Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Shades of Chawton

Hi all, this here is my first ever #FridayFlash (and probably my last - don't know how I had time to do this one!)

Although it's my #FridayFlash debut, I'm not asking you to take it easy on me; be honest, please, especially if you think it's overly verbose! I can take it. I'm a big girl.

And so I give you;

The Shades of Chawton

They walk through the empty rooms and I watch them. Most of them have insipid, dilute emotions, like muddy puddles. They seem barely alive.
    Others have emotions that quiver from their skin, but the colours are unpleasant, disturbing. Saffron-yellow curiosity burns across some; avarice oozes from others, a peculiar greeny-brown shade that I find I cannot look at for too long. I feel it sucking at me. 
    They all stop at the table. The avaricious ones try to touch it, leaning just so far across the yielding red-rope, that barrier that is no barrier at all but to polite society. The avaricious ones are not of polite society. That little lean, that reach of the fingers, the casual glance for potential observers; all of these offend me. I stay at the back of the room and watch, motionless. I will not gift them even an inkling of my presence. 
    Then there are the dramatics; those who visit this place as though they are making a pilgrimage. Red and blue ripple across their surfaces, alternating and undulating, as their focus veers from suppressed emotion to a desire to inhale history. They would never attempt to touch the table, no; that would be sacrilege, but they will stand, and gaze, and hope to be observed by other dramatics as they too stand, and gaze, and wonder. 
    When they have left for the night, and the house settles its skirts with a few quiet moans, then I return to my table, and I look deeply, penetratingly at the crack that runs along it now, not quite bisecting it. I push all my focus onto it, the world shrinking down to the span of a fault in a piece of polished wood; then I am in the crack, my favourite place, spreading out and filling it. We fit each other perfectly. I lie there all night, snug, feeling the echo of layer upon layer of crafted words rest on top of me like so many goosedown quilts. 
    Tonight as I was drifting idly through the spectral strata of layered words I was disturbed by a noise. After all this time I know all the common noises; the settling in summer, the expanding creak during the day; the moans of complaint in winter; the rattle of the panes. I knew this sound, too. It was the complaint of the door to this room as it opened. The house had been vacated at least an hour previously; who could this be? 
    The shape of a woman grew visible. I couldn't make out her features, yet I recognised her. She was one of the visitors from earlier, a quiet respectful one. Her emotions had glowed a pale clear blue, quite pleasant to behold. 
    As she approached the table, my table, her colour changed. Blue blurred towards amber, glowing and hot. I knew it as the colour of love, though I seldom witnessed it these days. I stared, confounded at the change. 
    She walked quickly towards the table, clambered over the faded red rope, and stared down at it. At me. She extended a hand towards us, further, further - then froze. I gazed at her in perplexity. She hadn't looked like a table-toucher, yet here she was. 
    'I'm sorry,' she said.  Startled, I expanded slightly in the crack. The old table protested around me. Could she see me? Did she know I was there? 
    'I know I shouldn't,' she continued. 'No-one is supposed to touch your table, but I feel such a need to tell you what you mean. To me. Your words...'
    Ah. My words. They mean much to me, too. I've seen the odd purple-hued devotee before. They enter this house lightly, reverently, as though it were a shrine. Which, in a peculiar way, I suppose it is. But they are never touchers. They, like I, are sticklers for the rules of society. 
    The woman's hand, motionless for several moments, had begun to shake. 
    'I'm sorry,' she said again, before her hand resumed its journey towards the surface of my table. Her amber glow grew even brighter, lighting up her face. She was not beautiful by any means, but her face was interesting, animated. Much as my own was described during my lifetime.  
    Shocked, I remained motionless, watching as her fingers reached the table and began lightly caressing the grain, tracing the edges, and finally making their way to the crack. My crack. I knew I should leave, remove to my corner, but I was lulled by her light and her love. One finger traced lightly all along the fault, sensuously, and I shivered. Growing bolder, she stepped nearer still and splayed her fingers all along the crack, fingertips probing it and me, while her thumbs hovered. She drew her hands away from each other, feeling her way all along the rift in the wood as though it were an engraved message on a tombstone. She probed, and quested, and inspected all of it, her fingers thrumming over my consciousness as she did so. 
    'Miss Jane Austen, I want to thank you,' she murmured. I quivered with surprise at her correct form of address, I have heard it so seldom in recent decades.
    'Thank you for living. Thank you for writing. And thank you for being you.'
    That was it. Nothing flowery. She did not read me a poem, or rave about a character, or quote me to myself. I admired her dignity. I forgave her. I made a decision.
    I reached out my consciousness, drew up my energies. I focused, seeing and feeling each of her fingertips; and I touched her. Just a caress, a delicate sweep across her nerve endings. She startled, but did not remove her fingers immediately. Instead she inhaled, one two; then exhaled, three four; then lifted her hands slowly to her face and put her fingers to her mouth, like a child who has received a hurt. 
    Or a gift.


  1. Wow what a debut and welcome!

    Loved the synesthesia of the emotions as colours. Put me in mind of a cross between Jacobean humours and those aircraft recognition books.

    Please never feel obliged to apologise for literariness(it's never verbosity). A sentence like "spectral strata of layered words" says it all - everything is about the language, more than story or action - for from language comes the character's voice and if that is authentic, then the emotions will be too.

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful piece.

    Marc Nash

  2. You asked for feedback, especially if it was verbose. I respect the heck out of that and will do my best. It is verbose in some parts. In the second paragraph, "the colours are unpleasant, disturbing." "disturbing" would imply "unpleasant" if it wasn't there. There are so many words in "The avaricious ones try to touch it, leaning just so far across the yielding red-rope, that barrier that is no barrier at all but to polite society. The avaricious ones are not of polite society" that at the end of them I'm perplexed as to what you were trying to say - if they're impolite, why only lean just so far? Scaling back somewhat would make your intentions stand out.

