I selected the creek image for my 20-minute sprint this week. And just for fun, I tried to write the whole thing with no pronouns for the two in-scene characters, just to see if I could do it since that character detail doesn’t matter for this particular piece. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the experiment.
The soft sound of the water falling down over the rocks soothed K’s frayed nerves. After hours cooped up in the cabin with seven other members of the family, even the soft misting rain didn’t make being outside any less enjoyable. Being alone with only the sounds of nature was exactly what K needed right then.
As an incredibly shy and introverted person, it was hard enough to be in a crowd of people, even family, but when you factored in K’s slight talent for empathy and telepathy, it just became unbearable.
A twig snapped, and K’s head shot up, swiveling toward the sound. Every muscle in K’s body tensed in preparation to flee.
“I didn’t think anyone else would be out here,” K’s cousin M said.
K watched M carefully navigate the narrow path along the creek and sit down on the rock next to K’s.
“You bolted pretty fast,” M said softly. “Are you alright?”
K looked away. K hadn’t meant to run away exactly, just find someplace quiet.
It was still quiet. Really quiet, K realized. There were no emotions coming for M, and no stray thoughts either. K had never encountered anyone who didn’t bleed stray thoughts and feelings all over the place.
“It was just too loud,” K said finally. Everyone had been talking and it was a small space, it would have been enough to overwhelm a lot of people without K’s particular issues.
“Yeah, and none of them know how to shield worth a damn,” M said with a laugh. “You do though. I’ve always wondered where you learned.”
“Learned what?” K asked, frowning and shifting on the rock. This didn’t seem like a safe conversation. K had gone to great lengths to make sure no one ever found out about his abilities. They weren’t supposed to be real. If K’s parents found out, K would end up in some institution.
“To shield,” M replied, peering over at K. “You know, keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself instead of broadcasting to anyone who’s sensitive. Didn’t they teach you about sensitives in school?”
“My mother teaches me at home,” K said. “My parents don’t approve of the state run schools.”
“Oh, right, you’re J and L’s kid,” M said. “I manage to remember everyone’s names but I forget who belongs to which set of parents half the time.”
“I’m good with names and relationship maps,” K replied with a shrug. M was the child of L’s sister F and her husband T. M also had four siblings, two each by F’s previous two husbands.
“Do your parents still not believe in sensitives?” M asked.
“You mean psychics and stuff?” K asked.
“People who can pick up on the thoughts and emotions of others,” M clarified.
“They think that’s all superstitious nonsense,” K said.
“You know they’re wrong, right?” M asked. “I’m sensitive. So is Mom, and her mother, a few of my siblings too, but none of them have much and none of them can shield worth a damn.”
“You shouldn’t talk about things like that,” K said, standing up. Going further downstream would get him further from the family, and hopefully further from M, too.
“Wait,” M said, jumping up and grabbing K by the wrist.
K gasped. M was very not quiet all of a sudden.
“Holy hell,” M cursed. “How can you deny this is real? I’ve never heard anyone as clear as you.”
“It can’t be real,” K said, tugging against M’s grip. “They’ll lock me away if it’s real.”
“I won’t let them,” M said, grip tightening on K’s wrist. “Come back to the other cabin with my family tonight. Let us show you the truth.”
“No, I can’t, my parents…” K tried not to burst into tears.
“Hey,” M said, stepping close and wrapping K in a warm hug. “You’re safe. I won’t let anyone hurt you, not even your parents.”
K trembled in M’s arms. M meant it, K could feel that and hear all the plans running through M’s mind for sneaking away from the family reunion with K so they could go to a testing center, letting K live with M during training, keeping K’s parents away until K was certified and could emancipate himself from them if needed.
“You’d do all that?” K asked, forgetting that it wasn’t supposed to be real.
“All that and more,” M said. “We take care of our own. You’re family and sensitive, and you deserve the chance to learn what that means.”