Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Starting Sparks // Ann Marie

Emily @ Ink, Inc. and Ashley @ [insert title here] recently created a monthly link-up called Starting Sparks, in which they post a writing prompt and participants do what is normally done with a writing prompt: pen something based off it.

This month's prompt:

As it turns out, this fits with a thing I wrote at the end of December, when my brother and I did a couple of music-based writing dares. For the first, we swapped instrumental pieces. For the second, songs with lyrics. He chose Owl City's "Lonely Lullaby" for me. Why, Josiah, whyyyy?


Anyway, it's probably bad form to bend a link-up's rules the first time you do it (seeing as it's not necessarily my favorite song, nor did I write it specifically for the prompt), but . . . here goes.

He stood in the pouring rain, left hand loose at his side and right hand clenched around something. His clothes had long ago soaked up as much rainwater as they could. Now they clung to his shoulders like a cloak of grief and wrapped his legs like chains. Evening darkness shrouded the forest clearing. He stood alone—a solitary pillar holding up the thundering sky.
He turned a wet face to the heavens. The only way to tell the tears apart from the rain was the way they left salt on his lips. Raindrops spattered a silver symphony against the canopy of leaves.
I sang my princess fast asleep . . .
The tune played out for a bar or two before he even realized he was humming it again. He swallowed hard, then sang a phrase, the words coming as naturally as breath but as painfully as vinegar in a wound.
She was my dream come true.
He should have known better than to believe that anything from the Realm of Dreams could last here in the bitter world. Should have known better, and yet . . .
And yet she had brimmed with such reckless life and warmth that this world had seemed transitory in comparison, a wisp of a ghost next to a flesh and blood body. He should have known. Dreams come true soon become dreams slain. Hadn’t they all warned him?
The next lyric hitched in his throat. He swallowed a sob and lifted his right fist to his lips.
Arms wide, he stood on the precipice. His song rolled out over the impenetrable mist below like river-rush and summer-sun. He laughed the lyrics, grinning so wide his face hurt. Somewhere down in the mist, a birdcall voice answered. He paused. She was down there. His princess. His dream. He sang again; she answered again. Beams of light shone up through the mist. He knelt on the edge and sang her up; her song entwined with his in perfect harmony until at last—
The mist broke and she alighted on the cliff next to him. His princess. His dream, now true and present and finally here.
The song with which he’d brought her into this world had become their song. Its melody wove its way into every conversation, every shared forest path, every adventure. It thrummed in their chests and when he held her hand, he could feel the pulse of it in her fingers. As the months spun lazily by, the lyrics had changed and lengthened, growing more and more beautiful with time. Just like his dream princess. Her laugh put all the forest songbirds to shame. Her eyes outshone the stars.
But this world was too small to contain their love. By the time autumn settled in, they had explored every boundary more than once. She grew restless, as did he. This was not home for either of them. This was just in between, the little space dividing worlds. It was not meant to be a world of its own, not really. “Come with me,” he’d begged her. “To my home.”
“Is it big?” she had asked. “Is it grand?”
She had loved that word—grand. The way she used it dusted off its stuffy connotations and breathed a full, adventurous life into it. Grand. Blue mountains jagging up and falling into the sea—those were grand. Earthy hollows full of moss and musty leaves and shiny beetles—those were grand, too. So were spring rainstorms and pebbly beaches and swooping hawks and star lilies and good secrets and delightful contradictions and the way music was the voice of souls. Grand, every one of them.
He had spun her around and grinned into her hazel eyes. “Very big. And very, very grand.”
So it was decided. They would go home, where they would have years upon years’ worth of wide open spaces in which to live and love. She had never been beyond the Dream Realm until he’d sung her out. And she’d never been beyond the between. “That’s alright,” he said. “I will sing you there.”
But winter arrived early. The portal he’d planned to take her to froze over, buried under four feet of snow. No matter, of course. There was another portal, an ancient one. Rickety with disuse, but just as good as any to be found, he’d told her. Besides, his song would carry her strong and safe.
They sang together as they trekked the snowy plains toward that portal.
Now, standing in the clearing under the weeping skies, he shivered in remembrance of that icy wind.
His song had failed. Rather than singing her safely home, she slipped from his grasp—slipped from his song—and disappeared into oblivion. Her scream still rang in his ears. He swiped rainwater out of his eyes, hoping to erase the image of her terror-stricken face with it.
I sang my princess fast asleep.
Dreams always died, the others had said. And they were right. He had killed his dream, his princess from the Realm of Dreams. But in that ethereal world, dreams and nightmares were one and the same. Singing her out had rescued her from torment.
Little good it had done.
Dead dreams returned to the Realm. They fell so deep, no song could ever reach them again.
The song stuck in his throat. He sank to his knees there on the soggy grass and let the sobs wrack him. If only he could dissolve in this rain. The wind howled along with his cries. He bowed so low his forehead touched the ground, and there his weeping turned to a scream: “Why?
He pounded the ground with his fist, still tightly wrapped around its precious object. He hunched there, broken, sure his heart would bleed out, until the cries subsided. “Believe me,” he whispered. “I loved you. I didn’t want this to happen.”
Oh, Ann Marie, believe me. I loved you.
He hauled himself to his feet. Steps heavy, he left the clearing and walked into the forest. The rain slackened to a drizzle as he wove between trees, and as the weather cleared, his pace quickened until he stood on the precipice to the Realm.
There on the edge, mist swirling so far below, he finally raised his closed fist and opened his fingers. The pink star lily lay crumpled in his palm. The last thing she had called grand. One flower among a field of blooms, one flower with nothing to set it apart from the rest. Yet Ann Marie had set eyes on it, plucked it, and triumphantly pronounced it the grandest flower she’d ever seen.
He could still feel her warm hands tucking the stem into his jacket’s breast pocket. Somehow the flower had lived on, its petals as lush as the day she’d picked it.
Carefully, he slipped the flower into his pocket again. He stared down into the mist. Somewhere down there, she suffered a fate worse than death.
“It’s a bitter world,” he murmured. “And I’d rather dream.”
One step and he plummeted off the edge.
I can’t forget you.
Oh, Ann Marie, I’ll never forget you.

