heard your message! spoke a story

submission for the did you get my message? assignment
by: adventureclubinteractive’s Courtney and Stephanie

What a week, what stories! Each day, we left a voicemail with one another beginning and continuing an impromptu story. We resolved to only listen to each voicemail one time, and upon receiving it, transcribe it into writing/typing as best as memory served us in doing so.

It’s interesting to notice the small details that were picked up or left behind, remembered exactly or slightly misinterpreted. Also, interesting are the variations of length between what was spoken and what was heard. If you didn’t participate in the did you get my message? assignment, perhaps you’ll be inspired to do so after reading our stories. Collaborate with a friend and create your own.

We have included both versions of the story for the sake of (a rather interesting) comparison. Color coded, the first is the translation version. Unedited, unchecked, and retold version one is the story that was heard by ear. The second is the original version. What was actually spoken, left as messages in each other’s voicemail boxes. The story spoken aloud.

1. The story (translated and) heard.
heard by stephanie
heard by courtney

So, the first trial with the metal detector-I wouldn’t call it an overwhelming success but at least it was inspiring.  The metal detector and I met at the beach and we parted ways from that first meeting with two rusted nails and an empty coffee cup full of sand.  

Little did I know how much these two rusty nails would change the course of my life. The legend that has been told- well, I didn’t realize that it was these two rusty nails, but I would soon know, later that day…

To the legend that I know, about the two rusted nails, began with Colonel Vernal who was in possession of the nails a long time ago.  Colonel Vernal was sailing off the coast of the Iberian Peninsula, notorious for wearing a band-aid over his mouth.  He opened his mouth to speak to a nearby sailor to tell him about the useful magic of the nails.  Then he replaced the band-aid over his mouth.  The Sailor had many questions.  They embarked on their journey.  

The sailor and the Colonel set sail at sea. For forty days and forty nights they sailed and had reached a delirium. Tired of one another’s company and starving, on the forty-first day the Colonel looked into the not-so-well-stocked cupboards and they were completely bare. In an act of desperation, he pulled one of the nails from his pocket and tied it to a length of string. He threw it overboard in hopes of catching something.

Now I know what you may be thinking at this point.  Miracle!  salvation!  And parting the red seas. You’re thinking of lore and I’m telling you legend.  Yes, the nails saved the lives of these two seamen!  But the nail did nothing but sink, they were sad bait. The Colonel was disillusioned. After days of slumping over the hull of the ship he put the nails back in his pocket.  They clinked and jingled. On the 42nd day the Sailor demanded the nails and as the Colonel reached into his pocket to remove them, he found them stuck end to end!  

No matter how hard they pulled in opposition, the nails stayed glued together, end to end. They tugged hard and were frustrated. Then, suddenly the nails began to stretch with their efforts. First a foot long, then double that, the nails lengthened finally to be as long as the ship itself. End to end, they could not be pulled apart any longer. Now the Colonel and the sailor were frustrated as to who would be in control of this metal rod. What would they do with it?

Ultimately, Col and the Sailors realized that this magic was initiated by the ocean.  When it was dipped into the water it became malleable again and could reform to its original size and then lengthen back out again.  Accidentally, or not accidentally they dipped the nails back into the ocean and lightening struck their rod, sending masses of fish belly up to the surface.  The Colonel and the sailor would starve no more.
Over time these nails would be found by many and understood by few.  Throughout history they exchanged hands for many different uses and purposes.  Lightning rods, knitting needles magic wands.  Eventually, the nails went unnoticed in the sand.  When I found them, I laughed off the thought of the legend but still I travelled down to the ocean and I gave the nails a little bath

There I was, approaching the shore, the nails in my pocket seeming to tremble with anticipation. I reached in down deep and cupped them in my hand, ready to give them their bath. I reached down, hand below the surface of the water and there I waited… and waited… Nothing happened.

Until later that evening, or of course after I had returned from the beach.  I couldn’t believe I had foolishly considered the two rusted nails as magical!
On my way out for the evening I noticed the metal detector propped up against the wall.  Someone must have tripped over it earlier and placed it there.  I went over to it and as I was hunched over the metal detector, there was a little clinking a little jangle and the melody struck me.  I looked underneath and found the two nails that had been magically joined together as one, approximately the length of a hot dog.  Not only that but they seemed to be magnetized to the gold coil of the metal detector.  I reached out to touch it and, Ouch! The magic burned.

My hand was singed to the metal as if glued. I had to pry it off, leaving a thin layer of skin behind. The metal detector and the nails dropped and the nails immediately took place into the ground and began to grow upward, taller into the sky, taller than the nearest tree. It impaled the metal detector perfectly center, suspending it partway up the length of the magical totem pole. Growing so tall it was lost through the fog above. The clap of thunder sounded.

