Review of Laine Bell, “Song of the Water Bear”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue 299 (March 12, 2020): Read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.
It’s appropriate that this story of rebirth begins with the narrator awakening from hibernation. Cel belongs to a clan of aquatic, egg-laying creatures that live symbiotically with a species of eight-legged, egg-laying water bears. The lives of both species revolve around protecting themselves and their eggs—their future, in other words—from numerous environmental threats. These include poisonballs, which sicken whoever they touch, and rollers, which eat the eggs and bite off the limbs and tails of all they encounter.
Shortly after Cel awakens and begins laying her own eggs, she learns of a new threat her people must confront: gray, shapeless beings that move slowly but relentlessly and somehow absorb whoever they meet. Further adding to the difficulty, the longtime leader of Cel’s clan has died and Cel reluctantly agrees to take charge. Whether she and her people have the inner strength and resourcefulness to face this foe and, in so doing, forge a different relationship with the water bears is what the remainder of the story relates. It’s a good story told well and the first-person description of Cel’s egg laying is particularly effective.