Oct 20, 2009 by

Utah’s Round 8 Challenges (Word limit – 600):
* Incorporate a prophetic dream  (given by Eros)
* Set your passage on Christmas Day (given by littlestar)
* At least half of your passage should be a flash forward to the end of your story (given by AnnasBones)

Read UTAH 7 here (see “Similar Posts” at the bottom of this post for any earlier entries)

*          *            *

Canada geese migrating from the south honked overhead as they whooshed in V formations over the greening earth. Corey and Delia interrupted their seeding and straightened their backs to watch with craned necks, humbled by the majestic effort filling the skies with music and symmetrical power.

The fields, fallow for so many years, had again been plowed. The spring planting was underway. Delia’s life had always been intertwined with the health of her farm, but this spring the farm took on more significance than ever before. Since the January FBI raid on Jacob’s cabin that had rescued Corey, Delia had thrown herself into rejuvenating the abandoned acreage.

A nosy few in the community, the ones who lacked imagination, insinuated that Delia was placing her farm’s wellbeing before her daughter’s. But Delia knew that, in some unfathomable, archetypal way, the mending and resuscitation of the farm reflected Corey’s own healing process. Each seed germinating in the greenhouse represented a small victory in Delia’s heart against the morally deformed fiend who had stunted her daughter’s growth for so many years.

It was in fact Corey who wanted to pare down her rehabilitation schedule and Delia who insisted she attend the sessions the trauma counselors advised. To Delia’s great joy, Corey now embraced the farming life. Her childhood love of the dirt had strangely returned. One afternoon Delia found a notepad on the living room couch. On the front page was a short passage in Corey’s writing:

We are not the Beautiful Ones, not reared in measured soil and tended with controlled temperature and dosages of Mozart.  We are of the raw and implacable earth, thrusting our way through stone and gravel only to break into shade, fighting one another for scarce sunlight, bending under hail, cursing under drought. Neglected, compressed, clobbered, thrashed, we learn by the toil of our flesh that what matters—not what matters most but what matters first—is to endure, to stand fast when the hysterical and wailing wind tries to bowl us over.  By the ragged history of our blood we know to endure.

Delia burst into tears. From that day on, she knew the health of her farm and of Corey were inseparable.

One cloud still remained over Delia and Corey: Jacob had yet to be apprehended. He had been returning from grocery shopping when the FBI descended upon his cabin. When the three unmarked vehicles ahead of him turned down his road, he realized they had found him. He knew everyone who turned down that road. So he kept driving. His station wagon was found abandoned in a parking lot in Albany.

Never had the farm been as productive as in the season of Corey’s return. Just after the fall harvest, Corey and Delia were walking through the cornfield when Corey stooped down and plucked something from the ground. When she righted herself, she was holding a Narcissus. Tears were running from her eyes.

“Corey, what’s wrong?” Delia tried to go to her but her legs wouldn’t move.

Corey began to step backwards, tears dripping from her chin.

“Corey!” Delia extended her arms helplessly. The wind picked up as Corey kept slipping backwards into the cornstalks. “Corey! Corey!” The cornstalks flailed about her daughter until only her outstretched hand holding the flower was visible and soon that too was swallowed up. Crows began to caw and wheel overhead. The sky darkened and pressed down. The stalks wilted and blackened.

Delia jerked awake in a cold sweat. She was in a Super 8 Motel in Burlington, Vermont. It was Christmas morning and she was alone.

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  1. Erratum. I wrote “Corey and Utah” instead of “Corey and Delia” in the paragraph that begins “Never had the farm been as productive…”

    What a slip! Could you please change that, Host?

  2. This is a brilliant piece of writing Utah – one you should be exceptionally proud of. You have done a wonderfully job of winding the challenges in.

    The passage written from Corey’s journal is insightful, prophetic and profound – I know I will be taking something away from that passage.

    And I found my breathe caught in the base of my throat when I read the final lines. As a Mother, your heart can’t help to go out to Delia.

    Your ranking in the voting in the past few rounds has certainly been spot on.

