Archive for the 'callie' Category

Sep 22 2010

…and Back Again

Published by under callie

Callie held her breath to better triangulate where the voice originated.  She tested the absence of light by waving her hand across her face, close enough to feel the breeze from its passing on her nose.  Nothing at all visible: Callie kept her eyes tightly shut, to minimize the damage to her senses a sudden burst of light could give, and focused on her hearing, touch, and proprioception to assess her surroundings and to find the speaker.

“Where do you think you are?”

It sounded as if the voice was coming from in front of Callie, a little left of center, so she moved as quietly as she could in that direction, halting as the next sentence came from behind  her.

“It won’t be that easy.”

Obviously sound was unreliable as guidance, so Callie tuned it out and focused entirely on her kinesthetic senses to find her target.  She could tell the voice tried speaking a couple more times but she was no longer recording it even in short-term memory.  A trickle of air along the outside of her right arm had her attention; following that perceived vector back to its probable source seemed like another false clue, but scanning in an arc around that point gave the slight hollow feeling of someone displacing air off to the left.

She moved forward quickly, hands outstretched, her right grasping something soft and tenuous as she came almost within reach.  The presence moved away with a low chuckle; Callie was left holding something that felt like long, thin silk fibers against her skin. Quick exploration with her fingers found a flexible shaft — another feather, much more realistic than the metallic one she still had tucked into her belt.  She slipped this into a pocket for later examination, and resumed her attempts to find the other person in the room.

The bright flash she’d been half-expecting came next, orange and yellow coloring her eyelids bright enough to make her eyes water slightly even while still closed. She turned her body to angle toward where she thought the other now stood, and waited for another signal.

“Clever.”

Callie wasn’t pleased to start hearing the voice again consciously, but she tried to remind her senses to ignore the auditory signals as unreliable.  Her anger was fully engaged now, a lovely slow burn and build that she was nearly ready to let free.  She felt air displacement from movement again and launched herself at the probable source, this time keeping low in the hopes of unbalancing the other when she made contact.

She connected solidly with a human body shape, but when she tried to take a firm hold she found her fingers slipping through yet more wispy feathers and then holding air, soft laughter coming now from across the room.  Callie felt distinctly more disoriented than she was used to, and suspected more infuriating mind games.  She stayed crouching down, breathing slowly to clear her mind enough to  try again against her unseen adversary.

“Haven’t you figured anything out yet?”

Whatever was unbalancing her didn’t seem to have taken over vocal cords, so Callie stayed silent.  And waited.  No more taunting words were forthcoming, and to most people it would seem that Callie was alone in a dark room.  She rolled backwards suddenly, colliding against legs standing no more than two steps behind her, and scrambled to pin down the person.  Just as Callie took hold of a pair of shoulders, her hands sinking finger-deep into silken threads, she felt a bone-jarring blow echoing through her head, and the blackness without filled her mind within.  As she sank into oblivion, she heard,

“You’ll have to try harder than that.”

***

When Callie returned to consciousness, her eyes instinctively opened to show clean white tile an inch away from her nose.  Familiar white tile and grout; after a moment, Callie lifted her head to see that she was laying on the floor of her kitchen.  She jumped up, grabbing the counter as her legs were initially unsteady, then moved to check the front door.  Locked, and no key visible.  She looked back at the counter and saw the dirty martini she’d mixed forever and a day ago still waiting.  She checked the side of the glass; it was warm, a little circle of condensation around its base.

She wondered if she was supposed to think her adventure out of doors had been nothing but a dream.  Other than the passage of time indicated by the warm drink, nothing seemed out of place.  She checked her pockets for the key and found the feather she’d pulled from her invisible captor.  In style and pattern it reminded her of a peacock feather, but the colors were a riot of reds and oranges and yellows, gold and copper and silver.  She checked her belt and the sharp metal feather was also there.  No dream, then.

