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Things That Fall Between

People are going missing in Forgotten, West Virginia.

By Ally NorthPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 25 min read
Runner-Up in The Runaway Train Challenge
26
Things That Fall Between
Photo by Derek Story on Unsplash

“CEO of Goliath Energy, the company credited with the invention of synthetic coal, was quoted as saying 'Food, heat, light…access to energy is a basic human right.' New reports show Goliath Energy is now worth over $900 million, making it the wealthiest corporation in the world.” —Charleston Herald, June, 1965

⌬⌬⌬

Wake up, Mommy.

Every morning, Alice’s whisper is warm in my ear. Every morning, her raspberry shampoo is the first thing I smell. And every morning, for a fleeting, sleep-drunk moment, I’m whole.

Then, I remember.

By the time I open my eyes, the edges of the memory are already fading like a dream. Every morning, I lose her again. She slips through my grasp like silk.

This is different, though. It isn’t Alice—it’s the boy. Davy Hendricks. Shaking me like he’s panning for gold.

“They poked us with somethin’,” he's saying, and he's rubbing the back of his neck. “Made us sleep, I think.” His walkie talkie is still clipped to the pocket of his worn overalls.

I sit up slowly and my head feels like a fishbowl, sloshing and heavy. The back of my skull is throbbing, a deep, percussive pain. Worse than the Sunday morning hangovers at Pembroke. Worse than the every morning hangovers after Alice.

Davy steps back, regarding me. “If you’re fixin’ to be sick, there’s drains in the floor." He points.

As if on cue my stomach roils and then I’m on all fours, retching at the strange, ribbed ground. Nothing comes up. I can’t remember the last time I ate. I can’t remember much of anything.

I settle back on my high heels. Look around. My satchel is crumpled in the corner and I scramble to it, panicking. It’s all still there. Wallet, keys to the company car. Dictaphone. It’s second nature to pull it out and press record. There’s something calming about its familiar whir.

The edges of the room are stained with a strange residue. Foul-smelling and black. Like someone's scrubbed the walls and floors but couldn't be bothered with the corners.

“Where are we?” I ask, but I’m starting to think I know.

“Deep shit,” Davy says, then, “’scuse the cuss, it’s just my Pappy says cussin’ is better than panickin’ if you gotta choose.”

The room is small. Rectangular. Just a single light in the metal ceiling, dull and yellow. The aluminum walls give the illusion that we’re sitting in an oven, but the floor is ribbed vinyl, like a conveyor belt. Like we’re waiting to be rung up at the supermarket.

“But—where?” I ask again, and this time I can hear the panic in my voice because I do know.

The floor is rumbling, vibrating beneath us. We’re moving. Fast. Every now and then the screech of grating metal pierces the tense air like a lance.

“We’re on the train,” Davy says, and I can feel my heartbeat in my stomach. “The train that took the others.”

⌬⌬⌬

The drive from Charleston was just under two hours. Windows down, Petula Clark singing through the Cadillac’s speakers.

I’d been multitasking—driving and recording soundbites when inspiration hit, trying to get a head start. Set the scene.

“As I wind my way up the serpentine roads of West Virginia, it’s easy to believe the mythology—that a dancing giant unpinned her evergreen cloak and let it fall to the earth in lush velvet piles, forming the hills and hollows of Appalachia. The air itself is heady with a titillating sense of—fuck.”

I turned the dictaphone off. Sighed. The Herald wanted a portrait of hope, not—whatever that had been. I needed salt of the earth, not pseudo-literary pretension.

Two years earlier the mines had shut down when Goliath Energy discovered a way to produce synthetic coal instantly. No mining, no middle man. Just heat, compressed organic material and boom. Coal. And now, Goliath had just debuted a high-speed railway to mass produce their coal from coast to coast.

“To save face,” I’d said to John when he’d given me the assignment.

“Naturally,” he’d said, “but that’s not the angle. The railway is bringing jobs back to coal country.”

And that, he'd told me, was the story I was after. Hard-working Americans who’d lost their jobs in the shutdown, now beginning to rise from the ashes on trembling knees.

