Already Gone (Fiction) & Photo by Emilio Pasquale

Each month, I team up with Emilio Pasquale – he gives me a photo and I write a story inspired by it.  I barely made it for April, but what follows is the photo he chose, and then my story.  His photography is impressive, so if you haven’t checked out his site, you really should (but I hope you will read the following story too – it’s less than 500 words 🙂 )

Photo by Emilio Pasquale (story by me)

Photo by Emilio Pasquale (story by me)


I shift my weight to relieve the pressure throbbing in my heels. I don’t know how long I’ve been standing here because I lost all concept of time… well, I don’t know how long ago. Minutes, hours, days and weeks carry no meaning for me anymore. I hear muted voices and whispers at my back, a brush fire threatening to consume me. I lean toward the porthole window so I can’t see any metal in my peripheral vision. Had it not been for the scraping of forks on plates behind me, I could imagine being alone on a raft drifting into the ocean. As it is, I feel the shoreline pulling away.

“Has she eaten today?”

“Probably not. She’s been standing there for hours.”

I have a name. My thought doesn’t translate into words because I deem it unworthy of the effort.

I squint and focus on the clusters of palm trees. I start counting, just to prove to myself I’m not completely gone. My vision always blurs around eleven; that’s when I cease to differentiate tree trunks from sailboat masts. I begin counting again, my unblinking gaze moving across the horizon.

“I don’t think she’s right.”

A laugh. “None of ‘em are. It’s called job security.”

I’m not crazy, I’m lost. Again, my thought doesn’t earn the privilege of spoken words.

I can’t discern if I am running away from or toward something. I decide it really doesn’t matter as I lean forward until my forehead rests on the glass. The drumbeat in my chest grows to such intensity that little room remains for my breath. I take what I can get. The glass warms beneath my skin until it feels like an extension of me. I’m mesmerized by the fogging and un-fogging caused by the interplay of my breathing and evaporation.

I hear shuffling feet behind me and voices fade. Isolation envelops me, clutching my insides in a twisting grip.

“Dinner’s over.”

My muscles twitch beneath the hand resting on my shoulder. I close my eyes and inhale, although I can’t claim much air. I want so much to take in the dampness and taste salt from the ocean. Instead, I realize that hopelessness smells like meatloaf and Pine Sol. Desperation has a taste: the sour bile that creeps up my esophagus and stings the back of my throat.

I don’t resist the tug on my arm and we both stumble. My right hand knocks the picture off the wall and the glass shatters. Shards dig into my bare skin when I land on the ground. I don’t feel anything. My muscles spasm, as if separate from me. I watch, intrigued. I hear a panicked call for help. I don’t care. My eyelids grow heavy as I search for white light or shadows. I see nothing. I half-expect to feel fear or anticipation. Instead, I’m indifferent toward death and life. Commotion surrounds me and I almost pity them.

Why can’t they see the futility of saving what is already gone?


This time Emilio almost stumped me.  I was drawn to the obvious with this photo, and if you have read my fiction before, you know I do try to avoid obvious!   It’s not exactly an uplifting story, but I thought finding out the character was lost in a picture and not out to sea may have been unexpected, although clues to the setting are there.  Thanks so much for reading 🙂


50 thoughts on “Already Gone (Fiction) & Photo by Emilio Pasquale

  1. Debbie April 30, 2015 / 8:05 AM

    Beautiful photo, Emilio! And Janna, this is one interesting take on it. I probably would’ve gone the obvious route (and it wouldn’t have been near as compelling!). Yes, it’s pretty sad — “crazy” isn’t a place any of us want to be — but I’m not so sure the “I” here in your story is as much “crazy” as perhaps despondent. Or maybe indifferent?

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 8:54 PM

      It was soooo hard not to do the obvious on this one, Debbie. I did imagine this person as lost and sad rather than crazy. As I’ve expressed in past stories, I’m quite fascinated by the human mind and the criteria we use to label someone as ‘not right’…. and the horror of misjudging the criteria and being labeled crazy when we aren’t.

  2. joannesisco April 30, 2015 / 8:34 AM

    I agree with Debbie … it was an intense feeling of despondency. “Hopelessness smells like meatloaf and Pine Sol” really anchored it!! Great line.

