Upcoming February Monthly Meeting

Dear Ekphrasians:

Our next official meeting will be on Monday, February 3rd, at Celtic Knot Cross BWLiving Hope Church in Allentown, from approximately 6:00-10:00 pm.
Here are some comments about the meeting:
– Feel free to bring food, friends, and work to share.
– During the first hour, we will be having a Workshop on Syntax. Several of us have moved into long-form prose and are going to take this time to work on style and structure. Specifically, we’ll be working with independent clauses and how to combine them. This will run from around 6-7, so if you want to participate, plan to be on time(ish). See below for details about the workshop.
– Around 7:00, we’ll move into our usual Share-and-Critique phase. Please choose something of a reasonable length to read, show, or perform.
– Around 9:00, we will break for some English Country Dancing, taught by Betsy G.

Here is info about the syntax workshop:
1. Please type up five sentences of varying lengths. These can be sentences you wrote, ones from the classics, or random ones from the internet, whatever. Try to include at least one that you think is correct and at least one that you think is incorrect. Make sure they are of varying lengths.
2. Please print out 4 or 5 copies, double-spaced.We will use these during our discussion.
3. For the first half or so of the time, we’ll work on identifying dependent and independent clauses. For the second half or so, we’ll work on how to combine them most effectively.

Under the Mercy,
Sørina Higgins


Revision of “The Four Senses” chapter 1

This is a revised version of the first chapter of my Three-Day novel (which is rapidly becoming my one-year novel). I still plan at least two more revisions. Meanwhile, your comments are very welcome.



 by Sørina Higgins

They told me that the night & day were all that I could see;
They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up.
And they inclos’d my infinite brain into a narrow circle,
And sunk my heart into the Abyss, a red round globe hot burning,
Till all from life I was obliterated and erased.

William Blake, “Visions of the Daughters of Albion”


Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 1, William Blake, 1793

 Chapter One

“Do you think I am blind?” I snarled. The tiny 18-year-old shrank away from me.

“Do you think I am deaf, and dumb, and senseless?”

“Of course not, Ms. Woods,” she whined, pressing her skinny body against the orange chair, its metal legs chilly against her bones.

“Do you think I have a two-digit IQ?”

“Of course not!” she whined again. “I just panicked.”

“Look, Jennifer, I don’t want to tell you how to be a better criminal, but seriously! Couldn’t you even change the font? I mean, you copied-and-pasted an entire essay, dumped it into the center of a page, and handed it in? How stupid do you think I am?”

My temperature rose with my frustration-level. A prickling sensation crawled up my neck, redding my face, then down my arms, dampening my shirt.

Jennifer squirmed in her chair, managed a glance at my face, then blurted out: “I didn’t know what you wanted, I hate poetry, what was I supposed to do?” Her fear spewed out along a stream of entitlement.

“You know what you were supposed to do. You were supposed to come see me, and you were supposed to write your own essay.”
“But I don’t know how to write an essay!” Her squeaky-toy voice was rising up towards a wail now, the end of her little nose reddening. “Nobody ever taught me how to write!”

Yeah, that’s probably true, I thought, my anger cooling into embarrassment. They don’t teach them anything now-a-days. I thought of the high school where I had taught for one nightmare of a year, a year that nearly landed me in either the psych ward or my grave (not sure which is worse). Those kids had six English teachers in four years, and the Seniors I inherited had never been assigned a five-paragraph essay in their lives.

“I know,” I sighed. “That isn’t your fault.”

Jennifer twisted her ankles together in confusion at my swift shift in tone.

“It isn’t the high school teachers’ fault, either,” I went on, carried by inertia. “It’s the whole stinking system. For twelve years at least—nearly your whole education—you’ve been oppressed by a broken system that teaches you only superficial formulas and tests meaningless skills and forces everyone to stoop to the level of the lowest common denominator—” I saw her eyes had glazed over. “Anyway, you knew what you did was wrong, so why did you do it?”

“I just hoped I wouldn’t get caught!”

“Jennifer,” I intoned, remembering that lowering the vocal pitch one octave can strike an impressionable youth with the force of authority, “getting caught has nothing to do with it. You still damage your soul whether anyone finds out about it or not. Do you want to grow up to be a felon?” but I broke off again, scoffing at my own pompous hypocrisy. Hadn’t I gone along with the system? Hadn’t I been a meaningless cog in the meaningless machine? Hadn’t I gone against my own conscience in implementing immoral grading systems? Who was I to scold this sad little girl?

“Whatever,” I muttered. “I have to report you.”

She looked about twelve years old then, in her pink leggings, layered tank tops, and cheap beads.

“It goes on your permanent record.”

Her eyeliner began to trickle down her face.

“And you fail the assignment. You were doing so well, too, but failing the last essay means you fail the course. I can’t let you take the final exam, you know. I don’t know why you did this to me, or to yourself. You were my success story this semester!”

I recalled her writing sample: the nonsensical sentences, the random punctuation, the vague clichés, the lack of sequential thought. Then I thought through those long hours we had spent together in this yellowish office, laboring over comma splices and in-text citations. I remember her research paper: a decent C, with some pretty syntax and specific examples. What a waste.

Then I started to shrivel up inside, wondering what papers I had to to fill out, how to report her properly, and what right I had to reduce youth to cringing insects. A vision of forms in triplicate wavered in my mind for a moment, the words policies and procedures buzzing my brain. What if she appealed? What if I had to go before the ombudsperson? What if I had done this all wrong?

Jennifer was sniveling. I lunged up, grabbed the tissue box, dropped it, retrieved it, and shoved it at her.

“You did this to yourself. I tried my best with you. All I can hope is that you will do better next time and have success in the class and everything you do in life.”

I swiveled away. She started packing up all her pink Staples specials inside one another, zipping up pockets, cases, and bags, then slunk away. Yet another failure.

* * *

But the time had come, as the walrus said, to get ready for class. That’s not what the walrus said, but what he said didn’t make much sense, and I had to print a handout and copy it before I went to face what was left of my dwindling class. In the back of my skull, the mental tick of my generation tapped out: check facebook check facebook check facebook. I gave in. There are still ten minutes before class, I reasoned. So I pulled up twitter and facebook and gmail and yahoo—just for a minute!—and read:

To: Cassandra Woods
From: Aurora Dunne

Hey, Cass, I’m in the airport, just catching up on emails here during a layover before I fly out on the last leg of my trip home, and stumbled on something you’d like. Have you seen this fiction blog?


