations.

68. THE TASTE OF TEARS IN A RAINDROP   So many divorce stories center on the pain and humiliation felt by the wife, and in which the ex (or soon-to-be ex) husband is the bad guy. In this story, the husband is the haunted one – both emotionally by the toll the divorce is taking on his young daughter and externally by a weeping ghost in the back yard of the house he is renting. Details of what caused the acrimonious divorce are sparse, and the implication is that, as in real life rather than most fiction, husband and wife are each equally responsible for the position they find themselves in; they both seem to have anger management problems evident in the story. The supernatural element paces along with the main character’s self-realizations to bring the story to a satisfactory conclusion.

69. ALWAYS THEY WHISPER    Another story in which Walters takes a well-known horror figure – in this case the Medusa of Greco-Roman mythology – and turns the story upside-down and inside out. Mapping Medi’s story onto modern rape culture, in which women are told the cat-calls and rape attempts (and successes) are their own fault because of how they look/dress/carry themselves, and the lengths some women will go to to avoid that notice. Those accusations don’t come to Medi just from the men in the story, but also implicitly at least from the one notable other female character. Walters anthropomorphizes the internal whispers so many woman here into the snakes Medi has been cursed to live with on her head, and her struggle to fight free of those whispers and self-recriminations is an emotional roller-coaster.

70. DYSPHONIA IN D MINOR    Music and architecture share a lot of common terminology and structure. To someone like me, the process of designing and constructing a building is as mystical as the process of composing a piece of music/song or that of building and maintaining a relationship. Walters brings all three of these together. The main character and her partner live in a land where having the Voice enables some people to build magnificent, long-lasting structures: bridges, towers, sculptures. But what happens when that gift is turned to more nefarious purposes? What toll does that take not just on relationships but also on the structures and the talent of the individual? A moving (and yes, musical) exploration of the toll of talent misused/directed.

71. SHALL I WHISPER TO YOU OF MOONLIGHT, OF SORROW, OF PIECES OF US?    I’m well on record as not being a fan of second person narration, where the narrator directly addresses the reader. It’s my least favorite form of storytelling; I tend to feel manipulated and, more often, creeped out. Sometimes, that’s the author’s intent, and so I know that the story is doing what the author wants it to do. Occasionally, manipulation of the reader doesn’t seem to be the author’s intent, as in this case. Credit to the author that although the main character addresses an absent “you,” I didn’t feel like that “you” was me – I felt more like I was reading someone’s misplaced letter to a loved one. The story also hit home because I know (as so many of us do) how hard it is to let go of someone even when you know it’s their time to go, and how equally hard it is to let go of the memory of that person.

72. IMMOLATION: A LOVE STORY    Another short, tight story (I think it fits in the “flash” category, but I didn’t count words), and one of the few with a more comic bent to the darkness (at least, in my reading). The main character is a want-to-be arsonist, and of course lust ignites his passion. It’s a fun, fast read.

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