[sticky entry] Sticky: Story Index

Aug. 23rd, 2013 11:28 pm
thewolfeinwillowell: (girl in forest)
[personal profile] thewolfeinwillowell
Synopsis: Fourteen-year-old Emma writes letters to her recently deceased cousin, Ilyana. Ilyana writes back.

Genre: Epistolary, coming-of-age, fantasy

Content warnings: Death, drowning, fire, grief, discussion of self-harm

Entries: #1 - Emma | #2 - Ilyana | #3 - Emma | #4 - Ilyana | #5 - Emma | #6 - Ilyana | #7 - Emma | #8 - Ilyana | #9 - Emma | #10 - Ilyana | #11 - Emma | #12 - Ilyana
thewolfeinwillowell: (girl against sky)
[personal profile] thewolfeinwillowell
Dear Emma,

I do not think my hair has grown an inch since I came here. I ought to be balding from the amount that my brush bristles steal from my scalp. Maybe I am, and I just haven’t noticed yet.

This afternoon, I borrowed a DVD from the bookstore. The Truman Show. We watched it together, remember? Only, although the DVD case shows Jim Carrey’s face, collaged from moments seized from his character’s capsuled life, the title read The Shuman Trow. I inserted the DVD into the player in my bedroom anyway, but it spun and spun and would not play. It might have produced a whisper of a song that I imagined was your cello, but I was very tired, as I have not been sleeping well, and I quickly fell asleep to its whir and buzz.

When I woke, I heard a rumbling and a wailing. I thought it was the movie at first, before I realized the sounds were coming from outside my room. I threw open my curtains. It was raining cats and dogs. The rumbling was of thunder and of raindrops hitting rooftops. The wailing was Ygritte’s voice floating through the walls.

Thick, inky stormclouds were floating in from offshore. It was the first time I’ve seen the sky anything other than a clear and resolute pale grey.

As I looked out the window, I could see Old Man Tango’s house across the way. There was no sign of him, but his door stood open. Does he not get cold? Surely mosquitoes and all other manner of unpleasant insects would seek shelter in his warm, dry home. I remembered his window, inexplicably exposed on Halloween night, and the fire dancing on the other side of it. How I wanted to be a mosquito and fly into that house unnoticed. How I wanted not to be shivering in my bed, listening to the angry rainfall, the cries of a banshee, and ink drip-dripping into my bathroom sink.

I was suddenly saddened to think about my parents in your letter and sadder still to know that I have done this to them. They used to slow dance during the countdown. They slow danced while everybody else counted, and they kissed when the ball dropped. I want them to dance again together, but I couldn’t bear to learn that they still dance without me. So in a way, I am relieved. Is that terrible of me? I know that it is.

I had only been staring out my window for a minute or two when my door banged open. I jumped, but it was only Christophe, who has made a habit of inviting himself over. I’ve yet to decide whether or not I mind, but I keep the door unlocked. I suppose that is itself an invitation.

He called my name.

“I’m in here,” I said softly, as if to the window.

“Don’t be scared, Ilyana,” Christophe said when he found me in my bedroom, his own eyes wide with terror. “Everything’s going to be okay.” He leaned over my bed to peer up at the sky. “It’s just the sky leaking. Why is it leaking? It’s not supposed to leak.”

“It’s only a little rain, Christophe,” I said, trying to keep the impatience from my voice.

He frowned and stuck out his lower lip, eyes still cast suspiciously at the hovering clouds.

A door opened in the hall, and Ygritte’s wailing grew louder and louder until she was leaning into my room, body draped around the doorjamb. “The sky, Christophe!” she cried.

He rushed to her and pulled her into his arms with a commiserating noise.

“It’s changing,” Ygritte gasped. “It’s all changing. Lethean is already gone.”

She could have meant that he had gone to the store, or moved into his own place, I suppose, but the way she said it made me think that we would not be seeing him again. Her grief seemed as deep and merciless as it was the day he’d arrived.

I should have comforted her, I know, but I was too restless and unsettled to abide her caterwauling. Instead, I slipped past the pair of them and pulled on my boots and coat. I was out of my apartment and halfway down the hall when Christophe came after me.

“Ilyana, wait!” he called, nearly tripping on his cape when he made the turn out of my apartment. “You cannot be thinking of going outside?”