Callie set the two feathers neatly side by side on the counter, then picked up the drink and downed it in one gulp.  It was time to plan.

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Aug 27 2010

Where the Walls Stop

Published by under callie

The window showed a small room, surfaces padded and otherwise empty.  Curled in a fetal position in the middle of the soft floor was a person, larger than a child but small enough to be female, though no features could be seen from Callie’s viewing angle.  The door was thick and the window double-paned, but the sound of crying could still be easily heard — wracking sobs that rose and fell in time to the shaking of the grieving person’s shoulders.

Callie watched for some time but the scene never changed.  She wondered if there was a way to discover just how long a person could cry for, before the body couldn’t sustain the activity without resting.  She grew weary of watching and decided to move on, and this time her body cooperated with her intention.  At least as far as the next viewing window: as much as she wanted to leave, Callie walked only as far as the next room before she stopped and looked inside.

This room looked nothing at all like the last one — much more like an efficiency apartment than a clinic cell.  The walls were painted dark gray, and a woman sat on a low stool in front of an easel, blank canvas propped and ready.  Next to her was a small coffee table littered with clutter, not all of it identifiable from where Callie stood.  A palette, currently empty, lay across her lap as the woman stared at the easel.

Callie wasn’t sure why this scene gave her a feeling of dread to watch, but that answer was quickly forthcoming.  The young lady slowly began to roll up her cotton sleeves to above the elbow, then took lengths of latex from the table and tied them around each arm so that the veins would stand out from the skin.  When the next item grabbed was a syringe, Callie willed herself to move on but failed, beating her fists against the wall in frustration.

The sound didn’t seem heard by the room’s occupant.  Instead of injecting herself, the artist pierced a vein and pulled back on the plunger slowly.  The syringe filled with a thick forest-green liquid; when no more could be taken, she pulled out the needle and placed it above the palette, depressing the plunger carefully to make a mounded circle of pigment.  Oblivious to the drop of blood trickling from the entry site, the artist wiped the needle clean on her sleeve and began again.  This time bright reddish violet filled then emptied next to the first pigment.

What Callie could see of the woman’s face was disturbing, a blankness usually only found on warzone survivors and abuse refugees.  As the artist began the draining for a third time, this one a rich blue hue, Callie felt she’d seen enough and whatever was controlling her movements seemed to agree, letting her walk on to the next door.

Callie closed her eyes tightly and took several deep breaths, as by now she was angry enough to notice that her perceptions were being colored by her rage.  Even this attempt to exert some self-control over her experience was futile, as whoever was in here was much more audible than the cryer had been.  Primal screams echoed through the panes of the window, larynx-tearing vibrations that made Callie’s throat ache sympathetically.  She gave up and looked into the room to see the source of the sounds.

Another female knelt on the floor, her features obscured under dirt and dried blood.  Streaks of cinnabar clotted in her hair and covered her arms and hands, nails broken under the quick.  Callie could see that the room was originally another padded cell like the first, but this one had been systematically destroyed.  The padding hung from the walls and ceiling in long shreds, and clumps of stuffing were piled in corners.  All of it was stained with the same blood that decorated the inhabitant, obviously far beyond anger management’s reach.  The wild woman was currently tugging on a section of padded floor, her strongest efforts only moving a couple of centimeters each try, screaming incessantly.

Callie thought perhaps the screamer and cryer had perfected circular breathing to engage in their epic feats of lung-power, since she couldn’t see another way they could pull it off without passing out.  None of the other occupants had seemed to hear or see Callie, but this one gave an even higher shriek and launched herself at the door, yelling and spitting and smearing yet more blood across the glass, obscuring the view.

Callie concentrated with all her strength and pulled away from the door, half-stumbling down the hall toward a door at the end with a smaller window and different design than the others.  Hoping that this was the way out, she closed her eyes again to concentrate and held her hands out in front as she moved in that direction, willing herself fiercely not to stop along the way.

