[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She served as guest editor for issue 43.4 of Star*Line, an issue focused entirely on Black voices in the speculative arts. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]
NEEDLESS TO SAY, NEIL GAIMAN WAS THERE
Hello, All. Melanie here. So I did it. I reached out to Writer X directly and the good news is, she appears to be in good physical condition? No bad news. I’m just confused is all. For one, does she think that I am a figment of Gladys’ imagination? Or an alter-ego?
I’m going to ignore her goad because I figure I probably deserve it. In the meanwhile, Gladys is rapidly become one of the most interesting people I’ve ever been mistaken for.
From: Melanie Stormm
Subject: I’m not who you think I am
Dear Writer X,
You might be surprised to see this unfamiliar name in your inbox, but I wanted to reach out and make sure you were alright.
I have a small, semi-large confession. I’m not Gladys but I’ve been receiving your emails for the last month and a half and also possibly sharing them with the whole world. My name is Melanie and I—and possibly a few others—would like to know if you are alright and if you’ve made any progress in your draft?
Writing is hard work, frequently emotionally exhausting, but worthwhile. I applaud your persistence. Whatever your response to this revelation, I sincerely wish you the best of luck and hope you’ll consider continuing to share your progress with me…um, with us.
…and the Whole World.
p.s. The contents of your draft have been kept private.
Subject: Re: I’m not who you think I am
I now understand mostly everything there is to know about Puhjyna. However, I have no idea what she is doing in this story.
Do you think it’s okay to introduce her as a new character in book five?
By the way, I ran into your younger sister, Blanche, at Mr. Morgan’s Food Emporium and Things Nicely Priced and she said something very surprising to me.
She said your cousin, Luella—you know, the cousin YOU TOLD ME was terminally ill??? She said Luella was in EXCELLENT HEALTH and recently won the New Hampshire All State Synchronous Sky Diving Championship.
Blanche had no idea why I was under the impression that there was anything wrong with Luella at all. She said you and Luella went to Croatia to talk some man into bequeathing you with his beanie baby and pog collection from the 90s. What have I told you about those beanie babies, Gladys??? Don’t you remember what happened to you in Boise??? Beanie babies are going to be the death of you again!!!
Needless to say, I’m not surprised at all that you are also a person named Melanie and that you have been using my unique voice to attract the attention of the world. Fortunately for you, I’m feeling very benign and a little sore after my weekend and I give you my permission enlighten my future readers of my efforts. Please add this to your list of duties after you get caught up on my latest pages, which I’m changing, but you still should read them.
I’m getting closer and closer to releasing an epic saga of fantasy books that will CHANGE THE WORLD, Gladys. I know this is true because I have seen Neil Gaiman.
I saw him again.
I’m not talking about the time I saw him outside the bathroom at BAM.
This time I saw him in a mail truck, but I’ll explain later.
You’re probably wondering why I am a little late in sending you an update. I’m feeling very relaxed following my weekend at the park and thought I would take a day to just seep in all my newfound knowledge about Puhjyna.
I’ve decided that Puhjyna is not an alien investigator but an alien COMMUNICATOR. She receives messages from alien life sort of like Deanna Troi but she supports herself by working at a diner near the airport that I’m loosely basing off our town diner, The Landing Pad. Do you know any alien-communicating telepaths? Can you check at your discord server for me please? I need to do more research!!!
That UFO Communications and Far Far Right Gun Group was a nothing burger.
At dusk, I went to the far far right of the park and must’ve driven past all the pavilions there at least five times. They told me to look for a bunch of people in camo tactical gear with AR15s and a confederate flag with the state of New Hampshire on the front but they were NOWHERE to be found.
Finally I parked my car by the duck pond and decided to poke around in the trees behind the pavilions to see if they might be back there.
There weren’t any UFO investigators back there, Gladys, but there were these little brown capped mushrooms everywhere. Tiny little things with these cute little brown umbrella tops and spindly little stems. Adorable really. I took one look at them and I knew they were safe to eat.
Anyway, no sooner had I clambered through the trees looking for New Hampshire confederate flags, I began to hear all this strange hooting and screeching so of course I had to go see what that was.
And I would have caught up to it but one of my heels was ensnared in this strange white goo beneath a bunch of tree roots. I had to take a few minutes to sit down and scrape all the gunk off with some twigs and, while I was doing this, I felt this strong vibration. It was as though I was in front of massive speakers at a stadium concert and I could feel the sound but couldn’t hear it. My ribs were buzzing under my jacket. My jawbones rattled and my teeth tickled in their sockets. What do you think that was, Gladys?
I didn’t have any time to figure it out because then I went half-blind. Flashing, roving lights swung like beacons through the tops of the trees. They were ridiculous. I had no idea where they were coming from, my best guess was that it was a bunch of sky-divers with flares. Again and again these lights swung back and forth over the forest, blanching all the pines with white, blazing light. Cleaning my shoe became as easy as it would be to thread a needle in a strobe light.
