[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.]
FROM THE DESK OF SILVERFOX
Hello all, Melanie here.
Hope your Juneteenth and Father’s Day was as great as you needed it to be! I had some tech trouble last week. I decided to completely erase my entire computer.
As a result, I wasn’t able to forward my emails to Mike in time. That’s okay because I haven’t yet received another email and—I know, I know, I’ve been needlessly anxious before, but I’m definitely wondering what’s going on.
This week we have another voice memo. And, as specially, we have a letter directly from Silverfox, the furry fiction writer, friend of X and Tryxy, and member of the Fellowship of the Things.
Without further ado…
Subject: Ready for action!!!
Well, it’s six a.m. and I am ready to talk to the manager of Writeria and fix my writing life!!!!!
In the meanwhile, we’ve spent our first full night here in Writeria without getting killed. I slept in snow pants but that’s okay because I think they accentuate my figure.
Tod Boadkins saw what he thinks are houses somewhere away from here so we’re going to start walking in that direction with lots of stops for snacks. The manager will be there, I can just feel it!!!!
I hope you don’t mind, but I gave Silverfox your email. He’s been chronicling our travels and driving me a LITTLE crazy so I told him he should send it to you for proofreading.
Please make sure all of his descriptions of me are flattering!!!!!
From: Silverfox Firepaw
Subject: Notes from the Wilderness
My name is Silverfox Firepaw. I’m a writer friend of Writer X. She informed me that you would be highly interested in what I’ve observed here and gave me your contact info to send you my insights. At this point, I’m not sure what insights I have.
Since you are our only connection to the world outside Writer X’s closet, I hope I’m not imposing. If you have any thoughts on what is happening here, I know at least three or four of us would be happy to hear them. The other one wants to talk to the manager.
I would advise that you not risk entry into the closet to share those thoughts. I don’t have a good feeling about this.
Where We Are And What Danger We Have Faced
We are lost in a snowy, forested wilderness without notion on how to find our way back to our entry point. This is partly due to the thirty or forty creatures which resemble the fantasy author Neil Gaiman which we ran into shortly after our emergence into this world. They cut off our path and forced us to scatter before we could clearly perceive our entry point.
They are aggressive. Tryxy used a vorpal machete to fight off a handful of them. The snicker-snacking made by the blade was ghastly, but the creatures continued to swarm and overwhelm us. If it weren’t for the lungs on #bestkitten, which brought down the snow in the canopy on all of us (and trapped about ten of the creatures), I have no doubt that we would have been overcome.
Shortly after we regrouped, there was a snow squall which forced us to take cover. It also erased our tracks. What few tracks remained could have as easily been the tracks of the Deadly Gaiman creatures. It became too dangerous and too cold for us to follow any trail back to our entry point lest we come upon the Deadly Gaimans.
A Little Cave Which Mr. Tumnus Was Not In.
We headed in the direction that would be easier for those of us who don’t have the same outdoors skills as the characters we write about—which is all of us, and which meant, whenever we came to a fork, we took the down hill option. As we descended, I had the idea of jamming some of X’s pink pencils into trees to track our path. Hopefully it doesn’t lead the wrong sort of people straight to us.
Following an hour’s descent, we found a little path—well, path is debatable. We found a bunch of places with fewer trees and rocks in them. And they all happened to go in a straight-ish line so we called it a “path.”
By this time we were all cold and distressed and began to joke among ourselves that we needed to find Mr. Tumnus and his warm cave. I’m including this detail because I have no way of knowing whether our discussion had any impact on our discovery. Within a few moments of my mentioning Mr. Tumnus, we found a cave. The cave resembled caves you see in illustrations—the perfectly rounded doorway, the perfectly smoothed walls with a floor of reddish stone. It was dry, clear of roots and bugs.
And the length and breadth of it was packed with snow pants.
This was a little disappointing. Although I still hold out that we may actually run into Mr. Tumnus. He, of course, wouldn’t be the real Mr. Tumnus being that thousands of years must have passed in Narnia since the time of the Pevensies. But he’d be the Mr. Tumnus of Here. I don’t know. I’m not thinking logically. Reality and fiction are blending together. I should get back to my observations.
Each member of our party found a pair of snow pants that fit them, including an adorable little four-legged pair that fit #bestkitten and including a pair for myself although I have little need for snow pants thanks to the investments I made in my fur suit last year for Few-chah Furry Con. Sometime following our donning snow pants, unearthly noises filled the valley. X has informed me that she’s already sent you recordings of the sounds so I will spare you the description. I can’t help but feel that the noises mean something.
