“Searching for Graceland” by Vanessa de Sade
Akashic Books introduces a new flash fiction series, Wilderness Wednesdays. Inspired by Nina Revoyr’s brilliant and chilling new novel, Lost Canyon, which is set in the Sierra Nevada and could be categorized as “wilderness noir,” this series will showcase hard-boiled short stories of men and women in perilous encounters with the natural world. But if you think surviving an encounter with a black bear, a 10,000-foot elevation, or a cell phone dead zone sounds difficult, try describing the experience in 750 words or less. Pretty wild.
This week, Jane Eyre meets Elvis Presley for Vanessa de Sade in Northern Scotland.
Even though it was June, the entire island was still engulfed in a soft gray mist like a widow’s mane, and I felt it caress my face with curiously skeletal fingers as I stepped gingerly down the shaky gangway they provided for foot pedestrians. Farther down the pier a dilapidated tractor was inching the food supply truck down the ramp, while impatient farmers in their battered old automobiles raced their engines as if anxious to get back to the predictable certainty of their cattle after the chaos of the mainland.
I was to be collected here by a Mrs. Fairfax, a lady I had not previously met but had corresponded with from the small ads of a website I frequently used for such assignations. I placed my small bag at my feet and settled down to wait for her, the chill of the mist seeping into my bones after the bracing salt spray of the ocean crossing. Two small girls with eyes like sea opals and long Nordic tresses watched me intently, as if intuiting that I was no tourist, and they smiled knowingly at each other as a strangely out-of-place vehicle nosed its way out of the fog and crept along the pier to where I stood.
“Miss Eyre?” a woman enquired in a gently lilting voice. “I am Alice Fairfax. Come in out of the cold. I’ll take you to Graceland.”
She drove a vintage pink Cadillac; the smell of its worn leather upholstery transported me back to dreamlike childhood memories of late neon nights on my mother’s knee, my face buried in the softness of her artificial silver fox coat while my father drove silently, my mother’s voice whispering, Just one more call, babe, only one more, soothingly, like an urban lullaby.
“Aye, it’s a strange vehicle Mr. Rochester owns, right enough, is it not?” Mrs. Fairfax smiled as I settled myself in the passenger seat, my small leather bag at my feet. “He’s been Elvis mad ever since he was a boy, so he has, and when he won all that money in the lottery, it was the first thing that he bought. And direct from the United States too. Had it shipped over specially . . .”
Her voice trailed off as the car wound its cautious way along narrow country lanes lined with crumbling drystone dykes, the heads of cattle occasionally peering through gates as we lumbered along, our metallic cerise livery a jagged contrast to the gray of the mist and the dun green of the treeless landscape. Then a sharp left, and we slipped down an incline and under a plain wooden arch like an Irish sheela na gig. We beheld Graceland in all its 1997 glory—a long, characterless bungalow with harled gray walls and a red slate roof, no garden to speak off save a bumpy, near-field-sized stretch of grass and a grown-over spoil heap vanishing morosely into the lapping fog.
“Aye, well, this is us,” the woman said, as if in apology. She opened the unlocked front door and ushered me into a dimly lit hallway, every inch of wall space covered in Elvis memorabilia and cabaret posters of my employer in a white satin jumpsuit and punched-leg Ray-Bans.
“I thought I said no names,” I said sharply, indicating the playbills, but she brushed my objections aside with a wave of her calloused hand.
“Oh, he doesn’t look a bit like that, and his name’s no more Aaron than it is Rochester. Now, come away. She’s through here. Will you be needing a cup of tea before you start?”
I shook my head as she ushered me inside the locked room. The creature they had chained there reared up and hissed at me. She had hair like an untamed dryad, and wild eyes that had seen a million ghosts every day of her changling life. I’d met her so many times before, haunted and confused, in the way of all those around her.
“She was the Shopping Week Queen in her day,” Mrs Fairfax said sadly. “Can you help her, Miss Eyre?”
“Oh yes,” I said quietly, laying my bag on the floor and taking out a syringe. “Yes, I can help her. And you too.”
But the woman looked troubled.
“Don’t worry, she won’t feel a thing,” I promised, the needle already sharp in my unwavering hand.
VANESSA DE SADE first came to the public notice as a writer of character-driven literary erotica, and she has published four collections of stories and two novels in that genre, as well as contributing to countless anthologies. However, she has recently embraced the shady world of noir fiction and has placed stories in the The Mammoth Book of Professor Moriarty Adventures and The Mammoth Book of Jack The Ripper Tales, both edited by Maxim Jakubowski.
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Include the location of the story next to your byline.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions to Wilderness Wednesdays are typically posted 2–4 months after being accepted.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Aug 19, 2015
Category: Wilderness Wednesdays | Tags: flash fiction, short story, short fiction, Wilderness Wednesdays, wilderness, wilderness noir, Searching for Graceland, Vanessa de Sade, Isle of Westray, Orkney Islands, Northern Scotland, Westray, Scotland, Jane Eyre, Elvis Presley
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