Set Up

I waited for you. I watched that army green door on the back of 511 North 19th Street as the Earth turned and the shadows grew and the night slid over the city. You said you’d look different, but none of those people who came out of that door could have been you. There are some things you can’t change.

When the sweaty hand clamped over my mouth, I thought it was you, playing a joke on me. I had been careful. They couldn’t have found me. But this duct tape is not a joke. Neither is the man with the sledgehammer, coming back after his dinner for the information a bloody nose and a broken elbow could not extract. Now that they have me, they won’t need you. You’re probably across the border now. I hope you are.

Because you’ll never guess what I’m about to tell them.

An Odd Thing to Steal

Inspiration Monday XXX – I planned to make this hotter in the spirit of the Roman numeral, but I ran out of time.

* * * * *

When I return to camp, there is a bare patch of ground in place of my bed. A bed is an odd thing to steal. It must have been moved for a reason.

My other belongings appear to be untouched. I drop my baskets to the ground and sit to remove my wet sandals. Leaning back on my elbows, I stretch my legs long, and look directly into the gaze of Singing Sun’s brother. Although he’s always smirking, tonight’s smirk crosses the distance between us and lands on me. I should have known he was a practical joker. If my bed has one speck of dirt on it, I’m going to make him scrub it ten times in the river tomorrow and then make him watch it dry while his chores go undone.

He rises from his spot, and I look away. Wind touches leaves high in the trees. I roll each vertebra against the ground, one by one, until the back of my head settles against earth still warm from the day. Footsteps close in. He appears above me.

He looks at my baskets. “Fever Berries? And what’s in the other one?”

“Empty,” I say to the trees. “I’m saving it for the testicles of the man who stole my bed.”

His knees hit the ground between my legs and I sit up in reflex. Not even a breeze could pass between his lips and mine. So much for playing aloof.

“Could you remove them in the morning?” he asks. “I might need them tonight.”

“I pity the poor girl.”

“Self-pity?” He clicks his tongue. “Not the best trait.”

“Neither is thievery. Where is it?”

He looks up. I follow his gaze. At once, I notice a swaying hunk of tan, dangling from a high branch. Had I noticed it before, I could have shot it down with a dart and avoided all this nonsense.

He sits back on his heels and smiles. Our civilization is struggling, the world is ending, and he’s playing games.

I pull my legs away from him and cross them under me. “Start climbing. You have two minutes.”

He doesn’t move. I imagine those thick arms and legs moving up that tree, him returning to me panting, sweating, and full of victory. The same way he’d look if…

“You have no bed. You share my bed. That is the plan.”

“Whose plan?”

He jabs his thumb into his chest. “My plan.”

My blood flushes, feverish and electrical, like I’ve polished off my whole basket of berries. It seems I wouldn’t mind being pressed against that chest myself. I push up and walk on my knees toward him. Here’s where I should slap his smug face. I kiss him hard. He’s a solid pillar – unsurprised, unflinching, and completely unguarded. Yet he barely responds.

He waits for me to pull away, then he says, “I only said I’d share my bed. Do you want to alter my plan?”

“Yes.” I stand. “Let’s move your bed far from camp. After all this, I’m going to make you perform.”

He catches me by the leg, takes a quick look around for spectators, then runs his tongue up the inside of my thigh before he stands next to me. “Yes, ma’am.”

They Make Us Look Alien

This remote wildlife camera footage from Canada’s Banff National Park is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while.

The humans who pass by are such a shocking contrast to everything else, with their helmets, bikes, gear, and skis. We like to think we own the planet, that our big brains allow us to conquer the elements, but when I see something like this, all I see is our fragility.

Has our advancement made us fragile? Or have we always been?

Anti-heroes, Torture

Two quick things.

First, I want to share something I read in Orson Scott Card’s Elements of Fiction Writing – Characters & Viewpoint. This goes back to my obsession with the anti-hero. Oh how I love the anti-hero.

Card has a very simple explanation for how to write an unlikable character who appeals to the reader and gains the reader’s sympathy. Give this character several unlikable traits. Keep those traits prominent from page one to the end. Now, along the way, weave in many other subtle traits and actions to create sympathy for this character. Keep these minor. Don’t play them up. The reader will focus on the obvious nasty behavior while slowly gaining sympathy due to the subtle goodness.

Second, Liz over in Purgatory linked to a site that sucked me in. I found this great quote about torturing your protagonist.

The writer is both a sadist and a masochist. We create people we love, and then we torture them. The more we love them, and the more cleverly we torture them along the lines of their greatest vulnerability and fear, the better the story. Sometimes we try to protect them from getting booboos that are too big. Don’t. This is your protagonist, not your kid.

–Janet Fitch

And for my third book, I am on it.

The One Thing You Should Never Forget

Inspiration Monday XXIII

And here’s an exercise for all of you. As much as I love praise (bring it on! just kidding. okay maybe not), give me some criticism on this one. What do you hate? Come on. It will be fun. :D

* * * * *

I watch the raindrop crawl down his forehead, roll around his eyebrow and down the side of his nose. He exhales hard, then looks past my shoulder. She is standing there. That woman.

“What do you want me to do?” he asks.

“Kill her.”

“You know I can’t do that.”

How can he continue being the good one? After all she’s done to him. To us.

He leans toward me and looks into my eyes. “She’s my flesh and blood. In this world, after all we’ve lost, it’s the one thing you should never forget.”

It would be wrong of me to tell him, to load that weight on him, when he carries around so much already. I can’t tell him. “She killed your flesh and blood.” I cover my mouth with both hands. This sleep deprivation has stolen my restraint. This violence around us has silenced my good judgment. The rain penetrates the defenses of my suit, sliding down my back like tiny icy fingers.

He pulls his gun. It hovers in the air next to my ear, gleaming silver on black, aimed behind me. Everything about him stills, except for the rain running clean tracks through the dirt on his face.

She laughs, a sound that morphs the icy fingers on my back into razor blades. “Jason, I-”

His empty hand covers my ear as he fires.