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Month: November 2009
I’m writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month. I’ve decided to do it here, and will be adding to this post throughout the month. The task is to write 50,000 words between November 1-30th. We’re not supposed to edit or review so this is the first draft, but I thought it might be interesting to follow the process. Here’s more info on www.NaNoWriMo.org – (c) 2009 Sophia Kelly
(Note: I originally posted the raw draft, but replaced it in December with a more edited similar sized excerpt of the book. After I wrote the sex scene that comes next, I decided to keep the rest of it off the net for now)
The way in which we experience and interpret the world obviously depends very much indeed on the kind of ideas that fill our minds. If they are mainly small, weak, superficial, and incoherent, life will appear insipid, uninteresting, petty, and chaotic. ~EF Schumacher
It was a dark and stormy month. November in Vancouver is always a bit cold. People who can, stay inside, except for the soccer players, who are crazy and run around in the mud and cold like it was any other day. Lucy found all her great tentatively anchored new good habits, to go for long walks daily, to garden and get outside to see the sky, washed out like a chalk drawing on the wet sidewalk.
Lucy’s friend, Michael, had other ideas. A confirmed gym bunny, or whatever guys with tight butts who go to the gym all the time are called, he liked the different quality of gym time in the winter. The condensation on the windows of the second floor the Ron Zalco’s gym he went to prevented people from looking out and so people talked to one another more. You had to. The place was so crowded these days by people antsy to move but unwilling to get cold and clammy, that there was always someone asking to work in on your set, and conversations just happened.
“You should come to the gym with me sometime” he told Lucy. You’d get to like it, and it might make you feel better. There are lots of interesting people there…”
“Which part of it would I like more, the sore muscles or the slipped vertebra when I put something out of joint trying to lift the damn weights?” Lucy snorted. “Or maybe listening to my attractive puffing and panting in a nice public place where people can hear?” Lucy liked exercise that was dignified, or, failing that, done to loud music so no one could hear her asthmatic lungs cope with the unaccustomed strain. Chatty men with cute butts were in no position to know what would make a perimenopausal amazon like herself happy.
Walking slowly to the escalator, they left the food court and wandered upstairs. Lucy liked shopping with Michael. He shared her taste for rapid browsing, non-engagement with salespeople and Purdy’s ice cream bars with fresh melted chocolate and toasted nuts that were so fresh and crunchy they squeaked on your teeth. After she had lost Brenda, Michael had helped keep Lucy moving, even if it was only on the mall level.
Hugging Michael goodbye, Lucy buttoned her coat and headed out the side doors of the mall and onto a courtyard that was, if not exactly rain proof, was at least sheltered from the wind. The old stones were time roughened, or perhaps time smoothed from a rougher state centuries ago. Looking up in the too-early-to-be-dark wintering sky, she noticed that the moon was a wee sliver of platinum coloured light, pale like blonde baby hair against the black. Just past new moon, waxing crescent. Brenda would have said that it was a time for good new beginnings. But not to Lucy. Not anymore.
“I wanted my life to be a science fiction novel”, thought Lucy. “Where anything could happen, and the truths that seem to hold me from stretching out into life were only one version of reality, and a highly unlikely one at that. I wanted to live in a world where Brenda and I could just be who we were”.
Brenda had disappeared. On purpose, probably.
“I don’t know why you need to tell everyone. It’s not something I need.” she’d said during their last, dismal failure of a fight, precipitated by Brenda once again allowing her mother to set her up on a blind date with a man. Brenda’s need to pretend to herself that she wasn’t gay had been understandable at first, but had begun grating on Lucy, who wanted to go out with other couples. She wanted to stop pretending they were just roommates. Her partner of two years should not be going on fix-ups with men just because she was too chicken to tell her mother she was already in a relationship. Brenda’s religious guilt and, to Lucy’s mind, intrusive family, were big blocks around her neck pulling her into the closet and anchoring her there.
The sex, once phenomenal, had dried up. They were barely talking, and had become room mates in truth again.
Then one day, Brenda was gone. Had Brenda told her family and they’d come to pick her and her things up while Lucy was at work? Had they hauled her off to some bible camp to be brainwashed and married off to some church scion? Lucy had even called Brenda’s mother in Abbotsford, who said she hadn’t heard from Lucy and didn’t know where she was. Somehow Brenda doubted that.
