Thinking of Home
2148 words long
Ooh! I Distract You With New Fiction!
Because writing new stories is always easier than editing rough drafts, isn't it? Yeah, I know. I know. But--hey! New story!
First off, this story is not a Jumper rip-off. Promise.
While I was at the World Horror Convention the other weekend, I had a momentary conversation in the elevator with a man who had just arrived that afternoon. His morning had been spent teaching math at a local high-school. He could only come to the Con after he got off work. He found it amusing, how different the two environments were: a Salt Lake City high school, the World Horror Convention. Indeed.
So I got out the elevator on Floor 3 and moseyed over to the suite in which the film series was showing. The movie scheduled for that two-hour block was Poltergeist, which I'd last seen on HBO in, like, 1983. I hadn't watched it since, mainly because it scared the pants off me (I was six) but partly also because on the third night after watching it Mom told me, "If you really feel the need to sleep in here with us again, you just can't watch that movie anymore." So I didn't. In many ways I was a mindlessly obedient child. (Hey, I still feel like I'm doing something forbidden when I go looking for something in my parents' walk-in attic. I wasn't allowed in there as a kid.)
All of which is beside the point, which is that the casual elevator conversation sort of transmogrified itself in my head during the movie until it became something around which the short story began to take shape. The conversation instead took place at an office party somewhere in the U.S., and the main character was listening with half an ear to a man from London talk about how he used to teach in high school. "Teach what?" she asks, making conversation. "Maths," he says. And she sort of drifts off, thinking about how plurals are even more plural in London, except that Sports sort of become singular, and there are a lot more "U"s to go around, and then as she continues daydreaming about what it must be like across the Atlantic she literally drifts off--vanishes out of the boring office party and finds herself in a classroom in London. She has a rather hard time getting home.
At first I thought she'd be stuck there permanently for some reason, like maybe she was meant to be in London and had to find out why, but I couldn't really get interested in taking the story in that direction. All the fantastic would sort of stop at that point. Besides, it was too much like playing a tabletop role-playing game in which an inept gamemaster clumsily assembles the party by authorial fiat. "OK, so, you're in the middle of whatever you're doing when this mysterious guy appears and says 'You are needed elsewhere.' Then suddenly, like, whoa! You're standing in the woods and there's four people there looking at you--OK, everyone describe your characters to each other."
So instead of making her unable to teleport again, I thought about the other extreme. What would happen if the ability to teleport came so easily to her that she started doing it accidentally? If it was as easy as imagining a place, any place, real or fictional? If it was as easy as thinking--and as hard not to do?
Ever had someone distract you from your hiccups by telling you not to think of purple foxes?
So that's my excuse for not having worked on anything in my editing queue today. I got clobbered by a new story instead. Not that I've left my editing queue entirely untouched, understand - the other day I rewrote "The Witness" from scratch and from memory. That's the story I read for the Twilight Tales Flash Fiction Contest at World Horror 2007. (You can read the winning stories from that year at the Twilight Tales website. Start here with the 1st place story and follow the links back to 2nd and 3rd.) I think I know how to make it better now. I think some of what will make it better is in the new version I wrote the other day. Maybe tomorrow I'll take both versions out, side by side, and - I dunno - synthesize them or something.
Oh, and Poltergeist still scares the pants off me. SRSLY.