I just spent the most amazing week with some of my best friends at a reunion retreat at Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California. It was a week of writing and laughter and being inspired and sharing stories over glasses of wine. On the first night, sparked by one of the writers being instructed not to get murdered while away, we decided to write a short anthology in which we all die while on the retreat. A little twisted, I know. But trust me, it was one of the best decisions we made all week.
The order in which we died was randomly selected. I died first. (That’s a heck of a lot of pressure, by the way.) I spent days trying to figure how I would die. And then halfway through the week, I got inspired by Djerassi itself–the art, the mist, the magical feeling of just being there–and I really kinda love what I wrote. So I thought I’d share it. Don’t worry, it’s short.
The girl had been waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting so long she thought her chance to be real, to be flesh and blood and laughter and thought, might never come. Big green eyes. Pert red lips. Bare feet perfect for sneaking around unheard. She’d tied her hair back to keep it out of her eyes, but wisps of it pulled free anyway to tickle her cheeks while she kept watch in the dark.
With the way the human girl liked to dream up fantastical—unbelievable—things, she worried she’d somehow be found out. That she wasn’t just ink and near-perfect lines tattooed onto skin. That she stole pieces of the human girl’s soul, siphoning a little bit more every day, making her stronger and the human girl less and less herself.
The other humans here knew her well enough to notice something wasn’t quite right.
“Susan looks tired,” they had said.
“Maybe she’s had too much wine.”
“Maybe the mist is messing with her head. It can do that you know. Make you go a little crazy.”
“The mist. That’s how we all die,” Susan had said.
Then they laughed and laughed. And they forgot they were ever even worried.
But they were right to suspect the mist. To fear it. The chilly shroud of dancing water droplets and slowly swirling air held a secret of the mountain. Creative souls could be taken here, and given to art to grant it life.
The girl held her hands behind her back, the look of innocence frozen on her face. The human girl never even questioned what she was hiding. Her fingers caressed the warm ball of energy nestled in her palms. It pulsed like a heart, and the girl could feel her own growing, growing, growing. Coming to life as she teased the last blue-white tendrils of soul from flesh. She peeled away from the human girl’s arm tangled in the bed sheets. She became whole and vibrant and alive—just as she was always meant to be—and the human girl’s breaths slowed, slowed, then ceased altogether.
No one would know until morning. By then the girl would be deep in the redwoods, discovering what other secrets the mountain had to offer.
Looking down at the human girl’s lifeless body, all she could do was laugh.
And it was the most exquisite sound she’d ever heard.