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Weekly Short Story Contests > Week 87- (July 6th-13th) Stories --- Topic: Letting Go DONE!

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message 1: by Caitlan (new)

Caitlan (lionesserampant) | 2869 comments im working on one, its another bones story, based on a dream i had :)


message 2: by M (last edited Jul 11, 2011 02:54PM) (new)

M | 11261 comments I haven’t been able to come up with anything new. Here’s an old one that's based on a dream I had about the "wandering fires" Tennyson mentions in Idylls of the King. "Clair de lune" is an impressionistic piece by Claude Debussy. When I was growing up, Mom remembered some of it by heart.

Moonlight
by M (about 2,410 words)

He was walking up 5th Street in the twilight. To his right the student union building, its construction having been interrupted by the war, thrust its steel ribs at the sky. In the wide, grassy space beside it appeared two phantomlike fires. He watched them in the silence. A girl leaned out a window of the nearby, delapidated science hall and watched also. “They come here every evening,” she said in a smoky voice.

The flickering apparitions jumped and flitted and moved toward him, then hesitated as if afraid. On waking he would realize who they were, and that someday there would be three.

“I don’t know why you keep going home!” his sister’s voice resounded with disapproval, and he found himself in a Victorian courtroom whose tall, antique windows glowed with late afternoon. The dusty air was like a galaxy of stars. She looked at him severely from the prosecutor’s table: “You know what is going to happen to you!” Her voice shook with the fury of concern. “You know--” she pointed, but her words choked off and her eyes filled with tears.

He knew. From the world of his childhood a remnant remained, like an island now, glowing on the dark edge of forever. Someday they wouldn’t be there anymore, and he would vanish with them.

The girl in the science hall window looked at him, her eyes a muted gray in the washed-out light. What could he say to her? “There was never a day of my life,” he confessed miserably, “that I haven’t wanted to go home, that I wouldn’t have walked home if it had been a thousand miles away.” The two fires grew brighter.

A distant sound of piano chords came into his bedroom through the window in the September air. She was practicing. He woke to find the window closed. It was a dream which, night after night, had haunted his sleep until he had awakened and stared out at the dark shape of the old music building three blocks away on campus. This night its auditorium stood in the moonlight like a great mausoleum.

His mother had gone to school here, but in a time far away. Where drowsing, clapboard neighborhoods had been was now a badlands of parking lots and cheap apartments.

“On your behalf, I’ve requested an application for the graduate program at Marrs,” his father had announced in July, two years previous. Memory most often rendered his father in black judicial robes, hurling down damnation from a judge’s bench. The son had not been worried. His delinquency had left him with transcripts from five schools, and he would not be admitted to a program as selective as this one.

That his grandfather had been killed driving there he had known somehow even as a child. Perhaps his grandmother had told him once, as she put him to bed, how his mother had called and written, begging for her father to come get her. His was a face in a photograph from World War II, a face still young, with wire-rimmed glasses and kind eyes. The image of the wandering fires returned, and the twilight atmosphere of 5th Street.

Why all this had come back and was driving him crazy he could not fathom, unless it was guilt at his own ingratitude. His mother’s education had been paid for with nickels and dimes. In his boyhood the little building that had been his grandfather’s restaurant had still graced a downtown corner, surrounded by urban desolation, years vacant, with quaint windows and a steep roof.

He turned over and tried to sleep, prey to a slithering foreboding that had lain motionless throughout most of his life but had now begun to stir. Outside, the air assumed a spectral vitality infused with moonlight, as though its memory had come alive, weeping the melancholy bars of “Clair de lune.”

At last, in exhaustion, as if in response to a summons, he stumbled out of bed and stood in the center of the room, not knowing what to do. The luminous dial of his diver’s watch showed that it was almost midnight. This was a world a long way from bright summers of sailboats and starting guns. Turning on the overhead light, he squinted in the glare, quickly turning it off, and resorted to the bedlamp instead.

There was no one to talk to, and who could possibly understand? Charlotte would be asleep by now. Going to the window, he rotated the blinds open. Across the parking lot, her red Firebird was in its usual place, her apartment dark. He hoped she was having pleasant dreams.

On the footlocker that he used for a bedside table lay a copy of Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again. He sat down on the bed and opened to the bookmark, a scrap of sheet music darkening with age, at the top of which were the letters “UNE.” He tried to read but the music in his head made concentration impossible. Beside the lamp was a highball glass, its ice woefully melted. An index card soaked by condensation bore a scribbled line: “Old sins cast long shadows.”

He rubbed his eyes, then his vision focused on the fragment of paper protruding from the book. It was a survival from an incident that had occurred at his grandmother’s house when he was a teenager. His sister had found some moth-eaten sheet music among the spider webs of the closet under the stairs. The ivory keys of the upright piano, he recalled, were yellowed from decades of cigarette smoke, the strings badly out of tune, and when Eleanor had tried to play it, the sun-filled stillness had been pierced by a macabre dissonance. Entering from the kitchen, their mother had snatched the pages from the music rack and torn them up.

