Lyz and Maya Swap Genres
By Mayanna Mueller and Lyz Mancini
When we first met as mentor and mentee, we began exploring each other’s writing tastes. Sure, we had a lot in common but we also had our strengths and weaknesses as awesome writers. We decided to swap our favorite genres of writing, and provide rules and guidelines for each other to see what developed when we pushed ourselves out of our writing comfort zones.
Discussed: Abuse, Molestation
Ashlyn “Ash” Summers has a secret, a big—yet dark—secret.
Earlier that week, they came home, after meeting the new kid on the block, and the weirdest thing happened.
Ash, an omnivert non-binary, came into their bathroom from another hard day and looked into the drain.
“We would love to meet you, Ashlyn…” called an eerie childish voice. Childish yet creepy laughter echoed in the background. Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle…Pop!
Ash screamed. Blood was everywhere. They looked back at the bathroom window which stood ajar to make sure they didn’t wake Ms. Clarke-Arias, their next-door neighbor who was just a window away from them. The light was out; good.
Now, WHAT THE F*CK HAPPENED?
Ash called their best friend after stopping by the local laundromat with the help of their neighborhood friends and a new kid who just moved in but went to a separate school.
“Snow?” Their friend answered. Ash smiled at the use of their nickname. The image of them flipping off one the bad boys of their school who was messing with one of their guy-friends then flashed through Ash’s mind. Plus, the punch line of them yelling “I’ll fall for you when hell freezes over!” and a friend saying “cold as snow, my friend, cold as snow.” The memory faded quickly as it came.
“Anya, hi, are you working?” Ash asked.
Ash had paused, their heart still racing from the unsettling event. “I need your help, urgently.”
“The weirdest thing just happened,” Ash whispered into the phone as if an outsider was eavesdropping. “I walked into the bathroom from another hard day, and a balloon of blood spawned from the drain and popped! Leaving blood everywhere. I already dealt with it, if you’re wondering, but that’s not all. Right before the blood appeared, there was this eerie childish voice, it was like: “we would love to meet you, Ashlyn” Ash said, while tiling their head, making their impression. They then imitated the childish creepy laughter and may have gotten carried away before Anya was like ‘okay, I get it’. “Sorry, but what the f*ck does this mean!? I’m SO confused!”
Anya paused, then continued helpfully: “Well, has this happened before?”
A bell tolled faintly in the distance. “N-no! What does this mean?” Ash sighed. “Please,” Ash went on in a calmer voice. “I’m scared. I need you to tap into your prodigy-like analysis skills and the events you’ve been through and come up with a possible theory. I can’t take your silence and unhelpful questions anymore!” Their voice cracked at the end.
Hot tears burned in their eyes. Ash felt like they just swallowed sand paper. The eerie voice played in their mind like tape, each time, worse memories/flashbacks came to the surface. It’s like that voice was a knife and it ripped open a seal Ash had on the deepest thoughts in their mind. Their wrists grew itchy by the second.
Finally Anya spoke up. “You said you saw blood right? That kind of blood symbols womanhood and growing up. You are afraid of that therefore, it makes sense, with the conditions in your house currently, you are afraid of growing up and what it may bring you. Furthermore, you said yourself you felt queasy when the voice said “we would love to meet you” and you mentioned yourself that you feel something clutching at your chest whenever you feel that a relationship will end with rejection.”
Ash fell silent as their hazel-green eyes widened.
“My intuition is telling me you’re afraid of growing up and anything related to that. You are also afraid of rejection,” Anya concluded.
Presently, Ash looked out the window at Mrs. Clarke-Arias’ window. Her garden gate was locked, which meant she was inside sleeping. Usually when it was open it meant she was out in her back garden tending to her bush of flowers and that her dog, Fang, was out on a walk with someone. But not today. Slowly, Ash picked up a cornflower-blue crayon that was scattered among the others on the floor, in front of their wall they used to draw on four years ago, and rolled it around in their fingers. An idea hit.
Anthrophobia – fear of rejection
Gerascophobia – scared of growing up
They wrote on the only wide empty space. Ash paused. Out of the corner of their eye something changed. Ash may have caught the last glimpse of it, but the words creepily shifted onto a new phrase:
Such a piti.
“Holy sh*t,” Ash muttered to themself. “My words, they… flipped?” They sat down across from the wall, legs criss-crossed. Ash looked out their window once again, glancing at the other dark window. They imagined their best friend there watching TV until 2 a.m., or downstairs playing video games with their older brothers. Ash shook their head in confusion and disappointment before writing a new phrase:
Loneliness is imprisoning, like a bird in a cage. Nobody wants to be my friend for me, being me. Ash waited a moment.
I’ll be your friend.
Hours passed by as Ash conversed with the invisible entity in the wall. They played 20 questions. That whole time, Ash felt a presence; they couldn’t shake it but something or someone was there in the room with them.
Ash wrote an answer to one of the questions. Then, the wall was blank for a few moments as if the “thing” was thinking.
