Home » Creative writing » Entanglement – Part Nine

Entanglement – Part Nine

Backyard Garden

Photo by cwwycoff1 via Flickr

Previous installments of Entanglement can be found by clicking Home on the header menu and scrolling down. If you haven’t begun the series and would like to, here’s a shortcut to Part One.

The stranger withdrew his arm, returning both hands to his pockets.

Aliss began to breathe again, slow, her head aching as a forgotten memory resurfaced. In it, she was no more than five, laughing to herself in a green yard, squinting in bright sunshine.

 ~

Her mother was calling from the distance, somewhere inside the house. “Aliss!”

She ignored the call and covered her mouth with one hand, reaching the other into familiar back yard air to find the funny space again. Her fingers disappeared as she flexed them, and her delighted giggles grew louder. As her wrist tickled inside the new invisible toy, she felt a sharp slap on the back of her head.

Her mother whispered loud into her ear, “What the hell are you doing!” and shook her. “Don’t do that. Don’t ever do that again.” She dragged Aliss into the house and to her room by the pink suspenders of her overalls.

The look on her mother’s face scared her, but anticipation made the fear subside after the door shut and her mother’s footsteps disappeared down the stairs.

Aliss felt around the air in front of the mirror by her mini dressing table, felt her way to the slidey place she could reach into, watching as fingers, elbow, and foot appeared to go someplace else. This time, much too surprised to make any sound, she reached inside it and the rest of her followed. With strange undulating light around her — glistening silvery gray as if through mirrored glass — she had almost emerged through another side to a place where scents were different, sights unfamiliar, when the left side of her body hit something hard that stopped her. Another kind of fear came over her as she closed her eyes, turned and aimed toward home — or the space that felt like home.

Emerging from the slidey softness again, the air smelled like her room. She opened her eyes and ran to her bed. Her thumb almost went into her mouth, but she felt she’d been bad enough that day and needed to be good to protect herself from a spanking later on. She crawled up onto her bed and clamped both thumbs under her armpits, falling asleep while thinking about her new adventure, unsure but excited.

 ~

In the present, Aliss’s headache grew worse as she remembered something else — visiting with a boy in her yard. He was in third grade, a year ahead of her, but they’d met over the summer as new neighbors, becoming friends over comic books and chocolate bars and games played in the park.

 ~

“You shouldn’t go away inside the house,” she told him. “You’ll run into things and you won’t get anywhere.”

“Why?” he asked.

Shrugging, she said, “I don’t know.”

“You’re telling stories. You better show me or shut up.”

Aliss lifted her chin, letting her firmest, defiant face show. “You better not tell. Grown-ups won’t like it.”

“If you’re not lying, I won’t tell,” he said.

She eyed him, deciding if he was trustworthy. He didn’t seem like other boys, or girls for that matter, but like someone who’d listen and pay attention, so she raised her hands and fingertips vertically against currents of air she’d come to sense, searching for a pocket of smoothness she could slip into and travel to places closer than anyone dreamed. “Keep your hands this way when you search. It makes it easier.” When her hand slipped into a path, his breath was audible. When her arm disappeared, he ran home and didn’t come back until the next day, when she gave him his next lesson on how to do it himself.

 ~

Now, crumpled beneath her window, Aliss whispered, “Hugh,” and recalled his face.

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17 thoughts on “Entanglement – Part Nine

    • It means a lot to me that you, as a new reader, would take the time to try this story and then find that you like it. Thank you so much for stopping by. I’m so glad I was able to entertain you with this. Thanks for letting me know.

  1. Two thoughts here. First, as a standalone story, this is AWESOME. The description of “going away” is fantastic, and I love the way Aliss defies her mother and then retreats in fear from her discovery. And I love the way the boy runs away from it. It gives the character outside her window a whole new dimension.

    But I’m having a couple of problems with it. I think the biggest one is that it comes out of left field, late-ish in the story. I want some indication of magic before this. Up until now, the story has been a romance between Aliss and Miller with this scary figure from Aliss’s background to throw a potential kink in the works. You don’t lose that here, nor should you. But if it’s going to be more than an old romantic entanglement with Hugh, then you need stronger indicators of magic before now. Either when he’s stalking her or when he’s arguing with Miller, there should be something else there, like a question “Haven’t you seen how she disappears sideways to the light?” or some description of him like “One minute, he was standing under the streetlamp, and in the next he seemed to be gone”.

    But as I said, I love the new twist. My suggestions are geared more towards when you combine it into a single short story that you plan to present somewhere for publication.

    • Thanks for saying, “AWESOME,” Jessie. I really appreciate that coming from so talented and imaginative a writer as yourself.

      I see what you mean by this suggestion: “One minute, he was standing under the streetlamp, and in the next he seemed to be gone.” I tried to do something along those lines — that’s why Miller twirled around scannning the street like “a second hand sweeping around a clock.” Then I added the part where Aliss mentioned that the police could never find him (even if she saw him there when they pulled up) in response to my feeling that there needed to be another clue in that installment. I’ve been wondering if that was too subtle. I have continuing trouble straddling the line between giving things away too soon and being clumsy, in the dramatic sense, and holding back so much that the clues given feel opaque to my readers.

