A Place Called Disney

“Mother,” I asked, “what is a cell phone?”

My mother screamed and dropped the wooden tray of vegetables she was carrying to the table.  My siblings left their seats and began crawling on the dirt floor, gathering up the vegetables—carrots and parsnips and turnips—and holding them to their parched lips.
My mother approached me, hand raised.  She smacked me across the face.  “Never ask such questions, again, True."

Later that night, after my siblings and I were tucked into the bed we shared, I listened to my parents through the cloth curtain my mother had woven and hung to separate our sleeping alcove from the rest of the hut.  “True’s got the gift, Seth.  You see that, don’t you?”


“Ain’t no gift, Mercy.  It’s a curse.  Throw her to the wolves, is what I say.  If we’re caught…”
I slipped from the warmth of the bed.  Padded across the cold floor in my bare feet.  Peeked through a slit in the curtain.  “No, Seth.  True is our child.  She cannot help if she…”

“Keep her quiet then, wife.  If you have to cut out her tongue to do it, then for God’s sake, do it.  If the government finds out we have a reader-of-the-past among us, we’ll be banished.  And Mercy…”  He shook his head.  “Cutting her tongue out would be a kindness.”

I felt my eyes widen in the dark.  I wondered what it would be like to have no tongue; no cushion upon which to balance my words and my food.  Nothing to taste the wind.  Nothing to catch the blackened snowflakes as they reached for the earth. 

My father stopped talking to me that day.  And thereafter, my mother watched me intently.  She kept me within her sight always.  I no longer attended the school in the village with my siblings.  I was no longer permitted to play with my friends.  I became known as the village idiot. 

Day after day, I sat upon the bed and called back the man who called himself Daniel.  In my days of darkness, he was a cheery sort: Red cheeks and spectacles.  A full beard of white.  He was thin and tall like me and wore a blue shirt with a line of white things he called buttons.  He wore heavy-looking pants he called jeans.  They were nothing like the one-piece garment my father wore.

Daniel loved to laugh.  Daniel loved to tell me stories.

And I loved to listen.  What else was a girl of eight to do to occupy her mind when she was locked behind a woven cloth curtain; hidden away from the world like a poison?

Daniel called himself my great-great grandfather.  He said I had the gift.  The gift came every hundred years, he said, to one person in the family.  We were linked, he and I: he to the present, I to the past, bound together by an invisible link of time and space and genetics. 

I told him about the floods and the disasters.  I told him about the government takeover and the confiscation of land.  He scowled then, and shook his head.  “Is there no…technology in the future?”

“I do not understand, Daniel.  What is technology?  Is it like your buttons?”

He laughed. 

He told me the most wonderful stories.  Stories about things called books: words bound together between hard covers.  Stories about things called computers: words and pictures traveling invisibly through the air.  He told me about cell phones and refrigerators and television sets and cars.  He told me of a place called Disney. 

He painted wonderful pictures.  I nearly believed him.

One day, as my mother was foraging for greens in the forest, Daniel came to me.

“Daniel,” I whispered.  “Am I crazy?”

He shook his head.  “There is a stone, child.  Beneath your bed.”

He watched as I shifted the bed from the wall.  It was dusty there.  And, as Daniel had said, there was a large stone.

“Lift it,” he said, standing and coming to my side.

The stone was heavy.  “Can you not aid me?”

“I cannot.  My strength cannot cross time.  Only my spirit.”

Bit by bit, I moved that stubborn stone.  Underneath, there was a hole. 

“Reach inside,” Daniel said.

“Will there not be rodents?”  Nevertheless, I reached in my hand.  “There is something hidden here, Daniel!”

“Take it out.”

It was a box.  I picked it up, blew the dust from the cover.  Hands shaking, I opened the lid and withdrew something square and blue. 

“It’s a book of sorts, True.  A book of memories.  Open it.”

I folded back the outside cover and gasped.  There was an image—a picture—of Daniel.  Beneath the image there were strange marks. 

I pointed.  “I cannot understand these markings. What are they?”

“Those are words, True.”

