Strange Wordings

Thoughts on fantasy, science fiction and genre writing in general . . . stuff that's strange.

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Location: Fredericksburg, Virginia

These Blogs are largely about the process of coercing words out of my head (at times I convince myself that I am a novelist). Thoughts about current reading and/or fantasy literature and writing in general may disgorge at random.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Short story excerpts

Here's another round of excerpts from recently finished, and one in-progress, short stories:

From The Good Soldier, which is actually a "King Arthur" piece. I've always been fascinated with Bedivere, the last knight of the round table, the one that either returned Excaliber to the Lady of the Lake or returned King Arthur's body to Avalon (depending on which tale you read). I've always wondered what it is like to be the last believer, the one left behind:

The soldier’s eyes snapped open, instantly awake, the habit of a lifetime of fighting, of sleeping in cold camps on enemy ground. His eyes opened, but the soldier otherwise lay utterly still in the darkness under the thicket of brambles. Dawn was an hour, two hours, away. Under a tattered cloak and the remnants of dark dreams he listened.

A distant voice, complaining. A soldier cursing night patrol duty. Another voice, a harsh command, and the first voice fell silent. The choruses of crickets and frogs owned the night noises again, for a short while, and then silence, real silence, fell as the patrol neared.

Footsteps, some crunching on the dirt path, others swishing through the tangles of frost-rimed grass. He cursed under his breath, a misty cloud of resignation and annoyance. Could they not let me freeze to death in peace?

Thwip-Thwack!

They were beating the hedges and bushes and undergrowth with spear-butts, or tree branches. The soldier cursed again. His hand went to the grip of the knife sheathed at his hip, but he had lost that in battle yesterday, buried in the chest of some Umberland levyman. Poor-fool farmer probably died with the dirt of his home fields still under his fingernails. All for that witch and her hellspawn.

Thwip-Thwack!

The soldier grimaced, exhaling slowly. His fingers ran down the ashwood shaft of the lance he’d scavenged. Even broken off five feet from the bladehead it was too long for close work. The sword it would have to be, a poor choice for fighting in the dark in the middle of a thorn bramble. But there it is. He shifted, excruciating, slowly releasing stiff muscles, flexing frozen joints. His knees ached, but he ignored that.
Age-killer. He couldn’t feel his feet, but he ignored that too. A soldier’s always got one foot already in the ground anyway, that’s what they say. By inches he got his legs up under his body, ready to explode somehow when the moment came.


From Was Ruth, a science fiction story written with my friend Kirk:

The strangest thing about living inside of a machine is how completely, and how easily, one becomes attuned to its moods. It breathes. It creaks and groans and complains. It pulsates with its own rhythms and cycles, circulating air and oil and hydraulic fluid. Every sound, every vibration carries meaning, whispers just below the edge of comprehension. The machine seems to live, and more, to speak. More strange, perhaps, if that is possible, is how easily the separation dissolves. Action, thought, belief. Cogs, subroutines, these are just parts of the machine that we become.

Click, squeak.

Click, squeak.

Hard rubber soles staccato the steel deck, close, coming closer. Click, squeak. The vibrations coming up through the deck plate hum through her body, resonating along her nerve endings. She lay on the deck, eyes closed, breathing softly and slowly. She feels the motion of the station, the vibration of the deck, and there . . . the dissonance. Somewhere something is giving way incrementally, and the rest of the structure strains ever more to compensate. Click, squeak.

She knows the sound of guards walking, but this is different. The corners of her mouth turn down. This is not the measured pace of routine and boredom. Click, squeak. Click, squeak. This rhythm is purposeful, tense, and there are two footsteps.

Her eyes snap open. It is time.

She sat up, hugging her knees, staring at the deck. She had dreamed, at times over the past two years, that this day would not come. Something would happen. Someone would intervene. She would somehow run away from it, from reality, just as she had done all her life. The two sets of institutional black shoes that appeared on the edge of her vision, outside the plas-glass door, meant otherwise.

Her gaze slowly, involuntarily, rose from the deck and traveled over the first uniform. The name tag read ‘Wallace,’ one of the regulars. She had never known his first name, or seen his face behind the riot helmet.

“It’s time,” he said, his matter-of-fact voice distorted by the intercom. “On your feet.”


From The Players, current story in progress:

And so Ericssen became hopelessly lost in the forest. It was stupid, and he knew it, and he spent the latter part of the dying day cursing himself and wandering among the deep leaves beneath the trees. He had never seen a compass, they hadn’t been invented yet, and if you handed him one he would have thought it witchcraft. When the sky faded from bright blue to orange and purple and then to impenetrable black, Ericssen threw himself down, his back against a fallen tree, and drew his jacket tight.

He dozed.

He jerked awake, up from where he had slumped, groggy and panicked all at once. Then he remembered. Stupid . . . but, but what was that noise?

Ericssen shifted among the noisy complaints of the dead leaves. A voice? Yes, a voice out here in the sightless night in the forest. Two voices, many voices. A scrape, bang rattle. Noises in the dark never seem to be what they are. Trolls coming to take him away, faeries seeking his soul, terrible things that see him through the dark.

But these voices, they were of men, and there was woodsmoke on the air and a smell
of dinner cooking. He peered over the edge of the log at an orangish-red firelight, a campfire light, a camp of men. His stomach turned, twisting and insistent, but Erickssen hung back. Trolls existed, and so did faeries and witches, even if compasses didn’t, and who knows what allures they may take on.

Still . . .

* * *

“What’s this then?”

He started, and fell back into the bush, scrabbling backwards until he got himself caught good.

The great, black shadow laughed at him. “Come look, friends, come see here we have a skulk lurking in the dark, a sneak, a spy, a voyeur!”

The others ran up, shadows all of them, quavering with the bright, reddish-orange light behind them.

“Huh-ha!” one laughed.

“Bah, just a boy,” another snorted and turned away.

“Come come,” and the first shadow held out a hand into the bush; in a moment Ericssen knew that he spoke to him. “Well, come on boy, take the hand,” he said with a booming laugh, “you’re welcome at our fire.” The shadow swept off a huge hat with his other hand, and the way he turned the glow from the camp fell across half of the face of a man. Likely not a troll.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey BrianM, BrianC? haha

Spiralheart (Rebecca Lower) off the sff forums, here.

Very poetic stuff, especially the last one. All three have sounds and rhythms and repetition.

Would you mind taking a look at something of mine? It's just a short scene with KevinCarlisle, the character from my soliloquy example.

aradiolvr at yahoo dot com

Thanks! I look forward to playing tag with you, and getting more insight into fiction from your blogs. Good stuff all 'round.

Take care,
Rebecca

P.S. Fredricksburg, VA? How I envy you that. I'm living in Las Vegas, NV, a city without ghosts.

11:48 AM  

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