(This may be too late, but I kept working on it–a combo of the first and second prompt–or the first prompt inspired by the idea of doing the second in the future.)

The Watcher

When I think of movies from my youth, they have the same plot: there’s a girl in distress trying to solve the mystery surrounding a second, more-distressed girl whose fate teeters on the ability of the first girl not to completely fall apart, and I wonder are there so many distressed-girl-movies or due to my own girlish loneliness and distress, were those the only movies I remembered because I liked seeing myself reflected like that, three-souls-deep, with two perfectly parallel planes generating infinite reflections, infinite distress and infinite girls (for example, in Watcher in the Woods, a film released a month after I was born, an American girl moves with her family to a wooded estate on the English countryside where a scary Betty Davis stands at the window, glowering, and the first time I tried to watch it, Mom had to turn it off because I cried when the antique mirror cracks for no reason and cuts the girl’s finger, but on my second attempt, I made it to the funhouse mirrors where the girl gets lost and trapped by her own reflection until it becomes the reflection of the other, worse-off girl, who disappeared (it seems in the woods, but she may have been sucked into something supernatural (or in the alternate ending something science fictional, and this must not have tested well because you can find it on the DVD extras but not the Disney original—yes, this terrifying narrative is a Disney movie, which is why my mom rented the video)), and this missing girl is Betty Davis’s daughter, which is why Betty Davis keeps glowering; she’s glowered for forty-some years because her daughter disappeared on the night of an eclipse after a sketchy secret society ceremony with another girl and two dudes who act guilty, such that you think they may have interfered with the missing girl and dumped her body in the woods (but actually she was interfered with by something supernatural (or science fictional with undulating tendrils from another planet if you select that DVD ending) and since the girl disappeared decades ago, her reflection shows a white, period dress—a bit like an old nurse’s uniform—and a white blindfold (a relic of the sketchy group-initiation ceremony in the ruined chapel) that looks more like a bandage as if she’s bleeding, and this girl’s scared and reaching, mouth gaping, and alone except for the twelve, 24, 48, and infinitely more of her, which is what the American girl sees in the mirror, making the American girl even more destressed and determined to risk her life to find the missing girl—I watched this movie dozens of times—and maybe this is why it feels like I’m missing something—a purpose or a girl—why I’m searching for the girl who mirrors me infinitely, and does that mean I’m stuck in a mirror phase or a horror movie or something science fictional, like another girl on twin planet, or there was a second egg like another planet in my mother’s womb—my vanished twin—that my egg absorbed because I was in distress and greedy, and I never expected to be lonely?)?


  1. Georgiana Nelsen

    Hi Wendy!
    I’m back to read and comment on all the wonder that I missed and this is really interesting! I love the sense of “missing” that threads through and the mirrors..i feel like the reflections are the missing part that no one can get to, whether because of horror or sci fi or self esteem. The title deepens the sense of the story more, and it’s just sad and creepy and reminds me why i never watched those movies as a kid! Much to admire here: scary Betty, the white dress initiation ceremony (which my sorority used IN COLLEGE!) and then the absorbed twin theory. I won’t forget this.


    • Wendy Oleson

      Georgiana, thank you so much for the kind feedback! I’m so grateful. I’m also very impressed you survived the sorority white dress initiation ceremony! That’s very cool and creepy!! -Wendy

  2. Jonathan Cardew

    Well, hotdamn, if you haven’t just knocked it out of the park, Wendy!

    The watcher, mirrors, twins, twin planets–I love the theme of doubles and reflections in this story. Very much a fable quality (I can really imagine this in Fairytale Review!!!!)

    The single sentence, though! And the film-describing! You do the single sentence thing very, very well, especially bringing us into land on a question. In fact, I loved this questioning thread throughout, which involves the reader even more.

    This opening, I love: “When I think of movies from my youth, they have the same plot: there’s a girl in distress trying to solve the mystery surrounding a second, more-distressed girl whose fate teeters on the ability of the first girl not to completely fall apart.” Something so satisfying about the construction of this part, the repetition, the circularity. This part should be a tagline for a movie: “A girl in distress trying to solve the mystery surrounding a second, more-distressed girl whose fate teeters on the ability of the first girl not to completely fall apart.”

    Quick insert: I loved (very much) the parentheses (?(())?)


    1. Don’t touch it. Don’t do anything with it. Knit.

    2. Shorter? I loved all of it, but it may have even more impact as a slightly shorter piece. Maybe 20 or 30 words from the middle.

    This is a senderouternower. Maybe to such places as cream city review and TriQuarterly.

    Thanks for sharing us this weekend wonderful work!


    • Wendy Oleson

      Thank you SO MUCH, Jonathan! This class has been a delight, and your feedback–so cool that you gave us suggestions for journals–excellent! I agree about tightening this up in the middle, and I’m just really grateful it’s hitting and makes sense, etc.!!!! Your writing really inspires me, and it’s been a treat to work with you! I’m looking forward to your next BG workshop!!!!! My best, Wendy

  3. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Wow, Wendy, and not too late. Some of us still working, and most of all, reading for pleasure. Breathless piece, the kind I always freak when I accidentally land of a channel showing a movie like that. I’m no good with horror, and you have painted a fine portrait of all that makes me skittish about what looking into that mirror, or looking at haunted Betty Davis faces in windows, might touch off. And so, therefore, from that–– it’s clear you did in fact touch off memories stumbling into movies like that and it did kick off something, and so clearly, well done breathless renditions of the genre. Congratulations! (And I loved it.)

    • Wendy Oleson

      Thank you so much, Martha, for your kind feedback!!! I know what you mean about landing on a channel showing something scary! I remember getting so upset as a kid when a scary movie trailer would come on, and i had to try to change the channel before I saw anything upsetting! But it’s always too late! I’m grateful you took that journey with me into this piece! All the best to you! -Wendy

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