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31 January 2017 @ 01:17 pm
LJ Idol Season Ten: "On The Other Side"  
On The Other Side
idol season ten | week 7 | 1380 words
Where I'm from

x-x-x-x-x

There is no road that leads to my past, but there might be a door. I haven't seen it in a long time.

I have been in this place for years now, near as I can tell. I've lost all sense of how the local time relates to where I came from, but I believe it is slower. Perhaps it just seems that way, after waiting so long to get back home. The magic that got me here has never returned. Part of me knows that maybe it never will.

Curiosity brought me here, in one rash, fateful moment. I was looking at the stars one night, and noticed a strange light at the top of a hill. Of course, I had to find out what it was. Once I got to it, I stood there for the longest time, trying to reconcile what I saw with how reality was supposed to work.

There was a rectangular space there like a doorway, with starlight spilling out of it. The night sky inside of it was bluer than ours, the stars strange and plentiful. There was a grassy meadow below the doorway's edge, level with the hilltop, as if I could just step right into that other space. It would be so easy.

I will tell you how it was, and then you will know. I had friends and family, and things were okay, but it was nothing special. I didn't have kids, I wasn't married and wasn't about to be, and some days my job was boring enough to just about kill me. That doorway, though? I desperately wanted to see what was on the other side of it, even just for a minute, so why not? Honestly, what did I have to lose?

The answer, it turned out, was everything.

Getting there was as simple as it looked, just like stepping through a door. It was strange moving from one version of night to another, but they were truly different—the temperature, the stars, even the smell. It was like summer in that other world. The air was damp and warm-turning-cool, the way it does in the hour before sunrise. I heard a birdcall I didn't recognize, and the field beneath my feet gave out an orange-and-ryegrass smell of something that didn't grow where I came from.

I turned around and around, looking at everything, listening. Even the wind was different. I wondered where I was. A new world? Some other part of my own world?

I walked over to a grove of trees that had strange yellow clusters on them. The clusters were some kind of sweet-smelling fruit, but I didn't eat them. I knew better. The ground under my feet was so soft and springy that I just upped and ran a bit, each step like defying gravity. Lord, I still remember that...

When I turned around, the door to my world was gone. I raced back to where I first came through, checking the grass for the marks my feet had left. I found the trampled area where I'd been, but there was no sign of the door or anything unusual at all. I spun in slow circles, brushing my fingers through the air in hopes of feeling the doorway I could not see.

Where could it have gone?

Oh, how I panicked then! How could I have let myself be so stupid, so distracted? How would I ever return home?

I spent days in that meadow, hoping the doorway would reappear. Hunger finally drove me out onto a road that led to a nearby town.

I hid near the edge of the town for hours, watching and learning. Most of the people were as dark-skinned as me, and not dressed differently enough that I'd be noticed. I finally slipped through an alley and came across an open-air market—thank you, Jesus! I spotted what looked like bread at a couple of stalls, including one where the owner was busy with a customer. I felt bad about stealing from him, but promised myself I wouldn't make a habit of it.

Back through another alley and behind some large bushes, I found a quiet place to hide. I ate the "bread" then, hoping it wouldn't kill me, and tried to figure out a plan. I was in a strange place, I didn't speak the language, and I would need some kind of work to support myself until I could get home. All of this would have to be arranged through vague gestures the townsfolk might not even understand. I certainly hoped these people were forgiving.

When I was done eating, I looked for opportunity. I offered to help an old woman carry a heavy load of washing, and assisted an old man fixing his fence. They thanked me with food. Over the next few days, and then weeks, I made my way around town doing little bits of work as I learned some of the language. I met Vedran, a widowed mother with three cute little kids. We just "clicked," the two of us, and became friends. Before long, she let me stay with her family. I was an honorary sister.

I still went back to the field every night, searching more and more of it but finding nothing. Sometimes, I wondered if there was something wrong with me, if my "past" had all been some dream I'd just imagined. Others, I wondered if what I was living now was the dream. Nothing felt quite right.

The townspeople must have wondered about me, the woman who walked the night like a restless spirit. Maybe they even told stories about me. I could hardly blame them for it. There were other tales worth telling, if only they knew.

I almost got caught, about a year ago. I became interested in one of the local men, a tall handsome guy named Pren. We were probably days away from having sex when Vedran unexpectedly saved me. She asked me to bathe her daughter, and I found out I wasn't as similar to these people as I'd thought. We had the same skin color and basic shape, at least what showed when we were dressed. But the gill-like things on the side of the chest, and the squashed ribcage? I would never be able to explain why I didn't have those.

