Feature: Issue No. 15, Winter 2015

Chapter Eleven

Emily glanced through the doorway. Light stretched a corridor. She crept inside. It smelled of stale jewels. She walked halls of ivory and silver. Her steps echoed. It felt like the palace had unravelled over the city and the windows would only look into other gilded rooms. Paintings of gleam and majesty weighted the walls. Vast mirrors flung polished light. She glanced at portraits of past Kings and Queens, but couldn’t read their names. She’d long forgotten all words.

She drifted through an archway. A tall woman stood facing broad windows, looking at the streets below. Her velvet robes had the shimmer of glacier paths. Emily shuddered as Our Lady turned and glided across the floor.

“Speak,” she said. Her voice was as soft as feather float. Emily’s hands were in her cool grasp. Emily tried to run but couldn’t feel her feet. “Speak.” Our Lady stroked Emily’s hair. “Speak,” she murmured. Emily didn’t understand her words. Our Lady’s voice was star whirls. It wrapped Emily. She pressed her ear to Emily’s chest, but Emily had no words inside her. Emily tried to struggle free. “Where are your words?” Our Lady placed her fingers on Emily’s mouth. Her touch was frost thorns. Emily’s heart hurt. The air was solid. It was hard to breathe. “I need your words.” Our Lady clawed at her. “Give me your words.” Her voice became ice-shrill. It raced. Her nails scratched Emily’s face. Emily felt Our Lady’s words rushing over her, spider-fast. Our Lady sank to the floor. Emily looked down at her still and silent body.

 

 

The End

 

 


Rebecca Harrison sneezes like Donald Duck and can be summoned by a cake signal in the sky. Her best friend is a dog who can count. She’s been nominated for Best of the Net, and was a finalist in the first Wyvern Lit flash fiction contest. Her stories can also be read at Pigeonholes Magazine, Maudlin House, Luna Station Quarterly, and elsewhere.

Feature: Issue No. 15, Winter 2015

Chapter Ten

Emily tried to step away. Her legs shook. She fell. She saw someone lunging for her and twisted out of their reach. She stumbled to her feet and ran. She didn’t stop until she could no longer feel Our Lady’s gaze.

She drifted onwards. Her hunger hurt. She passed an open door and crept inside the house. She gulped bread from a pantry. The empty rooms seemed like a silence that had condensed into solid things. When blue twilight clasped the city, it felt like the sky had sunk to the ground.

Days and night shrank by. She moved between empty houses. She stopped looking at the bodies in the gutters. Sometimes, she thought her old home might be waiting for her past corners and at alleyway ends. When she curled upon cold beds and closed her eyes, she felt the lamplight and shadows of her childhood bedroom. She thought about Jane and the school and wondered if anyone was still there.

She tried not to think how many words she had left. In her head, she said every word she had ever read or heard. She wondered which one would be her last. As she paced empty hallways, she counted them. The numbers muddled. She moved onwards.

She read the books of the people who had gone. She buried herself in words. She climbed towers and watched flock swirls. She wanted to learn starling chatter. The silence began to feel like a voice. She listened to it. She thought it spoke to her. At night, she could feel the words inside her. Their shapes already seemed formed. They pushed at her. She wanted to let them out. They woke her in the night. They hurt. She bit her fingers to stop herself speaking. Sometimes she wrote out a few words. She kept the scraps she had written and read them over and over.

I must forget words. Then they won’t hurt inside me. Then they won’t make me speak and go cold.

She learned to look at letters and not know them. She thought only in pictures. She didn’t feel words inside her. They were no longer there.

One day, as she moved through the city, she saw that the palace door was open.

 

 

If she goes inside the palace go to Chapter Eleven

If she doesn’t go to Chapter Twelve

 

 

Feature: Issue No. 15, Winter 2015

Chapter Nine

Emily took a step backwards. Our Lady nodded at two women. Emily felt broad hands grab her arms. She struggled. They tightened their grip. The air heaved.

“Let go of me,” she cried. She searched the faces of the women in the crowd. Their eyes were worn shells. Our Lady smiled. She moved closer to Emily. Her dress brushed against Emily’s fingers. Emily tried not to feel it. The silence was swollen with her heart beats. Our Lady’s gaze was moon flash. Emily looked away from her face. She didn’t want to meet her eyes. She tried to focus on Our Lady’s dress. It was the colour of crumbled garnets.

“Speak,” Our Lady said. Emily felt the city spinning around her.

“Yes,” she murmured. Our Lady nodded again at the two women. They let go of Emily’s arms. Emily stared out at the crowd. They looked at Emily as if she was a shadow shape made by still hands. She felt Our Lady reaching for her. She inched away from Our Lady’s grasp. Our Lady’s gaze was ice sweeps.