That’s when whomever else was in the woods starting setting off semi-automatic fire works. Stupid New Hampshire with the stupid fireworks. Either that, or there was a gun range very very very nearby.
Come to think of it the whole wood started to stink of gunpowder.
I’m going to have to file a complaint with the park rangers. By the time the soundless humming and the lights and the shooting stopped, all the weird hooting stopped, too. It was suddenly quiet and still. My jawbone stopped quivering. My ribs stopped vibrating. Everything in the woods had stopped vibrating and all there was was this hushed dark, like all the breath had gone from the wood and I was just sitting there on a stump in the dark having forgotten which way I came from with nothing but mushrooms, white gluey stuff, and tree roots as far as the eye could see.
Needless to say, I didn’t learn a thing about aliens.
I was also terribly lost. It was much darker than it had been when I’d gone into the woods and after all the blinding light, I was now in foggy dark. I sat there, shivering and uncannily cold trying to hear any sounds of a highway or picnickers or anything that could suggest which way my car was. I knew I needed to get out of there.
That’s when I heard footsteps. Not of a bear or a deer. But something on two legs. Several somethings. They were all stepping at the same time, picking over the ground with one leg. And then with the other. Not a single step out of place. My heart was a golf ball lodged in my esophagus. The deliberate crunch of their feet closed around me and I was finally able to make out these vague shapes in the gray between the trees. They were people. People with long flowing hair. They came closer and closer and I tried to say something but I felt my tongue was held by invisible fingers. As soon as words came in my mind, it felt like someone was scooping them up and tearing them away from me.
One person stepped ahead of the others. She came where I could see her; blue hair flowing down all the way past her knees. White bandage tape covered her mouth. She held out her hand and waggled her fingers slowly for me to follow her. I looked around me at the others, they, too, had that white bandage tape over their mouths, some with stains. I could feel their round eyes looking at me from the trees more than I could see them. But I could see the eyes of the person with the blue hair and, to my mind now, I think she must have been wearing novelty contacts. Her eyes were orange and glimmery as tigers-eye with no pupils to speak of. I wanted to ask her if she knew the way back to the pavilions. I knew that wherever she wanted to lead me, I should not follow, that if I went with her, I would join the ones with the bandaged mouths. But my voice was caught in my throat, my tongue swollen and sticky, and I found I could not run. All I could hope was that she would lead me clear of the trees enough so that I could make a break for the road.
I must have walked with the bandaged souls for a half hour, Gladys. The scent of pine sap in the last of summer heat filled my nose. I clambered over root and rock, trying to stay close to my guide because the branches and bugs seemed to recoil from her presence while I was clawed and bitten. Where I had been cold, I now was hot and breathless. After a small eternity, I found myself with great relief in the midst of a rolling grassy slope with the shrinking moon overhead but as lost as I had been in the forest. What more, Gladys, there were others here. I couldn’t make them out at first in the shadows, but soon I began to perceive the shapes of about twenty more people. But these ones had antlers like deer, and when we got closer I saw that they were dressed like deer, with pelts flapping over their human hands and feet, standing on two legs, stained bandages over their mouths.
Before I could cry out, the deer people and the long-haired people flung their arms into the air and capered in a circle around me. They waved their arms and began a strange dance, one foot crossing over the others, making no sound—not even to breathe, but for their feet rustling in the grass. They danced as though they each could hear some invisible music and I felt myself suspended like a buoy in a black sea of dawning horror. All I could do was plead my legs to bolt for the pavilions, but I looked and I looked with no sight of the pavilions or the duck pond in any direction.
Without warning, all of the dancers stopped, arms hanging in the air. The people dressed like deer removed the pelts covering the bottom halves of their deer costumes so that all their nethers were sitting out for the world to see, an endless shadow mass of shadowy hair. Then, the long-haired flowing ones did the same, stripping skirts and trousers from their bodies and flinging them aside and I stood there in a circle of round, staring eyes and private parts and thought, “Well, this could be fun.”
Needless to say, Gladys, when the park ranger found me in the morning I was much more relaxed although I still haven’t managed to find my shoes.
I had to drive barefoot all the way home and that’s when I saw the mail truck and Neil Gaiman was sitting in the passenger seat. He waved. Real slow like. Do you think he is stalking me for my Modern City Fantasy story???
I’ve decided Puhjyna isn’t from the Nyther regions. That name sounds too much like the Dresden Files. I don’t want to be compared to Jim Butcher.
Will send new pages next week, now that I know I don’t need to worry about Puhjyna until book five!!!
If you see Neil Gaiman say nothing to him!!!!!