Thursday, January 19, 2006

Caroline, Part 5, Final (Fiction)

(Just joining us? Go back to Part 1)

       David tripped over the chair. The clumsy move broke some of his tension. Grinning, he recovered his balance and followed her into the parlor.
       "Wait up!" he called.
       Down the hallway toward the banquet room, she ran with her hair swaying. For an instant, David wondered if she lied about coming from the wedding party. But she swept into one of the side rooms. Her ribbon whipped outward and her skirt spun as she disappeared.
       David sped up. Leaving the rug, his footfalls clipped along the hall. He approached the doorway, and a sliver of view widened. No movement within.
       He entered, puffing a little from the race.
       The word chopped off.
       "Ooh. Geez," he muttered to himself.
       Another person was sitting in a tall chair near the fireplace. David could only see a head peeping over the upholstery. A woman. Straight silver hair was pulled back from her face.
       "I'm sorry," he said as he glanced around the room. "We didn't mean to disturb you."
       Not the appropriate place for hide-and-seek.
       "Caroline? Come on out! We shouldn't play in here."
       He waited.
       Nothing. His smile slackened a little.
       "I'm sorry we're bothering you," he said, walking toward the chair.
       About to ask where Caroline ducked, he circled and saw the old face was sleeping. Embarrassment flamed in his face.
       "Caroline!" he hissed. "Come on! We're going to wake her up. You can show me whatever it is later!"
       Still nothing.
       He shifted his weight to tip-toe away when he saw something twined in the woman's hands. Nothing extraordinary at first, but the glimpse whipped high into his mind, then sparked a clap of thunder.
       A faded and threadbare ribbon. Red perhaps, but the color was exhausted.
       He froze.
       The face. He focused on the face.
       Familiar. Something in the shape of her cheeks, her dainty chin.
       A storm howled in David's brain. Bending down to kneel at her feet, he reached out trembling fingers toward her hands. He touched the skin. Soft and yielding despite the prominent bones. But too cool. Something vital was missing.
       David looked up. The body lay draped with utter stillness.
       The air rushed out of David's chest.
       He scrambled up. He shuffled backwards, away from the chair. Nothing coherent could pierce his pounding thoughts.
       Out. Out.
       He felt for the doorway. Catching the jamb, he side-stepped though.
       And thudded into someone in the hall.
       "Whoa! Sorry there buddy!"
       David snapped around.
       A man in a tuxedo. A woman next to him. David couldn't process more.
       "Didn't mean to crash into you."
       David's mouth opened, then closed.
       "Hey, are you alright?"
       The eyes. Depthless waters. An infinity of blue.
       David nodded, but he was everything except alright.
       "Good. Good," the man said, although he didn't look convinced. "We're just checking on my grandmother."
       The man peeped over David's shoulder.
       Splinters of understanding pieced together. Grew.
       "Caroline," David said softly.
       "Oh! You two have met, then. I hope she didn't talk your ear off."
       "I - I met her earlier."
       The man sneaked another look. "Looks like she's asleep," he said.
       David couldn't bear it. "Yes," he said. "Asleep."
       Caroline's grandson smiled. Another glimmer of the child leapt to David's eyes. The truth landed on his shoulders. And strangling disappointment. The girl was gone.
       "She's been so unbelievably excited this whole trip," the man said, lowering his voice. "She used to come here as a child, you know. With her father. I've heard so many of the stories I feel like I used to come myself."
       David stared, unblinking.
       "It's so sad, though," the man said. "Her father died around then. She was devastated. I know those trips are the most important memories she had of him."
       Someone shouted from down the hall. Someone summoning them back to the party.
       "Did she tell you? That's why she was so excited to come back. She never travels anymore. The past couple days, she's been like a kid again."
       David was losing control. Fast.
       "Well," the man said, "we're going to be a while yet. We'll let her sleep. I can't only imagine the wonderful dreams she's having."
       David turned away. His eyes were flooding.
       "Yeah," he whispered. "That's right. Let her sleep."

Back to Part 4


Shesawriter said...

Spooky! I love it! Wow, you're great with building the suspense. Very nicely done, Jason. :-)


anne said...

Very nice! Surprisingly emotional. And I like how you showed David's realization and accompanying loss of 'it'.

LiVEwiRe said...

Oh man! I may not have been as far off as I thought! This is just incredible! You weave such a superb tale.

Kara Alison said...

Oh, I'd just love to know what's going on behind Caroline's eyelids right about now. Great ending.

Bernita said...

