Daily Archives: September 17, 2014

Writing 101: Enjoy the View

(This is for Day 2 of WordPress’s Writing 101 – choose a place to which you’d like to be transported at the speed of light, and give plenty of immersive details to help your readers feel what it would be like to find yourself there.

Well, there’s no pleasing some people; I can think of several very different places I like, so if I can get there really, really fast without breaking the universal speed limit, I might as well visit more than one.)

Into the Forest

The air was green, and thick with moisture. Moss coated the earth, and the fallen trees, and the standing trees – moss so green it seemed to glow from within. She wondered if, come night, the moss would light up her trail.

The damp air left her breathless and sweaty in spite of the coolness. The forest was silent, almost muffled. She met no other hikers, but once a bear ambled across the trail ahead. She jerked to a stop, but it didn’t even bother to swing its big head toward her. After a while, she moved forward again.

They had explained everything, she remembered, back when the tour group first arrived at the park. Well, at the time it had seemed like everything. The park was a simple place, really – all you had to do was follow the correct trail, and you could travel anywhere just about instantly. (As long as you weren’t too ambitious. One of the fat handful of pamphlets the rangers distributed after the orientation lecture pointed out that you would still be limited to traveling at the speed of light, so visiting even the closest star meant about an eight-year round trip. She didn’t have that kind of vacation time.)

Well, if she wasn’t going to explore the stars, where should she go? Back at the entrance, there were paths worn bare of moss with signs telling you where they led – “Taj Mahal”, “Las Vegas”, “Venice”, others – and this path, with the sign faded and mossy and illegible. So of course she’d chosen to explore this one.

She was getting thirsty. Somewhere water gurgled – over there, where a green fallen tree trunk with saplings sprouting on it bridged a gulley. It seemed wrong to leave footprints in the moss, but she couldn’t reach the stream from this trail. Slither down the steep damp slope, scoop up handfuls of water, drink – ahhh. She followed the stream for a while, clambering over mossy boulders of some blackish stone.

The stream was wider and slower now, and the banks were less steep. She pulled herself back up, clutching at saplings to keep her balance. The path had wandered off to somewhere else in the forest, but not far away was a small cabin – mossy log walls, a wide porch, a few windows, a door. A door that wasn’t quite shut.

She was tired, and it was getting dark. The door scraped along the warped floorboards as she wrestled it open. Inside was a stone fireplace (but was there anything within fifty miles dry enough to burn?), bunk beds that looked unexpectedly sturdy and almost clean, a table and a few chairs, and another door. A piece of cardboard thumbtacked to this second door said “Library.”

Library. Sure. But she might as well see what was on the other side.

She stepped through onto a balcony. Below, rows and rows of bookshelves gradually curving out of sight to the left. To the right, floor-to-ceiling windows. Beyond the windows, a park dotted with sculptures, and beyond that a city. People wandered through the park. The air here was no warmer than in the forest, and blessedly dry.

She shook her head, trying to shake the world back into something, anything, plausible. Had she dreamed the whole day? She groped behind her; something back there shifted slightly as she touched it. It certainly felt like a wooden door. Very slowly, she turned around. And there was the door in the cabin – to the cabin? whatever – peeling paint and all. There were half a dozen cardboard signs tacked to it on this side.

The top one said simply “Cabin”. The sign under that said “They told you this park lets you travel to interesting places at the speed of light, didn’t they? Here you are, and if you’re not interested you can walk home.” Just to the right, another sign read “Oh yeah, if the speed of light isn’t fast enough for you, the science fiction section starts six rows clockwise from the foot of those stairs over there.” (Whoever was writing the signs had used a piece of cardboard for this one that was too small, and the printing got smaller and smaller and harder to read toward the end.) After that, “Go ahead and stay in the cabin. Clean sheets are in the box at the end of the bunks.” And, scribbled in tiny writing on another too-small scrap, “Free cafeteria in the library basement. Hang out as long as you want to. Or find a job and relocate. Whatever.” And finally, “Enjoy yourself.”

“Thanks,” she whispered. “I plan to.”


So – could you picture the places my nameless heroine went? Can you feel what it would be like to go there? Please let me know.