Abyss & Apex Issue 23: 3rd Quarter 2007

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“Being Blue” by Shane Nelson
“Turning Time” by David Sakmyster
“Freeing Teresa” by JD Paradise
The three stories that comprise this issue of Abyss & Apex address some complex ideas and issues. The directions the authors take, from the whimsical to the lyrical, differ, but the end result is the same. They ask their characters, and ultimately their readers, to face ideas and issues they would probably prefer to ignore if given a choice, in a relatively straightforward way.

The titles of the stories are also quite straightforward.  Noteworthy because I find it refreshing. I hate getting all the way through a short story or novel without figuring out what the author meant by the title. Sometimes, I’m just a bit slow on the uptake, but often it’s because the real meaning is obscure. There’s no obscurity here, just good, straightforward storytelling.

“Being Blue” by Shane Nelson tells of Noel, who is little by little turning blue. As he goes about his daily life, he tries to ignore the obvious, the classic denial pattern of "ignore it and maybe it will just go away." But it doesn’t. So he treks to the doctor and gets an unpleasant surprise, and finds he has a choice to make.

Noel is an everyman who reflects what many of us see around us each day. He must decide whether to shake things up or follow the path of least resistance. His choices are interesting ones, even as they smack of the familiar and everyday.

“Being Blue” was my favorite story in this issue, in part because it delves into something I’m dealing with in my own life. It addresses hard questions like “what makes you happy?” and “what’s important in life?” in a whimsical way. Instead of offering ready answers, it explores one person’s journey towards figuring out the big picture. Nelson’s underlying message seems to be that sometimes it takes something extreme, like turning blue, to really get you thinking and acting.

“Turning Time” by David Sakmyster is told in two parts, the present with Marcelle as an adult and mother of nine-year-old twins and a flashback to when she was about her children’s age.  Both follow the events leading to an old family custom. The story takes place in both the U.S. and Madagascar and spans the point of view of several generations.

The title refers a custom called the Famadihan. Explaining the details of it would probably give away too much, but what I can say is that it’s not a custom for the faint of heart. It takes the innocence of a child, first Marcelle and then her children, to truly appreciate what is needed for the ritual and to do it without fear or question—something we adults often have trouble with.

Ultimately, “Turning Time” is about honoring your roots and staying in touch with your heritage. It’s also the most macabre story in this issue. While it isn’t scary in itself, the focus of the plot is a bit disturbing if you think about it too hard. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the story. Marcelle is engaging, and it was really cool to get a window into a heritage and way of life so different from my own.

“Freeing Teresa” by JD Paradise is about Jericho “Jerry” Smith and the ghost of his dead wife, Teresa. Teresa haunts Jerry, wailing so loudly and so often, the haunting has become common knowledge. After many visits from the curious and paranormal investigators and enthusiasts, Jerry has changed his phone number and taken up the bottle. Nothing helps until he gets two visits, one from a strange old woman and another from an equally strange old man, that compel him to really explore why his wife died and where he will go from there.
On the surface, “Freeing Teresa” seems like a ghost story; it has a haunting as well as other elements of the supernatural. But really, it’s a character study tinged with the supernatural. Although I found the male visitor oddly compelling, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the other three stories in this issue. Noel wasn’t my cup of tea, but I still found “Freeing Teresa” to be a decent read. Worth checking out if you like a character-driven plot. I suspect I secretly wanted a bit more mayhem (action) and less psychological exploration.