Ch 16. High School Ritual: The Search Party (SepSceneWriMo)

Four high school students encounter an evil spirit. Thoroughly cliched and hopelessly derivative.


After Vanessa had surreptitiously followed Chad, Natalie and Mikhail remained standing outside the library. Natalie shrugged and adjusted her backpack, and Mikhail stood without moving.

“Well,” Natalie said after a moment, “I guess I’m going home to study, even though I don’t really want to be home. See you at school.”

Street lights were coming on and he watched her walk away. Why didn’t she want to go home either? He decided to wander around the streets, but while he didn’t really care about society’s values, he knew it was considered rude to let her walk home alone, so he called for her to wait up.

They walked on silently at first until Natalie said, “Chad and Vanessa were acting really strange.”

“They act like they’re so significant,” he replied. “And they’re not. Everything they have was handed to them on a platter.”

Natalie stared at the sidewalk. They got to her house first and said a generic goodnight.

When he got home, he tiptoed past his father, who was sleeping through the nightly news. Mikhail didn’t even bother to wash up; he just went straight to his bed and asked himself what was the point of the whole evening, until he fell asleep.

He opened his eyes again right away when he appeared at the end of the long, blank hall. Something was moving around on the floor much further down, and he inched closer. It was Natalie, crawling on her hands and knees, crying, and running her hands on the floor as though she were looking for a contact lens. 

She didn’t seem to realize that she wasn’t alone. He could turn around and go the other way—what was she crying about, anyway? He hated listening to people cry. He was going to leave but something stirred him to approach her.

She saw his feet and looked up. Her black eye makeup was all over her face, and her eyelids, nose, and lips were red and swollen from crying.

“I can’t find Mr. Squeaks,” she whispered.

Reading her face was like reading an alien script. He tried to think of an appropriate thing to say besides “Who cares?” Up until that instant, he would have wondered who indeed would care about the location of someone named “Mr. Squeaks,” but her face—the foreign script signified something that he hadn’t felt before and couldn’t define, yet seemed somehow important.

He wet his lips and asked, “Where did you last see him?” That sounded like a logical start.

“He was in his cage. I locked it before I fell asleep, and then I woke up here—and—he was here—and—he was taken away from me—and—I’ve come every night—and I can’t find him—!” She broke down again.

Mikhail raked his hair back. Mr. Squeaks was apparently something that lived in a cage. “You probably forgot to lock it.”

“No! I didn’t forget! I triple-check it every night!”

“Well, maybe he broke out.”

“I pray every single night that he’ll be there when I wake up and he’s never there!”

He couldn’t hold himself back. “Did you try praying to Santa Claus?”

She stuck out her chin and tears ran out of her eyes, but she didn’t look at him or reply.

Something told him to apologize but he hadn’t apologized to anyone in ten years; he didn’t know how to form the words. He got down on the floor next to her and asked, “What does he look like?”

She wiped her nose on her sleeve. “He’s a white mouse, and he has a dark grey spot on his back. And his nose is pink. And he has long white whiskers.”

“Look, I’m going to help you find him, okay?”

“No, it’s no use… he’s gone.”

He knew in these circumstances, people comforted one another—but he didn’t know the right words, the right gestures. His mother sometimes tried, but that wouldn’t do, he could never pull it off convincingly. He stood and took her elbow awkwardly to pull her up.

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s keep looking.”

They set off down the hall for what seemed like a mile-long stretch, but there was not a nook, not a cranny, not even a scratch in the marble where a mite could hide, let alone a mouse. The search seemed to go on for hours.

Eventually Natalie stumbled and grabbed Mikhail’s arm. “Oh! I’m getting dizzy! This always happens—right before—I—wake—” She stumbled once more and fell.

He immediately tried to rouse her but got dizzy himself, and collapsed next to her.

8 thoughts on “Ch 16. High School Ritual: The Search Party (SepSceneWriMo)

  1. I’ve added this to the gdoc… but here too, would be helpful. I’ll get back to the doc as time allows…

    This:
    > Street lights were coming on and he watched her walk away. Why didn’t she want to go home either? He decided to wander around the streets, but while he didn’t really care about society’s values, he knew it was considered rude to let her walk home alone, so he called for her to wait up.

    Could be rewritten with mood an a drop of insight into the boy’s psyche:
    > Mikhail followed her with his eyes, the dangling oddities on her backpack swinging with each step. Above, street lamps buzzed and crackled to halfhearted life. Ah, hell. I probably shouldn’t let her walk home alone. “Hey, kinda creepy out tonight, doncha think?”

    ~~~

    And as I was reviewing this I had an epiphany. This is classic telling vs showing. But, we get what your “telling” is telling us. We hear how you want the reader to understand the scene and the boy’s thoughts, so, you tell us.
    Showing us would require a translation of your intent to instill understanding into almost another language, the showing language.

    Imagine a class exercise. You have to create a diorama. You’re given a description and have to create a shoebox sized depiction.

    Scene: A rustler is to be hanged. He’s obviously terrified. The lynch mob is excited. The leader is crazy. A woman wants to save the rustler.

    Telling.

    Now, build the diorama with clay and paint and pipe cleaners. You can’t tell the viewers what’s going on, you have to show them.

    Now, instead of arts n’ craft material, use words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ” the dangling oddities on her backpack”—Ha!!!!! I laughed out loud when I read that. I had pictured her with one of those bags with the little monkey keychain so you definitely see the same thing I do.

      You’ve got a lot of good advice here. I like your diorama thing–I can see how that would work. I don’t say “thanks” but thanks for the time you put into it.

      Liked by 1 person

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