It was twelve minutes past one the day Sadie ran out of words. A Monday she recalled, just after lunch. She’d retreated to the arbour to the east of the garden, the sunlight drizzling in through the vine leaves, the insipid summer heat dissipated by the shade.

Lunch itself had been an unremarkable affair, the legs of the iron-wrought table playing a tuneless melody as the wrap was assembled. Tortilla, lettuce, avocado, parmesan, a couple of drooping slabs of tomato. They angered her, those tomatoes which had lost their lustre, their brightness. What right did they have to give up?

The conversation turned to the usual, the usual, the usual. When would it end? Mid-sentence, his, not hers, Sadie stood up, the chair scraping harshly against the rough patio stones. A surprised ‘where are you going’ drifted after her, the words floating on the hot haze, trying to follow her to the cooling seat.

It was there, as her body sunk into the pebbledash pattern cushion that she ran out of words. She tried to call out an answer to the question still hanging in the air. Like a guppy her lips puckered and pursed, air expelled with the tiniest of breaths, barely audible. Was there a hint of a whimper on the exhalations? Was there a hint of life even?

Sadie tried, again and again, her lips increasingly an inanimate part of her body, lifeless, detached. They moved like her daughter’s play dough, malleable enough, formed into the required shape, yet failed to fulfil their purpose. She tried another formation, a big round ‘O’, the attempt foiled by utter silence. Her eyes copied the shape, a wild, agog expression fastening upon her face; a rigidity trickling down her body.

Was this it? The day that had haunted her since childhood. The day she ran out of words.

The End.

©Annika Perry, January 2021

139 thoughts on “WHERE DID THEY GO?

  1. Oh, Annika – the horror for a writer to actually run out of words… Your story cleverly conveyed soo…much of the frustration and heart-ache of a woman whose patience has finally been exhausted, possibly by a not too perceptive/loving husband/lover?Well done you. xx. .

    1. Joy, thank you so much! I love how you see so much in this piece and are absorbed by the characters and trying to imagine the cause for her loss of words … your surmises are close but it goes further than this …

    1. Jacquie, thank you so much and your comment means a lot to me! ❤️ It is amazing when one’s words touch others so deeply … and you’re on the right lines with your last guess!

  2. Another thoughtful short-story from you, Annika. I had to read it twice just to lap up the feeling of the words and form my interpretation. Like some of the others have said, it seemed like a dark story but also can be seen as enlightening as well. When Sadie felt her body sinking and tried to call out for the world, I felt she was claustrophobic and it was triggered by something around her.

    Your last line was very profound. Any one of us can run out of words in any situation, such as when we’re giving a presentation at work or we’re at a party mingling. When you’re at a loss for words, it can make for a flustered situation and probably on you will remember for a long time. Now that I am reflecting on your words, I feel the meaning behind this short narrative can be applied to our lives. Brilliant writing.

    1. Mabel, it’s wonderful to read your thoughtful comment and I’m honoured that you’ve read the piece not once, but twice! 😃 Thank you so much! It means a lot that you find so much within the story and enjoyed my writing. I love how you are considering all the angles to Sadie’s loss of words. I definitely feel the story can be a reflection of our own lives, not just the moments when one is at a sudden loss of words in meeting etc but also during grief, despair. Whatever the event that causes such a sensation it is a most frightening feeling that I agree one will never forget.

      1. That is so true this piece you wrote can be a reflection of different parts of our own lives – through different kinds of ups and downs. Similar emotions can be experienced across different events in our lives. Well said, Annika 🙂

    1. Inese, you’re not going too dark at all … I envisaged it as a very dark story, something even longer later and like your thoughts on the ultimate end! You might be right … or not! I love how you find it beautiful and sad; always a great combination in writing, I feel!

  3. Interesting that so many people interpreted this as a panic attack. I saw it as desperation for something more–a yearning for something greater, higher, more adventurous–that is impossible to put into words. I love how you left it open to interpretation.

