James MacInnis picked up the thin folder his editor had given him. Someone had phoned in a scoop that a New England Town had what seemed to be a very small-scale plague of insanity. James didn’t understand why his editor hadn’t brushed it off, and had no idea how he was going to turn it into a story.
Jessica tugged at her skirt, then told herself to stop. Halloween was her chance to let loose, be less buttoned up. She had to be comfortable in her costume if she was going to have any fun at all.
The doorbell rang, and the chorus of “trick or treat” was punctuated by giggles.
“Hi girls,” Jessica’s mom said downstairs.
She looked in the mirror one more time and hiked her skirt back up to where it belonged. You can pull this off, she told herself. You look amazing.
This was their last Halloween together, but none of them knew it yet. Mel knew they were getting old for trick-or-treating, but she wanted to do this one last group costume idea. Over the summer, Anna had introduced the group to her favourite show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’d taped a bunch of episodes onto VHS and they’d spent the hot summer days camped out in her basement watching her parents big TV.
Mel was obsessed – quickly surpassing Anna’s obsession. She’d borrowed the tapes to watch some of her favourite moments again and again. She cast the four of them as the characters in the show; Anna, of course, was the perfect Willow, Vic would be Xander, Samantha, despite being a girl, was kinda stuffy, so she was Giles and Mel was the only blond, so unsurprisingly, she was Buffy.
Fifteen stories above the street, here I am.
One story for each year it’s been since the accident.
I stand near the edge, looking down, thinking of the experiences that led me to this place. A year ago, I decided to be bold. But it’s not that experience that led me here. No, this goes back fifteen years. To the cold steel on steel that battered my body and crushed my soul. It left me unable to take risks, paralyzed with fear.
Sometimes I see you alone. You frown at your stack of notebooks, look back at your laptop, punch out a few keys. You heave great sighs that you think no one can hear because you have headphones in.
Sometimes I see you with someone else. You never look terribly comfortable, or happy. I never see you with that person again.
You don’t see me.
Belinda arrived in London at the end of August, telling her parents it was just for a fun trip abroad before college started. She knew there would be others heading to King’s Cross on September 1st. It had become a pilgrimage of sorts for fans – and this year was special. This year was the “Nineteen years later” date J.K. Rowling had written about. She knew when she showed up, there would be people she knew there, if not by face, then by screen name.
She wasn’t even the biggest fan, it had been William who drove her crazy with Potter facts and showing her what he’d found online everyday, it was William who brought her into this online community. William who wouldn’t be with her.
Norah believed that stories were true. She grew up reading and read her way through school, all the way through university. Once she graduated, she wanted to write stories. That was all she wanted to do. So she wrote. Or at least she tried to write. Mostly she read books that were like the ones she wanted to write, she read books about how to write, and she browsed Creative Writing courses online, but was too afraid to actually sign up for one. She fell into the life that so many artists fall into: that of the minimum wage job. She had to work so many hours to afford her rent and food that eventually she wrote less and less, and the stories she read became more like escapes from her reality than realities in and of themselves.
Had a great time last night. 🙂
Me too. 🙂
I don’t want to be weird, but I’d love to see you again. Coffee sometime?
I’d love that.
Hey babe, miss you
Miss you too. Three weeks feels so long.
I just want to jump through my phone to see you
That would be amazing.
We’ll make it, right?
Of course we will. Amor vicit omnia.
Hey, it’s today!
I can’t wait. 🙂
I thought you were going to sleep in! I didn’t wake you up, did I?
No, I’m too excited to sleep.
Me too. Wanna make out?
Yes, but I’m pretty sure someone would notice if I took the car. 😛
I’m outside. 😉
OMG. I’ll be right there.
Where the hell are you?
Sorry, I’m outside
Are you coming?
Be right there
Getting coffee. Want one?
You left your fucking underwear on the floor again.
Don’t call me babe. I’m pissed off at you.
Love you babe
Fuck off. I love you too.
Seriously, where are you?
Sorry, running late
You can’t be running late. You were supposed to be home an hour ago. I need you here now.
Still wrapping up
Wrapping up work? Or wrapping up with some chick?
FFS, wrapping up work.
You’re late every day. What am I supposed to think?