Oh, sweet. Sweet.

beadinggalinMS said...

WOW! My feelings about Caroline was right. Great ending!!

Anonymous said...

Tanya, thank you! Writing it has made me miss staying at the real inn which inspired the story.

Anne, thanks! I took special care writing the process of David's realization. Glad you liked it!!

Livewire, so you weren't disappointed? Very cool! =D

Kara, I was actually laughing at myself. If found this ending very emotional. For me, this story was about the soul of a person--not just some transparent photocopy rising out of a body, but that core person in each of us which formed during some moment in our lives and persists unchanged no matter what else might happen over the years.

Bernita, thanks mom!

BeadinggalinMS, did you figure it out? I wondered if anyone would. Thanks for the compliment! =)

Sarah said...

Fantastic conclusion! "Spooky" and yet you took it to a very touching place.

Kelly Parra said...

Oooh, great twist, Jason!! You're so good. =D

Robin Caroll said...

I like it! :)

mysfit said...

well done, very well done in fact - this part is definitely good, etheral and poor david seems like he's not sure if he's woken up yet.

as far as the writing is concerned, this part is strong and in fact, your ability to build tension and suspense without losing details or character is remarkable (you'd be surprised how much suspense is lost with over description).

i think considering each part, part 4 could do with the most revising, "tighening up". while the dialogue is strong - giving Caroline an ageless childhood and putting David at a loss for his love and longing - i found the lines in between somewhat choppy and distracting. Here's i'll just drop down and find an example.

on the whole, i bow to your talent and hope there are more of such lovely stories to come... (sorry about the long comment)

Anonymous said...

Sarah, thanks! I know most folks were looking for a good scare. ;) I threw a little curve in there.

Kelly, thank you for the encouragement! I do hope I'm moving in the right direction. I'm trying to apply all of the important lessons you all have taught me in my WIP.

Robin, very much appreciated. =)

Mysfit, thank you so much for pointing out the strong points, but even more for pointing out the weak points! I won't repeat what I said below in the comments to Part 4, but your reactions were, are, and will be greatly valued. A writer never really knows if he or she has reached a certain point in technique and storytelling until independent people confirm it. I'm indebted to you and everyone else here for giving me that encouragement.

tru said...

wow... I'm from Ghostplace.. ..Wow.. mesmerising..

Anonymous said...

Tru, thanks for letting me know you stopped by! I love it when folks from the Ghostplace forums visit. Hope to see you back!

beadinggalinMS said...

Jason-I figured it out in part 4 was hoping I was right. I really liked this one.

Jeff said...

Well done, jason. I especially liked the mystical aspect of the story. :)

anne frasier said...

jason, that was wonderful!

mermaid said...

She feels such intensity for a childhood experience that she actually becomes a child. Brilliant. It was always in the bottomless blue of her eyes, wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

BeadinggalinMS, good for you! You solved it. Glad you enjoyed it.

Jeff, I enjoyed weaving that mystical feel.

Anne, thanks! I hoped the ending would be satisfying.

Mermaid, being an extreme introspective person yourself, you saw my purpose behind the story. Thank you for sharing. :)

Melissa Marsh said...

Jason - I am in awe. This is wonderful stuff. Y'know, they say that lawyers who write fiction do an incredible job - and I can see that for myself!

Anonymous said...

Melissa, first of all, thank you for visiting! I love seeing new faces here. Secondly, thank you for the compliment!! I really enjoyed writing "Caroline," and I'm humbled by the reaction it has received.

Hope to see you back!

Flood said...

I really don't know what to say. I just felt it important to tell you I was completely riveted by this story from the beginning and it was fantastic. This is the 'kiss' Stephen King talks about when he wrote about his love for short stories. A brief sojourn to another place that gets the reader all wrapped up and concludes in one sitting. I loved it.

Anonymous said...

Flood, I really appreciate you saying so! This is one of my favorite pieces. I challenged myself to write a story in which a young girl is able to completely capture the attention of an adult man on a equal, personal level. In a way, they switch roles--she becomes the adult and he becomes the child. Extraordinary children can be like that. Of course, here the term "old soul" becomes the literal truth.

I think I was able to strike a nice balance between the technical elements of storytelling, mood, and the core story. However, the biggest treat is having people enjoy it. Glad you did!!

Amra Pajalic said...

Just read this story in one go. It's amazing. I had a moment where I was creeped out by the thought he had of falling in love with the child, but when you brought it to the end that line added a special poignancy to me. In another time, in another place, who knows.