Evocative, short message that describes where you are
November 1, 2021 4:41 AM   Subscribe

(I hope this is an acceptable question for AskMeta) This is for a book I'm writing, a cozy Fantasy. One of the characters, Wren, is travelling magically around the world and keeps sending her friend Ray cryptic text and audio messages with hints of where she is. I could make these up, but it would be so excellent to have messages that describe actual locations. What message would Wren send Ray if she were in your part of the world?

Wren has very little experience of the modern world. She was brought across to our world from somewhere else (she can't remember where) in the late 19th century, and has only recently been released from the house she's been trapped in since then. She's an avid reader with a particular obsession with Jane Austen and Bram Stoker. She's earnest and enthusiastic but not cynical at all. Enjoying the freedom of travelling after her long imprisonment, but also rather horrified at what she's discovering about our world .
She's lonely and wants to share some of the places she's seeing, so she sends cryptic text and audio messages to her friend Ray via magical means. This is my first attempt, to give you an idea.

The messages, when they came, were low on information. Wren never responded directly to Ray’s questions about her safety or whereabouts. Just a simple Am OK was as good as it got. Ray always hoped that the messages might tell her where Wren might be, but they were always frustratingly vague.

the wind smells of leaves here but there are no trees

Sometimes, the little radio in Ray's kitchen would crackle, and play snatches of sounds. Mostly ambient noises, that Ray guessed Wren must be recording somehow. A steam train puffing and rattling. Street sounds, a voice chanting in a foreign language, possibly Turkish? A rushing sound like wind, woven through with birdsong.
Each message evoked such a strong sense of place that Ray felt transported.

If Wren were in your part of the world, what message, text or audio, would she send Ray?
posted by Zumbador to Writing & Language (29 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I saw a lady today in short pantaloons, with a stick, mayhap to hit the small white ball in front of her, but she did not strike the ball, as a dozen or even a score of huge brown mice-like creatures, as tall as men, standing upright and resting on their thick tails hopped toward her. I feared for her safety, but she just laughed.

(Golf course, Queensland, Australia. A mob of kangaroos interrupted play).
posted by b33j at 4:56 AM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm in Ottawa, and I would think she would send audio from the Peace Tower carilloneur playing one of the daily concerts on the bells in the tower. If you want a view to the types of works that get played, there's a list online and during the actual concerts (noon, Eastern Time, weekdays), there's a live audio link.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:36 AM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

For Washington, DC: The tallest obelisk I've ever seen, made of bluestone gneiss, marble, and granite.
posted by amarynth at 5:54 AM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

how does winter make a palette of death? never have I seen such a rainbow of brown
posted by eirias at 5:58 AM on November 1, 2021 [11 favorites]

The houses here tell of fairy tales, of witches and wizards and knights of legend, and I long for them to tell me their secrets. Yet, the countryside maintains a beautiful natural green manicure, as this time of year the bright yellows of the rapeseed (Brassica napus) die out as the day draws to an earlier close.

(Location: West Midlands, England)
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 6:17 AM on November 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

I don't have time to get creative now, but The Red River of the North is one of the few rivers that flow nearly due north; one other prominent river to do so is the Nile, so confusion between the two may add to the mystery.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:21 AM on November 1, 2021 [4 favorites]

The lush green canopy hides large cables connecting far flung communities. A large granite mountain inscribed with the dark history of the area guards the city to the East. (Atlanta GA)
posted by heathrowga at 6:39 AM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

This is 100% not what you had in mind, but in honor of "frustratingly vague" maybe look at What 3 words?
posted by adekllny at 6:59 AM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

There's a castle here that seems to float in the sky, and if you climb the dead volcano you can see all the way to the sea.
posted by penguin pie at 7:00 AM on November 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

There are a bunch of tables set out at the base of the tall rectangular building, with old people sitting around eating peanuts and twirling red threads in between their fingers. I wonder if it's some kind of restaurant. Suddenly, there is a clang of gongs and a group of priests in strange robes appear, chanting hypnotically! They start bringing strange paper objects to a big metal pit: clothes, handbags, and even a car! and they throw them in, setting them on fire. I'm already drenched in sweat from the hot sticky evening, and the flames make it unbearable, so I leave them be and walk away, towards the quiet darkness of a nearby park.

(Singapore, Taoist wake at void deck of HDB flat)
posted by destrius at 7:01 AM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

This may only work if these are snapshots in time, ie she isnt spending long in any place, and maybe also only if she's used to evergreen forests, or perhaps if being cryptic is intentional:

The trees are as colorful as flowers; perhaps that is why there are so few flowers. (Fall, New England)

Other thoughts on places, more year-round applicable:

The smell of the ocean is not quite pleasant, and the breeze does nothing to lift the heat, yet both are still somehow comforting. (Mississippi Gulf Coast)

People here seem to believe that what you are paid to do is the sum total of who you are - or at least the only part that matters. (Washington DC)
posted by solotoro at 7:04 AM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

The streets here are lined with tall feather dusters! They sweep the skies quite well, I imagine, as they are quite blue despite the lateness of the season.
posted by SPrintF at 7:13 AM on November 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

The dry rustle of corn leaves amid the flatness.
posted by Occula at 8:42 AM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

The hum of the Golden Gate Bridge?
posted by bleep at 8:46 AM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm turned west towards indigo waves, corduroy mountains, and a salmon sun.
posted by meinvt at 9:03 AM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

A giant white dome rises over the city, topped by the figure of a man all gold, leaning on a spear. On a bluff nearby, another man made of stone looks out over the city, arm extended. Beyond them both, a river that the people set afire in their joy snakes to the sea.

