I recently entered the following short story into the Bad Gaiman Challenge, hosted by Wits Radio. The challenge: write a story in the style of Neil Gaiman, but very, very poorly.
My story was selected out of the pile of rubbish prose and was read by Neil Gaiman during the Wits variety show on November 8th.
Here is the wretched, little tale (and if you’d like a bit more information about the whole event, please visit my blog).
The world’s tiniest poker game took place on the head of a pin. All the usual suspects were invited: Marv the unicorn, Cornelius the animate skeleton, Wasp the pig, and Henrietta the imp. I stumbled upon the game when I was travelling to my grandmother’s house in Mug-Wumpton—jabbed my foot right into the pin and caused Wasp the pig to spill the extra aces he kept tucked in his waistcoat. It probably wouldn’t have happened…
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For a lilac camouflaged rose
In which I once had to look hard
to see her glorious, full bloom colors…
Not everyone understands. That’s why I hardly talk about her to anyone…or even mention her name much anymore. And it’s not because they never understood her; it was ME they never really knew. And that’s the most bothersome of all…
Because it’s too late for her now, they have come to their own foolish conclusions and rationalized the things they need defined about her and tucked them away forever in their own chosen, satisfactory memories of her. And it’s solely for their personal comfort and the only way they can accept the circumstances that transpired with her.
As for me, I’m still alive and breathing and this allows them to keep changing their judgments and reassessing the circumstances of my life. They continue as they always have; pointing their fingers and condemning me among themselves. This validation of self- righteousness that gives them such satisfaction is apparent to everyone but them. I’ve finally learned to stop paying attention because they’ll go on doing this and thinking what they want to anyway. It’s obviously very important that they do because it clarifies for them their own sense of security and self-worth.
Call me Adam. I’ve had numerous awakenings in my life but feel as if I was truly born only once. This happened late and NOT in infancy. When it finally did, it turned out that SHE was the first one to notice. This was at the very beginning and she was the only one who saw it happening. It was strange to me because I never even thought she LIKED me, and I DID NOT like her either. But then it occurs to me that before this time I was born, there wasn’t anything there inside of me for her TO like or dislike. I may as well have been invisible because I was just an empty shell. But SOMETHING made her pay attention, and once she did, she didn’t turn away. Did she know she was witnessing the emergence of a butterfly from a cocoon?
I had finally been resurrected from the world of the dead. I had decided at that time in my life I didn’t want to be there anymore. The death I’d suffered so many years before it seemed I was unable to awaken from. I was too afraid to face myself and inhabit the living world where everything was real. Most everyone had given up and had long ago turned their backs to me. SHE had done this the moment she first saw me and never bothered introducing herself to me because she knew I wasn’t there. It wasn’t until she saw in me that first glimpse of life that she finally did.
It was in the early autumn of my life that it seemed I had come alive into a Virgin Spring. For the first time on this particular morning, the grassy pastures I had always walked had come alive and were lush green with a hint of dew that made them glisten in the sunlight. Fragrances from the flowers that were scattered everywhere around me were intoxicating from the first breath of them I took. A flock of butterflies had awakened and taken flight simultaneously in my chest and caused my heart to flutter. I couldn’t remember ever having such a burst of exhilaration as I did then and had decided this must have been the first time I ever had. As I drank in my surroundings, I increased my pace until I was running, and that was when I saw her. She was standing in front of a lilac bush on a far side of the pasture watching me. It wasn’t HER that had initially caught my attention and caused me to stop and turn around, but there was a strong fragrance that came from the lilacs behind her. I had a strange yet wondrous sensation that I was seeing her for the first time. That was when it occurred to me just how pretty she was. She was embarrassed that I saw her and put her head down. I laughed and said hello. When she looked back up she smiled just a little and lifted her arm to wave to me.
I’d known about her and all the things she’d done but had never bothered to acknowledge them. She had known that same world of the dead as me, but her resurrection occurred over a year before mine did. She had made amazing accomplishments, turning her life completely around, and her life was an ongoing quest that kept her constantly moving forward. She was strong and determined to continue in this direction. And it wasn’t until that Virgin Spring morning that I had chosen to see her as the person she truly was. It was only because I had stopped and turned around just when I did and caught her watching me. This was but a glimpse of a moment that so easily could have never happened. When it did, it changed the rhythm of my heartbeat and I knew that I would never forget it.
Her gaze never wavered after that morning. It seemed to me that she simply wasn’t able to look away. Every sign of life that glimmered from my eyes and sparked in my actions she had become a witness to. Moments of wonderment and sounds of laughter that happened so often and unpredictably she joined in with me. But she did it in ways of keeping herself from being noticed and made it seem like she had been there all along. It had never been easy for her to show emotion or exhibit signs of affection. And knowing this made it even more flattering to me and made the gift she kept giving me all the more precious.