I reached for the mic again. “Bootstraps. Grit. Tenacity.”

Petula kept right on singing.

The lights are much brighter there, you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares…

I lifted the mic. “Irony of a song about bright lights solving troubles becoming popular during an energy crisis.”

Just then the radio began sputtering; airy bursts of static punctuating the music. The mountains were getting in the way. Outside, a low fog was curling around their green ankles like a cat.

I switched off the radio and drove the rest of the way in silence.

It was late afternoon when I pulled into town.

“I’m sending you down to coal country," John had said, "to a town called Forgotten." He'd chuckled and mumbled something about eccentric mountain folk.

John had lied. This wasn’t a town. It was a single road, unpaved and riddled with ruts big enough to swim in if the clouds took mercy and decided to rain.

Faded clapboard buildings leaned this way and that, a drooping assortment of boarded windows and crumbling roofs like clutter awaiting collection day by the side of the road.

I parked outside of Amos’ General Store, the only building with signs of life. John said there were rooms for let on the upper floor.

There was a group of children standing on the store’s porch, an older girl and three little ones. A boy no more than three was climbing up the porch’s railing. Towheaded waifs, all of them, straight off the pages of a Dickens novel. I reached for the dictaphone.

“Children left to fend for themselves. A girl of maybe twelve, a baby on her hip and a toddler tugging at her skirt. Siblings, perhaps, a little clan of—”

The girl turned and it was like an electric shock. Dirty blonde hair and freckles. Ears just a tad too big. She looked just like Alice. Or rather, what Alice might’ve looked like if she’d had more birthdays.

Mother Haunted By Daughter’s Ghost.

I looked down when I passed her on my way into the store.

Once I was settled in I wandered back downstairs at the behest of Amos Billings—limping, grizzled, warm—who’d insisted that dinners were included with the room.

The main floor was a cluttered collection of trinkets and wares, stacked high and teetering, cloaked in dust. Everything smelled like paper and time.

As I meandered, I glimpsed a young boy in overalls watching me from behind a crooked chimney of books. Brown skin and big eyes. I smiled, but he ducked back behind the books.

Dinner was grits and hash. I sat at the counter, poking at my plate—chipped Pfaltgraff, robin’s egg blue, knife-scratched etchings of a thousand diners before me—and asking Amos how the invention of synthetic coal had affected Forgotten. I’d set my satchel at my feet, dictaphone whirring within, microphone just barely peeking out.

“Say it affected us somethin’ awful. Ain’t much in the way of opportunity round here, if you can believe.”

I looked up in time to catch the twinkle in his eye. Limping, grizzled, warm, teasing.

“Without the mines, things got mighty grim.”

“But Goliath Energy has a West Virginia sector nearby—the new train comes right through here, doesn’t it?”

He nodded. “Just the other side of the holler. Been terrible for huntin’.”

“Surely there are jobs for displaced miners within the synthetic industry? Goliath even announced they’d give priority to—"

Amos’s laugh was a belly rumbling roar. “Oh, they said aplenty. Thing of it is, there ain’t no miners left,” he said. “Packed up and left town, the lot of ‘em. Not just here, neither—it's the same in every coal town here to Wyomin'. Everyone's gone. Fixin’ to do the same myself, just can’t quite figure where to go.”

Later, I stepped out onto the porch in desperate hope of a cool breeze. I’d have to drive to a larger town the following day. Find a working phone and ring the Herald. Let John know he’d sent me to a ghost town. Skeletal. Buildings like sun-bleached bones. If I was going to write a portrait of hope, I wouldn’t find it here.

“They didn’t move away.”

The voice nearly startled me off my feet. It was the boy, the one in overalls, sitting in the porch’s shadows.

“Who didn’t move away?” I asked. My pulse was still skipping.

“The miners.” He stood and walked closer. “Amos thinks they moved, but they didn’t. They disappeared. Like, poof.”

I didn’t quite know what to say.

“My Pappy was one of ‘em and he wouldn’t’ve moved without me, so.” He shrugged. “Since you’re recordin’ it all in your voicebox thing, I thought you oughta know.”

