In Phillips’ debut novella, a well haunts and imprisons people.
A young woman named Kyla is led to, and trapped within, a shouting well. The well itself, legend claims, has strange abilities: Shouting the name of a dead person triggers an answer in his or her voice. The young woman travels to the well despite her misgivings, enticed by her own curiosity and the promise of a familiar-looking stranger. One shout and she can leave, she’s told. But on entering the mysterious area surrounding the well, Kyla finds several despondent, unmoving people there, trapped. The well’s only response to shouted names seems to be, “I won’t come up!” The woman realizes that every possible exit is blocked and that her promise of release once she has shouted was a lie. Prisoners of the well surround her. Some plunge to their deaths. Kyla resigns herself to her imprisonment and begins to hallucinate, seeing people she has lost, including her mother and friends. These agonizing memories flood her, forcing her to relive heartache, loss and disappointment. The shouting well proves itself to be more of a generator of pain than a conduit to the departed. Kyla plans to free herself from painful memories and reclaim control of herself. This unique story is well-paced, presented in short chapters that highlight the protagonist’s ongoing desperation as she slips further into despair. The people’s need to hear lost loves’ voices dovetails well with the forced endurance of an endless cycle of sad memories, inducing a melancholy, spooky mood.
A complex, metaphorical tale that warns against obsessively dwelling on agonizing memories.