Really impressive writing. All these different voices, different tones and styles as if all the different characters wrote the various posts, yet there’s a kind of story weaving through as you go along. I’m guessing this kind of online fiction is the way to go in the future–kind of reader-generated, to some extent, like the old choose-your-own-adventure stories. And it’s got a wild premise. Let me know what you think. You should jump on this kind of stuff and write online blog-novels and make a million! OK, I’m on my way home from–well, I can’t say where I’ve been, but you can guess if you look at the headlines. Uprisings. Genocide. The worst place to be right now, if you live there; Americans are still OK. But it was ghastly: bodies in double rows down all the corridors of the hospital, and mostly children. I took pictures and will tell you all about it. I’ll call you!

Whew. What do you say to that? That’s Aurora for you. Aurora Dunne, as sturdy a friend as a girl could want, but who swirls past me in her own glorious whirlwind, tearing around the globe, saving the world, binding wounds, impervious to it all. She can save lives with one hand, and package them up like neat lab experiments with the other. She was in Haiti right after the earthquake, sawing off legs with back-room carpentry tools, without anesthesia. She was in New Orleans before Katrina had finished pouring in floods of filth, following around after the teams that spray-painted body counts on doors, working her way around the Superdome with pathetic supplies for the displaced thousands. She was in Japan after the tsunami, evaluating the severity of radiation exposures. How much horror can one person see? I have seen nothing, and yet I limp along with a wounded mind. What is her mind like inside? Maybe living a life of service heals the broken brain. I wonder if I will ever grow up.

Meanwhile… I clicked the link.


Once Upon a Time
by Not Your Fairy Godmother

Once upon a time, there was a happy little girl with ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes, two ears, one nose, and one mouth. They all worked together in happy harmony to show the little girl all the beautiful world around her. They tasted ice cream. They smelled flowers. They brushed her baby sister’s hair and touched her mother’s cheek. They listened to happy songs.

Then one day the Big Bad Men came and cut off her nose.

What?! This is horrible. Why did Aurora send me this? Is it another of those shocking medical narratives, like Richard Selzer’s stomach-churning stories? Ugh.

I randomly clicked another post listed on the side.

Better Than….
by L Van

Being atinitus rather than blesti has its advantages, or so I speculate.

“Atinitus”? What’s that?

I can still read—with my eyes, that is—rather than having recourse to the potentially alienating experience of having to read with my fingertips as some of my associates do who have had their sight taken from them. As a tangent, however, I recall a short story by C. S. Lewis in which a man born blesti received his sight.

Hm. It seems like this writer has made up words for “deaf” and “blind.” OK.

When he first tried to read by looking at the words, rather than touching the Braille, he felt alienated. He had cultivated an intimate, physical relationship with the very textures of words gained through years of actual tactile contact with the embodied shapes of letters.

Aurora was right; I loved this combination of the philosophical with the personal. It was quite beautiful writing, if a bit snobbish.

I suppose that viewing letters with our eyes is also physical, and that each printed character also has a physical shape—yet something in the human animal believes that touch is more “real” and intimate than sight. Love at first sight is not enough; it yearns for physical consummation.

I wouldn’t know….

Yet this is far off the topic. I was going to enumerate the advantages of hearing loss, as imposed upon an adult rather than as a congenital disorder, when compared to the disadvantages of such a loss of sight.

Imposed upon”? Did he have an accident, or a disease, or a botched eye surgery?

I find I cannot do it. I cannot relieve the daily tortures of my situation by reflecting that someone else’s sorrows are worse. On the one hand, that would be inhumane. Any rationally philanthropic human being should desire to suffer ultimate pain himself rather than that anyone else should suffer at all. This is the allegorical meaning of the Christian myth, by the way.

It’s more than an allegory, buddy!

On the other hand, I cannot reflect on my advantages, because I am myopic enough to say there are none. I cannot drive, for instance, though it is not forbidden within the city. It is not safe; I cannot hear horns of warning, nor trucks bellowing up in the left lane, nor the subtle shifts of engine whine that tell me of my car’s health. Small inconvenience, compared to my true woes, but inconvenience nonetheless.

I cannot hear my friends knocking on my front door. This would be a sorrow indeed, had I any friends. But I have none.

Ouch. That’s awful. 

And now I must steel myself to write the true horror. I cannot listen to music. There are more days when I desire death than when I do not, because of this fact alone. What is life without music.

I tried, God knows I tried (if there is a God, which I doubt more and more these days), hour after hour every day for weeks after. I took up the carpet in this wretched flat, wrenching out the staples with a violence that damaged my fingers nearly as much as it tore the upholstery. I set the speakers on the floorboards. I turned up the volume as far as it would go, watching the digital numbers rise with hope and dread. I laid my head against the speaker, ear flat on the floor. It was of no use. Beethoven himself never suffered as I do.

But they let me keep my piano. They shipped it here with the rest of my belongings. It stands in the frowzy living room. I do not know whether that is to exacerbate the torture or to provide release. They let me keep my piano here—yet I cannot touch it. I could not stand its cool indifference.

I sat silent in my faded, musty office, thinking of “Them,” whoever

they were in this dismal fantasy, who would take away a man’s hearing but leave his instrument. My cursor idled over to the archive list, found another post.


 Whatsit like
by Stiletto

What’s it like?” they used to ask, when they said anything at all. At first, they said nothing, not to me. They said plenty to each other, sidelong, out of the corners of their eyes. They didn’t believe that I could do the same work I did before. They didn’t believe I could manage people, make the menus, order the food, plan the decorations, hire the djs. They underestimated the power of sight.

The power of sight? Oh, right—because she’s deaf, so she uses hearing more, I suppose. And they’re asking her what it’s like because they have their hearing? OK—so it’s not an imaginary world in which everyone has had their hearing taken away.

So after a while, they began to ask, “What’s it like?” “What’s it like not being able to hear?” They, of course, are all deprived in other ways

Aha! They’re all deprived in other ways! I thought. That’s the premise, I guess. Very clever.

ways that may be more frustrating in catering, but less severe. And I never said what it was like. I just withered them with my stare. Of late, I have been thinking it might be almost time to think of that myself. I have not thought, not once, never sat down to weep or to curse or to pity myself or hate them. I do not know what it is like, because I refuse to think about it.