    1. Bethany, it has been fascinating to read people’s interpretation of the story, adding their own thoughts to it! Although I hint at a darker reason and that is the way the story is going, it has been great to read other’s thoughts about it. I like the idea of a yearning for something greater … and there is definitely part of this behind Sadie’s total loss of words! Thank you so much for reading and your lovely comment!

  4. It’s a treat to read this story, Annika. It reminds me of the end of a few dreams I had, panicking, trying to utter the voiceless scream, trying to shake the paralyzed body to wake up. I love the slow-motion amplifying the light, the furniture, the food, the thought, and the delayed movement. The detail is beautiful in itself. I appreciated that as if looking at the details of printing. Marvelous, Annika!

    1. Miriam, I feel for you with those voiceless screams in your dreams and what a frightening sensation and experience of a paralyzed body. I once read about an illness where one loses all nerve feeling and therefore always feel as if one is falling, can’t sense the chair, bed etc – that thought alone kept me awake for many nights.

      It means a lot that you appreciate the minutiae of the story, the smaller details creating a whole and you are so right about it being effectively ‘slow-motion’! Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, Miriam! Wishing you a great start to the week! xx

      1. You’re welcome, Annika! I know of a person who is a quadriplegic, in fact, she is paralyzed from the neck down from an accident. I wonder if she has this feeling of falling.

        I remember trying to understand some of my thoughts and feelings by letting them play in front of my mind in slow motion.

        Have a wonderful week, Annika!

  5. Wow, Annika, you took me right there, as if I was in Sadie’s body and in her environment. This could be interpreted in many ways and for me if brings back a brief memory, a feeling, possibly what may be called a panic attack. I am not prone to them, although, I can recall a specific moment/time when I felt like Sadie. Yet, no one truly knows what Sadie is feeling except for Sadie (and possibly the writer😁). Captivating and thought-provoking. I read the other comments after I have written mine, since I want to maintain a fresh perspective. I look forward to reading more since Sadie has “…demanded her story is heard…”. I savour your words and your stories, Annika. ❤️Hope you are well. xx 🦋🦋

    1. Erica, I feel for you if you’ve experienced, even briefly, the total lack of words that overcomes Sadie here. It must be a very frightening moment indeed. My worst panic attack was flying back from the states during very bad turbulence – in sheer terror, everything went white and voices from others very remote and distant.

      Haha .. yes, possibly the writer knows what Sadie is feeling and reason behind, although often much is revealed to me as I write; with so much interest and wonderful comment, including yours, this is a story that has stayed with me and a joy to write. It’s going to dark places!

      Bless, it means so much to me that you savour my writing so much, Erica – thank you for your amazing support and encouragement!

      We are all very well so far, thank you and hope you and your family are likewise well and enjoying winter. At the moment building work is going on in the garden and it is very exciting – a positive start to the new year in between all the grim news. btw. Following your last post, you inspired me to join The Conqueror Challenge!! My husband and I are now doing Hadrian’s Wall walk – only 90 miles and I’m loving it! Thank you so much for recommending it – after doing 500 miles last spring and summer the walks took a dive during winter! I’m back to them with a vengeance now though!

      Wishing you a lovely weekend, my dear friend! xx ❤️

      1. Bad turbulence on an airplane…the stuff of nightmares. I looked up Hadrian’s Wall walk and interesting how scenic and historical. Have you and your husband visited this area? Exciting and doing it together…bonus! My husband joins me on some of my walks yet I welcome the peace and quiet by myself on the evening walk. For you and Sadie, ‘going into dark places’ and ‘much is revealed to me as I write’…….it will be interesting to read where you take us.❤️ Thank you for putting a bounce in my step, Annika. xx ❤️

  6. Christie Hawkes

    You’re writing drew me in immediately, Annika. Such an intriguing story. It left me wanting more…but at the same time, it was perfect as a whole. I found your blog through a comment you left on Donna’s Retirement Reflections, and I’m so glad I did.

    1. Christie, thank you so much for your lovely comment and it’s wonderful that the story has drawn you in. I appreciate your thoughts that this works as a stand-alone or a longer piece and I totally agree … although at the moment Sadie is demanding that more is written of her life!

