Needles of Power is a series of short stores written solely to delight my partner, Mathilde. Given that most publications tend to reach a slightly wider audience, this one has the honor of being the first chriscrob.com exclusive work of fiction. Be sure to check out Volume One first!
Eloise snapped awake the moment the dream ended. It was pitch black in their room. The phone said it was three AM, but they had never felt so alert. After quickly scribbling the last few lines of The Sweater’s pattern and a quick trip down the hall, they grabbed the weathered paper bag that held The Needles and yarn and climbed back into bed. Eloise hadn’t used straight needles since their very first project; knitting with circular needles made more sense to them, even on patterns where it wasn’t absolutely necessary. There was no question that The Sweater would be an exception to this rule.
They were typically meticulous. Sweaters took hundreds of hours and it was their habit to knit and block a swatch before starting every single project to test the gauge and the yarn and mostly to avoid that sinking feeling of realizing things weren’t just right after weeks of wasted effort. This time, they cast on and started immediately. The yarn was a dream to work with; they savored the unique sensation of this singular yarn sliding through their fingers. The pattern was already in their hands; cemented through weeks of nocturnal preparation.
Time flew by. Morning light streamed into the room then abated as the sun reached the pinnacle of its daily transit. Their phone said it was noon. Their body demanded attention. Eloise begrudgingly acquiesced, leaving their knitting on the bed for a hurried trip the bathroom and then the kitchen. Emptied and made full again, they were back at work within minutes.
There was always something trance-like about the knitting process for Eloise. It was something they could do mindlessly while watching TV or listening to a book; it brought a bit of calm and lucidity to pretty much any situation that left their hands free. This was different. They knitted as if they were possessed. They were cognizant of what their hands were doing, but only just. Eloise spent the rest of the day glued to the bed, without bothering to turn on a show or a book. It was dark when they got up again. They were parched, but otherwise felt surprisingly comfortable. Their fingers felt none of the stress that usually accompanied sessions this long; they stretched reflexively when they stood, but their back held none of the stiffness typically brought on by sitting in one position for—they checked the time—twenty hours straight? Time really had gotten away from them.
They looked down. The handwritten pattern lay untouched nearby. The progress was unbelievable; they had done in a day what would normally have taken a week or more. It was barely August and they had imagined having The Sweater finished for the intermittent cold snaps that wouldn’t truly arrive for months this far south. They could knit quickly, but enjoyed the process too much to rush. The Sweater was large and particularly intricate; knitting in the interstitial periods between work, precious time spent with Alex, and periodic attempts to have a social life, two months had seemed reasonable. If they maintained this rate, they could finish in a week.
That night Eloise dreamt they were flying. Effortlessly soaring through the air, they flew over the city like some sort of super hero. They smiled when they woke; they had been worried about losing their nightly dose of knitting now that the dream version of The Dream Sweater was complete. If the return to normal dreams was going to be that fun, they didn’t mind. Their phone buzzed with a text from their boss. A pipe had burst and flooded the store. There were questions about structural integrity and it would be at least two days before they could re-open. No need to come in.
Elated, Eloise ordered food and got back to work, intentionally turning on the TV this time. They were tuned out before title sequence began. They worked until some pressing physical need demanded their attention, then worked some more. The next day followed a similar pattern; constant trance-like knitting only interrupted by periodic reminders that they were indeed a physical being with needs that could only be ignored for so long.
Alex was coming over for dinner that night. She had been out of town for work and couldn’t text much, so Eloise was eager to catch up. Alex loved to cook and arrived with groceries and two bottles of wine. She wanted to see The Sweater right away.
“I was only gone for two days, right? I know you said you were making progress, but how did you get all this done so fast?” She asked.
“I have no idea. I’ve just been zoning out and knitting for hours straight. Still, it’s hard to believe.”
“Well, you’re crushing it. It’s incredible.”
It really was. Their work was flawless and the design was impressive. Intricate cables snaked together to form a jaw dropping pattern; every time they looked at it, some new detail caught their eye, renewing their belief that The Sweater was going to be something special. It took some effort to put it away and help Alex cook dinner.
“So the store still can’t open back up?” Alex said as she dried a dinner plate.
“Not tomorrow. They’re still waiting on the inspector to make sure the floor is safe.”
“I mean, this might just be a me thing, but I’ve always preferred to buy my clothes from non-collapsing buildings, so that makes sense,” said Alex.
“I get that. On the other hand, I’ve only worked in the non-collapsing kind of buildings. I think I feel the same way, but I can’t really know for sure, ya now?”
“Completely understandable. Like, every partner I’ve ever had has been completely un-buried in rubble. I never want anything bad to happen to you, but I’ve never seen you flattened, either.”
“And I would never want to deny you that experience.”
“Seriously though. You aren’t going to go try to help them clean up before that building is definitely safe, right?”
“I promise. You don’t have to worry. I’ve been pretty stoked to be home.”
“I bet. I would be too, if I were making something like that.”
“I’m also pretty stoked to have you home, though,” Eloise pulled Alex closer as they spoke.
“Oh have you?” Alex replied, dropping a dish towel on the floor.
Alex slept over that night and the pair slept in. It was late morning when Alex left and Eloise picked up The Sweater and once again entered that zen-like mode of unconscious progress they had started to view as their natural state of being. Time passed. Darkness came. They knit. And knit. And then suddenly it was done. They sat in silence for a long time. Eventually, they placed the needles back in their case and surveyed The Sweater. It was a masterpiece. The kind of heirloom-quality work that knitters dream about; they chuckled at their unspoken pun and tried it on. The yarn seemed to glow in the dim room. The Sweater fit perfectly; more than that, it felt right to have it on, like it was an extension of their skin—something that had been missing, as if they were incomplete without it. Eloise wanted to wear it to bed, but they could never sleep in actual clothes and it was too warm in the house, anyway. They carefully folded it down and placed it in a drawer beside previously treasured sweaters that seemed dull and lifeless when compared to the luster of their new neighbor.
They dreamt of flying until they woke early the next morning. They had to go back to work at noon and, after some time spent staring at The Sweater, decided to work on some gloves for Nancy. They set multiple alarms to make sure the trance didn’t last through their entire shift. They had, remarkably, finished the left glove and cast on the right when the “if you don’t get up now, you’re going to be late” alarm rung out. They checked the weather and blushed at how loud they shrieked; a cold front would arrive this afternoon! Sweater. Fucking. Weather.
They packed their bag and pulled the sweater on. Still perfect. Jeans and platform boots completed the outfit, which was objectively “on point.” Their coworkers gushed more than usual; Eloise tried to play humble, but ended up gushing right along with them—telling the story of The Sweater on three separate occasions.
The store wasn’t ready to open, so the first part of their shift was spent hanging clothes—new and salvaged alike—in preparation for the next day. They had an hour for lunch, so they wolfed down a burrito bowl and retired to the break room to work on the last glove. Something happened when they removed the needles from their case. It felt like a wave of energy flowing through their body. The Sweater grew rigid. They looked in a mirror and realized their whole body was glowing. They were wearing what looked like a set of armor. What the actual fuck?
Before they could get a handle on what exactly was going on, they heard a noise. A faint crunch, far away. Like rotten wood about to…oh shit they thought and in a flash they were back on the sales floor. They snatched a coworker moments before the floor gave way beneath them. Within seconds, they were in front of the store. Safely hovering beside the three other people working today, still holding the needles. The groans of the collapsing floor were replaced by the roar of the entire building falling into itself.
“What the fuck?” said their boss.
Wait…hovering? They looked down.
Six inches beneath them, the ground reflected the pink hue emanating from their body.