In Which I Write My Life Story as Homework
I have no imagination. Why then do I think that, by staring at this notebook, I can magically make it work? Or, better yet, why does my mom think it will work?
I’m locked out of the house until this notebook shows signs of something that resembles a story. It’s happened before. Mom seems to think that such drastic measures can force me to write.
I’m sure it would work, too … if I had an imagination. But it’s easier to squeeze juice out of a rock than it is to squeeze a story out of my brain.
So I’m stuck out here without any hope of rescue. Oh, well, it’s not as though I’m going to be out here all night, or even have to skip lunch. Mom’s not that cruel. She’ll have Tisha bring me some lunch, just as she always does. As soon as it starts getting dark, she’ll send Tisha with an invitation to supper. Mom’s terrified of these woods, though, and wouldn’t dare come here herself.
I feel like I’m rambling, but I guess that rambling is better than writing “I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write” over and over again like I did a few weeks ago.
Mom was not impressed with that stunt.
I’m not sure she would be any more impressed with rambling … but it’s better than the same six words over and over and over again.
Perhaps I could write my life as a story. It wouldn’t involve using my non-existent imagination, and it would be something that resembles a story. It would be tons more fun than just staring at a deceptively innocent blue-lined notebook page, that’s for sure.
My name is Jenifer Marie Brown. People used to call me Jenny, but for the last three years or so, I’ve been asking people to call me Jen, since it sounds more grown up. It’s become habit for most everyone by now – except for Mom and Dad. I guess it’s impossible to train your Mom and Dad to do anything, so …
At least Tisha has learned. Although, now that I think about it, she was the easiest person to convince – I only had to ask her once.
I used to have an amazing imagination, or so says my mother. Not that I don’t believe her – I do. It’s just … I don’t remember it, not really. Mom says I would spend all of my free time outside or in my bedroom, just making up stories.
I’m an only child. I don’t know why, but after me, Mom wasn’t able to have any more. However, she always wanted more, and since she herself had been an orphan, adoption was the logical solution to her.
When they told me that they had adopted a boy and a girl who were both around my age, I wasn’t too keen on the idea. I was a loner, and used to being an only child. Even in Sunday School, I would cling to the edges of the room and refuse to interact.
So the thought of two other children coming to live with us permanently … well, it scared me. I could handle grown-ups – but other kids? No.
Then Chris arrived and I was wary of him for all of five minutes. I don’t know why I accepted him so quickly, but I did. Mom thinks that it was because he had the same name as one of imaginary friends, down to the unique spelling – Christofer. However, while I won’t say that that wasn’t a factor – I’m sure it was – I don’t think it was the full reason why I liked him.
Whatever the reason, I liked him, and almost immediately initiated him into my world of imaginative play. Together we would make up terrific stories. The living room became the courtroom of a mighty castle, the woods full of monsters for him to protect me from, the stream I’m sitting beside a raging river … life was perfect …
Then Chris disappeared and my once-amazing imagination crumbled into dust.
I don’t know where Chris went, or how, or why. I don’t know why my imagination went with him. I do know, however, that every bit of good opinion I had of him was gone. I despised him, considered him a traitor. It seems an unreasonable response as I write these words, but it was the response I had.
I can remember that we had an argument and that I stormed away, leaving him alone in the middle of the woods. I can remember that I didn’t want to ever see him again.
And I haven’t.
I can’t remember what the fight was about. It could have been something petty, it could have been something important. It was just after I got my first pair of glasses, so perhaps he had made a comment about them. I’m pretty sensitive about my glasses.
Now that I think about it, I think I remember where we had our fight – though it may just be my brain playing tricks on me, for it was by this very stream, and, possibly, not far from where I’m sitting.
But I’m not sure. Our fight could have taken place anywhere in the twenty acres of woods that are behind our house.
The truly strange thing is that, not only did Chris disappear, but so did any paperwork about him, We have memories of him being with us – photographs even – but as far as the state is concerned, he never even existed.
Tisha, the promised sister, arrived only a few days after Chris’s disappearance. Mom and Dad had been sure that I would like her as much as I had Chris, for the other imaginary friend I would talk about had her name: Letitia.
I didn’t like her. I hated her.
That was eight years ago. I was seven. Now I’m fifteen, and I still have no imagination.
I don’t exactly hate Tisha anymore, but I don’t like her, either. I don’t hate Chris anymore, either. It’s more of an uneasiness when I think of him than anything else.
