December Doldrums

Not really doldrums though. I just like that word.

Here’s the update:

I’ve got an oft-revised draft of a novelette (15k words) prepped for eyes other than my own. I want to get this self-pubbed soon, just to get it out there. It’s something I’m finally comfortable with, and now I just need to know if readers like it too. Otherwise, I’ll write the rest and keep it to myself 🙂

The blurb: Kai is a police officer native to Caraq, but he’s working for the Strahanis who occupied and absorbed his nation into their own. When he has to confront a Caraqtha criminal, he has to decide which side he’s really fighting to save.

Does this blurb suck? I need advice on it!

Anyway, I’m moving on to other storylines related to this Caraqtha/Strahani struggle. Super excited to get this on the roll.

I spent November on NaNoWriMo and wrote a huge backstory novel for one of the minor characters in the aforementioned struggle. I knew the draft would be super suck, so it was a nice exercise in simply learning more about the character and her struggles. It helps inform much of my current work. And writing 1700 words every day also has me primed to continue that trend into December.

Y’know, that month of the doldrums.

Stuck

Another short for WDG
Roughly 500 words

“We should have taken the train,” Dad said for the fifth time. He looked out the passenger window, a worn map crushed in a hand clutching his armrest. Mom, hands perched on the driver’s wheel, did not deign to look at him. I think if she had, she would’ve socked him good. Her shoulders slowly rose and fell.

“You’ve said that already, Larry.”

“Well it seemed like last time I was talking to an empty car.”

“Look at the birds!” I said from my plastic car seat.

Neither of them responded.

“Great,” Mom said, not to me.

Motorcycles streamed past the idling cars. One bike had four people on it. Daughter and son as small as me sandwiched between their dad driving and mom smiling in the back. It looked like the mom was going to fall off—her only purchase the underside of the seat’s lip—leaning back like that. But her black hair was flowing and her smile was the brightest thing I’d seen all day.

“We’ve been sitting in this traffic for two hours. How far have we even gone?”

“Are you expecting my answer to make the cars move, Larry?” She had a way of saying his name like she would say mine when I was in trouble, one of Mom’s many powers.

I giggled.

Dad turned on me. “What’s so funny, Jordan?”

“Don’t yell at her.”

“I wasn’t yelling!”

A seemingly empty car answered him.

The cars ahead moved slightly forward. As they’d been for hours, everyone fuming.

It was really very quiet, and the crummy felt on the plastic seat was sticky, somehow the gum I’d saved for later not returning to me. I plucked at it sucking and wetting my fingers, the gooey strings coming up, spiraling and breaking. I sniffed. I couldn’t save any.

“Do you guys smell smoke?” Dad asked. “Seriously, though, what’s that smell?” He twisted in his seat to look through our back window. “You smell that, Suze?”

“I don’t smell anything, Larry.”

“Is that a fire?”

I pulled at my straps, the thin gray bands around my shoulders. I kicked my legs. My head cramped by the car seat’s walls. “Let me out, I want to see the fire.”

“Honey, there’s a fire,” Dad said in his goofy-trying-to-be-charismatic voice, “and I think we ought to show Jordan what the fire looks like.”

Mom turned to him, and she was smiling. “Ok.”

They burst out of their doors, yelling, “Fire drill, fire drill!”

Mom came to my door and yanked me from my seat and hoisted me on her strong shoulders, my favorite perch, and we ran around the car, looking for the fire, Dad running in the opposite direction, screaming, “You guys see the fire?” Maybe to us, maybe to the other cars.

We were all hollering at the top of our lungs and it felt so good. We ran in more circles around the car. People yelled at us, honked and held their horns.

We got back in the car.

Mom and Dad were out of breath and laughing.

“Where was the fire?” I asked. “I want to see the fire!”

“It’s ok, sweetie,” Mom said, “the fire’s out.”

“Aw,” I said.

