Snippets of a Story – April

I’ve been a bit absentee here this month, and I do apologize – a lot has been happening, and it’s occupied the majority of my brain space. I’m NOT going to Colorado this summer, for a majority of reasons – so on the upside, I won’t have to neglect any of you! I’m a chapter away from finishing Paper Hearts, so I’m procrastinating badly. I always do, with that last chapter. It’s like knowing you have to say good-bye to a good friend. I’ve been reading (fiction, of course; but also some non-fiction; currently a book about Shakespeare’s life before he was famous and ‘Man and His Symbols’ by Carl Jung) and yesterday we helped my sister Maralie pack – they’re moving back to Washington! We’re going to miss them. A lot. But here I’m making myself sad. Onward with the snippets!

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Rusty grunted and pulled out one of the books. “I’d forgotten all about this one.”

            I tried to catch a glimpse of the cover, but all I saw was green. “Which one?”

            “It’s a bonus book I wrote – oh, fifty years ago or so.”

            I blinked. “You forgot your own book?”

            “My dear Rooney, I’d forgotten my own name. Things haven’t entirely come back yet.”

            “Maybe you should stop being a wysling and just write books about yourself,” I suggested.

            He either chose to ignore the jab, or it sailed over his head. “That might not be a bad idea.” He settled down on the couch to read his own book, and I prepared pancakes while Patrick paced back and forth on the counter, sticking his head into bowls and sniffing and occasionally stirring the syrup heating on the stove. – Paper Hearts

When I first beheld the isle that was to be my prison, I thought it a harsh, ugly place. Tangled sea-grasses blew in the wind like the mane of a wild pony, and where it did not grow, nothing was visible except lumps of black rock. There was nothing friendly about this place, no sign of welcome. When I asked the ferryman whether the whole isle kept such an austere appearance he assured me that nearer the middle of the island there grew a forest –a dark, unkempt place better suited to wild animals and other creatures.

            “Other creatures?” I had inquired. “What other creatures?”

            He tapped the side of his bent nose with a finger. “Creatures, you know, miss.”

            “No, I do not know,” I replied, my curiosity aroused. “That is why I asked.”

            “Best not to mention unnatural things,” he said. “They can hear it.” – This Rough Magic

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­The city was a good place to get lost in. Sheer numbers gave every individual a kind of anonymity, and Alice wrapped herself in it like a suit of armor or a camouflage coat. Head down, walk quickly, don’t catch anyone’s eye. That was the trap. If you looked someone in the eye, they all seemed to feel like that was the universal code for ‘talk to me.’ Blending in was key. No one was going to go out of their way to talk to a girl who looked like a bad-tempered drug addict. – Impossible Things

She was a hard book to read, my sister. She felt things deeply, but could at times seem so stoic as to be practically Spartan. I remembered one afternoon when we were children, and the rain streaked in abstract patterns down the window-glass, sitting on my bed. I had taken the head and she had taken the foot, and I was brushing her hair with mother’s stiff, pearl-handled brush.

            Out of nowhere, I had asked, “Do you mind?”

            She shifted, tucking her feet under the hem of her nightdress. “Do I mind what?”

            “You know.” Her hair smoothed like honeyed waves down her back with each stroke of the brush. “Being born without…it.”

            She knew what ‘it’ was; I did not have to clarify. ‘Magic’ was a vulgar word that even wizards refrained from using. They preferred to speak of their particular ‘talents,’ as though it would fool everyone else into believing they were ordinary, and not to be feared. It seemed to work on nearly everyone, but in my mind I privately called it magic anyway.

            “No,” she told me. “I don’t mind.”

            “Don’t you miss it?”

            “If I had it and lost it, then I would miss it, but since I never had it, what’s the point?” – This Rough Magic

Something warm and wet in my face woke me up. I gave an indelicate shriek and toppled out of bed – or halfway out, as Rusty caught my arm before my head could hit the wooden floor. Ginger jumped off the bed and ran in circles around my face. I jerked up before she could lick me again.

