These entries from November's challenge were selected as Honorable Mentions. Those who completed this challenge are now encouraged to share their stories in the comments section of the "November Writing Challenge."
Marvelous a spectacle, an unbreakable bond that’s well rounded. You can’t go wrong with this universal treasure. The different colours on the spectrum, the non-stop story that it carries around it. The colour of crashing waves and the wispy white of dandelions and the all so deep scarlet that catches people red-handed and kindles a fire in their hearts. I wish, I wish upon this arch in the sky that my dreams are near and my relationships I hold are dear. We are all just germs on this earth but unlike each other; we each face a different story. Like a rainbow we are limitless and bound to our own clocks. I wonder now how we write our own stories when we are faced with a thief, time itself.
(Writer’s note: Inspired by the Evanescence song of the same name)
“The imagination is the golden pathway to everywhere,” Terence McKenna once said.
I don’t think those words have ever rung truer to anyone else but me.
You see, if you were to come into my room right now and squint through the midnight darkness towards my too-small bed, you’d think (quite rationally) that there is a girl lying in it, head tilted awkwardly towards the window, sound asleep.
But you’d be wrong.
Because I’m not in my bed.
I’m actually somewhere else entirely.
While you’re standing there solidly in the realms of reality, I’m perfectly lost in the depths of my imagination.
Step inside my mind with me…
There you’ll find me, not on a bed, but sinking through a vast violet sky scattered with candyfloss clouds.
I could stay here, drifting weightlessly through this expanse of purple space, if I wanted to, and count those cotton clusters like sheep until sleep overcomes me. Instead, I reach out and take a fistful of them as I fall, bringing wisps of pastel pink sugar to my lips and licking their sticky sweetness from my fingertips.
If you’re not bewildered enough by these strange happenings in my head to leave, you’ll see me floating further and further down until, what could be seconds or lightyears later, a field of rainbow flowers unfolds beneath me. I let myself settle at last among the opalite blossoms, picking at their paper-thin petals and watching them regrow to the rhythm of my breathing.
In and out. In and out.
A rush of cars streaming past my window back in the real world becomes the hush of the sea just a little distance beyond the flower field. I rise from my meadow mattress and stroll slowly over emerald hills towards the sound, grass tickling at my bare feet until it morphs into the golden grains of a beach.
I stand on the coastline for a while, still and silent, watching the waves embrace the shore like an old friend. With every new rush of salt water on sand, I let myself breathe again.
In and out. In and out.
If you’ve followed me this far, you might have begun to wonder what this world is that I’ve created for myself.
And I wouldn’t blame you. It is, after all, a strange place.
In truth, this is just one of hundreds.
Thousands upon thousands of imaginary universes I’ve conjured up in my head.
And each one is my refuge from reality.
These are the places where I can escape that dreadful stretch between wakefulness and sleep – that semi-conscious sliver of time where everything you have ever said or done and lived to regret seizes your mind in a non-stop spiral of self-loathing.
They are my barricades to existence, and all the horrors and heartbreak it holds.
I cannot be afraid in these worlds. I cannot feel sorrow. And, as much as I am alone, I cannot be lonely.
Here, I can be free from the cold shadow of daytime and bathe in sultry, sunlit nights.
Here, I can sing and laugh and scream without despair.
Here, I am safe.
Here, I am me.
But of course, it cannot last forever.
Inevitably, the ticking of the clock on the wall comes creeping though the cracks of an oak tree’s bark, or the fight between my parents downstairs starts crashing in time with the ocean waves, and I am dragged, mercilessly and cruelly, back to my icy and lifeless old room.
If you come out of my mind with me now, you might just make it in time to notice the tears that escape down my cheeks before sleep claims me at long last.
“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality,” Lewis Carroll once said.
I hope those words never mean as much to you as they do to me.
The woman shifted the shuttle’s engines into autopilot like she always did, like she’d always done for the past 1,813 days. She turned on the main floodlights and did a quick check for any approaching vehicles, as if this time would be different. Nothing. Just unbreakable darkness stretching and expanding for all of eternity. She sighed. Of course it hadn’t changed. For as long as she could remember, all 1,813 days, no day had ever differed in the least from the one before.
The woman sat in the control center and tried for the thousandth time to reach into the depth of her memories. But no story of life from before ever came to her, no memory easing the non-stop pang of what was missing. For all she knew, this was all there was, this time of drifting aimlessly in space, and this was all there ever would be.
Suddenly, a blaring siren sounded from the front of the shuttle. The noise was coming from the main speakers, and that could only mean… something was pulling the shuttle into its gravitational pull. The woman rushed towards the sound and quickly gained control of the shuttle’s wheel just as a scratchy female voice blared over the communication speaker. “This is Sergeant Bailey from the HR space station. Who is operating this vehicle, and what is your location? Over.”
Instinct rose within the woman and she responded with the information speedily but avoided having to mention a name. There was a long pause before: “Is this Lieutenant Strong speaking?”
