Wednesday, August 18, 2010

YAFF MUSE: The Lake of Swans

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).

Photo Credit: I Turned Around by Inessa Emilia

The Lake of Swans
The stainless steel is cool and I fidget in my seat. My mom gives me ‘the eye’ but I stare back at her. If it weren’t for my abilities, I’d be just like her. Dressed to the nines, orange spray tan and tarantula lashes. Though, right now, I think I’d make that trade.

“Ms. Holiday, we’re ready for her,” says a portly officer dressed in blues.

“Come on, Dear.” Mom’s red lacquered nails tug against the knit of my sweater.

I follow her in a cloud of Chanel No. 5 through the rows of officers that give furtive glances as we pass. Thanks to Mom, I used to take a similar walk, only instead of police stations it was a runway. God I hated pageant life.

A detective with a dark brown ponytail clutches the cross at her neck. The roller balls wail in protest as she scoots her chair back. I’d give her a dirty look or maybe even twirl my finger at her a little if I didn’t already know she has breast cancer.

Five more months. I’ve seen her kids cry, so I try not to hold her superstitions against her.

On second thought, maybe I hate this life more.

“Afternoon, Ms. Holiday,” The Chief says, his gray mustache is overgrown and I get a flash of him living in a hotel.

“Chief Blackstone, it is good to see you. I take it the wife and kids are well?” Mom asks.

The Chief’s eyes flick to me for a brief second. I give him a half smile.

“They’re great, Lotty. Thanks for asking,” he says.

I hold back my snort. Part of knowing everyone’s secrets is keeping them.

“And Darla, how are you doing today?” the Chief asks me, but doesn’t shake my hand as he did my mom.

“I’m good Chief. Thanks,” I say, taking my usual seat.

“Great,” he says and settles down behind his desk. “So, have ‘ya got anything for us today?”

I swallow against the dryness creeping into my throat. “I guess we’ll see.”

“Of course she does, Chief,” Mom says. “Of course you do, don’t you, Sweetie?” Her nails dig into my thigh.

“Yes, I’m sure I do,” I say. Your meal ticket always has something for the nice officer. I want to say it, but I never do.

The Chief gives me the go-ahead hand signal and Mom ties my feet and hands to my chair. The rope burns and I give her a sideways glare.

“It’s for the best, Dear.” She makes it even tighter.

With the ropes in place I close my eyes and walk back into my mind. Then I climb. I climb until I’m out of my body completely, above the Chief and Mom, above the detective with cancer, above the police station, above the horrible little town of Stayton.

There’s a song on the wind, one that only children can hear and I know it’s her. If I had a heart it would be racing as I glide toward the sound, passing rivers, houses and fields of sheep. The air vibrates around me.


I hover above like a mist, then float down behind her. She’s staring into a lake, and if my body were here, I’d be shivering. She continues to sing, the sweet song, the children’s song.

Oh God. Along the tree line are two children coming to her song. I want to scream out. I want to stop them, but I’m helpless.

The song pauses and she turns, facing me. Her eyes are liquid silver, her mouth spreads into a wide smile. She lunges at me, but I’m only air and I lift back into the sky.

Settling back into my body, I wish I hadn’t. Blood trickles from both my ears and the ropes have burned gouges into my ankles and wrists.

Mom unties me and hands me a washcloth.

“It was her wasn’t it? Where is she?” the Chief asks.

My voices cracks, and Mom offers a glass of water. After a few big swallows, I look into the Chief’s eyes. There’s fear. And there should be.

“Yes, it was her. She’s at the Lake of Swans near the coast,” I croak.

The Chief grabs his phone and begins to bark orders.

I shake my head. “She had two children on the hook. She won’t be there when you find them.” She’s never looked at me before, and I know I should tell them, but some secrets are for me alone.

The Chief settles back into his chair. “Damn it. We need to catch her earlier next time.”

I nod.

“We will, Chief. I’ll have her here earlier next month,” Mom says.

“Good. Well, in the meantime, I’ve got these for you. The station wanted to do something nice for you. You know, in case you ever make it into the big leagues.”

He hands Mom a small cardboard box. Her nails scrape against it as she lifts the lid. “They’re lovely, Chief,” she says and hands me a white business card.

In plain neat letters it says:

(c) 2010, MB

Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:


  1. OOh, I really liked this Min. I could see you expanding on this one and making a full length out of it. It was creepy and different, and well I LOVED the paranormal twists in it.

    Great job. And for the record, let me add that I think your first person present voice is FABULOUS.

  2. I fell another full manuscript in here. You and Rebekah always make me want to see your shorts as full length novels.

    Loved her journey through the station and knowing what people were thinking. Awesome!!

  3. Lol. I have to come back in and say, when I posted my comment Rebekah's popped up at the same time.

    First of all, I can't believe we read it at the same time and second, I can't believe our initial comments match so closely.

  4. You guys are too funny. :D

    Thanks so much. Darla is a character that's been floating around in my head for a while. I didn't really know this picture had anything to do with her until I'd already started something else and then scrapped it. Funny little muse.