daily californian logo


Nowhere: A short story

article image



We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

JANUARY 25, 2019

The writer sat at her desk producing a story for her publisher. As the letters filled the void on the screen in front of her, she began to notice the sound of the fish tank from behind her. She found its bubbling particularly incessant and chaotic for an aquatic terrarium. While her thoughts trailed behind her, her left hand grasped her right to massage it from its hard toil in producing this inscription.

The cold ground seeped through her shoes and began to weather at her ankles. The air this morning was unusually moist. The rain seemed suspended in the air rather than taking its immediate heavy fall to the ground, artfully moving across the page of the setting before her, the writer. She pressed her lips together before producing a hard whistle, summoning her companion who appeared to be wrestling the dirt in the stream ahead on the path. His ears perked as he heard the writer’s call, removing his muddied paws from the thick marsh with greater pain than he had expected. He was eager to chase ahead but reconsidered his next direction after remembering the writer’s whistle — his mind, he suspected, was becoming less limber as well.

As the writer spotted the dog ahead, knowing she had returned him to their course with her sound, she brought her attention back to her book which she held firmly at her side with a hard finger wedged between two of the pages. With the story pocketed at her side, she wondered where Drizzt Do’ Urden wandered in the Underdark as she wandered along this path.

Her gaze carried her attention along the trail, then into the sky, then into the distant mountains that were recently dressed by the early winter snowfall, then to the sudden grasses on the east hillside. While she benefited from these lush, bright contours of the surface world she wondered where Drizzt, the drow elf, and his magical panther-companion Guenhwyvar were venturing off to while she wasn’t reading their story. How Drizzt could summon his friends like memories with a stroke of magic and how the writer could only experience these memories as what they were. She felt limited.

Interrupted, a figure approached the writer and the dog. He was walking alone, without the company of music, technology, book or dog, only the world. As she approached this unknown character, the writer wondered what thoughts transpired in this man’s head. What consciousness he brought along with him —

‘Consciousness.’ The writer recalibrated. Was this the right connotation, an appropriate word for what she had desired to convey on this page? By now the space that was once a blank void had become comfortably full with words, and so the writer began to feel that the expectation to perform became less of a burden. She began to reflect on the passages she had just produced and revised her story content, feeling dispossessed from herself as she read aloud a story about herself. She had become both the narrator and the narrated – an object and a subject. She found neither occupancy to be a romantic status and the more she read about herself, the greater dispossession she felt. She lost her focus on the story at the same moment that she became a casual reader rather than the vigilant writer.

The figure neared closer to the dog and the writer’s path. Moving with sudden uneasiness, the writer wondered if her anxiety had transferred to him through their close proximity. She dismissed this thought as she saw a smile break upon the stranger’s face. Unknowingly, the writer returned this favor.

The writer was almost near the word count: 615, 616, 617. Her eyes were now transfixed by the glow of the computer, how its foreboding casted its reflection on her steadily typing hands. The writer again found herself displaced between the virtual interface in front of her, the physical reality of her surroundings and the pseudo-reality that she tapped into through this story-world.

And so, with nothing left to say, she ended it.

The writer depressed her left shoulder to turn her gaze to the open window beside her. The atmosphere was hung with a bright yellow haze, yet the sun was absent. The buildings below the skyline were covered in thick, dark shadows and the people there were likewise silhouetted as if in the cover of night. She looked at the digital clock in the opposite corner of the room, which read 11:40. Whether it was night or late morning, she was unable to discern. Brewing in this confusion, she looked to her writing surface for some solace. But in this desperate attempt the writer was exasperated to find that her computer was no longer there. Instead, the physical space before her became a portal window through which she could see the same scenery that she had just observed a minute ago outside the window. Her breath became colossal as she reached for the space in front of her. She was disassociated from her present and tranquilized by translucency.

The old woman opened her eyes. The pillow was far sunken into the space between the head board and the mattress and she found that her pajama pants had become heavy from the sweat of yet another night fit. She extended her limply awake hand to the opposite side of the bed, casually gesturing for the distorted pillows to move their plumpy bodies. As the pillows reshaped from the woman’s flattening fist, she read the time on the clock. 11:41 a.m.

Contact Layla Chamberlin at [email protected].

FEBRUARY 03, 2019