Twelve years later and many miles away down the lonely highway by which his mother had arrived at the university, he squeezed his eyes shut, recalling the anguish on his mother’s face as she had stood over the ripped pages on the floor, the sudden sorrow that had clouded his grandmother’s careworn features. His mother had climbed the stairs defeatedly, as if stunned by another realization of something precious lost forever. The door closed behind her to the room that had been his grandfather’s office, where she had cried disconsolately.

That music had engraved itself in his mind. It had become a leitmotif of the aimless, disappointing years that had followed the naive hopes of high school days. Without knowing why, as he sat on the bed in his apartment, he sensed uncomfortably that something was brewing, something mysterious and related to the enigmatic conflict underlying his disturbed sleep.

(Continued.)


message 3: by M (last edited Jul 11, 2011 03:18PM) (new)

M | 11261 comments (“Moonlight” continued.)

After a few minutes he put on his clothes and went out for a walk. The parking lots were like a lunar landscape, the narrow alley behind campus as unstirring as a graveyard. The dewy lawn of the museum, under its canopy of pecan trees, was sunk in shade as black as india ink. This last week of September had been unseasonably cool, and the night damp was penetrating.

Thinking of his grandfather, whose daughter’s bequest had been a wordless grief that hadn’t subsided with time, he began going back over the dream he had awakened from earlier. The term ignis fatuus crossed his mind. Then a tingling sense of lurking menace caused him to halt abruptly. Preceding him as if anticipating his journey, a pale, shapeless flame appeared and disappeared among the tree trunks. It reminded him of the luminescent marsh gas sometimes seen at night in a swamp. He watched it with fascination, dismissing it finally as a vagary of insomnia.

Soon he was in the shadows of the music building. A leaden certainty told him what he must do to prove to himself that this dark symbol in his life was nothing more than a huge, silent hall, and that the eerie, nocturnal practicing was merely a figment of his imagination.

The weathered limestone facade, with its tall, arching windows, looked down on him like the brooding visage of fate as he crossed the wide landing to the front doors. As he had expected, they were locked. Descending the steps, he proceeded around to the side. Ranged along a wall that resembled a bluff of meal-colored, textured brick were the windows of first-floor offices, hardly more than an arm’s reach from the sidewalk. All the sashes had been secured.

At the rear of the building he tried the small, basement windows, none of which would open. Quelling the urge to run, he looked quickly around then kicked one in. The clatter of the corrugated glass gave him a momentary thrill, but when no one approached, he carefully knocked out the remaining pieces and lowered himself inside.

The window fragments, where they had fallen on the tile floor, scraped under his shoes. He listened for signs of an alarm or of running feet. There was only the hollow notes of the piano, definite now, reverberating weirdly among the hard surfaces. Light from a nearby streetlamp came in through the paneless aperture, revealing the white plaster walls of a restroom.

He opened a scarred, panelled door into blackness and an intimation of doom smote him. His mind filled with the image of a monstrous, invisible serpent drawing itself up into a coil. Drawing his breath sharply, he hesitated. Then, with his hands before him, he followed the sound, carefully navigating a passageway that he found to be partially obstructed by stacks of folding chairs that made a distressing clangor when some of them fell.

Soon he no longer worried about being caught. Though he could not have named it, there was something of a different nature to dread, something infinitely more deserving of fear. Where the wall angled in a left turn, he opened a door. It led to a stygian stairwell and ascending steps, an access to the foyer. From the crack under the door at the top of the stairs came the moonlight that was pouring through the towering front windows.

His unease mounted. A lonely presence seemed to fill the stairwell, and a ghostly phosphorescence began to coalesce in the darkness. His scalp prickling, he backed away and reentered the lower hall, pulling the door firmly shut behind him.

Farther ahead were the doors to the practice rooms, feebly revealed by antique light fixtures whose embossed designs were indistinct under many coats of paint. These same lights, it occurred to him, had lit the hall when his mother had been a student here.

The progressions of intricate chords were clearly audible now and greeted him like a musty wraith, a long, blue echo down wooden-floored corridors leading to the heartbreak of another time. The ivy-like bars were played over and over. Then the playing stopped and an unearthly silence followed, an old, black and white silence that enveloped him and drew him down the hall.

As he approached the closed door near the end, tempestuous chords boomed out in the stillness. Gripped by intensifying terror, he tried to reassure himself that the sound was merely a trick of his mind, a hallucination. How else could he have heard the piano two blocks away in his apartment? The practice rooms had no windows.

Within moments, however, he was keenly aware that if he didn’t get out of there fast, he would never see the daylight of tomorrow. The instinct to run shot through him like a zig-zag of lightning, but he seemed paralyzed by a profound hypnosis. He shouted for help, hoping to alert a security guard making rounds, or perhaps a faculty member in an office upstairs after hours. He bellowed with all his might, his chest swelling, his voice burning his throat with such force it seemed it would startle the campus awake, as though to an air-raid siren. But no sound came out. The only thing to be heard were the notes emanating from the practice room.

