Excerpt from “Sybilla diSante and the Sepia World”

The following is the beginning sequence of “Sybilla diSante and the Sepia World,” published in 2014 by Gilded Dragonfly Books in the collection Haunting Tales of Spirit Lake. It’s my first successful short story and my first ever publication. Needless to say, I am very proud.

The night before my parents were killed in a car accident I dreamed of a huge baby buggy smashing through the window of the twentieth floor of a high rise.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a great talker. My custom has always been to observe, listen, and hold my thoughts inside. People call me “unknowable,” and I can’t say they’re wrong. After the accident I hugged my silence more closely than ever, but in a strange moment when I thought my heart would turn inside out if I didn’t speak, I told Ethan Chance about my dream. Ethan was my closest friend, because among all the kids my age, seventeen, only he shared my passion for black-and-white movies. Even when I don’t care to talk about my feelings or my views on society and politics, I can enjoy a good conversation about Casablanca or Metropolis.

He listened as I described the shattering window and the buggy disappearing over the ledge. Then he told me in an awed hush, “You’re psychic.”

I laughed him off but cringed inside. I might like to tell myself stories about ghosts and imagine that the wall separating past from present from future might be frayed in spots, but to suggest I might be psychic was to drag those gossamer daydreams into the bitter cold realm of reality. I didn’t want to be psychic. If I’d somehow prophesied my parents’ deaths, then the right word from me might have saved them. This I couldn’t bear to think. So I changed the subject very quickly to Dr. Strangelove.

Yet in the days that followed I started to wonder whether my sweet-natured cinephile friend might have cursed me, or if my Creek grandmother had been right when she told me that gifts can be born from grief. My sense of sight began to play tricks. When I walked alone on the edge of the wood that bordered Spirit Lake I would spy a ripple in the air, such as we sometimes see in the thick heat of a summer day. It looked like a curtain moving, and I thought I could glimpse a shadow-scape beyond the lush trees and glassy lake, a scene with the sepia shade of a nineteenth-century photograph. People moved through it in the garb of long ago, going through the motions of working and chatting with each other and not paying me the slightest heed.

Curious? This and other tales of mystery can be found in Haunting Tales of Spirit Lake, available from Amazon.com in Kindle and in print.

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