As you all know, I am a NaNoWriMo Rebel.
Here’s the story I’ll be continuing for NaNoWriMo.
It’s horribly long and far from an ideal reading format. And so I’m going to break it up into chunks of about 1000 words (about the length of my usual rambling posts.)
Don’t worry, I don’t expect people to read it! I just need to put my work somewhere to be held accountable for it. And since this is the place I come most often, it’s going to shack up here for a while. It was supposed to be uploaded to the special NaNoWriMo section of Smashwords where you could then download it in whatever format you preferred. But that doesn’t seem to be working quite right yet. So until it does, or I can find another home for a raggedy in-progress first draft it’ll be depositing it here.
And please remember guys, NaNo is for writing shit fiction.
I dusted off this story after several months and cringed at several seriously rough patches. But in the true spirit of NaNoWriMo, I’m not doing any writing on outside pieces (ALL prose will be written in November) and leaving editing for December.
So if anybody decides to nitpick, they will be met with a swift and decisive ARRRRRRRRRRRRG! (That being said: non-nitpicking is perfectly fine, and in fact welcomed gratefully.
Good: This scene/character doesn’t make sense/isn’t believable/ because of X…
Bad: That adverb on line 3 of the 25th paragraph really could have been eliminated, and the adjectives in paragraphs 37-40 are really too tell-y…)
I’m still working on a title. I wanted to go with Skyland, but when I googled it I found this. So I’m not sure what it’ll end up being called. But for now I’m sticking with Skyland. Yeah, real creative. I know.
Oh shut up. I write stories, not titles.
The bleached needles towered over the city and the villages like the long bones of giants dead in the sand. There were nine giant ships impaling the sky. Harper shuddered at the audacity of building such monstrosities. He squinted at the rocket ships, and hoped that he looked angry. He crossed his arms and planted his feet far apart in the stance his father always assumed when denouncing the appalling construction. Harper hoped he looked as determined and wrathful as the old man always did.
The folk in the city thought the first ship would leave tonight. They thought they would get off this dried up prune of a planet. They were wrong. Not one rocket would fly, not today, not ever.
“Abomination,” Harper hissed, and spat in the dirt, an admirable impersonation of his father.
A hand slapped him hard on the back, and he tried not to flinch. His father grinned, white teeth speckled by the green leaf he was chewing.
“Not for much longer,” he assured his son. “Not for much longer.”
He tore off another leaf the size of two of his field-toughened hands from the puckered and chalky green bunch he held, and handed it to Harper, who was not hungry. He took it anyway and folded the entire thing into his mouth to hamper speech. His father did not miss this gesture; he looked over and chuckled.
“No shame in being afraid, son,” he said. “It takes fear to be brave instead of foolish. And my son is no fool.”
Harper did not answer; his mouth was too busy pulverizing the tough leaf. His teeth ground against grains of dirt. No amount of washing could tease out all the specks of grime hidden in the folds. They added a dirty taste that almost covered up the bitterness of the kale.
Kale was one of the only things that would grow on this rock. The farmers grew it in the small patches of precious soil that had not yet been eaten up by the sterility that consumed most of Skyland. The bitter flavor reminded Harper of why the ships must not fly.
Sterility is the punishment of the Sky, he thought, repeating his father’s words.
Over the past few days, he had had to remind himself many times of this fact. Otherwise he would forget. The sermons he had heard since birth had never taken root in his own mind. The edicts of the Sky-reverends had never flourished for him, and needed constant tending to be remembered.
Even now, watching the ships towering in the distance Harper felt more inclined towards awe than outrage. Such constructions were abhorrent and proud, but they were great feats of man. The city dwellers who flew in them would be trespassers against the heavens, yet they would also be closer to the Sky than the most devoted farmers had ever been.
They are weapons against heaven. He repeated more of his father’s sermons to push out ambivalence. Then he turned his back on the ships; it was easier to focus when they were not within his sight. It was too late for reconsideration. He headed back towards the house that stood behind them and the old man followed.
Inside in the shack’s one room, almost a dozen villagers were gathered. Waxy leaves were spread over a round table in the center of the room where six people sat working. The others crowded around behind them. Everyone laughed and sang and chatted as they worked.
There were mounds of dark earth on the leaves. These were being piled into small metallic cylinders. It was a slow process, pinching the soil between thumb and forefinger, and dropping it into narrow cartridges. The other fingers did not touch the specks of dirt; less was wasted when it was not smeared all over the hands.
On a planet that grew almost nothing, fertilizer was gold. Every bit of waste–human, animal, plant–was composted to feed the dwindling crops. Bands of hunters went out searching for the scarce piles of dung left by the few animals that still lived on Skyland. Gatherers harvested the inedible vegetation to feed the soil. Packs of desperate peasants would raid homes, even daring to enter the city residences, for any scrap of food or organic waste that could be composted. Still, the growing demands of the city population taxed the fields.
The century of drought and soil degeneration had forced the villagers to devise better and better compounds for fertilization. With meager access to the chemists’ materials of the city, progress nearly stagnated many times. But the farmers dug deep into their inheritance of alchemical traditions and their reserve of tenacity, and they persisted. Without this effort they, and the rest of the planet, would never have survived this long.
The best formulas, however, were reserved for special purposes. The most advanced, most concentrated samples were secreted away until days like these.
When each cartridge was filled, the one who had filled it held it up.
“To the Sky!” he would say.
“Sky! Sky!” the others responded.
Harper’s insides were a snarled mess of trembling guts. He could not watch this ritual. Today, there was only one thing that could calm him.
He slipped quietly out the back door. The laughing chatting people around the table did not notice.