Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What I've Written So Far Part 1

You will be much better off if you ignore this. Please. For your health and sanity, do not actually read this. This is just here to 'let the record show' or whatever. My goal for today is 6 000, so I've got about another thousand words to write tonight. I'll update this whatever I add.
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The ground shook beneath her feet again. She shook her head in disbelief. The last major quake had occurred over a week ago, and they were still getting after shocks. The earth rumbled and the bookshelves shivered and the lights flickered but she did not stumble. Her balance was the one perfect thing about her. She tightened her pony tail as the after shock continued, basically continuing going with business as normal. She tugged at her skirt (it was just one size too small, she was always buying clothes in the wrong sizes and never realizing it until she was actually forced to wear them during her daily life), it kept scrunching up in all the wrong places. The ground was still rumbling. She sighed. Somebody muttered ‘Watch it’ and she spun around and caught two hardcover Tolkiens tumbling from the shelf behind her. She carefully placed them back on the shelf, pushing the bookend tight so they could not fall off again. Finally, after four minutes, the after shock stopped. There was a collective sigh of relief as all the people who were interrupted from studying or reading or sleeping were able to go back to their respective occupations. She moved away from behind her desk to fetch her chair, an uncomfortable thing on wheels that always insisted on rolling away, even when the ground stood still. She rolled it back to behind her desk, cringing, as always, at the painfully annoying and loud cracking sound the chair made when moved. Why she had not received a new chair yet, she could not tell you and she doubted anyone else could. Just another lost request in the system. She sat down at her desk and returned to the menial task of double checking receipts with orders.
The sirens were going off again. The annoying high pitched keen of a hundred city wide sirens jammed into his brain, nearly as painful as a hundred little daggers. He clutched at his ears and, clenching his teeth, fell to the ground. It was never this bad when he was not hung over, but when was he not hung over when the sirens went off? Usually every morning around ten the sirens wailed and every morning around ten they brought him to his knees. No, he was not hung over, he was just painfully aware. Keenly listening, he spent too much time keenly listening, and this was how his city paid him back. With sirens meant to kill by sound. After a full sixty seconds of wailing, the sound was gone. He could not hear anything, a rare occurrence for most people, but he was used to the sound of pure silence by now. He grabbed a chair and pulled himself to his feet, but he quickly slumped back down onto the chair. The sirens made him dizzy. He glanced out the window to see how bad it was, and he made a disgusted face in response to watch he saw out through the window. The smog was terrificly terrible, it looked almost like night outside with the dark smoky grey clouds filling the air. He sniffed hesitantly and even though his tiny apartment was specially proofed against the smog and all other chemicals (a fortune he paid for that, nevermind how small it was, it was keeping him alive) he could still smell the uralium and neverspring. Disgusting, it was. Disgusting. He would not be going out today. There had probably been an accident at the factory (again), that would explain why it was so bad. He shook his head and headed over to his lab station to begin working at home.
The Players were in town again, despite just having passed through a month before. She tried to talk to one, to figure out why they were back so soon, had they not been able to entire Mesria, but no one would acknowledge her existence without Darian around. It was a pointless exercise to try and talk with one of them, especially when she was dressed in her Official Scribe robes. Even without the robes, she was too well-known to disguise herself in any manner (believe me, she had tried). Being over six feet tall often felt more like a curse than a blessing. So she continued out her duties, praying that Darian would appear before the Players moved on again. This was not at all normal and if she could discern why they were back so soon, well, that would probably be a very useful piece of information. They still did not trust her, but Darian knew better. He would know she could help them, whatever their problem. There were whispers throughout the citadel of the Players early return, but most of the commoners were simply happy to have them back so early, despite being broke from the last Faire. The Queen acted as though their return did not affect her, but she was smart enough to know it did. The Queen had not mentioned anything to Ruth, but it was clearly she wanted Ruth to sniff out the truth. Ruth was more than happy to oblige, although she would never report the actual truth. The problem was that everyone of importance knew how close she was to Darian and she could never lie about finding out what their problem was while everyone knew she was around. So she continued being the tag along at the official meetings and speeches and what have you, recording every line to pocket a pretty coin.
