Friday, October 1, 2010


Walter hiked with Callie through the Cumberland Plateau's wooden shoulders. They both wore headlamps that emitted spikes of light to illuminate their path through the laurel and oak forests. They passed a glade where moonlight splashed across the blades of grass. Silence surrounded them. Walter thanked the absence of words. His thoughts were too pure, too poetic, and better left unsaid. He stopped and pointed at a shortleaf pine tree silhouetted against the stars. Callie smiled.

They followed a spur trail to Virgin Falls where they stood at the base. Walter thought about what he would say, careful to avoid being profound. "Turn your head lamp off."

Callie nodded. Their eyes adjusted to the gloom of the moon that floated over the rise of Virgin Falls above the cave where water emerged from the cliff to splash the blackened rock reflecting in the moonlight. A silvery rainbow reflected in the mist's veil that floated over their head. "It's --"

Walter grabbed Callie's hand in his. It felt cold. "No." Profoundness threatened.

"It's beautiful." Callie lifted her hand held in his and pirouetted underneath, her hair catching the moonglow. "You should savor words. Let them dance upon your tongue. Your joy must vanquish your fear."

Walter had relaxed at beautiful. Empty imagery, empty words. But her final sentence stabbed at him like icicles. He squeezed her hand as if that would keep her here. "Don't say that. I'm not ready to lose you."

Droplets of water, miniature prisms, clung to Callie's hair. "You've lived in fear of your words, we all do. Yet, drink this scene with your eyes. Think. Absent words this ephemeral image will fade when we return to the trailhead."

"Shh. You mustn't let your words kill you." Walter knew she was right. Without words he would be unable to encompass the babbling of the water pouring down the cliff face.

"Nonsense. I believe our words earn us a place in a world where beauty walks like a cat over bookshelves." A reflection twinkled in her eyes made dark by the night.

Walter had lost too many others this way. He recognized the way her eyes looked, the expression on her face. It worried him. "We don't know that. There may be nothing after this world."

"Sometimes you must take a risk. Open your eyes to the sheen that reflects off the hickory leaves as if the moon's light pours from the sky in a poor imitation of the water. The two streams, light and water, merge in a rainbow marriage."

Callie's hand became insubstantial in Walter's grip. He moved to slap her, but her body had already jerked above him to float in the air. Sand streamed down, empty particles reflecting in the moonlight as her words became higher pitched.

"Walter, the light shines forth like a ribbon, a joy bursting forth. Hurry, say the words. We will ascend."

He cupped his hands catching the sand from Callie's body, the parts sloughed off during her ascension. "It's beautiful. Green trees. River. Light." Walter was solid. His feet pressed into the thick loam of the earth. "Don't go." A tear ran down his cheek. He'd lost another one. He still didn't have the words. Didn't know if he wanted the words.
My attempt at my writer's weights exercise "Dialogue Challenge" where two speakers have distinctively different voices. Also, the story responds to an image in Rinne Groff's play, "Compulsion" where marionettes of Anne Frank and other characters ascend into the rafters.

Image credit: Brian Stansberry


  1. That was quite the surreal piece. The characters did speak with quite different voices. Callie's dialogue is quite lyrical, poetic, long, almost archaic in their quality,
    whereas Walter keeps half of his thoughts to himself.

  2. Bazelli pretty much got the comment right. This story was as ethereal as Callie's words. It's a strange idea that our poetry can transform us in a physical way, instead of just a metaphysical way.

  3. >"Nonsense. I believe our words earn us a place in a world where beauty walks like a cat over bookshelves."

    ---What a wonderful line.

  4. @TS, I felt almost guilty because the different sound of the voice ended up meshing too well with the premise of the world I was going after and therefore led to her more lyrical voice (which I exaggerated during revision).

    @Stephen, it is a little strange. I particularly was interested in what would happen in a world where this did happen. How would people react to it. I need more time to think about those reactions if I'm going to make this story work.

    @Ganymeder, I'm glad you enjoyed that line. Callie's dialogue was fun to play with.

  5. Quite interesting. I enjoy magical realism like this, although I couldn't write it to save my life.

  6. @Loren, thanks, I'm still learning what I can write. I think I may have read Borges at an impressionable age.

  7. I particularly liked this. The differences in voice, and the vividness of the world they were in. I hope there will be more of this.

  8. excellent job. Walter feels weighted down.. and Callie feels light, and uplifted even in words, in dialogue.. they come through very well.

    The feel of this piece is very magical, very peaceful and like someone else said, 'surreal'.
    I really enjoyed it.

  9. @Crystal, glad you enjoyed this. To me there is something interesting to explore about the world and I realized that this world fits well with another world and character I've written about before, which provides an interesting combination. There will likely be a follow-up to explore that.

    @AS, thank-you. I'm glad the heavy vs. light thing worked.