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Rising Waters: 01/24/09
This week's story, "Rising Waters" by Patricia Ferrara is the January reprint. It was published originally in the July 1987 issue. It was later republished in the Best Horror Stories From the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction(1989).
"Rising Waters" is atmospheric. Everything centers around the river that had years before the young protagonist was born rising above its banks and taken over the entire flood plain. His grandmother tells stories of being forced to abandon her home and house the waters rose above the roof tops, drowning all the old houses.
One exceptionally hot August the river begins to recede and up rising the murky ghost town. The unnamed boy of the story is hot and curious and his curiosity gets the best of him.
The story works for its creepy atmosphere, the stench of the rising houses, the creaking home that might collapse under the weight of the water at any time and the unmentionables lurking. The horror of it all though, isn't the death and the decay of the river, it's the size of the thing and the limited strength of a boy who has gotten in over his head.
The story brought to mind a number of other floods: the end of O Brother Where Art Thou (2000), the sunken train and the decaying home in Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson and the episode of Magnum PI where Magnum has to tread water in the ocean until he is rescued and in the process overcomes his fears and the painful memories of his father's death.