By Mitch Mosier
I almost didn’t write here today. I didn’t spend the whole day in my room, so I wasn’t bored enough to use this journal. Today was interesting enough for a journal, though. One more run with this blasted electronic thing.
No one had given me a schedule. I supposed when I arrived that we would write everyday, together, in some large, library-like room, but I had never seen anyone write. After some difficulty, I had found some of their works on the computer network, so I knew they did, but I didn’t know when. I thought I would ask Ms. Talbot about it.
I’m always scared of approaching people, so I stood around nervously in Sarah’s office waiting for her to notice me. She was staring at the computer intently, moving her mouse around and clicking. Strange clinking noises came from her computer. I waited nearly five minutes, I think, before she noticed me. “Yes?”
“I’d like to see Ms. Talbot … if she has time.”
“She’s out today. Meetings or something.”
“Maybe you’d know. You’re a writer, too, aren’t you? Do we have any sort of schedule? I mean, do I need a story a week or how does it work?”
Sarah smiled mischievously at me. “Ms. Talbot–” Sarah lowered her voice. “Cass has tried to arrange a schedule, but no one keeps to it. Let’s see. Lance claims ‘lack of inspiration.’ Dr. Xay mutters about grading projects. Bob, who knows? I’m fine with it all. Takes a million words of crap to write something good, they say. I’m in the middle of my crap phase.”
“So, look like you’re writing something. Talk about ideas and plots. If she thinks you’re trying, she won’t push too hard. If you’re slacking, though, Ms. Talbot’ll come down hard. You wanna try this game?”
She showed me the Internet game she’d been playing. It was called Big Money, and we spent an hour, or something like, taking turns. I got five thousand-three hundred-something points, but Sarah slaughtered me with a score of 6141. “Eat that!” she screamed joyfully at me, standing on her chair celebrating. I laughed with her. I didn’t mind losing, she was so happy about it.
I went to make myself lunch. Mrs. Xayyachack leaves us to our own devices for lunch. I made a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and found some pretzels and a piece of pie. A pretty good lunch, I thought. While I was eating, Lance barreled through the dining room on the way to the kitchen. After a banging of dishes and pans, he returned carrying a plate full of Dagwood-ian sandwiches. Suddenly, as he sat, he slowed and ate with a sort of artistic feeling, asking me questions about my writing and how I liked the mansion. Then he asked, “What do you think of Katrina?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to her much.”
To which he smiled knowingly. “Yes, quite the mystery, isn’t she? It takes time and patience. Herculean patience.”
I left. My main impression of Lance was that he could use the word “Herculean” in a sentence.
I didn’t want to return to my room, so I decided to explore the mansion. It was sunny, and the light through windows gave the hallways a reverential atmosphere. This is certainly a place where one thinks of hidden passages. I didn’t find any, but I still wonder if they don’t exist.Upstairs, on the third floor, I found the entrance to Dr. Xayyachack’s lab. The door was open, but I didn’t enter. I could hear him working inside, pacing back and forth as if looking for something. “No, not that,” he muttered. His steps dimmed as he walked away from me, into another room.
I was walking away when I heard an explosion. Dr. Xayyachack shouted, “Quarks and atoms!” and I heard the explosive rush of a fire extinguisher being used. I wasn’t frightened for him; I laughed. I hope he wasn’t really in trouble, because I headed downstairs before he found me loitering, listening to him.
I didn’t see much on the first floor because I found the library early on and spent more than several hours perusing. I took interesting-looking books off the shelf, opened them, read paragraphs at random, and returned them. I wonder if Dr. Xayyachack has read all of them? There were not as many scientific books as I had suspected, and many more children’s books – Dr. Seuss, Dr. Doolittle, The Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island. I spent a long time looking through his Hardy Boys collection.
I found Katrina in one corner of the library. She sat in a window seat, sunlight illuminating her dark clothes and hair like the sun behind a rain cloud. She wrote in a notebook, tapping her pencil against her lips as she thought. I sometimes wish I had knowledge of photography. She would have made a good picture, something titled “The Dark Queen Plots” or “Woman in Contented Solitude,” both equally applicable.
She saw me, though I tried to move on without distracting her. “I read your story.”
“You submitted a story when you put in your application. They posted it on the server this morning.”
I tried to explain to her that I didn’t apply, that Stuart Lem requested me. She did not like it when I mentioned Mr. Lem. Her face grew more the “Dark” and less the “Queen.”
“Well, he submitted an application for you, then. I read the story about your family. The note said it appeared in your hometown newspaper. It’s charming. You might write something worthwhile, if you stick to it. Don’t listen to what the others might try to teach you, and don’t believe anything Stuart tells you. Just stick with it and write. You’ll do okay.”
I thanked her and slipped away again. That column! What will everyone say? I love the article – I consider it one of my best – but will anyone see it like I do? It isn’t even fiction. I hate people reading my stuff. If only I could write it, show it to God, and hide it away….
After supper that night, I went out back, where the mansion opens onto the beach. Bob was near the waves, crouched down, watching something. I wasn’t going to bother him, but he saw me and motioned me over.
“Look at this!”
I looked. A small crab was emerging from a hole in the sand.
“They buried themselves this morning. I watched them. Dug up little holes using their claws and shovels. I bet they’ll swarm the beach tonight. Wait, and you’ll see.”
I waited. Evening grew, and Bob and I found ourselves surrounded by scuttling crabs. I laughed childishly as I took off my shoes and hopped about, trying to avoid getting pinched. Bob was much better with the creatures; he kept picking them up, but they snapped his skin in their claws more than once. He got mad and threw one down, but not too harshly.
Shadows and imagination mixed with sand and sea. I could write a whole story about it. Maybe I will, someday. But maybe not. I won’t try here. Some things are better as memories.
Tomorrow, I’m waking before the sun to watch them dig their holes.