In Literary Studies 12 this year, I asked students to bring in a picture that was worth a thousand words. Not knowing what this was for, students brought in pictures as varied as Nelson Mandela’s smiling face to a piggy bank wearing a mask to a cucumber field. Next I told them they had to write a 2000 word story based on the picture alone. The only caveat was that the story had to fall within one of our two themed units. After brainstorming, idea sharing, and peer editing, I was left with many thoughtful, engaging, and memorable stories to grade. Here is one from an offsite student. She has Zoomed into our classroom everyday. Although a quiet student in class, Bianca certainly is not at a loss for words when it comes to the short story genre. When you have a spare moment, grab a cup of tea and unwind with a great short story. May it inspire you to get a collection of short stories and be transported back into high school English. Enjoy!
Rebeka Loconte, Grade 12 Teacher
Lua e Solidão
The night was bleak.
The air was thick with a discomfort that could be felt in the sweeping wind that sneaked through the cracks of the barely-open window. He was once again stuck in the endless trench of family gatherings. Solidão, that was his name. It seemed to be all he could remember, the overwhelming unease clouding his own memory as he sat, motionless, on the velvet couch.
“She was so ungrateful! I feel bad for anyone else who has to deal with her.”
The voice was his mother’s, he knew that. She was probably going on an unbearable tangent again, being unknowingly rude as she gossiped so feverently about an unsuspecting client. Solidão didn’t wonder what it was about nor did he care all that much. He just remained, stoic and silent, in the middle of the buzzing people.
“She really had the most unsightly hair,” added his aunt. “The most horrendous thing I’d ever seen!”
No, Solidão would just endure it all. It had all become whitenoise, fragments of sentences that he didn’t bother trying to understand. He couldn’t deny he felt boxed in. He wanted a way out of his tiny, imaginary confinement. Like a mime stuck in an invisible box, Solidão tried to console himself by trying to believe it was all in his head but it was no use. He really felt stuck. Only when he slept did he have a way out of his invisible box.
That night, Solidão excused himself from his bickering family members and found solace in the warmth of his bed. The moon was high and vibrant that night and the wind whispered soft lullabies that softly sent him off to sleep.
He felt as if he was floating. That was the first thing Solidão noticed about this particular dream. He also noticed he was aware of his thoughts. As if he was a puppet suspended in air, his feet seemed far too light to be carrying the weight of his body and mind far too clear to be stuck in a dream. He saw a light in front of him. It was fluorescent, a soft white that pulsed like a heartbeat and smeared the edges of his vision like chalk pastels. From it, emerged a girl.
Her hair was silver like stardust, skin the colour of mercury and eyes like golden nebulas. When she walked, she glided like she was dancing on ice, elegant and delicate but with a surety of herself that Solidão couldn’t help but admire. She must have been around his age but she seemed like a timeless goddess.
Her dress, a pure white, flowed in rivers around her ankles and grazed the misty ground like fingers suspended above smoke. She smiled when their eyes met and Solidão felt his stomach light up in bright beams, heart pounding like a mallet against his ribs as she neared him.
Solidão, she said. Well, she didn’t say it. He heard her voice, silky and smooth like honey, inside the depths of his brain as if she was part of him, a part of his own thoughts speaking softly and confidently in his own mind. I know you. We were friends once, you and I.
She reached out for his hand and, when he touched her, he felt decades of familiarity wash over him like a surge of electricity. When he touched her, the white light surrounding her turned into a palette of vibrant hues, tones of bubble gum pink, vivid fuchsia, sky blue, and bright orange collapsed into one cohesive sheet of light around the girl’s gentle figure. Her silver hair reflected the colours like a mirror, the tints bouncing back in rays like paint splattering against a wall and it was then that Solidão realized the colours were moving. He let his eyes leave her face and follow the rhythms of the colours. Each one throbbed like pulsing hearts just like the white light had but this was different. This time, they seemed to have a purpose to their beats, unlike the white light that pulsed softly and angelically, these beats almost seemed to be living beings. They crawled like serpents in the air around him, glowing neon with each pulse, some quicker than others.