      It’s great you popped over from Donna’s wonderful blog, thank you. 😀

  7. Wow. Scary, horrifying, mysterious, to-be-continued. I read this thinking of a Shirley Jackson-type story. Very nuanced yet detailed. I’ve also had that experience of opening mouth and not being able to say anything, but it’s happened more in my dreams than real life (for instance, wanting to scream and nothing coming out). Poor Sadie. I wonder what she’s gone through!

    1. Pam, yeah! I love your reaction to my story and most honoured this brings to mind Shirley Jackson. I’d never heard of her but wow, what a prolific writer of short stories as well as novels. I’ve already started to continue the story as Sadie has taken camp in my head and demanded her story is heard – it’s always a weird sensation when that happens but wonderfully so! Yep, she’s gone through a lot, that’s all I’ll say for now!

      Oh, I hope you don’t have too many such dreams / nightmares … imagining the loss of words whilst awake is bad enough without letting the subconscious join in with its creative twist!

      Hope all is going well for your latest book and wishing you a great rest of the week, my friend! xx

      1. My favorite Shirley Jackson story is The Lottery. Fast read. I hope you find it. She is a consummate story teller (was) and I’ve learned a lot from reading the likes of her. And now, YOU!

        1. Pam, thank you so much for the recommendationa and I found the The Lottery and 24 of her other stories in a collection – just got it downloaded to my Kindle. Some sound truly terrifying! Eager to read …

    1. That’s great, Petra, thank you! 😀 I was very pleased to find these two images on Pixaby which suited the story perfectly … my go to place for photos although I’ve also used Unsplash and Pexels! Good luck with your blog!

  8. What a lovely story Annika. I must say that it happens to me too, that loss of words, both on paper and in reality, but thankfully it’s not permanent. Your words certainly evoked images. Wishing you lots of love and more creative magic my friend. 😊💛

    1. Ahh … thank you for your special wishes, Miriam and I’m smiling at the ‘creative magic’ – after being rather absent last year I got a bit angry with it all and the creativity returned!

      Loss of words at any stage is never good but luckily for most of it the ability to verbalise, to write quickly returns, I fear for Sadie this will not be the case!

      Take care, my friend. hugs & love xx

  9. Wow! I think I’m out of words, Annika! What a fantastic and clever story, and a bit daunting, too. Running out of words is a frightening thought, but whenever I’ve hit writer’s block, it’s real and painful, giving panic a reason to set it.
    For some odd reason, through this horrible pandemic, inspiration is flowing like rapids in a river. Your wonderful writing inspires as well, as I’m trying a little fiction on the side. It’s out of my comfort zone, but I’m enjoying the challenge. By the way, you had me with those tomato lines! I’ve had similar thoughts about lettuce. Take good care! xoxo

    1. Lauren, thank you so much for your wonderful comment! It is a daunting, terrifying thought I agree and I’m over the moon you found the story so compelling! Oh, I feel for you with writer’s block and someone recently described it as writer’s fear … I think your panic sums it up more accurately.

      I have a feeling I will soon start seeing symbolism with all my food – I know what you mean about lettuce, sometimes you just want it to buck up! I’m glad if my writing inspires you a little and wish you lots of enjoyment with your forays into fiction – you’ll excel I’m sure – it’s so liberating! Wishing you all well. xx

    1. First, thank you so much and wonderful to know you enjoyed my book so much! I’m beaming away!😀😀 Your words mean so much to me, Marlene!

      Ahh … it’s great you’ve been hooked by the story in this post and I’ve already written a bit more and know where it is going! Sadie just won’t leave me until her story is told!

  10. Wow! That’s an amazing story, Annika. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I’m wondering why Sadie ran out of words. At first I assumed that all the words between them had been said. But now I’m not so sure. How scary it would be to run out of words.

    1. Indeed, Norah … it would be terrifying to run out of words and there can be so many causes of Sadie’s loss! More might be revealed!😀 It’s wonderful you enjoyed the story so much – thank you!