Simultaneously, however, with an inner sense, as if from another dimension, he heard the music building fill like a weird, enormous instrument with the wail of the damned, his voice echoing across the stage immersed in the blackness of the cavernous auditorium, along the marble floor of the foyer drenched with moonlight, in the restroom with its high window broken out.

With a shivering second sight he glimpsed the redemptive purpose of his seemingly aimless life. He heard the scream of the unfortunate student who would find him in the morning, saw himself through that student's eyes, a corpse lying in the practice room, his staring countenance a sculpture of horror and defeat. He felt sick and cheated. Glancing down at the dial of his watch, he saw that its hands had stopped at midnight.

The playing ceased on a broken chord, and he heard someone turn a page and shift position on the piano bench.

“She is not really here,” he told himself resolutely. “She can’t be.” Grasping the metal knob, he opened the door.

The small room he peered into was not a modern practice room. An incandescent bulb made weak, yellowish light. Then everything became slow and dreamlike. Against a background of pages filled with florid specks, a familiar face turned toward him, but with a youthfulness unknown in his lifetime.

He felt deathly ill. He tried to turn away, but shock hit him like a plunge into icy water. He realized that her glow of recognition was for someone other than him. A tremor twisted through him and he had the sensation that his blood was turning cold in his veins. He began shuddering, clutching the door jamb. He knew who she was seeing. His eyesight failed as in surprise and relief she arose from the piano bench. The final thing in his mind, as if heard across an eternity from the afternoon of the torn pages, were the opening chords of “Clair de lune.”

When the door opened, the girl in the practice room looked up from her music. Her wristwatch was ticking the first minutes of the morning, and she wondered who could possibly be down there. She heard her name softly spoken. In the doorway stood her father, his eyes tired behind his wire-rimmed spectacles. She knew he had worked at the cafe until closing. He had removed his hat in his unassuming way, a little shaken, as though he had had a narrow escape on the highway.


message 4: by Mark (new)

Mark Hope this is interesting.


message 5: by M (last edited Jul 12, 2011 05:39PM) (new)

M | 11261 comments Mark, my favorite line is: "This just isn't my day," Jessica thought. "Reform school, here I come."

Alex, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed "Moonlight."


message 6: by Caitlan (last edited Jul 13, 2011 07:25PM) (new)

Caitlan (lionesserampant) | 2869 comments *


Title: Letting Go
Author: Caitlan

The funeral procession contained only my very best friends: Angela, Hodgens, Cam, Sweets, and Booth. We stood around the grave as the cemetery workers lowered his casket into the ground. I grabbed Booth’s hand, and he wrapped his arm around my shoulder. Try as I might to stay strong, like my father had asked before he had died, tears leaked out of my eyes.

“Hey, Bones, it’s okay,” Booth whispered in my ear. “I’m right here.”

After the funeral, Angela and Hodgens came over to comfort me before going back home. They had left Michael with a sitter, and didn’t want to be away from him for long. Cam and Sweets made their way over.

“Temperance, do you want the day off tomorrow? I know how hard it is to loose someone you love,” Cam said, as she gave me a hug. I awkwardly returned her hug, but shook my head.

“No, I’ll come in. We still have to identify those two bodies.”

“Okay, Brennan. You need some time off,” said Sweets. “Working after emotional trauma could throw off your entire psyche. You might become deranged or--”

“Sweets! Leave her alone, she’ll be fine. I won’t let her become deranged.” Booth looked at me, then back at Sweets. “Plus, you know she thinks psychology is a soft science. Just go, kid, okay?”

Sweets looked mildly offended at being called kid, but he left anyway, taking Cam with him.

Booth asked me if I wanted to stay longer, but I shook my head. As we were leaving, I placed roses on my father’s grave. We went to Booth’s apartment, and I slowly sat on his couch, putting my head in my hands. Booth sat down next to me, putting his arm around my shoulder again.

“Do you wanna talk?” He asked simply.

I could feel the emotions inside me clashing together. Yes, I DID want to talk, but at the same time, no, I DIDN’T want to. I don’t understand how two conflicting emotions can co-exist in the same place. I stayed silent. He looked at me for a while longer, then stood up and walked into his room.

“Wait,” I said, standing. I quickly ran over to him, pulling him into me, placing my lips on his. He seemed startled, but got over it quickly, kissing me back. We fell back onto his bed, and I pulled away to catch a breath before I kissed him again.

“I just want our baby to know how great my father was; I just want her to know how much Max could love…” I trailed off.

“Or he,” Booth whispered. “Our baby could be a boy.”

I laughed at that, the first time I had laughed since Max had died three weeks ago. Booth kissed me some more, and, again for the first time, I drifted off into a peaceful sleep with his arms around me, knowing that our baby would know that she (or he) had parents that loved her (or him), and that that was enough.


message 7: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (chasmofbooks) | 2875 comments The Winners!

1st M

2nd Mark
3rd Caitlan

Congrats, guys and thank you for your participation!


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