The den was a calm and safe place for Kim Tran. She sat in her big red leather chair behind a mahogany desk and stared at the shelves full of books lining the wall opposite her. Spending time in the den helped Kim to compose herself and think. Right now she needed to cogitate on something rather urgent. It centered on the word "exquisite".
The green library desk lamp flickered for a moment as if it were a strobe light. Kim ignored this however and interrogated the thesaurus open in front of her. She wanted to see if "exquisite" was sufficiently different from "exotic". She had been fed "exotic" plenty of times and was unimpressed by it. Those who told her she was exotic were focusing only on her French-Vietnamese background and nothing more. But was "exquisite" better she wondered. She hoped it referred to more than her looks. Maybe her suitor was referring also to her unique dress-sense or her quirky dancing or the habitual head-tilt friends told her was cute. It seemed that he had emphasized the "you" in "now you are exquisite". Kim needed more information.
Ephemeral tendrils of muffled music were creeping between the door and its frame. Kim recognized the moody abandon of In Your Room by Depeche Mode and would normally have rushed off to dance. Right now however she had to examine her brand new acquaintance more closely. She flipped open her laptop and on its screen saw a photo of him. He was barely taller than she, had long silky dark hair, a pale complexion, and a slender form that was accentuated by the long dark coat he wore. He sported a shy smile and intense grey eyes. If only her laptop could access his Facebook page she might then look at more than this image, but in the den she could only consider what she already knew.
Kim was momentarily distracted by the scent of artificial fog but quickly exiled it from her mind. The photo reminded her of something. So far her impression was one that enticed her but there was a hint of the disturbing. She looked at a small picture frame at the far end of the desk. In it was a still from an old black-and-white movie. The pallid skin... The long dark coat... Suddenly Kim remembered what he reminded her of – Nosferatu! Well that was okay - the thing worrying her was a fictitious vampiric character and such resonances were to be expected at a Goth night.
Kim lifted her tulip glass from the desk and finished off her fine cognac. It was supposed to be cognac but it tasted like rum-and-cola. This one last instant of sensory dissonance was all it took for her hold of the den to waver and fade. The books suddenly flew from the shelves in all directions and were replaced by the warm haze of the Goth nightclub Kim was standing in. Her time in the den had lasted mere seconds while she smiled a crooked smile at her bold compliment-giver. He glanced at the empty glass in her hand and asked, "can I get you another drink?"
"That would be lovely thanks," Kim answered. One drink would give her extra time in which, hopefully, conversation would tell her what she wanted to know. To think clearly she needed to stay sober, so she requested a lemon, lime and bitters. Then, if more contemplation was required she could always withdraw into her den once more.
A while ago I remarked that some key decisions we face are made in distracting conditions. I experienced this particularly at an interstate choral festival post-concert party. I wondered how different things may be if one could withdraw into a more contemplative setting. That is the central concept of this story - Kim attempts just that with her imaginary den. A recent visit to a goth night gave me my setting. My central character is very sketchy but I think that is so that anyone can identify with her (also I am lazy so the fewer words the better). I did go so far as to give her an ethnic background. This is in part because I have been privy to some discussions of a lack of diversity in fiction. It also allowed me to play with words like 'exotic' and notions of how appearance is the first thing we know of anyone. Both this and this with the same setting have been put here more recently.
Labels: Creative Writing