Loren’s hosting a writing challenge called Creating Worlds Writing Contest (or CWWC for short). This year I’m on Team Narnia. GO TEAM NARNIA! Ahem. As I was saying, I’ll post all my entries on this page. Enjoy!
CWWC #3, Challenge #1. Prompts used: All three.
Things I Wanted To Say But Never Did
I loved you before you were born, and I loved you the moment I heard your first cry. I love you now and always will.
Darling, that is why I let you go. I could not let you be the outcast, the untouchable one, like I was from the very beginning. For though you yourself are whole and beautiful, I am broken beyond repair. My lips were touched with silence since the beginning. Though I wanted to talk to you a thousand times, I never could, for I have no voice.
But I have been watching you, silently and earnestly from the day I set you down on the orphanage steps.
When you learned to walk, I watched through the windows with delight, wishing my arms could receive you when you fell.
When you learned to talk, I breathed a prayer of thanks, for I knew then that your lips had not been burned by my touch.
When you happened to look at me in passing, I turned away and hid my face. When I saw the pain in your eyes, I wondered if I had made the right choice.
When you and your friends went to the park, I was the woman sitting on the bench beneath the willows. I felt like the statue on the gazebo: frozen, unable to speak to you, unable even to come too close for fear I would sweep you into my arms and never let you go again.
When you rode the bus back to the orphanage, I was there, behind the partition that separates the blemished from the whole.
My darling, I’ve seen you on your good days and your bad days, and I love you all the same.
This is what I would tell you, if I could speak.
The girl closed the notebook, ran her fingers over the cover with the taped-on label and creased black paper. She closed her eyes and sobbed quietly. Then she opened the book and wrote,
Though you were blind and deaf and could not feel my touch, though you were disfigured beyond recognition, I would come to you. I have been waiting for you all this time, Mother. Please take me home.
Then she gently placed the book on the bench underneath the willow tree and flew to the orphanage to wait for Silence to arrive.
Challenge #2. Prompts Used: 2
The street where Alice lived was divided in half. On one side stood a neat row of well-kept, brightly colored cottages. On the other, a straggling procession of old, worn-out houses. The people who lived on that side of the street didn’t much care to keep up appearances, mostly because there weren’t any people who lived there. No one had lived in those houses for years and years.
It was strange. No one quite knew why they had stood empty all this time. It wasn’t that anyone thought them haunted, and it wasn’t because they were worthless; in fact, they could have been grand houses had anyone taken time to fix them up. There was just… something about them, as if their inhabitants had had to all flee at once a long time ago, and the houses and everything in them had frozen, waiting for them to return.
At least that was Alice’s theory. She had lots of theories about lots of different things. Most of the time people didn’t care to listen to her theories, so Alice explained them to herself or to her pet beta fish, Larold.
“Larold, dear,” she confided to him one day, “I know The Houses are supposed to be unsafe because they might fall down on us and squash us to a gruesome death, but I feel rather daring today. I have been working up the courage for this for years, and I finally feel ready. Don’t you, my pet?”
Larold nodded vigorously. Or that’s what Alice believed. To anyone else he only seemed to have swum upwards and then downwards again, trying to find a way out of his bowl.
Alice was delighted. “Then let us be off at once!” she exclaimed. She pushed on the lid to Larold’s bowl and hefted him gently into her green wagon. Larold went with her everywhere in this way. He was a remarkably well-traveled fish. Together they rolled out the door and down the sidewalk, Alice humming a tune and Larold accompanying her. Or blowing bubbles. One of the two.
Soon they reached the large gray house that Alice could see from her bedroom window. Her eyes cut back and forth nervously. Suddenly, she heard a noise coming from inside the house.
“Larold, it sounds like… the rattle of chains!” Alice whispered, her eyes wide. “What if that’s some poor innocent prisoner who has been trapped inside since the Great House Exodus.”
Larold eyed her doubtfully.
“Good thinking,” Alice mused. “Besides, how would he eat if he was in chains? Nevertheless, I think we should go check it out. Whoever-it-is still might need rescuing, even if they’re not a prisoner.”
The door was covered in spiderwebs and creaky with age. It squealed horribly when Alice pushed it open, and she shuddered. The house was as gray inside as outside. There was an enormously thick covering of dust over everything… except one small room, which was swept and washed perfectly clean. And there, huddled in the corner, sat a very small boy. He was sobbing quietly, and moving a short length of black chain back and forth with his chubby fingers.