    1. Pam, I know! Think if those casual words of ‘I’m out of words’ were ever to become a reality – what a nightmare! Yeah! I’m so glad you liked the story so much, Pam – thank you!

  11. Wow, this is an excellent story! I responded as others did to the exquisite writing and Sadie’s panic and despair at running out of words. I do hope you develop Sadie’s story further. I need to read it.

    1. Liz, warmest thanks for your wonderful comment! 😀 I’m honoured by your reaction to my writing and the story! It’s great how you want to read more about Sadie and her life – I have lots of ideas and just need to get them down!😀

  12. That’s some mighty fine writing Annika. It also kind of reminded me about how I actually do have those ‘meno-moments’ and truly do get lost for the right world. Almost scary! 🙂 xx

    1. Debby, thank you so much! Those moments of forgetting a particular word or two are scary enough, imagine losing them all in a sudden! This is the notion that wouldn’t leave me …

      As for the meno-moments … do they cease at any point?!😀

      1. Horrifying thought. And lol, I’m not sure if they cease. They’ve been living with me for 10 years now! As long as they don’t get worse! LOL But let me tell you about hot flashes that finished 10 years ago and have merrily found their way back!!! Oye! 🙂 ❤

    1. Luanne, I’m so glad you were so captivated by the story and it’s great how the details really caught your imagination. The thought of losing ones words in a sudden is terrifying and it is this idea that would just not leave me until I wrote this piece … now it’s nagging me to write more. Although I know the original Hans Christian Andersen story ‘The Little Mermaid’ very well I have not seen the Disney version where speech was lost. I’m now intrigued how her life developed without it?

      1. Actually it’s in the Andersen where she loses her speech. It’s like one sentence so it’s easy to miss. She gives up her beautiful voice in exchange for getting her legs. (It seems very very symbolic! and makes a comment on the misogyny of men!) I only know about the loss of the mermaid’s tongue because I used to teach the story. So now you can go back and read the story and look for that one line and see if you “read” the story different now. heh I love fairy tales and Andersen’s are my favorite. I definitely think you should write more!!!!

        1. Luanne, thank you so much for your encouragement to write more … I’m brimming with ideas at the moment and it feels incredibly liberating and joyful! 😀

          I”m sorry for getting it wrong about the speech element in The Little Mermaid – I haven’t read it for many years although my book of his stories is nealry falling apart. Alas, I went to find it but it’s not there! The hunt continues! I must have blanked out the loss of her words and imagine I didn’t even want to think about such a possibility as young! How lovely that you used to teach the story … although I’m not sure I want to start thinking about his work in such negative terms!

  13. It’s like a dream, Annika, a nightmare where a monster is chasing you and you can’t move. I have that every once in a while. But I think it would be even scarier to lose your words. Well done! –Curt

    1. Curt, a nightmare indeed … the idea of being immobile as a monster is chasing me is scary indeed, yet I agree, the thought of running out of words even more frightening! Let’s hope that never happens!

  14. This piece has touched me to the core. I am still reeling from the reading of it and trying to sort out why.

    The phrase that really captivated me and which I reread quite a number of times: “They angered her, those tomatoes which had lost their lustre, their brightness. What right did they have to give up?” For some curious reason, filled me with such despair and sadness.

    And the image of her trying to form words but not being able to – seriously powerful. And disturbing. Haunting. The day she ran out of words.

    1. Ju-Lyn, heartfelt thanks for your wonderful and in-depth comment. It is amazing to read how my story has touched and means more than you can know. As a writer it is incredible to learn that one’s words leaves a reader ‘reeling’ and I love that you find the story powerful, haunting and disturbing. I felt all this as I wrote it, it is an odd sensation when one’s own word can spook one … when I have yet to finish a thought!

      Wow! You ‘got’ the tomato scene absolutely and I love the magic of writing where such an innocous scene can say so much, conveying a person’s mood.

      Thank you again for reading and sharing your thoughts here … a boost to start my day!

      Wishing you a lovely start to the week! x

      1. Found myself re-reading your story this morning. “pebbledash pattern” caught my eye (I learned the word yesterday when I was helping Younger Daughter with her homework). And then, the paragraph that followed just gripped me with panic. I could literally feel Sadie’s paralysis and helplessness. I’m afraid it was a rather frightful minute.