“Tell me what they say.”

“Diary of Daniel Gray Smith.” 

“You tell me, Daniel, that you come from the yesterdays.  Are you certain you don’t come from the tomorrows?”

He nodded.  “I am certain.”

I sat upon the bed.  “Why are you here?”

“I’ve come to teach you to understand the words, True.  And then my mission will be complete.”
Every day, while my sisters were at school and my father was hunting our food and my mother was going about her chores, I sat with Daniel.  Bit by bit, I learned to read.

* * *

The day of the Counting, my father was in a foul mood.  He pointed to me.  For the first time in two years, he spoke to me.  “You’ll stay home.”
“We cannot leave her at home, Seth.”

“It is too dangerous, Mercy.”

“It’s more dangerous to leave her here alone.  They’ll suspect something.”

“We’ll tell her she died.”

“No.  She comes with us.”  With tears in her eyes, my mother slapped me again.  “Keep your mouth shut, child.”

For eight hours, we walked in silence.  When we reached town, I noticed something I didn’t notice at the last Counting: Words.  Words everywhere.

Words everywhere and no one to read them.

I ran my hand along the stone surface of a wall.  Fitted my fingers into the letter T.

“What is that, True?”  My sister asked.

“It’s a sentence.  It says...I read slowly.  Carefully.  Haltingly: Technology...destroyed... this... society.

I was seized roughly by the shoulders.  My father dragged me up to an officer.  “She has the gift.  She can read the markings.”

I was taken to the gallows immediately.  My family gathered at my feet.  Others began circling, watching and pointing.

The officer placed a rope about my neck. 
“Any last words?” he said.

I looked at my father.  “And what will you have me tell your great-great-grandchildren?”


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, M. Hunter challenged me with "Every 100 years, someone in your family spontaneously develops the ability to see and speak with one other person in your family with the same ability, usually dead or not yet born. This time, it's you." and I challenged Brad MacDonald with "He slept until noon. When he woke, it was completely dark outside."
Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: A Place Called Disney

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Place Called Disney

“Mother,” I asked, “what is a cell phone?”

My mother screamed and dropped the wooden tray of vegetables she was carrying to the table.  My siblings left their seats and began crawling on the dirt floor, gathering up the vegetables—carrots and parsnips and turnips—and holding them to their parched lips.
My mother approached me, hand raised.  She smacked me across the face.  “Never ask such questions, again, True."

Later that night, after my siblings and I were tucked into the bed we shared, I listened to my parents through the cloth curtain my mother had woven and hung to separate our sleeping alcove from the rest of the hut.  “True’s got the gift, Seth.  You see that, don’t you?”


“Ain’t no gift, Mercy.  It’s a curse.  Throw her to the wolves, is what I say.  If we’re caught…”
I slipped from the warmth of the bed.  Padded across the cold floor in my bare feet.  Peeked through a slit in the curtain.  “No, Seth.  True is our child.  She cannot help if she…”

“Keep her quiet then, wife.  If you have to cut out her tongue to do it, then for God’s sake, do it.  If the government finds out we have a reader-of-the-past among us, we’ll be banished.  And Mercy…”  He shook his head.  “Cutting her tongue out would be a kindness.”

I felt my eyes widen in the dark.  I wondered what it would be like to have no tongue; no cushion upon which to balance my words and my food.  Nothing to taste the wind.  Nothing to catch the blackened snowflakes as they reached for the earth. 

My father stopped talking to me that day.  And thereafter, my mother watched me intently.  She kept me within her sight always.  I no longer attended the school in the village with my siblings.  I was no longer permitted to play with my friends.  I became known as the village idiot. 

Day after day, I sat upon the bed and called back the man who called himself Daniel.  In my days of darkness, he was a cheery sort: Red cheeks and spectacles.  A full beard of white.  He was thin and tall like me and wore a blue shirt with a line of white things he called buttons.  He wore heavy-looking pants he called jeans.  They were nothing like the one-piece garment my father wore.

Daniel loved to laugh.  Daniel loved to tell me stories.