 

 

Go to Chapter Nineteen

 

 

Feature: Issue No. 15, Winter 2015

Chapter Seven

Emily traipsed with the crowd on through grey winds. The city was shadow fall and cloud dim. She tried to listen for her own footsteps beneath the crowd. She couldn’t hear herself. She pinched her arms. The marching crowd sounded like mislaid weather. They halted by stone steps and towering pillars. Emily peered up at statues, wary they might stare back. She remembered, as a child, her best friend telling her that church gargoyles spoke to each other when no one was watching. She had hidden in the village graveyard and told her she heard stone voices calling her name. She clutched her arms and looked round. The woman beside her had the face of someone riding sleet billow. Emily tried to shift so their dresses weren’t touching. Suddenly, a tall lady walked in front of the crowd. Her eyes were the colour of song-less bells. She paced along the edge, staring into each face. Emily dug her fingers into her palms. The hushed women parted as the lady strode among them. Emily watched as she took the hand of a young woman and led her in to the front. She turned the girl to face the crowd. A scrap of paper saying ‘Milly’ was pinned to her dress.

“My words have been shut in me, but now I will let them out,” Milly said. Her face was gleam and tremble. “Our Lady has chosen me. These are my words.” She began to talk faster. Emily didn’t know her words. They rushed out in strange shapes. Suddenly, Milly dropped to the ground. The crowd gasped. ‘Our Lady’ nodded at two women. They picked up Milly’s limp body and laid it by a wall. Emily’s hands were white. The air felt too heavy to breathe. She tried to shrink as ‘Our Lady’ swept into the crowd. Her robes moved like drowning kites. Emily hunched behind a large woman and shut her eyes. She felt a cold hand clasp her own. Our Lady led her in front of the crowd. Emily shuddered as the cold hands smoothed her hair. She tried not to look at Milly’s body. She scrunched her eyes to make the women’s faces blur. She was leaden under their stares. She felt them waiting. Our Lady lowered her face to Emily’s.

“Speak.” Her voice was as soft as leaf ash. Emily wanted it to fall upon her. Her own words felt jagged inside her. She wanted to let them out. She opened her mouth. Our Lady’s gaze was dusk bright. Emily felt her own breath cooling. She looked across the crowd. She saw Milly’s body. She shivered. Our Lady reached out her hands.

 

 

If Emily tries to talk to them go to Chapter Eight

If Emily tries to run from them go to Chapter Nine (if your route was 1-7) or Chapter Ten (if your route was 1-2- 4-5-7)

 

 

Feature: Issue No. 15, Winter 2015

Chapter Six

Shuddering, Emily pushed Lottie away. Jane raced over and gripped Lottie’s shoulders. She smoothed her hair. The other girls rushed over and tried to wrap their arms round Lottie. They breathed slowly. Lottie calmed. The air felt like loosened ribbons. Emily remembered how her old home had seemed windless after her father had died. Jane led her back to the small room where she had read the pages the night before. She showed her registers and notebooks. Emily saw that some of the women and girls had been students and teachers at the school. Jane handed her more papers. Emily read:

They say Our Lady will come. But my words push at me. They make me write. But words I write here will never be hers.

Emily ran her finger underneath ‘Our Lady’ and opened her eyes wind-wide. Jane pulled a paper from beneath the pile and pointed down the page.

Our Lady took all Katherine’s words and made her cold.  I don’t want her to have mine. I will hide mine here. She will not have them.

Suddenly, the door flung open. A girl with swallow-flit eyes pointed to the window. Jane and Emily rushed to the glass and looked out. The street writhed with marching shapes. Emily stared as women and girls strode past the window. The day shrivelled with their footsteps. Jane ran back towards the hall. Emily followed. One of the women had hold of a struggling girl. The girl bit her. She let go. The girl ran from the hall and down the corridor. Emily heard a door slam. The girl was gone. She heard someone crying. A name scrap was on the floor. It said ‘Gwendolyn’. She turned it over and saw shrunken writing.

I am too full of words. They will not wait.

She ran to the door and peered out at the moving crowd.

 

 

If Emily joins the crowd go to Chapter Seven

If Emily stays in the school go to Chapter Thirteen

 

 

Feature: Issue No. 15, Winter 2015

Chapter Five

Emily seized Lottie’s other hand.

“I can’t stop them,” Lottie gasped. She was shaking. She took a deep breath. Emily pressed her hand hard. Lottie’s mouth trembled. Her words rushed out as jagged sounds. The other girls covered their ears. Someone ran from the hall.

