Friday, February 26, 2010

A Crazy Story

(I must be on some sort of blogging roll - this is my third post in a seven-day span.)

In a wrecked future of Earth, the continents have lost contact of one another, forgotten the past. On Europe, a war consumes lives uncountable from both sides, the governments of the countries in what used to be Western Europe are completely incompetent, and corruption runs rampant.

But the real story is this: in the Appalachian Mountains is a country, and that country's vizier has made a new world. Some years ago, nine people were sent to the new planet. These people are thought to be dead, and so the vizier is trying again - and this time, she is looking across the ocean for subjects in her experiment.

This is the plot of the story I'm currently working on. I'm planning for it to be a trilogy, but I'm only (very) roughly 3/4 of the way through book one, with three months of story left to cover. Still, this is a story I feel very strongly about, and so I most certainly plan on finishing.

It is equally certain that the story as it stands would confuse anyone - even me, were I not the author. But I am, and because I write for myself I'll worry about making it make sense for everyone who isn't the same kind of insane as me later.

"Location: the ruins of the Eiffel Tower.

Date: It is winter. There is snow on the ground. As to the exact day-night and month and year, no one really cares anymore. There is just light and dark and war."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Does listening to words help produce them?

I listen to a lot of music while writing (and studying), and find it difficult to write without some sort of music going on - for example, right now I'm listening to "Paperthin Hymn" by Anberlin. The tone of the music can help with writing certain scenes. In chapter 13 or 14 of my current project, I listened to "Give me a Sign" (Breaking Benjamin) for all the scene ends to try to lend to them some poignance. Did it work? I certainly felt that the ends came easier that way.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Witch

Iron bars, arching over her, large enough for one as thin as her to slip through if not for that hag's enchantments. The girl stared unseeing at the meaningless lock, half-metal and half-magic, its solid square shifting ever so slightly even though no wind stirred the musty air in the room.

And then, it broke, splintering into uncountable shards.

None hit the girl, but she jerked away, eyes filled with a sudden wariness. She looked around, her hand yet straying to her waist – but no, it had been long ago that the old woman took away her belt with its weapons, sharp knives for cutting, a special blade for the head – as she stood, bent over despite the height of the cage.

Another sensation quickly replaced the caution. Hunger roared in her, sending a thrumming from her legs to her stomach to her arms. She fell through the cage bars, collapsing onto the ground in exhaustion, skinny wrists feeling as though they could snap like twigs. All around her, dust swirled, eddying.

Slowly, so as to avoid hurting herself, the girl stood again, head swimming, and lurched towards the door of the storage room. If the lock broke…her mind cleared away the cobwebs and the haze, and thought. If the lock broke, that meant the magic had ended, so then the hag would be…

Her hand shot out and smashed dead a spider creeping along the wall, wooden unlike the saccharine outer walls. A lesser creature, lower than a dumb beast, to be sure, but its smear of blood gave her energy as she licked the gore off her fingers. Now, then. Something more substantial, something to restore her to her former strength, was in order.

She stumbled out the room, up the rickety old stairs, hands grasping to pull her along, arm swinging and sending a heavy glass jar of gumdrops shattering to the ground. Eyes glazing and clearing as she made her way up. Helplessly, she fell against the wall and closed her eyes, breathing hard. Getting up again. To the hag's room.

And there she lay. Soft doughy face, spun-sugar hair, plump hands folded over a round stomach, her dress a patchwork of bright hard-candy colors. Worry flickered briefly through the girl – the woman was fat, she'd be heavy. But somehow the girl hauled the woman over, pulling her down the stairs on one of those odious patchwork quilts. To the kitchen, now. The hunger swelled, and her hands began to shake.

Dumping the corpse into a chair.

Throwing wide the door to the iron stove, its black dust coming off on her hand.

Tossing in a few logs, lighting it on fire.

Hurry, hurry. The hunger would not be contained. Shuddering, the girl took two deep breaths before looping her arms around the old woman and dragging her to the mouth of the stove. Pushing the body in, kicking it, feeling the heat against a face used to cold. Collapsing into the same chair occupied only moments ago by the corpse. Every hair on the girl's skin pricked; every centimeter was lit on fire, eyes blurring again from the anticipation, foot tapping a nervous tattoo on the kitchen floor.

And then the scent of burning flesh.