Either her efforts worked or whatever had been using her as a puppet had worn off or gone away:  Callie reached the end of the hall without further pause.  As her hand grasped the door handle, she opened her eyes to look through its window but saw only darkness.  Since a dark room seemed an improvement over the previous options, she tested the knob.  Finding it unlocked, Callie entered.

The blackness was as dark as an underground cavern, and feeling around on either side of the door turned up no light switches.  Callie kept one hand on the wall as she began to move away from the door, but stopped when she heard breathing.

“Hello, there.”

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Aug 10 2010

Callie Coherency

Published by under callie

I finally made the page that gathers all the posts with the Callie tag in one place for ease of reading.  Enjoy!

Chrysalis

(Edit: Also updated the Cancer Chronicles page with the most recent entries)

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Aug 09 2010

Deeper In…

Published by under callie,characterization,Writing

You know the feeling you get when you’ve walked into a room, and when you enter it you know exactly what your errand is, and the next moment you find yourself standing aimlessly in the middle, mind blank, with not the first clue as to why you entered in the first place?

Now imagine being stuck there — perhaps for days, perhaps weeks; in that state there’s no measurement of time, no significant changes to show the imprint of time’s passing.

I came back to initial awareness with the feeling that a long time had passed. The scenery around me kept melting and shifting. At first it was too confusing to make sense of, but after staring at it, I realized that it looked more like those time-lapse nature films of roses blooming or a rabbit corpse decaying, sped up to near-incomprehension. Images of places and people burst into being, moved and changed with lightning speed, then broke off or faded away to be replaced by the next series.

Some time after that, I noticed that I wasn’t actually a part of the chaotic landscape, that I stood on unchanging ground and felt independent of my surroundings. I thought that I might want to further examine my immediate area. I wondered why it had taken so long for me to think that, then was distracted by something at my feet.

A single feather lay there, glittering in the reflected light of the moving backdrop. A moment’s reflection reminded me that feathers didn’t usually sparkle, so I bent down and picked it up by the rachis. This proved to be a good decision, as the shaft was a piece of thin, slightly flexible polished steel, smooth itself but ending in a wickedly sharp calamus. The quill wasn’t the only deadly feature of the feather; the rami overlapped in such a way that the ends of the barbs fit together into an edge that could easily slice into flesh. I ran my fingers carefully down the calamus and found my fingertips covered in the crumbly red dust that covered its tip. A sniff gave me the faded tang of dried blood, and I felt calmer.

I think I held the feather for some time before more thoughts arrived. They formed the shape of figuring out this place felt not only weird but dangerous, and leaving might be wise. When I turned around, it looked as if a white hallway with fluorescent lights stretched back into hazy dimness behind me. All around, chaos still spun pretty pictures into horrors at high speed, so I stepped into the hall.

I passed by a room with white-coated people lounging around a table and smoking, a vending machine in one corner with motor cycling erratically which provided an odd harmony to the workplace griping. …the children were talking again today about the boy who found his way out of here…of course I punished them…can’t have those notions getting into these poor unfortunate heads… I felt strange urges tickling at the edges of my mind and hurried further down the hall. I seemed to be garbed in a white coat of my own, and there were now doors lining either side, each with a thick pane of glass set at eye level and a large locked handle.

I decided to ignore the doors and walk until I found something that looked like an exit, but that idea didn’t seem to be in control of my body. I found myself moving toward the nearest viewing window.

That was the first time since regaining consciousness that I realized I was furious.

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May 03 2010

Actual post about writing

(Note: I know many of you are anxiously awaiting more tales about the recent cancer experience, and they will be coming — and soon! — but at the rate that works for me and my processing of what was, among other things, an extremely traumatic event. Anyone needing more up-to-date health info and who is on Facebook can join my Fan Page there, which posts 2-4 times a week on health status and current known recovery info. I appreciate the concern!)

