A Trace of Diamond

Submitted into Contest #88 in response to: Write about an author famous for their fairy tale retellings.... view prompt

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Fantasy Teens & Young Adult Mystery

The fits had started young. Claire Fontaine was hardly five the first time her world slipped. The doctors had suspected epilepsy, but she experienced some unique symptoms. Her body would seize, but her mind would be transported elsewhere. And she would always see the same girl. Abigail Whitcombe.

The first time she saw her, Abigail was also young. But as the years passed, she witnessed Abigail come into her own as a young woman. Abigail founded her own private investigation service focused on helping fairytale characters overcome challenges. Claire became engrossed in Abigail’s story and found herself compelled to record the visions she saw. To her surprise, she found that recording her visions mitigated the headaches that remained in their wake ever since she was a child.

These stories became her treasure, and they remained her precious secret until a sleepover party at the age of ten. Mary Newton had found her notebook and, thinking it a diary, sneaked a peek at the contents therein. She was so fascinated by what she read that she admitted her trespass to Claire and begged her to share more of the story.

Slowly, Claire began to share more of her stories with her friends, and eventually entered one in a Young Authors competition run by the local paper. Her story focused on a missing person case, beginning with Abigail receiving contact from a king and queen who had all but given up hope on finding their baby. The child had been missing for fourteen years, and the only clue they had was a hairpin found in the child’s room the morning her disappearance was discovered. This hairpin led Abigail on a wild adventure to the land of the gnomes and through the Forest of the Forgotten until she came to a lone tower on a lake. It was at this point that readers realized that the story was a retelling of the tale of Rapunzel, scrubbed of any convenient rescue by a passing prince and given a clever, insightful heroine instead. Claire won the competition, and the experience persuaded her to continue to share her works.

Years passed, and Claire’s Abigail Whitcombe Mystery Service series became highly acclaimed in the Young Adult Fiction category. Despite numerous interviews, she never shared with her readers the precise source of her inspiration, only that the ideas flowed like water. The way that Claire would speak about Abigail solidified her fan base even further. When some readers complained of an underhanded trick Abigail had employed to gather information from the Snow Queen in Abigail Whitcombe and the Imp’s Mirror, Claire had simply replied that she wrote the events as they occurred. Abigail Whitcombe had a life of her own, and she was not the author’s to control. Critics extolled Claire’s ability to breathe life to fantasy and her die-hard fans waited eagerly for each installation.

As she neared forty years of age, the feeling underlying Claire’s vision changed. The most recent plot showed Abigail becoming obsessed with analyzing her own life. Why was she consistently able to succeed when so many others failed? Her adventures had won her great respect throughout the lands, yet rather than rest on her laurels, she found herself overcome with a sense of unease. A chance encounter with a tarot reader in the marketplace set her off on a journey to discover the source of her own power.

Claire had the story partly written when a particularly violent fit took hold of her. She was found unresponsive by her agent the next morning. She was admitted to the hospital, but they were unable to identify her condition. Despite having a steady pulse and active brainwaves, she was completely unaffected by external stimuli. She had no nervous reflex and appeared to be in a deep trance.

From Claire’s perception, she was once more at Abigail’s side. The room was dark and a circle of candles illuminated the floor at her feet. A chalk sigil encircled her position. For the first time ever, Abigail was looking directly at Claire rather than through her.

“It worked!” Abigail cried out.

“It certainly appears so,” came a voice from behind Claire. She turned and saw a woman she did not recognize, dressed in a fashion she had previously seen associated with the faithful of Ashtara. Claire attempted to step outside of the chalk circle, but was held in place by an invisible barrier.

“Hello?” Claire said, pushing her hands against the barrier, “Abigail? What’s going on?” Her heart rate began to accelerate as it became clearer that she was trapped.

“How do you know my name?” Abigail demanded. “Who are you?”

“I don’t know how to answer that. My name is Claire and I’m not from your world.”

“That is the nature of the summoning ritual we performed,” the priestess offered. “Your life has been tied to Abigail’s across space and time. We have brought you here to determine whether your intentions are good or evil.”