“Not thinking,” I said. “Going.” And down the stairs I went to the lobby. I heard him chasing me, probably bundling his cape in his arms to better navigate the winding staircase.

I could see the rain better through the French doors of the ground floor, each drop striking the pavement like a bullet. The water would certainly run downhill into the sea. It would not linger and rise up to wash this building away. I haven’t said where I was going because I didn’t know. I just wanted to leave the Willowell Apartments and feel the rain on my face. Maybe that was where Old Man Tango went when he left his door open. Maybe that was where Lethean went, never to return. I placed one hand on the door handle and pushed.

“Don’t do it, Ilyana,” Christophe said behind me. He had frozen at the base of the stairs and was clutching the rail with one hand. An alcove over the front doors prevented the rain from falling directly on my arm, but Christophe seemed reluctant to subject himself to even the cold air.

“It’s only rain,” I said. “It used to happen all the time, back home.”

“And maybe that’s why you’re here now.”

I opened the door further.

“Don’t!” he shouted, and surged forward without letting go of the handrail. “Ilyana, why must you be so reckless?” I didn’t think I had been very reckless. “Why can you not do as you’re told?”

I let the door fall shut so I could turn to snap at him, “You’re not my father!”

“No, you left your father and your mother behind because you couldn’t just stay away from the water!”



(I still can’t believe he said that.)



Furious tears blurred my vision. He was so pitiful, trembling there in his ridiculous cape. “What are you going to do? Follow me?” I turned away from him and walked out into the rain.

I could hear him shouting my name until the door swung shut. Then all I heard was falling water, more quiet than it had been from indoors where the roof amplified it and made it ominous.

It fell on me, and it felt just like rain, which is to say not wonderful. It drenched my hair and my coat and my jeans, and it was cold, cold, cold. I opened my mouth to the sky to catch some on my tongue, but a memory lanced through me of water in my throat and lungs. I couldn’t go back to Willowell, so I tugged on my hood and pressed forward through downpour.

Across the way, Old Man Tango’s porch lamp illuminated his still open door. Bereft of more more appealing options—Pfilman’s and the bookstore were both too far to walk in this weather and Azra was not someone you found intentionally—I was drawn to it, as a moth to a remembered flame. Over the property wall, the tops of trees nodded as water pelted their leaves.

The entrance to the house was raised above two wooden steps, and I stood now at the foot of them, the lamplight rinsing my dark peacoat in gold. There was no fire this time; the inside of the house was darker than the rainy evening, and I could see only the bit of carpet just beyond the door.

“Mr. Tango?” I called, unsure if that was the proper way to address him. More hesitantly, “Old Man Tango?”

I stepped onto the bottom stair, meaning only to stick my head inside, but a hand caught my wrist, and stumbled back in surprise.

“Ilyana.” It was Christophe. His wet hair was stuck to his face, and his eyes were so wide that the whites were visible around the irises. For the first time since I met him, his olive drab skin appeared more sickly than merely hobgobliny.

“Please come back,” he said. “I’m so sorry. Please, please come back.”

Seeing him there, shivering in the sky leakage he so feared, clinging onto my wrist like he might disperse or dissolve if he let go, I could not remember what had seemed so important about walking out into the rain. As he continued to apologize, I threw my arms around his waist and buried my face in his soggy tunic.

We walked back to Willowell together.

I’m so sorry, too, Emma.

With love,
Ilyana
exitseraphim: [colourfaire] reading (Default)
[personal profile] exitseraphim
Dear Ilyana,
 
We rang in the New Year at my house. Aunt Polina came over to have dinner with us, and we had the TV turned to the countdown as we gathered in the living room. Jeroen has been in Amsterdam with your grandparents for the holiday season this year. They’ve been fighting, I think. They haven’t invited us over very often, and Aunt Polina has been going on a lot of long walks with Mom on the weekends.  Mom says that they will work through it though; she says I shouldn’t worry about them and it’s been a tough year and no couples can seamlessly transition through grief. She gave me so many reasons without me saying anything that I started to worry, but I do think she’s right. They’ll be okay. He’s coming back tomorrow. 
 