        I am time and time again wow-ed by your skill with words, your turn of phrases which communicate so much. Today, I am astounded by your ability to draw a reader in so completely.

  15. WOW! I have no idea how you came into my mailbox, but your name is familiar. The minute I read “It was twelve minutes past one the day Sadie ran out of words.” in my email I had to click on the link. This writing is brilliant! What tragedy has befallen her I immediately went to in my head and I had to know. Only, I didn’t find out 😦 I look forward to reading more.

    1. Claire, how wonderfully strange that my post should come into your email box! 😀 It’s great that the first sentence captured your interest and thank you so much for your kind comment about my writing! The words ‘she ran out of words’ were floating in my mind for a couple of months but I was ‘searching’ for that all-important beginning which came to me one sleepless night! Yes, I feel there could be more and many have agreed that this feels just like the beginning of a book … maybe so … Sadie and her tragedy won’t leave me!😀 Lovely to ‘meet’ you here on WP!

  16. I certainly felt that the man she was sitting at table with could be a direct cause of this, Annika. Sometimes we descend into silence out of resignation. In these troubled times it’s easy to feel walled in by silence. Scary, indeed, that mute cry for help.

    1. Jo, I love your last words ‘mute cry for help’ and that could be an alternative title here! I wanted her husband to come across as a possible cause of her loss of words, a slightly threatening figure but do not feel ultimately that this would be the only cause. A silence of resignation is bad enough, yet this is as you write even more, ‘walled in by silence’.

    1. Ahh … thank you so much, Carol! It was a wonderful feeling to write this piece, one that has been swirling in my head for a couple of months and I just needed to find the perfect beginning! I hope I never run out of words! xx

  17. I enjoyed this story, Annika. I don’t think I have to worry about ever running out of words. When I got married, I got all of my husband’s words as well as my own [giggle]. Your description of the lips reminded me of some of the big Botox lips women and girls seem to be favouring lately.

    1. Robbie, I’m so glad you enjoyed the story! haha! I’m smiling how you got all your husband’s words as you married! 😀 You paint a vivid image of the big Botox lips – something I hadn’t thought of but now can’t get this picture out of my head! 😀

  18. I agree with Roy, a bit scary. Was it permanent? The result of a stroke? A fact of life? We all arrive with a set number of words, and we have used them up … As I get older I am beginning to encounter that phenomenon where words are on the tip of my tongue but refuse to materialise. It’s extremely annoying and frustrating but also a bit like your story.

    1. Lynette, what a thought! That one arrives with a set number of words and then these run out! What a spooky idea… but love how this ties with the story here! It means a lot that this seemingly innocuous piece holds within it a psychological frightening elements for you. I want the reason, so far at least, for her loss of words to remain undefined but for a threatening atmosphere to be all-pervasive.

      I can definitely relate to a word being at the tip of my tongue and having to put that extra effort to locate the exact phrase … but I know I can always reach within and find it … so far at least!😀

  19. Mike

    I don’t know how you do this Annika. The story had me gripped from the beginning and the ending was brilliant. It got me thinking too, of what we take for granted until it’s gone..


    1. Ahhh … thank you,Mike! 😀 Once I have an idea and a first sentence stories like this take off on their own momentum! It is a wonderful sensation. It is great how you were gripped by my story and has you thinking about all aspects of life, what we take for granted, until it is suddenly gone! Hopefully running out of words is not a common occurence … although I feel for Sadie and her tragic predicament!

  20. Well, YOU haven’t run out of words, Annika. What gorgeous, rich writing. I love the distinct details of the setting right down to the surrender of the tomatoes, the struggle of her lips to form words. There’s a subtle but rising sense of panic as well, told through the unique perspective of a woman who indulges in a sensory world and the taste of words. I love this. You are a talent to behold.