(Also note: SpinAThon raised over $2500 and sponsored 42.8 hours of spinning and knitting! Thanks so much to everyone who participated and donated, that will help a lot towards current medical costs. Stay tuned next week when we’ll have a silent auction and put up for bid the results of the SpinAThon efforts, along with many other lovely unique arts and crafts.)

I just planned out the next year and a half of work.

Talk about milestones on the “feeling like a Real Writer” path! Tomorrow/later today/after I’ve slept more, I’ll be officially “back on the job”. (Thankfully for my recovery I have a sit-down job where I can take nap breaks as needed, since tomorrow also starts Yoga-as-rehab sessions.) I have a much clearer idea of what rate I need to be writing at on certain projects in order to have them completed by my goal dates. The rest of 2010 is still going to be a bit off, but it looks like I might actually get some decent work in, as well as finish a long-overdue project.

No worries, regular blogging will continue on a weekly basis if not more frequently, and Callie posts will continue (probably at a rate of 2-3 a month) until…well, until there aren’t any more posts on that arc to write! I’ll also probably write about this new writing routine and how well it works out, and where adjustments need made, and all the other blathery things I think are interesting about life and work. Glad every day that I’m still here to fill the screen with words, words, words.

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May 01 2010

The Places We Don’t Like to Go

Published by under callie,momentum,Writing

Z’Aria’s chatter seemed to have more of a nervous edge than before their encounter with the trapped little kid. Callie considered the thought once more that her companion might not be the sort of person to keep herself together in a crisis. It was worth watching.

Out loud, she said, “Who is this person you mentioned who helped you before?”

“I think they’re some kind of detective. I met Johnnie originally over at the Elm Creek Cafe, we were both having burgers at the bar and I can talk to people pretty easy.”

“A detective sounds like a good source for getting more information.”

“Johnnie’s a little weird, but helped me find my way back to the overpass when I was super lost.”

Callie didn’t think that was a strong selling point for this person’s ability to help their current situation, but it also sounded as if they were nearing the end of options for assistance. She wasn’t looking forward to having to do all the work herself, whatever it was.

They topped the hill and descended into a strange scene. A car was stopped in the middle of the road, driver motionless behind the wheel. A body lay prone just forward of the front wheels, and another person bent over the body as if to inspect it, also unmoving. All three continued to hold position as Callie and Z’Aria drew near enough to see. Callie chose to watch Z’Aria’s face first, which melted into disappointed lines when the girl was near enough to see the standing person in front of the car.

“Let me guess, this is Johnnie?”

Z’Aria sighed and shrugged, then stomped off to the side of the road and sat down, looking away from the scene. Callie bent down to look through the window at the driver’s face and stopped, sure she could hear murmuring as if someone was talking very low and quite near. Her attempts to pinpoint the sound by tilting her ears first slightly one way, then another, completely distracted her for a full minute from noticing the full weirdness about the situation.

She realized the body in front of the car had the exact same face as the frozen driver and the bending observer. At the same moment, she finally figured out that the muttering was coming from the mouths of all three: “Fuck, I’m dead. Fuck I’m dead. FuckI’mdeadfuckI’mdeadfuckI’m…”

Callie backed away until she reached where Z’Aria sat. “I’m fairly certain your friend won’t be helping us today. Is there anyone else?”

Z’Aria finished wiping away the signs that she’d been crying and said, “I remembered there was a guard in this one spot, back that way. Mostly he kept people away from a dangerous area, but maybe the guard could help us?”

Callie didn’t feel any more hopeful, but didn’t show it. “The guard it is, then.”

*

Callie squinted hard, but even her well-trained eyes couldn’t make meaning out of the few flecks of words peeling on the battered and chipped sign. The sign hung from a simple link chain, long rusted, that stretched across the road. “This is where you met the guard before?”

Z’Aria gulped and nodded. “I was scared of him then. But he just wanted me to go around the chain a different way, he was sorta nice after all.”