For dinner, we had the usual: sauerkraut, salad, herring, pelmenyi. We had ham on Christmas Eve, so we had chicken and steak for New Year’s Eve. Dad was the kitchen all day, humming “Silent Night” of all things. I went to the European deli downtown with Mom to buy the herring and pickles. It made me think of Ygritte offering apple slices on Halloween (or maybe I should say Hollowy). They would both be so unlikely to show up in an American sitcom holiday episode, although I guess I could see apple slices being offered by a health nut character. It’s strange. When Mom and I went around running errands, I kept glimpsing people that you describe. I thought I caught a glimmer of Iswy, but then it turned out to be a plastic bag, stuck on some shrubbery in a parking lot median and fluttering in the breeze. I thought I saw Azra through the boarded up windows of The New Wave, but when I got closer, I saw that it was just the shadows cast by the shelves of videotapes. Guess they haven’t emptied out their stock yet. 
 
Aunt Polina brought champagne for them and Martinelli’s for me. I think of the night through a lens of bubbling gold liquid, I saw so much of it through the glasses: Mom’s face, spliced like a Cubist painting, laughing in response to a joke that Aunt Polina made; Dad’s hand smudged by a whorl of bubbles as he helped himself to more salad; Aunt Polina’s eyes, their sadness somehow unmasked by the golden hue as she raised her glass for a toast. Toast to what? To the new year, to health, to your memory, the first couple times. Then they got more creative. 
 
I might have spent more time that night peering through my glass and its contents than drinking the cider, but the adults were too far gone in their own haze to notice. It makes the moment feel more ephemeral, and this memory will fade into a golden blur over which next year’s will be laid and the year’s after that. I’ll have a stack of flimsy memories of New Year’s, and I want to tie them up with a string and mail them to you, but I don’t know how. 
 
I’m not sure, where you are, if Halloween or All Souls’ Day would be more commonly used to mark the passing of time, whatever time would mean in eternity. It’s so arbitrary, New Year’s, but I guess it is as good a day as any to take account of the past and look to the future. I want to say I will never stop writing, but I am held back (please, don’t put the letter down, please hear me out) by fear that I will. That maybe one day the letters will no longer reach you. That maybe one day I will just put it off to the next and so a day unspools into a week into a month into a year into a life. I will hate myself, I think, if that were to happen. 
 
I’m glad you were able to hear me play for you. I wrote my own arrangement of “Welcome to the Black Parade” for solo cello, and I’ve been practicing it. I don’t know if it’s any good; It’s on the simplistic side, but I didn’t want embellishments to obscure the original melody. I played it for our parents, just after the countdown, amid the sounds of our neighbors’ noisemakers and honking – did you manage to catch any of it?
 
Love,
Emma
thewolfeinwillowell: (girl in forest)
[personal profile] thewolfeinwillowell
Dear Emma,

This morning, when I blearily entered my bathroom, I saw a hook-nosed woman wearing a black pointy hat in my toilet. Inside my toilet, Emma, clear as day beneath the water.

I screamed, and Christophe came barging in. “Ilyana!” he said, cape fluttering majestically. “Is everything all right!”

“Happy Halloween!” the woman said, and she threw a handful of candy in the air and vanished down the toilet hole. The wet candy clattered to the floor or splashed back into the water.

“I need to wake Miss Bell,” I said. “I need to tell her there was a woman inside my toilet.”

“Oh, that was just a toilet witch,” Christophe said kindly. “Completely harmless. And look! She left candy.” He picked up a soggy Jolly Rancher and popped it into his mouth, wrapper and all. “I am not familiar with this ‘Happy Hollowy’ she spoke of, however. An obscure toilet witch greeting?”

I explained about Halloween as best I could while recovering from the shock of not only seeing a witch in my toilet but learning that they were not at all unusual. Christophe listened intently, nodding as I told him about costumes and trick-or-treating. Finally, he thumped his fist on his palm.

“Understood, Ilyana!” he announced. “Have a lovely time at the bookstore today. I must make several phone calls.” Then he tossed his cape behind his back (so as not to trip on it, as I have seen him do at least twice), and dashed out of my bathroom.

I didn't know what he was plotting, but I started to feel homesick, so when I arrived at the bookstore, I searched for maps of home to describe for you, but they were all gone! When I asked Iswy where they went, she said vaguely, “Oh, I’m sure they’re around here somewhere. Couldn’t have run off all by themselves, now, could they?”

I looked also for books on poetry, but I haven't sorted through that section yet, and Iswy is so disorganized. It seems that no matter how I categorize and alphabetize, my work is always undone and the store is never any neater. I would chastise Iswy, but I think she is as incapable of change as is the store.