With that, he turned and disappeared down the dirt road, bathed purple in the twilight.

⌬⌬⌬

Davy's perched on my shoulders.

“The ceiling’s funny,” he's saying, slipping his little fingers into the right angle where the side of the car meets the top. “Like there’s a spring or somethin'.”

“Could it be a door?” I’m swaying, struggling to keep him upright.

“Can’t tell, it won’t budge.”

I set him down and swipe at my dripping forehead. The only ventilation is a small metal fan in the front wall, and it’s doing jack shit.

We’d spent a good ten minutes trying to decide if pulling the fan from the wall would accomplish anything. In the end we’d agreed it wasn’t worth risking our fingers in the spinning blades.

We’d checked the walls for seams, rivets, anything—but there’s nothing. We’d tried tearing up the floor with our bare fingers but all that had gotten us was bloody nail beds.

The ceiling was our last hope.

“We’ll try again in a minute,” I say, biting my cheek so I can swallow the saliva. I’ve never been this thirsty before.

There’s a wrinkle in Davy’s brow. It’s been there since he woke me.

“It’s okay,” I tell him, forcing a smile. “We’re going to be just fine.”

For someone whose made a career of truth-telling, I’m an excellent liar.

⌬⌬⌬

I said goodbye to Amos and dragged my suitcase back down to the Cadillac the following morning. The towheaded children were out again, wearing the same clothes as the day before, tossing rocks into the ruts in the road.

I closed the trunk and leaned back against it, clutching my satchel.

I decided I should at least drive the length of the road before I left. Poke around the old mine. See what I found.

I’d given up everything to be one of the Herald’s top journalists. No easy feat when every man in the office is looking at you like you got lost on your way to the kitchen. The last thing I wanted to do was drive back to Charleston with my tail between my legs. Have John lose the rest of his dwindling faith in me.

He'd called me into his office a week ago. Ten months had gone by since I’d written my last article. Ten months since Alice.

“What’s going on, Iris?” He’d shot me a hard look that softened immediately. Cold butter hitting a warm pan. “You look like shit.”

“I haven’t been sleeping.” A lie. I’d been doing nothing but.

“How’s Peter?”

My eyes had snapped to his. “Fine.” No clue. “He’s fine.”

Peter had moved out three weeks earlier. Alice had been our glue. And in his absence the bottles and the clutter and the grief had begun to grow throughout the empty house like vines. Thick, curling tendrils that wrapped themselves around the columns and banisters and bedposts. I knew they would choke the life from me if I let them.

There were days I wanted to let them.

“I’m not going to let you tank your career,” John had said softly. Then, importantly, “Synthetic coal, Iris! It’s a brand new day, and you’re going to ring it in with a shiny new story.”

That night I’d laid awake, playing with titles in my head.

Modern Day Mining.

Empty Mines, Full Hearts.

I was losing my touch. John was right, I needed to get back in the saddle.

And it was hardly my fault that the story didn’t exist. Someone in research had dropped the ball—they should’ve known Forgotten’s population had evaporated like a summer rain.

"All done with your trip?"

I shielded the sun with my hand. The boy in overalls again. Watching me from a nearby tree.

"All done," I smiled.

Then, I had a thought.

The boy believed the miners had disappeared. I'd once turned a study on a utopian mouse society into a six-page article on the projected decline of modern civilization. I could turn a child's boogeyman story into something that would appease John, at the very least.

Paranormal Poverty: Small Town Fears Fill In The Spaces Left Behind.

I crossed the bumpy road and stood beneath his tree.

"What's your name?"

"Davy Gideon Hendricks," he said.

"Mine is Iris Ryder, and I'm a journalist," I said. "Do you know what that means?"

"Means you go round askin' questions."

I nodded. "And I have a few for you."

⌬⌬⌬

Davy keeps throwing up. At first I think it’s the fear, but soon I realize it’s the heat.

“I’m sorry,” he says every time, and the first few times I said No, I’m sorry, I don't know what to do and I’m so sorry.