I think it’s jealousy that I feel towards Tisha, I hate to admit. Let’s face it – she’s this perfect beauty. Long, wavy blonde hair that falls to her feet, yet never tangles. Big blue eyes that are almost too big for her face. Alabaster skin no matter how much time she spends in the sun …
Compare that to me. I have fizzy brown hair that only makes it half-way down my back – if I stretch it to full length. Since it’s so frizzy, it sometimes barely makes it past my shoulders. I have grayish-blue eyes that are nowhere near the size of hers and are, besides that, hidden behind a thick pair of glasses. My skin can only be described as pasty with an overdose of freckles. The only thing I have over her is that I’m about two inches taller.
Not only that, but she’s got a great singing voice – and she can make up songs.
Totally unfair. I can’t tell one note from another, and, as I’ve said before, I have no imagination and therefore cannot make anything up.
Ugh! I can hear her singing now. But – hey! Five whole notebook pages full of writing!
I don’t think mom will be unimpressed.
Then again … I don’t think she’ll be impressed, either.
In Which Chris Shows up and He and Tisha Confuse Me.
I just read over those pages I wrote this morning and find it hard to believe that it was only this morning I wrote them. Those words are full of despair, of longing … and despair and longing are the furthest things from my mind.
Yet it is to this morning that I must return. To the stream that cuts through the woods in out backyard.
It was there that this story begins. I won’t reiterate what I’ve already written, for I did a good enough job this morning. It puts things into perspective. I know more now, but to tell everything now doesn’t seem right. I didn’t know everything this morning. I will tell it all eventually, just not yet.
After writing those five pages, I was still dissatisfied. I know that they weren’t what my mother wanted. More importantly, I knew they weren’t what I wanted.
I knew that writing down what had happened wasn’t going to get my imagination back. I wanted my imagination back, but I didn’t know how to get it back.
Hey! If I had known, I would have done so years ago!
So there I sat, staring at the page that I’m now filling with ease, wondering where my imagination had gone. The sound of Tisha singing was helping neither my concentration nor my mood.
Thinking that the fact that my brain was overheating might be my problem, I kicked off my flip-flops and plunged my feet into the stream, wiggling my toes around in the smooth pebbles that lined the bottom. I knew that an overheated brain had nothing to do with my lack of imagination, I really did, but I was sure that a good foot-soaking wouldn’t hurt.
I closed my eyes and shut my notebook. A deep sigh escaped my lips. “Why?” I whispered. “Why did my imagination disappear?” Another sigh escaped. A sigh of frustration. I opened my eyes and looked down at the closed notebook and the photograph I had taped to the cover a few weeks before as a desperate ploy to get my imagination working again. A picture of Chris and me playing in the living room.
(In case you are wondering, no it hadn’t worked)
“Chris,” I muttered. “I don’t know why you disappeared, or how you managed to steal my imagination, but I wish that you would come back and give my imagination back to me.”
To conclude my speech, I gave a dramatic sigh and fell backwards, allowing my eyes to close again. It was hopeless – I was hopeless. I was never going to get my imagination back. Why did I even try? Why did my mother insist that I try?
“Is there, by any chance, a girl named Jenny anywhere around here?”
My eyes flew open and I was back in a sitting position within seconds. There, in the middle of the stream, standing just a foot or so away from my toes, was a boy. He looked to be about eight or so, and had wild brown hair peaking out from under his hat and a multitude of freckles.
Since I had only just looked at the photograph, I recognized him instantly.
It was impossible for it to be Chris, the logical part of my brain insisted. Chris was nearly a year older than me. He would be sixteen, not eight. Yet, my eyes argued, the boy in the middle of the stream did look like Chris. Uncannily like Chris.
“At your service,” he replied with a doff of his hat and a bow.
I blinked as I continued to examine the boy in mute astonishment. His clothing reminded me of Robin Hood in both style and color – he even had a felt hat with a yellow feather. To complete the look, he had a bow and a quiver full of arrows strapped to his back and a naked sword in his hand.
It looked sharp.
“Oh … I’m sorry,” I finally stammered out, realizing that staring was rude. “I thought you were someone I knew when I was your age.” I glanced at the sword and bit my lip. “Does your mother know where you are?”
“But my name is Chris,” said the boy, lowering his sword and giving me a confused look. He cocked his head to the side before he added, “And I don’t think I have a mother … not … not really.”
“Everyone has a mother,” I replied.
He shook his head and gave a careless shrug. “Not me. Jenny didn’t give me one.”
He nodded as he stepped out of the stream, sheathing the sword. “Lady Jenifer. She made me up.”
“She made you up.” I narrowed my eyes as a chill went down my spine.
He nodded again as a frown pulled down the corners of his mouth. “But then Tisha and I got her mad and she locked me in. I’ve been looking for a way to get her back ever since.”
“Why did she get mad at you?” I asked, trying to sound friendly, trying to suppress the uncomfortable feeling welling up inside of me.
He shook his head. “I can’t tell you,” he answered. “But do you know where I can find Jenny? I really need to find her.”