    Keep up the wonderful writing.

  3. Jodi, I got lucky on the challenges. They gelled for my story. The trickiest one was littlestar’s Christmas Day challenge. But then I realized that I didn’t need to set the story on Christmas. I only needed to set the dream.

  4. Utah. This process of FourthFiction is quite complex and I think it is because there exist relationships for the reader that not only relate to the characters and scenarios of the stories but also, and more strongly than normal when reading, to the author. The result is that I find that I have an unjustifiable tendency to relate content to the character of the author more than might be the case under normal reading conditions. Originally, I thought that you were male and I had a sense of unease about where you were coming from but this contribution has done much to change that, I’m glad. The contribution is very good and creates a whole range of feelings as it is being read. There are some interesting insights and and the scene of disappearance into the corn field is an excellent representation of the dream state. Your implementation of the challenges is also very good. It certainly justifies further input.

  5. Why would you feel unease if I were male, JDEvolutionist? Hopefully not because it would come across as a male fantasy! Brrr, now that would be disturbing…

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Hopefully the complexity and these relationships which you write about make the reading experience richer. Your writing style reminds me a little bit of Rhae. And Rhae is female, so it just goes to show…

    • Its perhaps a sad reflection of our times. In one of my earlier comments I expressed concern that advertising the bad in our society has a tendency to promote it – or at least something to that effect, my viewpoint’s shifted a bit!! – there is a play off against the damage done by letting people know what other people get up to and the need to protect the innocent; or words to that effect. Hence doubts can enter the mind now that might in the past never have had cause for existence. Thoughts as a product of interpretation of representational state based on experience are only ever based on elements of truth and are fundamentally more prone to be wrong than right. But unless we test them fully by constantly passing them through the portal of the brain and back into the real world we have a tendency to allow them to evolve their erroneous content. The results can be very destructive.
      Sorry probably waffling again but its a subject that interests me – the workings of the mind that is!

      • JDEvolutionist even though you lost me on the second half, I understand the gist of your comment. I can relate to what you’re saying but I don’t think it’s a black or white issue. T.v may be full of senseless, desensitizing violence but aren’t there times when we need to talk about the bad things? I wish it were otherwise, but not facing them isn’t going to make them go away!

        • You’re absolutely right – nothing is black and white, in fact the reality is that everything is uniquely and infinitely variable. Unfortunately (or perhaps thankfully!) we have a tendency to unjustifiably see things in very simplistic terms. Yes, all things should be discussed good and bad but we need to wake up to the importance of carrying out the debate with a clear understanding of the weakness inherent in our processes of thinking – their high potential for taking us along erroneous paths that are potentially very hard to reverse. (George Soros – fertile fallacy).

  6. Excellent incorporation of the dream — and a little bit of David Lynch meets Stephen King? Lovely…

  7. Eros

    Utah, I love the way you handled all of your challenges this round. Your story scares the hell out of me but I keep coming back to it because i can’t wait to see how you get Corey out of this mess. But like Jodi this round you have also managed to inspire me with Corey’s writing. Good job. Love, Eros

  8. Utah – I was worried at first that you’d just totally skipped Corey’s “dramatic arc” but was relieved to see you had only incorporated the prompt of a flash-forward, or dream sequence, into the story. I am deeply disturbed by this story and really want to read on, which is a very good sign, I think.

  9. seldom seen

    hmmm. err, well lets see. ahh, how does one say… good? yes thats it. this is good writing.

  10. I am humbled by all of your kind words. I was considering deleting the passage with Corey’s journal entry — I thought it was overindulgent — but thankfully I was short on time so I let it stand. One thing I’ve learned is I know nothing about what a reader wants to read!

    David Lynch meets Stephen King… not exactly what I had in mind when I began!

    • I like the passage in Corey’s handwriting – because it’s a dream sequence, you can definitely get away with it.

      Realistically, I can’t see any internet-addicted teen writing like that though without including a few smileys and the words “omg” and “lol” at least once…

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