It was, of course, a long time in before anybody asked me anything, long after we developed our texting rules. They fought and fought my regulations, saying it wasn’t fair to impose my “disability” (that’s the word they have been taught, we have all been taught, reprogrammed, to use) on them, that they had their own, that I should adapt or get out. I adapted. I adapted them to me.

Sweet, I thought. This chick has got chutzpah.

Now no one talks in my presence; everyone texts. And I have so dominated them with my right and my will that I merely tilt my head at anyone, and voila, they show me their screen. It’s as good as conversation. Better, because there is a record. They all use company phones at work. Any personal phones, I confiscate until the end of the day, then charge a release fee to return. No nonsense here: we have a job to do.

Shouts and laughter passed by in the hall. My eyes unfocused and I stared through the computer screen. I tried to imagine the loss of hearing. I remember the old children’s game: Which would you rather lose, your sight or your hearing? That obviously depended on one’s vocation. Being a writer (or wanting to be a writer), I’d rather lose my hearing, I suppose—speaking of hearing, what was all that noise in the hall? Oh man, it’s time for class! And I still have that handout to print and copy. What kind of professional am I—what kind of professor? Not even a professor, just an adjunct, just a “Ms.,” a nobody, an overworked, underpaid, irresponsible nobody….

And so my mind ran on, all the way to the copy room, all throughout the angst of fighting the copy machine. The fluorescent lights hummed and flickered, messing with my eyes. Leftover lunch smells clogged the air: curry, tuna, popcorn, coffee, and ramen. Shakespeare’s jumbled word for stew flitted across my mind. “A gallimaufry,” I mumbled. “Too pretty a word for that sickening smell.” Then the copier jammed, I got toner on my fingers, the seams of my shirt chafed my skin, and sweat lingered against its cotton. Ah, every sense annoyed me. Could I just turn it all off?

Unofficial Ekphrasis Report, 01.06.2014 – A Very Small Meeting

post by Andrew Stirling MacDonald

The original plan was to skip our monthly Ekphrasis meeting, since our usual time fell only one week after our [extremely successful] Holiday Party.  However, some of the more social event-craving members (mainly myself and Marian B.) decided that we wanted to go ahead and have a meeting anyway.  The space was already reserved, and we wanted to meet, even if it was a smaller group than usual.  I served as “substitute official tyrant” in Sørina’s absence.

In attendance were myself, Marian B., Nick M., Betsy G. and Curt D.  Since it was such a small group, we were considerably more relaxed in pacing our presentations.  Before any real work was done, lively discussions about biker events and Quentin Tarantino filled our first hour of interaction.  Nick M. has a background in journalism, but hasn’t written anything presentable for several years.  He said that he hoped participating in this group would inspire him to begin writing again, since he needs “to be poked a bunch” before beginning to think creatively again.
“I will poke you.  Many times,” was my reply.
We had a brief discussion about Exile, a web series that I produce.  Although I haven’t formally presented any of it to the group, both Betsy and Marian had seen parts of it.
Marian B. started us off officially for the night, finishing the chapter she’d begun at the holiday party.  The chapter brought back a particularly angry and bloodthirsty character.  Curt D. expressed some concern for the responsibilities of an author.  Being an anti-war activist, he recommended that Marian employ her power to end the bloodshed and war in her novel as soon as possible.  Marian’s response?
“I am pro-war.”
We took a short break for tea, and an argument about the virtues (or lack thereof) of Jane Austen’s body of work sprang up.  I gave my opinion about Pride & Prejudice (against) and Emma (she’s basically Bella Swan but, if possible, more boring).  Betsy and Marian heartily disagreed with my assessments.  Nick M. reminded us all of the wise words of Mark Twain:
Curt D. was the next to perform a piano piece for us; he played his own arrangement of “Travelling Blues.”  His arranged an intro to the song based off of the Moonlight Sonata, but dropped an 8th note from every measure.  The arrangement also worked “We Three Kings” into it, keeping with the travelling motif.
I followed Curt, singing Tom Waits’ “A Flower’s Grave” and accompanying myself on piano.  Sadly, I grossly misjudged the acoustics in the room, and was told that my voice could barely be heard.  We will have to hook up a microphone next time.
Betsy G. presented our final work for the night, the sixth chapter in her re-telling of “Beauty and the Beast.”  Her “beast” character began to show his first tiny hints of reform in this chapter, and another character Betsy has been working to make more mischievous really began to show her new personality.
Finally, I brought in a drawing-in-progress that my brother David was in the process of finishing.  We gave him several notes on the work.
The group was much smaller than usual, but no less vivacious, and having a smaller group did offer some opportunities to spend more time delving into the various works presented.  Thanks for reading, and see you in a month!

Ekphrasis Report, 12.20.2013 – A Holiday Party

post by Andrew Stirling MacDonald

Sørina, a very new but quickly endearing friend of mine, has asked me to take up the mantle of chronicling the musings and misadventures that occur during the monthly meeting of Christian artists and performers known as Ekphrasis.  My name is Andrew Stirling MacDonald, and I attended my first Ekphrasis event in October.  To date, I’ve presented some music I composed (I produce video and often compose music to accompany it) as well as some of my writing.  I also act, sing, and play piano, often simultaneously, something that I plan to bring to the group at some nebulous point in the future.  I am not a minute-taker, nor am I an agenda-follower, so I may prove to be a very unorthodox group historian.  However, I will to my best to be an interesting one.

