International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: First
Power of Nothing - Chapter One
'To be still was impossible for her. They weren't living with a
ghost, didn't have disaster stalking'.
pushed four coins into the slot, and punched the numbers, thankful
for rain splattering the glass. One drop quivered, resisted, then
exactly when he answered, succumbed to the inevitable, casting off
to burst upon her shoe. Like that single splash, she needed courage
to tell her parents she wont be leaving London, will not be
there for the funeral, and please dont insist she come home.
Everything was falling
to pieces. Yet everything will change. Believing was naive. They told
her this, yet she could not dismiss the feeling something waited out
there. The feeling resided deep in her gut, locked tight. Jan wasnt
exactly sure what it meant, but she knew it existed. It made her rise
from her warm bed and take whatever light the day offered, get out and
keep moving. It comforted when nothing else could and no one else would.
She couldnt discard it in a moment of weakness, because once believing
is dead, how do you return to the source? The belief ransacked her parents
murdering reminders of inadequacy and self-doubt. Her fathers
words commanded as if she were wounded and needed encouragement to survive.
Her mother argued expertly and wielded doubt like a lash. Come home
before something worse happens. Jan knew no one. Where would she go
for help, alone with no money, no work? Come home and rest, youre
still in shock. Her mother knew a doctor. Remember her cousin April?
Drugs can really help now. She served the final dose. Guilt. Jan owed
it to Richards parents, show some sensitivity, dont be so
. . . so ungrateful.
Something detached from Jans skin and chilled to the bone. Winters
deep freeze minus 35 howling wind never felt like this. Meaning exhaled
into long filthy tunnels whirring exchanges, down thick black cables
spanning skies, satellites spinning across oceans, bitter cold, to the
house she hated, to their unwanted love hijacking her will. And she
was letting them do it.
Someone said the single word 'no, and she realized it was the
right word. Her word. She said it over and over, then louder, knowing
it was the one word they refused to hear. She didnt care if they
heard or not. They offered no ideas, no clues, no understanding, nor
a single word of explanation. They didnt care what she thought
or felt. All those useless words were only for themselves. They must
stop yelling over her life. Right now!
Jan hammered the receiver down, severing anxiety in mid-sentence. Creeping
silence ate into her anger, though anger never satisfied. It always
transformed into a paralyzing wad, confusing so badly. Their words and
manufactured kindness could be the ultimate solution. But their words
would never rescue this disaster, never allow space for anything essential.
Jan wearily escaped the phone box, sunk fists deep in coat pockets and
pitied her pounding heart. Barely able to focus, she begged the question.
Why? Remembering made her resent her sorry life. Yet blood flowed in
her veins, and by muscle on bone, legs still obeyed, dragging feet over
pavement. Not him. No, never again. His memory warmed to familiarity
and sulked to her outer edge. She wrapped it closer to sustain definition,
to keep the fear at bay.
She liked dull skies and driving rain. Hissing traffic sprayed grit
on her face. Remnants of comfort needed discipline. So when her nightmares
surfaced, she could hide the pain, squeeze tight, sure no tears would
come. It really didnt matter anyway, she decided. No one ever
Lines, squares, rectangles, complemented her rigid heart beating concrete
time. Each step measured meaningless progress, a nowhere perspective
overlapping the fluorescent London skyline. On her left, a singular
museum tower pointed optimistically, telling her there is more, always
more. By moving she will eventually arrive. There will be an end to
hardness in her heart and hardness under her feet. Believe. To not have
that sharp stone burn in her chest. Oh! To remember softness. She tried
but memory wasnt willing. She had no choice but to embrace dread
and keep fear at bay. To be still was impossible, so she walked as she
had for weeks, going nowhere.
Black columns streaked the evening sky, dull behind yellow billboard
halos. Two enormous lovers existed there, white blonde sharing some
frivolous delight. Flowers and perfume. They shopped perfectly with
garish lips. Too angelic in this cell. Deceit. Where was death in all
of this? Ordinary people passed on an ordinary street. She envied their
warm homes, their warm routines, their safe predictable lives. They
weren't living with a ghost, didn't have disaster stalking. To be still
created an opportunity for fear to slide onto her skin like the hand
of an unseen stranger. Desperate, irritating, needy. She needed to sever
the hand and destroy the nightmare forever.
Looking down, she saw leaves shredded under countless soles, ground
to angry black. Colored like her father's harping, demanding she come
home. She frightened him, she knew this. And he knew she could go further
than he imagined. Because he was afraid and he believed, he must force
her. But he was wrong, like on that strange day back in Canada. But
that was long before the dread, long before Richard. She trusted her
father back then. Until that day. The day he insisted she no longer
be afraid, everything changed.
How her brother protested,
she would hold them back, it was not for girls, called her excess baggage.
But she went anyway wearing her mothers too-big boots, two pairs
of wool socks faking the fit. It took hours of sulky silence between them
on the bench seat, truck headlights picking through the dark wood. She
fought to keep from nodding off. The rutted trail would send her to the
floor if she had not hung on. Finally, thankfully, morning tested a feeble
light over the trees, her fathers signal to turn off the key and
They fingered the big shells, counting each one, packing extras carefully.
