Flash Fiction: The Fox

This semester, one of the classes I’m taking is Fantasy Literature. One of our short writing assignments was to – rather than comment on a passage from our reading (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, by the way) – come up with our own piece of animal fantasy. We were to either summarize what would happen in our story or write out the beginning of it, and I chose to do the latter. Since I haven’t posted in a while, I figured why not share it here? It doesn’t really have a title, and it’s just a short scene – but I enjoyed writing it.

 

As the forest grew darker, Meredith’s sense of unease grew greater. It had been two hours since she’d run away, climbing noiselessly through her bedroom window and escaping into the woods behind her house. After another torturous dinner with her mother and Richard—neither of them listening to a word she’d said or even acknowledging her existence—she’d gone to her room under the guise of fatigue and locked the door behind her. She knew they wouldn’t disturb her for the rest of the night, and then who knew how long it would be before they noticed her disappearance?

As she walked on, the long, black shadows of the trees seemed to be reaching out for her, trying to grab her and pull her back home. Meredith quickened her pace, and her backpack bounced lightly against her shoulder blades. She hadn’t brought much with her—just some warmer clothing, a water bottle, protein bars, and her journal. She never went anywhere without her black Moleskine, for she was constantly jotting down the extraordinary ideas and images that seemed to spring forth from out of nowhere in her mind.

In fact, just up ahead to the left she saw a flash of color that she couldn’t be certain wasn’t part of her imagination. It had looked like a trail of fire, appearing as if by the stroke of a paintbrush between two dark trees and vanishing just as quickly. Surely it was just in her head. This happened all the time—her imagination conjuring fantastical details and apparitions that could not actually exist—and habit made her pause to unzip her bag and withdraw her journal…

But there it was again: a red-orange blur. And it looked so real—it didn’t have that weird hazy quality and texture by which she’d learned to identify her mind’s projections and distinguish them from reality. She slowly approached the spot ahead where she thought she’d seen the thing, whatever it was.

The forest seemed to go still, and an unnatural hush fell. Meredith was hyperaware of the sound of her breathing and the crunch of leaves beneath her feet. She paused. The silence was broken by a whispery sound, though there was no wind, and she could’ve sworn she heard her name: Meredith.

She spun around abruptly.

Not ten yards away, in the misty darkness of the woods, stood a fox.

Meredith expected the creature to flee, but it watched her, unmoving. She waited, and a sort of stare-off began to take place.

Finally, after a full minute had passed, Meredith took a step forward. The fox tilted its head to the side, pawed the ground, and took off at a sprint.

Meredith let out the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. She watched the animal go, its bright orange fur blazing through the gloomy forest. Just when it would’ve disappeared from sight, it stopped and turned back to her. Waiting.

She hesitated, then took a step in its direction. When it still hadn’t moved after several seconds, she continued toward it. The fox dipped its head, almost as if to say, Yes, that’s it. Come with me.

When she had nearly closed the distance between them, the fox took off running yet again. And this time, Meredith ran after it.

The Forgotten Words: a translated short story

This semester I took a comparative literature course that was a translation workshop. For the final project, I had to translate a certain number of pages of text from a foreign language into English. I chose a short story I came across online by French author Xuan Vincent called Les mots oubliés, or The Forgotten Words.

This was my first time ever translating formally, but I really fell in love with the process. My professor praised my work and suggested I submit it to a university blog dedicated to literature translated by students – and, of course, I wanted to post it here as well. This led to me contacting the author via email to ask her permission.

Xuan Vincent has read over my translation of her story and kindly agreed to allow me to post it. If you know French, I highly recommend you read the original as well as check out her other writings. You can find them at http://www.oniris.be/auteur/xuanvincent-706.html. Her blog is here: http://xuanadoo35.unblog.fr/.

In addition to the translation itself, I’ve written a translator’s preface that explains more about the story and the author as well about the choices I made as a translator. I hope you find yourself caught up Vincent’s story and enjoy it as much as I did. Perhaps soon I will translate more stories of hers and other French writers as well.

Here is my brief synopsis of the story (which is also the first paragraph of my preface) to give you an idea what the tale is about, and below are both the preface and translation:

Fabien Vannereau bumps into a gypsy musician from his childhood who offers the writer the strange and mystical gift of seven words. A bewildered Fabien continues with his life and forgets all about this encounter until many years later. Now struggling with his career, he is in desperate need of some source of inspiration, and the words start coming back to him and offer him just that. He ends up at a mysterious masquerade meeting in the château of a countess, where he regains hope for his writing career. But there is more to this enchanting place than he thinks. He will soon discover both the truth about the Countess and the purpose of the musician’s strange words.

Translator’s preface.
The Forgotten Words, translation by Rachel Daniels.

 

Winter, A Piece of Flash Fiction

I found this image online this evening and decided to write a bit of flash fiction using it as inspiration. Everything was going well when I realized something. I was writing something very closely related to another story I had started once but never finished. Realizing this, I went with it.

Fortunately, I happened to have this other story on my laptop (which I didn’t own at the time of its composition). Normally I don’t share my older writing, but I thought it was kind of interesting how a previous plot of mine had come creeping back into my brain. So I’ve decided to share both works.

