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10 November 2014 @ 12:20 pm
LJ Idol Season Nine: "Crossing Over"  
Crossing Over
real lj idol season nine | week 27 | 1117 words
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x-x-x-x-x

The last time anyone saw Avery Lang was at midnight on March 11, at the top of the Belden Street bridge. He vanished in a single breath.

Everyone assumed he'd jumped, though his body was never found. He didn't seem the type, his friends said, but maybe we didn't know him as well as we thought. If I hadn't actually seen it happen, I wouldn't have believed it myself.

The first phone call came four months after that, in the middle of the night: "So, hey, John. I was thinking, maybe we should drive to Waterton on Saturday, see what's going on. We haven't been there in a long time."

"Avery?" I said "Where are you?"

There was no answer, only an earful of dial tone. In the morning, I wondered if I'd imagined the whole thing.

I was driving home in a rainstorm three weeks later when he called again. I fumbled with the Bluetooth activator, keeping an eye on the big-rig in the next lane. "Hello?"

"Hi, John, it's me. Listen, do you remember that place by the river where we stopped to get directions to Royceville?"

"Avery. What—"

The connection cut off, and he was gone.

"Damn it!" If Avery wasn't dead, then where was he, and what had he been doing all this time? Life hadn't been the same without him, though his talent for poor timing was clearly intact. A soccer mom in a minivan swerved in front of me just then, her back seat a whirlwind of flying baseball caps and flailing limbs. I dropped back and concentrated on driving safely.

When I got home, I tried calling Avery's old cellphone number, but it had been disconnected. I wasn't surprised—he'd been gone for months. There was no record of the calls Avery had made to me, so I had no way of reaching him. In a sense, it seemed like that was how it had always been.

I was walking through mid-town in July when I thought I saw him up ahead in the crowd. "Avery!" I shouted. He didn't stop. I tried to push my way forward, but by the time I got past everyone, he'd disappeared. I wondered if it had really been him.

"Do you ever think about Avery?" I asked Mitch one night, when we were at a sports bar watching the Phillies play.

"Sometimes," he said. "We had some great times, back then. I wish he hadn't… you know."

"Yeah. Me too."

There were places I'd only gone with Avery, since no one else from our group liked playing racquetball, or walking down by the river as the sun was coming up. I used to do those things by myself before Avery came along, but now they made me feel hollow. Sad.

It wasn't like I even knew him all that well. He didn't talk about his past much, and we didn't discuss problems or deep feelings or anything like that. We were buddies, we hung out together, and if something serious happened we knew we'd come through for each other. But in the meantime, why piss and moan about it?

Avery used to rollerblade around school playgrounds at night, until he hit a crack or bump in the dark and almost concussed himself. He'd been trying to get me to join him, but he gave the whole thing up after that. It was okay—I'd never succeeded in persuading him that sushi was a great idea, either.

He had a weird sense of humor, more than the rest of my friends. He once referred to Oregon as if it were an untamed wilderness, and he raved about peanut butter as if were some rare, mystical creation. Sometimes I wouldn't see him for weeks, and then I'd run into him right in front of my office. I figured it was all some kind of game to him. He seemed to enjoy it.

"What's Avery like?" my friend Kimmy asked me once. "Do you think he'd go out with me?"

"Sure, I guess," I'd said. "I don't think his job pays very well, though." I didn't know exactly what Avery did, but he never seemed to have any money. Kimmy was always more interested in a guy's paycheck than his personality, which was one of the reasons she and I had never dated.

I dreamed about Avery a few months later. He wanted to explore this old house on the east side of town, so we drove out there and looked around. One of the ground floor windows was broken, and we used it to get inside. We poked around through room after room—there were doors everywhere, like some kind of maze. I was following Avery into a new room when it suddenly got dark. The door slammed shut between us, and then it disappeared. "Avery?" I called. "Hey, Avery, what just happened?" I heard a rumbling sound, and then the walls all started falling in on me. That was when I woke up.

I met up with Mitch for lunch the following week. He suggested the Souvlaki Station, for their gyros. When we walked in, I half expected to find Avery sitting there at his usual table in the far corner, even though I knew that was impossible. I sighed. "Avery sure loved this place…"

"Who?"