I broke things off with Pren, and made sure to keep myself covered up as much as possible from there on out.

It was harder after that, once I knew that type of loneliness could never be satisfied.

Back in my own world, I had dated some decent men over the years, even lived with one for a while. He wasn't The One, obviously, but I'd always hoped that someday I'd find the man who was, that we'd have children and grandchildren together, everyone gathered at the house for Sunday dinner. There had always been the possibility. Even living in the same slow-paced city as my mama and all her people, there was history and connection. It wasn't exciting, but it was still "home."

I never knew how important that could be.

The world I came from was greener and brighter than this one, though not as pretty. This world's blue- and purple-tinged light was spellbinding and mysterious, the people were generous and kind, and I'd been luckier than I probably deserved when I came here so foolishly. But I was a stranger here. I always would be.

Sometimes, sitting by the evening firelight with Vedran and watching the children play, I thought my journey had been worth it. When contentment was stronger than loneliness, I could remember this had happened by some unknown magic, and that I'd been brave enough to reach for the gift I'd been given.

But especially in those summer months, when the night breeze called me and I remembered the sound of Mama's voice speaking my name—the touch of a man's love against my skin—I longed to be back home again.

I could not keep from returning to the fields on those nights.

Unable to sleep or to stop hoping, I walked through the grasses with my fingers brushing the air around me, and I searched for the door I could not find.


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adoptedwriteradoptedwriter on January 31st, 2017 11:04 pm (UTC)
Well-done! Wow!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 1st, 2017 12:56 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D
Kellykajel on February 1st, 2017 03:08 am (UTC)
Wow, this was so...what's the word, melancholy maybe. So full of longing for what she had. Loved it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 1st, 2017 07:45 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad that mood came through. As beautiful as the place is where she has found herself, even the ordinary aspects of home have a harder pull. You might never know that, until you lost them.
cindy: misc fictsuki_no_bara on February 1st, 2017 04:47 am (UTC)
this is kind of tragic, even with the narrator's occasional contentment with vedran and her kids. the images are really lovely, tho. and i'm really curious why the door appeared to the narrator, and if she's the only person who's seen one and walked through it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 1st, 2017 07:55 am (UTC)
I like to think there's still a possibility that door might someday reappear, so the narrator can return home.

This was inspired by a drabble I wrote a couple of years ago for writerverse, where a young man stood at the precipice of such a doorway and wondered what it would be like to cross over.

To write about the narrator's home via contrast and absentia seemed like a fun way to work with the prompt.
i_17bingo: toileti_17bingo on February 1st, 2017 11:10 am (UTC)
This is stunning. The regret, yet joy, that the narrator feels really shines through. And I like how resourceful she is--I'm not sure if I would do so well in the same situation.

It would be great to read a follow up piece where she does find her way home and has to adjust to how much she's changed.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 1st, 2017 09:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!

I can understand her curiosity in investigating what she saw, especially when there was nothing really big tugging at her to stay put. But to wind up losing your home possibly forever... those consequences would really haunt you.

It's so nice of you to read and comment. :)
suesniffsgluesuesniffsglue on February 1st, 2017 03:37 pm (UTC)
I truly enjoyed diving into this!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 2nd, 2017 09:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much!
kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatrebleodswean on February 1st, 2017 10:57 pm (UTC)
Such a great premise for a story! I loved how she was both curious but also somewhat bored with her own life. What did she have to lose. Nice touch there. I also like how we got to see her new life on the other side and get a sense of her emotions, how her grappling with life issues and this new reality isn't really so different on this side. I most especially enjoyed this thought - Sometimes, I wondered if there was something wrong with me, if my "past" had all been some dream I'd just imagined.

You could really take this longer!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 2nd, 2017 09:15 pm (UTC)
I think that curiosity may be one of the reasons she was bored. She was interested in new and different, and it was clear that it very much was not happening where she was.

There's the thought that wherever you go, you take yourself with you. That human desire to love and be loved, to feel connected, is not easily forgotten. Imagine thinking that you weren't leaving much behind, and then discovering how much all of that "nothing" really mattered when you couldn't take back the choice you made! That just seems tragic to me, a price paid far too heavily.