This time I just shake my head and squeeze his shoulder. Talking takes energy so I’ve begun to save my words.

The heat and the stench are unbearable. I’ve long torn off my blazer and I’m considering ripping the sleeves of my blouse from their seams.

The train is barreling down the track, and all the while the angry eye of the summer sun is keeping us in its glare. Our crate is unforgiving. Greedy, the way it's soaking up the heat—broiling, heavy, sticking in my lungs—and offering nothing in exchange.

I've just realized the fan isn't ventilation at all. It's spinning the wrong way. It's blowing something in. Something subtle and sweet-smelling that makes my head go watery if I breathe deeply enough.

The car grows hotter still, and I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t an oven after all.

⌬⌬⌬

I followed Davy to an abandoned hunting hide in the hollow just outside Forgotten.

The sun still poked at us from between the towering firs and maples, and the air was humid enough to drink. Cicadas screamed from the trees in furious unison while a single black crow ca-cawed from the hobblebush.

The hide was barely a shed on sticks, and I realized with alarm that Davy had been living there.

There was a small bookshelf in one corner and a makeshift table in the other—just a board on a barrel. A stained Scout roll was laid out on the floor beside a rusty lantern, weeks of dried candlewax oozing from its sides.

“Mind if I record the interview?” I asked, setting the dictaphone on the bookshelf.

He shook his head. “Like a radio show?”

“Like two friends. A conversation.”

He smiled, bit off a piece of stale jerky he’d pulled from his pocket and turned to fiddle with some wires on the table.

“Did you live here with your father?”

He giggled without turning. “We lived in a house, silly.” He shrugged. “Only came here ‘cause the house got took when Pappy went missin’.”

“But—who? Who took—?”

“The state, I think. Couldn’t pay on it, so.” Another shrug. “Like my Pap says, bills is bills.”

“But you’re—” a child, I wanted to say. Wanted to scream.

I glanced at the dictaphone.

Parentless Youth Cast Out To Wander In The Woods So State Could Foreclose His Father’s House.

My lips were twitching with sound bites.

Hollow cheeks, constellations of chigger bites on his arms. His smile is not one of happiness, but rather, a relentless resilience.

Fuck the Herald’s portrait of hope.

I was getting angrier by the second and I didn’t want to scare him. I went over to his bookshelf.

“Are you reading this?” I held up the battered book on top. Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla.

He nodded, preoccupied with feeding a wire into his walkie talkie, and another into a battery box.

“How old are you?”

“Ten and one half.” He grinned. “My Pap’s fixin’ to buy me a transistor for my birthday come spring,” he bit off a piece of jerky and struggled to chew it, “you heard of transistors?”

I nodded and pointed at the table behind him. “You’ve quite an interest in technology, huh?” It was like an autopsy slab for electronics.

A short shrug. “My Pap says I got curiosity like some folks got cancer. Keeps spreadin’.”

The journalist in me saw an opening. “Your dad must miss you. Where do you think he is?”

“Think the Nightmen took him to the train.” He was touching the wires together with surgical precision.

“Nightmen?”

“They wear black jumpsuits and come when it’s dark.”

The Nightmen. It sounded like a child’s fever dream and I didn’t want to press. Make him think I was mocking him. Experience had taught me that the best stories were pulled slowly. A careful unraveling.

I thought I'd have more time. I wasn't due back in Charleston for days.

I couldn't have known.

Suddenly there was a spark. The walkie talkie burst to life with a static sputter.

“You there, Pappy?” Davy pressed his whole mouth against the walkie talkie when he spoke. “Come in, Pappy, do you roger?” He glanced at me. “I do it just in case. My Pap’s got the other one. Used to take it into the mine with him.”

I nodded.

If A Boy Calls In The Forest, Does Anybody Hear?

Davy turned back to the table and started pulling the guts from a small radio. I wondered if his brain ever slowed down.

“You think someone could invent a telephone to call God?”

The question caught me off guard and I didn’t answer right away.

He kept talking. “I think dead folk have the most to say out of everybody. Who would you talk to if you called heaven?”