      I’m also interested in your thoughts on there being “magic” here. I’ve found that I write smaller stories, more about characters’ places within a situation and their coping mechanisims, and concentrate less on building intricate alternate worlds when I introduce sci-fi elements. I like to begin with the realism of this world, and then embroider in sci-fi touches, anchored in scientific theory, the way you or I would experience them in real life if suddenly faced with fantastic new facts.

      Ultimately, I do know it’s about honing my writing skills. I’m glad for the practice, and glad that you’re generous with your feedback. Thanks again for reading this. 🙂

  2. I really liked this instalment but have to agree the shift is a touch abrupt. I suddenly found myself thinking, “Alice, looking glass – and this is going to be an interesting twist”.

    I now wonder why there are so many references to orange juice, as it appeared so frequently in passages that I was wondering if you were trying to tell us something.

    To introduce the magic sooner, perhaps Aliss could talk to herself when scared – noting how she always feels safer when she withdraws into her quiet space (readers will assume it is a metaphor, not a literal reference).

    She could perhaps relay how life out in the open is more complicated, has always scared her or been harder and how he (shadowy figure) seems to be waiting for an opportunity to drag her back into the shadows, into the dark space…

    I am not sure what I am saying would fit in or make sense, as we don’t know the plot – but it would help the reader if there was an easter egg or white rabbit to follow to the reveal of magic being involved.

    Can’t wait for part 10.

    • Thank you so much for commenting. It’s becoming more and more apparent to me that I’ve smushed together a few different genres, and maybe I like mysteries more than I thought I did. 🙂 (And I may not be folowing the ‘rules’!) If it still doesn’t seem quite right once I’ve finished it, I’ll definitely have a lot of tweaking to do. I’ll try to get part ten up tomorrow. Thanks for the feedback!

    • This form seems determined to post as a reply to Mark above – WordPress at its finest. But I’m really replying to Re above. I would argue that the best stories are just that, stories. You don’t have to have a LOT of magic to have it there at the outset. I think just bring out what you’ve already mentioned. Lots of people can hide from the cops, even fast, but what if Aliss sees him vanish when Miller turns away from him after the confrontation (for instance)? What if she sees him take one step back and then just be gone? What if Miller goes back and can’t find him where he was a second ago, leaving Aliss irrationally convinced that he’s going to pop up over her shoulder at any moment? That could both drive her closer to MIller and fuel his protectiveness of her of this guy who is so in tune with shadows that he can use them so well. And it can prepare the reader for the revelation to come without just slamming the sci-fi/ fantasy elements into place like anvils. All I felt after the confrontation with Miller was the sense that the guy was a stalker, possibly a dangerous one, because he thought he had some claim to Aliss. But a stalker who can vanish at will, that could be just a guy with cat senses, or it could be something more, and you poise the story to go either way with something like that.

      • Thanks for this comment, Jessie. You’re really making me think.

        It feels important to me that you’ve experienced the sci-fi elements in this story as being slammed into place like anvils. I hear you saying that although in this story that’s the way it happens for Aliss (and may happen for Miller) once Hugh decides to give her that ultimate clue, it’s aggravating to you as a reader. In light of how the rest of the story goes, I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way I can address that while still honoring Aliss’s experience, her emotional journey, the one I want to tell.

        I’m hoping I can learn to straddle the line between honoring the confusion that propels my characters sometimes, and the reader who wants better clues along the way than the character has.

        Thanks for the feedback.

    • Thanks for saying that. I’m glad you’re finding it interesting. I’ve put myself on a bit of a tightrope here, so I appreciate all the comments and feedback I get. Thanks for reading it.

  3. I really like this new twist. I usually don’t read people’s tweets, but for some reason I saw, before reading this part, that your story was going to have some sci-fi elements in it, and I had one of those big cartoon question marks form over my head. Which I suppose means that the commenters have a point in saying that it came out of left field; there was romance, mystery, and menace in earlier parts, but no big hints of sci-fi to come. That doesn’t mean it’s bad or doesn’t work. After all, in some of the most successful mysteries, the hero gets bonked over the head sometimes, out of left field.

    • Thanks for coming back to it, TTD. I’m really glad you liked the new twist. 🙂

      You do bring up an interesting point for me about some of the feedback. I’m very eager to keep learning, so I need to hear everything, and I crave conversation about it too, to help me really understand the feedback so I can use it properly or file it away for another story. So I’ll say this: I keep thinking this story/novella (whatever it’s going to be) is more interesting with the reader finding out what’s going on as Aliss does. The story of her emotional journey through this, and Hugh’s and Miller’s, is what’s interesting to me. I like simple sci-fi elements — what would you or I do if suddenly we could fly? — as much I like complex twisting plots of futuristic worlds and otherness. But as a writer I’m more interested in the emotional journey of living with that one out of left field thing.

      For me, it’s there and important, but it isn’t the main point. Maybe the sci-fi detail in this story feels out of left field to people who prefer that sort of thing front and center. But at this point in her life, it isn’t front and center for Aliss until way after chapter seven.

      And okay … now I have to ask this of you and anyone else who wants to chime in: I guess I do understand the downside to using other works of art as a reference point in a story, but in regard to subtle clues — what kind of life must a woman have had and forgotten, to think that anything from The Dark Knight could jog her memory? Don’t most of us at least know that’s a really dark movie about Batman, even if we haven’t seen it? I’m just askin’…

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