Beneath Ceaseless Skies #318, December 3, 2020

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #318, December 3, 2020

“The Garden Where No One Ever Goes” by P. H. Lee

After Me, The FloodElizabeth Zuckerman

Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia

In “The Garden Where No One Ever Goes” by P. H. Lee, we follow a love-struck narrator through a forbidden affair with deadly stakes. Although moving, concise, and clear, the privileged protagonist’s lack of heroic action may lose her some readers’ full sympathy. Precise, magical imagery delivers an accessible big-picture metaphor that neatly ties the end of this flash piece to the setup.

After Me, The Flood by Elizabeth Zuckerman draws readers into an immersive first person narrative of a selkie-child’s attempts to distance herself from a king who sees her as a replacement for the selkie wife who abandoned them. Unhappy on land and at the constant beck-and-call of her father, Princess Dahut promises to keep a room ready for him if he’ll build her a city on the sea, and he agrees, expending a fortune on an enchanted wall to keep out the ocean waters. Yet, this measure of freedom proves insufficient, as glimpses of private conversations with her father build on the subtle picture of familial abuse hinted at in little, casual moments from the start. It’s no accident that Zuckerman opens “After Me, The Flood” with Dahut asking her father for a story: her father’s been telling her the story of her captivity all her life. Can the brainwashing of an over-controlling father keep his half-selkie daughter from answering the call of the ocean? Zuckerman’s clever use of structure and detail transforms a classic selkie’s quest for freedom into the profound tale of a daughter discovering her magic and her Self under the suffocating oppression of those who should be her protectors.

Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to write, read, and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best inspiration. Find her on Facebook and twitter @mrsmica.