“Stop!” Emily cried. Standing, she tried to force her hands over Lottie’s mouth. The words seemed to burn. The ceiling felt low. Walls and shadows tangled. “Someone?” Emily stared round. “Help her!” The women wouldn’t look. Some girls were eating porridge. Suddenly, Lottie’s words halted. Emily spun. Lottie slumped in her chair. Emily’s throat hurt. She watched as two women picked up Lottie’s body and carried it from the hall. She followed them down the corridor. They put Lottie’s body in the street. She heard footsteps behind her. Jane’s shadow stretched across the floor. Emily didn’t want it to touch her. She found herself running through the streets.

Silence filled her sight. The city was grey shapes and sharp winds. Her own thoughts seemed like faraway voices. She pushed past hushed groups. She tried not to guess how many words each person had left. Her legs were weak. She slowed. She leaned against a wall and gazed upwards. The sky looked like faded stone. She wanted it to break. A paper scrap blew past. She didn’t read the name. She remembered as a child making stories of lost worlds with her best friend. Her favourite had been of a paper city blown to bits by winds and gathered up piece by piece. She turned to face the wall. She ran her nails on the rough bricks. Her words ached inside her. She wanted to scratch them all over the city.

She turned and glanced across the street. A slender woman stood among the city winds. She began walking towards Emily. Her tall shape and billowing hair reminded Emily of paintings of caravans crossing deserts. She had no name scrap. She smiled at Emily. Her eyes were colour of comet shadows. Emily felt the lady’s cool hand clutch her own. Her face was close. She smelled of mountain skies.

“Come with me,” she said. Her voice was as soft as butterfly fall.

 

 

If Emily goes with her go to Chapter Eighteen

If Emily doesn’t go to Chapter Nineteen

 

 

Feature: Issue No. 15, Winter 2015

Chapter Four

Emily inched through the doorway. A grey corridor stretched into the school. Closed doors sat in the walls. White silence filled the air. She moved deeper. Her thoughts seemed loud. Suddenly, a door opened. Emily startled as a woman stepped into the hallway. She had a dress the colour of river ends. A scrap of paper with the name ‘Jane’ was pinned to her front.

“What’s happening? Why doesn’t anyone speak?” Emily said. Jane jolted. She gripped Emily’s arm and pulled her down the corridor. They pushed into a small room. Emily started to speak. Jane shushed her. She grabbed papers from cupboards and shoved them into Emily’s hands. The pages were rough. Emily began to read:

My words will stay here. I will leave them. When they are all safe, I will go. When you are wordless, you are cold. I don’t want to be cold. But the words are hard to keep inside…

“I don’t understand,” Emily whispered. Jane motioned to the pages. Emily turned to another:

When Mary used up her words, I tried to give her mine. She wouldn’t move.  I whispered my words into her hands and her hair. I pressed my mouth to her ear. She grew cold. They made me leave her…

Jane draped a blanket round Emily’s shoulders. Emily didn’t glance up. She started a different page:

Every day, I write a few words. It stops them spilling out. I’ve seen people when their words rush. They can’t stop them. When they start, I run away. I feel the words in me.

Emily let the papers fall. She looked up at Jane. She knew she shouldn’t speak. The silence had begun to feel like sleep. The night smelled of hiding places. Jane picked up a lamp and led her into the corridor, down a passageway, up spiral stairs, and into a long room full of beds. Some had slumbering shapes. Many were empty. Emily climbed into the bed nearest the door. It was cold. She rubbed her feet. She tried not to wonder whose bed it had been. Jane laid the blanket over her and then walked toward a bed at the back of the room. Emily pulled her torn clothes off and buried beneath the covers. She wondered if the silence was spreading over the country. She pictured her village: the bakery bristling with pastry smells and the church busy with song. She wanted to walk in green ways and bird shadows. She ached for her old home. The darkness was loud with night rains and sleep sounds. Her thoughts softened into a dream.

Hands shook her awake. She pulled the covers off her face. A wiry girl was standing by her bed. She had the face of someone guessing cloud shapes. She pointed to a scrap of paper pinned on her chest. It said ‘Lottie’. Emily glanced across the dormitory. Young women and girls were tidying their beds and forming a queue at the door. Emily wanted to ask them how long they’d had been hiding in the school. She wondered if they had families or homes. Silence ached. Grey light inched from thin windows. Lottie handed her a dress the colour of daffodils snatched from a puddle. Emily got changed under her covers. Then she joined Lottie at the back of the queue. Lottie raised her eyebrows. She made shapes with her hands. It seemed like she was trying to tell a joke. Emily tried to understand, but shook her head. They followed the others down the spiral stairway and into a broad hall. They sat at a long table. Emily fidgeted. Her dress was too big. Something pricked her chest. She snatched at a scrap of paper pinned to her front and tore it off. It said ‘Silvia’. Shivering, she pushed it away. She tried not to see it. She felt a warm hand on her arm. Jane handed her a bowl of porridge. It tasted of sieved water. Lottie nudged Emily and pulled a face at the porridge. Emily smiled back at her. She hurried her food. She scrunched her eyes to make the letters spelling ‘Silvia’ blur. Silence lurked beneath the clatter of spoons on bowls. The noise felt like leftovers. She gazed round the table. A woman with eyes like polished rain looked back at her. Her name scrap said ‘Beth’. Suddenly, Lottie gripped Emily’s wrist. Her face was close to Emily’s.