Her eyes snapped open wide. Mouth open, the girl turned to face the stove, eyes fixed on the great iron door, her hands holding tight to the sides of the chair. Hunger, hunger, hunger. Legs trembling, shaking, a jittery up-down of nerves clacking like so many teeth.

Red-brown meat, delectable despite the aging, despite the toughness. Fat dripping from the dark hanks of flesh. Meat enough to last her a week, yet it was gone within minutes – too long, her hunger had been contained for too long, it had been more than half a year ago when she had been put into the cage, given only soft foods, sweets, vegetables, not even a bone to gnaw on since summer. Why should she not compensate?

She ate her. She ate the old woman, and took her house and the woods around it for her own.

Every day, she would use the hag's magic – slowly, learning the art little by little – and make sure the house was in good working order. If it had rained, she used a spell to make the gingerbread outer walls fresh. When the candy cane window frames began to bleed their red into white, a charm made them once again bright and crisp. Do not spiders repair the holes in their gossamer webs?


"Hansel, I'm hungry."

"It's all right, Gretel. Don't you smell that gingerbread?"
--

Written in January.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sanity

They called her Happy-Go-Lucy.

It was not really an apt moniker. While Lucinda Prospero often possessed ridiculous cheer, she also exploded into other emotions. Her accountant brother’s financial records brought her to raging tears and her best friend Maureen’s poet younger brother compared her to a sky that could go from cloud playground to tempest in mere moments.

Maureen herself was the only person in their grade – sixth – who could stand to be in Lucinda’s presence for more than an hour at a time, and even if it meant Maureen’s locker was full of tissue boxes, it was a solid friendship.

But, as per Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong will.


“Good morning, Mara!”

The sunlight slanted through the windows of their science classroom, lighting up numerous posters of volcano cross-sections made by the students for a recent project. Lucinda was standing by a plaster model made by one of the other students, having been regarding the sloppily painted magma before greeting Maureen.

“Morning, Lucy,” Maureen said. She swung her backpack onto her desk and took out her binder. “What was the homework?”

Slumping against the wall, Lucinda wailed, “The entire chapter in the workbook. That’s twenty pages, Mara! Twenty!”

Maureen wordlessly held out a tissue, which Lucinda took with a flourish. She should try out for the school play this year, thought Maureen. Or some sport. Where does Lucy get all that energy?

Having finished her fit, Lucinda said, “Thank you, Mara. I suppose that it is not quite as bad as what Dickens’s protagonists go through, but still! It took me so long to finish, leaving me no time whatsoever for all the other things I wanted to do! Really – and I’ve wanted to weed the garden with my dad since forever.”

Tempest indeed. Still, her misery – however overblown it may have been – was genuine enough, and Maureen did not like to see her friends unhappy. “You know, Lucy, maybe there won’t be a lot of homework tonight, and then you can spend some more time with your family.” Maureen nearly cringed as she spoke, for her words sounded horribly sentimental. Even so, it seemed to work, for Lucinda grinned.

“Oh, I hope you’re right! Won’t it be fun? Spending time with family is the best, no offense, Mara, but you know how it is,” she said.

Maureen was about to open her mouth to reply when she heard a whisper from her left, saying, “Happy-Go-Lucy had too much sugar today, again.” Hoping that the whisper had not reached Lucinda’s ears, for she’d surely go into a rage, she replied, “None taken. Family is the best.”

“Friends are great too, though!” said Lucinda, and enveloped Maureen into a bear hug before spinning off to her own seat.

The plaster volcano looked like it was exploding.


It was a sweltering day, the fifth of March and already boiling. The very fabric of the universe was melting on the blacktop tar. Inside the hallways, though, it was cooler, a calm and placid shelter from sun and sound, at least until classes were let out, when it became a cacophonous battleground – sometimes almost literally.

Such as this day.

“Why does Mara hang out with Happy-Go-Lucy?” whispered Sara Tall to her friend. “I mean, I used to think that Mara was pretty cool, and she’s good at volleyball, but her taste in friends is horrible.”

Her whisper was too loud. Lucinda, walking (or rather skipping) by, whirled around, letting the binders she held in her arms clatter to the floor. Her eyes shot dagger-like towards Sara’s, and in a low voice she said, “What did you say about Mara? Did you just insult her best friend?” With each word she took another step towards Sara, who despite her name was less than five feet in height.