Iswy is– I'm unsure of how she would feel to hear me describe her as such, but she is a mummy. At least, she is wrapped in bandages from head to waist, though loosely in places, so that her clay-colored skin peeks through, with everything below obscured by the floor-length skirts she wears. She has donned a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses on a chain at all times I've seen her, even inside the crowded bookstore where the only natural light filters through packed shelves that block discolored windows and the artificial light from old chandeliers and mismatched table lamps isn't especially bright. Her heavy jewelry jangles when she moves, and she has very bad teeth.

She is scatter-brained but means well and brings me snacks that she makes. Today she brought me little liver pies.

When I walked home in the afternoon, munching on a pie, I think I did hear a bit of your cello. I might have imagined it, but as I passed by the park, Azra the Death Boy called my name and waved me down. He was wearing headphones this time, plugged into the radio on his lap; they flattened down his hair in the middle so that from the side, it looked like a scribbly black heart. "The announcer said this song is for you," he said. He pulled off his headphones and put them on my head, and through them I heard only white noise. I was about to hand them back, exasperated, but through the static emerged a low hum. I think it was the part of the song that goes, "didn't mean to make you cry; / if I'm not back again this time tomorrow / carry on, carry on." I burst into tears, which was very embarrassing, and Azra took his headphones back and continued to listen to his radio, ignoring me.

Despite my best efforts to the contrary, I cried all the way back to Willowell, so that when Christophe heard me at my door and threw open his own to yell, “Happy Hollowy!”, he must have seen the splotchy redness of my cheeks and eyes, for he asked, “What’s wrong?”

I was too bewildered by his outfit to respond. In lieu of his usual tunic and cape, Christophe was garbed in a football helmet, a bright green polo shirt, a necktie, overalls, and slippers.

“What is all that?” I asked.

“My Happy Hollowy costume,” he said. “I’m a human man. How did I do?”

I told him he looked just like my father. He beamed.

He welcomed me in and offered me some butter, of course, but I told him I had no appetite, so he decided to cheer me up by revealing the costume he had found for me. “I originally bought this dress for Victoria, but that was long after I’d already lost her.” He held up a white sheet with three holes cut out and threw it over my head. “How does it fit?”

“Perfectly, Christophe,” I said when I had gotten two of the holes to align with my eyes. The third hole was down at my chin.

When night fell, the doorbell rang. Outside was Ygritte holding a tray of apple slices. Behind her, her trembling son shuffled his feet.

“Christophe,” Ygritte wailed, “costumes are for the children. Adults offer treats. I read about it in that book I lent you.”

Our humble host looked faintly embarrassed. I helped myself to an apple slice. It was crunchy and sweet.

“Well, shall we set off?” Christophe said.

“Set off where?” I asked.

“Why, tricks-or-treatsing, of course!” said Christophe. “I read about it in the book Ygritte lent me.”

So Christophe and Ygritte ushered us into Christophe’s bathroom, and we commenced tricks-or-treatsing.

Christophe knocked three times on the toilet tank. The clear water swirled, slowly, and then a witch appeared. “Happy Halloween,” said the witch.

“Happy Hollowy!” bellowed Christophe in return. “Would you like a trick or a treat?”

“Eh?”

“We have here some apples for you!” added Ygritte, and she tossed two slices into the toilet.

“Ruffians,” the witch muttered, and she disappeared in a shower of chocolates.

Our next stop was the door of General Czaszka, who lives across the hall from me—or so I hear. I have never actually seen him, but he must exist, for outside his door was a bowl of ginger and raisin cookies and four glasses of cranberry juice. Christophe and Ygritte ooh-ed and waah-ed, and Ygritte’s son took the glass that was handed to him and spilled its contents over his shirt. He looked at me with wide eyes. He was paler than when he first arrived.

“General Czaszka doesn’t have a toilet,” said Christophe, dabbing crumbs and juice from his mouth with a handkerchief, “because he has no internal organs.”

We passed right by Miss Bell’s apartment. “We invited Miss Bell, but she is much too busy,” Ygritte explained.

Downstairs in the lobby, I saw a very large jack-o-lantern sitting on a comfy chair. It had a black nest crown and skinny green limbs.

“Hey,” I said.

