Short Story Review: “Waiting” by Dennis Detwiller

2 of 5 stars.

Time trudges forward unceasingly, and yet many tales ask about the implications of moving through time, and even altering time. There is the notion of correcting history to that which must happen, vs routing a tragic event or stopping a dastardly person before unspeakable things happen. This is the direction that this tale feels like it wants to take, it just never arrives anywhere.

Emmanuel works a lonely, quiet life at a bus station in rural New Mexico not far from where an army base has scientists working on radioactive materials on account of the war effort [WWII]. A couple times a week, a scientist gets dropped off by a bus only to be picked up by a waiting army truck.

One day a strange man appears just waiting. But he doesn’t get on a bus, nor meet anyone. Nor does he leave with the army. At close of day, he departs into the desert. The next day plays out the same way. This goes on for weeks.

After many weeks of the same, the stranger starts to talk what appears to be nonsense. But he predicts when the war in Europe will end, and the war in the Pacific. He also accurately describes the modern life of the early 2000s. And even where Emmanuel will live out his days. Emmanuel is freaked, and rightly so . . .

The conversations between Emmanuel and the stranger are hard to follow as they don’t follow conventional formatting rules. The stranger speaks in paragraphs. And normally when one character speaks multiple paragraphs consecutively, the quote marks are left open to show that it’s the same speaker. However, all quotes are closed making it extremely hard to follow who is saying what. Many lines pass without dialogue tags, nor proper punctuation. To read the dialogue paragraphs as alternating between the characters, doesn’t seem to make much sense either. Making the reader guess as to which character speaks what line isn’t clean storytelling. Editing would clear this up, strengthening the tale.

This tale appears in Whispers from the Abyss edited by Kat Rocha, the author of this tale. I received this new anthology directly from 01 Publishing through I’ve previously reviewed this author’s “The Knot”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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