Short Stories 366:287 — “Goodbye is a Mouthful of Water,” by Dominik Parisien

Yesterday’s brief respite from the month of dark and creepy notwithstanding, today’s story, found in Playground of Lost Toys, is an atmospheric and slow-building-shudder of a story from Dominik Parisien, who I’ve been lucky to meet a few times via Can*Con and the Prix Aurora Awards (Dominik, who edited the fiction content, co-won the Aurora for the anthology Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction alongside his co-editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, who edited the non-fiction).

“Goodbye is a Mouthful of Water” is a very short story, but it packs a solid punch into each page. A town flooded in the past (purposefully, as part of a reservoir), a grandfather with a knack for influence over a grandchild, a mother trying to protect her child from that influence, and a child feeling a pull to do… something, and seeing the dead in the water (though surely no one was actually drowned by the dam, no?). The trips into this drowned village, where the grandfather took the child, form a kind of shifting unstable foundation for an uncertain future, and as that moment comes due, I was squirming as a reader.

The imagery of looking down into water and seeing a whole village beneath is already powerful enough, but Parisien adds a foreboding throughout, a tick-tock (or drip-drip-drip, perhaps) of tension rising as the child grows, knows something must be done, and sets his sight on the dam, or the village, or the water. It’s a superbly atmospheric and creepy little tale, woven in a kind of warped and damaged way from the love between a grandchild and grandparent given only a darker path to expression.

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