The Booked. Anthology Review 12: “Children of the Wetlands” by Nikki Guerlain

Sometimes, when it comes to short stories, what is important isn’t so much a convoluted or impressive plot. It can merely be a scene, and this is going on, being character driven. The author can have an idea about a cool character with a sweet leather jacket, slicked back hair, and devilish squinty James Franco eyes. On occasion, short stories are meant to flex that language muscle, showing off a flowery language to paint a picture with a brief situation that means a whole lot of jack and/or squat. Or sometimes, just sometimes, Nikki Guerlain does something as simple as a little bit of everything and you get a fever dream of a nightmare, such as “Children of the Wetlands.”

I’ll be honest. I don’t “get” the point of this story, plot-wise. I don’t, and if there’s a massive arc, either character or story or both, it slipped on its best bandana over its eyes, swallowed an entire pepperoni pizza and Teenage Mutant Ninja’d itself right on by. There’s a surgeon, and an ungodly surgery or two. There’s something about siblings holding each other, and knives, and fire. There’s plenty of fire, yes. Fire. And three scenes happen, the first two being quasi-related through a few images, and then the third scene is kind of an amalgamation of the first two. But yes, there’s these scenes, and short of seeing and walking, I’m not sure what actually “happens.”

What I do know is the imagery is a terror. For such a small and pretty lady, what Miss Guerlain does with words and punctuation is impressive. She flexes those guns, flashes an adorable smile, and then beats the shit out of you until you’re euphoric. In this instance, the images are vibrant and undeniable. I feel like I know what it’s like to be inside Nikki’s head for a moment, and I’m not sure for whom I’m more concerned. However, I’m certain, that this piece, like many of the others, will stay with me. The writhing siblings in each vignette, they will not be forgotten. The burning fields and the blood and gore; all of it will stay with me. Because that’s what she do, she rocks your world.

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