And as Mia stood there, mesmerized by the sound of Alaina’s voice, other figures came into the garden. At first she thought they were other Wrimos seeing the same beauty in the garden that she did, but that was impossible, she convinced herself, as Alaina said that everyone saw something different here. For all she knew someone saw themselves naked and singing in the shower.
A young woman with shoulder-length brown hair entered the garden and approached Mia and Alaina. She stood in front of Mia and didn’t say a word, choosing to just stand there. Then others started to arrive.
An older woman, one who looked a lot like this younger woman, but with gray hair and brown streaks and glasses. This woman was pleasantly dumpy (what a strange choice of words, Mia thought to herself), and rather resembled one of those people you’d see behind the counter cooking traditional southern food.
Then a young boy came. This boy was about four years old, cute and innocent, and carrying a collection of toys. These were his favorite, Mia told herself, somehow just knowing that these were his favorite toys. A toy car, a plastic truck, a set of Legos. Would these be taken from him forever?
“Who are you?” Mia asked, staring at the side of the garden as if waiting for someone else to appear.
“We are your story,” the young woman replied. “We are going to get to know each other very well over the next month.”
“I’m sure of it,” Mia said. “You’re a lot better than a rabbit nibbling at my feet. The last one actually bit my finger. I think it was actually after the blood.”
The young woman shuddered and picked up the young boy. He began to cry. “Shhh, it’s okay,” the young woman said as she tried to comfort him. “Really, it’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay.”
Mia wanted to reach out and hold the boy too. She didn’t know why, as they were completely strange to her, and she had never seen these people in her life, but somehow she felt a connection to them, a connection that, to be perfectly honest, she had rarely felt with other people in her own life.
“What’s wrong?” she asked the young woman.
“He’s just mourning,” the young woman said. “It’ll be okay. To be honest, I feel like crying too some days.” And then Mia looked over at the older woman, who (Mia had noticed) had not said a single word through the entire dialogue. Mia found this to be very strange, and she tried addressing this woman.
“Hello?” Mia asked, walking over to her. This woman looked very real but if she could speak, Mia thought she would sound very unreal. Mia didn’t know why she thought this, but somehow knew it to be true. Then again, she didn’t know what she knew anymore.
“Hello? Are you okay?” The woman looked to be in perfectly good health, but she did appear to be a little pale. Oh well, Mia told herself. Lots of people are pale. I’d probably be pale myself if not for wanting to write outside in the summer. She sighed and thought of all those attempts (in vain, of course) for writing outside in the sun. She thought the great outdoors would be a great source of inspiration. Apparently she was wrong. “Can I help you?”
The woman simply stared at Mia, not saying a word. Instead she smiled gently and wobbled in place a little. It was then that Mia noticed that she was floating and not standing on her own feet (which were still perfectly in place).
“Hello?” Mia asked, now looking at the woman’s feet instead of at her face, despite the feet being the slightly more freaky aspect of her figure. “Are you okay? Hello?”
Then Mia started to wonder about this. This was very strange indeed. Something about her wanted to touch the woman to see what was going on. What would happen, she wondered.
“Alaina?” Mia asked.
Alaina turned to Mia. “Yes?” Alaina asked.
“What happens if I touch someone here?”
“I don’t know,” Alaina replied, though Mia knew she was lying by the smirk on her face. “Why don’t you find out?”
“Find out?” Mia asked. “What if they, oh I don’t know, electrocute me?”
“Well, if they electrocute you, I guess you don’t have to worry about finding a plot, do you?”
Mia pondered this. This was a very good point. Finally she reached over and touched the woman who was floating. The woman wobbled a little more but stayed in place. Success. Finally Mia touched the young woman.
“Hello,” the young woman said, addressing Mia. Mia turned to the woman.
“Who are you?” Mia asked again, although she figured she already knew what the woman would say.
“I am Amy,” the woman said. “Your main character.” Mia finally took a good luck at this woman. She had shoulder-length brown hair, glasses with frames the same color as her hair, and was dressed in rather traditional clothing for a woman of her age. She didn’t look much older than Mia did. Mia reached out and touched her, something she never would have done to another person she had just met.
Amy didn’t jump or even try to slap Mia. Instead Amy reached out and hugged Mia. “It’s good to meet you,” Amy said, hugging Mia with one arm and the little boy with the other. “This is Ian. He’s three. He probably won’t remember her at all.”
“Remember who?” Mia asked.
Amy nodded over toward the older woman. “His mother,” Amy whispered as if the boy were going to scream about it at any instant. “He’ll never get to know her. And now that I’m an adult and Mom doesn’t have that much family, it’s my job to raise him as if he were my own.”
“So you two…” Mia looked from Amy to Ian to the woman. “You two are siblings?” Mia could see the resemblance. Ian’s hair was the same shade of brown as Amy’s, their eyes were similar, and where Amy was curvy, Ian still had some baby fat. But the resemblances ended there. Ian now begged to be let loose from Amy’s arms, and when Amy let him down, he ran around with the toys in his arms, yelling “Vroom vroom.” Mia could never see Amy doing that, even at Ian’s age.
Amy nodded. “Yes.”
“So what happened to your dad? Why can’t he raise Ian?” Mia asked.
“Died,” Amy said plainly. She must have accepted this fact by now, probably had told far more people than she would have liked by this point. “Died of cancer two years ago. Mom took it much harder than most women would have, but she kept going on. Life was much too pleasant to just coop herself in the house and just exist, especially with Ian to raise. He couldn’t be subjected to that kind of life, so she just kept going for him. For me.”
