Jaq and Lily have no past.
They need no past.
Endless present stretches around all the women on the ship Scylla. But Lily has always been fickle, and when the crew rescues a man adrift, she’s quick to trade Jaq for the more novel lover. Enraged and heartbroken, Jaq considers the many ways to kill this interloper: The pigs will eat most anything. The sea is deep and choppy and cold. And she has venoms all her own, if it comes to it.
Unfortunately, it won’t be so simple.
With the man’s presence, the entire crew is infected with memories of before, and the ship’s fragile peace begins to shatter. Each woman learns how she came to be aboard, igniting a thirst for retribution that gives the usually aimless ship direction. As Scylla draws closer to shore, Jaq must decide whether winning back Lily’s affection is worth joining her in a quest for revenge that could destroy their endless present, separating them forever.
Merciless Waters is the new queer horror novella written by Rae Knowles, published by Brigid Gates Press. An excellent read that shows Knowles' skill at portraying feminine rage, while using folk horror in a really different and unique way, taking the scenario from the usual woods to the sea, aboard the Scylla.
Our story is centered around Jaq and Lily, a couple that exists aboard the timeless present on the Scylla, a boat run by a sapphic crew; nobody remembers about their past lives. That's until a man is found in the ocean, being rescued; once he's aboard, Jaq will find herself fighting for Lily's affections, as she seems to be attracted by this new man.
But that's not the only thing that seems to be changing across the Scylla, as some hidden memories of the crewmembers are starting to stay afloat, finding why the existence on this boat might not be as perfect as they see.
In this context, we are mostly following Jaq, a really flawed character, who doesn't hide her many problems and insecurities; when losing Lily becomes a possibility, she won't doubt on using anything she can to eliminate this stranger.
In addition to Jaq's plot, we get to explore the rest of the crew's stories and past, understanding that not everything aboard the Scylla is what appears to be, revealing horrific pasts sometimes.
Rae Knowles shows her skill at portraying flawed characters, while at the same time having a gorgeous and evocative prose; a novella that is not afraid to dip its toes into eroticism and anger, while conserving its horror nature.
If you are looking for a different kind of folk horror, I would recommend you to try Merciless Waters; you will be really pleased with the result. A book that won't make feel you indifferent.
Rae Knowles is a queer woman who holds a BA in English Language and Literature with a minor in Creative Writing. Her debut novel, The Stradivarius, released May ’23, her sapphic horror novella, Merciless Waters, is due out winter ’23, and her collaboration with April Yates, Lies that Bind, in early ’24. Her short stories have been published widely by publications such as Seize the Press, Dark Matter Ink, and Nosetouch Press. Rae is the editor-in-chief of Lady Mantis Books, an imprint of Brigids Gate Press.