danceOur most recent Ekphrasis gathering was quite a departure from our usual song-and-dance – for one thing, it included actual dancing.  This was not meant to be an ordinary meeting, but a holiday party, open to the public.  I took advantage of this openness by bringing my two-year-old daughter, Somerled, who was, in my entirely biased opinion, a big hit.  In addition, several other new faces were present, in addition to most of the usual crowd (a few were on various holiday trips and one had her wedding anniversary). We were happy to welcome Nick M, Philip L., and Amanda L. for the first time. Several members brought snacks to share, and we all munched away happily as various members of the group presented.
Marian B. was the first to present, another installment in her long-running fantasy saga.  Marian’s mother, who has heard none of the story so far, had attended the party.  She kept herself spoiler-free by taking my daughter aside and playing with her in another room.  Marian’s excerpt proved to be a very dark one, involving mutilation and coercion.  Interestingly, this set the tone for most of the readings that night, apparently many people in the group had some dark writings to share over the holidays.
Betsy G. followed, reading a chapter from her re-imagined fairy tale (I will have to confer with the various authors to find out exactly how much they are comfortable with me sharing here; expect to find somewhat more detailed descriptions for at least some of these in the future).
Richard B, who brought his wife with him as a guest, read a chapter from an upcoming novel in his “Legend of the Redeemer” series.  Since I’ve read the first three books, I took a special interest in his protagonist, Jack Windsword.  A lively discussion ensued.
After a short break, Abigail M. read us a short story she’d recently had published in her school’s literary journal.  It was a sort of very short personal essay written from the perspective of a female character who’d just cut her hair short for the first time.
Alex U. brought a chapter from a novel he’d been writing (he’d developed the concepts with a friend of his).  Again, I’m not sure how much I can disclose here on this blog, but it involved death.  Geographically.
I read the third chapter of my NaNoWriMo novel “Lullaby,” a concept which I’d developed some years ago as a series but decided to repurpose as a novel.  Although my chapter did have some funny and light-hearted moments, it also included a young boy being forced to watch as his father was executed by impaling, so.
With all of our literary presentations spent, the night turned towards the direction it always ought to when people are done talking: dancing.  Sørina had requested that our resident English Country Dance caller Betsy G. lead us in a dance called the Coventry Carol.  Betsy went above and beyond and brought three songs for us to dance to.  My daughter Somerled was very enthusiastic about the dancing, and Betsy was kind enough to take her hand and dance alongside her while calling the first dance.  For the second song, we danced in two giant circles, switching partners every half-verse of the song.  I only tripped once, and my partner-at-the-time, Amanda L., very impressively helped to hoist me to my feet.  The song continued on without incident.  We finished the evening’s dancing with the Coventry Carol, a beautiful-sounding song that was about parents trying, and ultimately failing, to save their young children from execution on the orders of King Herod.  So very in-keeping with the unintended dark theme of the party.  The dance was for six people, and by the end we’d figured out how to do a pretty cool interweaving star thing, with two stars going at once and spinning ‘round like clockwork.  I cannot claim that we mastered this dance, but we quitted our parts pretty admirably, and we were all well-satisfied with the results.

Here are a few videos from our party:

This concludes my first report of our Ekphrasis gatherings.  We are meeting again the first Monday in January, and you can expect another report from me as soon as I find the wherewithal to write it.  Thanks for your attention!

Ekphrastic Writing at the Allentown Art Museum

Along with two other faculty members, I help to advise XANADU, the literary club at the community college where I teach. We usually produce a literary journal each semester. This semester, the students requested something different: They wanted to spend this semester workshopping their writings and works of visual art, then produce just one issue of the magazine in the spring. Of course, we were delighted! This new approach has opened up our schedule considerable and enabled us to pursue other adventures.

For the past month or so, we have been exploring EKPHRASIS: the tradition of writing about the visual arts. We had a guest poet, Lisa Alexander Baron, share six Ekphrastic poems and ideas for techniques to use when writing in response to paintings. I shared some Ekphrastic poems by the masters, along with images of the paintings that inspired them. An art teacher, Corinne Lalin, shared lots of prints. Then the next week, the students had a mini writing workshop, looking at paintings and writing pieces inspired by them. (Students! Share those pieces here if you will!)

Then today was the big event. Four students, two teachers, my husband, and my mom all went to the Allentown Art Museum this afternoon. Corinne took me around and gave me an amazing talk about modern art; she explained more to me about 20th-century painting than I have learned in my whole life. Here are some pictures of the works we discussed, followed by the poem I wrote in response.


Two-Part Invention

“Untitled,” about 1974, by Flora Natapoff
& “Moon Theater,” 1986, by Joan Snyder
Four feet stop in a gallery-space.
They point at a corner, two right and two left.
One voice asks a question, dwindles out flat.
“What makes a work like that, or like that, a work that’s a work that’s worth looking at?”

The other voice answers on an ascending scale,

picking out pieces of facts from her brain,
and fitting them into a musical frame.
Her own inspiration inspires her more,
and each idea strikes out another to sound.
Picking a fact, then working a theme,
she talks up a tune from the visual scene.
“The first thing we see is industrial space”—
that’s tonic.
“Then notice perspectives that clash in your mind”—
that’s intervals building.
“And see the confusion, our chaotic times”—
that’s the melody marching, a dissonant row.
And thus the first instrument plays out its theme.
She riffs upon balance and triangulation, masses and edges, and ateliers.
She plucks out the color wheel, strums about lines,
and sets something humming in her neighbor’s mind.
The other voice cannot stay silent for long.
When just the right resonance catches her up,
she offers as counterpoint differing notes.
“It’s myth and tradition, this massing of gold”—
that’s dominant pitch.
“The shape evokes presence and absences at once”—
that’s harmonic hints.
“Both sorrow and cyclical meaning are here”—
and the voices dance pas de deux
all through the air.

After that, I went and sat in front of another painting that Corinne recommended, one about which she said, “If I were a writing, that is the one I would write about!” Here is the result:

The Glass Casts Back the Slanted Light
Mary and the Studio,” 1924

by Sidney Edward Dickinson
In nightmares sometimes I have seen a room

where doppelgänger mirrors flank the space

and cast each other’s pictures back and forth

in endless iteration. Into this scene,

the painter painted other works of art:
sketches, postcards, prints, and portraiture.
His repetition fools us into depth.
But Mary is not fooled. She knows the nude
(whose full-length figure points the artist’s elbow)
is no more prop than she—no, nor no less—
and ladder, light, and skylight (all arranged)
are backdrop and reflection (both at once)
to magnify reception. Reputation.
Yes. She is amused. And she is bruised,
a little, delicate, and cool, and coldly used.
She knows her image was an afterthought.
She knows about the palette knife, the tools
for taking off the color from her face.
She knows about the angels and the beam.
And she has seen it, seen it all, has seen
why he would feign to hover in the back
when anybody knows—or ought to know—
the artists always takes the center stage.
Call all self-portraits false humility.
And so her gaze (the one thing she can will)
refuses him, amuses her, and chooses where
the viewer’s gaze will linger. There,
beyond the structure of the mismatched frame,
her eyes’ suggestion blanks the artist’s name.

And “Mary and”—not “Mary in”—and Mary

heads the title. Not a little fame.

Sharon’s #3DNC Prologue and First Chapter


Flit, flit. Dart, dart, dart. Flit flit. Dart, dart, dart.