(It's Providence, RI. Statue of "The Independent Man," statue of Roger Williams at Prospect Park, and the Waterfire events on the river.)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:07 AM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm peering South and out at a cold grey kelpy sea. The rocks in the cliff behind me are weeping green and older than human time. The soft rain drips off my hat. Copper Coast . . . I think I'd rather hang out with meinvt: feels a bit warmer.
posted by BobTheScientist at 9:21 AM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Also DC: It is strange to be in a city that is not in a state, in a country that is made up of states.
posted by nkknkk at 11:26 AM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Made a point to go to the cemetery today, in solidarity with the locals. Got a red heart-shaped grave light and placed it on a random gravestone. You get a box of matches for free.

Poland, November 1st is All Saints' Day. The cemeteries are crowded, and hauntingly beautiful after dusk.
posted by M. at 12:03 PM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

The houses are the same, but each is a different color. There are snowballs in high summer. Few of the inhabitants seem to hear the strange hollering from the center of the village. Those who do hear it, move towards the sound of the hollering.

(A town on the outskirts of Baltimore. The fire station sounds an alarm to summon the volunteer firefighters when there is an emergency. A snowball is a dessert popular in Maryland.)
posted by champers at 12:25 PM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

It is another world here. The sky is a blue I have never seen, the sun cuts in harsh lines, the birds cackle like raucous small dinosaurs, and the moon is upside down.

(Australia, written from the point of view of someone used to the Northern Hemisphere)
posted by contrapositive at 3:26 PM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

These cities are full of water and art. (The twin cities in Minnesota, us)
posted by azalea_chant at 6:28 PM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

The sunlight beats down on the pilgrims in their ritual headdress, a neverending stream of mice chasing their pied piper of joy. Each night the thunder returns but carries no scent of rain.

(Anaheim CA, just outside Disneyland)
posted by platinum at 9:36 PM on November 1, 2021

I live in a small coastal city of about 18,000 people on a very large island, at the end of a deep water inlet and port. We get regular tsunami testing of our warning system, on the first Wednesday of every month at 1pm. It shocks many people when they first hear it, as sometimes we could be around other ambient noises that aren't near the dyke waterway (part of the area that is seen in this video is the park surrounding that dyke, with a bridge that crosses over it in the mid-distance --- the test starts at about the 1 minute mark).

I was living here when one night, in the wee hours of the morning, the siren went off and it wasn't at test. That was a scary and heart-pumping night that extended until early morning waking time. Everyone was a bit off that day. I still get goosebumps now, listening to this recording, remembering how I felt when I awoke enough to realize that it was a real warning siren.

I thought if I sent you these few videos, you could perhaps describe it in your own words. The testing sound is kind of neat, and made to be fun - not scary.

There was an actual tsunami in this area in 1964, and there is also a video that an insurance adjustor took back then (but this may not be the time frame you are looking for, and the landscape, structures, cars, and people look very different now).
posted by itsflyable at 10:55 PM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just to add my own version of this area:

I love the fairly level, paved dyke walkway - it's the perfect place to catch the sun's rays, say hello to a local, walk a dog, ride a bike, or just stroll along either side of the tidal creek whilst enjoying the lovely views of snowcapped mountains in the distance, and lots of greenspace alongside that includes willow trees, blackberry bushes, maples, conifers... (the video doesn't really do a great job of showing that). There are a couple of footbridges along the route, and at the farthest inland point, it changes to a forested trail that leads to a waterfall under a train trestle where less people trek, but it is so worth the extra 5 minutes and a bit of mud. :)
posted by itsflyable at 11:02 PM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

"It's a truth universally acknowledged that a huge fancy house set in a large well-tended estate is in want of an even fancier set of fountains." (I'm not there and the home of the fictional family certainly wasn't the home to the Duke of Devonshire, but Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, England is a very nice place.)
posted by k3ninho at 1:13 AM on November 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow thank you these are awesome! Fantastic stuff.
posted by Zumbador at 3:41 AM on November 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

I walked on the beach of a freshwater sea! (Great Lakes)
posted by Enid Lareg at 2:14 PM on November 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

The church bells chime out at all hours, and yet there is scarcely a churchgoer to be seen.

(Canterbury, Kent, but it works for pretty much anywhere in England.)
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:15 AM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

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