DiscoverContemporary Fiction

Twigs Entwined

By

Not for me 😔

With little exposition and a turning point that leads to a dead-end, this narrative of transformation doesn't quite deliver.

Synopsis

She woke up with a jerk. Her hands were up in the air, groping for support. It was a moment of frenzy. It was like being drowned in some deep waterbody. She could neither grasp on to any surface or person for support or open her eyes and see what was going on. The scary feeling it gave was simply inexplicable. It was that final moment when you realise that you are about to die. The music did not stop, though. She had more to offer and more to conquer. She settled in to consider this as the time to introspect, reflect, and bounce back with more vigour—and she did them all.

Twigs Entwined explores the idea of lost time and identity. When we meet the unnamed narrator, we are introduced to her knowing that she has awoken in a space that is confined, dark, and foreboding. She feels the anxiety of being trapped and the fear of whether or not she will ever get rescued. Throughout the story, the narrator explores the value of her life, relationships, and she delves deep into the confines of sorrow. In every hero's journey, the plighted character is a mirror to the world and forever changed. As in most plots where protagonist pain is paramount, to quote Khalil Gibran’s, The Prophet, “The deeper sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” However, there is not much joy contained in this novella by Pooja Subramanian. With the noticeable influence of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, the reader anxiously awaits a grand revelation that the plot never fully delivers. 


Aside from a compelling synopsis, much interest is lost less than half-way through the novella. There were elements that were underdeveloped, and as a reader, I felt deprived of Subramanian's potential.


To the detriment of this story, there is only one character. With a thin plot, Twigs Entwined does not have enough muscle to support the development of that character. The unnamed protagonist lay confined in a small space, likes to write, and cycles through two emotions: despair and anger.


The language of the story reads forced. At times I was lost in a sea of adjectives that did very little in describing anything. Several sentences felt choppy due to linguistically lazy word choice and an overuse of the thesaurus. Sentences like "The nanometer seems to have under-graduated to picometer now" read both technical and misplaced. Overall, poor word choice negatively impacted the novellas flat tone.  


Fans of experimental poetry and self-improvement will enjoy this non-conventional conversation piece.


Overall, I really wanted to like this! That synopsis grabbed me, and I was sold! I applaud her attempt to develop a personal story about transformation, but there is no transformation found in the novella.


Though this story fails to capture the type of timelessness or poetic structure the author has been influenced by, the concept was unique. That said, Twigs Entwined reads false, overworked, and underdeveloped. A story that should have been a celebration, unfortunately, is redundant and difficult to read. 

Reviewed by

I believe writers are the last bastions of humanity & have a responsibility to craft thoughtful narratives. For 20 years, my world has revolved around literature: selling, teaching, and writing. I am driven by books that inspire my creative endeavors. Reviews posted will be succinct and thoughtful.

Synopsis

She woke up with a jerk. Her hands were up in the air, groping for support. It was a moment of frenzy. It was like being drowned in some deep waterbody. She could neither grasp on to any surface or person for support or open her eyes and see what was going on. The scary feeling it gave was simply inexplicable. It was that final moment when you realise that you are about to die. The music did not stop, though. She had more to offer and more to conquer. She settled in to consider this as the time to introspect, reflect, and bounce back with more vigour—and she did them all.

The Truth about Twigs

She woke up with a jerk. Her hands were up in the air, groping for support. It was a moment of frenzy. She just could not stop beating her hands and legs. It was like being drowned in some profound body of water. She could neither grasp on to any surface or person for support nor open her eyes and see what was going on or at what depth she was. The scary feeling it gave simply cannot be compared to anything explainable. It was one of those moments when you realise that you are about to die and all you can do is beat your hands and legs hysterically. She did just that. She kept moving in every damn direction she could in the hope that one of those short paths will lead her towards home—or at least some form of light, sound, or something familiar, for that matter. Nothing seemed to be happening. Hope seemed to run further and further away from her, with each movement. It looked like hope was not even game for some peek-a-boo.


After searching in multiple dimensions and directions for hours together, she could feel something like a leaf, soft and delicate. It touched a few of her toes and went back into oblivion. She pondered further in that direction, which took her to the leaf. She kept searching with her toes, trying to get a clearer sensation of the leaf or the surface it belonged to, only to realise that it was part of a wider surface. Maybe there were too many leaves or a bunch of them. She could not clasp on to any of them, though. Maybe they were so many, so soft and delicate that they just ended up seemingly continuous. Still, she was quite sure they were leaves. It was that strong authentic gut feeling. She searched further. The leaves seemed to have no stems or branches to identify as their roots. They just seemed to be there, springing from nowhere and destined to form a cosy, fluffy retiring bed for her. Thankfully, the bed was comfortable. Whoever the provider was, was kind enough to ensure something good enough to generate great levels of comfort.