“My words are coming. I can feel them.”

 

 

If Emily pushes Lottie away go to Chapter Six

If Emily tries to stop Lottie speaking go to Chapter Five

 

 

Feature: Issue No. 15, Winter 2015

Chapter Two

Emily pressed into an archway. She hugged her arms and gazed at the rush of faces. She remembered curling up in her old home, warmed by the library hush. That quiet had been like a shared secret. The silence here felt like sea ice.

Shuddering under cold gusts, she watched the crowd until they disappeared round a far corner. Then she wandered along the street, gazing in the windows. She saw families huddled in narrow rooms. The children looked like they’d given up waiting for a hail storm to pass. They didn’t play. Old ladies slumped in deep chairs. Thin men paced. No one spoke.

Emily wanted to bang on the glass. She startled as a woman with eyes like dropped coals stared back at her. She ran down the street, round a corner, through other pathways. Her feet hurt. She stopped by a church of stained glass glow and bell song. City folk pushed past her into the church. She followed them inside. She remembered going to services with her father as a child: she had stared at the windows and imagined heaven was made from stained glass. After he’d died, she tried to fall asleep in their glow, hoping to glimpse him.

The pews were packed and silent. She sat beside a crumpled woman who smelled of empty bakeries. Her dress was the shade of bee blur. Emily tried not to look at anyone. The bells stopped ringing. A vicar stepped in front of the congregation. Emily held her breath waiting for him to speak. He raised a bible up high.

“Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.” His words fell through the church spaces. “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”

He dropped to the stone floor. Emily heard gasps. But no one said a word. She felt like the pillars were twisting. She scrambled from the church. When she stopped running, she found her face was hot with tears. Her dress had torn. She whispered her name into her hands to see if she still had a voice. It felt like lost shelter. She wanted to hide in the words. She stared upwards. The sky was dusk fade and flock swirls.

She drifted on through the city. Lamplight seeped from the doorway of a school.

 

 

If Emily goes into the school go to Chapter Four

If Emily doesn’t go into the school go to Chapter Three

 

 

News Item #25

Dear Writers and Readers,

Merry Solstice! The Winter 2015 issue of Rose Red Review is now live. I present to you a woven tapestry of stories and poems! (If you read the pieces in only one issue in order, please let it be this one.) If you’re rained-in, as I am, search for any motifs and themes these works may share. What you find may support the theory of a collective unconscious; if nothing else, it will provide insight into my selection process as an editor.

Happy reading!

Warm Regards,
Larissa Nash

Issue No. 15, Winter 2015

Bivouacked
LeighAnna Schesser

The secret to being a hero is accepting
the journey. You will know it by

this: it is the one you do not want to take.

*

To believe that words go back before the beginning. Come from.
That everything came from words
(light and water, wind and dust)
but us.

And we are clay. Or little piles of ash, clinging to breath and currents,
reaching for words, to use and stroke, but powerless. The words
have power over us.
Speak through us.

What is truth to speak it? What is truth that speaks?

A Word speaking words to word-makers,
little clay dolls at their potter’s wheels.

*

Sorrow is a grey mist and I am its keeper,
the crystal ball that traps it, tames it into
telling truths, a future. Always
the same one.

Sorrow folds itself like dough between
my palms, holds its breath and dives
down to rest like marrow
in my bones, to dry into ash,
then not even ash:
the hollow after,

that rises. To make me into bird
bones, empty enough to fly, too
empty to remember to whom.

*

How do I wait? How long?
The way you wait for a loved, lost thing.


LeighAnna Schesser lives in south-central Kansas with her husband, two children, half-wild garden, and many overstuffed bookshelves. She spends her days exploring the world and the arts with her toddler, snuggling and laughing with her baby, fiddling, and prioritizing good books and hot cups of coffee over housework. She earned her B.A. in Theology at Benedictine College and M.F.A. at North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared in Transcendence Magazine, Verse-Virtual, Synaesthesia Magazine, and Kindred. Her chapbook Heartland is forthcoming from Anchor & Plume in June 2016. She blogs at leighannaschesser.wordpress.com.