Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Short Fiction Month: A Cup of Salt Tears - Isabel Yap
When she was young, her mother taught Makino how to appease the Kappas, the demonic creatures inhabiting Japan's rivers and ponds. Many years later, Makino's husband is dying. A Kappa who claims to have met her before shows up and makes her a tempting offer, but one that comes with a price.
The Kappa is a creature from Japanese mythology and this story is filled to the brim with all sorts of references to stories about them. It pays to have at least a passing acquaintance with the legends surrounding them. Something I readily admit I don't have so I probably missed quite a few. Yap does convey the danger that lies beneath the polite manners very well though. The Kappa in her story is extremely creepy. It is disarmingly well behaved but essentially coerces her into allowing it to do as it wants. There is never outright violence, brute force or plain blackmail but the way it tries to manipulate her is quite horrific nonetheless. I called this story a fantasy but it borders on horror.
That being said, A Cup of Salt Tears is a beautifully written tale. It is worth reading for the mythological content alone. Yap leaves the complex tangle of relationships and emotions a tangle though. While this story proved to be not quite as satisfying a read as I'd hoped for, I do think Yap is an author to keep an eye on.
Title: A Cup of Salt Tears
Author: Isabel Yap
Originally published: Tor.com, August 27th 2014
Read in: The Apex Book of World SF 4. edited by Mahvesh Murad and Lavie Tidhar (2016)
Story length: Short story, approximately 4,700 words
Available online: Tor.com