Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Works-in-Progress Wednesday: "Inkweaver" Excerpt--Writer's Eyes

"Not exactly," she whispered to me. "Not unless you believe it to be so..."

The hostess was a tall, graceful woman. She smiled at me and nodded.
“Good, you came,” she said, nodding to the little table right in front of me. I glanced at the other patrons in the shop. The last time I had accepted tea from a strange but affable woman, it had not gone over well. The woman emerged with a fully-serviced tea tray.
“I’ve just finished brewing a pot of white jessamine; will that be all right?”
Jessamine; my mother always brewed jessamine in the afternoon. I had never told her, but I had long believed that all afternoons smelled like jessamine; the hostess set the steaming, fragrant cup before me. I looked up.
Wide green eyes watched me carefully. Her frizzy hair tied down with sprigs of daisies and juniper, and the old-fashioned clothing she wore told me right away who she was.
“You’re a Wordspinner!” I guessed. I had never been so relieved to see one in my life, but I was getting desperate for answers, and perhaps another Wordspinner could clue me in.
The woman nodded, glancing around the room as if she was afraid someone might overhear us.
I frowned. “Is it a problem?”
“Not exactly,” she whispered to me. “Not unless you believe it to be so.”
My mouth dropped open and I gave a tiny gasp. Was that the crux of the mystery at last?
“Who—“ I started, but she raised a long finger. Everything about this woman was narrow, from her figure to her nose and chin.
“Not yet,” she explained, looking down toward the table. “We have one more coming.”
Only then did I notice a third cup set across from me. “Who else is joining us?” I asked.
The chime hanging over the door rang as yet another patron entered. The woman sat back and stared pointedly at the door. I followed her gaze.

Belak stood on the threshold, squinting as if listening hard to something no one else could quite hear. His eyes widened when he saw me sitting there.
“Shereya?” he cried in confusion, “What are you doing here? Were you the one calling me?”
I said nothing, only stared at the Wordspinner hostess. Her narrow mouth curved upward in a smile.

I felt played; trapped, even. My rational mind was beginning to shrivel around the edges, and shades of paranoia seeped through. What if this Wordspinner was actually the one to put a spell on me to make me think everything was my fault? What if she had been the one to give Delia the tapestry in the knapsack, to lure us in this direction? There was no way of knowing whether the knapsack actually held the original tapestry or not—
I saw her staring at me, so I bent my head down and focused intently on the cup in front of me. The delicate handle curved away from the flared edges of the porcelain rim. The golden color of the jessamine brew still allowed me to see the delicate blossoms almost blooming at the bottom of the cup. The aquamarine table matched nicely with the soft pink petals painted on the cup and saucer. I traced a crack in the wood with my thumbnail, relieved at this tiny flaw that told me that this whole experience couldn’t be a dream.
Beside me, the Wordspinner carried on her own conversation with my friend.
“It is a pleasure to meet you at last; I have been waiting for quite some time.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is Jacqueline. What do they call you?”
“Belak Sardisen; why have you been waiting for us?”
Jacqueline laughed lightly, and I moved my eyes down to the patterned floor-tiles. The design consisted of many inconsistent black polygons on a white background; chaos at first glance, but the more I stared, the more I could see the intentional pattern in the design.
“Not both of you, dear; just you.”
“Yes; I have made a gift for you, and I have been waiting to give it to you.”
“Well then!” Belak cried, giving a little chuckle of nervous surprise. “I am here now, I suppose, Jacqueline. Though, to be honest, the last person to make a gift for me was my mother.”
“Oh, but this gift is not like the ones made by hand.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“You’ll see; it’s not as easy as carrying it into the shop with me, you see. You’ll have to get it yourself.”
“Where is it?” Belak asked in confusion.
“Follow the compass…”

The last comment from Jacqueline seemed an echo of my own thoughts, much like the voices I was hearing. I finally lifted my eyes back to the table in front of me—