This courtyard was where they had first met. Not in the rain, obviously, because they’d never have sat out here for so long, finishing the last of their lunches while watching the birds finish the last of someone else’s and then fly off. The seagulls had been brazen, and had sneaked up beside Lucy and nearly stolen half of her good roast beef sandwich. Brenda had leapt to Lucy’s defence and waved her umbrella like Xena the Warrior Princess. For someone who was such a strong presence in the rest of her life, so articulate and decisive, Lucy couldn’t understand why Brenda had quailed at this last, seemingly straightforward challenge, to be honest about her life.
Lucy had told her mother that she was interested in women when she was 19. They’d been walking on the beach on one of her mom’s visits to town, and her mom had asked about her friends. “Do you hang out with any guys?” She asked, looking sideways at Lucy. Lucy drew a deep breath and answered honestly. “Not really, I have a couple of good guy friends, but most of them are gay.” Long silence. “I thought that might be the case.” said her mom, and changed the subject. But her mom had liked Brenda, and had treated them just the same as she treated her brother and his girlfriends, so Lucy figured that even though they didn’t discuss her being lesbian, her mom was fine about it.
Lucy passed the bench where a lone seagull squatted. No squabbling for leftovers today, he’d have to go back to eating fish. “Better for you anyhow” Lucy admonished him. “Omega 3 fatty acids are good for birds you too, I’m sure.” She reached the end of the courtyard and went down to the water, walking along the large rocks that line the shore, slowly to avoid slipping on the wet underfoot. It was barely raining now, only misting. By Vancouver standards, that really didn’t count as rain. The mist was enough, fortunately, to keep the beach relatively clear, and she could pretend she had it all to herself. She might even be able to cry, here, surrounded by the comforting sound of the waves slipping back and forth, and the big grey belly of the Mother Ocean behind them.
Lucy could feel the mist swirling around her as she walked, getting to almost pea soup thickness. It reminded her of the festival of Samhain, when they’d visualize visiting the island of apples, Avalon where the dead go to rest before being reborn. Stories of getting lost in the mists and having adventures were a folkloric staple, as were tales of coming back after only a few days to discover years had passed.
Her shoes weren’t the best for this kind of thing. Brenda was always after her about wearing her nice clothes and shoes when she indulged a sudden desire for gardening, or fixing something outside, or walking a muddy beach. Well, Brenda wasn’t here to judge, she told herself rebelliously. She could walk just fine in a leather sole on a slippery rock. It was just like walking on ice, and she’d done that often enough growing up. She’d be….
Lucy’s ankle wrenched as she went down on the rock, hitting her butt and back of head. A person standing on the courtyard above, if someone had been there, would have seen the mists wash over her, hiding her from view.
The sunlight was frighteningly bright. Looking out over green hills and birch trees with light green leaves. “I’m looking out over green hills and birch trees…” thought Lucy, dazed and pleased and then less dazed and less pleased. “What the hell?” she thought.
Looking down, she noticed her clothes and shoes were gone. Every stitch. She was naked, on a rock in a strange forest in the sun. Craziness.
“I must have hit my head harder than I thought”, she thought to herself. Nearby, neatly folded on a rock was a cream coloured soft fabric tunic, with thick handknit socks and soft leatherlike boots. Seeing no reason not to, she pulled them on. The rock she found herself sitting on looked familiar, just a little.
Just out of sight around one of the trees, she saw movement, and a woman emerged from the forest and started coming toward her purposefully. “Good, you’re here. Come this way.” she said, as if greeting a woman who’d popped into existence in a clearing was part of her every day duties. Then, seeing Lucy was rubbing the back of her head, she added as an afterthought, “do you need medical attention?”. Her speech had a slight accent that Lucy couldn’t place.
Lucy looked up at the woman from where she was sitting. The woman was beautiful in a solid no nonsense way that Lucy liked a lot. Slightly taller than Lucy’s average height of 5’6″, she was fairly broad shouldered and carried herself with posture that Lucy’s chiropractor would have approved of. Lucy’s chiropractor was always giving Lucy exercises to do to strengthen the muscles in her upper back to balance her largish bust. Lucy met the woman’s startlingly blue eyes for a moment and shook her head.
The woman’s hair was pulled back in a low ponytail. She wore no makeup, and a tunic similar to Lucy’s, with sturdy looking boots.
“Sorry about your clothes” she said. “It doesn’t bring those. You’d think materializing you with your clothes on would be better than bringing you through naked, in case the weather was terrible. Although come to think of it, it never is.”
“What are you talking about?” Lucy said a bit rudely. “Who are you?”