The Cipher

Written for WDG.
~500 words
Saint entered the dusty room cautiously, as a man does who has seen horrible things revealed through swung doors. A mattress with rumpled sheets was crammed into the far corner, and a simple wood chair and desk filled the opposite end of the room. Altogether an unremarkable architecture and furnishing.
The floor boards groaned with Saint’s every step. Perhaps they’d not been stepped on in decades. It’d been that long since he’d been here.
He glanced at the yellowed papers he’d pinned to the walls, the dictates, the stately inversions, the inner workings of a burgeoning nation. The notions held in the words were old, idealistic. And dead.
She should be here any minute, he thought. Ten days into the riots, when the viciousness proved insatiable, they had agreed to meet here—the beginning of all things for them. So long ago, this was where they had written their brilliance and led the people. Apparently, any revolutionary can lead the people. He laughed at the circuitousness of it all.
He sat on the bed, a plume of motes geysering around him. They exposed themselves in the thinning sunlight through the single window above him. Between his fingers, he rubbed the moth-eaten sheets, felt the age and memories. He leaned back against the wall. His eyelids drooped. So much running, when would it end?
A floor board creaked. He jerked from his reverie. It was pitch black, the sun gone. He had slept. It was silent again, but his mind was roaring. He willed his eyes to pierce the darkness. He wanted so badly to call out and for her to call back, the singsong of her voice flying to him, but he had done that before and it had cost lives. The agony!
Five minutes felt an hour. Another five a year. His eyes adjusted and he could discern no other persons or new shadows in the room. He quickly went to the desk, his hands scrambling over the surface for the candle and then his pockets for a match. Rare an emotion more powerful than light banishing darkness.
With the candle he revealed the room, identical as his entrance, yet he knew it had been exposed to another presence. It was the odor. The intruder had smelled of earth, ripped grass, the sweat of a horse. But this virus had been a shadow, leaving no marks on the floor, the only breaks in the dusty patterns his own. He sighed, turned and sat in the chair.
There on the desk was a new paper, outstanding in its garish white.
It was written in the old cipher she and he had used in their childhood romance.
It was signed in blood.
It read: We have Rose. Come to the Fifth Parallel.
Saint’s hands trembled as he pulled the paper before his eyes. Backlit by the candle, a ghostly outline of cramped yet graceful text was pulled into existence in the lower left corner.
Fooled them, she said.

Saint laughed. Laughed so hard he cried.

Upon Their Wings

Short story for WDG, inspired by this picture:

~400 words

Kaleo ran beside the beautiful butterflies flying in the dusk light, tittering before him like fairies, zipping this way and that. They came in the fall, when the rest of the valley became a barren landscape of skeleton trees and scraggly bushes. Yellowed grass crumpled beneath his sneakers.
With the sun behind the largest mountain—though it was really more a tall hill—the sky blossomed into a deep vermilion, and the half moon grew more powerful. Yet between that and Kaleo were the butterflies.
            Underneath their fluttering, he laughed and danced as they did. With dusk nearly complete, light fading in each passing moment, the butterflies and their iridescent wings brightened.
            Kaleo followed one in particular. It seemed to coast more than the others, flapping its brilliant emerald to violet to cerulean hues only to settle on incandescent gold. The butterfly arched high in the air, completing a twist and coasted toward its vibrant brethren. They swirled together in a rainbow vortex before breaking apart like a meteor shattering across the atmosphere.
            Kaleo fell to the ground and lay there, quietly, with his hands rested on his stomach, watching the angels pass in the air. 
He dozed for a time.
When he woke, he smiled; they remained above, as always. He held his hand up, inspecting it in the ghostly moonlight. So plain, the skin. Affording no shimmers in the night.
A brilliant idea occurred to him.
With zest, he leapt to his feet. Then crouched.
Overhead, the butterflies continued their striations.
His mother called to him from the porch.
Just a few more minutes.
Make it one minute, Kaleo, dinner is ready.
Nearly there.
A butterfly broke off from the glittering haze, a lost star. It spun alone in the air, keeping time to its own rhythm. Slowly, in downward spirals, it came.
Clap.
Kaleo cupped it between his hands. He smiled to himself. It splashed around within his hermetic finger cage. Slowly, he separated his thumbs, peering in. Only darkness. He frowned and opened his hands. Nothing remained but black splatters across his palms.
A tear fell from his eyes, smudging the bloody stains.
Above him, the other butterflies flickered and went dark. But he knew they were there. He thought they would never light up again. Their vigil lasted seconds. They left him in the quiet night, upon their iridescent wings.
—-

Upon Me

Short poem for WDG.

