Aurealis #70, May 2014

Reviewed by Louis West

Ephiny Gale’s “Wrecked” is an interesting read about a journey towards self-realization, regardless of the obstacles. Veronica is a self-confident leader who’s been trapped on an island for five years with dozens of others after a shipwreck marooned them. Except Veronica is not Veronica, but Kerry, who’d agreed to participate in the ultimate of reality shows and had her personality altered before being put on the island. For five years she believed herself Veronica. Now back in her original persona, she no longer likes being Kerry. “Kerry doesn’t have a tribe, or any power here, or people in love with her. Kerry doesn’t have a lover. Kerry doesn’t have a sense of doing something meaningful with her life.” Ultimately, Kerry decides there is only one solution—to become the person she really wants to be, Veronica.

“The Stain on the Lake,” by Matthew J. Morrison, is a horror story about love become jealousy and the resulting unintended consequences. An old coal mining town is plagued by the ghosts of the Bergmann Sisters, who take their pleasure of whatever man they desire. The women of this town know better than to interfere, for these ghosts are violently jealous of their prey. Into this town saunters Emma, svelte and golden from hiking across 11 different countries. She captures the hearts and minds of everyone, bringing sunshine into the darkness. The story’s narrator, a barkeep at The Lamp and Lodestone, falls for Emma when she comes looking for work. But their friendship never becomes the romance the barkeep wants. Then Jackson, the village rake, steals Emma’s heart, and the barkeep is heartbroken. So much so, that he refuses to warn Emma when he spots the Bergmann sisters stalking her and Jackson, a decision that costs Emma her life and affects the entire town.

Nice steady tension build and compelling characters, especially the ghosts. Several times, however, the POV unexpectedly switched from the first person narrator to Emma and back, causing me to pause and figure out what was going on. Otherwise, I enjoyed the tale. Recommended.