It’s amazing how fast you get over your own disbelief.  It went from accepted reality to perceived reality.  It was real!  It was magic!  I reached out to touch it and thankfully it was no longer hot.  The thunder and weather receded to the periphery as I looked up at the growing nails.   Legend said that no two uses for the nails would ever be the same so this was obviously not to be my lightening rod.  Call it instincts, call it intuition, but I concluded that my use for the nails was that of a ladder.  The nails had grown in a curved pattern creating a ladder texture.  You might even say that the nails had been screws all along.  I ascended, climbing higher and higher until I could no longer see the ground beneath me.  I made it all the way up to the top of the nail and found it served a perfect perch of rest; I came to the end of the climb and thought, what next?

What next, indeed? There I sat, like Buddha under the boddhi tree, just sitting above the world I knew, atop this magical nail, screw, whatever. Wondering what I was supposed to do next, after awhile- maybe a long time, maybe not- it was hard to tell how much time passed up there. And so I sat. And waited. Thinking perhaps I could sit there forever, waiting for a sign or meaning. But no, they  would never let that happen. They  would never leave me in peace for long. And that was when they knocked at my tower.

Flying, soaring around me, something was approaching me on my perch.  Them? Birds? No, not birds.  Aircrafts?  No, not aircrafts.  Angels?  No, they had no faces and no wings and there were no pilots.  I felt fear for the first time.  At the top of my screw, was I screwed? Sitting atop a nail in the sky, was I about to get nailed?
As they came closer my fear died away as I realized they were carpets.  Flying magic carpets numbering in the 10s of thousands.  Three of the carpets flew closer to me in a synchronized dance that seemed to be a form of greeting, a clear communication, a conversation that I could miraculously translate as an invitation.  

One carpet pulled up close to me and beckoned me to board. I had to pause and laugh at myself; the Disney movie associations of the scene were obvious. Nonetheless, I got on and the carpet proceeded to whisk away, closely accompanied by the others. The carpet was hard to describe for its beauty- vibrant colors, patterns that matched the scenery. Scenery after scenery it took me to see for myself at a birds’ eye view. Anywhere I thought of, the tapestry magically took me there.
It was magic, perfect except for one little thing. I noticed beneath me, a small whitish, gray coarse thread that clearly didn’t belong to this mobile work of art. Thinking it a favor, I reached down and gently tugged at the thread to remove it. Instead- an unravelling. Dangerously fast and down we went as the thread loosened to undo everything.
I don’t remember how hard I fell or how much it hurt. Three months of hospital bills spoke for how bad it must have been. From then on, I fell into a deep depression. Friends and family believed none of the story I lived to tell. Months later, there was no sign of the ladder, the nails, or my metal detector. I returned to the beac. Though there was no sign of my stuff, there was the coffee can that I had found once, the day I detected the nails. This time, inside the coffee can was a single piece of white string.


2. The (original) story spoken.
spoken by stephanie
spoken by courtney

*So, the first trial with the metal detector-I wouldn’t call it an overwhelming success but at least it was inspiring.  The metal detector and I met at the beach and we parted ways from that first meeting with two rusted nails and an empty coffee cup full of sand.

* Little did I know how much these two rusty nails would drastically change the course of my entire life. By the time I had arrived at the beach, the legend had been oversold…the story had been over-told… and of course I had heard it a number of times myself. But how was I to know that these two rusty nails were in fact the two rusty nails? And the fact was- I didn’t.. until it was much too late in the day.

*To the legend that I know, about the two rusted nails, began with Colonel Vernal, who was in possession of the nails a long time ago when they were still shiny, iron, sparkling, new.  Colonel Vernal was sailing off the Iberian Peninsula at the time, notorious for always wearing a band-aid over his mouth.  He removed it, at one point, to speak to a fellow sailor.  He told the sailor that the nails possessed a quality of magic and went on to relay how this type of magic would be useful for their trip abroad.  Putting the band-aid back over his mouth, the story would continue from there.   Although the sailor would be left with a lot of questions, they would go unanswered for a while on their long journey from the seas.

*The sailor and the Colonel sailed for many days without seeing anyone or anything. They sailed for forty days and forty nights and by that time they were beyond hungry, lonely, tired of each other’s company and quite near a delirious state. It was on that forty first day they finally realized their previously well stocked cupboards was near completely bare. In an act of desperation, Colonel Vernal took one of the nails out of his pocket, tied it to the length of string and threw it over the ship in an attempt to catch something plump and delicious to eat.