My heart twisted in my chest, veins and ventricles tangling. “I don’t believe in heaven.”

That got his attention. He turned, his big eyes narrowed.

“You a Satanist? My Pap said there’s Satanists live in the holler near the crick who stole our neighbor’s goat Tabitha to dance with her blood, but day after Tabitha got stole Mrs. Chapman from church brought goat stew to the Baptist potluck and the Chapmans had no goats so I think we was eatin’ Tabitha and there’s no Satanists near the crick after all.”

“Oh. No, I’m, um. I’m not a Satanist.”

“Wouldn’t bother me if you was,” he said. “Folks always think things are either good or evil, but I think there’s a lot of things that fall between.”

⌬⌬⌬

In a moment of panicked rage I tell Davy to stand back and I stuff my left high heel into the slicing mouth of the fan. It was an impulse, pointless, and I’m fully expecting my shoe to turn to useless ribbons but suddenly there’s an awful clunking, followed by a whine, and then the blades stop spinning.

We pull at the fan like mad. Like hamsters biting the bars of a cage. We manage to loosen the silver rim, but in the end all we manage to do is pull a few wires free before collapsing to the floor.

“We gonna die?” Davy doesn’t even sound afraid when he asks. He sounds tired.

I almost say no. But. “We might.”

“Why?” Davy looks at me. “Why they stealin’ people and killin’ them on the train?”

I shake my head. I don’t know. I tip my head back against the wall. Look up at the strands of wire. Blue, red, green.

“The wires,” I say. “Davy—the wires! Can you—?” I nudge my chin at the walkie talkie.

He can, he says. And he does.

“Mayday, mayday, mayday,” he’s shouting into the receiver as soon as the white noise sputters to life, “this is Davy Hendricks of Forgotten, West Virginia and me and Mrs. Iris Ryder the Journalist Lady From the City are trapped on a train and it feels like we’re burnin’, so please come save us if you hear this, we’re at—” He stops. Looks at me. “How do I say where we’re at?”

I take the walkie talkie. “We’re being held against our will in a train car owned by Goliath Energy. I have reason to believe there have been many others before us.”

The heat is slowing me down, making my thoughts come in slow motion, like my brain’s been pickled in molasses.

The most important story I’ve ever covered, and I would die before I could tell it.

Unless—

I crawl to the dictaphone and hold the speaker against the walkie talkie.

Then, I press play.

When it’s over, and all my soundbites are drifting somewhere along the radio waves, I sink to the floor.

“Will someone hear it in time?” Davy asks.

I don’t say that the real question is if someone will hear it at all.

⌬⌬⌬

Interviewing Davy became Getting To Know Davy, and the day began to pass us by.

Coal Country Orphan: An Anthropological Essay.

He had a milk crate full of canned foods he'd salvaged from his father's pantry before he'd left. I watched him saw into the lid of a can of beans with a hunting knife.

"You want some?" He asked, licking brown juice from the blade.

"Actually, it's getting late," I said, sighing at the long shadows. "Tell you what? Walk me back to Amos' and dinner's on me."

His eyes lit up. "You mean it?"

"Of course I do, you can tell me about Tesla's inventions on the way."

What I didn't tell him was that I'd seen maggots in his can of beans. I also didn't tell him I planned to pay in advance and rent him a room at Amos' indefinitely. I could check in on him from time to time.

Journalist Gets Too Involved With Subject.

The sun had slipped behind the distant hills by the time we reached town. Streaks of orange and lilac lined the sky like strata, while black clouds curled at the horizon like smoke.

We stopped, side by side, and looked.

"Tsssss," Davy hissed, eyes on the spot where the sun had disappeared. "Hear that sizzle." He giggled, and the sound shook something loose in my chest.

I wanted to ask are you okay? I wanted to ask how long have you been on your own? Because I suspected it had been quite some time.

I also wanted to ask where is your mother?

But I didn't get the chance to ask any of those things, because when we turned around a masked man in a black jumpsuit was standing there.

He stepped toward us.

The shock was thick and heavy, pinning me in place.