“No,” I whispered. “I – I don’t think I know where she is.” A nagging part of me argued that I did know where she was, however.
“Oh.” He sounded disappointed. “I thought you might, though, since you knew who I was.”
“I didn’t know who you were, though,” I countered. “I called you Chris simply because you look like my adopted brother who disappeared eight years ago.” I held up the notebook and photograph as evidence.
“That’s Jenny!” the boy exclaimed, springing forward in excitement. “That girl! That’s Jenny! Do you know where she is? I have to find her!”
My mouth went dry. For several seconds, all I could do was stare at the boy. In an attempt to regather my thoughts, I scrambled to my feet, clutching the notebook to my chest. “That girl …” I managed to squeak out, “That girl … she’s …”
I could not force myself to admit the obvious. It was too bizarre. Instead, I started backing away from the boy – away from Chris.
“Is something wrong?” Chris asked, his excitement turning to worry. “Did something bad happen to Jenny?” Oh! Please tell me nothing bad happen to Jenny!”
“How?” I questioned, barely comprehending his words. “How are you so young. You disappeared eight years ago! You were older than me!”
“Eight years?” questioned Chris, his voice suddenly subdued. “Has it really been eight years?”
Unable to speak, I could only nod.
“Eight years,” he repeated once more. “I hadn’t realized it had been so long! Oh! This is terrible! You must help me find Jenny! Please tell me where she is!” He looked up at me with frantic eyes.
Tisha’s voice caused me to whirl around. Sure, I had known that she was nearby – her voice was a constant reminder of that fact – but I had been so caught up in my confusion over Chris, I had failed to notice how close she was.
For a moment, she stood there, one hand placed on a tree for support, her eyes fixed on Chris.
“Christofer,” she at last muttered, as her gaze fell to her feet. “How … how did you get out? She locked you in!”
Chris’s attention left me as he took a few steps in Tisha’s direction. Then he paused and again doffed his hat and gave an elegant bow. “I know not how I escaped but a few minutes ago, but I am in quest of Lady Jenifer – do you know where she is? Also, this fair maiden,” he indicated me, “has informed me that I have been trapped for eight years, so I am afraid that I do not recognize you. I must ask your name.”
Tisha took the few steps that separated them and took his hand. She fell to her knees so that she had to look up at him before she answered. “Chris.” Her whisper was so low I was surprised that I heard her clearly. “I am the Fair Maiden Letitia.”
The look that spread across Chris’s face was part surprise, part relief, part sorrow. “Tisha,” he said, in a matching whisper, “eight years is a long time.”
“They are indeed,” she agreed, sinking down so that she no longer knelt, but sat on the ground. She did not let go of Chris’s hand.
“But they only served to make you all the more beautiful,” Chris continued.
“But they have done nothing at all to you!” She let go of Chris’s hand, allowing hers to fall into her lap with a plop. “Lady Jenifer is the girl you were just talking to. I think she would prefer it if you would call her Jen, though.”
He immediately lost interest in the despondent Tisha and ran over to me. “You’re Jenny? You’re Lady Jenifer?”
I looked down and glared at the ground. Things were taking a sudden, crazy turn that I didn’t like. Sure I had asked for Chris to show back up and tell me what had happened to my imagination – but I hadn’t expected him to actually obey the summons.
“Yes, yes,” Chris continued despite the fact that I was no longer looking at him. “You are Jenny – I see it now. You do look like her, and you did say that I had been your brother. Yes, you are Jenny.” His voice became excited. “Oh, Lady Jenifer, I’m really sorry for what I did, and I’m sure that the Fair Maiden Letitia is as well! Will you please, please come back? Everything’s been horrid since you left – and only you can fix things!”
My head shot up and I fixed my glare on him. “I have no idea what you are talking about, but I would appreciate it if you would call me Jen, not Jenny. I’m not a kid anymore – unlike you.” I didn’t know why I was lashing out at him. Part of it was the fact that everything was strange and confusing – but I knew that that confusion wasn’t my whole problem. Something in me was hostile to those two, and I didn’t know why.
My glare caused Chris to shrink back and lower his head respectfully. “Yes, Jen.” He turned a pleading look in Tisha’s direction.
“Jen has forgotten her imagination,” Tisha explained. “Every bit of it. She only remembers you as the brother you claimed to be. I don’t think she even remembers the Ankulen.”
“The Ankulen?” I flung the unfamiliar word back at her, my only weapon against the confusion.
“See?” Tisha buried her head in her hands.
“How?” questioned Chris. “Is it because …?”
“I don’t know,” said Tisha. “When I first arrived she could remember – all too well – and for a few weeks after that … but then … it happened overnight, Chris. The night before she could remember … and the next morning. … I thought at first she was pretending … trying to make me feel worse … but it was soon all too clear. Jen has forgotten her imagination.”