My Original Thoughts and How This World Affects Our Technologies
Prior to agreeing to come with X on her vacation, I had spent some time theorizing what the strange world in her closet could have been. I know of no other instances of other writers finding worlds inside their writing closets. I could not rule out the idea that she had found Narnia, nor have I yet ruled out that possibility.
My second thought was that we might be entering a world that X created, particularly since it was accessed through her writer’s closet. If this were true, then in is likely that X would have insights on our location and what sort of creatures we could find here. Currently, she does not. I might also expect a lot more pink. Instead, X insists that Fenchin’s world does not have snow or nearly as many “confounded rocks.”
As well, I suspect that we would not have run into so many Deadly Gaiman creatures if it were her story world. It makes me wonder if they’re of the same make as the Neil Gaiman that has been spotted around Cradensburg. If this is true, I fear for our world.
Cell coverage does not work on any of our phones. Writer X’s household wi-fi continues to work here but, so far, we’ve only been able to use it to send emails. None of our inbound emails will update past Saturday morning. For those of us who have location sharing turned on, our devices all show that we’re on X’s street on Horn Hill. X insists that it shows us all in her closet. Our phones and laptops all report that it’s June 5th. That cannot be. We have been here only a day which means, for us, it is Sunday, May 29th. It’s possible that our passage through the tunnel did something to our electronics. If you look away from your screen for just a minute, it will state that hours have passed.
The Effects of This World Upon One of Our Party
I know X better than I know Tryxy, but I think this world is having a strange affect on him. Tryxy has mentioned that his demonic abilities “feel diminished.” He said it reminds him of another place he has visited. I forget the name of the place, but he said it was a Void.
He is the only member of our party who has location services turned off and has suggested we all do the same because “that’s how they get you.” I’m not certain which they, but he said he learned about it on YouTube.
The Appearance of the Topography
I’m aware that this next detail may sound strange considering that I have established that I don’t have any working theories about where or how we are. The landscape reminds me of New Hampshire if you made a painting of New Hampshire’s topographical characteristics with a watery ink brush and exaggerated everything. In fact, it almost looks like Cradensburg if you squint at the lines of mountains which surround us. Only the mountains here seem much higher, much closer, and—like they might disappear if you look away too long.
There are dense forests. There are giant rocks jutting out of the soil at every turn. That’s all normal.
Strange New Powers and Stranger Sights
Following his getting struck in a tree full of mittens (not normal), the local fantasy author of Broken Tides, Tod Boadkins, has somehow developed the ability to fly, although he has not yet developed enough skill for it to pose less danger to him. He went up as high as he could go and has reported a similar observation: it looks like New Hampshire and like Not New Hampshire and some things feel more real and permanent than other things.
He also reported a strange black stain in the sky beyond the hill we think we descended. In the opposite direction—the direction we think the town of Bleakwood would be in our world, he spied what he thinks is a village which X expects has “the manager.” There’s also a large road that passes from south to north and heads toward that village.
Our Current Dilemma and My Private Fears
It’s cold. Snow has fallen twice since we went to sleep and continues to accumulate. Tryxy has rummaged a few space heaters from the basement of his yurt and X has them all set to “tropical.” It was so hot that Tod had to sleep with his head stuck out into the cold. I’m currently concerned that, if we don’t find some other shelter soon, we’re at risk of burning down the yurt, dying from heat stroke, or getting crushed by another storm of lamp posts.
We have five days left to explore this place and find our way back into the closet. I’ve considered staying behind in the snow pants cave to see if I could scout a path back to our entry point but I would quickly fall out of contact with the others. My hope is that, when we do reach the village, we can find some sort of transport that might help us circumvent the Deadly Gaimans and re-enter X’s closet. Although I’m not sure what they would accept as currency.
There’s something I feel I need to share with you. I fear the world may be playing tricks with our minds. I feel like I’m being watched. The other night I thought I saw a head looking out from behind a tree. It had ears like a fox. I’m afraid of speaking about this with the others, especially Tryxy whom I fear may attack them to protect X and #bestkitten—and maybe even to protect Tod and myself. It’s a feeling I have which I won’t go into now but I don’t know if his power is as diminished as he says it is.
As you know, #bestkitten in the wisest among us. So far she has kept her own counsel regarding all of this. We may be able to bribe her with ham into enlightening us.
Maybe, in the end, all of this will contribute something to my writing. I can now say I’ve done one thing my characters have done: I have gotten lost in a strange new world.