The first link is the piece I wrote this evening; the second is the start of a story I began over two years ago and haven’t really touched since. I hadn’t even formally named it; I saved the document as simply ‘Winter.’ I imagine the newer work could be a scene that occurs as part of the same story as the first piece, just later on (and, of course, skipping a bunch of stuff).

Read them in whichever order you desire.

Flash Fiction 10.3.12

Winter

Short Story: The Haze

Writing “The Haze”

“The Haze” is one of those stories that turned out completely different than I expected or had initially planned. When I first started writing this story, I was dealing with a potential plot far too large to rein in for the acceptable length of a short story. I had plenty of ideas; I just didn’t have enough time or space to utilize them. With that in mind, I’d like to think of the final product as almost a ‘Part One’ to the story. I left the ending almost open-ended intentionally; while the story does have a conclusion that can be left as is, I could very well see myself coming back to this world and these characters to continue telling about their journey.

This story changed a lot throughout the writing and editing process. I had multiple scenes in my mind that I planned on using, but as I wrote, the story went in another direction. I even came up with a subplot involving the narrator’s father, but short stories just aren’t long enough to have that much going on. As for the scenes that only ever played out in my head and never made it to the page: when I wrote, I didn’t always know what was going to happen next in my story; I sort of just let my characters do what they wanted and behave how I thought they would. Everything ended up coming together pretty well in the end, and I’m happy with how it turned out.

It’s crazy how much of a writer’s own life unintentionally seeps into her writing. As “The Haze” developed further, I realized a lot of it was quite similar to my life, especially the familial relationships. I certainly didn’t set out to do this intentionally other than using a female college student for a narrator. I specifically gave the narrator a younger brother instead of a sister to differentiate the story from my own life a little, but still, resemblances abound.

Of course, in my actual life, there isn’t a harmful new virus running rampant. Being a huge fan of science fiction, the supernatural, the magical, the “weird,” and anything post-apocalyptic, I wanted my short story to exist in a world different from the norm. Indeed, my characters could exist in a normal world – their own world starts out just like ours before the spread of the virus – and none of them have any supernatural abilities, but my story still includes an element similar to those of the previously mentioned genres. Around the time I started “The Haze,” I had just started watching AMC’s The Walking Dead, if that provides any insight to my creative state of mind. Though I was inspired by this show and other popular stories, I didn’t want to write something completely typical of the genre.

I really enjoyed developing my characters, Jenessa and Isaac especially, and had fun coming up with the plot overall. Writing puts me in the same state of mind as reading a really good book does – it’s not necessarily a “high,” but when I take a break, I experience the feeling of another life lingering in my mind, a little bit like waking up from a very vivid dream. Perhaps I will write a ‘Part Two’ to “The Haze” this summer.

And here is the finished product:
THE HAZE

Repurposed Art: The Gardener and the Pianist


For my repurposed art project, I chose to translate a piece of artwork I did in high school into a piece of flash fiction. This piece, which can also be seen on my artwork page, is made entirely of white charcoal pencil on black paper. So the process of creating this was completely opposite to that of a normal charcoal; instead of shading and adding pigment, I had to work by taking away darkness. In writing this short piece of fiction, I simply used the room from my drawing as inspiration for part of the setting and let my creativity run wild. It is meant to be a portion of the room Mirabelle – and eventually Elijah – occupies.
The actual content of the drawing doesn’t so much have to do with the story I’ve come up with, but it was my source of inspiration. Also, if this is of any interest to anyone, I listened to Evanescence while I wrote (i.e. the dark melodies of the piano).
My flash fiction piece, The Gardener and the Pianist, can be viewed on my repurposed art page. I hope you enjoy it! :)

Rachel.

A Response to Byers’ ‘Shipmates Down Under’

Okay, so I’m not sure if we were supposed to respond to this short story or not, but I thought I would take a second to talk about how much I liked Michael Byers’ Shipmates Down Under. I was hooked after less than the first page – I think the characters’ odd language (“bluh,” “mumph,” etc.) was part of the intrigue.

Byers gives the reader a look into an average family’s life, but in an interesting way. Part of the tension going on definitely has to do with their daughter, Nadia, being sick, but a lot of it already exists between the narrator and his wife. At first I got a sense that Alvin liked his son, Ted, more than his daughter and kind of resented both Nadia and his wife, Harriet. This alone was enough to make me keep reading; I wanted to know more about these characters’ relationships. Toward the end, however, the narrator seemed to care about both his children – it was just Harriet causing problems.

Obviously, a lot is left open in this story. We don’t know if Alvin and Harriet work things out. We never figure out what exactly caused Nadia to get so sick. We never discover – and I was particularly interested in this – why they say those made-up words. But none of this really matters. Byers has used his story to look at certain problems families may encounter, particularly between husband and wife. His characters are certainly believable, and I, as the reader, saw Alvin’s perspective and took his side – but Byers allows the readers to do this in such a way that they don’t necessarily see Harriet as the bad guy.

The characters themselves were all very interesting and not the norm or the expected. The entire family was a bit strange, but in a good way. Byers gains reader interest not by having a spectacular, earth-shattering plot, but by creating characters the reader is interested to know more about. I would definitely read another story about Alvin, Harriet, Ted, and Nadia… or perhaps just another story by Byers in general.