And I loved to listen.  What else was a girl of eight to do to occupy her mind when she was locked behind a woven cloth curtain; hidden away from the world like a poison?

Daniel called himself my great-great grandfather.  He said I had the gift.  The gift came every hundred years, he said, to one person in the family.  We were linked, he and I: he to the present, I to the past, bound together by an invisible link of time and space and genetics. 

I told him about the floods and the disasters.  I told him about the government takeover and the confiscation of land.  He scowled then, and shook his head.  “Is there no…technology in the future?”

“I do not understand, Daniel.  What is technology?  Is it like your buttons?”

He laughed. 

He told me the most wonderful stories.  Stories about things called books: words bound together between hard covers.  Stories about things called computers: words and pictures traveling invisibly through the air.  He told me about cell phones and refrigerators and television sets and cars.  He told me of a place called Disney. 

He painted wonderful pictures.  I nearly believed him.

One day, as my mother was foraging for greens in the forest, Daniel came to me.

“Daniel,” I whispered.  “Am I crazy?”

He shook his head.  “There is a stone, child.  Beneath your bed.”

He watched as I shifted the bed from the wall.  It was dusty there.  And, as Daniel had said, there was a large stone.

“Lift it,” he said, standing and coming to my side.

The stone was heavy.  “Can you not aid me?”

“I cannot.  My strength cannot cross time.  Only my spirit.”

Bit by bit, I moved that stubborn stone.  Underneath, there was a hole. 

“Reach inside,” Daniel said.

“Will there not be rodents?”  Nevertheless, I reached in my hand.  “There is something hidden here, Daniel!”

“Take it out.”

It was a box.  I picked it up, blew the dust from the cover.  Hands shaking, I opened the lid and withdrew something square and blue. 

“It’s a book of sorts, True.  A book of memories.  Open it.”

I folded back the outside cover and gasped.  There was an image—a picture—of Daniel.  Beneath the image there were strange marks. 

I pointed.  “I cannot understand these markings. What are they?”

“Those are words, True.”

“Tell me what they say.”

“Diary of Daniel Gray Smith.” 

“You tell me, Daniel, that you come from the yesterdays.  Are you certain you don’t come from the tomorrows?”

He nodded.  “I am certain.”

I sat upon the bed.  “Why are you here?”

“I’ve come to teach you to understand the words, True.  And then my mission will be complete.”
Every day, while my sisters were at school and my father was hunting our food and my mother was going about her chores, I sat with Daniel.  Bit by bit, I learned to read.

* * *

The day of the Counting, my father was in a foul mood.  He pointed to me.  For the first time in two years, he spoke to me.  “You’ll stay home.”
“We cannot leave her at home, Seth.”

“It is too dangerous, Mercy.”

“It’s more dangerous to leave her here alone.  They’ll suspect something.”

“We’ll tell her she died.”

“No.  She comes with us.”  With tears in her eyes, my mother slapped me again.  “Keep your mouth shut, child.”

For eight hours, we walked in silence.  When we reached town, I noticed something I didn’t notice at the last Counting: Words.  Words everywhere.

Words everywhere and no one to read them.

I ran my hand along the stone surface of a wall.  Fitted my fingers into the letter T.

“What is that, True?”  My sister asked.

“It’s a sentence.  It says...I read slowly.  Carefully.  Haltingly: Technology...destroyed... this... society.

I was seized roughly by the shoulders.  My father dragged me up to an officer.  “She has the gift.  She can read the markings.”

I was taken to the gallows immediately.  My family gathered at my feet.  Others began circling, watching and pointing.

The officer placed a rope about my neck. 
“Any last words?” he said.

I looked at my father.  “And what will you have me tell your great-great-grandchildren?”


For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, M. Hunter challenged me with "Every 100 years, someone in your family spontaneously develops the ability to see and speak with one other person in your family with the same ability, usually dead or not yet born. This time, it's you." and I challenged Brad MacDonald with "He slept until noon. When he woke, it was completely dark outside."

34 Comments:

At February 12, 2012 at 5:05 PM , Anonymous Leslicollins said...