[Hurr, ruth is the one with an evil twin! Jacob.]
“Hadley! Come here, come here. I need this to Jackson’s office within half an hour, can you do that for me? I’ll pay you forty.” The old man calling to Hadley was standing on his front step, back hunched over but he was still waving enthusiastically. Hadley rode her bicycle up to his steps.
“Of course, Henderson, not a problem. Don’t be so generous, I can do it for twenty.” She put out her hand and took his package, a stuffed envelope wrapped over and over with twine. The old man wheezed, his laugh, and slapped her helmet.
“Be quiet girl, you are too generous, that is why you are broke all the time! Do not you want to get a better job than bicycle messenger? You are too pretty and too talented, I am sure, for such a menial job.” The old man grinned. His front tooth was gold and it glttered in the light. Hadley returned the smile, though not so enthusiastically.
“With all due respect, shut up Henderson, are you trying to tell me just anyone can deliver this half way across the city to Jackson’s within 30 minutes? I do not think so. I will take thirty.” She stuffed a tenner in his shirt pocket and sped away before he could protest.
Henderson was a retiree, legally, a privileged, one of the lucky few who was allowed to live in the subsuburbs. Here they still built houses instead of multilevels that reached to the sky. He lived in a tiny house with a dog and wife, though Hadley had never seen the wife. Jackson’s office was nearly four kilometres away, close to the heart of the city. To go from the suburbs to citycentre in half an hour was asking for quite a feat, but Hadley could do it. She geared up and pedalled hard, flicked her goggles down and rode her bike as though it was a part of her own body. She was fast, our Hadley, and probably the best messenger in the city. Hadley is the only four of our key characters who enjoys and cherishes her job and her home, and she is the only four of our key character who will suffer the most when it is taken from her. For Hadley is the only one who does not make the leap consciously.
When she arrives at Jackson’s office, our sweet tomboy Hadley, will leave her bike with the valet and race to the top of the building, up 22 flights of the stairs. Jackson’s office was at the top of one of the tallest buildings in the city. Rumours flew around him that his business was not all legit but Hadley paid them no attention. She was just a messenger. Anyhow, when she arrives at Jackson’s office, she’ll interrupt a row and being the girl of strong moral that she is, she will knock and knock and inquire as to the state of health of everyone in the office. And then, just as she is ready to call the police, the door will swing open and someone will pull her in.
“It is not safe, it is not, I tell you! I refuse to sponsor this kind of work.” A voice that Hadley recognizes as Jackson’s. Possibly a crook, he still personally tips his messenger and anyone that does that is a fine enough person, Hadley reasons. Hadley will look around the room and find that Jackson is being held back by two unnervingly large men with mullets. She will try to see the person who grabs her, but he or she will shove Hadley around so she cannot get a proper glance.
“If you are so concerned about safety, why do not we let someone else give it a try?” And then Hadley sees the mirror and it is massive, wall to ceiling, nearly covering the entire east wall of Jackson’s suite. She has never been in his suite before and she has never seen a mirror so huge and for some reasons she does not notice the reflections. She only feels a sense of dread and a scream starts to build up from within her. She does not know where it come sfrom, but she lets out a bloodcurdling scream.
“Jeezus!” yells her captor. “Good to be rid of this one.” And he shoves her to the mirror and she will not have time to close her eyes before her face is broken on her reflection, but she feels the cool metal and it feels like it is enveloping her and somehow she has passed through the mirror and Jackson’s suite is gone and she cannot see or smell or hear or feel properly, as though only her conscious remains and it has left behind her body. She is still screaming inside, she knows that, but she cannot hear a sound.