Callie sometimes found it difficult not to stare openly at Z’Aria’s peculiar ways of thinking. She returned to examining the barrier.

“Uh, Callie?”

“Yes?”

“I don’t think I want to follow you past that chain. Remembering that guard still scares me.”

“Wait here. If I don’t return after a while, try to go find your overpass again. Understand?”

Thankfully, Z’Aria didn’t start crying again. The girl found a comfortable place to sit where she could watch the road and see when Callie came back.

Callie stepped over the linked chain easily, knocking a few more paint chips loose from the old sign in the process, and waved to Z’Aria as she landed on the far side. Three steps later, she vanished from sight. Z’Aria sighed, and waited.

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Apr 29 2010

Out-of-time interlude

Published by under blwio,callie,momentum,Writing

(I’m a terrible tease, since this isn’t the section I’ve been working on, but it’s better than nothing at all…right?)

***

“Inari, please wake up. I’ve talked to my dads all day but they still won’t move. Ember neither. I’ve tried and tried, but no one will wake up and I don’t know what to do!”

*

“Inari, please wake up! I’m so scared.”

*

“Inari, please wake up. I saw people outside and tried to get them to help but I don’t know if they will and then I woke up after sleeping and there was this key under my pillow and I don’t know how it got there or where it goes.”

*

“Inari, please! Namah needs you, she might be in trouble.”

When Iris awakened from crying herself to sleep, with a hand finally on her shoulder and shaking her, she burst into tears. At least twenty minutes passed before Inari could go about the business of waking the others — or at least Namah — while Iris ran to get the key from where she had hidden it.

***

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Mar 09 2010

What to do when your block isn’t a block

We’ve talked several times on this blog about creative “blocks”, and some ways to cope with and get around such things. One of the things I’ve slowly come to realize over the past several months, however, is that often something that looks like a “writer’s block”, might not be quite that. A friend pointed out a similar struggle in her own creativity recently, thus the topic (and title) of this post.

What do you do when what feels like writer’s block is something else? To clarify definitions for purposes of this discussion (though you can argue my parameters in the comments if you’d like), “standard writer’s block” often arises through struggles with regular writing routines, or insecurities or doubts about the worth or quality of one’s own work. What’s the point of all of this? or why am I trying something I’ll never succeed in? or I’m not that good a writer anyway are common refrains from the internal judges and censors in many of the blocks you might encounter. And we’ve talked before, and likely will again, about different ways to hack around those sorts of bumps.

There are several other life reasons you might need a break — or at least a slowing down — of your regular creative process. Because we’re used to the blocks we know, often these other reasons will feel like standard creative blocks, to our internal emotional perceptions, because those are the well-traveled neural pathways. For example, Elizabeth Bear refers to a state after she finishes a major project she calls “post-novel ennui”. She describes it feeling as if her brain’s insides are scraped clean, or the creative pool has been emptied and needs refilling. It’s taken her several novels to better understand her own patterns, but she’s found that if she gives herself the few days or weeks she needs to recharge — read books, do physical activity things, learn something new, watch TV shows, and just the minimum maintenance needed on her writing obligations — she can get to functional creativity on the next project much more quickly than if she just tries to push ahead immediately after finishing the previous project.

What if your need for hiatus is different than arriving at a project’s end? Major life changes can be stressful whether positive or negative, and if there is enough upheaval present, it can quite legitimately disrupt the energy available for other things (at least for a while), including your creative projects. Sure, you’ve spent time and sweat making sure you will keep writing anyway, even when life gets tricky, but what about when it gets extreme enough that taking a break would actually be more advantageous to your later creativity? A promotion, household relocation, or new addition to the family are all situations where it’s possible to keep creative flow going…but depending on the specific circumstances, it’s also possible a break would be better for long-term creative health.

