[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 is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]
TIME MACHINE TELEPHONE
Um…everybody? Melanie here.
Truth being a stranger thing and up being down, Neil Gaiman sent out a small tweet this week apologizing to Ellen Kushner for appearing in her wife’s dreams and giving her writing advice.
Here are two interesting and unexpected tweets that make me think about last week’s email in new ways.
@Daniel Dern, looks like we have more Dream Gaiman company.
Writerly conspiracy theory: in resurrecting DC’s Sandman, fledgling author Neil Gaiman unwittingly fused his spirit with a cosmic dream-force and now must live out his days appearing in other writer’s dreams doling out advice in order to free himself from… er…dunno. Never been good at conspiracy theories.
As for Writer X’s progress? Holy Hecate…By golly. I think she’s got it. Now for the pesky little business of producing words. I do, however, wish I could give her a big hug. She’s been through a lot. Some of it her own doing, but a lot—well, you’ll see.
Without further ado…
While you have managed to bring me peanut butter cookies, my curling iron, the name of a handyman you trust, a copy of your Anbo Jyutsu certification, and three pages of feedback on A DRAFT I’VE SINCE DELETED, you still have managed not to tell me whether or not that creepy lady is still in my closet.
As for your note about breaking into the Grim Hill House, I’m not sure about the date as I don’t know if my right croc is still missing now that
Hang on. My phone is ringing.
It was my home insurance. They’re telling me there’s nothing wrong with my electric except that the lights won’t turn off. Something also about billing me for my stay here in HELL but I wasn’t listening.
What I need to talk to you about is my writing. I haven’t gotten ANYWHERE since I met that stupid writing wizard!!! I lost two weeks of perfectly good writing time doing something as stupid as taking a lot of notes about what I think my story is about!!! Who is going to publish these notes, Gladys???
Hang on. The bell boy, Belvedere, says that he needs me to move for a few minutes so that he can wash the windows in this part of the lobby. I’m not allowed to go anywhere without supervision so I’m stuck wherever they put me until I’m ready to go home. They think I’m waiting for my ride but my car’s out back.
Anyway, what I’ve decided is that I need the email addresses of publishers. Nothing too crazy, maybe Random House or TOR books, something approachable. They’re going to be very pleased with my new idea that no one’s EVER done before!! I’ve decided that I’m going to send one of their lucky editors the next biggest epic fantasy saga they’ll ever know but the whole thing is that it will still be UNWRITTEN. This means we can spend a lot of time talking about what the cover will look like!!! And advertise!!! I’m going to send them the Grim Dark version along with the Modern City Fantasy version because there’s things I like in both and the editor can work on sticking those together.
THIS IS GOING TO BE AMAZING!!! The only thing is that I’m going to need to get lawyered up!! I don’t want them doing to me what the New Yorker is doing to me!!!
Okay I’m back. I just sent the New Yorker an angry email withdrawing my worldbuilding and told them that I am CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF PUBLISHING IT WITH TOR BOOKS. THAT will teach THEM.
Maybe once I see all the posters for my new saga I can finally get the energy to write it!
Hang on. Belvedere’s moving me from this spot now. He’s acting cranky.
Anyway. I just need you to send me that list of publishers and let me know about my closet or else I’m going to see if I can stay at Marjory’s tonight. I suppose the lights being on is good news after all I’ve been through thanks to that writing wizard leading me totally astray with that “heart of a story” nonsense and my room spitting me out with all of my things this morning.
All I did was break a silly window and next thing I know, I’m being chucked out and Marjory can’t log me in to another room because the keys have all gone missing.
To top it all off, I’ve been feeling sicker and sicker but I can’t tell you why although the Coach’s minions have stopped calling me.
You’re probably wondering why I’m stuck here in the lobby and my room spit me out. It all happened when I hurled my cell phone through the window this morning. No, wait, maybe I should start earlier. It all happened when I decided to tear out my journal pages and burn them in the center of my bed. I was feeling a little frustrated.
That’s when I realized one of the pages I tore out wasn’t my journaling but a note I took after talking to work about needing to call out daily so that I didn’t get written up or fired but I completely forgot about it for the last two weeks!!! I tried to call work but D___ picked up and told me she thought I wasn’t working there anymore and that B___ had fired me. FIred ME??? WHO ARE THEY GOING TO GET TO MOVE THEIR PINK TRACTORS???
My sugar was low. I hurled my phone at the window and, to my surprise, it smashed the window and flew right out into the courtyard or whatever space is out there. How was I supposed to get my phone back if people put such cheap glass in the windows???
Then just as I was about to call Marjory from the room phone and complain about the cold, a phone came hurtling back through the window.
I didn’t recognize it at first. It was an old phone I hadn’t seen in YEARS!!! On closer examination, it didn’t seem quite right. There were strange scratches and teeth marks on it.
That when I decided to call B___’s cell phone. But instead of B___ picking up, this old man picked up the phone and said: “WHO’S THIS???” and he was shouting over a TV blaring in the background.
I told him it was ME and that I needed to call out of work for the last two weeks.
He shouted “WHAAT?? I CAN’T HARDLY HEAR YOU.” And something else but I wasn’t listening to him, I was listening to the news in the background because the announcer was saying something very strange. It was like Fox news or something and the announcer said:
“News of President Obamer’s initiative to spend $30 million dollars on polymorphic sensory field technology was met with uproar from conservatives who argued that the investment needed to be twice that if the U.S. is to keep up with Chinese military developments.”
I felt something in my gut. My skin got tight and prickly and my heart began to pound. Do you remember when President Obamer did that, Gladys?? That was like five or six years ago, wasn’t it?
That’s when it hit me. What if I was calling back in time???