Hummingbird skitted about the cornstalks, happily chirping her little ditty. The rustling of the sheaths added a slow rumble to the tempo of her song. Next, the crickets added their voices to the mix, and it wasn’t long before all of Beauty was singing along with her.

Hummingbird soaked in every beat, hum and whisper offered up around her. Slowly she began to dance with the cornstalks, unable to resist the inviting swishes across the face and pushes of the back. With corn as her partner, she danced her heart out and cried with joy.

Flit, flit. Dart, dart, dart. Flit, flit. Dart, dart, dart. Flit, Flit. THUMP!

Hummingbird’s dance was brought to an abrupt end as she collided with her new partner. She went sprawling. She laughed as she bounced back up, excited to see who was there. The smell of lilies met her nose before the face met her eyes.

“Hello, Hummingbird.” A deep, soft, powerful and comforting voice greeted her.

“Oh, hello! Do you want to dance with us?” Hummingbird had noticed that Beauty had continued to dance and sing without her.

“Another time. I have something for you.” He handed her a picture of a child. She took it and frowned. “What’s wrong, Hummingbird?”

“It’s a sad picture. I don’t like sad pictures. I only draw happy, pretty pictures.”

“Not everything sad is ugly, Hummingbird. You don’t have to draw her, only to watch out for her and visit her. She is going to suffer many things and will need encouragement.”

“You mean she is going to get a boo-boo?”

“She is going to get several.”

“Why don’t you keep her away from the boo-boos?” Hummingbird looked at him, almost accusingly. She watched him give what might be called a sigh as he bowed his head and took a moment to contemplate.

“I don’t know the full answer to that question,” He responded. “But I know it is better for her to experience the suffering than to be saved from it.”

Hummingbird frown again. “I don’t understand.”

“I don’t always understand either, but I always trust. Will you watch her?” Hummingbird looked at the picture again; the frown deepened. She nodded her head. “Will you encourage her?” Another nod. “Good. Keep dancing, Hummingbird; you do it well.” With a slight bow of his head he left her.

“Wait,” she called out. “What’s her name?”


Chapter 1

A hand grabbed onto the sack on her head and ripped it off. Joyel was shaking, her head was spinning from the dizzying ride, her eyes burned with the visions of her bodyguard’s slaughter, and her body ached from being jostled, kicked, hit and thrown about.

“Where am I?” her pitiful, childish voice rang out. The men who were with her turned on her roughly.

“Don’t ask questions,” one of them responded, shoving her into a chair.

“But where am I?” She insisted. Her fear made her bold. Her anger made her reckless. She stood and shot back at him: “Why did you hurt Micah? Are you going to make sure he’s alright? Where have you brought me? When are you going to take me back home?”

“Shut up!” A slap across the cheek knocked her back into her chair.

“That’s enough, Jothram.” A new voice entered the conversation. Joyel looked up. It was a third man. He was tall, slim, but powerful-looking. His bass voice added to his impression. “When a child asks you a question, you must answer them gently? Isn’t that right, Gorath?” He addressed the other man in the room, mockingly. Gorath turned away and said nothing.

Joyel was emboldened by this third’s presence. He seemed more gentle and welcoming. She felt her pulse relax. This was all a mistake and he was going to set it right. She didn’t rise this time, but she repeated her initial question to him all the same. He crouched down next to her chair and matched his face to hers in order to match eye levels.

“You are in Miarnsol. In my home.”

“Why have you brought me here?”

“Don’t you like it here?”


“Why not?”

“Those men aren’t very nice. They hurt Micah.”

The man glared at them. “This was supposed to be a clean job. You shouldn’t have nabbed her with other children around.”

“She’s talking about her bodyguard,” Jothram explained in defense.

“Ah. I’m sorry about that, Joyel, but it couldn’t be helped. You see, he wanted to keep you from visiting us, and we so wanted you to come.”

“Well, someone should take care him. He’ll get sick otherwise.”

“Listen kid – ” Jothram stepped forward but was stopped by a look from the man still crouched next to Joyel.

“I promise you, Joyel, that Micah will be taken care of.”

Something in his tone made Joyel feel uneasy. She was tired and her skin chaffed against the rope. “Take these off.” She demanded lifted up her bound wrists; the man Gorath stepped towards her with a knife. He also was stopped. The crouching man stood up.

“No, she can take them off herself.”

Joyel did not like the sound of that. She sat a bit straighter, stuck out her chin and stared up at the three men. “Untie me right now and then take me home. I don’t like it here. I don’t want to visit.”

“Demanding little thing isn’t she?” He turned to leave; the other two followed his example. Joyel was still tied and they were leaving her. Panic was starting to rise in her, forcing her to her feet.

“Wait!” She almost screamed. “Aren’t you going to take me home?”

The third man smiled at her: “This is your home.” And shut the door.


Joyel must have passed out. She was lying on the floor and someone was shaking her. A gentle whisper encouraged her to get up.

“Come on, girl. You’d better get up before he comes to see you. I have breakfast for you.”

Joyel felt foggy. She didn’t recognize the voice. Did she get a new nursemaid? She tried pushing herself off the bed but she couldn’t; her arms must be asleep. Hands reached out and pulled her up into the chair. Joyel finally was able to open her heavy eyelids. Sun beamed in through the window but there was something strange about the curtains. She glanced around the room; everything seemed out of place. Why had she been moved to a different bedroom? She was about to ask the maid who she was and why she hadn’t been told about the change in rooms, when she felt something odd on her wrists. She tried to move them but she couldn’t. The slightest movement hurt as if skin was being rubbed raw. She looked down at her hands only to find them tied together.

That’s when it hit her. She let out one scream. Then another, followed by a continuous stream of screams. The woman with her tried to calm her down, but Joyel took no notice of her. Someone barged into the room; Joyel barely noticed he was one of the men she had talked to last night.

“What is she screaming for?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well shut her up!”

“I can’t.”

Something like a growl came from him. He walked over to where Joyel sat and smacked her soundly. She stopped screaming. “That’s better.” He rubbed his temples and walked around the room, loosening himself up. “Well, since I’m here I might as well get on with my task of the day.” He pulled a chair up next to her. “Joyel, my name is Anson.” He might as well have introduced himself as Lucifer. In her current state, he appeared very much like the devil to Joyel, exciting and enticing but deadly and treacherous. “I trust you slept well.” He waited for a response but got none. “I want to tell you about your new life. The life you knew as Joyel is gone. She’s dead.”

