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Slice of Life

[Author's note: I really don't like explaining a story prior to the readers reading it, much preferring talking about it after the readers have formed their own opinions. And to that end, I'll put my take on the story as the first comment.]

She was a formless entity hovering on the boundary of existence and non-existence, flickering in and out of people’s vision throughout the night. Those who saw her were instantly captivated by her beauty. In an age where elegance has been replaced by lust--elegance’s far older yet more pedestrian sister--she tickled their fancy and intrigued them instead of shamelessly tugging at their crotches.

That she spoke to no one and no one ever saw her standing still only further added to the mystery. Who is she? The party-goers wondered all night long as she quickly entered and left the periphery of their vision, causing them to pause ever so slightly to be noticed by their conversation partners.

“Will, a moment of your time,” Henry called out, approaching rapidly from behind, making his way through the mass of people chit-chatting with each other.

William turned around and his friend grabbed him by the elbow. “Come, quickly,” Henry said under his breath.

“Wha–-?” William stumbled as he followed Henry, nearly spilling his drink on a woman who wore a dress meant for a petite woman with far less appetite. “Sorry!” He said hurriedly to her, quickly turning his face to avoid her evil glare.

Henry pulled his friend out of the crowd and away from the main population of the party. They stood at one of the corners of the mansion where the only lighting available was the one provided by the full moon above. William looked up at the moon–-it seemed to hang so low.

“Will–-Will-–you there?” Henry snapped his fingers several times in front of his friend’s face.

“Yes, yes, I’m here-–what is the matter with you tonight?” William answered, annoyed by his friend’s antics.

“Who–the girl–who is she? Tell me, tell me,” Henry urged.

“What girl?”

Henry smacked his own face in despair. “Not again,” he said, his eyes peeking from behind his hand, glaring at William.

William was at a loss but he quickly recovered. “Oh no ... ! I’ve done it again, haven’t I?” His face drooped with resignation.

“Will, how many times have I told you ... you can’t bring a dead woman into these parties?!” Henry hissed at his friend. “You MUST control this ability of yours!”

William sighed. “I think I know how it happened,” he said. “Is she the one wearing the white dress, a gold brooch of some sort, and her hair tied-up into a bun?”

“Yes, that’s her. Where is she from?”

“I think I plucked her from one of Gatsby’s parties.”

“Gatsby’s–parties? Gatsby–as in the book?”

“Yes, The Great Gatsby. I know you have no love for American literature, but I think–-”

Henry’s face contorted as he looked at his friend in disbelief. “Stop,” he said, interrupting his friend’s drunken speech. “You’re drunk, you do know that? And you’re not making any fucking sense, and your power is out of control. We’re going back to my place and we’re going to get rid of this ... Gatsby ... woman of yours,” Henry said, thoroughly fed-up with his friend. “Now!”

They rushed-off to the side of the house where no one could see them and hurried to Henry’s car. He opened the door to the driver’s side and got in behind the steering wheel while William struggled to enter the car from the other side. Impatient, Henry yanked his friend’s arm into the car.

“What is the matter with you?! Don’t you know how to enter a car? SIT!”

“As I was saying,” William began, now seated, “I think I know what happened.”

Henry kept his eyes on the ignition key while his hand turned it. He was ignoring his friend, but William has had a bit too many and couldn’t tell so he continued on.

“I was on my way here in a taxi when Gertrude called me on my mobile. She wanted to know why I wasn’t at the party yet. Gertrude is a funny, old sort of name, yeah? And just as I thought of this she asked me if I was bringing anyone along and I said, as a joke of course, yes, I’m bringing my date with me. Anyhow, her name had made me think of The Great Gatsby for some reason, and then I had imagined a date sitting next to me in that back seat of the taxi, and, well, there she is now,” said William, one finger pointing at the rear-view mirror.

By now Henry had started the car and was busy driving, but he looked at the rear-view mirror and saw in it the reflection of a ghostly apparition sitting in the backseat, her head leaning against the left window, fast asleep.

After a moment, he spoke as convincingly as he could manage. “Look, I don’t care where she’s from. We have to send her back.”

“Henry, she’s harmless. She’s like ... like ... she’s a little fairy ... ” William pleaded.

Henry shook his head and sighed. No matter how harmless these creatures were, they did not belong in this world.

He just hoped it wasn’t going to take the whole night.

It strikes me as a scene

It strikes me as a scene rather than as a full story. There are all sorts of intriguing questions before, during, and after this. I'd like to see how you'd answer some of them.

You posit a few good ones to start. Does William have the power to bring fictional characters to ghostly life? Or is the character someone or something else, that came to him as he imagined something similar to her? How do they get rid of her? How often does this sort of thing happen? Does getting rid of these ghosts usually take all night? Is it even possible that the ghost is Henry's delusion?

It's often better not to answer all questions a story raises, but I'd like to see you answer some. :)

Answers...

I guess I'm really stretching with the definition of a story with the whole setup, conflict, and resolution. In my eyes, I can see them but ... maybe it is stretching it.

I don't know why, but I have issues with giving out hard answers in a story. I suppose it depends on what the aim is of that particular piece that I'm writing. Now that I think about it as I sit here with the answers to your questions in my head, I was trying to capture the mystery and the wonder experienced by the party-goers that night--of this mysterious young woman "floating in and out of their vision". I also realized that in trying to do that, the readers are meant to be left with more questions than answers and that in this piece it's really up to each reader's imagination to make it work.

That said, let me answer your questions anyway:

1. No.

2. I didn't actually think of her as another ghost, but some fantastic being, a fairy of some sort. A "friendly spirit" if you will--not of a dead person though.

3. Uh... Candles, darkened basements, strange chantings ...

4. A bit too often lately. William has been rather careless and hasn't really watched what he's doing/thinking/conjuring. For most of us, it's "Watch out, that's a coffee behind you!" as we're slowly walking backward or something. For poor William it's, "Oh geez, where did you dip your ... "invisible hand" ... and pull that spirit out from?!"

5. If they don't want to leave, yes. And Henry is not a morning person but has to show-up at work early in the morning.

6. Nah. Henry's the sober one.

What this is

This was one of the more light-hearted fantasy'ish story I've written and also one of my more open-ended ones, leaving it to the readers to use their individual imagination as to who or what she really is.

I placed a hint as to what William's power is in Henry's admonishment to him but to Henry's surprise, when Henry asked where the ghost was from, William replied that it was a character from The Great Gatsby.

Was this William being too drunk? William joking around? Or has he gained the power to bring fictional characters to life?

Also, as an American living in Australia I'm quite interested in writing a more "British" scene and I wonder if you readers reading this imagined the scene as more "American" or "British"? Or perhaps it's still generic enough that it could be both, depending on where you're from?

Anyhow, personally, this was a little slice of a fantastic world in which non-living entities are given a "slice of life" and the possibilities for stories are endless.

Will appreciate any comments and criticisms. :)