“Pfilman told me to put these on and meet you here,” said Azra. With some difficulty he rolled to his feet. “I am very uncomfortable. These gloves are oversized.” He pointed at the winklepickers on his feet. “And I can’t spread my toes.”

“Well, I think you look great,” I said. “Thank you, Pfilman.”

Azra scrunched his nose. I think he was frowning, under all that hair. “What are you wearing?”

“A lovely dress.”

“Is it supposed to cover your mouth?”

“Azra the Death Boy!” cried Ygritte. She swooped in and grabbed Azra’s face to plant a kiss on each cheek. “Why, you haven’t changed a wick. Have you met my son Lethean? He came in on the train.”

“How do you do?” said Azra, but I do not think he cared much because he didn’t even turn toward Lethean when he spoke.

Lethean stared at Azra and then looked away and chewed his lip. He does that a lot.

The night was chillier than any I had yet experienced on the island. The curtains of Old Man Tango’s windows were uncharacteristically drawn aside, revealing a fire burning in the hearth. I stepped toward the house instinctively, wanting to crawl into that fireplace and huddle in its warmth, but Ygritte placed a hand on my shoulder and shook her head, and so I pulled my sheet closer and followed the group past.

We visited everybody else that night. The witches in the gnome tunnels wore sparkling warts and fairy wings and brought us round hard cakes, which they traded for the galoshes Christophe had been carrying all night for just that purpose. The witch in the silent movie theatre made Ygritte sing "Der Erlkönig" before rewarding us with toffee. Pfilman’s toilet witch wore a rubber mask with peach skin and a long nose. She gave us peppermint candies and laughed at Azra when he got stuck in the doorframe.

As we made our way toward our next destination, Iswy’s bookstore, Christophe talked excitedly about what a successful night we had had, but I wasn’t listening. I was thinking instead how unlike and like Halloween this “Happy Hollowy” was: unlike enough to be strange and new, yet like enough that I wanted to lock away my Halloween memories where they could never fade nor be altered.

Do you remember when we were eleven, we went trick-or-treating by ourselves for the first time? We were marching up the hill toward the Nugurus’ house, when you turned and I wasn’t there. You panicked and backtracked, calling my name, until I leapt out of the bushes and yelled in your face. You screamed, and I laughed, and you hit me. I know it must have been light out because our parents would not have allowed us to venture out alone otherwise, but in my memories, everything is cloaked in the long dark shadows of the trees, and I am a harpy, cackling in the night.

If I stay here forever, where the leaves never fall and Ygritte's book is wet and dripping no matter how long it hangs, will I become blurry at my edges like the girl on fire? Will you stop writing? You won't mean to, of course, but you'll become busy with school or your cello and forget. And when you finally remember and write to me, will I have hands to write you back? Are these hands I write with now still mine?

Christophe and Ygritte’s stifling concern would not let me fall behind, but I did so as much as I could under guise of keeping the ornery pumpkin company. Ahead of me, Lethean’s shirt was partially untucked. I glared at it to no avail.

“My feet hurt,” said Azra. “This whole thing is ridiculous. Why are you entertaining this fancy, Ilyana Wolfe?”

“They’re doing this for me,” I told him. “I can’t just abandon them.”

“They’re doing it for themselves because they are afraid. They see monsters in the dark and witches in the water. What they don’t see is that none of this is real.” He stopped walking and crouched, pulling his legs and arms into the costume so that he appeared a large pumpkin with a little head on top. “Or, I should say, what they pretend not to see. Will you lift this bizarre contraption off of me, Ilyana Wolfe? I cannot actually get out of it myself.”

“Not a fan of Happy Hollowy, huh?” I asked, but I lifted the pumpkin up over his head, nearly falling backward in the process, and set it down beside me, leaving Azra sitting on the ground in his shorts, shoes, and opera gloves.

“Excellent,” he said. He stood and picked up the pumpkin costume. “I will return this outfit to Pfilman and inform him that it is both unwieldy and uncomfortable. Good day, Ilyana Wolfe.”

“Are you coming, Ilyana?” Christophe called from up ahead.

I looked toward Azra, but he was already walking back the way we came.

“No, Christophe. Thank you,” I said, “but I am going home.”

And so I did.

Thank you for playing your cello for me, and for letting Mom help you with homework. She always wanted to help me but I never let her. Can you learn “Welcome to the Black Parade”? I'm forgetting the way it sounds.

