In July 2019 I attended a Women’s Writing Retreat at Pyramid Life Center for a few serene, pristine, delightfully free-ing days in the Adirondacks.
A group of women writers, singers, performers, playwrights, educators, yoga and Tai Chi instructors, gathered together to share experiences and learn new ‘techniques of the trade’ in whatever form that took during the week. We shared our stories and songs and poetry each evening.
I took two classes: Art Journaling and learning to write Flash Fiction. The journaling class helped me unleash my creative side in words and form while Flash Fiction was a new genre for me.The idea was to write a complete story including plot, character development, scenes and resolution in 200 words or less! We began by just writing what came into our heads on a subject then spent the rest of the session editing it down and down again.
Following is a short story (although not under 200 words!) and collage I created during the week.
She sits at the piano letting her fingers flicker over the keys of ebony and ivory the word pianoforte coming into her mind. A few of the notes combine to sound like something she almost remembers..but no, the Cs,Ds and F sharps float away, unrecognizable, into space.
Her gaze shifts down to her clothes. Pink satin robe cinched tightly over a corset. She hates pink – or thinks she does. As she twirls on the little piano stool she catches sight of a face in the wavy glass of the floor-to-ceiling window. She feels suddenly dizzy and fizzy and is frightened by the image of the auburn-haired woman she does not recognize peering back at her. As she slows her panicky breathing and racing heart the questions come flooding in: ‘Where am I?’ which leads to ‘Who am I?’ which, because of the strangeness of her surroundings, inevitably leads to ‘When am I?’
As these thoughts race and tumble one upon another a young man steps through another floor-to-ceiling window and cries: ‘There you are! I was so worried when you did not return from your walk into town.’
She whispers back, not trusting what her voice will sound like: ‘I lost track of the time and am just recently returned.’
To herself she thinks: Hah! I have lost track of everything – time, place, names – except for Victor here. Ah! his name is Victor!
She does not know who she is to him. Sister, wife, lover? so she treads lightly with her next question. ‘Victor do we have plans this evening?’
‘Oh Emily, my sweet, lovely, disappearing sister, how can you have forgotten we dine with Alistair and Mims at 8?’
Emily gives her head a shake trying to clear her brain of the fuzziness she feels. Who are Alistair and Mims?
Looking around again at the room which is decorated in heavy fabrics and huge gilded picture frames, and at the clothing she and Victor are wearing, she surmises she has awoken from her 2019 stupefying sleep into the world of Edith Wharton.
What was it her 20th century psychiatrist called this ‘time traveling’ she keeps obsessing about each session?
A Fugue state brought on by a traumatic, heart-wrenching event she does not want to remember.
Better to live in the past, in someone else’s present time. Emily’s time.
She rises from the stool and gives safe, reliable Victor her hand.