I’m a hungry man, what do you have to offer?
My chicken beef.
Very funny, but what do you truly want out of your life? Let me rephrase that, WHO do you truly want out of your life?
My uncle, Ash confessed. They knew that it wasn’t right to blame their uncle for his disorder, which had spiraled out of control after Ash’s parents died in that tragic car crash when they were six. But Ash couldn’t take it anymore. Uncle Sammuel started drinking alcohol as a means of coping with Ash’s mother’s—his sister’s—death. Which left space for abuse, him developing inappropriate feelings for them, and almost being molested. Ash wanted to finally be free.
A shiver ran down Ash’s spine. Something was off… Ash hesitated.
W-who or what are you? They wondered.
They call me the Glove Man.
Then just as that phrase appeared, under it, a creepy cheshire smile appeared, too. Below it, blood red fingerless gloves slowly drew themselves out. The upper lips cascaded upwards like thin lands reaching towards each other. They slowly swooped into small twin peaks. Inside, shark-sharp teeth glistened like stars.
Ash stared at the wall in pure horror. The cornflower blue crayon had long slipped out of their grasp and rolled away somewhere, leaving them feeling exposed and unsafe.
A new phrase appeared under the last one.
And I’m watching you…
Ash swore their room got cold and misty. Somewhere below, a bang followed a yelp and crunch echoed…
My name Khai means “to jump fire,” but what I really wanted was to jump snow.
The crystalline mountains of fresh powder so special I wished I could keep it in a locket, if only to melt into my sweater. The carved swoop of a snowboard sparkling with droplets of frozen water, gliding you forward as the biting wind nips at your nose. The mystic fresh slate hills that seemed to call out to me: this is yours. As if no one in the history of the world had ever stepped there. Snow was a fresh start. It was newness. It was whatever you wanted.
And yet somehow I had become the dumb camera girl, relagated to standing poised in my snowpants with someone else’s phone, making sure I caught all the “sweet air” John and Steve and Jason all got as the sun set. My ski friends had somehow become all boys, after losing Alexia to a winter break job at the mall food court, and Kara always getting grounded. And now the rest of them seemed to expect so little from me. The folklore of girldom, thinking all I wanted was a cup of hot cocoa and the assurance that my mascara was water-proof. It was easier, probably. Instead of seeing me as competition. Instead of seeing me as whole.
I sat in the backseat of John’s Jeep on the way back, as we dripped melting snow all over his dad’s leather, music blasting, the floor scattered with Taco Bell wrappers and the heater turned all the way up like a roaster. I sulked. Jason was asleep on my shoulder. Drooling. I shoved him off me and pulled my journal from my backpack, which I took everywhere. My blue glitter gel pen scrawled a list.
THINGS I BAN FOR ALL TIME
- Kara (she really needs to stop getting grounded)
- Solanum lycopersicum (I hate tomatoes)
- Jason using my shoulder as a pillow
- CAMERA GIRL
Today was the last day I would be their little snow secretary, I decided. I’d show them who actually owned that mountain. It certainly wasn’t Steve and his Axe body spray.
“What’s that say, ‘eggplant’?” Jason mumbled against my shoulder. “Wicked.” Then he rolled over and fell back asleep.
The next week, I was ready. I’d waxed my board to a creamy sheen, and hitched my snowpants high on my waist. I wore my lucky long-sleeve tee. As we rode up the hill, boards dangling like pairs of earrings, I listened to the boys talk about which shot they wanted to get, which run they were going to try.
“Make sure you get me from like … underneath when I jump, Khai,” John directed. “It’ll be sick.” I just nodded and smiled, knowing that after today, they’d never be so bold again.
The jump was big, after the snowstorm we’d had earlier in the week. But the path was razor-clear as was my head. I turned to John and casually tossed him my phone.
“Hey, yo, could you make sure to catch this?” I asked, trying not to smirk.
I missed his caught-deer expression because I was already gone, cutting ahead of the line of smug boys, gaining speed towards the hitch of the jump. I held my breath and kept my eyes open. I wanted to see every second. The quiet of winter, their breaths sucked in below me.
“This is yours,” the mountain said.
It was everything.
Just the air, the snow, and me.
We started off with a collaborative story that accidentally became Stranger Things fan fiction. We then discussed our favorite genres and connected over horror and mystery writing—as well as genres we normally didn’t write in. We then assigned each other genres, words to weave into each story, then five rules. What resulted was one very creepy story by Maya and one snowy story based in reality by Lyz.
Lyz Mancini is a writer and copy director whose work has appeared in outlets like Slate, Man Repeller, HuffPost, Bustle and XoJane. She has also done work for brands like Clinique, Lola and Jet.com. She is currently a Pitch Wars Mentee 2020.
Mayanna Mueller (she/they) lives in New York City, and loves writing, reading, engineering and design. They sketch, write for their school newsletter and literary magazine, and write as a means of expression and as an outlet. They hope to bring awareness to topics not often talked about, while growing as a writer.