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2015 Stories 73 - 79

Slowly catching up on the story reviews, still.

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 third section, Part III: And Away.

73. MELANCHOLIA IN BLOOM    Damien Walters commented recently on her Twitter feed about the number of her stories in which dementia/Alzheimer’s is either a major plot point or a part of the imagery. This was the first of her stories that I read in which the loss of self is a major plot point. The dual structure (mother as she progresses through that loss of identity, daughter dealing with the aftermath) allows Walters to explore the toll on both those who suffer and those who care-take / are left behind. Of course, there’s magic involved – but how long can magic stave off the inevitable? In this story, magic is not a given but a precious gift; and as we hear so often on “Once Upon A Time,” “all magic comes with a price.” This is a heart-rending must-read.

74. IRON AND WOOD, NAIL AND BONE    Another second-person narration piece, in which the subject of the story (“you”) is paying penance for some undescribed sin – the inference being that “you” know very well what you did, what you feel guilty about. As compared to “Shall I Whisper…” in the previous post, this story did make me feel manipulated, like a puppet being led through an absolution I don’t know the genesis of. It’s the rare Walters story that doesn’t work for me – thus being the exception that proves the rule (the rule being, I pretty much uniformly love this author’s work). That being said, fans of second person / direct-address storytelling will likely love this story, so I encourage you to read it.

75. AND ALL THE WORLD SAYS HUSH    The third piece of flash fiction in this collection is full of evocative imagery that seems to be leading in a bad direction: a young woman walks down a street and is greeted in what might be distasteful ways by three different men. And yet, the twist at the end makes this a different kind of story. I won’t ruin it for you, but it left a wistful smile on my face.

76. THEY M AKE OF YOU A MONSTER    Walters’ recurring themes that magic comes with a price and that magic is a tool easily corrupted come together in this story that feels like it’s set during a Spanish Inquisition-like time in a world where magic is not commonplace but also not rare – and where the King wants control over it all. Magic used to heal can also be used to hurt, after all. Walters also works classic maiden-mother-crone imagery throughout in the form of the main character’s fellow prisoners. It’s not a plot point, but a pleasant subtext.

77. PAPER THIN ROSES OF MAYBE    What if the world ends not in a rush, but in a slow creep of color? Young married couple Joshua and Maddie face the end of the world cycling through all of the logical emotions from anger to acceptance between them (but not each at the same time). Walters’ description of the flat brown encroachment that is turning everyone and everything one-dimensional is haunting and almost painful to read.

78. GREY IN THE GAUGE OF HIS STORM    Skin is equated with fabric in this tale of an ultimately abusive relationship: some people are satin, some are denim, some fall in-between, and in other circumstances different types of fabric could merge and be the stronger for it. The fabric and sewing imagery at once decreases the impact of the physical abuse and increases the impact of the aftermath. Beautifully told for all that it’s a disturbing story and an uncomfortable topic.

79. LIKE ORIGAMI IN WATER    Another story in which the loss of sense of self is keenly felt and at the center of the story, as told by the lover/caregiver of the afflicted. Only this time, Walters gives the loss a physical manifestation: Johnny is slowly disappearing, a limb at a time, in front of his lover. A perfect story to end the collection with: tightly-written, hauntingly-worded, painful but touching.

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