Down the rabbit hole

#NotNaNoWriMo begins! And what an unexpectedly prolific beginning it was!

#NotNaNoWriMo begins! And what an unexpectedly prolific beginning it was!

Well, OK.

I’ll admit I wasn’t particularly optimistic about this project. And to be entirely fair, it’s far too early to say that this enterprise won’t sink. I can already see lots and lots of icebergs ahead. But at least I started, right on time.

First day of November, first 500 written words. Actually, more like 800+, a fact you may have no doubt I will soon use as an excuse to write far less in the days that are to come!

My biggest concern was that I haven’t actually written anything in a while (no, years) so didn’t think I had any stories in me at the moment. Sometimes while walking home from work I would try to create plot lines in my head but nothing would come. So today, when I found myself sitting in front of a blank page, I was pretty much ready to give in, white flag et all.

And then the first paragraph just appeared in my head. And right after that a name. OK, the name was lifted, to be completely honest, from Terry Pratchett’s Equal Rites, but it was by pure chance! I read that book ages ago, and the name just suited my protagonist perfectly! Then after the name came the rest. I started typing and typing and from without even knowing where it was going I suddenly got to have a precise setting and an ending. Well, the final result is definitely not Discworld material, but rather Philip K. Dick inspired. (In case you were wondering, I did not leave it blank. But telling you which author it is would be a dead giveaway! If you don’t mind spoilers, just highlight that blank space. Otherwise do it after reading my piece and see if you guessed it right.)

Concerning the aim of this project, as I mentioned #NotNaNoWriMo is about not writing a novel in a month. My goal is to write steadily for a month a minimum of 500 words of fiction every day. If a novel came out of that, it would be amazing, but from what I’ve written so far I highly doubt it. Left alone, this could easily be a piece of stand-alone flash fiction. I guess that if I really put my mind to it, I could carve a novel out of it. But I wouldn’t want to overcommit. Which is a word that doesn’t exist, but hey, nobody went to Shakespeare declaring “No, Will, you really cannot do this to the English language!” so why can’t I make up words as I go?

Please bear in mind that this hasn’t been properly edited yet, but do not hesitate to comment with punctuation, grammar or phrasing advice! Any fresh pair of eyes can only help, believe me!

Day 1 of #NotNaNoWriMo
The Walk

Eskarena gripped hard at her scarf against the gusts of wind. Despite the sky being absolutely clear blue and the sun shining strong, the temperatures could drop suddenly but surely as soon as you stepped into the shade. And this forest seemed to have a lot of shade. She pulled the scarf up to her nose so that her breath could keep her warm and noticed that goosebumps had appeared right below her wrists. She stared at them in wonder: Why? Why would her brain do that? It made no sense whatsoever. She didn’t even have any hair on her arms. Stupid brain.

As she walked alongside the road a car passed by going in her same direction. It wasn’t driving at a particularly high speed, yet it quickly vanished from sight as Eskarena counted in a whisper.

She cursed.

“That was less than a minute! I knew I should’ve got a car!”

She stomped her feet hard as she marched on, her cursing turning into a rude mantra of sorts.

“Well, you don’t actually know how to drive, though, do you?”

Haikand was walking a couple of steps behind her, looking perfectly snug and poised with his burgundy cowl wrapped around his neck and shoulders. Haikand was always perfectly equipped for any situation. Haikand was a knob.

She rolled her eyes at him. “Why would that even matter?”

“You know why. Things must be exactly the way they are, we cannot just tamper with reality.”

“I know that!” She resisted the temptation to stick her tongue out at him and decided to just keep marching on. “You could have driven it.”

They went on in silence for a while, then Haikand answered: “Didn’t feel like it.”

Two hours later they had finally reached their destination. The information pamphlet clearly stated that the walk wasn’t estimated to be that long, but that pamphlet just didn’t know about Eskarena’s condition.

They were standing side by side in silence. Haikand observed the dried leaves, flowers and pine cones piled on the rock, clearly an offering by a previous visitor. Eskarena was busy being disappointed.

“That it?”

“That’s Merlin’s Tomb, yes.”

“But it’s rubbish! It’s just… a stone and a smaller stone next to it!”

“According to legend, those stones are all that’s left from the great tumulus the Lady of the Lake had trapped him in.”

“Yeah, right. That’s bollocks.” She shot him a sideways glance. “You know it to be bollocks.”

“I think everyone pretty much agrees that this is not Merlin’s real tomb, yes.”

“Well…!” She looked around as if trying to find the right words. “Well!”

Eskarena stormed off, followed closely by Haikand. “Well?”

“Well who cares about that bunch of rocks anyway, I’m here for the fountain of eternal youth!”

“Eskarena…”

“It’s near here, the brochure says you can find it if you’re pure of heart!”

“Eskarena, the time…”

“Look, it’s worth a shot!”

“I’m sorry, Eskarena.” Haikand’s voice appeared to be coming from underwater, but she then realized she was the one soaking in the connection fluid. She opened her eyes and let them re-adjust to the soft, artificial light of the Imaginarium.

“I’m sorry,” he repeated, “but the time’s up.”

He gently removed the suction cups from her head and body and lifted her. She was so tiny and weightless, he always felt as if his arms could cut right through her. Carefully, he lowered her on the chair, fixed some towels around her so that she wouldn’t catch cold and wheeled her out of the Room. A party of six was waiting outside, clearly ready to complain for staying longer than they should have. As soon as they saw Eskarena on her wheelchair they turned their frowns into polite smiles, a few of them nodded at her as a greeting. That was one of the things she hated the most.

She raised her arm to touch Haikand, lightly. “What was it called?”

Her voice was just a whisper.

“Paimpont forest, October 22nd, 2014”

“I liked it.” Her lips stretched in a little smile. “The sky was so intense. And the cold! And I still had hair.”

They had arrived to her ward. Always paying the closest attention not to hurt her, Haikand raised his sister from the chair, made sure she had dried off, and laid her in the cocoon.

“Would you like me to use it again? I could try booking the Imaginarium for a double session. We could go look for that fountain.” They were holding hands, hers so small and thin in his. To outsiders who didn’t know of the White Plague, the fact that she was ten years his senior would have appeared impossible.

“Nah, take me somewhere hot and new next time. Like Cuba in the 1960s.”

Haikand shook his head, but couldn’t help a grin. He kissed her goodnight and watched as the sedatives took effect. In a few seconds she was out cold and the cocoon enveloped her in the time loop as he wheeled the chair out.

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