Dark Water, a collection of short stories by Koji Suzuki
You may know Koju Suzuki as the author of Ring, the horror novel turned movie turned American remake that still tops best of horror lists. Dark Water is a collection of 7 short stories all loosely about water in some way. As with most short story collections the stories vary wildly in quality.
I was worried at the start of the book because I was extremely underwhelmed by the first story. However, there are a couple of real gems within the book so I would still recommending giving them all a read.
The first story in Dark Water is essentially the story of Elisa Lam. You may have heard of this mysterious death before, she’s the young woman who was discovered dead in a water tower. This case is still unsolved and is the discussion of many true crime and conspiracy boards.
The story does do a good job of incorporating some of the finer points of the mystery, like eluding to the elevator buttons that she frantically pushed on the way to her death. However, the story doesn’t focus on the girl in the water tower, it focuses on a single mother and her daughter who live in the building.
The reason this story really didn’t work for me is that it seems to have no awareness of being connected to a true story. It reads more like a rip off than an alternate history perspective.
The second story takes place on a restricted island in Tokyo Bay. A research team has received approval to conduct a survey there and one of the members of the party is weary to check it out.
He has a dark memory tied to this island and is nervous to discover it is true. A man once told him that he left a girl stranded there, left her on purpose to die there. This story is disturbing and the reader is likely to hope along with the protagonist that there is no truth in it.
The Hold may have been my favorite story in the collection. An abusive husband and father wakes up to find that his wife is missing. All of her belongings are still in their home, it doesn’t appear that she ran away, but she is nowhere to be found.
The man trying to solve this mystery slowly reveals hidden memories and builds to a very strong and unpredictable conclusion. It is more than just a missing persons case, it’s a character study that will chill you. Also, water does become involved, as is the theme.
Dream Cruise ventures more into the supernatural than the other stories when a couple invites a friend onto their yacht in order to convince him to join their pyramid scheme. Right from the get go I’m rooting for this MLM couple to go under.
Their boat gets stuck in place with no discernible reason. They begin to investigate but as they search for a way back to shore they become more and more hopeless.
Being trapped at sea is a big fear of mine. (For no real reason, I live in a landlocked state, I just hate the ocean). This story taps into that fear and adds in some extra spookiness for good measure.
Adrift is another story that has ties to a real life event and unsolved mystery. If you are familiar with the tale of the Marie Celeste you’ll understand this story right away. The Marie Celeste was the name of a boat that was discovered unmanned after not reaching its destination on time. The boat was empty of all passengers but undamaged. Food was set out for dinner, there was no evidence of disruption or any violence. Just a lifeless boat with no explanation.
The difference between Adrift and Floating Water is that Adrift acknowledges its influence by these real world events. That makes the story much easier to recognize as a hypothetical retelling and not a rip off.
The second to last story is an odd one. An acting troupe is performing for small audiences in an old play house. During one performance water begins to drip from the ceiling onto the stage. The director goes to investigate the source of the disruption and finds himself entangled in a very unusual situation in the upstairs bathroom.
What follows him leaving the stage is either part of the play or reality depending on how you choose to read it. It’s left open to interpretation with an ending that provides room for doubt. No matter how you view it, it is a rather creepy tale.
Forest Under the Sea
Forest Under the Sea is a strong final entry. It is both scary and touching, just as the best horror usually is.
An adventurer turned family man does caving on the weekends in order to keep his itch for adventure scratched. He is excited to find a possibly unknown cave to explore and he and his fellow spelunker friend begin to journey into the depths.
Clearly, this is a dangerous outing and they should have told someone where they would be, but this is a horror book so their curiosity bests their judgement. You can probably guess that something goes very wrong and they’re unable to get out. The story follows the family man as he attempts to return to the safety of his home. This story is highly memorable and is likely to stick with you long after you close the book.
4/5 water drops 💧💧💧💧
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For another great horror short story collection check out Full Throttle