Love,
Ilyana
exitseraphim: [colourfaire] reading (Default)
[personal profile] exitseraphim
Dear Ilyana,

I haven’t written in a while. I’m sorry. I haven’t written much at all, and the blank pages in those notebooks I bought at the beginning of the school year seem to reflect accusations at me when I look at them. Words just haven’t fit the way I want them to, and it can be so hard to mold my thoughts into language without strangling them.

On the other hand, it’s so easy to sink into nostalgia. In a single day, I feel so many empty, self-indulgent, easy feelings, emotions with intensity but no velocity. My mind is like a shallow pool whose waters refracted give it the illusion of depth, whose plane is circumscribed by imperceptible limits that nonetheless assert their presence. I don’t do anything with these feelings, but they circulate in my mind, like birds that have been trapped in a cage with nowhere to roost, permutations of the same thoughts. Would taking action to force change sully the purity of my emotions or is that a rationalization that emerged from my lethargy? Ilyana, my thoughts are trapped within me and I in them. You led me out of them, when I could. But now I only really have my books to lead me out. They extend a comforting hand, but they can only take me to where my mind meets with the minds of others. That world extends far and expands always, but it never quite breaches the frontier of the world that everyone else inhabits.

Mom worries. I’ve been in summer school the past month or so. It was kind of a big deal. Mom got called to school for a parent-teacher conference with my chemistry teacher, and they decided that retaking the class was the best thing for me. I was really close to passing, and Ms. Aira was contemplating giving me a few extra points so I wouldn’t have to repeat. “To take things into consideration” was her reason. Mom didn’t think that was a good idea though, so I’ve been retaking chem for hours every day. You don’t have to care about grades. Aunt Polina longs to worry about you though, and she has projected to worry onto me. (I don’t say that to make you feel guilty, so I hope you don’t.) She comes over to review the material with me every evening after dinner, and my test scores have improved a lot this second them around.

Recently I have been reading a lot of poetry, most of it pretty unusual, like calligrams or other poems that play with typography. I don’t know if you ever came across these poems much. The words might form pictures or they sometimes splatter all over the page. Sometimes there is only a single word on a page. Or there might be two words in one line but each word hugs opposite edges of the page. Even the word themselves get ripped apart, syllables or letters left to hang, stripped partially of their meaning. Words are also smashed together in a mad rush of sound. I find bits and pieces of myself in these strange poems, in the spaces and in the ink. They help me widen my mindscape, that limited pool, and they make me feel like I am getting closer to where everyone else is. It’s kind of funny, because often, I don’t have any idea what they mean. I mean, look at this, I copied this down for you (it’s from “A throw of the dice never will abolish chance” by Stéphane Mallarmé):


This poem provokes so many questions. But right now, the strangeness is soothing. The giant cascading words, the giant CHANCE, the “identical neutrality of the abyss.”

I’ve also been practicing cello a lot, although I haven’t really been going to lessons. Since my grades dropped so much, Mom and Dad decided they wanted me to focus on schoolwork and they’ve paused the lessons. If my first report card this coming year is good – B’s at the very least, they said – I get to continue the lessons. I’m not sure if stopping my lessons worked out the way they wanted to, because I still spent a lot of time playing, just practicing old songs or trying out new ones on my own. I learned to play “Bohemian Rhapsody” for you! I played it in front of your grave – did you hear?

Cello also helps me the way the poetry does, to blur the lines between my space and others’. Mom and Dad can tell, I think, so they can’t bring themselves to stop me. I’ll try harder when school starts. I miss having a teacher to help me improve. I also don’t want Mom and Dad to worry so much, and schoolwork is one of the easier things to control. (They are concerned that I never go out with friends and that I eat lunch alone. I tell them that I eat in Ms. Fajans’ room, so I’m not alone. From time to time, Leela Mehta joins us even though she has her own group of friends. We don’t talk much, but I found I don’t mind her presence while I read quietly. Mom and Dad do not consider this friendship.)

I have poetry and I have cello and I have you, even though I’ve been neglecting our correspondence. Tell me more about Iswy the Bookseller! I wish I could see those maps. They sound fantastic. Maybe they aren’t wrong, but the inaccuracies are hidden to us and the maps would reveal them. Is there one of home? Perhaps you could describe it to me, and I can explore based off of your descriptions.