Or what if your need for a pause is darker than that? Major life trauma will, if not bring your creative progress to a halt, at the very least cause extreme disruptions in your routine. It could affect which projects you continue working on, or even want to work on. Loss of a job, loss of family members or children, major physically debilitating or activity-changing illness, all these and more can make you question the very reasons you create at all, not to mention whether your current work is worth the work you’ve put into it. Depending on your emotional state, you may not be able to access the same creative energies that you could before. A project that was conceived and begun when you were in love and on top of the world is rather difficult to connect to, if you’re currently in a bleak and despairing place emotionally.

So what do you do when this sort of thing is on your plate?

First, you have to find the space to give yourself to take the needed break. In order to do that successfully, you’ll have to avoid the common habit of punishing yourself for the break-taking. For those of you inclined toward this behavior, a guilt-free break is harder than it looks.

(quoted from http://temujin9.livejournal.com/129914.html, quoting someone quoting someone else clever)
“flamingnerd writes:
I asked her, “do you have any negative self talk?” She burst into laughter and said, “Do I ever fart?!” And I got it. EVERYONE has negative self talk. And some people are more flatulent in that
regard than others. And it’s ok. It’s normal, not some great tragedy.

She went on to tell me of a talk given by a young Buddhist priest. “When you beat yourself with a stick just beat yourself with a stick and don’t beat yourself for beating yourself.”

Thanks to nationelectric for sharing the good reminder.”

For me, in my own recent-past traumatic experiences, I found that giving myself the space for a creative pause and recharge to happen wasn’t an adjustment I made overnight. It was a few months of struggle between what I felt I “should” be doing at a particular point in time, and what I knew internally needed to be happening if I was ever going to create regularly again. It was slow progress, a bunch of baby steps and “two steps forward, one step back” frustrations. It also required a lot of practice in trusting myself, in my ability to assess internally what I “knew” I needed to heal, and to ignore the conflicting inputs externally from people or sources less informed about my situation. Plus enough stubbornness to keep going on all of that when I didn’t “do it right” the first time or three.

When you’re in brownout mode, the pause is likely to be longer than you want it to be. Yes, that means your patience gets practice along with everything else. Fun times, eh? You are worth it, even the waiting. One day, finally, you might find yourself with a little more energy than you’ve had. The next day, more. One of the trickiest parts, at this stage, is not overloading yourself the first time you have energy to do more than just get by. That’s asking for a relapse, and that won’t help you get more functional. Add some small creative act into your daily routine, and stay with that for a bit, give your artistic muscles time to stretch after some disuse.

Soon enough you’ll notice that you’re a bit bored or frustrated with doing just one thing. This is probably a good sign that you’re ready to do more, but keep the lessons you’ve learned throughout this time in your mind, as you progress back towards more fullness of functioning. Push your limits, but in the spirit of a good workout, not burning yourself on as much as you can do. Let your momentum creep back in a healthy bit at a time, and use those healthy bits to springboard even more positive change.

Trusting ourselves is part of how we better learn to love ourselves. Your baby-steps will make progress. Heck, even 2 steps forward, 1 back will get you there eventually. When you start making visible progress and changes to your routine toward your goals? Don’t forget to notice it, and congratulate yourself. Ideally you have a couple of close friends to whom you can brag about your progress, however incremental, and have them support and cheer you on as well. But at the very least, make sure you give those kudos to yourself. Noticing all the work you’re doing for yourself is one of the best ways to get more such work out of you!

Throughout all of this process, spend time figuring out what really matters to you in this incarnation, regardless of which past goals or projects were important before. Allow your goals to change as you change, throughout your life. It is not a failure to survive and keep creating, even if your process is different than before — even if your work is different than before.

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Mar 08 2010

Walkabout

Published by under callie,characterization,Writing

Z’Aria’s fingers shook a little as she held the paper. She read it through a few times before dropping her hands, the paper clutched in her sweaty palm. She seemed like she didn’t know where to look, her eyes scanning around rapidly.

