Whispered Echoes by Paul F. Olson
Crystal Lake Publishing, 2017
Available: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition
Whispered Echoes was originally published in 2016 as a limited edition hardcover by Cemetery Dance Publications. The stories in this collection were previously published in various magazines and edited anthologies with the exception of the novella “Bloodybones”, which appears for the first time in this book. The stories appear in this volume in chronological order as they were published. There are a few stories that stand out in this anthology.
Kent Barclay is “The Visitor” to the small town of Patterson Falls once a year. That’s when the accidents began. They started out small: a non-lethal bike accident here, someone injured by a glass door there. Then eight year old Sarah McKennon met with a deadly accident in the presence of Barclay. Matthew is appointed to talk sense to Barclay, to get him to leave town voluntarily, but to no avail. Now, Matthew waits for Barclay’s return, and the accidents that await Patterson Falls this year.
In “From a Dreamless Sleep Awakened”, police chief Carl Holt calls for Father Jurgens to help him with the strange situation of nine-year old Tommy Gallagher, a child who went missing after he unearthed bones in a small cave a month previously. When the missing child is found, he’s changed. This wasn’t a particularly unique story, as the Indian burial ground, an office calling on a priest for exorcism, and possession of the weak are familiar tropes. Even so, it was well done.
The world is different in “The More Things Change.” The natural world is no longer obeying the laws of nature: the sky changes colour, the river starts to reverse its flow…and bears are riding motorcycles. A cadre of the town retirees starts talking about the new guy in town, Jock Bartholomew, wondering if he is responsible for the sudden changes. The subject of witchcraft comes up conversation and the men laugh it off. Elvin, one of the party, interprets it as just a laugh, that there was no malice behind it. Despite this, Elvin can’t help but wonder. He warns Jock about the potential danger he is in after analyzing the situation further. They both learn first hands what happens when a community falls to herd mentality and the danger it poses when the men and other people from the town show up at Jock’s house, yelling for the witch to come out and face his consequences.
The novella of the anthology, “Bloodybones”, is both beautiful and terrifying. Six months after Amy’s disappearance on her way home, her boyfriend, David, decides to investigate the old lighthouse she lived in. Amy’s sister arrives to find her own answers as well. As they search for what could have happened to a woman they both cared about, they find information about Bloodybones. Who was this entity, and what did it want? More importantly, what did it do with Amy?
The tales mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many great stories in this volume. Olson truly has a way with storytelling. The reader can see his writing progression from the first story to the last. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Lizzy Walker