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 8:55 PM

      I’m glad that feeling came through, Joanne – that is how I imagined this character. I tried to put myself in the setting when I wrote this… and was glad to get back out of it, haha.

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 8:56 PM

      Thanks, Susan – I appreciate you stopping by to read it 🙂

  3. dilip April 30, 2015 / 9:48 AM

    Well written with an interesting plot. Thanks Janna.

  4. Eli Pacheco April 30, 2015 / 10:14 AM

    I love how you rolled with it! Beautifully done.

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 8:58 PM

      Thanks, Eli! I’m glad you stopped by to read the story 🙂

        • jannatwrites May 3, 2015 / 10:05 PM

          Good to have you back… will stop by this week (I hope) to see what you’re up to on your blog!

        • Eli Pacheco May 4, 2015 / 5:59 AM

          Sometimes my orbit gets wide, but it always makes it way back.

        • jannatwrites May 7, 2015 / 9:57 PM

          Life has a way of changing things up, but we do settle back into what we are supposed to do 🙂

  5. Emilio Pasquale April 30, 2015 / 11:05 AM

    I never try to stump you, I try to challenge and inspire you! 🙂 And I see I did not fail. Another great story full of despair, depression, despondency. How can a story be great when the subject seems so grim? It is in the telling. And you are one heck of a story teller! Thank you again for putting some depth and emotion into my photo!

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 9:01 PM

      Challenge is a good way to put it, Emilio – and this was a challenge! I’m so glad you liked the story (I always a fear it will be a let down and a disappointing companion to your photos.) Thanks for sharing the photo for me to write for. I let this one sit a few days to see if I could brighten it up a bit, or if something a little less depressing came to mind… but this was it 🙂

  6. clarbojahn April 30, 2015 / 12:36 PM

    Emilio has you down, Janna! He understands you. Any reason why you are drawn to write about hopelessness and despair?

    Great story. I was drawn in right away with the first sentence like the great hook you intended it to be. 🙂

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 9:04 PM

      Thanks for reading, Clar. I wouldn’t say I’m drawn to writing about that (I do write more upbeat stories as well) but I think these emotions are easier for people (maybe me specifically) to relate to.

      • clarbojahn May 3, 2015 / 1:19 PM

        Me, too, Janna! It does seem people relate to those emotions. You are a keen observer of humanity to see that. 🙂

        • jannatwrites May 3, 2015 / 10:07 PM

          Thanks, Clar… I try not to be a downer, but I have a real problem with stories that are too happy because they just aren’t believable to me. Now, glimmers of joy amongst some heartache, that I can go with 😉

  7. suzicate April 30, 2015 / 2:41 PM

    Great job as always! This paragraph really says a lot, and I love the way you say it: “My muscles twitch beneath the hand resting on my shoulder. I close my eyes and inhale, although I can’t claim much air. I want so much to take in the dampness and taste salt from the ocean. Instead, I realize that hopelessness smells like meatloaf and Pine Sol. Desperation has a taste: the sour bile that creeps up my esophagus and stings the back of my throat.” -BRAVO!

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 9:08 PM

      Thanks for reading and sharing the paragraph you were drawn to, Suzicate. It’s nice to know what captures attention 🙂 It was pretty graphic/descriptive and I didn’t really know how it would be received!

  8. nrhatch April 30, 2015 / 6:46 PM

    They do see the futility . . . but their job security is at stake.

    Interesting play on the photo, Janna.

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 9:11 PM

      Thanks for reading, Nancy. This wasn’t really an uplifting story.. maybe next time 🙂

  9. agjorgenson April 30, 2015 / 6:49 PM

    Thanks, a great description of despair… very poignant.

