Monday January 25th, 2016

The exercise:

Write about: the rift.

Max and I returned to soccer class this afternoon and it was a lot of fun. There were a whole lot of kids missing from the first class, but that was likely due to illness and kids being kids. Hopefully we can be there again next week to see how many other kids are sticking with it.

This morning I managed to finally get started on catching up on comments, yet again. Caught it just before I fell a full two weeks behind. Hurray?


The three of us had been travelling westward on foot for weeks. Though we were strangers thrown together by chance, a close friendship had developed in that time. It was a kinship we all desperately needed in those days.

I remember Shelby was telling us about a dog her family had taken in when she was young. Maybe five or six years old? Something like that. It sounded like he was a real sweet, friendly puppy. Slept at the foot of her bed at night, keeping her safe.

Right up until the night he tried to tear her face off.

As we moved through a forest crowded with towering trees and littered with broken branches, it was difficult for me to ignore the potential similarities to our current situation. I managed to not look at Wayne directly after she'd finished her tale. I guess I was trying to convince myself that he truly was the kind-hearted protector he'd presented himself as during our time together.

I suspect a part of me knew differently though.

Rain clouds had begun to gather as we broke through the treeline into a vast, sprawling meadow. Without anything needing to be said, we all paused. It was still early, before lunch I think, but the thought of being caught in the open during a bad storm made thoughts of lingering in the trees undeniably tempting.

"Do we risk it?" Shelby asked. I wasn't sure which option she considered the bigger risk: staying or going.

"We can stay dry and hide ourselves here," Wayne said after a wary glance over his shoulder. "There's been no sign of pursuit for days. What do you think Leo?"

"I say we keep going." I wanted to stay, keep dry. It seemed like the smart thing to do. But fear was at the wheel back then and I had stopped fighting for control a long time before that. The thought of waiting around for them to find us terrified me.

"Me too," Shelby said. I wish she hadn't. I wish it had been just me that couldn't think straight.

It could have worked out all right for us. We may have found more secure shelter before the worst of the weather came down on our heads. Our trail could have been washed clean, turning us into ghosts on a broken landscape.

But it turned out that landscape was more broken that we could have ever dreamed.

As it was, some two or three hours later, when we crested a hill and saw the massive rift in the land before us - one that stretched from horizon to horizon - it was too late. There was no going around it. No possible way to cross it. Nothing to do but turn back, hoping to return to the forest before they found us.

And the rain began to fall then, in heavy, pounding droplets.


morganna said...

The ground shakes
Heaving beneath us
Ripples pulling apart
Inches become
Feet, opening up
Tearing a new canyon in the earth.

Greg said...

Well done on both the soccer class and the comment catch-up :)
I like the way so much of this story remains unclear: what happened to the dog, why Wayne might not be what he makes himself out to be, and what's wrong with the weather. In many ways the rift is the least surprising part of the tale! I think you build a gentle unease that leaves the reader feeling uncomfortable at the end and wondering if they really want to know more... nice work!

The rift
Walls of rough-hewn rock drip with condensation,
A polished floor is fitted tightly up to them.
The air is chill and tiny ghosts just hang there,
Indicating where each breath has taken place.

Mephitic mists rise from ancient chasms,
Breathing them induces wracking spasms.

This is where the UnderKing declared his false allegiance,
This is where his Queen defied him twice,
This is where the rifts tore worlds asunder,
...this is where we wished we all could die.

Mephitic mists rise from dark lacunae
Occluding every true way.

Kyle said...

Jen and Laura were the epitome of what it means to be "best friends." They did everything except use the toilet together, from the time that they first fell in with each other in fourth grade. They'd share food, swap clothes, do each other's homework (for Jen was better at math and Laura was better at writing, you see). They made plans practically every day, to the point that one was almost always staying the night at the other's house. They intentionally signed up for the same classes in high school, they hung around the same friends, they were into the same books and movies. Two peas in a pod.

Ten years down the line - the two graduated from the same college, and took up teaching jobs in the same school. They roomed together off and on. They had drinks and saw movies together a few times a week. They adopted two dogs who adored each other. They were bound to each other, through and through.

Until Dylan.

"Mr. Walthrop," to the student body, Dylan came into the school as the new biology and chemistry teacher after old Mr. Schiffley finally retired at age 72.

He was sociable, affable, attractive, well-kempt. He fell in quickly with everyone at the school - even Principal Harris ("Principal Hardass" to the staff whenever he wasn't around). He attended PTA meetings. He volunteered to chaperon every school social event. He got along with most of the students. He could speak to both the French and Spanish teachers in their respective specialty languages. Needless to say, he was instantly popular.

The weeks passed, and Mr. Dylan Walthrop became a part of the school easily. He became a part of Jen and Laura's odd combination, too. The "girl nights" had Dylan tagging along, telling funny stories, offering new views on whatever movies they were watching, finding new and interesting ingredients for their "drinxperiments."

Laura started seeing Dylan without Jen. They'd walk the halls together, talking and laughing quietly - couldn't arouse suspicion in the students, after all, hyenas as they were. They went out to dinner a couple times a month, then a couple times a week.

Jen wasn't stupid, she knew. And she wasn't jealous over Dylan or any such thing. They were still friends, all of them, and Jen was glad that they got on so well. What she was jealous over, though, was that she no longer spent so much time with her "BFF." After all, "girl nights" became "date nights," and while Jen was (politely) invited, she knew better than to accept. She began seeing Ben and Jerry instead.

Weeks turned into months, and Laura moved in with Dylan. Jen saw her a few times a month (around the school notwithstanding), and began to find friends of her own. Sixteen months after Dylan showed up, there were now two Walthrops teaching class. Jen took a job across the state at a community college soon thereafter.

Marc said...

Morganna - that's a fantastic acrostic. One of my favorites of yours, I think.

Greg - yeah, definitely went through a couple days here where I was feeling the need to write longer pieces. I think this could use some expansion, both before and after this scene.

Some great imagery and atmosphere in your poem. I think the third and fourth lines in your opening stanza are my favorite.

Kyle - ugh. Though I could see the end coming just from where you started and what the prompt was, I was still hoping for a better ending for poor Jen. I hope she finds new friends and a man of her own in her new school.