Finally the clock in the main hall chimes, a low booming sound. First once, then twice, then a third time, then a fourth time, then a fifth time and at at long last a sixth time. Before the sound of the sixth chime dies of, people in the library start packing up their bags and books and vanish so quickly and neatly that there was no trace they had ever been there before at all. The Library is a powerful entity in Empire. Librairies on every corner and Ariel has the privilege of working in the Main Library. They recruited her before she had even graduated university. She showed promise, too much promise apparently. This was not a job she wanted, but it was the only job – supposedly – she was qualified. She has worked here for three years, but it feels like a whole lifetime and a half. She wants out, she wants to be free from the Library and yet she loves it so much she could never leave of her own free will. And where would she run to, anyhow? Mesria was a small island in the sky and they rarely came across larger ones. The Library ruled all. Mesria was a very quiet country. Libraries everywhere, people in the libraries, never chatting, rarely even whispering. And Ariel commanded such respect, viewed by the people as an overlord. She did little to counter this stereotype but she did always try to do her best with whenever one of the citizens worked up the courage to ask her for help. Knowledge was far more than power in Mesria. It was everything, it was like food and oxygen to the citizens, and she was part of the hierarchy that controlled it. She was not viewed as kindly as she would have liked to be.
Five minutes past six she is alone in her wing of the library. She has refused to take on assistances, not wanting to subject them to the tedious and menial work that would drain the life out of them. It is not any quieter now that the people are gone. Silence is something she is has become very accustomed to and it frightens her sometimes. She does not like that she can handle being so alone. She tries to ignore it but sometimes...sometimes it is too much.
Ariel reties her pony and straightens her glasses. Her image does not help the stereotype of her personality, but she does not care. Why bother? She collects her papers, turns off her desk lamp and takes the elevator to the third floor, where her living quarters are.
Benjamin’s apartment contained very few things. A kitchen counter with a stool and a portable stove top, where he ate and cooked and prepared all his meals. A small hammock suspended in the corner to sleep and sit in. A proportionately large desk where he did research for work. A closet where he stored everything he owned. And that was it. The apartment had been a third larger before he made renovations, but the loss of space and the exorbitant cost were worth his life. The state of the art insulation was the only thing promised to keep out pollution and chemicals. Ironic, given his line of work. He was a chemical magician, but far different from those outside. His work could be consider more... underground. His goal was not to ‘better standards of living’ or to choke out all the natural earth. He could nto remember the last time he saw a green plant, let alone a forest or a flower. Oxygen had become a consumer product, the people of his city now paid a special tax to the company that provided the oxygen.
Benjamin was something of a rebel. He had no job and no marketable skills and he was disgusted with how his city was run and he was not afraid to say so. That was part of the reason he lived in such a debilitated lawl neighbourhood. He was in hiding, they would never expect to find him neara the heart of the disasters. Part of his expensive upgrade had been a high tech security system. He did not know how to work it, but he felt more comfortable knowing the security system was installed.
What was I taling about? Right, Benjamin’s work. He is a chemical magician. He is one of very few people who know how to work some bits of magic in his world and he has applied them to his knowledge of chemistry. Benjamin is something of a romantic, he still dreams of a day when he’ll be able to create a self-regenerating oxygen molecule or a way to truly destroy the uralium and neverspring. He works and works and works, never going out, having everything delivered to his door, rarely sleeping. He spends any spare time listening to the destruction outside to fuel his anger and his desire to keep working.
Ruth was always a strong girl. She will become the leader of our quartet, naturally. From a young age she was setting up stalls at the market, selling pickpockted wares and crafts. It was easier for her since she was an orphan and had no one paying attention to her activities. Somewhere along the line she was taken in by a smithing family who had relations high up in the clergy. Ruth wormed her way into the family and got one of the priests to teach her to read and write, because she always knew there was much value of all varieties in working with the royal family. After many years of work she had managed to climb the ladder to position of Second Scribe, obviously the second higest position in the world of a scribe. She took notes at all the meetings and events of the Queen’s that were not top secret or of a high priority. It was not a bad spot to be. Any higher, she would be too close to the Queen, any lower, she would nor uncover anything of great importance. The connection to Darian was planted many many years ago, when she was still an orphan running amuck among the Faire stalls. He gave her a jarred petifairy and from their a relationship founded in a strong trust and friendship grew. They nearly lost touch when she was taken in by the Smiths, but she fought to stay connected and they made their pact to each help the Players as best as they could in their own way: she from the inside, he from the outside. She had no creative talents, only academic ones, but she knew how to use them. Darian was the opposite and he was just as strong a leader as she could be so he joined the Players and became one of the more prominent ones. They made a strong team, Ruth and Darian. Their positions did not allow the best friends to see each other as often as they would have liked but their positions were satisfying. Ruth would never admit it, but she had such a soft spot for the Players. They would never believe her even if she did admit it, but Darian knew she was sincere. He often teased her about it in front of the others. They rolled their eyes and she blushed and he laughed. But it was enough.
