Missing Person

Watercolour image of objects in outer space- a milk carton, twinkling stars, a satellite and a gold medal, illustrating a short story serial

It was with a heavy heart that I worked my way through the Sandersons that had spent the better part of their youth at Henfield Primary School. There was a whole brood of them- some related, others just sharing a relatively common name. James, Felicity, Veronica, Sandra, Jack, Noel, a lot of Kates, and many Peters. Finally. Cynthia. Occasionally I received a phone call from an ex-student or the parent of an ex-student, usually with an inspired idea for a 21st or wedding. Otherwise, the time capsules were returned to the ex-students themselves at the 20 year reunion- enough time would pass by then for there to be an appreciation of the insight into what their 10 or 11 year old selves could give them.

Cynthia’s mother had called grasping for something, anything, of her daughter. I knew who she was immediately when Mrs. Sanderson told me her daughter’s name. For the past year, her face, smiling with a hand proudly holding a medal that hung around her neck, had been plastered around railway stations, at local convenience stores and occasionally on the news in what has been shorter and shorter segments as time moves on and other missing persons, wars, government budgets and natural catastrophes compete for screen time. Not for Mrs. Sanderson though. Her grieving voice told me that the world and all its news had stopped for her and her husband the day Cynthia went missing. 17 years old, at another milestone in her life, having just finished high school and celebrating on the Gold Coast during Schoolies Week. No one knows what happened to her, or at least no one has come forward with what they know. All her mother wanted was one more piece of her little girl.

Opening the small box with Cynthia’s neat cursive writing warning, “Top Secret- do not touch!” I was touched by the earnestness in the hand cut love heart she’d painstakingly shaded with red pencil and in the tiniest writing, to cram as much as she could in, written all that she loved in life. Rain, sleepovers with Ally and Rebecca, riding my bike, mum’s chocolate cake, little athletics, practical jokes, the list went on. Next was a timeline all the students drew up with how they’d imagined their lives would be at 16, 18, 21, 30, by which time they’d receive their time capsule at the reunion. I gasped when I saw that Cynthia hadn’t written anything after 16: state champion 500 m sprint. Folding and unfolding the piece of paper, I thought about completing the rest and leaving in tact what little hope Mrs Sanderson had left.

 

First of a 6 part serial – Timeline. Originally Published 22nd May, 2015. Illustration added 12th June 2017. Regular readers – 10000hoursleft now exists outside of the WP world- check out the Instagram widget in the side bar-  I will post illustrations for stories, behind the scenes shots, pics of inspiration for stories etc.  Illustrating and venturing onto IG was a spur of the moment thing after seeing what Aak at Fictionspawn was doing. Others who have inspired me in their combining of visual arts with the written word are Nina & Kerfe at method two madness, and Ben & Nikita at Flash 365.

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53 thoughts on “Missing Person

    1. Thanks 🙂 I’m not sure what happened to her, but perhaps she had a hand in her own fate when writing the timeline all those years ago…hmm…your comment has given me thought for the beginning of another story, thanks 🙂

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  1. There has to be more! There seriously has to be! I love the idea behind this. It has the makings of a great mystery. Can’t wait for the next story.

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    1. Thanks Lois! The story told itself as I was writing. I had no idea how it was going to end and just wrote longhand without censoring or stopping till the end. Only changes was incorporating a description of the photo after mentioning what Cynthia had written on her timeline.

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      1. That is the best kind of writing, isn’t it? It feels like you’re the instrument, telling some universal truth you don’t even totally get until it’s written! That’s how I sometimes feel, anyway. 🙂

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      2. I do mine in the morning mostly. First meditation, then pages. Luckily, I work part-time and often don’t start till 5pm. It’s great in so many ways I find, but it also gives me a sense of doing something continuously and establishing a healthy discipline. If I can’t think of anything much, I just write affirmations or make a list of 10 Wonderful Things That Happened in the Past 24 Hours and always add 3 Things I Want to Accomplish Today.
        have a lovely day dear!

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      3. okay, I need to take more than the one leaf out of your book! meditation is another thing that is lacking in my life at the moment, but I am happy to say yoga has made a return! I like the idea of plans b and c if you don’t write the 3 pages- that is what I struggled with, and always felt that I HAD to do all three pages (at one point I was doing 3 x A4 pages) but it isn’t sustainable if you aren’t flexible about it. Enjoy your day, and as always- nice catching you in the comments xx

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      4. you already sound quite Zen, maybe meditation isn’t so much needed, whereas inside mine it used to be pretty mental most of the time 😉
        it’s been a beautiful springy day in London and I took Raymond Chandler and went with him to the Park:-)
        good luck with your job apps, or maybe I should wish you no luck, so that you can keep on enjoying time with your little one and start making money with writing 🙂 ❤

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      5. No, really I’m not. Huge difference between theory and practice. I need to be more mindful. It is 3 weeks of yoga now, but time I made some minutes daily to meditate. Sounds like a lovely day you had in London. Ha! It would be nice to stay home and all the other stuff falls into place! Ah….

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  2. For a second I forgot that I was reading a story and thought this was a ‘true story’. I love the mystery and intrigue – can’t believe the story ended where it did. I want to know more!

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      1. Haha I totally get what you mean about the inspiration well running dry! That’s why it always takes me ages to post anything! Ah, thanks for the welcome back (and I know this is a terribly late response)! Hope you have been well 🙂

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  3. a wonderful, self-contained story. I like how the bits of information slowly raise to the surface like bubbles in a glass of champagne (like that metaphor and want one now ;)) providing pieces to the puzzle whilst never becoming a complete picture and thus leaving us wondering, hoping, not hoping…

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    1. Thanks! I like that- bubbles in a champagne glass! 🙂

      The puzzle was being revealed to me as I wrote the story. I really had no idea where it was going…I think that was where the ‘artist’s way’ conversation started with Louis (I am in reader at mo, so can’t see). I hope you like the next installments!

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    1. Thank you so much for the feedback. I can now say…Part 2 is up! hurrah! no more empty promises in the comments section! 🙂 I hope you enjoy it- I feel like it took a while to warm into the voice and character (not to mention the story)- but I’ll keep at it.

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      1. I did go back and reread a few. I like the feeling of approaching the story from different directions…kind of how my mind works anyway. Although I suppose I should try to do them in order, too.

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    1. Thanks so much Kerfe- means a lot as Iove your art. It is painstakingly slow to watercolour but also a great teacher for me to let go of perfectionism. So glad you (still) like the story too. All the other pieces are offline in draft mode but will be back on my blog as I complete their illustrations. Already got a photo of the real life shop (and worker) that inspired snippets of part 2…so next water colour will be a mash of the real store and made up elements…

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