Quenby Eisenacher lives in Central Pennsylvania, where her daily life includes raising babies, raising a husband, and navigating the Amish-clogged back roads. When she isn’t teaching classical ballet to ten-year-old girls, she is working on her novel The Half Killed. You can find Quenby at quenbolyn.livejournal.com and eatingpaper80.blogspot.com.
Today’s weird tale is about a busload of children taken to a remote dormitory where the rules are strict but explanations are few. Something is not as it seems and one little girl wants to know more about where she finds herself and why she’s there. An unsettling story about a barely glimpsed world on the other side of reality.
The Narrow Road
The road doesn’t run in a straight line, splitting the vast plain in half. It curves back and forth, winding around nothing, a ribbon of hard-packed dirt and stones that meanders toward the silvery haze of the horizon. There’s a cloud of dust thrown up behind the bus, the rear windows already coated with a layer of grime that even the daylight can’t penetrate. Every few minutes, one of the larger stones gets chucked up into the undercarriage, striking hard and fast, the sound too much like a gunshot. A few of the children wince at the noise, their eyes squeezing shut, scuffed skin pulled taut over their white knuckles. Karin glances at the boy beside her, the one with the mud caked into the ends of his straw-colored hair. She could speak to him, she thinks, just a few words to show that she doesn’t want to be a stranger. But the words fail to come, her tongue clinging to the roof of her mouth, swollen and thick, as if she’s forgotten how to make it work.
Over another bump and she closes her eyes, her toes curling inside the stiff brown shoes on her feet. Swinging her right leg, she taps the seat in front of her with the tip of her cracked toe, the edge of her blue sock just visible where the upper pulls away from the sole. The head in front of her doesn’t turn, black braids neatly parted and tied up at the bottom with little bits of red ribbon. Karin looks at the ribbon for a moment, at the dull film of dust hiding the shine of satin from view. Her eyes are still fixed on the vivid strips of cloth as her fingers find her own hair, loose and scraggly around her shoulders. She wishes she had ribbon like that, and swings her foot into the back of the seat one more time.
The window is on the other side of her, close enough that she can press her left shoulder against the glass and silence the rattle inside the frame. There’s not as much dust either, being only a few seats back from the driver. For a moment, she feels bad for the children in the rear, the ones next to the filthy windows, cut off from the light and the scenery trundling past them on all sides. Not that there’s much to see, but it’s better than staring at the floor. Crossing her arms until her hands are hidden inside her sleeves, she leans back, her chin tucking into her shoulder, one dirty lock of hair sliding out from behind her ear as she fixes her gaze on some imaginary spot far off in the distance. Continue reading …
Artie Knapp writes marvelous, cheerful and gently humorous tales for children. He’s been offering his stories to this site for years and I always look forward to a new one. Knapp’s latest accomplishment is an illustrated book of stories published by Mighty Book, Inc. and illustrated by Mike Motz. The stories included were previously published by Detroit Free Press/Yak’s Corner. It will be available soon and I’ll post an update when it hits the shelves!
In addition to the upcoming print collection, Knapp has begun offering his children’s stories through Mighty Book’s web site. His recent story, Stuttering Stan Takes a Stand, is available as an animated read-aloud/read-along that is a perfect way to introduce your kids to the Artie Knapp story universe. I am proud to say that I produced the audio and narration for the read-along and I think Mighty Book has done a wonderful job creating an interface for children.
Mighty Book will soon publish more Knapp stories, including The Wasp and the Canary, The Hummingbird Who Chewed Bubblegum, and There’s a Crocodile in Our Pickle Jar, as fully illustrated Flash-animated books.
Pamela Farley is an Australian author of dark fiction. She is a member of the Australian Horror Writer’s Association and has had more than a dozen of her short stories published in magazines in Australia and the UK. Pam lives in rural South Australia with family and assorted animals. She works in a country veterinary practice.
Today’s weird tale takes us to a remote farmhouse… at night. The power goes out… Where are the matches? Where’s the cat? What’s that glow through the trees?
Samantha had been away for the weekend with her girlfriends. The break had been fun and all the girls were still laughing raucously when they dropped her at the gate. Her small farm house was ten kilometers from town, and in the still rural-twilight the din the girls made seemed to linger in the air.
As she got out of the car Samantha could hear the telltale clinking of empty Cruiser bottles rolling around on the car’s floor. The girls were singing, loud and off key while she got her bag from the boot. When the tooting vehicle departed there were limbs flailing from all four windows. The car turned at the end of the road and disappeared. Darkness came on suddenly, accompanied by a cool wind. Samantha swayed and clutched the gate post. The three drinks she had gulped down in the last hour had gone to her head. She gave a giggle.
The sensor light failed to come on when Samantha walked to the porch. The area was in shadow and she couldn’t see a thing. She tripped on the metal boot scraper by the door and swore. It was sheer luck when the key in her hand found its way into the lock, and the back door sprung open.
It was darker in the house than it had been outside and Samantha’s hands fumbled along the walls from memory, but there was no response from any of the light switches. More obscenities sprang from her mouth as she realized that the problem was within the fuse box outside. By bumping and feeling her way to the laundry she located the torch on a shelf next to the clothes dryer.
‘At least this still works,’ she muttered to the night.
But the globe glowed dim and she knew it would not last for long. She rushed outside to check the fuses. Panic had rendered her sober and dexterous. A systematic check of the old porcelain plugs soon helped her to identify the blown one. She re-threaded it with the fine steel wire kept inside the power box. But when she replaced the plug and threw the switch there was a loud bang as it blew again.
Look what I found! A YouTube user named Naim2212Z made this film about Scheherazade from the 1001 Arabian Nights. I believe he made it at the New York Film Academy’s location in Abu Dhabi. It’s good. The filmmaker takes his HD camera, some colorful costumes and settings and makes something that really does capture the spirit of the Arabian Nights stories. I like all the candles on the mantle and the big rug. I also like the choice to make a silent film with a voice-over telling the story. It reminds me of a very sharp colorful silent film. Very nice work telling the tale.
Here’s a Discovery Channel documentary about the Arabian Nights stories. I’m always looking for a nice illustrated version of the stories and film adaptations that capture the wild fun of the insane storytelling and loopy moralizing. When you read them you get a sense of the sheer joy of telling a story like you get it from nowhere else. These stories are full of color and description that defies all reason. They make you want to dive into the sea of adventure stories and live in Technicolor. What I like about this documentary is that it works enactments of some of the tales into the discussion of their history and influence on world literature and Middle Eastern culture.