“Explanations in this place aren’t easy, you know.” Z’Aria glanced over her shoulder briefly, then back. “I was in an accident a while ago.”

Callie looked where Z’Aria had and saw nothing more interesting than typical overpass intersection debris scattered across the concrete. “Did it happen as the paper described?”

Z’Aria looked uncomfortable. “Pretty much. My memory from then is all choppy and stuck together.”

“What happened after you landed? How did you survive the crash?”

I woke up here. Well, over there.” Z’Aria indicated the area behind her. Callie rose and went to look more closely at the spot, Z’Aria trailing her slowly.

The glitter of broken bits of glass reflected in the sodium lights of the overpass. Callie could see a twisted hubcap lying against the nearby pillar, and a few other shards of metal and plastic that were originally attached to a car.

“What happened to the car?”

“It stayed here for a while. I didn’t like looking at it, though. I went off exploring, and when I came back I guess it had finally been towed away.”

“Why did you come back?”

“I found a lot, out there. But not my answers, maybe not even my questions. Here is where it all started, you know? So I thought maybe if I came back here, I’d find the next step.”

“What happened then?”

“I made myself more comfy, got enough from the kindness of those passing by to survive. I spent time watching the sky; back home I used to know all the constellations, but not here. It didn’t happen all at once, you know. Seems like it did thinking back, but not all at once. Just really fast, you know? Days, weeks, everything changes.”

“What changes do you mean?”

“Oh come on, you have to have noticed. Everyone went to sleep, or went away. No one passes by here anymore, you’re the first person I’ve seen in forever.”

“I don’t get out and about very often.”

“Oh.” Z’Aria looked lost in thought for a minute. “Where did you say you were from?”

“I didn’t. Does it matter?”

“I guess not. I remember talking to some kids who warned me about the lady that lived in The Box, who didn’t come out very often.”

“I think I remember overhearing neighborhood children calling my house by that name.”

Z’Aria studied Callie for a long minute. Callie sat patiently through the examination.

“Did I help you with your questions?”

“I might have a few more. You said you went exploring, do you remember the places you went?”

“I sure do, I made bunches of friends. Well, they probably aren’t there now, but it was mostly nice.”

“Well, Z’Aria, perhaps it is time we explore again.”

“You want me to show you the places I found? I can do that, I like being Helpful!”

Callie pointed to the crumpled paper that Z’Aria still gripped tightly in her hand. “Do you mind if I keep that for the moment? There might be further clues we find that it connects to.”

Z’Aria readily returned it. “It’s not really a memory I want to keep too clear, I don’t mind if you hang on to it. You seem nice enough to me.”

Callie raised an eyebrow. “Now, if you’re ready, let’s learn more of what there is to know around here.”

***

They returned to more populated areas after a short walk along one of the streets branching off from Z’Aria’s overpass. Z’Aria was full of casual chatter but no useful information yet, and Callie suppressed a bored sigh.

Z’Aria pointed over to a single-story business building, vaguely medical in appearance. “That’s a pretty creepy building, I used to see parents taking children there all the time. The parents always looked angry going in, and happy coming out. The children looked pretty miserable the whole time, though.”

Callie took a second look, but the parking lot was empty and the building looked closed. “Perhaps we’ll keep walking, it doesn’t appear that there is much there now.”

“There isn’t much anywhere anymore.”

“You keep saying such things. Do you know why?”

“The few left that I’ve met all have different opinions.” They moved on in silence quiet enough to hear the occasional thin scrape from discarded paper, dragged along the concrete by the wind.

They next found a faded and paint-chipped sign next to a path overgrown with scraggly weeds which proclaimed “Constant Conservatory”. Callie studied the path branching off from the paved road they stood upon. “What do you know about this area?”

“It was really well visited a while ago, but no one really goes now. They had this really cool whirlpool thing, but I haven’t looked lately, it might not even be there anymore.”