"Avery. You know, Avery Lang?"

Mitch looked at me funny. "Whatever, dude, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Oh, I get it—you're joking."

"No, you're joking," Mitch said. "I don't know anyone named Avery."

I let it go, but I called Kimmy that night and asked her about Avery. "Who?" she said.

"Avery," I said. "You thought about dating him once."

"Never heard of him."

"Mitch put you up to this, didn't he?"

Kimmy got mad and hung up on me, and I sat there staring at the phone. What was going on? I couldn't possibly have imagined Avery, so why I was I the only one that remembered him?

I thought about some of the weird things he'd said, and the way he would disappear for weeks at a time. Crazy as it sounded, I started wondering about parallel universes and alternate timelines. Maybe he hadn't really lived here at all—he'd just visited us now and then.

Months went by, then a year, and I didn't hear from Avery again. Maybe I'd hallucinated the whole thing, or maybe he just hadn't made it back again. I still looked for him from time to time. You never knew what might happen if you waited long enough.

Either way, I would keep an open mind and I'd make sure my cellphone number never changed.


--/--



If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.

 
 
 
harvey_rrit: watership upharvey_rrit on November 10th, 2014 08:36 pm (UTC)
Creepy cool.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 10th, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you! The hardest part of this was actually building the hints that the friend could as easily be an AU visitor as a ghost or the narrator's personal creation.
adoptedwriteradoptedwriter on November 10th, 2014 08:48 pm (UTC)
I like. Reminds me of an old college friend who died in 2012. I used to dream about him a lot. Every time I had a dream, the next day I'd get an email joke or an IM from him. Weird! AW
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 10th, 2014 09:35 pm (UTC)
After he'd died, you'd get emails and such? That would be spooky, but also nice. :)
(no subject) - adoptedwriter on November 11th, 2014 01:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
ArmagedDanhosticle_fifer on November 11th, 2014 02:30 am (UTC)
Very cool, a bit creepy, had me very interested throughout. It reminded me a bit of the middle portions of John Dies At The End, if you've ever read that. Also, that sounds like the kind of dreams I have all the time, although maybe not with the walls collapsing in.

Are you from Philly?
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 11th, 2014 07:44 am (UTC)
Also, that sounds like the kind of dreams I have all the time
I have less the "hopelessly lost/trapped/isolated" dreams than either the discovering new rooms and architecture in a place I've lived for years, or all of the "college is ending in two days and you need to drive back across the country and aren't even packed and brought too much stuff." Ugh.

I'm not from Philly, but that seemed like a great location for lots of towns/cities/etc. within just hours away. I'm actually from the 'untamed wilderness' that is Oregon. :D
(no subject) - hosticle_fifer on November 17th, 2014 01:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
cindy: misc fictsuki_no_bara on November 11th, 2014 03:28 am (UTC)
now i'm wondering if john shifted into an au, because suddenly no one knows who avery is but him. but i like that once you know how the story ends, the details in the rest of it make so much more sense. also, vaguely creepy!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 11th, 2014 07:54 am (UTC)
I wondered if anyone would consider the possiblity that John might have moved instead of Avery.

I'm glad the details worked toward the possibilities within the story. Any choice could be true, but which one actually is? :D
i_17bingoi_17bingo on November 11th, 2014 10:28 am (UTC)
The first phone call came four months after that, in the middle of the night:

Have you ever read Paul Auster? For a while, he used to be my favorite writer, but as time went on, I started to notice that he tried a little too hard to make his writing symbolic and intelligent, and it annoyed me. But there is something to his matter-of-fact weirdness and dreamlike detachment that I still really love, despite his pretentiousness.

I'm telling you this because this reminds me a lot of his style; of course, I wouldn't be telling you this if it reminded me of the bad stuff. No, this is the casual surrealism that drew me to him in the first place.

Which is to say this is a wonderful piece and I adore it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 13th, 2014 08:02 am (UTC)
I haven't read him, though I went and looked him up after your comment!