Still, there was not even a pole to dance around, not a string to commit suicide. She wondered what place this could be. She was fidgeting now. The place seemed creepy—big time. She kept moving around, foraging for something to hold on to. It was a frantic search. She felt like a mermaid whose fins and tail had been mutilated; and the water, which provided comfort just a few minutes back, seemed to be all set to take her life. She kept drowning farther and farther: left, right, down and up. She wondered if she was in space, since what other places could be so devoid of support from gravity? As if to put the commotion to rest, something lashed against her face; and she immediately hurried to catch hold of it before it could slide off. This thing seemed to be fat against her hands. Considering that the bed was made of leaves, this could easily be made of the twigs of the creeper that the leaves are a part of or maybe the roots, which have been helping the leaves to stand their ground. So there it was, a strong twig-like something. She knew not what it was, but it was strong enough to make her feel at ease. So to complete her trail of imagination, she confirmed that it was a bunch of entwined twigs, not roots, since they were not sturdy enough to be stilt roots. For it to be normal roots, she was certainly not buried and dead and letting roots grow through around and about her. In fact, she was on a bed of leaves. That was the most comforting option to render some solace for the time being. To summarise, this had to be some entwined twigs, which were supporting the creepers that had formed her bed. To complete the picture in her head, she was probably on a bed of leaves; and maybe they were elements of some creepers, since they were accompanied by the entangled body of twigs that she had just discovered. Thoughts and imagination kept racing in a jiffy. It was a wild race that no soul would ever be able to conquer in a lifetime.


Now that she had something to hold on to, she was eager to know where she actually was. She had never been there before. It did not give her the feeling of being at home or at any place she knew. It was a new feeling. She was promptly reminded of one of those archaeological sites she had once visited. The smell of old earth and sweat dug out from the depths of civilisation. The objects she saw there did not just speak to her eyes; it spoke to all her senses and dwelt within her for days together. She could not stop pondering over the thoughts it ignited in her. Looks like the feel at that site had always lingered along with her, now that she could even reminisce it. She thought with a jerk, Oh god! Am I back in times to join that old civilisation? Like any other time, she rubbished her imagination all by herself and breathed in the smell once again. No clue yet. Meanwhile, she imagined how much fun it would be if she could go back and forth in time and join any civilisation she wanted to. Life in the twenty-first century seemed to be getting boring day by day. It would be fun to take a civilisation break occasionally and indulge in some fun time with those ancestors from the past. Time machines are fantastic anyways. She wished she could make one like in those science-fiction movies.


Why is it that this imaginative object has still not seen reality even by a miniscule degree? Only if I had taken my science classes a bit more seriously! It could have even earned me a Nobel Prize. Now that would have been something to brag about! I should have taken my studies more seriously.


It was a detailed self-discovery unravelling itself gradually. Only now did she realise that there was something she was sipping at, or rather being force-fed, and that she loved the taste of those little drops of something falling into her mouth. It was for sure not anything harmful since she had probably been savouring it from the hour she got trapped in there. It felt so much like business as usual, that it had probably been there since god knows when. In fact, she was enjoying the little trickle and liking the taste too. She hopped on to her train of imagination once again.

This was probably the exotic drink of the gods that they savoured to attain long and ever-youthful lives.


In fact, every mythological story has something of the sort to mention, whether it be about the Greeks, Indians, Egyptians, Romans, or any other, for that matter. There were a lot of unheard or not-so-famous mythologies too. She wondered if their gods also had exotic, magical drinks. She pacified herself by accepting the idea that though this might not really be one of those magical drinks, it certainly was at least life giving and harmless. That in itself was a great source of solace for her. She was in some safe land that was kind enough to provide her some life-sustaining substance to savour. She wondered if she could be on some other planet.

So much kindness on Earth is probably a long-forgotten trait. People kill each other in the name of food and money these days. Forget about giving free food to someone incessantly.


While she was still wondering about the location and identity of her new abode, she felt another jerk. She realised that she had been sleeping.

When did I fall asleep? The last moment I knew, I was enjoying that exotic drink. I never felt sleepy then. Neither did I realise that I was going to be invited by slumber. Does this land force the state of slumber on its inhabitants? Or is the drink sleep inducing? Is somebody putting me to sleep forcibly? Have I been kidnapped? If this is indeed on Earth, it could very well be possible. Maybe they need to keep me alive until they lay hands on the ransom amount that they have asked for. Why would somebody on Earth be so kind about sharing so much food otherwise? It looks like there is a lot more to know about this new sojourn.


She could feel warmth all over again. It felt so cosy, sort of snuggle inducing. This could have been the force that drove her into the state of slumber.

There is probably a stream flowing by. The water is probably warm since it is exuding warmth as far as I can feel it. It could very well be a hot spring. That feels great—exotic drinks and exotic hot springs. Wow! Am I on a blind vacation? Quite obviously, I have not been kidnapped. Else, things would have been at least a bit tougher. So much comfort is not something that kidnappers might really offer. What if I were a high-profile victim? I guess they would have tortured me at least a thousand notch more if that was the case. A low-profile victim would have anyways got no special treatment since they are already used to the torture being meted out by life itself. Looks like there is a good chance that I have not been kidnapped. I have to come up with some other hypothesis now. Doing a Ph.D. would have been easier, trust me. So let me get back to enjoying the exotic springs and drink for now.


Her imagination was not ready to settle for anything less. Not that she knew how far or near the spring was, but she guessed it must be close enough since she could feel its warmth. She felt like just snuggling up and sleeping for as long as her mother would start to bother her.