            I groggily eyed Rusty. “You can let go now.”

            He released my arm and said, “Pancakes.”

            “Hmm?” I pushed my hair out of my face and wished it would behave in the morning. “Pancakes?”

            “That’s what Azrael said. I don’t know what he meant, but he told me to wake you up and say ‘pancakes.’”

            “Oh,” I said, recalling my promise from the night before. “Pancakes. Right.” I slid out of bed and fell off balance to avoid stepping on Ginger’s wagging tail. I stumbled around the edge of the bed and pushed the drapes apart again. Sunlight burst through, bright and welcoming and entirely too cheerful for this time of day.

            “Must be a magic word,” said Rusty.

            “What?”

            “Pancake. I’m going to have to start using it. See if it works miracles for me, too.”

            “It means pancakes,” I said, giving him a blank stare.

            “Apparently it raises the dead, too.” He gave me a pointed once-over and left the room, snapping for Ginger. The dog followed him out with a yapping bark. – Paper Hearts

            “You should be taking therapy, not me.”

            “Ah.” He waved a hand dismissively. “I don’t need it.”

            “Maybe fashion advice, then.” Alice spat a strand of windblown hair out of her mouth. “Your hat went out of style a hundred years ago.”

            He affected indignation. “Hey,” he admonished. “Respect the hat.”

            “It’s not the only thing,” Alice continued. Her apartment block was in sight now, slowly approaching with every step. “That paisley vest thing you wear? I’m not sure it was ever in style. And cravats went out with the Scarlet Pimpernel.”

            “Is that so?” He sounded amused. A young woman with her hair dyed straight-up white walked past them and he watched her until she passed, a strange shade crossing his face. It was gone in an instant, and Alice decided she had imagined it.

            “You should also look into wearing normal shoes now and then,” she added. “Tennis shoes or something. Leather scuffs.”

            He smiled in good-natured response to her criticism. “You’re awfully talkative this afternoon.”

            “It’s an allergic reaction to you,” she said immediately.

            “Oh. Wow.” He patted his coat, above his heart. “You know how to hurt someone’s feelings.”

            “If you’d stop talking to me, that wouldn’t happen.”

            “Ah, but then you would never get any practice.”

            “I’m already so good at it, imagine what I could do if I really tried,” she answered, unable to help the brief smile that flickered across her face. His efforts to pull her out of her shell might be annoying and unwelcome, but they had the irritating habit of working. – Impossible Things

            “It seems like a friendly skull,” I said, sitting down next to it and rubbing it fondly with the palm of my hand. It continued to stare out at Azrael and the marionette with forlorn eye sockets.

            Azrael raked his fingers back and forth through his mass of curly ginger hair until it stuck up in all directions. “It’s a skull, Rooney. It can’t look friendly. It can’t look anything but skullish.” – Paper Hearts

            “Miranda,” I said, but there was only a little reproof in my voice. Neither of us liked the manservant, if he could properly be called ‘man’ anything. Every time he saw my sister, his face took a lecherous turn. He also groveled too much, and it put me off.

            “Prosper,” she said, mimicking my intonation of her name. “Please, can’t you ask him?”

            “No,” I said, jutting out my chin. “I’ll demand it; and if he refuses, I’ll turn him out of the house.”

            “You cannot,” she told me, smoothing the ivory-soft skirt of her dress absently with a pale hand. “You know it.”

            “I do.” I shrugged. “But if we were not allowed to imagine good things in life, where would we be?”

            Her lips twitched, but she managed to level her eyes disapprovingly. “Be kind.”

            “Kindness is not in my nature.”

            She sighed. “What would you be without me?”

            “The mean-hearted wench I was born as.”

            “Nobody is born mean-hearted.”

            “Tell that to Caliban,” I retorted, just as knuckles rasped against my bedroom door. – This Rough Magic

She took a pencil and turned it between two fingers, ready to write down a note or connect two dots, but nothing made sense. Remembering dreams was like pulling all the legs off a caterpillar and still expecting it to be able to walk – crazy and impossible.

