UPDATE: OK, I lied about the “just for tonight” part. Turns out I really need to hold myself accountable and get some work done, so I’ll be continuing to update here probably for a few days.
The last few days have been tough. Really tough. Blame it on exams, blame it on Christmas, blame it on PMS, blame it on being lazy, blame it on… whatever, but the writing – that is, the first draft of my current novel-in-progress – has been tough going. So for tonight, (yes, it’s night here, hence the picture of coffee beans on the front page) in order to give myself the kick in the ass I need to finish the damn thing, I’ll be updating the current chapter, here on this post one-paragraph at a time. Making my work public has been one of the greatest motivators for me in the past few weeks. This is why, instead of hiding away the first-draft fragments I’ve managed to scribble, I’m going to put them up here… fragment by fragment until the next chapter is FINISHED. When it is, it will go up with the rest of Skyland, which, if you like, you can read on Pandamian.
Or you can stick around here and read about writers, readers, free books, and pirates while I type pound madly away at the keyboard and crank out updates.
The fragment so far . . .
The chair maker shivered.
The tea was warm this time, but it didn’t warm him. He drunk the little ships’ reflections, black needles flying in the brown tea. The water in the cup shrunk with each ship and so did the reflections, so did the swarm of ships. He drank some more. Some more ships disappeared. He wondered whose ships they were and where they had come from. But it was not much of a distraction.
He looked up.
“Can’t… can’t I go back now?”
The professor sat in the corner–on the dirt floor, there were no chairs here–his arms were crossed over his chest and his head nodded down, bending weakly on its long, thin neck. His head bobbed up for a second to answer.
“No, gramps. It’s not safe.” He leaned back against the wall. “Get some rest. It’s almost morning.”
“I’m… I’m not tired.”
The chair maker was indeed sitting on a bed. But his head couldn’t stay on the pillow. Instead he sat and looked out the window and looked into the tea he drank and looked around at the home that wasn’t his and looked. He had sat like this all night. About him he heard the movement of the house’s inhabitants, rising from sleep and moving about preparing food.
The professor had taken off his broken glasses and his eyes just looked baggy now. Dark circles hung under them and the skin around was puffed slightly. The sun was rising and it shone yellow on the side of his face. The other side was a pale moon in the shadowed room.
The hot night was turning to scorched day.
He looked out the window, he didn’t think he’d seen where they were before. Buildings rose in the distance, but immediately on the outside of the window and for a mile everywhere he looked, there was nothing. Brown dirt, sterile and dusty, glowed yellow-brown in the morning light. The bridge rose white over the trickling river in the distance. They were on the outskirts of the city.
The woman whose name he still did not know patted his shoulder. She looked sad, but smiled with her lips. Her eyes were round and reflective with a sheen of tears, unshed. She was pretty despite them.
He didn’t really want any more tea but he didn’t want to be rude. He held out his cup and the woman poured water over the soggy leaves.
The chair maker threw himself off the bed onto the ground, arms over his head. For the third time in twenty four hours, shards dug into his hands. He drew his knees in and covered his head, lay fetal on his side, broken shards cutting into the calluses on his hands. The house seemed to rattle around him.
But it was not an explosion.
There was no heat, no fire. Not in the house, not outside. No glow in the air, save for the sunlight beating in the window. No smell of melting plastic, no crackling of charring wood.
The chair maker looked up.
The door hung off his hinges, but it wasn’t flames devouring the house. It was men.
Something stuck in his neck, a splinter or needle or a shard of the broken teapot or something… he raised a hand to feel it, to pull it out.
Then he slept.
The chair maker shivered.
His ear screamed in pain; the cartilage was folded under his head as he lay on his side. He lifted his head, clutched his ear and took a breath. The air froze in his lungs. When he breathed out a cloud of white mist rose in front of him. He pushed himself to his knees and this time instead of dirt floor and china shards, his hands pressed against the sleek gloss of an obsidian floor.
The chair maker shivered. Again. He turned his head.
His nose had knocked into something hard. Rubbing his face with one hand and his ear with the other, he looked around. A sharp corner protruded over a table leg, black and shiny like the floor.
The chair maker looked over the edge of the table to see who had spoken. A man with a sat at the other side. He looked over the table at the chair maker still kneeling on the floor. A white beard, closely clipped and a few too-long strands of white hair framed a blank face. The face was perfectly still like the hands folded in front of him.
“Sit,” the man said again.
The chair maker didn’t want to do what the man said, but his knees shook and his arms shook and his head nodded. Eyes barely open he felt his way to the chair and sat down. His head dropped into his hands. He rubbed again at his sore ear and his bruised nose, and the discomfort shook his near-sleeping mind awake.
He lifted his head. The man across the table waited. The chair maker looked around the room. Only for a second. There wasn’t anything to see. Black walls, black table, black door. His reflection looked back at him from around the room. He sighed sleepily and mist rose from his breath. His hands abandoned his still hurting ear and nose as he wrapped his arms around himself, rubbing them, still shivering.
The chair maker looked up at the sound of his name.
“Mr. Carpenter, we need your help.”
He stared at the bearded man, who remained completely still except for his lips as he spoke. He was like a statue, and the chair maker didn’t want to talk to a statue, but the man was silent for a moment, still eyes fixed across the table, waiting.
“I-I… there’s nothing I can… I can’t help… anything, I need to get back to–to -to my wife … she is back–back at the shop–at my shop. She didn’t… she didn’t… make… Where are we?” He shut his eyes. The image of white hair nearly gone, burned off wisps floating up in a smoky workshop, the smel of burning fuel, burning wood, burning varnish, burning… He didn’t want to talk about his wife. “Where are we?”
We need your help. “I don’t understand why–why I’m–”
“We need your help. So if you’ll just answer a few simple–”
“Why is it so cold?”
“Think of the temperature as a… timer.”
“A timer. It’s simple. You answer a few of our questions and the temperature stops falling.”
“A… a timer?”
“As you’re body temperature falls, you’ll start experiencing the stages of hypothermia–”
“You’re… killing me?”
“Not at all.”
“We just need you to answer a few questions. Preferably before the… time expires.”