My first piece of fiction “Cracking Open: A Walk to the Precipice” was published six months ago in Dark Mountain Issue 20: ABYSS. The window to not re-publish has passed, and now I’m sharing it here. It’s an illustrated coming of age story about a girl and the creatures that live at the Center of the Time, told in a series of four flash fiction* stories.

I’m delighted to share, for the first time, the drawings and the text together. (The drawings were not selected for publication. This was a surprise, and a welcome affirmation that the story is strong enough to stand on its own.)

For years these drawings indeed stood alone, without text. I’m especially excited (and a bit trembling) to share this story with those friends who knew these drawings first. The friends who live the tumultuous years alongside me. Who stand arm in arm as oppressive forces break through our barricades, as the narcissism of small differences eats at our souls. The friends blinking a different way forward. I love you / and miss you.

For those who might not be familiar, Dark Mountain Project is a U.K. based collective of writers and artists. Their aim is to look directly at the ecological and social collapse of our times, and share our experiences as we face the darkness. The frightful and hopeful places. The poison and the medicine. The basic axiom is that our stories have failed us — the stories of western civilization and technotopia are part of the problem, not the solution. Dark Mountain Project releases books twice a year, along with a series of articles and art on their website, and workshops that reconnect. You can find more about them here.

I feel a sense of belonging having this published by the Dark Mountain Project (there’s no better fit for this story, as you’ll soon find out). The editorial process with fiction editor Steve Wheeler was unexpectedly wonderful. In lichenology, my imagination has been limited to the very beginning of a research project (hypothesis generation and study design) and then the very end (discussion of results). Years stretch between those two points. Contrast that with creative writing, where the imaginal and rational minds are as integral to shaping a compelling narrative as our right and left feet are to walking. For me, that equates to pure joy, and Steve initiated me into the creative editing process with ease and clarity.

I hope you all enjoy.

*Note: Flash fiction is an emerging field of fiction: stories are super short, limited to less than 1,000 words. The short length allows for experimentation in form and structure. Flash pieces are powerful in their punch: entire worlds open and close in under a page. I tip my hat to my favorite flash fiction instructor and beyond, Annie Frazier, instructor for UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program.

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