No Time For Talking – A Short Story

No Time For Talking - A Short Story

Audrey Mitros, Published Mind Submission

I woke up this morning to the pitter patter of rain upon my wooden roof, something that I awake to often here in “the dismal middle of absolutely nowhere,” Britain. 

A fact- “It is estimated that there are more than 3 million shipwrecks on the ocean floor” spiraled through my brain once again. It is just one of the many obscure facts taught to me by my old copy of the World Book Encyclopedia, but for some reason it happens to be the one that stuck with me the most. I’ve been contemplating it a lot lately. Though incredibly tragic at its core and a bit unsettling when you reflect too deeply upon it, I’d like to imagine that some of the people whose ships wrecked got to see the world more than I ever will, and even though some of their journeys must have been dangerous, whether they were at war or on an adventure, or in some sort of different situation entirely, I find it fascinating to imagine all of the escapades people might have had, maybe some of them were like the brave protagonist Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean. I hope some were courageous heroes like I once hopelessly dreamed of becoming. If this fact spins through my head on a good day, that’s how I view it- in a more positive light- however when I think of it on a bad day, it feels more like a metaphor for the dangers of the world, but also for just how many secrets the world holds at the bottom of the ocean, and that in the end, you belong to the earth. 

I have a plethora of strange facts about the world, and if I was this smart 5 years ago I might have liked to bludgeon people with my intelligence during a friendly game of Trivial Pursuit, or possibly use it as a conversation starter at the dinner table with my family. I’m sure Elora would have loved to hear all about icelandic puffins, she always loved birds, especially the unique ones. I can still remember the way her hazel eyes used to beam at me like embers from a fireplace. However, because I am not who I was then, and never will be, I instead shove down all those thoughts about my past, because I know I can never go back, and I can never leave my current abode again, not after everything that happened and all that I did. Besides, lately I’ve gotten used to the dusty porcelain plates in the pantry, and I’d rather focus on my encyclopedias and extensive film collection rather than on my dismal regrets for the past. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark has been a favorite of mine, perhaps I should rewatch it later today with a cup of tea while this rainy day continues on. 

In the late hours of the afternoon I begin to prepare a kettle, and then I head upstairs to continue writing in my journal- although lately, poetry has not been coming as easily for me as it used to. The numerous old paintings stare at me from the walls judgingly. They must find my hapless state amusing. This burnout is likely because there is not much more inspiration to be found inside the musty walls of this place, it’s all been dried up. When I first hid away here all those years ago, I did not plan on staying as long as I did, but now I do not plan to leave. There is nothing outside that I deserve any longer. So instead I stay here. I’ve lost track of the days, and for some reason I pretend that I’m okay with that. Even if I did leave, I doubt that anyone would care to see me. 

As I wash the few dishes in my sink later in the evening, I spot a bird chirping out in front of me through the window. It’s a bright yellow goldfinch, the kind like the ones I used to see back home in my flowerbed- at my real home. I almost never see them outside at night like this, which makes it seem extra strange. It is almost as though it is mocking me for trapping myself inside- making fun of me for being stuck, for being a prisoner to my own self who has lost all the keys that could ever unlock the freedom of something better. I close the curtains and start to head upstairs, the chirping still ringing in my ears, like some sort of deriding reminder of my cowardice. When I step foot on the second to last stair, I hear a sound that causes me to freeze, and my icy heart drops to the floor. The knocks on the door grow louder, and a voice calls out to me, beckoning me by name. I didn’t think anyone remembered my name. As I stand there, on the penultimate step of my timber colored stairway for what feels like an eternity, the knocking continues. 

“Eli?” The voice has grown fainter now, and the knocking has stopped. “Eli, It’s me.” My soul shrinks, my heart races faster. “I know it’s been a while, but you have to listen to me. Things aren’t the same, and…” I think I hear a faint sob. Somehow, as though some sort of strange divine force wills me, I find courage, and proceed to creep down the stairs. The third stair to the floor creaks, and I flinch, grimacing. The voice sounds again, this time more firm- “Eli, we need you.” I’ve almost made it to the boarded up door, an impressive feat under the bizarre circumstances of my life. “Eli, I know you’re there.” I rest my ear to the sturdy, boarded up wood door, careful not to cut myself on the rusty nails and hinges. I clear my throat, and begin to feel a bit dizzy. Despite the room spinning around me, I muster up enough mettle to respond, even though my voice shakes. 