To be continued…
Challenge #3. Prompts Used: All three
It was getting worse every day. The mystery was all I thought about anymore. How could anyone be so cruel, so bold, and yet so utterly mysterious? Didn’t they know I was only trying to help?
The day I found the Mystery I decided to try a path I had never walked before. Tangled vines and stems of thorns conspired together to keep me out, but that only made me more determined. When I looked closely, I could see that someone had used this path and consciously tried to cover that fact. Though the thorns arched innocently overhead, the ground they covered was trampled.
I was curious, of course. I’m always curious. There’s a rather unfortunate saying that goes “Curiosity killed the cat.” It’s unfortunate because my name is Cat. Well, it’s Catharine really, but no one calls me that; I think it sounds too long and dignified for an adventurous tomboy. Besides, cats are great.
Anyway, I forged through the brambles and got thorns in my jeans and burrs in my ponytail, but I was glad. Thorns and burrs are symbols of a great adventure.
After tramping along for quite a while I came upon a rather odd sight. It was a small wooden shack, way out here in the middle of the woods. And judging by the clothes hanging over the railing and the packed dirt yard, someone was living there. A very sloppy someone.
I was about to give a shrug and walk on when I heard a loud, hacking cough coming from inside. This wasn’t your usual polite clearing-of-throat cough, it was deep and sharp, like whoever was in there was very, very sick.
Being me, which is to say being outgoing, compassionate, and more than a little nosy, I decided to see if they needed my help. What a great idea, Cat.
I hopped up the sagging steps and rapped lightly on the door. Immediately, the coughing stopped. Silence. And no one opened the door either. I cleared my throat and called,
“Excuse me, I just wondered if you needed any help-”
“NO HELP,” a woman’s voice roared back from inside. The voice sounded ancient, but surprisingly strong. “GO AWAY.”
I backed up a few steps. “O-okay,” I fumbled, “I was just-”
“I SAID LEAVE.” The voice broke off into a fit of violent coughing again.
“Listen, ma’am,” I began firmly, “I know I’m just a stranger, but it really sounds like you need some… assistance. Just let me know what you need-”
“I NEED YOU TO LEAVE.”
I sighed. Well then. “Alright ma’am, I’ll go.” Sheesh! But as I walked away, I wondered if she was telling the truth.
At last I reached the small, white-painted brick house where I lived, and gasped. What on earth? Someone had taken a thick black Sharpie and written these words in capital letters: ASK NO QUESTIONS AND YOU’LL GET NO LIES.
What was going on?
The air was cool and crisp and smelled of autumn leaves baking in the sun. I actually had to wear a heavy jacket to go outside now, though I shed it once I’d worked up a sweat hiking. I’d trekked past the mysterious shack a few more times since summer, but each time I heard nothing and walked on. This time, however, I heard the coughing again. It sounded worse, if that was possible. I could barely keep myself from barging in and helping the poor woman, but even I knew how odd and rude it would be for a stranger to walk right into someone’s house without permission.
I shivered, standing there in the sharp breeze. I searched the chimney for signs of smoke, but saw none. I surveyed the shack again, saw how rundown and worn out it was. From the looks of the holes in the clothes hung over the railing, I was pretty sure the old woman wasn’t camping here for a fun getaway. She must not be very well, I thought, to not even be able to start a fire on a chilly day.
Then I had an idea. I jogged back to my house and grabbed a pack of matches from the drawer in the kitchen, scribbled a quick note, and taped it on. No matter what you say, I want to help you. Use these to start a fire and maybe it will help your cough. I would start it for you myself, but I know how that would make you feel. I arrived back at the shack breathless, and set about gathering a pile of dry sticks and logs.
Then I put the firewood on the sagging porch, perched the matchbox on top, and knocked at the door again.
“I left you something,” I shouted, and raced away to hide behind a tree and watch. I waited and waited and WAITED, but nothing happened except some more coughing. I sighed. Well if she wanted to ignore me, fine. She would find the matches soon.