*Now I know what you’re thinking at this point. You’re thinking miracle instead of magic. You’re thinking salvation and happy ending, parting the red seas, messiahs, biblical fishermen and arcs of animals. You’re thinking lore and I’m telling you legend. Yes, the nails saved the lives of these starving seamen but it wasn’t because of some immaterial intervention, some impassioned prayer or plea to a higher power. The nail did nothing but sink below the surface, as far as it could, attached to the string. Obviously, it was sad bait. The Colonel, probably delusional, thought he felt it catch or resist from time to time, but after a days’ slumping over the hull of the ship he finally gave up and put it back into his pocket where it clinked and jangled with the other nail, throughout the night of restless sleep. It was a surprisingly soothing melody. On the forty second day, the sailor demanded the nails from the Colonel. Who knew what he had in mind, it was forgotten for when Colonel Vernal reached into his pocket to retrieve them they were- magically- stuck together, tip to tip. Flabbergasted, both men tried their best to unstick the seemingly soldered together iron nails, from one another.

*No matter how hard they tugged in opposing directions, the nails remained securely end to end. However, amongst their effort, blood, sweat and tears the heat generated between the two of them did have a curious effect- the nails began to stretch, long in opposite directions, so that the once approximately two inch long piece of sturdy metal had elongated first to a foot…then two…then doubled again- and before either one of them realized it- was as long as the length of their ship. When realizing that they could not lengthen the nails any further they struggled as to who would take control of this giant metal rod.

*Ultimately, Colonel Vernal and the sailor would notice that these magically lengthened nails had been initiated by the ocean. For when the long iron rod was dipped back into the water it became malleable again, returnable to be squashed back to the length of two nails joined end to end, and from that, could again be pulled apart effortlessly. Although this particular pair would never attempt it- had they dipped the nails back into the ocean again, the stretching, the magical lengthening, would have occurred again at a different and unpredictable length for, presumably, a different, necessary purpose. Over time and history, these legendary nails would be found by many, understood by few, but would always somehow work to their benefit.
For Colonel Vernal and the sailor, the rod “accidentally” (you might say) became a conductor of electricity- sending an enormous current through the ocean, instantly bringing- bellies up- a mass of fish to float to the surface. The Colonel and the sailor would starve no more. These nails- over generations, centuries, entire eras- exchanged hands or went undetected all across the world. They became a lightning rod for starving seamen, a brutal weapon for a corrupt cop, a lever for a car thief, a magic wand for a child (who eventually went on to become a magician) and a knitting needle for an old lady. The nails sat in garbage piled, alleyways, in jewelry boxes, in pockets or unnoticed- buried in sand. Hammered by humans and weather, treasured and abandoned, from Iberian shores to the Siberian desert, up and down the Himalayas and the Andes…
When I found them, I laughed off the thought of the legend. But, curiosity and playfulness found me walking towards the beach, to the waves, anyhow… and I gave the nails a little bath…

When I finally arrived at the waters’ edge I felt a tingle vibrate through my entire body. Excitement perhaps or maybe just a fear of the unknown. Even the nails seemed to tremble in anticipation of their bath. I buried my hand down into the depths of my pocket and removed the nails exposing them to the sunlight. They twinkled. I kneeled down in the sand and with a cupped palm, submersed my treasure slowly. And there they sat…in my palm, just barely beneath the surface. I held my breath and waited… Nothing happened.

*…until later that evening (or of course sometime after I had returned from the beach… the thought- that the nails I had detected, discovered, and foolishly considered as magical- I discarded that like used Kleenex.) Someone must have tripped over the metal detector I had propped up, just outside the doorway of my hotel room. Around sunset, on my way out for the evening I was hunched over the metal detector, brushing some sand off of it’s gold coil. I picked it up and was about to turn back inside to put it away before I left, when a little clinking-a jangle- could be heard. Maybe not because it was loud or odd but the- melody of the sound gave me pause. Inspecting the source of the noise, I found- yes- the two nails that had become one, appearing magnetically attached, not only to one another but also to the gold coil. About the length of a hot dog, slightly curved along one twist of the coil…I reached for it and OUCH!!! That magic burned.

*The heat held me like glue and as I pulled my hand away I’m sure I left a thin layer of skin behind. The metal detector and nails fell to the ground as I nursed my throbbing palm. The impact must have ignited some sort of extra magic spark because at the exact moment that the collection of objects hit the ground, the nails grew rapidly. One end pierced the earth, the other on its way up to pierce the sky. Up, up, up it continued to climb, surpassing the tallest tree in my yard. The metal detector rested about halfway up the staff- perfectly impaled through the center of its base and seemingly quite stable and content to rest midway up the spontaneous totem pole. I gazed up trying to see the endpoint of the nail but it became lost in the incoming fog. Thunder rumbled directly above my head.

