Sunday April 22nd, 2018

The exercise:

Nirvana Week draws to its conclusion with: Heart-Shaped Box.


morganna said...

This will be two comments.
Suddenly Esme stopped, and pointed. Melanie looked in the same direction, and saw a curl of smoke coming over a ridge ahead and to their right. She laid her hand on Esme's shoulder, and nodded. They would go in that direction.

The ridge was farther away than it had looked at first, and it took them quite a while to reach it. Melanie was almost dropping by the time they gained the top of it. They looked down into a valley greener than the landscape they had been hiking through, and a small cabin with the curl of smoke coming from its chimney. This was a cultivated valley, with a pond for the stock, and animals in meadows. Melanie wondered who lived here, and kept it all so neat. They came up to the cabin, crossed its small porch, and knocked on the door.

The door opened, revealing a tiny old woman. Melanie and Esme were not tall, but this woman barely came up to their shoulders. Her hair was white, and pulled back from her wrinkled face. She walked with a cane.

“Hello, dearies,” she said in a cracked voice. “I've been waiting for you. Come in.” She opened the door wider and stood back so they could enter.

Melanie looked at Esme. This was alarming. No one should know where they were.

“Oh, don't worry, dearies. No one told me anything. No, I spied it with my little eye. Mother Hilda won't give you away. You're right, you know. Far too many people are looking for you, and that's not safe. But we can fix that, oh yes we can. Come in, come in.”

They entered reluctantly. But they didn't have many choices, and they were very hungry and thirsty. Hopefully this strange woman could at least give them some water.

She bustled about the big room and soon handed them each a cup of water and ushered them to the table, where several dishes of food sat. They ate and drank ravenously.

“Now, dearies, do an old woman a favor and clear the table. You can just set everything on the sideboard. We'll wash the dishes later.” They cleared up, neatly stacking the dishes on the cabinet against the wall.

morganna said...

“Down to business, dearies. Sit down,” the old woman said when the table was cleared away to the red-checked tablecloth. She brought out a heart-shaped box. Melanie and Esme sat down, staring in fascination. “This is my scrying box.” The woman sounded suddenly serious, not half-laughing as she had before. “Pay close attention.”

She opened the box. Inside, they could see themselves sitting at the table with the old woman. She nodded, closed the lid, and gave the whole thing a twist. She opened the box again. This time, they could see Jenny hiking through the same creek valley they had been in the day before. She looked determined, and she was followed by several faun soldiers carrying wicked-looking spears. The woman closed the box again, twisted it, and opened it. Now they could see the throne room at Treflawn. King Tannerlin and his consorts were there, listening to a report from soldiers. The report wasn't good, they could tell from the look on everyone's faces. King Tannerlin shook his head, and gestured the soldiers out again. “They're still looking for you, dearies.” Mother Hilda closed the box, shaking her head, twisted it, and opened it. This time they could see Melanie's mother's study. Melanie's mother was reading a letter. They could see it said 'Melanie'. When she finished it, her shoulders slumped and she laid it down on the desk. She closed her eyes and a tear leaked out. She put her shoulders back and wiped her eyes. She pulled the bell. Soon her major-domo came in the room. She gave him orders. Mother Hilda closed the box again, and did not open it. “Your mother's also looking for you, dearie. You have to decide. We can arrange it so you go where you most desire, but you can't stay here. Whom do you want to find you?”

Melanie didn't even have to think about it. “No one. I don't want any of those three to find me. I don't know what I want yet, and if we'd seen Tan and Arick, maybe I'd go back to Treflawn, but we didn't. I don't know where to go, but I don't like those choices.”

Mother Hilda looked at her. “Alright. We can do that. Do you want Esme with you?”

Melanie was about to say yes, but then she stopped. “What do you want, Esme?”

Esme looked startled. No one had ever asked her what she wanted. “I'd like to stay with you, miss, if I can.”

Mother Hilda smiled. “Those were good choices, dearies. Here you go. Somewhere different.” She twisted the box several times, opened the lid, and held it out over the floor. “Jump in, dearies.”

Melanie and Esme glanced at each other, stood up from the table, held hands, and jumped in the box.

Greg said...

@Morganna: it's nice to have a longer piece from you! This adds a whole new dimension to things, raising questions even as it provides answers, and the scene is very nicely written. From the point of view of constructive criticism I would say that the bit with the box is a little odd at the end: throughout the scene I thought that the heart-shaped box was about the size of two hands held side by side, so to have Melanie and Esme jump into it without it changing size was quite jarring. This doesn't change the fact that I'm still fascinated by these people and the fauns pursuing them though!

@Marc: also from the viewpoint of constructive criticism: Red tells me that he's worried you're refusing to speak to him now he's famous and at least a city-wide hero. He thinks you must be jealous of his success.

Heart-shaped box
Not only was it a huge relief to be out of the dress and wig, and cleaned up from the make-up, but he felt lighter too. Red 5 knew it was entirely psychological, but as he deftly ran across a flat rooftop he hurdled the air-conditioning units and ducts feeling practically like he was flying. The night air was a little too cool for the light grey-and-black clothes he was wearing but he was really enjoying the near-chill and, anyway, the running was keeping him warm. A light canvas satchel thumped rhythmically against his side: inside were cloth-wrapped aerosols of paint, the tools of his trade. He'd thought about leaving them behind, but then he'd decided that you never knew when opportunities would arise. He reached the edge of the roof and never hesitated: he jumped, launching himself out into the space between buildings. Below him the air stretched down and down until it reached the street below, and he started to fall as gravity seized him. Almost lazily he stretched out a hand and caught a steel cable stretched between the buildings, legacy of some festival a few years back when banners had been hung everywhere. He used his momentum to swing himself back up and slow himself, then pulled his feet under him to land on the wire.
He wobbled for a moment and then he had his balance. Knowing that waiting too long just sapped confidence he ran along the wire. From the ground it would look like someone was actually running on air between the buildings -- he'd got Emma to video it one evening to find out, just in case there was ever anyone below watching -- and now he really wanted to put the video on YouTube. But that would give away secrets, so he held off.
The studio was in a residential area; to his surprise it was located in an old school building. The playground around the school, and the high fence (then to keep children in, now it would be keep predators out... fewer with Wilkerson gone) meant that he could only approach on foot. Not a problem, just not as much fun. He scaled the fence easily, wiry muscles hauling him up the twelve feet in economical movements. Then he sauntered across the playground, his eyes darting from side to side looking for tell-tale gleams of light that might be CCTV camera housings.
No cameras, and he was startled to find that the first window he looked in showed an artist's studio. That seemed exceptionally lucky. As he stared at row upon row of heart-shaped boxes, each a gradated shade of chocolate brown that went from bitter chocolate to milk chocolate in coloration he realised that a school building could easily house a dozen artists studios. Sure enough: the next room along was a sculpture studio. He stood horrified for a minute at the window, looking at a nearly-completed bust of Mayor Wilkerson. What on earth could the artist be thinking of doing with that? Next was a door, which he tried just because it was there. When it opened he felt a smile tug at the corners of his lips.

Marc said...

Morganna - really like where you took things with this prompt. You took the song title and made it an integral piece of the story with seeming ease. Nicely done, and I hope to see this tale carry on :)

Greg - yes, well, tell Red to go have two sons with Emma and then maybe he'll see what 'busy' means :P

Ah. AH! A collection of artist studios in an old school building? Lots of unexplained heart shaped boxes? A BUST OF WILKERSON?!?

You better not be leaving it here... :)