just a seventh of a second
all it takes, revealing my penchant
to stand against what may come
maybe better yet worse than some
this moment fast to the grave
keeps me alone in this cave
of my mind where solace finds
a lean somber clock that chimes
it is time for hell or heaven
can I believe and reckon in

just a seventh of a second

This Monster of Mine

Another short I wrote for WDG.
About 550 words.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I have a monster. We all have one—personal demons lurking in the dark, stale corners of our souls. In the deepest of my being, I can visit my monster. I shudder to think of her.
I have neglected my monster. For so long, in the pit of my humanity, she has lashed against her fraying tether, never biding her time. I admire her relentless fury, and I fear it.
She howls at me as I approach a pretty girl; she snickers when I speak before a group; she laughs at me always. I never confront her about these things—horrible as she is. I’m not brave enough.
You don’t know my monster like I do. She’s different than yours. You’d realize this the moment you met her. This is one crazy sonuvagun. And she’d stare at you through her red, gleaming eyes, quivering maw waiting to spit condescension.
Under the dawn’s light, I plopped into the tractor seat and disked the rows between my fruitless apple trees, riling up the dirt. The green leaves dimmed under the churned dust. I had just completed the last row when Miss Jasper showed up on her horse, Nilly. I turned off the tractor, the loud engine cutting with a cough. I wiped my brow and nodded as they neared.
“Hey Nilly.”
“Very funny, Travis,” Miss Jasper said. She leaned in the saddle and stroked Nilly’s smooth hair. Miss Jasper had fine auburn hair herself. What I wouldn’t give to—
Very funny indeed, my monster says. Why don’t you tell her about all those feelings?
“Sorry, Miss Jasper, how can I help you?”
“Travis, would you please call me Heather? Makes me feel like my aunt when you call me Miss Jasper. Yes, I know you respect tradition. Thank you.”
I nodded, smiling at the wondrous way she always stared into my canopies, as if discovering them for the first time.
“Anywho, I was wondering…” Miss Jasper’s voice continued on, a pageant of beautiful tones and inflections.
From her darkness, my monster thought, How many times are you going to nod like an imbecile? She knows you’re a dumb ape: your jaw too slack, barely sitting straight.
I gritted my teeth behind tightened lips, yet my soul ached under Miss Jasper’s meandering smile. My heartstrings were at their limits.
I won’t fear you, I thought.
Oh, come down to chat for a change? My monster’s voice was cool and confident.
I won’t fear you.
Easier said than done, little man. You’ve not been down here in some ten years. We all know how that shook out. What makes you think this is any different?
I paused, a fleeting moment, collecting myself. Because I can admit that you’re right, yet I’m also right, and if not for you, I couldn’t prove to myself that I can be different. I’ve always been convinced that you are not me. But that’s not true. I am my monster. And I can be greater than myself.
“Travis, are you listening?” Miss Jasper sounded annoyed, despite her radiant smile.
“Yeah, Heather, I am.” 

—end—

The Lunar Girl

Small short I wrote for a Weekly Write-Up at WDG.
Roughly 600 words.
Her name was Flora, the lunar girl. She tended the Crescent Glaive flowers, those towering silver blades that grew and swayed with the moods of the moon. She glided among them in their patchy groves. Some townsfolk respected her—most fearing her mastery of the Glaives, her instinctive expertise demonized as witchery.
Flora smiled at these accusations. But she never did protest.
A curious old man appeared at her groves one night. He leaned against a wood staff, polished from years of use. He peered between the blades, calling softly, “Flora, I wish to speak with you.” The Glaives rustled beside him. He glanced at them nervously.
Singing to herself, her fingers dancing along the Glaive blades, Flora appeared from the silver spires.
“Hello, my old sir, is there something the matter?”
He waved at the Glaives as they moved with her rhythms and melodies. “I wish you to cease this madness.”
“What madness, old sir?” She tilted her head at him. Her eyes shone like quicksilver in the moonlight. The Glaives seemed to crowd closer, closer yet.
The man took a step back from Flora and reset his staff in the ground. The words came slowly to him.
“You have no idea how your Crescent Glaives are used, do you, Flora?”
She shook her head and smiled, bright white teeth. “What idea do I need to have but that my Glaives are beautiful? That they are grown with love and care and are unrivaled in this world? They are the children of the moon.”
“And they are murder in the sun,” the old man whispered. He ran a cautious finger along a Glaive but pulled abruptly as a thin line of blood bloomed from his skin. “They go to market but are bought for wars and used for death. You know this?”
Flora looked at him suspiciously. “You lie.”
“I do not. My son was killed by one of your Glaives.”
“You lie!” Flora screamed. “They are beautiful. They bring me peace; they grow as only the moon allows. There is no death in them. It is the world that spoils them.”
He raised his thumb to her, the blood congealing. Except it was silver blood. “I will die from this wound,” he said. “As we speak, the blood morphs to liquid silver, poisoning my body. I have a few minutes perhaps. Yet that seems more than I should need.”
Flora stared in horror at his finger. She held it between her hands, mourning it in the moonlight, silver tears falling down her cheeks. “I know nothing beyond these groves.”
“And none know so delicately the power within them. The money from your Crescent Glaives has kept this town alive, yet brought death to many others. Is such beauty worth the destruction it sows?” He staggered, snapping his hand from Flora and clutching his heart. “There is a man, the Silver King, who has made his name in the silvered blood of your creations. They say you are not one of us, just a lunar girl. They are so very wrong.” He collapsed before her.
The townsfolk came from their homes, horrified and awestruck by the fires consuming Flora’s groves. The flames licked the night, burning the stars.
Flora watched, a single shorn Glaive in her hand.
“The Silver King,” she said.

