I’m taking another writing prompt up this week to keep working on improving my ability to adapt to different writing situations. This one was quite fascinating and I was drawn to it right away. From Daily Post:
This week, consider the unreliable narrator — a classic storytelling device — in your own work, no matter your genre.
Unreliable narrators are fascinating. Whether it’s Nick in The Great Gatsby with his naive misunderstandings, or Faulkner’s three protagonists in The Sound and the Fury, or the mentally unsound woman in The Yellow Wallpaper, plenty of authors have demonstrated this is a fascinating writing technique and I was eager to try my hand in a short story. In an effort to not give anything away, I’ll inform my readers they are welcome to ask questions at the end or make guesses or discuss their own experiences with unreliable narrators. I don’t want to directly state what’s going on, but if any confusion needs to be made up please let me know! Thanks and enjoy!
The birds keep leaving and coming. Lots of them. I sit there watching behind the glass, wishing maybe I could have wings like the birds. Then I could fly away and never come back.
The lady keeps sighing as she looks around. She frowns and pulls out a box and pushes on it, and then sticks it back in the little bag she always carries. I don’t like that the lady is upset. I wish she’d smile. She looks kind of pretty when she smiles. But nothing like mommy.
Mommy was the prettiest lady there ever was. She took care of me. She made everything right. My lip moves up and down like it does before my face gets wet. I hate when that happens.
We’ve been sitting for a long time. I’m tired and just want to lay down. If mommy were here that wouldn’t be ok. But mommy’s not. I wonder where she is. I miss her.
I hate when the big birds come towards the glass. I get scared and worry maybe they’re going to fly into the window. I hit the window one time. I don’t remember a lot. Only red paint on the glass after I hit it, and my nose feeling runny.
I paint a lot. Red paint. Or maybe mommy does. Lots and lots of paint. Everywhere. Sometimes that’s all I see. Paint. Sometimes mommy paints black or blue too. Sometimes when I look at the boy in the window I see he has black and blue paint also. Or sometimes he’s white like a ghost. Or sometimes he’s red.
The lady looks at me again. I wonder if she paints. I kind of hope she doesn’t. Painting always makes me feel tired and sad and makes me hurt.
A voice like God rings out around the room. I cower and cringe at it. It’s happened several times, but I don’t like it anymore. I think God is angry mommy’s not here. She’s supposed to look after me. She’s supposed to make sure I’m good so God doesn’t get angry. I’m probably not being good anymore.
The lady stands up. Maybe this time she heard God too. She usually hasn’t acted like she heard it. No one else does either. They just sit there and look at papers and talk and put boxes to their ears and talk some more. But this time people get up. They must know God is angry.
“Come on,” the lady says suddenly, frowny face still in place. When I don’t move she says a weird word I don’t know. I don’t understand so I keep sitting. When will mommy get here?
She sighs and grabs my hand. I pull away a little, scared she’s going to do something bad. I don’t know what. Just bad. God was angry earlier, maybe she knows he’s angry with me.
My hand is in hers and she makes me get up. We walk over to two people standing at a weird high table. They smile at us and the lady hands a piece of paper over.
“Have a good flight,” the lady says. Flight? Are we going to fly like the birds? I feel one part nervous one part scared. It’s like when mommy let me have the brown sweet drink with floating little circles in it, and it made my stomach feel all weird but in a good way.
We walk down a long tube to a door and then through that. The lady holds my hand tightly as we move into a tiny little room, but as I turn I see it is really really long, with rows and rows of seats. Another lady smiles at us as we walk on. She looks at me and then looks kind of funny. It’s like the look the people who came to visit gave me before they brought me to the weird bird place.
“You okay sweetie?” she asks.
I look up at the lady, not sure what I’m supposed to say. She frowns.
“He’s had a long day,” she said quietly. “We’re taking him to Salt Lake to live with his relatives…was removed from his mother’s house.”
The other lady makes a surprise face. I push my new shoe in a line on the floor and look at it so I don’t have to look at the ladies anymore. They make me feel bad.
We go sit down in a row. I sit next to a tiny oval window. I look out and see more birds, and the glass windows I was looking out of earlier. I smile as I watch the birds fly. So far no one seems too mad at me. Maybe things will be ok. Maybe God wasn’t telling them I was being bad.
The lady leans over. She says that weird word again I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. Tyler? “Have you ever been on a–?” she asks. The words are mixed up like when mommy puts things in her little can and pushes the buttons and they spin up and mix all together like goo. I don’t know what she said.
I shake my head, not understanding at all.
“We’re going to lift off the ground in a few minutes,” she says. “But don’t be scared, ok?”
Lift off the ground? I look out the window again and picture what it’d be like to fly with the birds. Sometimes when I was with mommy I’d look at the birds in the tree outside and think how nice it would be just to fly off into the blue sky. Fly all the way to heaven since mommy told me I’d never get there. But maybe if I had wings I could.
The lady helps put a belt around me and then there’s more voices from God, but he sounds different from before. And I sit back and try to relax even though my chest keeps going up and down really fast. And then suddenly the long skinny room is moving and when I look out the window the building is getting further and further away. I clutch at the little bars next to my arm and stare outside.
We go faster. And faster. Soon we’re racing. Faster than I ever could run. And then suddenly there’s this strange weird feeling in my tummy and we’re suddenly looking out at the ground moving further and further away. And I feel so strange and good at the same time, and my ears hurt a little, but not too much. And before I know it I’m staring down at the small little world beneath me, soaring into the big blue sky.
“You’re going to be ok, Tyler.” The lady says, but I don’t need her to say it. I already know. A smile blooms on my face. I’m finally free.