P.S. In favor of doing a quality Subplots and Storylines post on Sunday, I won't be posting on Saturday. S&S tends to get rather long anyway, so I'm sure you patient questers (who spend your days trekking mountain ranges and battling dragons and searching high and low for legendary objects of power) won't mind terribly.


  1. Asdjlghfl what did I just read?!

    Girl, you seriously have a way with words! I am sitting here stunned can you be so amazing?

    Ack, this is so depressing, though! AND THAT SONG. Oh gracious, it's SO SAD. I don't even know.

    I loved how you tied in the lyrics of the song to the short story. (Like the pink star lily.) So brilliant!

    Awesome stuff!'ll take me a while before I can pick myself up out of my pool of tears. JUST WHY.

    1. I'm not even sure, to be honest...

      ALSKFJASLFJ THANK YOU! You're so sweet.

      At least I'm not the only one drowning in tears--this was pretty sad to write. I usually end things off with a glimmer of hope, but apparently not this time. (Well, that's maybe not entirely true. Things may turn out better in the future for these two charries. Then again, they may not.)

    2. Oh, this is kind of random, but I just read this poem for English class called "Annabel Lee" that really reminded me of this. It has a very similar theme (as far as losing a loved one), the tone is the same, and the title is fairly close to yours. I just thought that was a bit funny how I happened to read that right after seeing this post. XD

    3. I've read that one too! I studied it in high school poetry. Just looked it up to read it again . . . It's such a sad one, isn't it? Maybe my subconscious pulled a little something from it for this story. XD

  2. Wow! That was so sad! It was beautiful!

    1. Thank you, Emma! (I have to admit, it feels a tad awkward to *enjoy* making readers sad...)

  3. How ... how ... Tracey Dyck, are you a Faerie? Because I am convinced that only a Faerie has the ability to write such magical words.

    Good gracious, this was so sad, but beautiful at the same time. I absolutely loved it. Seriously, LOVED it. I can't ... how did you even ... I just ... My words can't do this piece justice. Partially because they just can't, partially because this piece has struck me speechless and thus I cannot speak another word :).

    1. Last time I checked, I was 100% human. Or was that 99.9% human and 0.1% dragon...?

      LOL, thank you so much! I don't really know where this piece came from, aside from inspiration from the song. I'm really glad you enjoyed reading it. :)

  4. That's tragic... there's a speck of hope, right? There usually is...
    Anyhow, may I just say I really took a shine to that sentence 'raindrops splattered a silver symphony...' You have such a lyrical way of writing. I love it when writers mix sensory details, merging colour with sound and taste with touch, etc.

    1. *sniffle* I hope so! I kind of have a fuzzy image in my head of this protagonist going through terrible trials in the Dream Realm before eventually finding and rescuing Ann Marie. <3 (I can never leave endings completely sad in my mind.)

      That means so much because that's what I strive for in my writing. Thank you! I too love the mixing of the senses. Authors like Anne Elisabeth Stengl and Jeffrey Overstreet have really inspired me with their lyrical prose. ^_^

    2. (By the way, I haven't forgotten our beta conversation. Try sending me a message via the new contact form I put on the sidebar. We can continue the discussion over email.)