“So how did she die?” Mia asked, now very curious about them.
Amy looked down, wondering how she would break the news to her author. “No one really knows,” Mia said. “Some say it was a car wreck. Others say it was suicide. Either way, it was reported in the papers as an accident. After all, how could one of the happiest and most involved women in the town be miserable?”
Mia nodded, but she was afraid that she understood Amy’s point far too well. Amy kept going.
“So they reported it as an accident and covered everything up. No one ever looked at her records or anything. I’m going to do that after Ian starts going to daycare and I have some time on my hands.”
“Time? Don’t you work?” Mia asked.
“Yes,” Amy replied, almost offended that Mia would ask that question. “I work in an art gallery. I just do a lot of investigating at night after Ian’s asleep or while he’s at preschool.”
Mia nodded. She knew this all too well. “So you’re going to go through your mom’s stuff?”
“I have to,” Amy replied. “I have no choice, do I?”
“What about your dad’s?”
“Well, that’s around too, and–” But Amy was cut off by the entrance of another person to the garden. This person was also slightly plump. He had gray hair, blue eyes, and was smoking a pipe. He was wearing khaki pants and a polo shirt and for some reason reminded Mia of those dads who would play golf on the weekends. Minus the pipe, of course.
This man, like the woman, floated a bit above the ground. Mia looked down at his feet, which were inside a pair of brown suede shoes, and reached down to poke them. She had touched a living character. What would happen if she communicated with the dead? The fictional dead, but somehow she didn’t think there was a difference anymore.
“Good afternoon there,” the man said. “Good to see you. Are you a friend of Amy’s?” He wore a jolly smile on his face as he turned to Mia.
“Well, no, not exactly,” Mia replied. “I’m just your author.”
“My author? Balderdash,” the man replied. “I died years ago, but you know what? Maybe talking to an author like you will make me feel alive. You’re writing our biographies, you say?”
“Well, no, not really–”
“Nonsense. Ask me what you want.”
“So what happened to you, anyway?”
“It was a terrible fight,” the man replied. “Cancer does horrible things to your body. It invades parts of your body you never knew you had, and the treatment makes it worse. It makes you wish…”
Mia let him talk, but she wondered why he was telling her this. Why would this be of any use to her, anyway? It would be like the woman telling her about her menstrual cycle, or the night either one of the kids got conceived.
And at that moment, the woman floated over to Mia and started to talk. “Mia, you say your name is?” she asked.
Mia nodded, amazed that the woman was actually addressing her. She found herself unable to say a word.
“Excellent. Now, if there’s anything you need to know about dear Amy, it’s that she’s a dear one. You have to watch out because even though she’s one of the most wonderful people I know (and I may be slightly biased, seeing as I raised her and all), she can be really quiet at times.”
Amy? Quiet? Mia would never have guessed. Mia rolled her eyes as she listed to everyone chatter around her. Even Ian joined in.
“Will you play with me?” Ian asked Mia.
“Sure, Ian,” Mia said as she grabbed a truck on the ground and started driving it around. “Vroom vroom.” Ian squealed with glee as he took the truck from her and started driving it.
As quickly as everyone appeared, though, everyone disappeared, and Mia discovered that she and Alaina were alone in the garden again.
“What happened?” Mia asked.
“The characters have chosen not to speak to you,” Alaina replied. “It happens.”
“But I was enjoying it,” Mia insisted. “Is there a way to get them to come back?”
“There are many opinions on this,” Alaina replied. “You’re the type of author who insists on waiting for inspiration, and that works very well when inspiration rains on you all the time. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way in the real writing world.”
“What do you mean?” Mia asked as they walked out of the garden. They passed a sign with a countdown until the beginning of NaNoWriMo: 2 days, 13 hours, 6 minutes, 43 seconds.
“It’s not easy, Mia,” Alaina said. “I can’t be with you all the time, or at least not out of my own free will. You have to want my presence, and theirs, more than anything else. Only then will you be truly inspired to write.”
“So this inspiration I seek is really in vain?” Mia asked.
Alaina tried to prevent her head from nodding, but it did anyway. “Yes,” she finally found herself saying.
“But how do I force you to come here? And them?” Mia asked. Their memory, along with all the incidents of the afternoon, were now fading to the back of her memory, and she felt in her bag for a notebook to write everything down while it was still there. Nothing was allowed to leave her mind now. As Mia started to scribble her memories down, somehow managing to walk and write at the same time, she asked another question. “Is there a secret to it?”
“No,” Alaina admitted. “There is none. There is only one thing I can tell you, though. You have to want us to be there more than anything else. Remember, butt in chair, hands on keyboard.” Before Mia could ask Alaina anything else, Alaina had disappeared, and Mia stared at the spot where Alaina once stood. Not wanting to lose the memories of the moment, Mia scribbled every memory of the last few hours on the paper. The people, the interactions, the story. Surely there was a story there.
Or did they have their own story to tell?
Now you know. Even Alaina knows the real secret to being a writer. It’s something more of us could use.
Feel free to link this on your blog, Twitter, whatever. Just don’t pass this off as your own, and we’re cool.
I highly encourage you to donate to the Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that runs NaNoWriMo, if you enjoy this tale of noveling madness. If you donate in the new year, your donor goodies will appear in the month before the event you donate to (NaNoWriMo or Script Frenzy).
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