I have to end this note. The wind has picked up. We have to pack the yurt and try and make our way down to that wide road which leads to the village before snow falls again.
“writing is weaving real worlds from invisible threads”
From: Writer X
Subject: Dark Armies
TRANSCRIPT FROM WRITER X VOICE MEMO 3
#bestkitten: loud meow
Tod Boadkins: You’re right. I think it’s too early for a rest. We’ve got to be closing in on the road and, if we keep on it, we could beat another snow storm.
Silverfox: Did you want to fly up and look again? Or [knowingly]…your hands
Tod Boadkins: Yeah, my hands. Fell out of a mitten tree and still came up empty-handed. Fingers are pretty red from my last flight. It’s cold up there. Then there’s that dark stain. Don’t want to cross it.
Silverfox: Right. On the ground it is then! If only we had binoculars. I can’t believe Tryxy has space heaters but not binoculars.
Tod Boadkins: I would have thought you’d have had binoculars. You seem more prepared for stuff like this. Is that a grappling hook you’ve got on your shoulder there?
Silverfox: oh this?
(they both grunt appreciatively and murmur “Yeah”)
Tod Boadkins: (speaking of writer X) What’s she doing?
Silverfox: I think she’s recording another voice memo? (isn’t certain, it’s as though X mystifies him)
Tod Boadkins: [rubbing hands together and blowing into them for warmth] honestly, I can’t wait till we get to that village. I don’t care if it smells like piss. You?
Silverfox: (apprehensive noise) mmmm
Tod Boadkins: You think it’ll be hostile?
Silverfox: I’m just not certain what to expect. This isn’t one of our stories. But if it was one of my stories, something bad would happen right about now.
Tod Boadkins: Yeah, but if it’s anyone’s story, it’s X’s and she doesn’t believe in an outline so we could just wander around for forty years in snow pants.
Silverfox: Some people are pantsers. It’s a valid way to write.
Tod Boadkins: I know. I used to do it. Then I got sick of cutting out fifty to sixty pages of meandering plot… Hey. She’s recording but she’s not talking. (calls to X)…X you alright?
Writer X: Hmmm? Oh yes, I’m just… I’m just looking at this other person shaped rock. There seems to be a lot of person shaped rocks in this closet place. I feel like this one should be named Milfred.
Silverfox: That is another person shaped rock.
Tod Boadkins: Looks like a rock to me. One more reason to get to the village, eh? They’ll have people instead of rocks, right? And no wicked scary dark stain in the sky. Why don’t we just push on? We get to a village. There’ll be a tavern with roast beast on the fire, some old-timey fiddle music. Romantic, right? No falling lamp posts. No weird noises. And we won’t have to sleep in a sweaty yurt. No offense, Tryxy.
Tryxy: None taken.
[pencil scratching sounds]
Tod Boadkins: What are you doing?
Writer X: I’m writing Milfred on this rock with my signature pink pencils.
Writer X: How else will we know that it’s Milfred? (into recorder) Anywoot, Gladys, I’m just sending you this memo so that you know where we are now. We’re under some trees near a person shaped rock and those awful noises have finally stopped. We’re going to take this road that we’re almost at into the village and find the manager so that’s where you’ll find us, okay?
Tod Boadkins: X! Stop!
Writer X: What is it?
Silverfox: (whispers) Quiet!
Writer X: What is it? (echoes)
Tod Boadkins: (hisses, comes close) Holy Zarquon’s Singing Fish, it’s an army.
[sound of horse hooves approach]
Writer X: It must be a very small army because they’re quiet.
Tod Boadkins: Whaat?
Writer X: You know. They have to be like this big…
Tod Boadkins: (audibly sighs) Either that, or it’s a normal sized army and they’re far away.
Writer X: OR, it’s a very small army with very tiny horses close to us and a bigger army behind it.
Silverfox: (whispers) that’s a lot of horses.
Tod Boadkins: (whispers) you think they’re headed for the village?
Silverfox: (whispers) No idea. But it’s not like there are exit ramps on this road, right?
Tod Boadkins: (whispers) This is not good.
[hooves get close and then pass by]
Silverfox: (normal speaking voice) THAT. Was a very small army.
Tod Boadkins: those horses were little bigger than mice!
[MUCH LOUDER hooves approach]
Silverfox: And there’s the much bigger army right behind them
[CRAZY ANIMAL SOUNDS]
Writer X: Gotta go Gladys! Watch out for the armies and pack your holy hand grenade. Hey! Where’d Milfred go??