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Bewildering Stories

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What Shall We Say?

Elena Croitoru’s “When the World’s Echoes Stopped” appears in issue 642.

A reader observes about the ending of the story:

Mary needs closure. That’s what everyone wants when someone close to them dies. Mary doesn’t get one last chance to bid farewell or make amends, as Presto does in “Mr. Beelzy’s Trick.”

It’s appropriate that Mary wants to open up a youth center, not so much to serve penance for being human in a time of crisis, but so that she can recover her own youthfulness and revive good memories.

I don’t like Chris’s response to her confession: “You weren’t you when you dragged Stephen under. Besides, the current killed him.”

Anyone might have done what she did. It wasn’t murder; it was survival drive. She took advantage of the assistance her husband was trying to give her, and he paid for it. I think the proper response would be that her husband would have happily made the sacrifice.

[BwS] Agreed. Accidents happen, and Mary knows her accident became Stephen’s; if she hadn’t fallen overboard, he wouldn’t have drowned while trying to save her. As a consequence, Mary is locked in an “if only...” loop, and that way lies madness.

What are we going to tell her: that her survivor’s guilt is unearned? That, though true, is beside the point; she needs help in grieving. At least Chris tries to distance Mary emotionally from the accident by saying, “You weren’t you.” But that’s meaningless: who else was she, if not herself?

I think you’ve made the essential point: Chris could tell Mary that Stephen would have gladly sacrificed himself for her. Chris could even point out that Stephen did exactly that by unhesitatingly trying to rescue her.

Could Chris say anything else? He can open a door for Mary. Perhaps: “You lived. Now you can do something that will make Stephen proud.”

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