And at last we return to our poor Hadley. The test subject. She has been forced through a portal in the easiest but most unreliable way: the Reslin Mirror. Her trip will be agreed upon as the roughest but by far the fatest. She was lucky, if you may pardon my use of the word. She tumbled through sixteen different worlds, falling through earth and water and lava and glass. The fall lasted only two days. When she finally landed she was shocked by the sensation of stillness. It took her awhile to stand and when she finally did, she collapsed back to the ground and slept for two days.
What Hadley did not realize (for how could she have?) was that she had landed in the cave where Ruth and Darian often met. A place they had discovered during a childhood game of hide and seek, for how else would anyone of discovered the hidden cave, obscured by boulders and rotting leaves and tree roots, deep within the Knellin Forest?
Darian and Ruth discovered Hadley two weeks after the Players ahd returned, in Ruth and Darian’s world. Two weeks since we last encountered Ruth, but only four days after Hadley’s horrific incident with the mirror. They two of them, Darian and Ruth, came across Hadley while she was still sleeping. Tiny rodents, little white mice (products of magic experiments hidden in Knellin Forest, just as white mice are products of lab experiments in Hadley’s world) curled up against her body for warmth and were sleeping just as soundly as Hadley was. Her clothes were damp from the moisture drops that dripped from the ceiling of the cave. She was not too close to the entrance (it was a small cave, Darian and Ruth had to duck to enter it) but still, leaves and twigs and dirt had been sucked into the cave and Hadley was covered in them.
Darian and Ruth did not know what to make of her. They watched her from the entrance of the cave, wary of actually stepping into it for fear that she was a lost soul or a witch or worse, a forgotten fairy. When Hadley did not stir after thirty minutes, Darian and Ruth tiptoed into the cave. Both held daggers in their hands, for comfort more than for actual security because daggers would be no help against a magical creature.
“Darian...” Ruth cautioned as he walked closer and closer to the girl. Ruth strayed near the entrance of the cave, but Darian knelt beside Hadley. A branch crunched under his feet and the mice scattered.  He blew gently on the debris that covered Hadley, so as not to wake her. He allowed himself a tiny smile when he saw the girl better.
“It is alright Ruth, it is just a girl. She does not appear to have any of the markings, as far as  I can discern.” Darian was skilled in the power of detection of magical creatures. It was a skill that had saved his life many times and he was quite grateful for it. “I have no idea where she came from or what she is doing here. I mean, take a look at her clothes. I have never seen such make as these, and I have travelled far more than you.”
Ruth rolled her eyes and  walked up to Darian, taking care as she knelt by his side not to soil her clothes.
Hadley was still wearing her messengers uniform, of course, but it had been all but destroyed during her ‘journey’ through the portal. Her black nylon pants had been ripped and melted in spots, leaving patches of skin and shiny parts of fabric showing. She wore a blue jersey beneath a black jacket, both made of materials that would never be discovered in Ruth and Darian’s worlds. One of her sneakers was missing.
[“Interesting footwear,” Ruth commented, “So bulky but it must be protective...”]
“Should we wake her up?” Darian asked casually, but Ruth knew he was more than eager to wake the girl and find out from where she came. Ruth did not want to say yes, she was always more hesitant of the unknown that Darian, but she could not htink of any plausible reason to forbid him. Beside, it was just a girl...and she looked like she had been sleeping for eternity, perhaps she was under some spell and they would be doing her a favour by waking her up. Ruth liked to justify things favourably.
“Alright. Be careful about it, though, I do not want her frightened...”