*It’s amazing how fast you get over your own disbelief, how you can pretty much jump out of perceived-because-you’re-told-to-perceive- reality and cross over into…well…the reality you perceive. It was real! It was magic! The decision to accept it as such was never even a decision to be made. I immediately reached out for it, cautiously at first. It was no longer searing hot. It wasn’t even hot at all. The thunder, the weather was an observation relegated to the periphery of my attention. According to legend, no two purposes for the magical nails had ever been the same. So this would not become my lightning rod, I knew. No- the way I saw it (call it instincts, call it intuition) was as a sort of ladder. The nails had not only completely climbed the sky upwards but had did so in a spiraling way- giving the surface of this ladder a texture- arguably, you could say (maybe all along) these nails were screws. I ascended the twisting pattern around and around upwards, reaching the metal detector exhaustedly. It served as a perfect halfway perch of rest. Continuing on, breaking through the fog, the point at which I could no longer see life below me, I came to the end of the climb, The top of a nail- literally- literally, large enough to have a seat and determine, what next…

*What next, indeed!? The summit seemed sturdy, so there I sat. I thought I might as well admire the view (not that I could see much through the soupy air that surrounded me at the elevated height). Like the Buddha himself, resting underneath the boddhi tree there I sat atop the magic nails…screws…whatever they were. I sat and waited for the next step- a sign perhaps. And then I just sat, for sitting’s sake I suppose. My perch became my home. It was peaceful up there atop of the world I had known before. I think I would have stayed up there forever if they had let me. But they never let you just be anymore. They never let you have, or enjoy, anything. They always end up ruining everything and it wasn’t long (or maybe it was, since time seemed slower up there for some reason)- it wasn’t long before someone was knocking at my tower.

*Flapping…flying…gentle arcs of motion gliding swiftly through the horizontal, parallel in the vertical… approaching me on my perch and gaining speed, spanning the gap between me and them…them…Birds? No- too colorful. Aircraft? No- too silent and too numerous. Angels? No- they didn’t have faces. They didn’t have wings, they weren’t piloted by anyone, anything.
I experienced fear for the first time. Atop my screw…was I screwed? Sitting on a nail in the sky…was I about to get nailed? Too fast they arrived, sparing me more speculation, ultimately squashing my fear…CARPETS! Flying, magic CARPETS! They surrounded me quickly. If they had been birds or planes or even angels- it would have seemed almost hostile, suffocating. Their numbers must have been in the tens- or hundreds- of thousands. Amazement and awe stood me on my feet. Three carpets began a synchronized dance- a sort of rolling, flipping, tasseled tango in mid-air. I was certain it was a sort of greeting, a communication, a conversation from these three- emissaries on behalf of a nation or entire species, or a race…of carpets. And magically, I was able to translate this as a sort of invitation.
One of the carpets pulled up next to me and waved it’s little tassel-beckoning me to board.  I laughed at the absurd notion that my life was currently mimicking a Disney movie, but I boarded nevertheless.  The carpet was the most beautiful tapestry I had ever seen.  It was impossible to describe because it contained the most unusual and vibrant colors – colors that I had never seen before!  And the images it displayed varied in accordance with the setting.  This carpet was a chameleon of beauty.

My carpet chariot, along with it’s magic carpet compatriots, flew me around the world in a flash and showed me the birds eye view of fabulous sites…the pyramids, the Colosseum…Machu Picchu.  No sooner did I think of a place than we’d be there instantly, like Paris or the Taj Mahal.  It was the most incredible experience of my life, until…I noticed one loose thread next to me.  It was whitish-grey and coarse and it clearly didn’t belong to this mobile work of art.  I decided to do the carpet a favor and pull out the rogue string with a swift but firm tug.  Immediately the carpet began unraveling strand-by-strand, row-by-row and my chariot began plummeting back to earth at an alarming speed.
I don’t remember the impact, and I’m not sure how long I remained unconscious although my hospital bills indicate a stay of 3 months.  When I awoke I sunk into a deep depression.  None of my family or friends would believe my story.  The ladder to the sky had disappeared and the nails (and my metal detector mind you) seemed to have vanished into thin air.  To experience true beauty and magic and then land back in “real life” is a horrific transition.
It wasn’t until months later that I rediscovered the coffee cup I had found in the sand a long with the magic nails.  I peered inside and found nothing but a coarse white thread.





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