I don’t know, you tell me, the woman wanted to reply. But she couldn’t let on that something was very wrong here. As unsure as she may be, she needed this HR space station to help her so she could finally get the answers she deserved. If they had access to the shuttle’s speaker system, then this vehicle must have belonged to them in some way. “Yes this is Lieutenant Strong speaking,” she replied with the most conviction she could muster.
A joyous sound emitted from the speaker. “Lieutenant, it’s an honor. We’re going to get you home safely, ma’am, I promise, hold tight,” Bailey exclaimed.
Over the next hour, Sergeant Bailey relayed instructions over the voice comm until finally the shuttle was preparing for touchdown. A large planet had been coming into view, the woman’s view zooming in on it until she could make out a blue area that must be a sea and green formations that hardened into land. The shuttle turned vertically as fire helped propel it to the ground below, all 2,000 tons eventually landing on the ground of… wherever it was that they were. Grey buildings stretched around the shuttle pad as far as the eyes could see, their long shadows stretching far behind them.
“Lieutenant? Lieutenant Strong? Are you still there?” Sergeant Bailey’s voice crashed over the woman.
“Yes, still here. I’m uh-” the woman wrinkled her forehead in confusion as she peered down at some figure below her. It looked like a colorful clump of-
“We initiated the shuttle’s exiting system. It’s safe to come out now, Lieutenant,” Bailey said.
The woman took a deep breath while she stepped out of the main passageway. As she emerged into the bright sunlight she waved at what she now realized were people. Thousands of faces looking at her in wonder as if she’d done something special. She walked awkwardly down the landing pad’s path as a heavy hush loomed back at her from all these people who she didn’t know but who probably knew her and probably expected—
An uproarious cheer burst into the air as the crowd clapped and yelled happily. The woman let out a sigh of relief, but inside she was thinking, I don’t deserve it, I didn’t do anything, I don’t even know who I am. Instead she just smiled and nodded as if she was in on this secret of what they were so happy about. Cameras flashed, and homemade signs billowed in the wind, and it was all just… too much. Everyone wanted all these things that she couldn’t give them. What would they do when they realized she wasn’t who they thought she was?
What would happen when they realized that the real Lieutenant Strong was far, far, far away?
On Mondays, Ella’s mouth feels shut, her words trapped behind her teeth. As she believes words are precious, and everyone at school has made it clear that she tends to be a motor mouth, every Monday she takes a vow of silence. Although her parents support all her decisions, they like to encourage Ella to get out of the house more, go to dinner at one of her favourite restaurants. She doesn’t have to speak.
But Ella’s face flushes when she sees him at the back of the restaurant, looking like one of those loveable cartoon characters. He has spiky hair and a nose too big for his small face. If she were not here with her parents, she might feel the urge to talk to him, let the words fly out as easily as putting pen to paper.
But she stays in the shadow of the corner table like a cat waiting to surprise someone’s legs. She slurps her spaghetti, never taking her eyes off him, and dots her saucy lips with a napkin after each swallow just in case he looks her way.
From this distance, he looks as handsome as ever, holding the same silent expression as he does walking the hallways at school. He slices his steak in a way that darkens Ella’s complexion, making her feel like her face has just gotten too close to a fire.
It wouldn’t be such a bad thing to talk to him, would it? she wonders. Her words, though precious, wouldn’t be wasted on his ears.
Now she searches for ways to get away from her parents. She can lie and say she needs to use the restroom, really badly, or make a break for it, jump over the tables to get to him.
But then she risks having to chitchat with the waiters, who in comparison to him all look like pirates with earrings and beards.
Ella gets up without finishing her pasta, her chair scraping against the floor.
“Sweetie, you have something on your lip,” her mum points out.
Before going to the restroom, she wipes her lips with her napkin but doesn’t thank her mother. Her dad, too used to her silent Mondays, winks and finishes off his glass of champagne, leaving rainbow streaks on the glass.
When Ella returns from the restroom, she shakes her hands dry and plops into her seat. She looks at her parents, but her parents are gone. Their plates are empty, stained with steak sauce, but they are gone. They’ve probably paid the bill and headed out to the car by now, or maybe they’re taking too long in the restrooms, she thinks.
The waiters walk by her table, eyeing her like she is a lone thief planning to skip out on the bill. She wants to grab one of their arms and tell them that the only thing she wishes to steal tonight is the boy who’s across the restaurant still finishing his dinner.
Ella looks over at him. Now that her parents are gone, she’s free to approach him, say anything, break the unbreakable vow of silence she’d taken.
Ella fights the urge inside of her and does it: she walks over to his table, stands just over him, and waits for him to stop chewing, despite the possibility that she might spiral into uncontrollable laughter or spew out a word salad once he does.
He looks up and stares at her, dull-eyed. The tiny dimples of his cheeks become red clouds. He drops his fork and runs a hand through his waxy black hair, sculpting a frozen wave.
“Hi,” he says. “Do we go to school together?” His trembling voice sounds marvelous to her.
Ella smiles and walks away.
She will see him at school tomorrow, when her words will run out of her mouth non-stop, and she will have something to say. She knows this because it will be Tuesday, and she will have kept her promise to herself.