    1. Diana, I’m honoured and humbled by your wonderful comment, your analysis of the story – it is pure joy to read how you ‘get’ the story absolutely, and you are so right about the increasing sense of panic although I never mention it specifically. The smallest details in stories often say the most, I find and I’m trying to incorporate this more into my writing. For a couple of months I’ve had the sentence “she ran out of words” in my mind … and it’s been percolating there until one night when I couldn’t sleep the start of the story came to me. Whilst dawn had yet to arrive, I grabbed a notebook and started scribbling! Precious magical moments! Your comment here means so much to me … thank you! xx❤️

  21. While I relate to the ‘fear’ of losing words due to the odd connection between formation of thoughts and speaking out loud those ideas due to what – Altzheimer’s? Stroke? Other? – upon rereading this provocative short piece I see there might be an ‘oppressive relationship’ element that factors in on her sudden muteness?

    1. Laura, I’m taken by your in-depth thoughts about my piece, the consideration you give to her sudden muteness. Thank you so much! 😀 Whilst I realise Alzheimer’s etc can be a cause for sudden silence I feel my story is much more along with the oppressive element you mention, maybe a difficult relationship … if I were to develop this it would become a complex multi-faceted book and the ideas are flowing. Hmmmm … indeed! 😀

  22. Thank you, Annika, for giving us a new story. I do love your writing.

    From the first line I am caught. Sadie’s despair is deep.
    Your garden, your creation of a wrap, all bring more tension to the trauma.
    Sadie’s struggle to form just one world ! I like the comparison to a guppy.

    To realise that Sadie had harboured this fear of losing words since childhood is almost tragic.

    Could this be a start of a book . please ! 📖💕.


    1. Awww … Miriam, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and kind words! I’m so glad to share this latest short story here and I’m over the moon you love it so. It’s great you pick out your favourite elements, they are mine too … I often feel in the most normal of everyday actions are hidden profound and relentless moments, seconds that become the pivot to change one’s life! As for the guppy, we have these in our fish tank and I often feel they are trying to say something to me (probably release me to the wide ocean!) but there are no words. Regarding the ending, this almost sent shivers down my spine as I agree, what a tragedy living your whole life, waiting for this to happen … and the fear has now become her reality. Oh, I love how you would like to see this as the beginning of a book. I’ll definitely think about it as I’m sorely tempted and have lots of ideas, so a maybe for now!

      Thank you for all your fantastic support and encouragement, Miriam! Hope you’re having a wonderful Sunday and I look forward to seeing a new poem from you soon! hugs xx 😀❤️

  23. Very clever rift on a topic. I can totally connect with Sadie’s need to just escape when it all becomes too much and too tedious. Not sure I’ve ever run out of words–at least for thoughts.

    1. Pat, one hopes never to run out of words … it is unimaginable! I’m glad you can relate to part of the story, yet I fear for Sadie it runs much deeper and she’s almost trying to run away from herself as the horrific truth of her situation has become clear to her. Thank you so much for reading and your comment … I thoroughly enjoy all the discussions across WP! Have a great Sunday! 😀

    1. Susan, thank you for your lovely comment! You paint such a vivid image chasing the words, gathering them up to then write! Those moments are pure magic! 😀 Wishing you lots of enjoyment as you write away, may the words always be there for us!

    1. Jill, it is something one does not even want to imagine – for whatever reason finding it impossible to utter one more word! Tragic for the person involved and those around!

      Thank you, I’m having a very peaceful relaxing Sunday – a long walk across frosty fields was refreshing but exhausting in just the right amount! Hope you’re having a good day and that your wrist will soon be much better. xx

  24. Pingback: WHERE DID THEY GO? – Partage de reflexion

  25. Lovely story!! I could really enter into it, since I found myself mute in recent days. Dinner conversation rolled around me, but the head cold damned up my words. You wrote it so beautifully, and the photos were perfect.

    1. Anne, it’s great you could relate to the story about Sadie’s loss of words – this is totally out of her control. Thank you, I’m so happy you liked my writing and I couldn’t believe my luck to find such two perfect images on Pixaby! It’s my go-to website for free images! Hope you’re much better now, Anne and wishing you a lovely Sunday! 😀

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