I frowned. She had never mentioned that fact to me before. Now that I thought about it though, well, it had been a rather sudden process, though I had always placed my forgetting at Chris’s disappearance.
“Stop talking about me as if I’m not standing here!” I exclaimed, “and tell me what this word Ankulen means. It’s just syllables to me.”
Tisha looked up and bravely met my eye. “The Ankulen is the bracelet that you always wore. It’s what used to bring your imagination to life – to bring us to life.”
“You’re wearing it in that picture,” Chris pointed out, his finger pointing to the notebook that I still had clutched to my chest.
I gave them a skeptical look as I turned the notebook around so I could examine the picture. I had no memory of a bracelet that I “always wore,” much less one that I used to “bring them to life.” I forced my eyes off of Tisha and Chris and onto the picture, and my eyebrows went up. Sure enough, I was wearing a bracelet. It was a pretty bracelet, too. A golden band with a large, purplish-pink gem. There was only one problem with it.
“I don’t remember ever owning a bracelet like that.”
“I know,” said Tisha. I looked up and saw that she was once more standing. “You’ve forgotten about it. But it was your bracelet, your Ankulen, and you did always wear it.”
“Until I lost it and forgot all about it?”
Tisha sighed. “It was already gone when I got here. I don’t know what you had done with it. I didn’t dare ask.”
“You had it when I last saw you,” said Chris, his eyes fixed on my wrist. “You used it to get out – we were in at the time, Tisha.”
“In where?” I questioned, noticing that the words “in” and “out” were being used quite frequently.
“In your imagination,” said Chris, as if the answer was obvious.
“I don’t have an imagination,” I argued, dropping the notebook and pencil to the ground and folding my arms over my chest.
“But you used to,” said Tisha. “You used to have an amazing imagination, and because of the Ankulen, you could make it real. But then …”
“You got mad at us,” finished Chris.
“Well, I do remember yelling at you,” I admitted. “But I don’t remember why.”
“You were mad because you had discovered what we had done,” explained Chris. “That we had gotten out. And I really wouldn’t blame you if you decided to send us both back in and forget we ever existed as we watched our world crumbles to dust around us. It would be our fitting punishment.”
“Frankly, that sounds tempting,” I admitted. “Problem is though, I haven’t the faintest clue how to do that. Perhaps …” I allowed a sigh to escape me, my arms to fall to my side and my eyes to land on the discarded notebook. “Perhaps if you’ll help me get my ‘amazing’ imagination back, I’ll forgive you for whatever it was you did.”
“We would if we could,” said Tisha, her voice tainted by frustration. “Oh! You have no idea how much I’ve wanted to help you get your imagination back, Jen. But we don’t know how, not with your Ankulen missing.”
Well, then, could you at least show me how to get ‘in’” I asked, folding my arms as I allowed my eyes to drift over the stream. “Maybe if I see it, I might be able to remember.”
“You need the Ankulen to get in,” said Chris.
“Okay … so I need the Ankulen to get my imagination back,” I exclaimed, throwing up my arms in exasperation. “The Ankulen, which I lost sometime between when Chris disappeared and Tisha arrived. That’s four days' time! It could be anywhere!”
“That it could,” said Tisha.
I sank to the ground and put my head in my hands. This was worse than before Chris appeared. Now, instead of me simply not knowing, my imagination was being held tantalizingly just out of reach. I noticed my flip-flops sitting dejectedly nearby, and thrust my feet into them.
“Oh, Jen,” said Chris. “We want you to find your imagination, too. We live there … and without you, it’s crumbling. Especially since It’s there.”
“It?” I looked up and gave him a questioning look.
“The Polystoikhedron,” said Chris, after drawing in a deep breath. The horror I saw in his face almost made me regret asking the question. “It appeared right after you left. I don’t know how it got there but …” he looked at me with small, scared eyes. “It eats imagination, Jen. No one can stand before it, not even me.”
I shivered. “So … my imagination is being eaten.”
Chris nodded. I allowed my head to fall back into my hands.
“Oh! That’s terrible.” Tisha’s voice was panicked. “We must find a way to – oh! Jen, do you have any idea where the Ankulen might be?”
“I thought we had already come to the conclusion that your guess was as good as mine.” I gave her a pointed look, then softened. “Hey, tell you what, you can search my room – if Mom asks questions you can tell her that I sent you in search of something. Chris and I will search out here.”
Tisha did not wait for me to relay the instructions twice.
Compare to the original chapter 1.
Oh, and I've decided on a target release day of September 5th! Wish me luck!
Oh, and I've decided on a target release day of September 5th! Wish me luck!