“Hey, stop blocking the hallway,” someone told her, but Lucinda brushed him off with an angry flap of her hand.

“I didn’t insult Mara, I insulted you,” snapped Sara. “Mara’s normal, so why is she friends with a loser like you –”

Lucinda’s hand shot out and shoved Sara’s throat against the row of lockers behind. The metal was cold, having been cast in shadow for the entire day. A growl seemed waiting to tear its way out of Lucinda’s throat, and her other hand, now a fist, seemed waiting to find its way to Sara’s stomach.

But before Lucinda could punch Sara, a hand fell on her shoulder. She half turned, a retort on her lips, until she saw who it was.

“Mara!” she said. “This…this foul-mouthed harpy was insulting you! And me, but that’s all right, but it’s not all right if it’s you.”

“Lucy,” said Maureen with a sigh. “Come on, let her down – we’re going to be late for class. I don’t want you to get in trouble.” She gave a small smile.

Dropping Sara to the ground, Lucinda spun to face Maureen with a wide grin. “Oh, Mara! What would I do without you?”

Maureen picked up Lucinda’s binders and handed them to her. “I’m sure you could manage.”

“No, no!” said Lucinda. “I’d be completely broken!”


Broken, huh, wondered Maureen as she waited at the crosswalk, staring at the red stoplight and willing it to be green. She sighed. Volleyball practice had run late, again, and with her father working late and her mother at her brother’s basketball game – it’s always about him, whether it’s poetry or basketball or singing – no one had the time to go to school and pick her up. If only everyone appreciated me like Lucy. Ah, there’s the green light.

She stepped out onto the street as the car came skidding around the corner.


The funeral was on a cold day.

It only made sense, for in her coffin Maureen’s hands were like iced porcelain. It only made sense, for the car that had hit her was made of metal, cold, cold metal – like lockers, thought Lucinda. Just like lockers. Throughout the ceremony, she was quiet, her face drawn and expressionless. She rocked back and forth, saying lockers over and over with more breath than voice, as airy as the feather from a dead bird, more zephyr than tempest. On the outside, at least.

Inside, the plaster volcano became real. It erupted, lava spurting out of the crater, the side vents, just like blood, like Maureen’s blood…

Lockers, she whispered to herself. Lockers. If only she were as frigid as them, then maybe she wouldn’t want to tear her heart beating out of her chest. Maybe she wouldn’t want to tear her hair, claw out her entrails, beat her fists against the ground until they were red and raw.

The people – those people, this is just a job for them, isn’t it – had finished speaking. Now they were covering her, lowering the coffin into – what were they doing?

“No!” screamed Lucinda, and she ran, thrusting aside the grasping hands, like brambles, remember the time you went hiking with Mara and the rest of the kids at camp? Remember, past the faces that seemed just like masks, fake, what are you people hiding?! You’re hiding Mara, aren’t you, that’s why you’re putting her into the ground, she never wanted to be underground, she loved the sky, she…

Lucinda kicked the shovel away from that person’s hands, half-jumped and half-fell into the hole, the grave, and pried desperately at the cover, ignoring the dirt that showered down everywhere onto her back. Scalding tears carved down her face. Who cared that she was getting her dress dirty and torn when they were burying Mara, they were burying Mara.

It hurts, she thought. It hurts.

Do lockers hurt?


“Lucinda, how do you feel?” The counselor’s face stared earnestly at her from behind the round glasses.

“I do not feel.”

“Would you like to explain what you mean?” he asked, leaning across the desk.

She looked over the counselor’s shoulder to the filing cabinet behind him. “Lockers are made of metal, so they can’t hurt, even if you run over them in a car, because there are no nerves. Coffins are the same. There’s no brain to interpret the signals, but there are no signals anyways, and coffins don’t have hands so they can’t bury people. Since they’re made only to hold corpses, they don’t have any future. It would be better if they were empty, like lockers in the summer. Maureen Murphy’s locker is empty.”

Blinking far too rapidly, she whispered, “Empty lockers have nothing inside.”

And then she screamed.


Two days later, Lucinda Prospero was admitted into an asylum.

--

This is a story whose original premise was developed sometime in early 2008 and heavily revised over the summer of 2009.

(Also found here.)