Do you remember them? Asked the girl. Her voice was an atmospheric audio that seemed as familiar as his own thoughts. We used to play with them. Used to pretend they were our pets. We’d feed them flower petals and put them to sleep with lullabies. Do you remember?
Solidão didn’t remember. He swore the memory she talked about had been hidden in the deep corners of his mind and he didn’t know how to get them out. He shook his head. She nearly looked upset, a fleeting furrow of her brows that lasted merely a few seconds before it disappeared into her usual peaceful expression.
She reached out, letting a hue of color spiral around her wrist like a snake, the bright orange contrasting heavily with her deep skin tone. She smiled softly at him and rested the hand on his shoulder, letting it slither around his neck. Solidão didn’t dare move as it spiralled around his neck and seeped into it like a phantom.
With a shimmer, images of his own life flashed in rolls of film in front of him until he noticed that it wasn’t his life, it was another version of it. This particular one was of him in a white lab coat looking into a telescope, studying the glittering stars and Solidão suddenly realized the vision was what would have happened if he had pursued his dream of being an astronomer. The vision disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, the girl’s pretty face coming back into focus.
Do you remember now? She asked. The orange blob had reappeared on his neck and floated back into the sheet of colours around him.
Solidão opened his mouth to reply but nothing came out. His voice had been trapped in thin air and so he ended up communicating with her as she had with him; through thoughts.
Those were my dreams, weren’t they? He asked. She nodded, the edges of her eyes tugging up as a gleeful smile took over her lips. Solidão looked around at the floating colours. Pink, fuschia, orange and blue.
Are these all my dreams? He asked. She nodded again and only when the pink hue plopped on to his shoulder and seeped into his neck did he remember the girl’s name.
As soon as the name entered his mind, Solidão awoke in the cold, pitch black of his room. He scrambled out of his bed and grabbed a ladder from the garage, his feet dragging him to the middle of the grassy field outside his home, the dewy blades of grass like wet kisses against the bare skin of his ankles and feet. His body seemed to know where he was going but his mind didn’t have a clue. He stopped abruptly underneath the majestic moon, its glow casting silver shadows on the field, the ghosts of the night whistling in his ear. He set down his ladder and immediately, his mind caught up. Lua was on the moon. He knew that now. He also knew she was the love of his life.
Admittedly, it was quite the jump, given that he had met and seen her in a dream. Solidão, however, knew she was his love in the same way the wind knows exactly where to blow. He felt it, the calling towards her, the pull towards the moon that hung, suspended like a nocturnal lamp, above him.
Without thinking twice, he climbed the ladder, he went step by step. As he climbed, it seemed like the ladder never ended, the steps ascending up, up, up towards the glowing moon that awaited him.
He never got tired, his steps never faltered, even when he thought he had to have been climbing for hours, he never stopped.
The moon seemed so close and when Solidão extended his hand, he found that he was grabbing on to it. He climbed to the top, wiping the silver glitter dust on the soft fabric of his pajamas. He looked up and there, like a heavenly apparition, stood Lua, her hair falling in loose curls on her shoulders. The pink dream was draped across her shoulders like a fur boa and when she reached out to him, he took her hand in his as if it had been all he’d been hoping for.
“You found me,” she said, her voice now audible in the air around him instead of inside his head and he couldn’t help but smile at how lovely it sounded. Somehow, it sounded so much more angelic than it had before, fluttery and sweet like a flower petal descending to soft soil. The dreams reappeared around her and fell to the ground, turning into delicate daisies in the moon’s silver dust. Solidão still felt as if he was dreaming and said so to Lua who laughed, the sound like twinkling stars.
He had found her. His safe haven.
Bianca B., English 12