"Run!" Davy shouted.

I tried.

Everything went black.

⌬⌬⌬

I gather enough strength to lift Davy one last time. One last attempt to trigger the spring of the possible door above.

“It’s too hot,” he says, “the ceiling…” His voice sounds like someone having a stroke, all slurred and soft.

Maybe he faints, or maybe I do, because next I know we’re both on the floor.

He holds up his hands and the little pads of his fingers are burned. Pink and raw where they should’ve been brown.

“I’m so sorry,” I say, or maybe I just think it.

That little furrow is back in his brow. He pulls his overall straps away from his skin and I realize it’s the metal clasps. They’ve left marks on his chest like a brand.

“I’ll try again,” he says, struggling to stand, and I swallow a sob that quenches nothing.

“No,” I say softly. “Rest now. We’ll try again soon.”

⌬⌬⌬

A mother knows her child. And when that child is sick, the mother is the first to know.

That’s what one of the grief books had said, given to me as a gift only to be skimmed and set aside.

I hadn’t known Alice was sick.

It was her nanny Odette who’d first recognized the signs. I’d spent that January covering the Kennedy inauguration. I'd written an entire article on his speech.

Ask not what your country can do for youask what you can do for your country.

It had launched my career, and every other successful piece that followed.

The 60s: Decade of Revolution?

Vietnam And The Culture of Peace.

The Decline Of The Suburban Housewife.

And all the while, my daughter was dying.

On that last awful day, her frail little body barely a wrinkle in her bed, it was Odette she cried out for. It was Odette’s hand she clutched as she drew a final, papery gasp.

I hadn’t known Alice was sick. I hadn’t known Alice.

The first thing I felt was a searing pain, a white hot poker stabbed straight through my rib cage.

But when Odette let out a wail and I saw her cheeks stained with tears, all I felt was rage.

I screamed for her to leave. To pack her things and get out.

She was gone before her tears had dried.

Later, sitting beside my daughter’s lifeless body, I realized something.

Odette was the only one who'd truly known Alice, and when she left—aching, grieving, confused—she’d taken every memory of my daughter with her.

Woman’s Child Chooses Someone Else’s Arms To Die In.

It was my worst secret.

⌬⌬⌬

We're sprawled on the floor of the train like snow angels. Except—what's the opposite of a snow angel? Fire angel? We're sprawled like fire angels.

I don't tell Davy, but I've figured out why there’s a spring door in the ceiling. Why there are drains in the conveyor belt floor. Why it’s a conveyor belt to begin with.

Heat and pressure and organic material. Boom. Coal.

Ask not what your country can do for you.

After Alice, the thing I wondered about most was the darkness. If it was like being swallowed by a great black hole of nothingness. If she was scared when it all went black.

“My daughter,” I whisper, and the effort splits my lower lip in half.

Davy rolls his head to look me in the eye.

“If I could call heaven, I’d talk to my daughter.”

His eyes go wide, then soft. He’s quiet for a moment. Then, “Can I tell you somethin’?”

I try to nod. I think my hair is beginning to stick to the melting vinyl. The scorching air is all watery and there’s a ringing in my ears growing louder and louder.

“I wish my Pappy was here." There are tears spilling over, heavy droplets. It’s second nature to reach out and swipe his cheek with my thumb. His little face is so hot. His eyes keep rolling back.

It won’t be much longer.

"Can I tell you something?" I don't wait for him to answer. "I'm scared too."

A moment later I feel his hand slip into mine. He holds tight.

I picture a long table in a cool room somewhere, men in suits with sleek, rimmed glasses and folded hands, nodding over the numbers. A necessary evil, I imagine them saying. Yes, there will be loss of life, but think of all the good that will come of it!

I wonder if they were proud of themselves. If they clapped one another on the back. Two birds with a single stone—cull the chaff and jumpstart the nation.

Ask what you can do for your country.

Kennedy had been speaking specifically to the Davy Hendricks of America when he’d said that, though I was only understanding it now. He’d been addressing Forgotten, and every other decaying town from sea to shining sea. The inner cities. The trailer parks. The tired, the poor. The huddled masses.