  5. I love that song, and this short story. It's beautiful, I felt things. Your writing always transports me somewhere else, and I seem to forget everything else. It's a great feeling.

    1. The song is beautiful, isn't it? Wow, thanks Skye--it's rewarding to know that I managed to inspire feelings of any kind! <3

  6. Woah, Tracey, that was brilliant! I read it and listened to the song at the same time, and it gave me chills! Powerful stuff! I love the concept of a dream world and an in-between world, and all the small elements of magic woven into the story. It sort of reminded me of Inkheart, with the sining people out of a dreamland vs reading them out of a book. Hope you have a great weekend! I shall be back for S&S on Sunday, just after I finish adventuring through the thick forests of Library. :p

    1. Thank you, girl! Causing chills makes me inordinately happy. XD I felt like some of the dream-related stuff from "The Brightest Thread" slipped its way into this little story, which was fine by me. Inkheart, yes! I hadn't even thought of that connection. So cool.

      I just meandered through the Library Forests myself this week. Enjoy the bookish adventure! :)

  7. Um.

    *drowns in the feels forever and ever*

    WHAT EVEN, TRACEY???????

    Okay, okay. Words. I need words. This blew me so far away I've forgotten how to speak properly. Just...TRACEY. THIS. STORY. AAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!

    IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL. SO AMAZINGLY GLORIOUSLY BEAUTIFUL. I FEEL like I've been thrown into a dream world full of magic and whimsy and otherworldly beauty. Your words WERE otherworldly beauty. Like...I can't even explain it. It was kind of like Anne Elisabeth Stengl's beautiful, mystical style but...better! Not even kidding. This was one of the most gorgeous things I've ever read in my LIFE!!! I feel like I'm swimming in a pool of gorgeousness. As Cait would say, these words make me want to art! To write beautiful things as well. They've inspired me. My favorite paragraph was the one about the grand things. <333 YOUR WRITING. I CAN'T.

    But not just the writing. The STORY!!! GAH. So sad and beautiful and heartbreaking and the STAR LILY. Someone hold me, I can't handle these feels! D': I also made the mistake of listening to the song while reading so now I'm literally having to fight back tears. I ADORE how you took so much out of the song and made it yours, into a completely unique and mystical tale. This would be the most amazing book!

    GO GET PUBLISHED AND BECOME FAMOUS THIS INSTANT, MISSY. And if you'll excuse me I'll be in a ball crying forever. Thanks for ruining my life in the best way possible.


    1. OH MY STARS, GIRL, YOU RENDER ME SPEECHLESS. I... I hardly even know how to respond to this. Like at all. <33333

      Better than Stengl? I have to admit I've a hard time believing that, but thank you, you dear soul! I admire her writing so much, so for you to even put me in the same sentence as her is definitely a compliment of the highest order!

      And oh, it thrills me to think that this little story inspired creativity and art-ness in you! I LOVE it when someone else's work awakens that in myself, and I also love it when I can spark it in readers. ^_^

      *hands you Kleenex* I'm honored you think it'd be a good book. Maybe one day! (Y'know, after I get about a dozen other tales out of my system and onto the page. XD)

      THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES OVER. You are so encouraging, you know that? *hugs* You basically made my weekend, okay?

  8. Wow, that ending. Just wow. I wasn't expecting that. I love it! The wording, the world of the story itself.

    And don't worry about bending the rules. It happens quite frequently on my blog. ;) Thanks for linking up with us!

    1. Thank you muchly! It was fun--though obviously sad--to write. (We're such contradictions, aren't we? Writers are a strange breed. XD)

      Whew, glad to hear it! I hope to join the link-up again sometime. Thanks for reading!

  9. "So were spring rainstorms and pebbly beaches and swooping hawks and star lilies and good secrets and delightful contradictions and the way music was the voice of souls. Grand, every one of them." --> I LOVE THIS.

    This story was beautiful! Thank you so so much for linking up, Tracey -- and I'm sorry I've taken so many lightyears to get here!

    I love the world you've created. I really felt that I could see them in their inbetween world, with the Dream Realm on one side and reality on the other. You could totally take this idea further!

    1. *beams* Thank you, Emily! And I don't mind one bit that it took "lightyears" to comment. ;) Life is crazy sometimes.

      I'm so glad it came across well! I was just sort of throwing stuff on the page and hoping it made sense. Ooh, that would be fun to take the idea further... (Like I *need* more stories to write. XD)

      Thanks for reading! :D


    Just... how even? HOW do you have so much talent? I am in awe. o.o

    1. OH, I AM SO TICKLED THAT YOU WENT BACK AND READ THIS OLD POST. <333 And that you enjoyed it! Thank you for the sweet words, Emily!