I'm glad you enjoyed this one!
kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatrebleodswean on February 2nd, 2017 09:18 pm (UTC)
Have you read Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow"? That's exactly what it's about..with a futuristic bend. I will tell you that I hate it above and beyond all novels...but if you know what I am drawn to and like..then that will make sense. You, K, may very well love it madly!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 2nd, 2017 09:51 pm (UTC)
I haven't read it, but now you have me intrigued, so I'll have to look into it! :D
Ink Well: ACLUpenpusher on February 2nd, 2017 11:34 am (UTC)
You walked a slender tightrope of contentment and longing and made each side nearly balanced. But the tilt is definitely back toward the known and that is the punch to the gut.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 2nd, 2017 09:19 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you felt that, reading this story. No matter what there is to be gained, however much good, it tends to feel different when you've left your family and loved ones behind and realized that it seems to be permanent.

Your Statue of Liberty makes me think about this more abstractly. All of those people who left their country and friends and sometimes families behind to come here, many many decades ago... how did they stand knowing that they likely would never see any of those people or places again? That would be SO hard.

And then imagine making that choice and not realizing you were making it until it was too late. :(
Ink Well: ACLUpenpusher on February 3rd, 2017 04:29 am (UTC)
That's a really good analogy, actually. Pulling up stakes on the hope that where you were going would be ultimately better than where you were. The truth is, for many, there was a lot of abuse and a lot of unwantedness as a part of their American experience, making it that much more difficult.

But even those experiences are different from never being able to return, or even communicate! You could still write letters, send photographs, buy a telegram at least to find out what's going on in The Old Country. A much tougher circumstance you gave to your protagonist.

Teo Sayseternal_ot on February 2nd, 2017 03:32 pm (UTC)
This will be one my favorite entry from this season. You packed in so much there, I could feel for your protagonist... The longing and being a stranger in the crowd feeling was very well captured.

Kudos! *Claps*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 2nd, 2017 09:20 pm (UTC)
That is very high praise! I'm glad this story touched you so much. You clearly got out of it all that I'd hoped to get across, which makes me very happy. :)
oxymoron67oxymoron67 on February 2nd, 2017 09:51 pm (UTC)
The mood... another commentor said "melancholy" and that's right, really came through.

Loved this.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 2nd, 2017 10:34 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad to hear that. Sometimes, when I write something like this I'm not sure if that mood is projecting outward enough, and it's nice that the wistfulness and sadness (both for what is and what isn't) are coming through. :)
j0ydividedj0ydivided on February 2nd, 2017 10:25 pm (UTC)
This is weird and dark and unsettling. I love it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 2nd, 2017 10:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! That kind of unsettled, mysterious feeling is what I was aiming for.
Rebeccabeeker121 on February 3rd, 2017 01:21 am (UTC)
And I wonder, briefly, if Vedran has some idea that she isn't from there and had her give the child a bath on purpose.

This is lovely, the longing and melancholy sustain without it ever feeling too dark or heavy.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 3rd, 2017 01:35 am (UTC)
I hadn't thought of that, but it is the kind of thing a friend would do-- especially one who sees you a very much "belonging" but knows there is a risk that other people might not. That's a really nice thought.
rayasorayaso on February 3rd, 2017 02:51 pm (UTC)
This is wonderfully magnificent, and showcases some of your strengths in imagination, mood, dialog and descriptions. The plot was fascinating, and I loved the detail of the new people being very similar to your narrator, except in some important, but hidden, ways. The first line is great, and really drew me in. What a wonderful story!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 4th, 2017 08:18 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked this one! I wanted to explore the idea of that door into somewhere else that came from a drabble a few years ago, and the contrast of the two places and the emotions that necessarily are tied to them seemed really well suited to this prompt.
dmousey: owldmousey on February 4th, 2017 02:12 am (UTC)
Grass is always greener, eh? What a great take on the prompt! And so beautifully written. At first I thought she was going to end up in a fairy land, nice deflection for a simple concept! Hugs and peace~~~
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 4th, 2017 08:19 am (UTC)
The grass sure looks like it would be good to dance in for a while, at least, though when it becomes the only choice it all suddenly seems so very different.

I'm glad you enjoyed this one! :)
Murielle: Scrunchedmurielle on February 5th, 2017 02:28 pm (UTC)
Oh! This haunts from the heart. Wonderful and tragic all wrapped up in an awful loneliness.

What a great read!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 5th, 2017 10:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad you got that feeling from it. :)
alycewilsonalycewilson on February 5th, 2017 09:06 pm (UTC)
Nicely done!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on February 5th, 2017 10:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you!