But wait, where the hell is my mother to even bother me? Does she even know where I am stuck up? I am sure she has no clue. She must have just thought that I have gone on one of those secretive breaks with the nature goddess.


She had this habit of taking a break from work when it got too hectic. She used to go trekking, hiking, and mountaineering while sometimes not even informing her family until after she got back. In those instances, she was always sure that she would be back in just two days, though. Looks like she had already spent more than two days in this place. Her parents must sure be worried. They would have got in touch with all her friends and acquaintances to know where she is. That thought made her feel a bit relieved. At least help would be coming, if not soon enough. Even late was fine. Until then, she could savour the exotic drink, regain her youth, and enjoy the fluffy bed in the cosiness exuberated by the neighbouring hot spring and just lie there and take a genuine break with nature.


It was only a while back that she had wished to take a break from her busy life. Life tends to get so complicated as you grow up. At times, it just feels impossible to handle any longer. You wonder if it is you or the people around you who have impacted your peaceful state of being. The other day, she had a tiff with her best friend. She was back to normal in an hour, but her friend was at it for almost two months and had avoided her altogether. She kept waiting, but the so-called best friend never looked back. That was when she realised that she had categorised her inappropriately. With time, she learnt to live without that so-called best friend. That is what life does. It gives people immense number of chances sometimes; and when they break every one of those chances, they forfeit friends, relations, respect, and anything that you could think of. She does not know if her friend feels the loss, but she certainly had a tough time handling it.

How could a best friend behave like that? Best friends are supposed to be a part of you, accept you just the way you are, and enjoy the relationship thoroughly in spite of your imperfections and perfections.


Though she was worried about her tryst with the new sojourn, for a moment, she felt some sort of an opportunistic pleasure in being able to live a momentary life in here, unmindful of the complexities created by human beings. High time the humans realised that they were born to die someday. It would be great to do some good and leave rather than leave behind immortally scary, horrid footprints.


What is a person about to gain while wishing for somebody else’s fall? What is the person who clings on to ego going to gain in life? What is a person who swears by one’s money going to take along to the grave anyway? How is the person who kills in the name of religion, race, sex, hatred, and food going to justify one’s own existence when asked to explain? There are so many more of them to categorise if time permits. At the end of the day, they all have one end game: harm and take sadistic pleasure in it. When will that one day dawn when they realise that they who wish evil for others are damn gross and ignoble? If karma is a certified bitch, it will surely strike them back. Those who deserve the strike will certainly be struck hard. Only if they could be made to realise their follies through acts of kindness and made to mend their ways. World would have been a totally different place that way. The badge of innocence would have stuck on beyond childhood in that case. Now that is my idea of a utopian state that I so wish came true someday.


Philosophical thoughts apart, here it was, her first rough sketch of the new sojourn that she was trapped in. Yes, after a lot of introspection, she finally went with that hypothesis, which felt a lot more harmless and stress busting. As per the hypothesis, this must be one of those thick tropical rainforests with thick undergrowth. So this is how the whole thing could have unravelled.

A large number of creepers were probably growing over some prop and stilt roots, and one fine morning the roots snapped over the creepers and rolled over to form the shape of a ball or something that was closed in shape. It could have been in the shape of a ball, a star, a hexagon, or who-knows-how-many-sided, but it was certainly closed. It could even be shapeless like an amoeba, but definitely closed. To make it less complicated, let us go with the ball shape. Wait, that does not sound completely convincing. It has loopholes. I was probably exploring one of that typical undergrowth. The moment I stepped in to explore was when it snapped up into the ball. How stupid! How could that be? Well, if Hollywood could create insane science fiction, so could I. It is not like anyone will be asked to watch my hypothesis in the form of video and rate it. This is only for my own happiness, comfort, and purpose of killing time. Imagining a bit more sensibly once again, maybe I had made one of those creeper beds my bed to sleep for a night while trekking, and then it just snapped up, trapping me within itself. This could have only happened in a Hollywood movie again.


She had to keep herself tension free, though. This seemed to be the least-harmless, imaginative idea available: the idea of the ‘ball trap’. Yes, the christening ceremony had commenced and consummated in no time. There were twigs to cling on to in times of an erosion or landslide, exotic drinks to sustain sweet life cum youth, and the warmth of a hot water spring to engage her in slumber. The executive summary was also sort of ready now. She felt a bit relieved, like a normal person trapped in a mental asylum.


Yes, I should escape soon. The faster the better. The longer I stay, the more I will have to spend in cash, time, and a lot of other resources on my own rehabilitation. Save my soul, somebody! Anyone listening? Anyone around? Anyone even aware of my being in the ball trap? Look, fellow beings, I am trapped in here. I badly want to see some daylight or rather my mother.

About the author

Pooja Subramanian writes when she is on a break from her busy work life. She loves to travel, daydream, spend time with her kid, go on coffee and movie dates with her husband, and have beautiful conversations with her parents. She also looks forward to making the most of her tenure on this planet. view profile

Published on May 28, 2020

Published by Partridge Singapore

20000 words

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Reviewed by

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