Joyel took him literally. She screamed again, pain ripped up with sore throat as her high-pitched fear escaped her. Anson started yelling at her again but she would not stop. He struck her again but this had no effect on her either. The woman tried to intervene, but she too received blows and was sent out with orders to fetch something for him. Anson closed the door behind her and leaned against it, waiting for Joyel to finish. Eventually her screams subdued. She had no voice left. Tears became her next outlet and she wept freely. He waited patiently until she was finished, occupying himself with reports the woman had brought back to him. Finally there was nothing left. Joyel was empty. She felt hollow and believed she was dead. Anson waited a moment to make sure she was actually finished before continuing. Satisfied, he put down his data pad and again sat beside her.

“As I was saying, Joyel is dead. You, however, are very much alive, but you are being reborn into a new person. Think of a butterfly. For a butterfly to exist, the caterpillar must be transformed; no doubt it is a painful and frightening time for the caterpillar wrapped up all alone in that little cocoon, but after it is all said and done a beautiful butterfly emerges. So it will be with you. You came to me as Joyel; you will leave as Joy. You came as John Denevar’s daughter, but you will become mine.

“You have before you choices – you can resist the cocooning or you can embrace it. A cocoon may seem restrictive, but think of how safe it keeps that little caterpillar until he is ready to face the world in his new-found glory. You can resist my adoption and choose to live as a prisoner. You will remain tied until you loose your own bonds; your door will remain unlocked but you must choose to walk through it into freedom. As my daughter, you will learn to trust me and obey me. This is for your own good; do not fight against it.”

Anson stood up and placed a hand on her shoulder. It was strangely comforting. Joyel looked at him, bewildered by all that he had said. He smiled at her. The door opened and Jothram walked in. Her eyes went from Anson to him. He was tall, obviously muscular in a brutish, brooding kind of way. He returned my glance with a sneer.

“She’s finally calmed down? She’s got some powerful lungs, you have to give her that.” He ran his eye over me again. “She’s a pretty little brat, isn’t she? She’ll be a looker when she loses her childish form.”

“That’s not her purpose. Touch her and you’ll regret it.” Jothram balked at the severity of Anson’s threat but said nothing. He stormed out of the room, leaving her alone with her new father. “I have to go now, Joy. Eat your breakfast. I’ll be back to see how you are doing after my work is done for the day.”


When Anson returned, he found Joyel exactly as he left her: sitting on her chair staring at her bound hands. Her breakfast tray remained untouched, as well as her lunch tray with had been brought to her some hours before. He spoke to her, calling her by her new name but she didn’t respond. He tried to get her to eat but that didn’t work either. She was in a stupor and would not be brought out.

“She’s in shock.” He spoke to Gorath who was with him. “I don’t have time to get her to snap out of it. Stay with her and make her eat.” Anson glanced at the tray of food in Gorath’s hands. “At least one of her meals.” Anson left and Gorath placed the food down on the table near her bed. He observed her and was overwhelmed with sadness and compassion. This poor little girl was just like him: a slave of Anson’s with no way out.

“Admira Joyel?” hearing her title brought her up, but her eyes remained cast on the floor. “My name is Gorath. I am your servant and will help you in any way I can.” Their eyes locked. “Won’t you eat something? I’ve brought you your dinner. It looks good.”

“It smells disgusting.”

Gorath smiled at her frankness. He could see why Anson took her: she was bold, stubborn, and used to having things her own way. “That’s because it was made in the food generator. It has a funny smell but it’s still good.” For you at least, he thought to himself.

“What’s a food generator?”

“It’s how we supplement our food supply. It’s like a replicator from the modernist space stories but not as sophisticated. That’s why it smells. Here try some.”

“How can I? My hands are tied.”

“You must untie them.”

“How?” Joyel’s temper flared and she jumped to her feet. “Why does everyone keep telling me to untie them myself? I can’t. I can’t!” With her last cry she thrust herself at the table, knocking over the trays off food. She began kicking the table, the bowls, trays: anything her feet could find. She was yelling again. Strong hands took hold of her but they were gentle and they drew her into an embrace.

“Hush Admira Joyel, hush.” Joyel tried to struggle but she couldn’t get free. Her body, faint from hunger and shock, gave in. She pressed herself against Gorath’s chest and sobbed.

“I want to go home. I want my Mom. I want my Dad. I want to see Micah. I’m scared and I want to go home!”

“I know,” was his only reply. He rocked her back and forth until she went limp from exhaustion. He led her back to her chair and asked her to eat, but Joyel just shook her head. He looked at her again, trying to think of what to do. Her matted hair caught his eye. It hung about her in clumps and knots. She was young, but her hair was long and thick. He searched the room and found a comb. “Admira Joyel, with permission?” He held out the comb to her and her eyes lit up. She nodded her head and he went behind her to begin slowly working the knots out of her hair. It was a long process but worth it. Her body relaxed with the comforting familiarity of a comb being worked through her hair. The more knots he got out, the more calm she seemed.

“Is your name really Gorath?”

“Yes. Why do you ask?”

“That man wants to call me Joy instead of Joyel. I thought maybe he changed everyone’s name here.” She was silent again. “How do you know how to comb hair?”

“I had a little daughter about your age.”

“My father never combed my hair. He said he couldn’t because he was a man and wouldn’t do it right. Plus he was always busy.”

“Your father is an important man, Admira Joyel. I’m sure he didn’t have the luxury of spending as much time with you as he would have liked, so combing your hair seemed of little importance.”

The idea of her father not having a luxury was strange to Joyel, as her whole life was surrounded by luxury. But she liked the thought of him wanting to spend more time with her than he had. Maybe he did actually want to but was unable to. Gorath finished her hair, found a tie and braided it for her. He replaced the comb, lifted her off the chair, and placed her on the bed.

“I think you need to rest. Why don’t you sleep some, then I’ll have some women come and give you a bath and some clean clothes. Would you like that?”

“Oh yes, thank you. I’ve never felt so dirty in my whole life.”

“Is there anything else I can get you?”

“It’s silly, but I want my doll. Donna.”

“I’m sorry Admira, I can’t do that. Something else?”

Joyel considered a moment, sucking her bottom lip thoughtfully. “Do you have paper here?”

“Paper? We have data pads.”

“No. I want paper. I want to draw on real paper with a real pencil. Can you get me some?”

“I’ll try. Have a good rest, Admira.” He ordered the lights to darken and turned to leave. Her little voice stopped him.