I swallow and end up choking on arid air. On my own dry throat. My throat that would never not be dry again.

Panic is strange. It surges in like a tidal tide, sweeping everything else away.

How much coal does a human body yield? Enough to power a lightbulb? A television?

Humans are mostly water. I’d heard that once. It must take a lot of bodies to power a country.

Davy’s gone still and silent. I want to check on him but I can’t see anymore—the heat and the chemicals the fan had been wafting in have done something to my eyes—so instead I squeeze his hand as hard as I can. It’s barely a flinch.

The train car shudders.

There's an ear-piercing grate—metal against metal. The spring door.

A scream—maybe mine.

A question answered: when the moment comes—blinding, brilliant, bright—it isn't dark at all.

Young Boy And Renowned Journalist Disappear.

They Only Search For The Journalist.

Short Story
26

About the Creator

Ally North

NYC/Connecticut. I have degrees in Creative Writing and Anthropology; I write a lot of fantasy and spec fiction as well as the occasional stage play. When I'm not writing I'm eating candy and reading about shark attacks and plane crashes.

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

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    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (20)

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  • Kendra Maryaabout a year ago

    I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. Your descriptions are so vivid.

  • Gerald Holmes2 years ago

    What a truly beautiful piece of writing. Everything about it is so well done. Your characters come to life and fill the page.

  • Jay Williams2 years ago

    This is unbelievably good. Amazing work. A dark and twisty story that has you hooked from the very start. The way you write really paints a picture. Standing ovation to you, ma'am.

  • Caroline Jane2 years ago

    This grabs and does not let go. Awesome.

  • EJ Ferguson2 years ago

    Wow, this just pulls you right in! Gave me chills, it's fantastic.

  • C. H. Richard2 years ago

    This story was phenomenal! I kept getting interrupted while I was reading and kept coming back to finish as I didn't want to miss any of it. Great description of Appalachia and also of a woman in grief! So well done ❤️

  • Morgana Miller2 years ago

    This is outstanding. The tension is subtle, yet gripping. The theme of human labor (at least as I read it) is on-the-nose without being in-your-face, and the backstory of Alice and Odette adds a layer of dimension which makes the main narrative even more impactful. Backstory in short stories can sometimes feel inconsequential or derailing (my brain will not stop with the train puns I stfg), but here it was nothing but additive and enhancing. I'd really, really like to see this one win.

  • Babs Iverson2 years ago

    Magnificently written. Reminds me the movie Soylant Green. Hearted & subscribed.

  • This one hurt to read. Very well done.

  • Cathy holmes2 years ago

    Excellent take on the challenge. A contender for sure.

  • Call Me Les2 years ago

    Very well written! I love the world building and prose. You've really captured the essence of Coal Country in this piece, the characters and dialect, all exceptionally well put together.

  • Elizabeth Diehl2 years ago

    Such an insightful piece! Somehow both quiet and riveting at the same time!

  • Kat Thorne2 years ago

    What a powerful piece! Great job

  • Madoka Mori2 years ago

    A truly fantastic piece. I loved it from start to finish.

  • Kevin Rolly2 years ago

    This is exceptional. One of the best entries in this challenge. It is mature and riveting with beautiful nuance and descriptions that are unforced and ring true. The emotions, shifts in thought and expressions have an honesty rarely seen on this site. You write with a confidence that is well earned and if this doesn't win or place, then I will be shocked. Regardless of what happens with the challenge, congratulations on a truly wonderful work that can stand alongside the greats.

  • Whoaaaaa. That was phenomenal! Brilliance at it's finest! I loved this so much. All the best for the challenge!

  • Jordan Twiss2 years ago

    This is absolutely a contender. The way you unfold the story and peel back the layers is masterful. Fantastic work!

  • Absolutely brilliant read, thank you for taking us there and you have another subscription

  • C M Prosso2 years ago

    This is an incredible read. So much packed into the word count - absolutely masterful. Easter eggs all over the place and suspenseful until the very end. Brava!

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