“Oh, sorry” said the woman, pushing back a wisp of blonde hair from her forehead in a way Lucy suddenly found facinating. “I’m Mariha, Mariha Birch. This is going to be confusing for awhile, I’m afraid, and I’m not sure what I can explain to you yet. But we mean you no harm.”
With that, the woman turned and began walking back toward the forest. Lucy didn’t see any reason not to follow.
The path narrowed a bit and the ground underfoot got a bit boggy after a few minutes of fairly brisk walking. Lucy found herself panting and wheezing, as usual, from her asthma. Mariha didn’t seem to notice, but slowed her pace slightly, which Lucy appreciated. She also appreciated the boots and soft socks. Her ‘girl shoes’ would have been more hopeless here than they had been on the wet seaside boulders she’d been walking on earlier.
Their trudging fell into a steady rhythm and Lucy found herself listening to the leaves rustle. Looking up she could see blue sky in places through layers of soft green leaves, lit up in the sunshine. As she let the peace of the place fill her, she found her breathing eased a little.
Mariha stopped for a moment and drank a little from a canteen looking thing she wore on a strap over her shoulder. She offered some to Lucy. “Water?” Lucy drank a little and caught her breath. She’d been studying the woman’s back for some miles now, but hadn’t hadn’t exchanged much in the way of words. She felt like she was getting pulled along in Marija’s wake, a bit like she did with Brenda, now that she thought of it. Brenda had a way of sweeping you into things, that at first Lucy found endearing. Swept her into her bed, and then into the closet pretty quickly, once it became clear that was the only way Brenda would have a relationship. At first Lucy hadn’t noticed, since she pretty much didn’t want to get out of bed when they were together, but after awhile she picked up that Brenda would show her no affection at all if anyone else was around. Even Brenda being closeted with her folks wasn’t a big deal, if they weren’t always trying to find her a man.
“What am I doing? Where the hell am I?” thought Lucy bracingly to herself. “This is a crazy situation, and I’ve just been going along like a good girl”. Just like with Brenda, Lucy found that with an attractive woman leading the way, she didn’t much care. “How sick is that?” She thought. However, what else was there to do, really?
Finally, the forest opened out to a sloped clearing containing a large adobe coloured circular building. It appeared to be made of some kind of concrete, or maybe even actual adobe. The walls had a comforting curved warm earth-toned look to them, and several of the windows were round as well. A sculpted relief showing trees and what looked like agriculture scenes flowed along the walls, inlaid with what looked like bits of glass and stones.
Mariha stopped at a small fountain near the entrance and splashed water on her face, drinking some and sprinkling water lightly down the front of her tunic and over her hair. It was an automatic gesture that looked like she’d done many times. Lucy awkwardly drank a little water from her hands, finding that it tasted slightly of iron. Now that she was right at the fountain, she saw that the water had a reddish tinge and seemed to stain the fountain itself a bit red. The water looked like it flowed from a stream nearby and then empties back into it once it had made its tour of the pool. The edges of the fountain were surrounded with shells, lozenge shapes, and sensual looking pale rose flowers.
Past the pond was a curving half wall that bordered the walk that led to the front entrance. Lucy snapped out of looking at the fountain and scrambled to catch up to Mariha. The door looked to be carved of a single piece of wood, fir – if she remembered her woodworking classes in high school – with a curved top and a latch like handle. Mariha opened the latch and held the door for Lucy. Then followed her in to the slightly cool interior.
Inside a lot of the light came from skylights curving around the ceiling. Looking up, Lucy could see what looked like strandboard beams supporting the roof, made up of multiple long slivers of wood glued together. She’d seen them at the PNE one year, as part of a green building exhibit. They had been called green, because they were supposedly a way to have nice long strong wood beams without needing to cut down old growth trees.
Lucy looked around, registering a kind of vestibule with a series of small doorways and one large one, like a church. “Is this a church?” she asked.
“Not exactly, I mean, all of our forest gathering places are sacred, of course, but it is not a church, not in the way I think you mean.” said Mariha.
“Well, where are we, then? What happened to me? What’s going on?” Lucy was beginning to feel like it was time for Some Answers. “It’s not that I’m not happy to be out of the rain, but you have to tell me what is going on.”
“I will tell you what I can. A few years ago, we discovered that the rocks in the place where you emerged from would from time to time deliver us a person from some period in the past or future. It’s like we’re a way station of some kind. The person stays for awhile and then, without us really knowing why, disappears again. We’ve worked out a schedule in relation to the sun and moon, and are getting better at predicting when women arrive, but not exactly when they leave.”