Ah, but Ruth has recalled this story entirely wrong. She remembers it as though DArian was there, but of course he was not. She is crossing memories. It was Ruth alone who was waiting at the cave, waiting for Darian to arrive but he never did, or perhaps he did after Ruth left with Hadley. You see, what really happened is that Ruth was waiting at the cave for Darian, to meet him and find out why the Players had returned and not moved on to Mesria, but before he could show Hadley stirred and drew Ruth’s attention.
“Hello?” Ruth whispered into the cave, somewhat worried aabout who or what would respond. She hoped the movement was all in her imgatintion because if someone had found the cave and was waiting to ambush her and Darian...she drew her dagger, once agin cursing her position for scribes were one of the few royal – related positions that was not permitted to carry swords. She carried poisons on her for whenever she though thtere might be real need of a fight, to coat her dagger with them, but she had yet to use them. Being a scribe, even one who was secretly assisting the Players, was not the most exciting career occupation one could aspire to. She knew her role was an important one, even Darian would admit it, but sometimes she longed for a life more like his. Even if she could have had a life like his, she was too old for that, though, anyhow. Now that that moment could possibly have come now, she was not sure whether she still wanted it...
“Hello!” she called again, somewhat louder. “Is everyone alright in there?” She was not sure what she was talking about now, she just wanted to hide the fact that she was there to meet Darian. She hoped he did not finally show up.
“Hi?” came a voice from within the cave that sounded as frightened as Ruth’s. A female. A younger one than Ruth, from what she could judge. Ruth instinctively stepped forward. She was a maternal sort of indepent woman, whatever the heck that means.
“My name is Ruth, do you need help?” She stepped further into the cave. This scene is very dragged out, blah, so we’re just going to skip this little part because its boring and we’ve already partially discussed it so now we’re at the part where Ruth has helped Hadley tidy up and they’re talking.
“There, that’s better,” Ruth said knowingly as she plucked a final leaf from Hadley’s head.
“Thanks...” Hadley muttered, sipping from the stone cup of water Ruth had given her. She was still muddled from her trip and her two day sleep. She had not yet quite figured out what had happened, but she knew she was somewhere she had never been before.
“Now...” Ruth began, as she watched Hadley drink. Hadley was as exotic a creature to Ruth as one of the Mesria – Hyba lions. “Why do not you try to remember what happened and perhaps I can help you if you fill me in?”

“It’s all a bit...fuzzy.” Hadley’s own voice was still fuzzy. “I remember...it hurt. I feel like one giant bruise.” She looked down at her clothes and let out a tiny groan. “And of course my uniform is wrecked. I don’t have the money for a new one!”
Ruth tried to make a face that she thought showed sympathy.
“I would not fret, I can get you some new clothes. Perhaps you should come back to my home? I’m sure getting some food in you might be a good idea. Get you some fresh air, go for a bit of a walk. That would probably help.”
What Hadley and Ruth and, in fact, no one in the universe knew, was that the portal knows how to take care of a person who travels through it, not physically, obviously, but mentally and it threw Hadley into a two day sleep because it knew that was what she needed and it allows the memory of the travel to be recalled slowly so as not to drive a person mad with the knowledge of what they experienced.
“I don’t see why not...have you got a phone I could borrow?”
“Ahh...yes, of course.” Ruth had no idea what a telephone was, but if that was all it took to get the girl along.
“great, let’s go then.” Hadley struggled to her feet and with Ruth’s help, they walked the hour to Ruth’s home in the official scribe compound. What followed were many dark days, as Hadley sunk into depression as she realized the reality of her situation and Ruth did her best to care for the girl, making sure Hadley could not survive in the world without Ruth. For Ruth, though she had noble intentions of helping Hadley, also relished the idea of having discovered a being, a human! From another world. What an extraordinary discovery. She did not want to let Hadley out of her sight. She was almost like a surrogate daughter for the barren Ruth, a surrogate daughter of the most fascinating and wondrous kind.
Even though Ariel and Benjamin entered the portal at the same time as Hadley, they will not arrive until one thousand days after Hadley was discovered.

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