Double-check whispers clouded delicate and clear over their rifles. Under
dark pinewood, long strides faded to shadow. She ran to catch up, forest
debris snapping, relieved to see her brother waiting. Until he angrily
hissed shut-up into her face. Her father told her. Roll
your foot from the outside, silently like a squaw. Pick up your feet,
Without realizing why, she was walking like that now, softly along London's
concrete trails. Squaw! She considered the irony, faced the evening rain,
gathered a remnant of amusement and put it beside the stone.
Memory again, on the wooded path when the power began. Pick up your
feet, her father whispered. And she did, creeping like an animal.
Slippery roots and leaves held her back. Her brother and father floated
ahead, silhouettes barely visible under skys faint blush. When he
said. We have one, she kneeled before the impression in the
mud. Something about the heart shape made her run her finger lightly over
the edge. In it she sensed a life from calf to grown animal, vibrant and
searching for survival. The gritty message brought a change in light;
wind brought the scent of pine. Her head filled with imagining. This moment
desired sweet osmosis with the world.
She didn't want to be hunting moose. Hated the idea. Her father scoffed
at her fragmented protests. He would show her how it was done. Then she
would understand it took skill, luck, patience. It wasn't easy being a
hunter, he said, to think like the animal, learn the lay of the land,
learn where the moose found shelter and plentiful food. He explained that
sometimes a whole season would pass without seeing one animal. Those years
were the most frustrating. Sometimes they encountered other hunters who
already reached their limit, out for one more bear, white tail, elk. Luck
gave them the chance. Shoot cleanly without pursuit. Painless. There was
little or no suffering. The animal didn't even know what hit it.
Today luck had found them, they had a big one and they were close. Her
father licked a finger and held it up to test the wind, then cast it sharply
ahead. She held her breath and waited for silent imperfections. Yes, she
could hear soft rustling, leaves stripped from a limb. Upwind. It was
moving slowly, browsing, unaware.
He signaled her brother and motioned in turn for her to follow. She placed
her feet exactly after her brother, pretending to be invisible. It was
her fathers shot. Her brother would be the backup in case he missed,
or wounded. Then the moose would flee. It would be a wide target with
a clear shot to the side.
Her father disappeared behind a cluster of trees, and she crouched behind
her brother, kneeling and hunched intensely over his rifle. Sun warmed
her back but she fought off shivers and dared not move. Her father once
told her, tension would foil the shot. But she did not repeat it. Obedient
in trust, Jan never wanted to know. Not now, not ever.
Her body flinched before the sharp crack wrenched her thoughts. Echo ricocheted
down the valley.
Antlers exploded from the thicket. The raging animal plunged directly
for them, hurling mud and leaves and spinning shards in every direction.
Hideous milliseconds passed like an hour. Her brother lurched back. Each
particle of time she believed he would lift the rifle and take aim, he
tried, fumbled, frozetoo lateshe saw his body holding the
shape of paralyzed fear, and when she rose up, knew he could not shoot
in time. Standing even with the moose, she looked deep, a gleaming eye
telling her, have faith, know more than deathand swerve and pass
like she was just another sapling or stump or willow branch. Pounding,
snorting, massive blur to her rightthenone dry leaf floated
gently upon the grass.
She glanced down at her brother clenching his rifle, shoulders at his
ears, eyes circled in glassy, colorless shock. He swiveled slowly around
to question her, offering his doubt. She would not accept it. Her sense
of peace and a cool wind filled the void.
Her father came running and halted suddenly, hesitating when he saw her
brother. Their haunted stares penetrated the hole where the moose had
plunged through and crashed over the distant ridge. Deadfall snapped like
returning gunfire, and they stared until silence reclaimed dominion. A
bird flew high overhead twittering sweetly. She smiled at her father,
sure that every simple thing in the universe sang in perfect harmony.
But it wasnt to last, because her father had come between them now,
and was standing before her, pointing the rifle directly at her face.
At first she didnt understand, until she saw his shaking hands,
and his quivering anger. When he realized she saw his fear, he lowered
the rifle and grabbed the front of her coat instead. Then the yelling
It was the most stupid ridiculous thing anyone could ever do. Waving
your arms like that, at a charging moose? Its insane. Why did you
do such a thing? You were lucky it didn't trample him.
Quavering words pounded his anger nail by nail. You killed our chance!
It couldve killed him! I could . . . why did you do such a fucking
stupid THING!?! Tell me! WHY?
His words splattered. She closed her eyes, not wanting to see his face.
To explain would be folly. He would never, never understand. She had never
waved her arms, she simply stood, and had answered, knew she would, even
before her brother saw the animal. She knew it back when she touched the
mark in the mud. Right then it simply asked and she simply answeredyes.
Her father believed she caused her brothers failure. It wasn't that
her brother couldnt even raise the rifle, that he wasn't even ready.
No. She must have done something to stop him. What? Why did she not say
Her brother watched his accusations open-mouthed, but never said otherwise,
never defended her at all. He just repeated it was a mistake to bring
her along in the first place.
The incident was never mentioned again. But she could always sense resentment
in the way her brother avoided her, in the way her father looked at her.
Always with lingering, dark, brooding contemptuous anger. And it never
occurred to anyone that she had simply saved her brothers life.
But all that was long ago. Walking right now with a heart of stone, with
fate pointing a boney finger from the shadows of a London back street,
nothing compares to this.
The author ROBBIN YAGER has now published The Power of Nothing, and has
a website for the novel at
Click on cover to take you to Amazon.com and to buy this book.
Fiction in Dreamscapes
First Chapters (no longer updated)
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.