This year’s October fiction project is a short middle-grade horror novel. The working title is “Turning Leaves,” but that will probably change.
Here are the rules (which I am making up as I go along!):
- Write every day.
- Write about a thousand words every day.
- Write words the same day the characters would be writing them, for the most part (that is, Oct 1 words in the story = Oct 1 words in real life).
- Don’t plan ahead.
- Don’t quit.
I don’t have an outline or even a plan.
It’s been a while since I wrote middle-grade fiction. This should be fun.
2018 – Tales of the Normal – Twilight Zone-style surreal stories.
2019 – Crime du Jour – Short crime stories.
2023 – Turning Leaves – Middle-grade horror.
Turning Leaves (Working Title): October 30 - Waiting
October 30 – Lola
Today I skipped school. I waited for Jayla to come back for a LONG time and I didn’t want to be at school and not be there in the back kitchen of Stepdad Dave’s house, just in case.
I don’t think she’s coming back.
I felt like I was holding her hand for a whole day. I didn’t feel hunger or sleepiness or thirst or the need to go to the bathroom or even hot or cold. I knew that if I let go something bad would happen, so I stayed there and it was okay.
Her hand got hot, then cold, then sticky with sweat, then cold again. It grabbed onto mine tightly, then it would disappear for a while, then come back, then dig fingernails into my palm so hard I almost let go.
But I didn’t.
Ghost Cat stayed with me the whole time. My little dragon stayed with me sometimes, went away through the rest of the house sometimes, went to the public library (she can turn invisible!!!!) and chatted with Miss Emma.
I was the same as the little dragon when she was talking to Miss Emma, which was nice, because that meant that the dragon didn’t have to fly back and forth with messages, but weird, because it wasn’t like using a cell phone. If I want to talk to Miss Emma through my dragon, then I have to stop being Lola and be Witch, but also be Dragon.–I need to name my dragon. I don’t like calling her just Dragon but I don’t know how to name a dragon, either.
Ghost Cat is Ghost Cat, but my dragon isn’t Dragon. I tried asking her what she wanted for a name but she didn’t know either.
Anyway Miss Emma didn’t have any advice but it was nice to know that someone understood what it was like to do witch stuff. She said if I had a strong feeling that I should or should not do something, that’s what I should do.
“What if I have a strong feeling that I should or should not do something and I make a mistake?” I asked.
“You will make a mistake,” she said. “Many of them.”
She was sorting through some paper mail on her desk at the public library, opening them up with a metal letter opener, pulling the papers out, and reading through them. Most of them she dumped in the trash.
“What should I do if I make a mistake, though?” I asked.
“Just make it,” she said.
“That doesn’t make any sense!” I said.
She looked away from her paper mail, tilted her head to the side, and looked right into my invisible dragon eyes.
I don’t know if dragons can blush but I felt like I was blushing!
Miss Emma tilted her head the other direction. “What mistakes have you made lately? What have you done that makes anyone hate you?”
I wanted to hide but I knew if she could see me as an invisible dragon it wasn’t going to work to try hiding, unless I figured out some stuff REALLY quickly.
“Maybe none,” I said.
“Make the mistakes,” Miss Emma said. “I can’t tell you how many mistakes I’ve made. It would take too long and I want to sort my mail right now instead.”
“Tell me one mistake that you made,” I said.
Two red spots appeared on her forehead, between her eyebrows. “I thought… I thought that your parents didn’t need to be protected. They’re not connected to any of this. Why would they be in danger? I protected you. But not your parents. Do you hate me?”
My heart squeezed tight in my chest. It felt just like a real heart, full of pain.
Being a witch doesn’t mean I stop feeling like my heart is getting ripped out of my body. It doesn’t mean that I have no feelings and that I don’t hurt. I hurt all over, I hurt WORSE and LONGER.
I asked, “Where are my parents? Do I really have a sister or not? Can I save them?”
Miss Emma put down the letters she was sorting and held out her arms.
I flew my dragon into them and she hugged me. I was so scared both my dragon and I was shaking. I was in the back kitchen at Jayla’s house, and I was getting a hug from Miss Emma at the same time. It was strange but I
N E E D E D
“I don’t know,” she said. “I can only say, when you don’t know if anything you are doing can help, don’t give up. Be patient. Keep doing what you can. Hold on when you can hold on, and let go when you have to.”
I didn’t know what she meant but she only shook her head and went back to work.
She had enough magic to do the work for her, but she didn’t use it. I think she feels hurt and sad, too, and sorting through letters is how she is trying to stay patient.
Suddenly the feeling of having Jayla’s hand in mine disappeared. My dragon disappeared from the library and reappeared at Stepdad Dave’s house, and I couldn’t see Miss Emma anymore, only the back kitchen and the breakfast nook table.
Ghost Cat had disappeared, too.
For a long time, I sat at the breakfast nook table and tried to focus on her and Ghost Cat. I tried to make her (or at least Ghost Cat) come back so I could feel her. I was afraid she was dead, or erased, or something.
But I couldn’t feel her.
After a while I just cried and cried. Because I am scared for her, but also because I had to work HARD to be THERE and not let GO and it didn’t do any good ANYWAY.
I wanted to yell:
HOW COULD YOU LEAVE ME?!?
But I didn’t.
I stayed here and waited.
I’m still waiting.