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 9:12 PM

      Thanks, Allen. I’m glad the despair was evident (as opposed to her being “crazy”)

  10. Leigh W. Smith April 30, 2015 / 7:51 PM

    A great ‘workaround’ of the obvious, Janna (one of the many reasons I enjoy reading you; you don’t take the easy way out with your writing). Of the many fantastic lines, this is a favorite: “Instead, I realize that hopelessness smells like meatloaf and Pine Sol.” I sure hope you’re feeling more buoyant than this narrator, though. I know lots of folks are praying and wishing for the best for you. 🙂

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 9:15 PM

      Thanks for your nice comment, Leigh! I’m glad you appreciate my effort in avoiding the expected here 🙂 This was definitely fiction, although, I did put myself in her place to “feel” this in order to write it. (I had it in third person, past tense, but after a couple edits, decided that first person, present gave it a little more ‘punch’.) My life is still not smooth sailing, but I’m still hangin’ in there 🙂

  11. the dune mouse April 30, 2015 / 9:11 PM

    great story Janna and wonderful image by Emilio! despair smelling of pine sol and meatloaf. I love this bizarre blending!

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 9:16 PM

      Thanks for reading, TDM! I’m glad that line stood out… it is a bizarre pairing, for sure!

  12. Sean May 1, 2015 / 7:17 AM

    This was a good story. I did have to read it again after reading your notes at the bottom to understand it from that perspective. I wasn’t picturing that when I read it. Ok, that may have been a bad pun but we’ll just paint it away.

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 9:19 PM

      “Picturing”…. **groan**…. “paint”…. you’re killing me! I didn’t want to say too much about it, because it can ruin a reader’s interpretation, but I imagined her in a psychiatric center and she had overdosed on the medications. Nice, feel-good story, eh? 🙂

  13. mbarkersimpson May 1, 2015 / 1:21 PM

    I was on the edge of my seat, dying to know this character’s fate. I love how you always surprise me, and the words suck me in so I’m part of the story. Great job with the prompt, as always 😀

    • jannatwrites May 2, 2015 / 9:19 PM

      Thanks for reading, Mel! This was kind of a depressing story, but my mind absolutely refused to write it any other way, haha.

  14. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) May 4, 2015 / 1:13 AM

    Oh this is great.. I love how your focused on the feeling and desperation rather than the exact narrative.. myself I would probably have chosen the subject of refuges in the Mediterranean, but yours is so much more compelling… the smell really adds to the story.

    • jannatwrites May 7, 2015 / 9:56 PM

      This was a rather depressing place to live while writing it, but I do think we’ve all had glimpses of hopelessness at certain points in our lives. I’m glad the ‘smell’ brought something to the story 🙂 Thanks so much for reading, Bjorn!

  15. habibadanyal May 4, 2015 / 5:16 AM

    This is a very interesting way of story telling or I’d rather call it picture telling. I like the description of despair though it wasnt the only thing good about this story.

    • jannatwrites May 7, 2015 / 9:57 PM

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Habibadanyal – it’s been a while since I’ve seen you around 🙂

      • habibadanyal May 15, 2015 / 4:00 AM

        I dont log in that often now. This is my last year of MBBS and hence very hectic

        • jannatwrites July 2, 2015 / 9:11 PM

          I can relate to hectic 🙂 Hope things go well for you!

  16. philosophermouseofthehedge May 5, 2015 / 7:05 PM

    Ran back by with a short bit of time this time. I love these lines; ” As it is, I feel the shoreline pulling away.” and “My thought doesn’t translate into words because I deem it unworthy of the effort.”….you can sense the energy/life force slipping away.
    You warned us! It’s fun to read something you really have to read closely and pay attention. Thanks!

    • jannatwrites May 7, 2015 / 10:02 PM

      Yep, this definitely wasn’t a spirit booster, Phil 🙂 I appreciate you reading and sharing some lines that stood out for you.

  17. Kathy Combs (@Kathy29156) May 6, 2015 / 1:37 PM

    That was so intriguing and sad. You can really feel all hope being lost, all life being drained. Brilliant work. ♥

    • jannatwrites May 7, 2015 / 10:03 PM

      Thanks so much for reading, Kathy! I’m glad the hopelessness was conveyed… I really wanted that to come through.

  18. Imelda May 12, 2015 / 9:01 PM

    The story is very intriguing and intense. I want to know more about your character.

  19. pattisj May 27, 2015 / 10:17 PM

    Great picture and story combo.

Got an opinion? Share it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s