You’re supposed to trust me.
I trust you to get home when you say you will.
You know it’s crazy here right now.
You fucking forgot, didn’t you?
Fuck. I’m so sorry.
Not good enough.
I’m leaving now.
It’s too late, they gave away our reservation. My fucking mascara is ruined anyway.
I’m really sorry, babe.
Don’t fucking call me babe, asshole.
I’ll be home in 10.
And the day came when at last she took to the sea.
She stood in the prow, spray in her face, hair streaming out behind her, a proud warrior filled with purpose and strength. Behind her, the fortress lay wasted, men lying on the sand, calling and crying for her to come back, to turn, to acknowledge them in some way.
“We did this for you!” they cried. “We are broken here because of you!”
But she would not turn. She faced the wild unknown, the open ocean, dreams ahead of her and nightmares behind.
She would not go back to that land, where she was expected to stay in her tower, to stay pure and perfect and never age, never fail, never cease to do the things asked of her. She would find a new land.
She had heard stories ever since she was a child, stories of a land where a woman could be free. The stories were myth, untrue, only told under cover of darkness to women and children. Only told to the weak.
But the stories gave her strength. They brought a fierce light to her eyes and a new vigour to her muscles as she laid her plans.
They laughed long after she was gone. She was held up as an example. Her fate was that of one who heard fairy stories and believed them. She was a freak, a Jezebel, a betrayer.
Those she left behind never heard from her again. No one learned whether or not she found the mystical land of freedom, or whether she drowned alone at sea, her hair tangling in the seaweed and her body becoming food for carnivorous sea-beings.
But the young girls of the land she had left told new stories. They told stories of the woman who had single-handedly torn down her pedestal, her tower, her prison. How she left men bleeding and calling for her. How she revealed that there were deep cracks in the way they understood the world. In some stories, her ship was torn apart by storm and she was transformed into a mermaid, a symbol of the freedom that comes in death. In others, she survived, she found the new world, and she lives there still as an equal to all.
“Testing, 1, 2, 3, I am Dr. Andy Paris, this is February 15th at 2pm. My next client, has a standing appointment once a year on this date.”
“Hello, Dr. Paris.”
“Good afternoon. Would you like some chocolate? I have plenty leftover from yesterday.”
“Is that a joke?”
“I’m so sorry, that was quite insensitive of me. I’ll put these away. Can you tell me about your week?”
“It’s not just a week now. It’s the entire month. It’s almost two months! Two months of fat diapered babies with bow-and-arrows. Do I look like a fat diapered baby to you?”
“Of course not.”
“Plus it’s not even about love anymore. It used to be about love. Now it’s every kid at every school in the whole damn continent. They don’t love each other, some of them don’t even like each other. Why do they keep it up? Is it just to torture me?”
“I’m sure it’s not.”
“And what do mutated turtles and large eyed women have to do with me anyway? They’re almost worse than the fat babies. I don’t even know who I am anymore. Am I the god of Disney and Star Wars? Am I the god of cinnamon and chalk?”
“Those tiny hearts with writing on them. Are they not chalk?”
“Those are actually supposed to be candy.”
“Really? Well that’s just a slap in the face.”
“Getting back to yesterday, did you do what I suggested last year?”
“I’m trying. I tried to do what you said, but I don’t want to be by myself for two whole months.”
“Did you at least get to a secluded spot yesterday?”
“I…. attempted that.”
“And what happened?”
“I booked this cabin in the woods, this cute little exclusive resort, away from everything.”
“It turned out to be a couple’s resort! Cabin after cabin of blissful couples, all there for..for…”
“It’s okay to say it, saying it won’t hurt you.”
“I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
“I was surrounded by them! Flowers and chocolates and stupid fat babies. I had to fly from cabin to cabin. I witnessed three proposals!”
“That must have been very frustrating.”
“I can’t get away from it. When love is near, I have to obey. I have to go and fire my stupid magical arrows all day. It’s exhausting. It’s un-ending. AND IT’S EVERY DAMN YEAR!”
“I know, Mr. Cupid, I know.”
“Same.” [sob] “time” [sob] “next year?” [sob]
“Yes, of course. And more often if you’d like. You cry for as long as you need to.”