Casual surrealism is such a wonderful phrasing. :) I've always been drawn to the surreal, and sometimes feel as if I see it where others might not. The message beneath the words that cannot quite be seen but that communicates itself all the same... is one of my favorite artistic techniques in other people's works.

So glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment!
mamas_minionmamas_minion on November 12th, 2014 03:08 am (UTC)
This is like reading the script for an original twilight zone. this is amazing. you have to wonder if Avery did every truly exist or if the narrator might be losing his mind. wonderful story.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 13th, 2014 08:12 am (UTC)
Wow, thank you so much!

There are so many things that could be happening here, and the fact that neither you nor the narrator really knows is part of what made this so interesting to work with. The only thing that's clear is that however often Avery might return, John would be happy to see him-- whether he's imagining him or whether there's some kind of intersection of their realities.
kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatrebleodswean on November 12th, 2014 04:25 pm (UTC)
Nicely imaginative. Your narrator is so clearly drawn and his internalizations are rational....and that leads the reader to believe that, yes, Avery might be other.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 13th, 2014 09:16 pm (UTC)
I'm glad it was convincing enough that you just can't be sure the problem is all in John's head. That not-knowing (frustrating as it usually is) was exactly what I wanted at the end. All possibilities are likely!
Rebeccabeeker121 on November 12th, 2014 05:38 pm (UTC)
I love all the possibilities this ends with, so many different things could be true. Or not.

Your narrator is really well done, he's the very strong center this story needs to spin out from.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 13th, 2014 11:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad the narrator seems solid. I feel bad for him, losing a friend and then being unsure what entirely is going on.
rayasorayaso on November 12th, 2014 10:12 pm (UTC)
This was a great entry for Halloween. It was creepy and fun, with your usual excellent touch on the dialogue. Now if I get any strange phone calls, I'm going to wonder . . . . I loved the final line.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 13th, 2014 11:33 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Maybe we're already getting strange calls. Maybe all of those robocalls are just Avery, trying to get through. :D
A Karmic Sandbox: Camo Teddykarmasoup on November 13th, 2014 12:44 am (UTC)
How very bizarre and unique... nicely done. Leaves just the right amount of intrigue and question.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 13th, 2014 11:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!

I wanted to give a glimpse of the possible answers, without choosing any one of them for certain, just to let readers think about which of them appeals most to them as being the right one. :)
uncawesuncawes on November 13th, 2014 09:40 am (UTC)
Creepy, in a cool way :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 13th, 2014 11:39 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for reading and commenting!
☾witches on November 13th, 2014 11:06 am (UTC)
i've said it before but your entries are always such a delight to read :D
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 13th, 2014 11:39 pm (UTC)
That is so sweet of you. Thank you very much!
Teo Sayseternal_ot on November 13th, 2014 11:54 am (UTC)
Ah! The possibilities you leave the reader with..Super cool and Spooky too. I enjoyed reading this.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 13th, 2014 11:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you-- I'm glad you liked it. :D
Every Day Above Groundmallorys_camera on November 13th, 2014 02:07 pm (UTC)
That sound you hear is me applauding. :-)

Very well done. It's the trope that's launched a thousand Stephen King wannabes and yet you make it fresh and alive. The conversation with Mitch -- Whatever, dude, I have no idea what you're talking about -- is a sucker punch to the gut. Everything works here -- structure, language choices, length. I liked this very, very much.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 14th, 2014 12:03 am (UTC)
Wow, that is very high praise!

is a sucker punch to the gut.
I'm glad someone noticed that. It's not only unexpected for the narrator, it's dismissive of something that he feels really pained over. Not Mitch's fault, but ouch.

I'm glad you liked it, and thanks for such wonderful comments. :)

whipchickwhipchick on November 13th, 2014 05:29 pm (UTC)
I love how open the door is here for so many explanations - and there's a real wistfulness, too, to having lost a friend, no matter who/what the friend may have been.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on November 14th, 2014 12:05 am (UTC)
having lost a friend, no matter who/what the friend may have been.
That's a nice way of putting it. He was a friend, regardless of his origin, and no friend is every easy to lose when we don't choose it. Even the people who make us nuts as often as they delight us... we will always want to keep them.