“Intentions? I don’t have any intentions. I’m just an author-” Claire attempted to explain.

“An author?” Abigail interjected. “Are you writing my life? Did you create me?”

“I don’t think so. I started having visions when I was a little girl. I’ve written what I’ve seen, but I have no influence over the story.”

“So you’re a voyeur, then?” Abigail asked. “How much of my life have you seen? And how much have you shared?”

Claire flushed. “I’ve been transported here regularly throughout my life. This is the first time anyone here has been able to see me. When it happens, I can do nothing but watch until the vision reaches its end. I don’t understand how it works or why it happens. I certainly don’t intend to spy on you.”

“But you then take what you see and tell others of it, profiting from my life?”

“I had no idea that you were real. I thought I was crazy. Writing helped lessen the ripple effects of the visions. I didn’t intend to share them. But when people found your stories, they were inspired. You are a role model in my world. I have received letters from women who used your stories as an escape to survive abusive situations when they were young. You have given bullied children a sense of hope and shown them how to believe in themselves.”

“But it’s my life.” Abigail protested.

“I am sorry that I have violated your privacy. But whatever the reason for this connection we share, it has been a source of good in so many peoples’ lives.”

“I can hold this for five more minutes.” the priestess warned, watching the candles burn down.

“I understand that me profiting from sharing your story may feel heartless. These visions happen so regularly, and I spend so much time writing to avoid the massive headaches that hit me if I don’t write that I wouldn’t be able to support myself any other way. It’s not an excuse, but it’s the truth. And whatever you are looking for, it’s bigger than me. I am not the source of your good fortune. I am only the one fortunate enough to watch you enjoy it.”

Abigail gazed at Claire, considering her options. She had not known what to expect when the priestess had begun her incantation. She was prepared to confront a God. She had not been prepared to meet the woman in front of her. Someone cursed to observe, but never to participate. She had thought herself so close to the answer she sought, only to find it move out of reach once more.

“I don’t know if I can leave anything behind once your spell ends, but if I can, please take this earring of mine,” Claire offered, removing the diamond teardrop that hung below her left ear. She lay it on the floor at the edge of the chalk circle. “If this remains after I am gone, please take it as proof of our connection,” she paused. “As proof of my existence in your world. I bought these with the proceeds from my book sales, so it is only fair that you should receive something in return.”

“I will.” Abigail said. The candles continued to shrink. They were little more than nubs. “Thank you for your honesty. For what it’s worth, you have my permission to keep sharing my stories. It is not like I will ever meet the people who read them anyway.”

Claire smiled, tears welling in her eyes. “No. Thank you. I may not know why I get to see your life, but I am fortunate to have the opportunity. Your existence brings joy to me and to millions of people in my world.” With that, the candles extinguished and Claire disappeared, a shining diamond earring the only evidence that she had ever been there at all.

Abigail picked up the earring, examining it carefully before putting it on. She would treasure this jewel, wearing it consistently for the rest of her days.

Claire awoke in the hospital, the steady beeping of the heart rate monitor helping ground her in her reality.

For the first time, Claire lied while writing one of her books. Her readers would never know how intimately she and Abigail were linked and the true story, while intriguing, lacked a satisfying resolution. Instead of depicting her own summoning, she wrote that Abigail summoned the fates themselves, learning in the process that she was one of their favorite playthings. Rather than being blessed, she had been presented with every challenge they could invent. Though expected to fail, she had prevailed over their machinations time and time again.

While technically a lie, the resulting story was empowering and fit consistently with Abigail’s other exploits. Children would read it and believe that they too could overcome any challenge they faced. And in a way, that lesson was true. After all, Claire had found a way to leave evidence of her existence in a world to which she did not belong. If she could manage that, was anything impossible?

April 10, 2021 02:07

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1 comment

Alex Auclair
17:41 Apr 15, 2021

Your story was so interesting! Right from the beginning I wanted to know what the connection was between Claire and Abigail. As it went on I found myself wanting to know more about Abigail's adventures. This could definitely be expanded into novel length. Really well done!


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