Ponies by Kij Johnson

Read this short: http://www.tor.com/stories/2010/11/ponies

It’s amazing.

That is all.

Hark! The clatters of a keyboard!

Gilda My Dear

~1100 words


They found the child atop a pile of gold and they adopted her without a second thought. Barely a year old, her raven hair flowed, in its waves and frills, around her manger. Dark was her countenance and complexion yet the townsfolk called her the Gilded Child, eventually settling to Gilda, and eventually she looked when the name was yelled at her though it often took several attempts. No one in the town tried to discover her lineage. Asking after her true name earned little more than befuddled glances.

“Call her Gilda and she will respond to you. Take more from an empty pantry, will you?”


Gilda walked through town one day, a young girl of ten. The streets, littered with the extravagancies that her arrival had purchased, were nearly empty of people, the sun arching high overhead and casting its soporific spell upon the town. Everyone slept and sounds were rare. Gilda padded on alone. Seeing her among the barren corridors, one might think to have found a ghost, so lost her gaze and meaningless her path. Yet she wound her way among the buildings, scrawling as she went with a slug of feces stabbed on a stick. In the bleary twilight, the townsfolk found their white walls smeared, picket fences striped. They tore them down and built them anew.

“Jeffery, your damned big dog is running around town with shit on his tail!”

Young suitors from other lands and municipalities came to court Gilda, the Gilded Child. From lands miles and horizons away, they came in rolling caravans, atop hirsute dromedaries, affected by and drawn to the tales of a woman of fortune. But when they arrived in the town, all they found were empty streets. The townsfolk were gone having spent all that remained of the gold twenty years discovered. In the town square, where marble statues hid beneath every gargoyle cornice of the surrounding buildings, Gilda sat among a ruin of crates, fumbling through new clothes and shoes, though they were years out of fashion. The suitors quickly fled.

“As forlorn a land and woman I have never seen and hope to never encounter again.”

Gilda took her time in disassembling the town to reform it in her vision. It did not take long. She was fiercely determined and possessed incredible strength. Neighboring towns could see the billowing dust and smoke from her handiwork. With the broken blocks and splintered timbers, she dragged them together in a heap and day upon night upon day she built her dream. It was beautiful. At heights unimaginable without pulleys, workhorses, and teamwork, Gilda crafted a dark tower, rising over the hills and decrepitude of the town. This too could be seen and feared from afar.

“Darkness does not always come at night.”

“I am not so crazy,” Gilda said.

“No, you are not so crazy.”
“Thank you.”
“But perhaps talking to your reflection may be construed as crazy so you should abstain from doing so in the presence of others.”
A thoughtful pause; “Are you considered an other?”

 “Many times have I walked past that formidable collusion of wood and stone and through the murder holes and machicolations have heard a number of people speaking to one another in pitiless tones.”

