Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"The Dragon's Quest" Excerpt: "START HERE"

It's not a fancy GIF... but I made it myself, ok?

[Excerpt from Chapter 1]
I trudged upstairs to the little attic where so much of my creative genius took place. My faithful black typewriter hunched upon the desk, like a runner at the starting block. It was a standard black Remington Model 10 I had snagged at a garage sale for twenty bucks, and it was typically where all my books began. I took my seat as Gregson’s words echoed in my mind.
I’m giving you permission to go hog-wild…” Ha! That showed how much he knew about me! Didn’t he know I always plan my novels first? That it usually stems from an intriguing idea, or a particular context? My writing was almost never spontaneous.

With much trepidation, I approached The Shelf. The notebooks had lain there for so long that they were covered in a layer of dust. I opened them, perusing page after page of notes and half sentences and far too many scribbles. The trouble with my ideas was that, while they would start here, in some far-off place like a pirate ship or a medieval castle, they would invariably end up so far-fetched and clich├ęd that I would instead take the plot idea and turn it into something that happened here in town.

I sat there amid so many words—words of my own creation, meaningless streams of abstract consciousness, and shook my head.
“I don’t even know where to start,” I muttered to the empty air.

Click-click-click-click-click… click-click-click-click.

I froze just short of holding my breath. What was that sound?

DING!

The ring of a carriage return was so loud in the stillness that my whole body jolted. Slowly, I turned to the typewriter behind me as the clicking began again.

Click-click-click….

My suspicions confirmed, but it didn’t make me feel any better. My typewriter was possessed! Typing all on its own, it repeated the phrase a second time: START HERE.

I hesitated right behind the high-backed desk chair. “Hello?” Was there a ghost suddenly trying to communicate with me? How was that for “beyond the scope of plausible”?
DING! The carriage returned to the start again, and at last, the movement ceased. I waited for several seconds.

Clack, clack, clack; the “Shift” key tapped all by itself, not adding anything to the page—more like the typewriter was tapping its foot or something.
After confirming through excessive arm-waving that there was indeed nothing corporeal occupying the seat, I sat down and raised my fingers to the keys. Still, nothing moved. The page in front of me read: “START HERE. START HERE.” So I started.

Hello? I typed.

The keys sprang to life and I pulled back as if they’d burnt me.

YES HELLO; ARE YOU READY?

Ready for what? I typed.

YOU WRITE FROM EXPERIENCE, DO YOU NOT? THAT IS WHY THOSE STORIES HAVE NEVER BEEN FINISHED, BECAUSE YOU HAVE NOT EXPERIENCED THEM. YOUR PROBLEM IS NOT THAT YOU HAVE NOWHERE TO START; IT IS THAT YOU ALWAYS STOP JUST BEFORE YOU REACH THE DOOR.

A typewriter with a memory and a bizarre amount of self-awareness. Just what I needed. Where did I even get this thing? I couldn’t remember at the moment.

What door? Even as I typed the question, somewhere my own traitorous mind slowly came up with the answer.

The typewriter confirmed it. YOU KNOW EXACTLY THE DOOR I AM TALKING ABOUT. THE DOOR THAT JUST BEGINS TO CRACK WHEN YOU HAVE GONE FAR ENOUGH IN A STORY TO LET IT OPEN. BUT YOU NEVER LET IT HAPPEN. YOU WOULD ALWAYS STOP RIGHT THERE AND ABANDON THE WORLD AND EVERYONE IN IT.

“I didn’t abandon anything!” I spluttered defensively, even though it was a lie. I always rationalized it.

Not abandoned, I typed, just set aside to let the ideas take shape.

THEY HAVE ALREADY TAKEN SHAPE, BUT THEY WILL NOT COME THROUGH THE DOOR. YOU MUST GO THROUGH THE DOOR TO MEET THEM.

What door? I typed again.

The carriage rang in response, and once again, the question appeared on the paper.

ARE YOU READY?

I was tired of this stupid conversation. I reached to remove the paper from the carrier—but as I did, another one slid into place and the typewriter started moving again!

WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF? THESE ARE WORLDS OF YOUR OWN MAKING ARE THEY NOT? YOU KNOW THEM ABOUT AS WELL AS YOU KNOW YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD.
I ignored the moving keys and did my best to try and type over it, to shake myself out of this strange funk I was in, chatting with a typewriter.

No Laura. Stop Laura. It is just a dream. You're crazy. Stop this Laura. Wake up Laura. This is crazy. Think about something else. Think about anything else. Think of the puppy next door, the one that is always trying to outrun your fat, balding neighbor with the striped pajamas. Remember how it would always run circles around his ankles and slip into the door and no matter how hard he tried he could never quite catch it


YOU ARE STALLING.

Leave me ALONE! I typed. Why I hadn’t had the sense to just leave the desk, I’ll never know. But just then, I noticed something on the wall in front of me, just beside the round window. A flicker, just a spark; it was enough to catch my eye.

It was like one of those optical illusions, where you couldn’t see it till you actually saw it, and yet once you saw it, you couldn’t un-see it.

I saw THE DOOR.

YOUR TIME IS UP, the typewriter gloated. DO YOU SEE IT NOW?

I most certainly did. It wavered and flickered. At first glance, it looked like a normal door; then I kept looking at it, I could see the surface of the wood start peeling away and in three blinks, it was a solid curtain of hanging vines lush with leaves. I kept watching and the thing morphed yet again into a translucent, netherworldly portal.
My fingers brushed the wavering surface, and I gasped. Somehow I had crossed the room and now stood in front of THE DOOR. Through the sheen I could just barely make out some kind of outdoor view, but the color and the light obscured any details. The typewriter clicked again, and even from my new position, I could still see what it said:

ARE YOU READY?

I looked back to the glittering portal. The more I watched, the more the curling vines returned to cover the opening in my attic wall. I would have to push through them—and who knew what to expect on the other side?

I took a deep breath.
I stuck my hand out and pushed the vines aside.
I saw grass on the other side, just level with the attic floor.
I stepped onto the grass, letting the curtain drop behind me.
A gust of cool air made me close my eyes, and when I opened them, I was somewhere else entirely.