WOW! Had me from the start!

 
At February 12, 2012 at 5:11 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth Young said...

POWERFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
At February 12, 2012 at 6:53 PM , Anonymous Kgwaite said...

Thanks, Elizabeth!

 
At February 12, 2012 at 6:53 PM , Anonymous Kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading. I wasn't sure what to do with this one.

 
At February 13, 2012 at 4:39 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

ANOTHER WOW!! This story was so vivid and so imaginative. It's so alive and powerful that I can see it developed into a short film.

"And for the best story for short films, the Oscar goes to ...."

 
At February 13, 2012 at 5:22 AM , Anonymous StoryDam said...

Wow! Very nice! What an awesome response to that prompt! Impressive...

 
At February 13, 2012 at 6:01 AM , Anonymous Tara R. said...

This was intense. A great response to your prompt.

 
At February 13, 2012 at 7:30 AM , Anonymous Steeven said...

Holy crap! I was not expecting that ending. Great tale!

 
At February 13, 2012 at 8:15 AM , Anonymous Carrie said...

wicked. Loved it, especially her comment at the end

 
At February 13, 2012 at 8:17 AM , Anonymous Annabelle said...

Whoa! This made me want to look around their society some more.

 
At February 13, 2012 at 10:34 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you, Annabelle.

 
At February 13, 2012 at 10:35 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Carrie. The last line came in the middle of writing this piece and I knew I had to use it.

 
At February 13, 2012 at 10:35 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you!

 
At February 13, 2012 at 10:35 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Tara.

 
At February 13, 2012 at 10:35 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you for reading!

 
At February 13, 2012 at 10:36 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I always love reading your comments. They make my morning.

 
At February 13, 2012 at 1:28 PM , Anonymous Leslicollins said...

Just noticed that while males have traditional names... females names are more, what... idealistic? Nice touch, Kel!

 
At February 13, 2012 at 11:22 PM , Anonymous Trifectawritingchallenge said...

This is really clever. It reminds me of Mara and Dann by Doris Lessing. Have you read it?

 
At February 14, 2012 at 4:20 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

No, I haven't. I'm be sure to put it on my list.

 
At February 14, 2012 at 6:15 PM , Anonymous Lance said...

love the snide/niting last line. This whole piece was well crafted. I read it over twice before even thinking of commenting.

your writing is just terrific

 
At February 14, 2012 at 6:43 PM , Anonymous Nick Rolynd said...

What a great idea! Very original. And I love how it played out. Thanks for linking-up (at Story Dam).

 
At February 14, 2012 at 7:17 PM , Anonymous FGHart said...

Fantastic! Well told. I was gripped by the story.

 
At February 16, 2012 at 7:16 PM , Anonymous Ray said...

Wow, very well told! Loved the way you weaved in the background info, rather than just dumping it all in at once. The dynamic of the family too--and what the family had been reduced too, was even sadder than what the world had become.

Very nice work!

 
At February 18, 2012 at 6:30 AM , Anonymous style maniac said...

Wait, this is it? No, no, no, you must give me more! Seriously, I think you should expand this into a novel. Really terrific.

 
At February 18, 2012 at 7:48 AM , Anonymous Allison said...

Captivating. I have no other words.

 
At February 18, 2012 at 5:09 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Allison!

 
At February 18, 2012 at 5:09 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading!

 
At February 18, 2012 at 5:09 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you for reading. This one was fun to write.

 
At February 18, 2012 at 5:09 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading!

 
At February 18, 2012 at 5:10 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading!

 
At February 18, 2012 at 5:10 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Lance!

 
At February 19, 2012 at 8:07 AM , Anonymous BalancingMama - Julie said...

Wow, this was riveting! Fantastic.

 
At March 19, 2012 at 10:19 AM , Anonymous Chasing Joy said...

Wow This is really really good. So creative. I hope you continue wiht this story. It would be a great book :-)

 
At March 19, 2012 at 10:38 AM , Anonymous Chasing Joy said...

Oh and I'm stopping by from #FlashbackFriday

 

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