“Let’s look more closely, shall we?”

They followed the path until it opened into a clearing surrounded by trees, branches growing over the clearing to form interlocking patterns against the starry sky. A deep depression centered in the ground might once have been a “really cool” whirlpool, but was now barely a third full of water that appeared stagnant. Callie watched it for a bit and saw that there did seem to be a very slow circular current tickling the surface occasionally. It was out of touching reach even if she knelt down by the edge.

“Dear Goddess, this isn’t what I remember. So sad.” Z’Aria looked pale and a little ill.

“It seems like it could be repaired with a little work.”

“Sure, but by who? That’s not anything I know how to do.”

“Let’s continue on.”

Z’Aria led the way back to the main road eagerly, restarting her chatter as they traveled more comfortable territory. “Further this way is another neat place, they had tons of nice people – well, most of them were nice – living in this big house. Mostly adults but they had a cool kid there too, she liked to talk to me.”

“If there were many people there, perhaps there will still be some remaining.”

They rounded a sharp curve in the road and stopped suddenly, their path blocked by what appeared to be a solid glass wall. They could see a large building further down the road, but the details were blurred by the distance and thickness of the glass. Z’Aria reached out to first touch the barrier, then knock on it.

Callie watched with interest. “Was this here before?”

“No, I haven’t visited in too long, I guess.” She knocked again, but didn’t look hopeful.

Callie shrugged. “Where do we go from here? I don’t know much more now than when I met you.”

Z’Aria frowned. “Let me think a minute.” She looked off down the road, and so missed the movement behind the glass coming toward them. As it drew nearer it resolved into the shape of a small person.

Callie guessed it was the friend whom Z’Aria had referenced. The kid was carrying a notebook and pen. Callie cleared her throat for Z’Aria’s attention. “We have a visitor of sorts.”

Z’Aria looked behind her and saw the child. She waved her arms happily and yelled “Hi, Iris! I missed you!”

Iris pointed to her ears and shook her head, then opened her mouth and said something that neither Callie nor Z’Aria could hear. Z’Aria took a deep breath in preparation for yelling louder.

“I think Iris has a better solution than shouting, Z’Aria.” Callie looked steadily at her companion until the other finally turned her attention to the kid on the other side, who was holding up a paper with writing on it to her side of the glass where they could read it: Everyone at the House is asleep. They won’t wake up!

“Did you bring paper or something to write with? I only have the paper with which I found you.”

Z’Aria raised her hands helplessly. “I didn’t think to grab anything.”

Callie looked back at the wall. Iris’s paper now read: Help us.

Z’Aria nodded like a dashboard decoration in response, until Callie placed a hand on Z’Aria’s shoulder and effortlessly turned her away from the view through the glass. “Where does one find help for them in a place like this?”

“That’s hard to answer.”

“Unsurprising.”

“I remember someone who helped me once. We’ll try there.”

5 responses so far

Feb 27 2010

Links for your weekend

Getting the bad news out of the way first, here is an incredibly concerning article about the latest battle on the women’s equal rights front. I’ll get sterilized before I’ll live under any “pre-pregnant” laws if they actually start passing them…and if you know anyone who lives in Utah, get them to write the governor to veto!

In more pleasant news, I finally got around to joining the Horror Writers Association. I qualified as an Affiliate member with the publication of “Memory Box” in the Stoker Award-winning Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet, by Dark Scribe Press. It slipped off my list of priorities in the busy-ness of the last several months, so I’m glad to have finally taken care of that.

Related to that, I found out this week that the World Horror Convention will be in Austin,Texas for 2011. How cool is that!

For those of you following the Callie posts, I’ll put up a separate page when we get a little farther along in the story, collecting them in one easier-to-read place. In the meantime I’ll post a link collection every 5 entries or so, like now!

Inside the Box
A Box Has No Windows
Opening the Door
At The Bar
Finding help?

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