“What is your daughter’s name?”

His heart sank at the question. He spoke her name in a broken voice. “Tessa.”

“Do you think she could come play with me sometime?” His head dropped and he put a clenched fist to his chest. He stood there silently for a long time. “Gorath, can she play with me?”

“I wish she could, Admira. But she’s dead.”


Joyel sat on her chair with a table of food in front of her. A woman stood in the room with a pad of real paper and a set of real drawing pencils in her hand. Joyel eyed them hungrily but she was told she wouldn’t get them until she ate something. Her hands were still tied but after her bath the coarse rope had been replaced with soft linen ties, still uncomfortable but less abrasive.

She was starving at this point. It had been almost two days since she had eaten anything but she could not bring herself to eat the food before her. There was some portion of meat on her plate, and what looked to be a vegetable and perhaps a pile of rice but it smelled hot like melting plastic and looked about as appetizing. She looked at the drawing supplies across the room, and she became famished. Awkwardly she picked up a fork, twisting her hands to get one free to be able to hold it, dipped it into her rice and brought it and both hands up to her mouth.

It was tasteless and had an odd texture but once that food hit her empty stomach Joyel felt as though she had never had a more delicious meal. She hastily dug into her food again but eating with bound hands became cumbersome. She threw the fork away from herself and flung her face upon her food devouring all that she could with her mouth and licking up anything she missed.

When she was finished the woman wiped her mouth, cleaned her table and set the paper and pencils before her. Joyel lifted her hands to her expectantly but the woman just shook her head no. “How am I supposed to draw with my hands tied?” she demanded.

“I don’t know Joy but I’m not allowed to untie you. If you want it bad enough, you’ll either untie yourself or find a way to manage with them tied.”

She left her alone then, taking the tray of food out with her. Joyel stuck an irritated tongue out at her back. “Find a way to manage.” she muttered with annoyance. She didn’t know what was wrong with everyone here but they all expected her to magically be able to get out of her bonds. She tried to comply, twisting her hand s this way, than that way hoping to wiggle them free but nothing bugged. The fabric didn’t even begin to fray. She was determined to draw. She picked up the pencil and moved it back and forth between hands and fingers to find a position that would work for her. She found that if she kept her drawing hand on top, she was able to ‘manage’ well enough. It took some getting used to but soon she was absorbed into her work that she forgot about her hands being tied.

She drew a picture of her doll, then the capital where her family lived, then a picture of her father and lastly her mother. She stared at her collection. The crudely drawn images stared back at her. She started feeling lightheaded and her breathing became labored. “Mommy, Daddy, come get me.” She scooped up the drawings in her arms and clasped them to her chest. She tried crying but she couldn’t. She started to panic as her breaths became harder and harder to take. She started to wheeze. Her drawings dropped to the ground as she frantically began trying to rub her chest which felt incredibly tight, like she was going to squeeze herself to death. She tried to cry out for help but she couldn’t. She fell off her chair into a ball on the floor.

The doors opened and Anson walked in. He had been watching her on the surveillance camera and saw an opportunity. He gently picked up off the floor and held her in his lap. Her small body was struggling for air and against her panic.

“Calm down Joy. Everything’s fine. Calm down, take deep slow breaths. Try, try to slow your breaths down. Here, breathe with me. In and out. In and out.” His deep soothing voice counted a rhythm for her, which was reinforced by the rise and fall of his chest against her back. Slowly her breathing adapted to his breathing. She sat limp in his lap, breathing heavily and still rubbing her chest but she was more subdued now. He kissed her forehead, which caused Joyel to flinch, and gently rocked her back and forth. “Don’t worry Joy, your father is here.”

#3DNC: Jeff’s prologue and first chapter

It had happened again. The Dream. It had been recurring every night for the past six weeks. There were minor inconsistencies here and there, but several factors always remain the same.
Rochelle is always there. I miss her more and more every day.
Robert is also there, and he is arguing with Rochelle about Star Wars. He claims Empire Strikes Back is the best—which it is—but Rochelle disagrees. She says that all about Yoda it is. Robert says it’s the best because it has the most Han Solo and nobody in their right mind could ever think it was all about Yoda.
And then there’s the third man. I call him Orson Welles. Not that he looks anything like him, but…you get it, don’t you? Or you don’t, fine. Whatever. I don’t give a flying leap. O.W. is always giving a speech about why he doesn’t tip waitresses. It sounds vaguely familiar, but I’ve given up trying to guess if I’ve heard it before and just assume that I’m remembering it from my previous dream.
Anyway, in the middle of everyone talking, suddenly Robert grows stiff and starts coughing. He grabs at his chest, moaning in pain. Even though I’m worried, I laugh at him. Every time. Makes me a sucky friend, I guess. O.W. keeps right on talking and ignoring Robert until eventually Rochelle yells at him to shut up and hits him with a beer bottle. I finally manage to control my laughter and then we all turn to see what’s happening to Robert. Rochelle suggest heartburn and Mr. Welles recommends antacid. The end result is always the same. Robert falls to the ground and stops moving, stops breathing. Rochelle wonders if he is dead and then suddenly his chest bursts open and out leaps…a dinosaur?
I forgot to mention, there’s always this creepy guy filming us. I’ve never seen him outside of the dream, but O.W. seems to know him. At least, he knows his name. Hefé, he calls him. The dream always ends with O.W. telling Hefé to stop filming.
The only major change between dreams is that I don’t always wake up in a sweat.
I’ve told no one about my dream. I don’t know why. Maybe I think it would frighten anyone else. Heckleberries, it frightens me. But it shouldn’t, really. After all, it’s just a dream.