            Also pointless. – Impossible Things

His face was wild, his hair strangely feral and nearly indecent without the hat to cover it up.  – Impossible Things

“You know a watched kettle never boils,” he said from the doorway.

            “It’s a watched pot,” she corrected. The handle of the knife dug into her hand, and her thumb strayed down to the blade. “And I’m not watching it. I’m intimidating it.”

            “It’s being defiant.”

            “I’m going to have it beheaded.”

            “I’m not sure it deserves that.” He smiled and, reaching up, touched the neck of his bathrobe, as if feeling personally wounded for the kettle’s sake. – Impossible Things

She’d just have to get over this, too. Maybe she could ask Carol for another kind of pill; anti-hallucination pills or something. It was too bad you couldn’t take straight-up sanity, she thought; shoot it through a vein or swallow it in pill form, or breathe it in like smoke.

            The sanest person in her life was her psychiatrist, and that was a depressing thought. – Impossible Things

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March Snippets

tumblr_mt2kaxh2Vw1sqtd8yo1_500“Have care, my pet.” Titania’s smile was a gleeful sickle in the darkness. “You are in danger of burning in your own flame.”

– Sometime a Fire

“I cannot, in all good conscience, let you go out that door.” Skata narrowed his eyes. “Why not?” “You are simply too inept,” was the diplomatic answer. 

– This Mortal Coil

He was intangible, nothing more than a pale shadow, and it was maddening. How she wanted to touch him; to feel his salt-skin and tame the thick, wind-blown darkness of his hair.

– This Rough Magic

“I’m a wizardess,” she responded, unnerved at his insight. “Nothing about me is natural. And you – there is nothing natural about you, either. Natural implies the normal, the ordinary – what would you know of it?”

            “A great deal.” His voice was soft and thoughtful, calling back a hundred memories Prosper would never know. “For twelve years I gazed upon the natural, and watched. Fighters battling with swords until the ground soaked up their blood, lovers tangled in their own embrace. Children, playing hide-and-seek, screaming when their companions discovered them. Killers killing – once, even hiding a body underneath the roots of my tree.” He bent his head, and drew his arms together as though the cold was affecting him. “I was unable to help or hinder any of them and that,” – here he lifted his head and pierced her with the fathoms of his frozen eyes – “that was unthinkable. That was what caused me pain. To refuse my help, to refuse me – is unnatural of you, my noble mistress.”

– This Rough Magic

        “Silence, Quockerwodger, or I’ll have you in splinters!” thundered Azrael, pointing his finger at the ceiling with such enthusiasm he nearly fell backward out of his chair.

– Paper Hearts

The werewolf turned his head to eye Skata in a blaze of angry blue irises. Skata faced him and tilted his head, more than willing to take on another fight in spite of the pain in his shoulder. He had been cooped up for so long, he felt he was beginning to rust. Violence was just the right sort of oil to get him back in working condition.

– This Mortal Coil

“Tell me, how did you acquire the stake in the first place?” Gideon adjusted the cuff of his left sleeve. Jackson looked up and smiled darkly. “Way too easily.”

The elder Moroi sighed and turned to face his brother. “Your penchant for taking things that don’t belong to you will earn you a stake in the heart, and sooner rather than later.”

Jackson swung his legs over the side of the couch and settled comfortably against the pillows. “That may be, but we’ve already lived ‘later’,” he pointed out, following Gideon with his finger. “Sooner seems rather out of the option box.”

– This Mortal Coil

             “You look atrocious,” he hooted. He tapped his finger against the top of the table. It shimmered, and the brown wood rippled out from the center, leaving it shiny and reflective. “You really should see yourself.” I bent down over the top of the table. My reflection met me with a scrunched nose, one eye squinted farther than the other, and a frazzled mass of hair piled around my head. “I look perfectly normal,” I said. “Considering it’s midnight.” “If this is your midnight normal, I’m glad you weren’t Cinderella.”

– Paper Hearts

Angel pried Graham’s fingers away from his arm. “A, don’t touch me. And B – don’t touch me.”

