Short Story Review: “Umbilicus” by Damien Angelica Walters

4 of 5 stars.

The inexplicable death of one’s child has no equal. It shatters worlds and batters one’s psyche until it’s impossible to discern reality from nightmare.

This tale follows a young mother, Tess, a year after her 7 y.o. daughter, Emily, disappeared into the ocean. Her grief emerges as delusion, obsession, and physical pain. Perhaps more than grief lends to Tess’ troubles as supernatural echoes bubble up. Unhelpfully, the police chock the event up to child suicide. But Tess was there and saw what she saw. Her daughter who never had a sleepwalking problem, seemed to do just that when she left the house in the middle of the night and walked down to the quickly receding ocean and walked right in until she slipped out of Tess’ sights.

Tess saw the receding waterline beckoning to her daughter. She also thought she saw a large form rise out of the waves . . . Now, she cannot get the taste of salt water out of her mouth. Tess also hears her daughter calling to her every time she runs water . . .

This piece appears in the New Lovecraftian anthology, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu edited by Paula Guran. I received my copy of the anthology directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read Walters’ excellent “The Floating Girls: A Documentary” which made my Best Reads for 2015 in the category of Dark Fantasy Short Stories.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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