Concealed in her tower, Gilda walked easily through her years. She stayed mostly in the upper levels, between the eightieth and the ninety-second, because she detested the pressures of Earth’s surface and believed that gravity made her reflection wrinkle faster. Every other year, she conducted tests to see if there were more wrinkles on her reflection’s face than on her physical face. The results were invariably off by several counts, and Gilda took this as a good sign for the relationship with her reflection, otherwise tensions would rise and give way to bickering, which harried household chores and small talk. In the eighth year of Gilda’s Reformed Calendar—a chart filled with the positions of the stars and the distance between the northern star and the moon—a man appeared at her gates (she used her telescope from the top floor to see him), and he sat there, not speaking, for several months. Initially, she thought him a salesman—a clever one, for she felt tempted to discover his product. Then she thought him a squatter—one that never ate or defecated or swore at himself. It occurred to her after a year’s time that he was dead, had died the moment he sat, and was mistaken by passersby as a grotesque deterrent. She descended to the first floor. This took her ten days.

“Are you alive?”

She approached the carcass cautiously, as if the sun-dried skin, crinkled up like a bad newspaper, would leap from the yellow monkish clothing and surprise and coax her into buying a box of tampons or allowing him within the tower. He was odorless. Gilda bent to inspect his face. Freckles dotted his fleshy cheeks, and a slender white mustache drooped at the sides to a thin white beard. His eyes were shut in calm repose, thin wrinkles extending from the sides like lightning bolts. Slowly, his lips curled into a vast grin, lifting the preposterous mustache. She slapped him.

“Damn you,” she said.

“Have I offended you?” he asked, rubbing the slapped cheek.

“Obviously!”

“I’m not familiar with this custom.”

“It’s everyone’s custom!”

“To be offended?”

“In the way that you’ve done, yes.”

He thought on this for a moment. He opened his mouth to speak, his teeth horridly aligned and white, but he decided against speaking and stared at her. After a day, Gilda gave up and said, “It’s no good playing dead now.”

“I think you are correct,” he said, “but that was never my intent.”

“So rude. One should always have the correct intent behind their actions. I once covered an entire town in dog shit so that the dogs would feel useful.”

“Did it work?”

“I can’t speak to dogs, but they kept shitting and sometimes even more, so only a fool would think it didn’t work,” and she smiled. She felt her face for fear that it was the spontaneous growth of a new wrinkle.

 He nodded.  “You are not so crazy.”

“I have found my other,” Gilda laughed.

The neighbors celebrated when the dark colossus haunting their horizons crumbled, but when they approached, hopeful for ruins, they found two towers jutting from the ground in obscene defiance, as if the predecessor had simply shrunk and duplicated, and at the very top, a skybridge connected the pinnacles and dead in the center sat two figures, holding hands that would never lose touch.
 
—-end—-
I wrote this after reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. My main concern with this brief short is that it represents my writing after reading a masterpiece. I don’t have much hope for the rest of my writing. Therefore, I would like to apologize to Mr. Marquez’s descendants for the transgression(s) that this story imposes on his reputation and achievements. Also, that book was crazy. I’m also aware that skybridge is not a word. It’s staying. SKYBRIDGE. Sleep on it.

Random spin

It was a small and desiccated couch. Soft white cotton intestines billowed out of jagged wounds in the cloth, spilt across the sidewalk and tumbled down the street. They had come in the night, anonymous and frisky, and deprived it of any sanctity. Those looters gone back to their dank hovels, cozied into their couches, satisfied that no wayfarer would find their respite tonight. I shook my head.
There were no lights overhead, the cotton like tumbleweed ghosts, shriveled into themselves and if I glanced away, they might have disappeared just as soon.
One end of the couch had its recliner extended, a hand reaching out for help, instead abused and left hanging and hanging. I wonder if anyone will set it back. It’s just a small gesture. I couldn’t stop. I left it there.
I could use a good nap on a good couch, I think. I miss having a reliable couch around. Like a dog always there to pick you up, smile at you, warm and welcoming. Never with a frosty glare or an icy touch.
They call it a cliché: to miss something only once it’s been taken from you.
What if it’s killed in front of you? What if you discover it by chance? Openly slain and displayed for all to see?
It’s dark. No one will see it.
But it’s there.
 
–end–
I’ve been outlining the third draft for my WIP. So tragic that I’ve had three outlines. I think it means I’m bad at them. But, in my frequent daydreaming spells, I have found subtlety and theme to the previous two outlines that never manifested in the arcs or writing of their drafts. Perhaps it will find its way this time.