Plymouth Rock
This was one of the sweatless awakenings. Thank goodness, I thought. I was in the car with my family and Robert on our way up to Plymouth Rock and it would be quite embarrassing to perspire in their presence. Although, I doubt Robert would care overmuch. He’d been my best friend since the move. My older brother Elmer, on the other hand, would tease me about it for weeks. He’d probably ask me which boy I’d been dreaming about that would get me so worked up in a sweat. Gosh, he could be so immature. You’d never guess he was heading off to college in the fall. Sometimes I wonder if he ever really aged, or if he’s still a little boy inside, wanting to play in the sandbox with all the other kids. He’s certainly more rebellious than I am, and I’m a teenage girl right at the height of the angsty stage of life. I’ve often heard my parents refer to me at the angel in the family, while Elmer is the black sheep. Personally, it bothers me when they say that. I’d rather see a sheep that’s black over an angel anyway. I mean, when an angel tells you what to do, you gotta do it, but when a sheep tells you what to do, you can just tell it you can’t understand what it’s saying. Which would be the truth, so long as you don’t speak sheep.
“Are we there yet?” It was me that had spoken. But don’t worry, I’m not some irritating little kid that you want to strangle every five seconds; I’m sixteen. The question was not a loud inquiry to my parents, it was a soft one to Robert, who was sitting across the car from me in one of the chairs in the middle of the car. Elmer sat in the back and our picnic lunch sat in the way, way back. Not that we had a rear-facing—or, “rumble”—seat anymore, that was our old car. When we bought this minivan, all the worlds I’d imagined while riding in the car backward died out like stars, or something. I guess bugs die out pretty quickly too. Especially that one kind of fly, that only has a twenty-four hour life cycle. What is it called? Fuscrew it, I don’t know.
Anyway, so I asked Robert if we were there yet and he didn’t reply. I noticed that he had his headphones in, so I tried to guess what he was listening to. Kids in the Way? Nah, too dark for a bright sunny day like today. Anberlin? Nope, they’re not good road trip music. Relient K? They’re fun and talented and Robert enjoyed seeing them in concert when we won tickets to go see them(on my birthday, no less! Best birthday present ever!!! Matt Theissen’s hair was glorious, so abundant you could have fit a cow in it. Although, why anyone would want to hide a cow in their hair is beyond me. Also, they ended up playing “Up and Up” which is Robert’s favorite by them, as well as “Be My Escape”, which is my favorite song ever!!! Whoa, two uses of bold ever‘s followed by three exclamation points in the same rabbit trail. Righteous!). Having decided that they were most definitely the band he was listening to, I reached out and took one of Robert’s earbuds and put it in my own ear. I was greeted with what sounded two knives being rubbed together while a third knife was stabbing a victim to death and we could hear her screams.
“What is this junk?” I asked Robert.
He looked up at me, shrugged, and said simply “I like heavy music some times. This is The Polygons.”
“Mmhmm,” I nodded, “Well, I’ve just been sleeping; do you know how much further we have to go?”
“Just half an hour, sweetie.” That would be my mom. Of course she was listening in on our conversation. “Would you like me to style your hair for the rest of the trip?” she offered.
“Mom,” I rolled my eyes, “I don’t need to do anything with my hair when all we’re doing is looking at a rock.”
“But it’s an important rock,” she said defensively, “You’ll wanna look your best.”
“Why?” I raised an eyebrow. I was so happy when I first learned to do that. “In case George Washington is there and asks me to marry him?”
A smart reply followed, “Actually, George Washington was not one of the original pilgrims who landed at Plymouth—”
“Shut up!” I snarled.
Again, you’re probably thinking I’m horribly bratty and rebellious to speak that way to my mother, but actually, it was my brother who had piped up, and it was he I was silencing. After I’d snapped at him, he gave a satisfied smirk and opened up his book again. How could he read in the car and not get carsick? It’s so unfair! Besides, he’s using his ability to do so to read Ted Dekker. I mean, really, can you get any lower than that? If I was able to do what he could, I would be reading classics, like Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, or Anne of Green Gables, not trash about murders and alternate universes and such.
After a brief silence, Robert piped up. “I hear Plymouth Rock isn’t even that big.”
“Where’d you hear that piece of rubbish?” asked my dad from the front. That was my dad, always trying to put Robert down. I don’t know why he hated him so much.
“Have you ever seen Plymouth Rock?” I queried.
“No,” he admitted.
“Then how would you know that he’s wrong?” I retorted. That shut him up for a while.
Okay, so maybe I do have a bit of a rebellious side
After what seemed like hours, but was only half of one, we finally reached our destination.
“Anyone want half a piece of gum?” my mom asked.
“Mom, stop taking only half the stick,” whined Elmer, “Nobody wants the other half!”
“Actually, if you don’t mind, I’d love to finish it for you,” volunteered Robert.
“Here you go,” said my mom, delighted. I just rolled my eyes. That was Robert, always sucking up to my parents.
“And here we are,” announced my dad triumphantly.
We all took a moment to gaze upon the majesty of Plymouth Rock and ponder its significance in American history—hey, is that a butterfly? So pretty!
It was Elmer who broke the silence. “You know what? Robert’s right, it’s really not that impressive. I’ll be in the car.”
“Come on, son,” chided my dad, “we just got here. Stick around for a bit.”
“Why?” Elmer wanted to know, and to be honest, I was wondering the same thing.
“Because it’s history, man!” uttered my father, going off on one of his over-dramatic tangents, “Culture! You have to appreciate it while you’re young! Lord knows I didn’t fully comprehend the significance of history when I was your age.”
Elmer smirked, “Then I guess I’ll just wait until I’m an old fogey like you to appreciate it. See ya.”
Elmer strolled off toward the car. My dad followed him, still trying to reason with the boy. The rest of us just sort of hung out and waited for them to come back. Eventually, we realized that they weren’t going to and that my dad, despite his claims to the contrary, was probably just as bored as Elmer and in all likelihood, they’d slipped off to have a burger or something.
Around the time I figured this out, my mom decided to move off to a distance to admire the rock from a new angle, leaving Robert and I alone.
“So this is Plymouth Rock,” I said.
“Yup,” he agreed.
“And what spiritual significance have you gleaned from this enlightening experience?” I inquired dramatically.
Robert smiled. “Never take part in a Kirschbaum family trip.”
“I wish I could choose to opt out,” I groaned.
“You were born into the wrong family, Marie,” Robert remarked. Then he reached into his mouth, pulled out the piece of gum he’d been chewing, and flung it at Plymouth rock. The white glop stuck to the rock as if determined that it should be part of history too. For a moment, I stood in shock, nearly furious as my friend for defacing such a significant monument. Then I looked again and realized it was just a rock with a piece of gum attached. I turned to Robert and we both burst out laughing. I high-fived him, and we turned to go back to the car.
“Smile for the camera!” a voice called out. I hate random crowd photographers, but Robert and obligingly turned to face the camera and smiled. The man pressed his finger on the button, but there was no flash, no beep, no noise of any kind. To my surprise, I noticed that he was not photographing us, he was filming us. I was immediately taken aback, but then my shock multiplied tenfold when I realized that he was the man from my dream. Hefé.