It wasn’t long before I saw her as the beautiful flower she truly was. Every time I looked at her and into her eyes she bloomed right in front of me. I emulated her and chose her as an inspiration as I blossomed and was learning to LIVE. My life took a one hundred and eighty degree turn and I was making amazing accomplishments in my ongoing metamorphosis. By this time most everybody had noticed and they even LOOKED sometimes. SHE had never looked away and continued watching as she did from that first morning I saw her.
There were small, innocent things she had given me and the only reason she did was because she knew they meant the world to me. There were the things I had given her too and I only did it because I needed for her to know that SHE meant the world to me. These were things we both just knew and we never had to speak of them.
Nobody else understood. They looked sometimes and shook their heads and then they looked away. They wondered just what it was I saw in her. And they wondered even more what exactly it was she had so suddenly saw in me. There was no point in explaining it to them. It was beyond their capabilities to understand. And so she and I just never bothered and paid no attention to them. They’d always be thinking SOMETHING anyway so it didn’t make any difference.
All of them were still calling me Adam. But she wasn’t calling me by that name anymore. She told me I had to pick a new one because I wasn’t that same person I used to be. I had made amazing progress and turned my life around completely. And just as she had done with me, I’d chosen to see myself through HER eyes.
I came up with a new name. I thought long and hard before I finally picked it because I knew it had to be right. When I told her, I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone else. It would only belong to her and she was the only one who could call me by it. I knew she would never blurt it out when the others were around. And this is because I trusted her the same as she did me.
That virgin springtime had moved me into the secure warmth of summer. And as it did my heart grew in the shimmering haze of the love I felt for her. She had always felt it growing and knew I felt her warmth as I stood within the sunbeam she had become to me.
It happened during the late hours of a particular morning in the early autumn as I walked those same grassy pastures I always had. The lushness to the green of them had considerably faded and didn’t glisten in the sunlight anymore. Most of the flowers scattered all around me had already died and the ones that hadn’t didn’t have any fragrance to them. Then I looked over to the lilac bush where I had first seen her. It had wilted and lost its fragrant flowers. Its leaves were mildewed and had turned a brown color since the last time I saw it. But that wasn’t the thing that startled me and caught my attention. At the place I had first seen her standing there was a single scarlet rose that had grown from the soil and it was in full bloom. There was a hint of dew on just one petal that glistened and sparkled in the sunlight.
I panicked and took off running then because I KNEW I had to find HER. The sudden burst of adrenaline that surged in me felt nothing like the butterflies that had always made my heart flutter. It was pounding hard and beating at such a rapid rate that made it painful to me. I ran for miles without stopping because I couldn’t waste the time it would’ve taken for me to stop and catch my breath. I had searched the entire area of those pastures except for the place where they had ended. I came to the bottom of a hill where I knew the fence was that separated them from the place that went beyond. As I approached I saw her walking out the gate and then she stopped to close it behind her. I called out her name at the top of my lungs and she turned around and faced me. She smiled just a little and she was looking into my eyes.
I was gasping for breath and standing crooked with my arms holding my stomach from the cramp in it that was wracking my whole body. After a minute or two had passed I looked back up at her on the other side of the gate and saw her bloom before my eyes. And I knew that it was the last time that I would. I tried to say something but there was a lump in my throat that caused my voice to crack and made me start to cry.
“You’re going to be all right now,” she called out very softly.
“No,” I said as my eyes welled up with tears. “No, I’m not.”
She smiled a little more and when she spoke her voice was calm and reassuring.
“You don’t NEED me to watch over you anymore. You can make it on your own now.”
I fell to my knees and I was sobbing. The tears in my eyes had blinded me and I wiped them away with the back of my hand. When I looked back up to where she had been standing she was no longer there. I knew that she was gone and I would never see her again.
There have been certain times since that day has passed that I’ve felt her watching over me. It sometimes happens even at this present time as I’m writing this. When it does I see her face and it blooms before my eyes. And there’s a tickling in my chest like butterflies that causes my heart to flutter. This is the gift she’d given me and it keeps her inside of me. I know that I’ll have it forever and that it will never go away. The way I opened up and let her touch my life is the one I gave to her. Both of these are equally the greatest and most precious gifts of all. I’ll love her forever and always keep her in my heart. And I know she’ll never leave me.
For a glorious and radiant rose
That gleamed life to the pale colors inside of me
And made them glimmer in HER eyes
As she revealed herself as a truthful reflection
Of all the things I aspired to become….
For Deb Roth
Posted on behalf of Roy Leander by the blog administrator. Copyright Roy Leander.