Recently I became a member of the Faith Writers community and already I feel very encouraged. They give many opportunities to learn, grow and exchange experience between writers. Two weeks ago, I participated in their weekly Writing Challenge and wrote my first fiction (short) story since high school. The topic was “Googled” and the entry must be between 150 and 750 words long.
Here’s what I submitted–cheating a bit, because I included the suggestions for improvement that fellow Faith Writers gave in their (edifying) comments:
The door flung open, too fast, too noisy. Jessy stumbled into the room, panting and perspiring. For a moment, she just stood there, wild-eyed, confused, not knowing what to do next.
“Hey there! I’m glad you made it. Have a seat.”
The woman in the white shirt who sat at the other side of the room welcomed her, apparently not impressed by her late and loud arrival. About twelve people in a circle stared at her– a many-headed beast that tried to pierce through her shield of shame.
Jessy walked to the only free chair available and sat down. Self-conscious, she avoided to look in those two dozen penetrating eyes. The woman in white spoke again.
“Do you want to share with us why you’re here?”
Jessy looked up, not sure who the woman had addressed. The beast was still staring at her, so she guessed the question was meant for her. Lowering her gaze again, she noticed that one of the brown floor tiles was broken and grey dust had crept into the cracks, forming a crooked finger that pointed in her direction. She wiped her sweaty hand palms at her skirt. The chair on which she was sitting, with it straight back, was uncomfortable. She shifted back and forth, trying to find a better position. The silence was heavy. The beast sat waiting, pushing her with its patience.
Finally, she whispered a hoarse, “I’m Jessy.”
“Hi Jessy,” the beast replied as with one mouth. She cleared her throat, searching for her normal voice that somehow got lost in the mess that she had made of herself. A weird smell entered her nostrils; a sharp, nasty odor–her own fear?–mixed with a delicate, sweet perfume, as from some exotic flower. Then something deep inside of her gathered her thoughts and nudged them towards her voice. She looked at the woman and opened her mouth.
“A couple of days ago, I felt a strange pain, on the left side of my neck.” Her hand went up to touch the sore spot. “My glands were all swollen. I wondered what it could be. I really tried to resist…”
The woman’s nods encouraged her to continue.
“Maybe I should throw away my computer! I managed to do without for more than a day, but yesterday, I lost it. I just had to know. So, there I was at my laptop again, all day and all night, surfing frantically from one website to another, looking up symptoms and diseases, from ‘The doctor knows’ to ‘The patient tells,’ from scientific research to quackery. At the end, I was sure that I had only a couple of weeks left to live. I panicked, preferred to kill myself right away. Somehow, I managed to drive here. I’m desperate. I don’t want this anymore.”
The woman smiled at her. A warm and understanding smile. Jessy then dared to look the beast in the face and identified human beings who radiated compassion. She suddenly realized that every person in this room knew how it feels to be dominated by forces that seem uncontrollable. There was the old lady with the friendly face–she gambled. The big guy, who drank. The beautiful girl with bulimia. The thin man in his fifties–he did drugs. Like her, they used to seek in all the wrong directions whenever they were in need of answers, ways to still the pain, or weapons to fight the fear. They tended to search their way to the light losing themselves in false solutions–devastating deceptions of darkness.
She felt the crippling shame leaving her and took a deep breath to reconquer the space that she had allowed to be occupied with lies. Then she smelled it again: the flowery fragrance, so sweet, so… heavenly. She closed her eyes while she inhaled the perfume and was permeated by a Presence; the Solution to every problem, the Answer to every question. The oppression lifted, as if a huge, sharp claw let go of her soul, her mind.
Jessy locked eyes with every single person in the circle before she admitted, free and unafraid now, “So, I guess that I want to share with you that I’m here, because I… googled.”