“I’ll be right there.” 

I walk to my basement, nearly tripping over a black leather boot that was lying on the floor in my nervous haze. On a shelf above the basement stairs, next to about 50 dust-ridden cans of various vegetables and other metallic tasting foods, I find my red toolbox, and rush back to the door. I forget about the boot and nearly fall flat on my face, but catch myself with my free hand and get up. As I begin to pry out the rusted nails, I pray that my visitor hasn’t left, a bewildering kind of curiosity combined with fear overtaking me. Hopefully all of the ruckus I am causing with the hammer is enough for them to know I’m still here. 

Finally I’ve removed all of the precautions that I put in place. The precautions that I put in place so that no unexpected visitors could come in. The precautions that are part of the reason why I’ve kept myself locked away for so long. What on earth am I doing? The voice in my head telling me that I am a danger to the world, and that I don’t deserve to see my family again or deserve to accomplish my dreams washes over me, but this time, it has to be different. It has to be. I reach for the door handle, breaking out into a cold sweat. I can’t believe I’m being so foolish! The voice echoes in my mind, What are you doing Eli? Are you going to let all of the years spent protecting others by hiding away just waste away at this moment for a complete stranger? I remember the gold finch’s song from earlier this evening. You are worthless Eli Bradstreet, and nothing can ever make up for that awful day when you- 

An external voice comes crashing down through my cloud of self-doubt, interrupting the tornado of internal thoughts that had been spiraling, spiraling farther and farther into the darkness. “Eli… your- your daughter is still alive.” I’m sure that time stood still in that moment. Everything stopped. My hand started to quiver. My whole body quivered. 

“Eli…” I grab onto the handle. In what might possibly be the most impulsive, yet brave, courageous and the most heroic risk of my life, I turn the knob, and with a loud, resounding creak, the old door opens. 

Standing there before me is a drenched, forlorn looking man with wavy brown hair and a round face I have not seen in years, who tightly grasps a black umbrella. The two of us stand there for a moment, speechless. Spinning through my head are all the things I could ever want to say to my oldest friend- Oliver, the compassionate man in love with science and the stars- but I am not sure that I even remember how to speak. Luckily, he breaks the awkward 3 years’ silence before I do. “Eli, that night, it didn’t happen like you remember it. I… you didn’t hurt anyone.” 

Suddenly I am engulfed by memories, and begin to feel paralyzed by the thought of what happened. That night, 3 years ago, I had decided to take a shortcut through the woods by my house- it was late, I was exhausted, and just wanted to be home as quickly as possible. That was when I suddenly heard a wolf crying out in pain, and felt compelled to see if I could find it and hopefully help it. This was an instinct instilled in me because of my old profession in the protection and defense of magical creatures. Little did I know when I arrived at the scene however, that this was no ordinary wolf. To this day, and no matter how many times I have swirled the same scenario around in my brain, I do not understand how I was so careless. Me- High Mage Eli Bradstreet who studied werewolf characteristics tirelessly back in university, and was known to be one of the most highly esteemed animal mages in the world after I’d saved a rare, endangered Mellibirdel from a magical creature trafficker during the prior summer. (Mellibirdels are small, fluffy creatures which resemble a miniature elephant with scaly dragon wings and goat horns, and that one was presumed to be the last female in the magical world.) I had approached the wolf slowly once I found it lying under a pine tree, still unknowingly of its true nature at that moment. It appeared to have a broken leg, but I could not be sure. I slowly crouched down next to it, and began to inspect its wound. The first mistake I made was not paying attention to the perfectly clear, bright white moon directly above me, and the second was my thoughtless attempt to reach my hand out to the wolf. It jolted upright and bit right into my hand, causing a searing, icy pain to run through my body. I collapsed backwards onto the cold, hard ground, and watched in absolute horror as the wolf stood up on two legs and scurried away into the darkness, limping with every step it took. The gnawing pain only got worse, and as I began to lose consciousness, struggling to catch my breath, I could see it shifting back and forth between its human form and the savage one. The hurting creature was a werewolf- which meant that now I was one too, and it was too late to stop the were-infection in my hand. It was surely spreading to the rest of my body with each passing second by now. This was the last horrifying, gruesome thought that flashed through my mind just before the world around me as I knew it faded to black. 

