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Sunday, January 14, 2024

Excerpt: Out Of The Way Things by Kendall McNutt (Fantasy)

Out Of The Way Things
by Kendall McNutt
September 13, 2023
Fantasy / Mythology / Folklore

For as long as Win can remember, she has seen things that no one else can see, horrific hallucinations that feel nearly real. After a decades-long parade of visions, Win rarely questions her condition. When the hallucinations arrive, she simply braces herself and waits for them to pass. Every other aspect of Win’s life is perfectly ordinary and vaguely disappointing: a mind-numbing job, mounting debt, and a lackluster social life.

It all changes for Win in a moment, when a tragic vision brings her face to face with a stranger who claims Win is more than an ordinary woman, mired in the ordinary world. Her visions, more than terrifying fantasies, reveal truths that only she can see, truths that others would do anything to control. Win’s arcane ability endangers her as much as it empowers her, and she finds herself hunted by a mysterious force. Her only option is to leave the life she knows and seek out who she is.

With more questions than answers, Win enters a world where fairy tales and folklore hide in the lives of everyday people. She must learn to live in the space between otherworldly dangers and mundane reality. Win must decide which monsters can be trusted, how she will pay her bills, and what she must learn about herself to combat an unseen enemy, an enemy whose ambition threatens the very fabric of reality.

Irreverent and comically dark, Out of the Way Things offers a fantastic world, filled with mythic beings concealed in the shadows of the ordinary. Kendall McNutt brings readers into a hyper realistic fantasy that asks us to consider the possibility that all stories are true and that nothing is impossible.


“Tell me about yourself,” the man suggested, his tone interested, his eyes fixed on the paper in his hand. The office was designed to make me nervous. Books I probably should have known lined Spartan metal cases secured to the gray walls that surrounded me. The shelves gave the impression of bars. Each item on Mr. McLaughlin’s desk rested just so, as if he had mapped the space with a compass and straightedge.

Mr. McLaughlin himself appeared to be designed with the same attention to detail. Straight posture. Precise attire. Definitively brown eyes. Well defined bone structure.

I am the master of my fate, I told myself. My mouth opened and my mind emptied. I counseled myself, Just answer the question. I smiled, “That’s a big question.” Killing time. “My undergraduate degree is in communications. I have always been interested in Marketing. I am fascinated by how consumers interact with the market and drive innovation.”

He looked up from his paper, and nodded, then jotted down some notes. I felt encouraged.

Mr. McLaughlin continued the interrogation, “Right now you are cleaning houses, why aren’t you working in a field that aligns with your training?”

Oh, no. Discouraged.

I held my smile, the confidence that shone through entirely fabricated. I said, “I would wonder that too, if I were you. I have struggled to decide what is next for me. To be honest, house cleaning is more lucrative than you might guess, so I don’t need a change for financial reasons.” Lie. “I want my next step to be the right one. When I saw this opportunity, I knew, this is something I can grow with, a company that I can represent well, and an opportunity that aligns with my values and my goals. That’s why I am here.”

He smiled. I relaxed. Fractionally. “Tell me more about that. How do you feel we align with your values and goals?”

I was prepared for this question. “I’m glad you asked that,” I began. Our eyes locked. The room shifted, and his gaze seemed to slide around in my vision. I remained still and the room moved. No! I silently protested the sudden onset of vertigo. The confidence drained from my smile, “It is clear in your advertising,” I stumbled in remembering my planned response, “That is, um,” I stumbled in remembering the question. “I’m sorry, I am suddenly dizzy.” In desperation I asked, “I’m sorry could you repeat the question?”

I could hear his response, but struggled to make meaning of his words. My eyes searched for a fixed point, something steady to which I could anchor.

Through the window, behind him, I caught sight of a car careening through an intersection. My eyes widened and my jaw fell slack. I felt the room shake as the car collided with a pole yards away from where we sat. I jumped out of my chair, knocking his coffee from his desk. Mr. McLaughlin did not turn around, he heard none of it, he saw nothing. Because, once again, nothing was happening. Another hallucination, with perfect timing.

He looked at me with worry. He looked at his coffee with regret.

“Sorry,” I gasped, “I’ve had a lot of coffee and not a lot of water.” Dehydration could excuse all manner of odd behavior. Probably not hallucinations, though, so I kept the vision to myself. I rescued his cup, now nearly empty. I looked around for anything that might absorb the coffee, seeing what I intended he handed me some tissue and together we kneeled and sopped up coffee.

“I think it’s fine now,” he said. “Someone will clean it. Are you alright, are you sure you want to continue?” There was genuine concern in his voice.

“Yes definitely,” even to me it sounded too eager. I returned to my seat. “I am very nervous, this is very important to me. I apologize. Really, I am fine.” But the room hadn’t stopped moving. I shut it out and focused on the question. The question I could not remember.

Once they started, the hallucinations often spiraled out of control. Sometimes, the hallucinations unfolded in complex, lengthy scenes. Sometimes they flashed from vision to vision, imagery jumbled together in a cacophonous tumult, as was the case this morning. During the single most important hour, of the single most important day, of my entire year.

Also per usual, the vertigo intensified. I steadied myself by placing a hand on the arm of my chair.

The interview continued.

To get things back on track Mr. McLaughlin kindly repeated the question, “Can you tell me about how our company aligns with your values?”

I have no idea, I thought. I said, “Yes, about that…”

Mr. McLaughlin smiled patiently, while behind him, on the sidewalk outside an elderly woman tripped a teenager on a skateboard. The nausea told me that it only happened in my imagination. They promptly disappeared.

I continued, “The company’s values...” I corrected, “My values…”

The car wreck returned, this time with smoke and police and a gathering crowd. I tried to look away, but the scene drew me in.

Mr. McLaughlin turned to look. Seeing nothing, his smile grew shallow. He looked at me expectantly. “I’m so sorry,” I repeated, “I’m nervous this means a lot to me.”

The candor worked in my favor, sympathy spread across his face. That was fine with me, I’d take a pity job.

And then the window shattered and I jumped backwards.

Only the window didn’t shatter, because I imagined it, and I did jump back, which might as well have been the end of the interview.

After that, the only coherent sentences I managed contained the words “I,” “am,” and “sorry,” mostly in that order.

We wrapped with the usual platitudes. He would reach out if I were invited to go on to the next stage of the process, blah, appreciate the time, blah-blah, have a nice life.

As I left the building I muttered, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. And that’s the problem.”

About the Author:
Kendall McNutt is a story enthusiast from way back. She has been authoring stories since she could hold a pen. She loves stories in all forms, and takes every opportunity to jump into them wherever they occur, in whatever capacity is available.

Kendall lives in the Pacific Northwest, known for breathtaking landscapes and Seasonal Affective Disorder. When she is not consumed by a story or toiling away in the public education system, she can be found adventuring with friends and family, or snuggling cats. Her cats. Not all cats. Certainly not strange cats.

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