Belak was gone. The whole café stood empty save for Jacqueline and me. She was staring at me again, with that same smile that made my skin crawl.
“What just happened?” I asked. “Where is Belak?”
Jacqueline waved her hand; I saw the left bore a signet ring with a familiar crest. “Oh, he left hours ago,” she said.
I looked down at my teacup. The tea was gone—but the flower remained. No wonder I had seen the flower waving and bobbing softly as if it were a real blossom suspended in liquid; I reached in and pulled out a small pink flower from the empty cup.
Jacqueline smiled at me as I laid the flower on my saucer.
“Did you do that?” she asked.
As if I knew more than she did! “I don’t know,” I answered. “I’m not sure how it happened.” One could say the same for this whole village! I thought.
“One could say the same for the existence of this whole village,” Jacqueline mused in time with the voice in my own head.
I wanted to reach across that table and slap her. I contented myself with digging my fingers into whatever crevice I could find on the wooden surface. I had to focus on something else—the cornflower-blue tray holding the tea set… from which she was currently picking flowers, straight off the surface of the porcelain.
“Stop that!” I seethed.
Jacqueline set down the flower and raised her eyes at me; she was stern, not smug. “Haven’t you figured out what is going on here, Shereya?”
I scowled and spoke the words as they came spinning out of my head. “A town comes into existence overnight, everyone knows my name, and there just happens to be a Wordspinner—“ I glanced at the tea things, “—an Earth Teller, if I’m not mistaken.”
Jacqueline nodded demurely. “Very good; and?”
“And if this place is really one of my own making,” I said quickly, glaring at her, “I never said anything about you.”
She bobbed her head again. “A fair point; what then would be your most logical conclusion?”
My jaw stiffened as I stared at her, watching, it seemed, for some sign that this was all just an elaborate ruse, that I had been drugged, somehow; that the magic of her Told tea things was responsible for this maddening fever dream I could not seem to escape from.
“Did you have something to do with this?” I finally managed to form the words. I gestured around us, knowing full well she would understand. “All of this? The town? I could not have really dreamed up a whole town and people and everything, as if all of life is just some story.”
Jacqueline sat back with a deep sigh, folding her long, slender hands over her lap. “Ah,” she said, “now she begins to understand.”
“Understand what?” I demanded, slapping the table with my open hand. The porcelain clinked sharply. “I understand nothing!”
Again, Jacqueline fixed her eyes on me. “But,” she murmured, “You perceive more than those around you.”

A tiny, sharp-tailed sparrow flitted by the window of the teahouse. Though my eyes still watched Jacqueline, my ears heard the light whistling, and in my mind—just like the visions I had been seeing—I could clearly make out the delicate little bird flying around a clump of fuchsia. I “saw” it dart through the blooms, and knew which direction it took when it flew away.
To hear Jacqueline talk, it was as if this kind of observational habit that I had was some latent magical ability.
“It’s all a part of staying focused on what is real,” I sniffed. “I take in as much of my surroundings as I can so that I never have to resort to speculation.”
“A safeguard,” Jacqueline agreed, “I understand. But what about Moon Valley?” She turned the conversation in an uncomfortable direction again. “It wasn’t an observation then, was it?”
“You tell me!” I retorted. “You had to have been here the whole time. I might have thought it was only speculation, when in reality the town really was there before we ever arrived.” I pointed a finger at long, lean Jacqueline. “And you were there, in the town, waiting for me.”
She was still staring at me; I had the distinct impression of being up in front of the townspeople at the Decorum Banquet again, doing my utmost to meet their expectations while they watched and judged me—but what did I care about the expectations of a Wordspinner?
“Go on,” she said. “Was it speculation… or did you perceive the town in the mist?”
Ah! So that’s what she was getting at; I could tell by her tone that I was close to discovering answers for the questions I had.
“Why do you keep coming back to the perception idea?” I asked her. “Why is it so vital that I am so acutely observant?”
The Earth Teller began clearing the table, stacking the tea things onto the tray. “Mellina was right,” she said.
I almost asked who Mellina was—but based on the one connection I seemed to have with every step of this journey, I knew who she was talking about. Instead, I asked, “Right about what?”
Jacqueline smiled at me, but it was a matronly smile, not the secretive one. “She said that you had Writer’s Eyes.”
I frowned. “What about my eyes?” I had never heard of such a thing.
“You see what is there, yes?” Jacqueline explained, “but you see it in greater detail, greater lifelikeness than normal people do.” She pointed to the flowers. “Only someone with Writer’s Eyes could have seen the blossoms that I had bound in the substance of the cup—and in seeing them, you restored them.”
I looked at the cup, which was now plain white on its surface. The flowers that once graced its sides now rested in a pile upon the tray. The flowers had existed, but my observation of them—
“So this town has always existed!” I breathed, letting the relief wash over me; I wasn’t crazy!
“Yes, for the most part,” Jacqueline nodded, taking the tray away to the counter leading into the kitchen at the back of the teahouse. “Just a conglomeration of buildings in the cliffs nobody has taken much notice of—but with your Writer’s Eyes, you brought the color and the bustle back into it.”