Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | November 3, 2010

Coming Unstuck

October 29, 2010 Free Fall Friday Prompt from Kathy Temean & Betsy Devany

The crunch of the leaves sounds like small bones breaking. I wince, sliding my feet carefully from one sidewalk square to the next, avoiding the leaves. They are so fragile, so ghostly. Unreal.

“Are you lost, little girl?”

A grown-up voice attached to a pair of high-heeled boots. She grinds one leaf to dust beneath her heel. Doesn’t even notice.

“No,” I lie to her.

I won’t talk to the boots. How can someone who walks perched like that and doesn’t even notice the leaves know how to help me?

The crow. I need to find the crow.

Here is how the story goes, the way Mamai told it last winter against the glow of the blue fires:

“Every once in a very long time, the worlds slip and one small child can fall through. The gods who built the worlds, like many bubbles clustered and floating, left the edges smooth and slippery. When the fires burn bright and our magic holds the night-horrors at bay, the edges strain and shiver. Obey your elders, and stay to the paths and safe havens, and you will never be in danger.”

“What if… you fall anyway?” I asked.

“Gods forbid it happen to you, Mena. The world will look strange and unfamiliar. When you meet people, they will know that you don’t belong. Then you start to come unstuck. It’s hard to stay stuck in a world that’s not yours.”

“But what does it mean to come unstuck?” whined Buggy Runthel.

“It means that colors fade, high and low sounds merge into static, and even touch becomes difficult. You become less real, until you find a way back to your world.”

“How?” My mouth was dry, I almost didn’t want to know the answer.

“The world-crow flies back and forth, keeping an eye on the borders. He is responsible for the balance, and may show the way, if he finds you worthy.”

“It’s just a fairy-tale to keep us from exploring,” Buggy told me after. Stupid me, I believed him.

And I fell. Right through the slippery edges and now I am here. It is a place with no blue fires, only yellow ones trapped high up on poles or stuck inside strange, tall houses. The ground is all hard and rough, and the leaves…I’ve never seen them dying like this before. The blue fires always kept them green.

The crunching sound is fainter now, and the colors get grayer every time I blink. I don’t have much time.

“Watch where you’re going!”

These shoes are flat and round. The voice is difficult to hear.

I never asked what happens if you don’t find the crow. But I think I know. The colors keep fading and the sounds keep quieting until nothing is left to see or hear or feel.

My heart beat speeds up and my breath comes in quick bursts. I feel my throat burn, as I risk a question.

“Have you seen a crow?”

“Uh… that one, you mean?”

I force my eyes up. There! Against the dying leaves, a black bird. And color. The gray of this world folds into orange, into green.

He’s showing me the way home.



  1. Kathryn,

    Very creative. I like the beginning and how you explained about how the leaves did not crunch in her world. Definitely, not something I would have thought to write. Enjoyed reading.


  2. This is awesome, Kathryn! I’d love to read more.

    • And I’d love to write more! I have no idea where the idea of worlds as bubbles stuck together came from, or the blue fires, but I want to know what it means…

  3. […] Kathy and I hope you have fun with this! We look forward to reading your responses or thoughts! To read one person’s response to the crow picture prompt from last week, go to […]

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