– This Mortal Coil

“We had better get started. I assume you have some diabolical plan, best served with coffee.”

– Natural Disasters

 

This Rough Magic

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“Thou shalt be free
As mountain winds: but then exactly do
All points of my command.”
William Shakespeare, The Tempest

For several weeks I have been rolling around the idea for a dual set of books. Granted, I’ve promised myself I won’t begin either of them (or any of the other various stories begging to be written) until I’ve finished one of my current projects, and I’ll stick to my promises. However, that does not mean that I can’t toy with them in the mean time.

The idea is to take the tales of Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Ariel (The Tempest) and re-write their stories. Thus far, they are titled Sometime a Fire (Puck’s tale) and This Rough Magic (Ariel’s tale) and heaven help me, I’ve gone and written a few pieces of stuff. For kicks and giggles, I’m going to share a piece of This Rough Magic and hope I do justice to the Bard’s sea-sprite.

In this re-imagined tale, Prospero has been replaced with the twenty-two-year-old Prosper, who freed Ariel from Sycorax’s tree quite by accident and has no idea what to do with him – until a five-hundred-year-old revenge rears its hideous head and threatens to be the end of them both. 

________________________

Prosper pulled the folds of her sweater close around her arms. Rain battered at the window and left tear-streaks across the glass; echoing the empty patter of ceaseless thoughts that battered against her mind like waves against the shore.

            Ariel’s approach was so soft that his presence was only revealed when he asked, “Is something troubling you, mistress?”

            She shook her head. “No, nothing really important.”

            “Then what is unimportant, pray tell?” His voice was the whisper of a salted breeze, quizzing and gentle.

            She re-arranged the folds of her sweater again and turned to face him. His ever-changing eyes drifted to gaze upon the letter in her hand, carefully re-folded without an extra crease.

            “Is it that?” he inquired, tilting his head.

            “This? No.”

            “What is it, then?”

            “It’s my problem, Ariel.”

            His eyebrows drew together. “The problems of my mistress are mine as well.”

            She knew she could order him to leave her, but she chose not to. Something about his face, every line drawn in concern, tricked her tongue. She said, “A letter from my mother.”

            He hovered half-in the air as through a fog and asked, “What is? That is?”

            She fluttered the paper between two fingers and nodded.

            “Did you not tell me your mother has been dead near twenty years?” He cocked his head to the other side.

            “She has,” said Prosper with a sigh that turned into a smile. “It’s an old letter. She wrote it to me before she…” Something swelled in her throat. How ridiculous. Now, of all times –

            “Before she died?” Ariel’s urge was gentle.

            Prosper sighed and nodded; she backed away a step as Ariel drifted inexplicably closer, leaving behind him a smudge of pale movement. He lifted a white finger to her face, and when it came away a single tear balanced there, whole and perfect.

            “You are crying.” He did not say it callously or without feeling, but with a kind of unobtrusive curiosity. He was a thing of saltwater and air, practically made of tears. How odd I must be to him, she thought. How odd all people must be. 

            “I read it every year,” she continued, by way of explanation.

            He tilted his hand. The tear rolled down his finger and settled in the line of his palm. “Why do you, if it brings you sorrow? It would be much easier simply to burn the thing and never think of it.”

            “Yes,” she agreed. She smoothed her thumb over the worn paper before sliding it into her pocket. “Except then, I wouldn’t remember her like she wanted me to.”

            “Is it so important?” he questioned, bringing his left hand underneath his right, as if to keep the tear from sinking through his airy flesh. “Why remember, if it brings you such pain?”

            “Because…” She clasped her hands together and shrugged her shoulders. “Without memory, our little lives are nothing. You can do without remembering; you have forever to live.”

            “Yes,” he said, with a faint flicker in his eyes that was gone just as quick. As she turned back to face the window, he lowered his gaze to the tear cupped in his hand. “But in the end, we are all such stuff as dreams are made on. What are we then, without remembering?”

            Prosper’s only response was a faint, murmured ‘mmm.’ Outside, the storm raged on.