I decided to post my “long” version of my recent short story for the Utah Children’s Writers blog. I signed up to participate in a project where each person posts an original short story (or poem), 500 words or less, on their assigned day in April…one for each day. My day was yesterday. I originally had almost 1,000 words and had a reallllly hard time cutting it…I think my end total was about 58 words over or something, but I left it at that.
For the shorter version, go here: Utah Children’s Writers Blog
I had a lot of fun writing this story, even though I had to rush the last half out the night before…I’ve been really sick all week, plus this whole month has been crazy with my brother’s wedding and family gatherings going on. And it was very scary getting out of my comfort zone and posting this very amateur-ish thing where some really good writers could possibly see it. But I did it, and I’m proud of myself for finishing. 🙂
The long version:
Almost a Whisper
by Kiirsi Hellewell
She stands in the middle of the clearing, arms stretched up to the sky. The gold, rose, and scarlet of sunset have given way to lavender and now blue. She watches as the blue deepens and stars begin to appear…cold silver points, so far away.
She shivers as cooler air sweeps over her brow, blowing her hair. She has lived here for so long that she knows every wind as intimately as her own breath. Winter winds, cold and lonely, howling in with the taste of ice in their lips, bringing snow and silence. Spring winds with the fresh promise of warmth and life and beauty. Summer winds, sometimes hot and searing, other times full of the smells of ripening grain, cool brooks, and sun-warm fruit. Autumn winds—warm in the daytime, cold at night, full of blowing golden leaves and the far-off promise of snow.
Tonight she can feel that promise…feel her feet, toes sinking into the ground, getting colder, the blood flowing more sluggishly through her veins. She hears the sorrow of her sisters as they whisper goodbye to the warm summer sun and prepare to exchange their light clothes for the stark coldness of the grey days and silent nights, broken only by the soft padding of sharp-toothed animals, their eyes gleaming yellow in the darkness.
Now she hears footsteps approaching…hesitant in the growing darkness. They stop right next to her. She stands, silent, and knows they will not see her.
They never do, not really.
It’s hard to find the clearing where she lives, but people do manage it a few times a year. She will ignore them, as usual, when something catches her attention—a tickling, creeping feeling, crawling its way up her skin like tiny insects. She has felt this before…long, long ago. She freezes, more silent than the pale silver moon now climbing up into the night sky. She listens.
“Are you sure about this?” Fallen leaves crackle as two people sit. It’s a girl’s voice—a young woman. Her voice is hesitant, doubtful. “I don’t really see why we had to come all the way out here.”
The voice comes, smooth, cultured, but oily and slick as clay mud. She shudders silently. She knows what will come next.
“Of course, Emily. Nothing to worry about. Just close your eyes and sit still. In five minutes or less your problem will disappear, just as I promised.”
The girl shifts uneasily on the dry grass and leaves. “I don’t see how your little ritual can make my problems vanish, Mr. Fle—“
“Simon,” the man cuts in smoothly. “How will you know unless you try it? What can it hurt?”
Above them, she shifts slightly. She has not felt fear or pain or anger in a very long time, has almost forgotten such things existed. But now—at the return of his voice—she feels them stirring and bubbling deep within her. Memories begin to rise to the suface…distant faces…far-off laughter…the touch of a loved one’s hand in hers… She begins to shake.
On the grass below, Emily sighs. “You’re right. I can’t imagine anything worse than the way I feel right now. I’d do almost anything to have this heartache go away.” She sighs once more, then closes her eyes.
Simon’s face is triumphant. He raises his hands above her head, holding one on each side, and begins to chant in a low monotone.
Above them the shaking is getting worse. More and more memories flood her mind. She has been happy for a long time, but now she remembers what she lost, what she gave up so very long ago. She can’t let it happen to this girl, too—not again. She gathers her strength and tries to scream, to warn the girl. But she can’t make a sound.
A wind begins to blow around Simon and Emily. Between his hands a cold blue light grows. It outlines her body. Simon’s smile grows wider.
It is not enough. She tries harder. She concentrates every desire on the couple below her, pitting her strength against the forces that hold her feet deep in the earth.
Emily twitches. “Simon? I feel weird. What’s going on?”
“Hush,” he whispers. “It’s working.” Emily’s arms and legs begin to lengthen and spread toward the earth, fingers becoming sharp and pointed, reaching toward the soil.
“Simon?” she struggles to open her eyes. “I can’t move! Stop! STOP!” Her skin begins to change, hardening, thickening, darkening. One foot sinks into the dirt.
Simon’s laugh rings out, harsh and ecstatic. “It’s too late now,” he says. “It’s been too long since I changed one of you. My power was running low. And you’ll get what I promised—your problem will be gone. You won’t even remember that your boyfriend exists.”
Above the struggling girl, she gives one last desperate heave. The ground underneath Simon opens in one long, wide crack. “What the—no!” he cries. “Impossible!” He begins to fall and scrabbles around, trying to hold on. A long root wraps around his waist and pulls him down, deep, deep down… He is falling…
Cold blue light arcs from his hands and leaps back to Emily.
The ground closes. The wind is gone. Emily stands, shaking. She looks at her fingers. They are covered in dirt. So are her jeans, up to her knees. She rubs her skin. It is soft, normal. She hears something. She looks around.
She is alone. The leaves of the solitary oak tree behind her rustle. It is a quiet sound…
Almost a whisper.
Copyright 2009 by Kiirsi Hellewell; all rights reserved by the author.