Way back in February, before the world descended into chaos and life was flipped upside down, I held a writing contest on Instagram. About a dozen authors submitted pieces of flash fiction based on a prompt, each wildly imaginative and wonderful to read. Judging was a real challenge, but Kalie Cassidy was crowned the winner.
Kalie is a great writer, who is currently working on her debut novel, In the Veins of Drowning. I was lucky enough to do an author interview with her and if you can, please check it out. She is definitely someone to keep an eye on!
The prompt was to begin a story with the line “The crooked road led to the place beyond nowhere.” Everyone had their different take on this prompt, but Kalie infused it with something beautiful and ethereal and I couldn’t tear my eyes from the page. I hope you enjoy it.
Kalie's Instagram: @kaliecassidywriter
The Crooked Road
The crooked road led to the place beyond Knowere. Knowere was a glittering spot, filled with sweet, thick air and verdant, soft moss. The trees nearly glowed, the sun’s light peaked through the leaves and stippled the forest floor with patches of gold. It was good there. It was safe. I took my shoes off, letting my toes feel the velvet of the clover beneath them. I laid down, enraptured by the scent and feel of it all.
The air twinkled with birdsong and as I laid there, nearly lulled into a pillowy sleep, I felt warm fingers of air wrap around my chest. They squeezed me, branded me, and then they pulled through me, back into the ground. I wanted more. I rose, seeking that warmth that had just imprinted itself on me.
But Knowere was the lure, like honey for flies, that pulled me into The Place Beyond. Deeper into the lush forest I went. The trees morphed from tall and dewy to gnarled and ashen. The air there was oily and dank. It clung to my skin, and burrowed under my nails when I tried to scratch it off. I’d gone too far. I was ready to leave, and The Place Beyond let me, but only for a price. So, I left my shadow. A piece of me I wouldn’t miss; a piece of me The Place wanted. Deal.
I yearned for Knowere, pushed through the prickly fingers of leafless trees for admittance back into that sparkly eden. Pushed through frantically as the branches ripped my flesh, taking more of me than we had originally bargained. I pushed through and through, my heart hammering inside my ribs, and then the trees spat me out. Right back onto that crooked road that I’d started on. I spun, searching for it.
This was the place. It had to be here. The sun was low, giving even the pebbles on the road long shadows. My breath hitched. In my panic I’d forgotten. Forgotten I’d given my shadow away. My chest tightened. I did miss it, and how naïve and shortsighted of me to think I wouldn’t. There was a squirming in my stomach that said leave. Go back the way you came. But in my bones, I wanted that piece of me back. And I wanted Knowere. No, I didn’t want it, I required it. To breathe, to exist. It had to be real, had to be as animate as The Place Beyond was dead. And so my bones started moving me, pulling the rest of me back into that black wood.
Arms outstretched, I forced branches aside, relishing when one would snap under my force. A swirl of sweet air brushed past me, and I followed the scent. It was so stark against the rotten smell of damp leaves and loam. I was close.
A root lifted in front of me, too fast for me to avoid, and I went down, face into the earth. I lifted my gaze, spitting leaves, to see the branches ahead twine and wrap around one another, forming a wall. A wall to keep me out. I couldn’t see beyond the branches but I could smell it. I’d found it. I could feel the life and energy of Knowere on the other side of the wall.
“I’ll give you anything,” I said, without thought, completely intoxicated by whatever magic Knowere was made of.
We already have what we want from you. We don’t want anymore.
It wasn’t a voice. It floated to me, from all around, penetrating my skin, my heart.
I was still on the forest floor. My brow pinched.