All that I remembered after that was waking up in my backyard during one of the crisp, clear hours of the early morning. A rosy hue was cast across the sky, and I was in an extremely disoriented state. My head felt as though it was full of electric mud, and there were invisible needles stabbing my chest. Elora’s playground set was destroyed, obliterated into large shards of wood. My clothes had been ripped to shreds, and on my porch, I spotted my sister- Anna, sobbing. I tried to approach her, but she ran away from me. A beat passed, and I realized what must have happened. Unsure of how much desolation I had created, I ran back into the woods, where I saw my dear Oliver, who had been looking for me. He had dark circles under his eyes, and tried to call out to me- “Eli! Eli! Are you alright! Eli— come back!!” -But I kept running. “Eli!” I ran and ran with only sheer adrenaline for fuel until my legs burned and the trees finally drowned out Oliver’s voice. I could not have faced my best, most true love at that moment. Not like that, at my absolute worst. I started to imagine whether Elora was okay or not, and a sinking dread inside made me grow fearful that I hurt her. I imagined a hundred different ways that I could have, and made an oath to myself to hide so that I could never hurt anyone else again. I concealed myself where no one would be able to find me, and that was the last time I ever saw any of them again until today. 

Back to my present reality, the two of us continued to stand in front of each other, and I stared at my hairy feet, unable to make eye contact. “I’ve missed you so much,” Oliver says with a meek tone. Despite my intense discomfort at this situation, I manage to croak out to him- “Oliver, I’ve missed you too.” A ripple of sadness and happiness all mixed into one washes over me, and in what might be the second bravest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life, as well as the most impulsive, I take a deep breath, and step outside. The damp concrete steps are freezing under my bare feet. I nearly thought I was going to faint because of my nerves, but I know that even if I did, Oliver would catch me. We embrace each other in a hug, the first physical contact I’ve made with another human in so long. A nervous laugh comes out of me, because I am unsure of how else I am supposed to react in this situation. Oliver laughs too, and I begin to cry. There are no words that either of us could say that would bring justice to this moment, and the most important things go unsaid. In this moment everything disappears, until it is just us standing there against the backdrop of the world. We break away from each other, and I wipe the tears from my eyes. I look up at the sky for a moment, and much to my relief, the moon is a waning crescent today. Oliver and I hear a noise, and we see a group of about 10 goldfinches flying through the night sky. “It’s a charm,” I say, remembering from a birdwatching book that migrating flocks of goldfinches are called charms, and they travel at night. “They’re beautiful,” Oliver responds, “they look like they are glowing in the moonlight.” 

I start to realize that maybe I have made it out of my own prison after all. I think I’ve made it to something better without even knowing it, and Oliver was the key. I feel the mist of the cool air on my face, I see the dandelions swaying back and forth, and the goldfinches are almost out of sight by now, hopefully they are making it to someplace better too. “I’m so sorry Oliver, I’m so sorry for everything.” The tears start to flow again. “I’m sorry I left you, I’m sorry I abandoned everyone. I never wanted it to be like this, I…” Oliver interjects- “Eli, I don’t think you realize how brave you’ve been. Just opening the door, that’s a big step. And… I know leaving was hard for you too. It must have taken a lot of courage to leave behind everyone. I know that you only did it to protect us. I know how much you care about everything, and I came back all this way to find you, so that I could tell you it doesn’t have to be this way anymore. I’ve been working on a cure, and I finally made a specimen that works to effectively eradicate the werewolf part of you. You don’t have to stay here anymore, and now you can come back without even the chance of hurting anyone. You can come home, Eli. Your daughter, your sister, all of us miss you. Without you, nothing’s been the same.” I feel like I am inside a dream. None of this feels real. “This is all happening so fast, I… I would love to come home.” 


I gathered my things, and packed them into the back of Oliver’s trunk. He has the same pale blue car he’s always had- it’s easy to keep an old car running when you have magic. Once I had collected all of my meager belongings, he handed me a small vial with a purple, glittery substance inside. Yesterday’s version of me would have been hesitant to drink it, but after the crazy day I’ve had, I don’t think anything of it. It tastes bittersweet, like a physalis ground cherry. Oliver turns on his CD player, and our favorite band- The Kinks plays. All the awkwardness of five minutes ago has faded, and it feels oddly as if no time has ever passed between the two of us. I watch the raindrops race down the windows, and the song lyrics of Nothing to Say pound in my ears, How’s your independence? Nothing to Say…