I felt a rush of warm air as I opened the door into my own house. It felt wonderful. I threw off my jacket and sneakers and sped up the stairs to my room. I was looking forward to finishing the library book I’d borrowed. It was on my bed where I had left it, but when I turned to the page I was on, my eyes widened. The pages were burnt. You could still read a few words here and there, but the rest of them were completely blacked out and singed.
Speechless, I held out the book and flipped through a few more pages. A note dropped out.
Ask me no questions,
I’ll tell you no lies.
Give me no matches,
And I’ll light no fires.
You’d better back down
If you want to be wise.
You don’t want to see me;
Cover your eyes.
[To be continued…]
Challenge #4. Prompts Used: All three
One Friday morning when I walked to the back of the art studio where I worked, I saw a new girl there. She was engrossed in her work, painting picture after picture of space: planets and stars and galaxies. She was so caught up in her painting that she didn’t even hear me come in. In fact, she didn’t even answer when I complimented her art. I walked right up to her and repeated, “that’s some fine work you got there.” Still no answer. I was beginning to think this girl incredibly rude when Lizzy Aro, the owner of the store, tapped the girl on her shoulder, and pointed to me, winking.
The girl started and turned around, smiling apologetically. She waved a little hello. But still she did not speak. She caught Lizzy’s gaze and gestured wildly with her hands. I was puzzled. Lizzy gestured back, and then I knew.
The girl was deaf, and they were using sign-language.
“This is Sarah,” she said to me while moving her hands rapidly for the girl. “And this is Brent. He’s a regular around here.” She grinned. “Sarah says to tell you thank you for the compliment.” I just nodded in reply. I was a little stunned that those beautiful paintings could be done by someone… well, someone handicapped, I suppose. I’m ashamed to admit it, but that’s what I thought. I had never met anyone deaf before.
I was gripped with a sudden fascination for Sarah and her paintings. My next thought was that I wanted to learn sign-language. After all, if I was going to be working with this girl, I might as well learn to speak to her. “Can you teach me how to speak with Sarah?” I asked Lizzy.
Day after day I stayed a little later at the studio as slowly, painstakingly, I learned to speak the silent language that Sarah knew. As my knowledge grew, so did my admiration for the deaf girl. She was so content, so happy to be where she was and do what she was doing that I could almost forget about her deafness sometimes. Almost. But though I admired her, yet she seemed too far away from me, living in a silent world of her own.
Then one afternoon Sarah jumped up as soon as she saw me. She took me by the hand, her eyes sparkling. I’ve been waiting till I was finished, and now I am, she signed. I want to show you my Space.
She opened the door. The room was small, square, and windowless, and everything – walls, floor, ceiling – was as black as Sarah’s clothes. But she had turned it into a wonderland, a dark sky filled with a dazzling array of painted stars and planets and galaxies, some real and some imagined. Swirling nebulas, marbled moons, sparkling stars.
Sarah closed the door and led me into the middle of the room. Now I noticed that the stars and planets were glowing in the dark. I turned around and around, trying to take it all in. I felt as if I was floating in space, with the planets so real and so close I could actually reach out and touch them. There was nothing to break up the great expanse of the stars except more stars. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
“Oh, Sarah,” I whispered into the dark, even though she couldn’t hear me. “Oh, Sarah!” I squeezed her hand hard and she squeezed mine back.
I stretched out on the floor and gazed up at the ceiling. It felt so real, almost terrifyingly real. Perhaps any moment now the floor would drop out from under me and I would drop into space, flying through the air without a space suit.
I could hardly believe my eyes, and I wanted to stay there forever. But Lizzy poked her head through the door and broke the spell.
“Pretty amazing, huh? Betcha never seen anything like that before, huh?” She grinned proudly, almost as proudly as if she had painted it herself.
“It’s beautiful, alright,” I agreed. Then I turned to Sarah and haltingly told her my thoughts.
She beamed. And then she laughed. In that moment the invisible wall between us was broken down and I not only admired her, but loved her.
The next week was Sarah’s birthday. I knew just the present I wanted to get her: a cake. A chocolate cake covered in smooth black fondant with swirling sprinkle galaxies and sparkling sugar stars. And printed on top in fancy script, “You’re as pretty as a planet.” Most people would have given me an odd look and backed away, but Sarah knew. It was one of the greatest compliments you could give her.
She didn’t speak, didn’t make a sound, but the look in her eyes told me what she was thinking. She threw her arms around me and looked at me gratefully.