Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Flash Fiction 19 – An Average Life

Ok so I pushed the word count a bit with this one. I even know what sections I *should* cut – but I’m rather attached to them, so they’re staying :) I hope you’ll read and enjoy anyways!

For those who've been here before -- what do you think of the new template? Server where the old images were hosted disappeared so I had to start over. Lesson learned!

Wishing you and your loved ones a fresh year of magic and miracles!


An Average Life

It was New Year’s Eve. I was 25 years old and the world was mine for the taking. And I was alone.

The snow fell softly outside my window, lit by the vibrant lights of a town that was not mine. I was here to study history. Learning about a time that fascinated me, in the culture that arose out of it. I was an ok student, eager to learn and with grades strong enough to get into grad school. Barely. I’d been in the second round of acceptances and I knew it. Somebody else had had to decline in order for me to have a spot. Maybe several sombodies. But I was in – the hard part was over. And while I rarely had anything brilliant to say, I knew enough to keep my mouth shut and avoid revealing my ignorance. Through that, I came to be known as the quiet girl, but one who was worth listening to when she spoke. Yeah, I was surprised at that too; happy, but surprised.

I was afraid to leave the academic world. For while I was merely average here, I was afraid of being far less out there. My abilities were no match for my dreams. So when the opportunity to do post-grad work in France arose, I took it. I would never have gotten in had my peers applied; fortunately for me, the medieval studies department is run by academics, not marketing whizzes and nobody else knew about it.

So this is how I came to be alone, far from home, on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t have any friends – only acquaintances of the smile and nod variety. Theoretically we were working together; realistically all hoping to be the first to find and publish. Publish or perish – rule one of the academic world. Publish documents nobody outside would ever read or care less about, yet it all seemed critically important to those on the inside. And the few of us who saw it for the game it was? Well it was a game we chose to play, so we too followed the rules. After all, being average here was still pretty good – and there was never any shortage of intelligent conversation to eavesdrop on.

I sat up till midnight – even though it was just another night – watching the snow fall and contemplating life as it was, as it had been, and as it would be. Or could be. Maybe. The clock struck twelve, and I heard a knock at the door. I stared at it in disbelief – as though puzzling about it would reveal who was on the other side.

Convincing myself I had misheard, nonetheless I went and opened it. And was surprised at the crushing level of disappointment when there was nobody there. A knock at midnight. Right. Not in my world. Blinking back the tears of heartache that threatened to come, I almost missed the little package resting off to the side. Almost.

I picked up the wrapped box – although the wrapping was unlike any paper I’d ever seen. Almost metallic, it reflected the light in ways that made the paper appear to be made of liquid. There was a card attached and I opened it as I stepped back into my apartment.

“A lost soul,” I translated as I read, for it was written in a dialect of old French that few would be able to comprehend today, “sometimes, cannot find its place until its place is ready to be found.” Ok so that was weird.

I started to open the package, and as I did the strange wrapping fell away and disappeared. No, that’s not quite right – it’s more like it soaked into the carpet, much like spilt water. I could see where it went, but I couldn’t pick it up again, and after a few moments it faded, until all that could be seen was my ratty old carpet.

I looked at the box a little apprehensively after the mysterious vanishing paper trick, but excitement won out over caution and I opened it to reveal a necklace. A pendant, beautiful in its simplicity, appeared to be of Celtic origin. The chain it was on looked like silver but was so fine it felt like a piece of tinsel.

I picked the pendant up gently. It felt warm in my hands, and though it appeared tarnished, it was highly reflective, presenting a distorted view of my apartment. Ever so carefully, I tested the weight of it on the chain it came with. It seemed to hold. I did it up around my neck to find it fit just right.

I wandered to look in the mirror, tracing the unusual shape with my baby finger, as one might caress the scars of a loved one. The heat of the pendant on my chest warmed me straight through and the sensual tracing became hypnotic as the reflection in the mirror changed.

My apartment slowly disappeared from the mirror while I watched. It showed my walls becoming forests; my dying plants took on new life; my couch became a lake and the coffee table its beach. It was nighttime and my overhead light transformed into a moon. High above, yes, and yet so much closer and larger than I had ever seen it.

Gradually my reflection faded too – replaced by what, I couldn’t tell. The reflection was dulled until all that remained was the vision of the pendant. And with a blink, it was gone.

I looked around to find myself in a world that I almost knew. The colours were straight out of my dreams; close to normal but far more vibrant and alive.

I looked into the lake my couch had become and saw the moonlight reflected. A lightening bug danced out in front of me. There seemed to be a pattern to his movements, but at first I could not discern what it was; eventually I recognized the same script that was on the card.

“What do you want to see?” the little creature spelled out. My hand reached of its own accord toward the moonlit water while I pondered the question.

In a flash I was taken back to the time when the language of the lightening bug was the common tongue. The times I’d read and dreamed about became real, and I quickly learned that nothing I’d read or dreamed had come close.

I sat for months watching the years go by. I lived the lives of kings and peasants. I loved and I lost. I found disturbing similarities between their lives and ours, and differences so vast it astonished me that one culture sprang from the other.

But then, one day, something triggered a thought of home and the vision on the lake changed dramatically. I saw my own life, from the outside. I saw what had been, what was, and what could be. And I no longer felt so lost.

My eyes were scratchy, as though I’d left my contacts in too long. I was back in my apartment and my baby finger was still tracing the pattern of the necklace, which was no longer there.

I’d learned enough about the culture I’d come to study to write papers that would send the academic world spinning, and might even interest the outside world. And write them I did – but it would take several years to find enough proof so that I could publish. Suddenly my studies had focus and passion and no longer seemed like a game. And once out there, my papers held up to all peer reviews. Of course I couldn’t exactly reveal my sources, but by then I had others to back me up.

From this I found the life I’d been looking for. Making history come alive for others as it had for me. And while I never did leave the academic world, within it I found friends, family and a home. An average life, perhaps, but one worth living.


When she put on that necklace I wasn't sure where this was going. To quote Hotel California, this could be heaven or this could be hell. I'm glad it was more like heaven. There is noting like primary research to add passion to you study topic. Nice.


hahaha you're not alone in that -- when she put on the necklace *I* wasn't sure where it was going either. And that was far, far from the original plan...

But sometimes the stories write themselvs :)


Wonderful story, full of atmosphere. Anything Celtic or medieval is right up my street, so I thoroughly enjoyed this.


Beautiful and flowing; the character is my kind of researcher--inspiring. The necklace is a turning point of possibilities, and the resulting direction felt perfect with the introduction.
-David G Shrock


I loved how everything tied together. I had no idea where it was going, but I left satisfied. Nicely done.


I love how this came back around. Nice, tidy story. Loved the atmosphere.


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