    Verbosity is different from mere love of language, which you also display and shouldn't fear to write. These color-emoting blobs are very neat, and I like how they're introduced. I thought you were giving a wonky description of people for a while, then realization snapped forward like rubber. That's fun. But I'd still rather read an opening where we watch specific entities passing by and displaying these color-emotes, rather than having several paragraphs describing how groups of them can emote. The trick of what you can express through action would probably clear up any verbosity you worry about, while allowing you to keep the exposition you like best.

    Hope that's helpful. Cheers!

  3. I loved this story, I held my breath as I read it, intrigued to know who was talking. I like your prose, I find it sucks you in.

  4. I loved it. As I clicked the link to it and wondered if it would include Miss Austen. And then I saw the photo and knew... Please don't let it be your only Friday Flash as I, for one, would like to read more from you.

  5. Oh my."The house settles its skirts with a quiet moan..." All this lucious writing from she who dabbles in 140 character recipes. Who knew all this talent was settled beneath the skirts? I'm honored to sit at your first Friday flash table. Thank you Jane.
    Allie D.

  6. This is really fabulous, very evocative and full of emotion. Wonderful wordmaking. Hope you continue with #Fridayflash

  7. Hello,

    Thanks for that, I enjoyed it! The idea of Jane A. donering around the crack in the table really caught me! I re-read it a few times and noticed something new, some turn of phrase or detail each time.

    The third paragraph did take a little extra effort, not that that's a bad thing, but maybe it didn't flow as it might have. However, it could be argued that it was written in a less fluid, slightly more uncomfortable way to provide a mirror to how these avaricious make JA's ghost feel?

    I really enjoyed it, shall look forward to the next one!


  8. ...and that was supposed to be "dondering".


  9. Thanks everyone for the fantastic feedback and the kind words!

    I really appreciate the more critical comments from John and Ciara - it's especially useful to know what doesn't sit as well with your readers as what does. Funnily, you both picked up on the same passage, but that was a passage I rather liked! I'm already planning what I would do differently next time.

    Thanks folks :)

  10. Fabulous story, so well done. You may have a few parts that are a little wordy, but to tell the truth, none of bothered me at all. It flows seamlessly, almost majestically. I love how she sees people's emotions as colors, and the way she slips back into the crack at night. Just lovely.

    I hope you aren't serious about this being your last #fridayflash. Perhaps we can bribe you to stick around - perhaps some chocolate? At any rate, welcome to #fridayflash. Do come back.

  11. Ohhhhhhhhhh. [as an outrush of breath]

    I didn't even stop to read the other comments. I needed to rush right here and say that this was magnificent. And I've never used that word before in my life.

    Wonderfully wonderfully done. I literally had goosebumps the whole time.

    Welcome to #fridayflash.
    Karen :0)

  12. Wow! Thanks so much everyone.

    I do hope I'll have time to do this again, I'm just a little swamped at the moment (2 novels in the works and a little extra project called #tweettreat, if you wanna check it out)

    This has been a great experience though and I've loved reading everyone else's work, so I will try to do it again. :)

  13. Very evocative indeed - don't think I'll ever see Jane Austen in quite the same way again!

    Have read it several times over, and enjoyed it more each time. Do please keep contributing to #FridayFlash :-)

  14. Well, what a lovely #FridayFlash debut. I too hope it's not your only one. You have Miss Austen's flair very well here. I think she would be proud.

    Lovely story.

  15. Having used aura colors in several stories myself, I settled right in and savored your words. Impressive first #fridayflash. As someone else said, don't make this your only!

  16. Definitely a good start. My love of Austen might be coloring my impressions, though... no pun intended! Welcome to #Fridayflash and I look forward to seeing your stuff in future.

  17. Oh wow! What a fabulous piece. I honestly felt I didn't breathe while I was reading it. I love how you coloured the emotions and I thought it flowed beautifully. Well done. x

  18. Verbosity and structural forms aside, the concept is the thing that grabbed me. The style of Austen was evident which kept it moving. Such a vivid piece and quite evocative. I wonder what the ghost of Jim Morrison would say about the people who visit his grave.
    Adam B

  19. Thanks afullnessinbrevity! I was trying really hard to use words and terms that Jane Austen would have used; it might have made my language more stilted than normal, but I'm glad it rang true for you.

    Lovely concept about Jim Morrison - would love to read that myself. ;)

  20. Great debut! Welcome to #fridayflash! :)

    (It was so good that people forgot to welcome you, I think, ehh ;)

    I agree with the others that it's a bit wordy but it suits Miss J.A. so from my part you're more than forgiven. I'm not too found of repetitions though (maybe a bit obsessed with it? lol) so I might suggest you review the two "avaricious" in the same paragraph.

    Loved the idea of someone seeing people through their emotions. At first I thought it was a woman (good voice!) who could see auras, but then you revealed her as a ghost, and of JA no less! You surprised me in the most positive way. Well done!

  21. Beautiful, lyrical, evocative - you have made me look at Miss Jane Austin in a whiole new light. Welcome to #FridayFlash BTW!

  22. Eloquently written :-)

    I do hope you will stick around and write more (on Fridays)... when you can.

    Welcome to #FridayFlash!!

  23. Loved, loved, loved it, Jane. I kind of agree with the comments about the third paragraph, but I did so enjoy the poetry of it too. My only criticism would be Miss Austin referring to nerve endings. That felt a little out of place with her 'time'.
    Really looking forward to reading more.

  24. Agh! Yes, nerve endings - you're dead right Nettie, I missed that one.