Maybe it is because I am still alive, but Ygritte’s sorrow... does not perplex me, exactly, but I wonder that she should be distraught to see her son again. I would like to see you again, and I think that when I die, I would want to have my family around me again eventually. Do people always find each other again after death?

Oh, I should tell you that I think I have seen the floating graves, and not just in my dreams this time. Another strange thing happened to me a while back. I haven’t seen the girl on fire again, and I don’t know much about those questions I was supposedly asking, but I go to the Well of Loneliness often. Also, I haven’t seen a golden day since the one I wrote about, though I’m unsure if that is due to the weather or just due to me. Anyway, one time, I went to the Well of Loneliness after school. I don’t remember when exactly, but the days were beginning to get longer. This time, I did not sit against the well but instead found shade beneath a tree and sat facing it. I started reading my book – it was No Matter Where I Travel, I Go to Nowhereland by Mascha Kaléko – but I didn’t get very far before my attention was caught by a restless movement above the well.

I lifted my head and saw blue-green sprites leaping out of the well in a coordinated fashion, like they were performing a choreographed dance. I looked around to see if anyone else was around, but I didn’t see anyone. The sprites chittered melodically as they danced, twirling this way and that, until they noticed me watching and froze. For a moment I was afraid that my attention started them and they’d disappear, but curiously they turned toward me (or seemed to, anyway, their lack of features resembling a face made it hard to tell) and bowed. I lowered my head to them in response, because it felt like the right thing to do. They were delighted by this and continued to dance in a greater frenzy before. They left the immediate parameters of the well and darted about the clearing, even swirling around my head. I wanted to join them, but something in me warned against it.

At a signal imperceptible to me, the sprites all froze again and winked out of sight. As I wondered if I had imagined the entire display, a ghostly, writhing figure twisted up out of the well. Its scales were a bluish, matte color, but they seemed like they would shine if sunlight could touch them. It looked like an unnaturally elongated lizard – a Tatzlwurm? It, or its specter, hovered above the mouth of the well, struggling and railing in a futile resistance against something I couldn’t see. It noticed me after a few moments and lunged at me. I scrambled backwards, but I didn’t have to. Something was holding it back, probably the same thing it was trying to escape. Then, as suddenly as the sprites, the Tatzlwurm vanished.

In its place, floating graves slowly materialized. I think they might have been the same as your floating graves. Green roses clung to the graves’ sides, as moss drapes over headstones. A sea of them stretched beyond the edge of the well to some mysterious vanishing point and out to the sides, maybe past the sides of the clearing. I don’t know. I was mesmerized, immersed. I felt like they surrounded me, though I had not moved. I closed my eyes and felt the gentle vibrato of the graves swaying in this invisible ocean. I listened them hum, faintly at first and then louder so that I could hear nothing else, not my own thoughts, nor my consciousness. My self was dispersed among the graves; their music absorbed my heartbeat.

I don’t know how long that lasted, but a rolling fire started consuming the graves at the far edge of this sea and its roar snapped me back together into my person. The flames twisted together with a violence and fury that reminded me of the Tatzlwurm and spun into a bird with sparkling seafoam eyes. Its fire-feathers gleamed with silver and gold, flashing with each flap of its wings. A song emanated from the flames, vibrant, powerful, and uplifting. As it sang (projected song?), the Firebird soared upward and disappeared. The song’s notes lingered in the air long after the Firebird left and I sat unmoving in the clearing even longer after.

I stayed there, still and insensible, until Dad found me. He yelled at me at the clearing, was angrily silent on the drive home, and then yelled at me some more; Mom yelled at me and then cried and mentioned you and cried harder. (I guess I should also mention that, while this was technically after school, I also skipped school that day to go to the public library and the principal called home.) I listened to them, said sorry many times, ate my cold dinner, and went to bed soon after, my mind still on the extraordinary pageantry I had witnessed.

Mom is calling me to go eat, so I’ll wrap up. Here’s a short bit from a poem I like, from Mascha Kaléko. It’s from “Mein Schönstes Gedicht.” I translated these lines (with help from Google Translate).

Mein schönstes Gedicht?
Ich schrieb es nicht.
Aus tiefsten Tiefen stieg es.
Ich schwieg es.


My most beautiful poem?
I never wrote it.
From the deepest depths it rushed up.
I hushed it.

Love (and apologies),
Emma

May 2015

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