Odd Spaces by Annika Jendzel-Scott

The Aims Review Literary/Arts Award Winner

 

I’m not sure if I believe in ghosts or monsters or any sort of God or gods. But I do believe in odd spaces, little moments and places where you feel something strange. They can be found anywhere and be any size.

 

There’s a space in my basement, twelve paces from the bottom stair, a half step from the coffee table. I walk through it every day after school, and as I cross that invisible line, a chill runs up my back. When I stare into that little patch of rug and air, I see nothing but sunbeams and dust motes lazily floating by. From the outside, that space seems as ordinary as it gets, but for that brief moment I step inside… It’s like something’s there, something that feels a little colder and seems a little more alive than the air around me.

 

When you step in an odd space, a hush falls over you, the kind that you might experience when you’re in a library or a church. You fall silent because it feels right to, because it’s respectful of anyone else who may be there.

 

There’s a space in my backyard, or there used to be when I was a little kid. In the narrow alley between the south fence and the side of the house, we have a sickly cherry tree. It’s surrounded by rose bushes that are more thorn than flower, and creeping English ivy. When I was small, I stumbled back there to find a tennis ball, my chubby child’s hands tearing through the ivy and mulch. When I managed to pull it out, the world got a little darker, and the rose bushes seemed to reach for me with prickly fingers and saw-edged leaves. Six or seven steps and I would be in the sunlight, but those steps felt like miles of angry thorns. I raced out of the alley pale and shuddering, grasping that dirty tennis ball like a trophy. I’ve been back there since then, and now it just looks like the other overgrown corners of our yard. I guess some spaces are temporary.

 

Odd spaces don’t always stick around. You stumble into one once, and then you can never find it again, even if you return to the place it used to be. Maybe it’s for the best. Sometimes they don’t want you there.

 

There’s a space in my bedroom, but only around two at night. I’ll wake up warm and content, but I’ll feel a little out of place, like I’m sleeping at a friend’s house. Sometimes, as I try to fall back asleep, I’ll feel a hand on my back and a cold breath on my cheek, as if someone was leaning over me. It would be alarming, but I’m not every good at being scared when I’m tired, and I’ve woken up just fine every morning after.

 

I don’t know if this applies to all of them, but I’ve noticed odd spaces usually feel fuller than normal, more alive. It’s like being at a train station or an airport; they’re filled with bustle and activity. When you first stumble in, everything freezes for a moment, and you’re surrounded by silent passerby who aren’t quite sure what to make of you.

 

There’s a space in my grandmother’s house, but it tends to move around with her old steamer trunk. I hid behind it once, when I was playing hide and seek with my cousins. The lights were off, and they were taking a really long time to find me, so I began to grow sleepy. I yawned and rubbed my eyes, and the world blurred a bit. I noticed a girl my size creeping around the other side of the trunk. She noticed me back and waved before walking away. I remained there for a second, dimly trying to remember if I had any girl cousins. When I realized that no, all six of them were male, I bolted out from my hiding spot and was promptly discovered by the seeker. I have kept a distance from that trunk ever since.

 

Odd spaces can be created by people, through a variety of ways. One such way is talking about them. When a person hears stories about these spaces, they start thinking. When they start thinking, they begin to remember all the times that hush fell over them in a place that felt different than other places. They wonder when they’ll find their next odd space, they wonder if they’re inside one. In the quiet moment after a story is told, the world feels fuller, and they are suddenly more aware of what may be surrounding them. The feeling will eventually fade, or it will be broken by a cough or some other disruption, but the space remains, and it will cling to them until they forget it exists.

 

I don’t know what causes these spaces. Maybe they are caused by spirits, some scientific phenomenon, or the presence of a higher being. I don’t know if I’ll ever find out. But I do know one thing:

 

I believe in odd spaces.