Shaking, I called the call center C___ used to work at. But I suddenly lost my nerve when I heard the help desk person’s voice. So I asked the person at the help desk if she had seen the news that morning and she said, “Can you believe Obamer? What a cheapskate.”
My voice almost didn’t want to come out of my throat. I asked her to put me through to his extension and…
The help desk didn’t even hesitate when I asked for him.
His phone rang and rang. Then it went to voicemail. I hung up really fast and almost didn’t call him back but I don’t know why.
I called back and asked her to connect me again and she did and again, the phone rang once, twice, three times, and then it stopped, went quiet for a little bit and I heard: “Hey, buttercup.”
I began to cry before he had even finished the words. And he just let me cry and cry and it made me miss him even more. I became afraid because at some point I would have to hang up and I didn’t know if I would ever hear his voice again after that.
Even then I knew something was wrong. C___ doesn’t say “hey” when I call him. He always says “Waa Gwaan” because it sounds like his uncle and it’s our little thing. Then it hit me how sad he had sounded when he said “Hey, Buttercup.”
I said, “You sound so sad.”
C___ said: “I’m happy to hear your voice, but yeah. A little sad.”
“Because you lost this phone in that orangutan cage.”
“And if you’re calling me from this number, it means that I’m dead.”
And I began to sob again and tell him that I hate the Society and that it’s their fault he’s gone and that I’m totally failing at writing and that I’m scared of our house and our evil neighbor A___ is MORE INSUFFERABLE THAN EVER and I didn’t even get to tell him about the chickens!!
“Listen,” he said. “I love you. But this number you’re calling me from has become a time line. If that’s the case, it’s going to disappear and we can’t be sure when. I chose the Society. The work they do is important and, you may not realize this, but they rely on me. And if I’m gone…it means I failed somehow. It means you’re not safe. No one is.”
“But can’t you change something? Can’t you just quit?”
“You know I can’t do that,” he said. “But I’m going to do something, okay? I need you to tell me what you know. Give me some clues about what may have gone wrong.”
“Gladys has stopped talking to me. That’s gone wrong. I asked her for peanut butter cookies and she didn’t bring them. She didn’t bring me my curling iron. She didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me if she still is certified in anbo jyutsu or if she knows a handyman or…or what she thinks of my writing!!”
“Other clues, baby.”
“What other clues??? It all strted when Gladys stopped talking to me! No, you know what? It all went wrong when you were dead. Nothing’s worse than that. Can’t you make yourself not dead??”
“Probably not…But I know only a little more than you do about this. Come on, bean-spilling time. What year is it?”
I told him that it’s 2021 and I’m not even remotely close to being a famous writer.
“How long has it been since…well, since I died?”
So I told him everything that’s happened. Or at least I tried to, but I’ve been so upset that none of it really came out in the right order and I realized after I missed a WHOLE bunch of stuff including about when I burnt his arcane mementos and my evil neighbor A____ called the fire department on me!!!! And that D___ said I was fired from work because I didn’t call out.
C__ said, “I’m going to do what I can, baby. But you need to know something: if I’m gone, M___ and Brian will look out for you. Do whatever M___ tells you.”
“But M___ has been in a coma since before you were dead!”
Then he swore. I heard someone tell him that it was time for him to take his break.
“Baby, I gotta go. But I’ll try calling you back from my cellphone, alright?”
“Alright, but what if it doesn’t work? And I didn’t even get to tell you about this snake oil salesman of a writing wizard and how I can’t find the heart of my story because all I can think about is you and how awful it is not having you. I wasn’t done. I wasn’t done with us. Not even close.”
C___ said, “Then write about us, kid. I gotta go. I call you back—”
But I knew he wouldn’t. I told him I needed to be the one to hang up first.
I heard him sniff and his voice sounded all wobbly and strained like he was trying not to cry. “Yeah. Yeah. I love you, okay?”
I took a deep breath and squeezed my eyes tight and hoped that this time wasn’t truly the end. “Goodbye,” I said.
“Good—” and I hung up before he could finish.
I put the phone in my purse, hid it as far away from my sight as I could. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s like when you close your eyes when you’re doing lottery scratch offs because you don’t want to see whether you win or lose until you’re ready. But when I pulled it out again a half hour later, it was my new phone and that made me cry all over
Hang on, Gladys, my phone is ringing again. My real phone.
It’s my protege!!! He was just calling to see if I was okay. Apparently there’s like piles of Society pamphlets around my front door and all my lights have been on for like two weeks and it’s really pissing off my evil neighbor A___ which is a silver-lining unto itslef. My protege’s BACK!!!! I’M SO HAPPY!!!
Anyway Gladys, I still need you to get me those publisher emails for TOR books and RAndom House!!! Otherwise I think I’m going to stay at Marjory’s place tonight. We’re back on speaking terms and they’ve told me about this writing critique group that meets every week at the Ink Black Coffee Club here in town.
I would invite you but it’s an exclusive event.
You know what I just thought of? That writing wizard was wrong, there isn’t a heart of a story, there’s just my heart and that’s going to have to be good enough.
And my heart can’t get over C___.
Gladys. I just thought of something. It feels like a floodlight went off in my brain. I can’t explain how it just came together, but if this story is about missing C___ and it’s about Fenchin and Musradi then Fenchin starts the story looking for the Hummindaal and Musradi starts the story
I have to go write.
P.S. PAGES COMING!!! I ExPECT FULL FEEDBACK!!!
P.P.S. …thank you, Gladys. You really are my best friend. All of you.
P.P.P.S. I’m keeping this Demonic Grimoire!! It’s pretty interesting and I think will come in handy later. Probably even as soon as next week!