“Women? only women?”
“So far. You’re the sixth woman to arrive so to date.”
“Can I meet the others?”
“Eventually, I think you will, although none of them are here right now, and only four remain.” At Lucy’s alarmed look, she added quickly “Two disappeared again about a month ago. This will all make more sense after ou talk to your Elder. She’s waiting for you in the central hall.”
Mariha led Lucy to the main doors, and into the central hall. The hall was a large circular room with a high ceiling. Benches in a circular pattern lined the circle two deep. In the centre was a beautiful mosaic floor pattern divided like a pie into foursections in colours of red, green, blue and yellow, that looked like it was made of glass tiles. Looking closely the mosaic had scenes of fire and trees and what looked like wind and water, each in it’s own coloured section. A woman who looked to be about Lucy’s mother’s age sat on a bench in the inner circle, to one side.
The woman rose to greet them. “Thank you Mariha, for bringing our guest in. It looks like the schedule is as accurate as we thought.” she said. “At first the newcomers would wander through the forest and became quite tired and hungry before we located them or they found us. This is a lot more civilized.”
Civilized was right. Looking around the room, Lucy saw that over to the side was fresh fruit and vegetables, a pitcher of what looked like the spring water from outside and some delicious looking bread. Lining the walls were beautiful tapestries that looked as if they were meant to mirror the trees outside. The tapestries were so detailed that she could almost feel the leaves move in them. The skylights in the ceiling were made of a transparent material of uneven thickness, which provided a mottled light, primarily in the centre of the space. It gave the place the feel of being in a clearing in the woods, except with far more comfort. A fountain at one end provided a low burble that gave a restful undertune to the space, and Lucy found herself relaxing in spite of her unusual circumstances.
Seeing Lucy’s eyes notice the food, the woman moved over to the food table and took a seat on the outer ring of seats, motioning Lucy to sit opposite her on the other ring. “Can I offer you something to eat?”
“Perhaps in a moment”.
“My name is Rosemary, and I think Mariha will have probably explained that I am Elder here.”
“Yes, but I don’t exactly know what that means”
“Well, I’m the person in charge of holding this gathering space both physically and spiritually for the people who come here, which includes the nearby holy forest. Since the travelling stones have showed up near here, they have been given to my care as well. I’m called Elder in part because of my extreme age, but also it’s just the name this role assumes.”
Lucy didn’t feel it was polite to ask how old Rosemary was, but wondered how young people died here if this woman was considered extraordinarily old. Rosemary’s face had a few wrinkles, like Lucy’s did, and her hair had quite a bit of grey, but she wouldn’t have put her at over 65, at the most.
Lucy’s thoughts must have showed on her face, because Rosemary said “You’re wondering how old I am.” She smiled. “Some of the others were confused too. It seems people in your time have environmental factors that make them age prematurely, so I’m not looking old enough to you?” She chuckled and shook her head. “I assure you I am old enough to have great, great, great grandchildren. Our people generally live to 150 or so, and I’m well past that. “
The rock basked in the sunshine of this clearing. Of all the times it inhabits, this one was/is/will be its favourite, so it focuses its attention here often, usually when it can feel the warm sun and strong pull of the full moon. A trick of the moon sometimes allowed it to bring along a traveller. This latest soft-bodied one had seemed so wrong for her time, like that other one had. The rock is old, as rocks go, in this time especially, and it’s worn soft surfaces absorbed the radiance and pulled it deep inside.
The rock couldn’t remember when it had developed this skill. Like all rocks, it could be in multiple times at once. Most rocks learned this in the first millennium or so. It was only the fresh lava who hadn’t yet mastered it. Most of the beings seemed to be stuck in time. Some long lived trees and fungi developed the ability of being in many times at once, but since they were easier to destroy than rocks, few who learned the skill lasted long enough to get really good at it.
The ever reincarnating spirits of people and animals did have a sort of permanence, but didn’t often retain enough memory while in body form to get the hang of being in more than one time at once for more than a glimpse or two. These commonplace abilities aside, the ability to bring the soft ones along when shifting focus from one time to another was not common. At least the rock thought so. It was not widely known among the rocks of this rock’s acquaintance.
“The Weaver” the rock thought. Yes, that was who had helped Rock learn this skill. She had demonstrated it once, moving a doe forward in time to prevent her species from becoming extinct. She said not to do it often, though. “Wouldn’t want people to catch on. They need to know the consequences of their actions. Just enough.” she said with a wink.