Just Write (belated catchup): June 9th
I have been somewhat slack in typing up any and all output from recent writing group classes so back to the meeting from the 9th. We spun together a story based on a three stage trigger – a set of three top-of-mind nouns, an imagined landscape, and a character we’d never really thought about before. So, here’s what came of that:
Lana jumped on the the back of the mech-bus as it began to move, her umbrella pulling itself shut automatically behind her. She didn’t much notice as the mirco evaporators briefly flared, harvesting and stray water molecules from the umbrella’s surface. Damn pilots she thought. Since they put through that AI upgrade you might as well forget the timetables. Behaving like those real drivers she’d read about from the past, coming and going as they pleased.
She sat. It was only five minutes to the University but she’d been out in that downpour for a while and the seats had the same tech as her umbrella. Weather was getting worse. More extreme even here. God knows how people coped near the equator now, those that were left anyway.
The windows facing her were all running ads. She realised that she’d forgotten to turn her pers-com to private and her presence had been registered. A sequence of commercials tailored to her began to run, isolated on the window in front of her. A set of texts for her study to be sent direct to her personal logs. A bag that matched her umbrella. So far, so predictable she thought, remembering why she ordinarily held her settings as private. Then the window filled with a desolate, grey expanse of rock. A voice: “ever think of starting again ?”. You’re not selling this, she thought. The shot panned to a solitary footprint in the dust, then up and away from the print to an American flag, firmly planted in the ground. With a start she realised this place to start again wasn’t here. It was the moon. They were trailing the colony program again. But why her ? She knew, or thought she knew, enough about the algorithms in the ads that tailored content and messages to individuals. Why did they think she would want to go there ?
In case you’re wondering my three nouns were umbrella, bus and University. I had intended to write about the moon but it somehow turned into a pre colonisation story (or the start of one at least). I enjoyed putting it together in the class and could have quite happily spent much longer in 2100 or thereabouts although I’m not sure there’s much new in the final result. Anyway, homework was a stripped back version of the exercise in the class in that each of us gave the person to our left a single word as the trigger for a story. Mine was “shadow” which resulted in this:
“Your father lives in shadow.”
“But he lives ?”
The question echoed around the chamber, bouncing back from unfurnished stone. The tomb was cool and still, the question remaining unanswered by the dead. Varane asked it again of the living.
“He lives ?”
“Aye, he lives boy. If dwelling in the shadow can be called living.”
Varane turned. Only Zamar would dare address him as boy, especially in this place amongst generations of his line. Zamar met the boy’s questioning look, narrowed his eyes as if silently appraising him, before speaking again more softly.
“When a man crosses to the shadow Varane he is lost to us. None has ever been reached, none returned. He may dwell there a day, a week, a year – your father is a strong man – but eventually we will lay him here.”
As Zamar spoke Varane paced the tomb, every couple of strides taking him past another generation, names from the past, names and deeds he’d been learning since he could read. He paused at the far end of the room and brushed dust from a name etched into the largest and oldest stone coffin: Ombrager. He lowered his head and whispered:
“How many ?”
“My liege ?” asked Zamar.
Varane lifted his head but did not turn. “How many Zamar ? How many of them…” he raised his arm gesturing at the row of coffins. “How many of them were lost to shadow ?”
“Varane…” began Zamar advancing towards the boy. “It is not yet time to know. You are still so young my liege.” There was a note of kindness in his voice.
“Not time ?” Now Varane did turn. “Not time ? My father lives in shadow and it is not time ?” He strode towards the older man jabbing a finger accusingly. “It is past time Zamar. For all you call me boy it is well past time. Ten generations lie here. How many Zamar ? How many were lost to it ?”
Zamar didn’t move and the two stood face to face in the middle of the chamber, neither breaking the other’s gaze.
“Ten my liege” he said flatly.
Momentarily Varane’s eyes betrayed his shock; a flicker that spoke of incomprehension and a touch of fear. Just as quickly it was gone and Zamar could discern nothing in his grey eyes beyond implacable resolve.
“All of them. Every Ombrager Varane. Some young, some old but all lost to shadow.”
“And none ever reached ?” asked Varane.
“None” replied Zamar gently. “No man passing to shadow has returned.”
Abruptly both men looked back up the tomb, the door had been shoved open and a slight figure stood silhouetted in its frame, light streaming around it. The figure stepped forwards into the tomb, planted hands on hips and grinned.
“Zamar has you right brother” she said. “No man has lived in shadow and returned. But I have.”
“Aurore ? Is that really you ? How… how can this be ?” Varane stepped tentatively towards his sister.
“It’s me little brother” she said. “I lived in shadow and I have returned.”
I may return to this (although that would entail working out actually what the hell the shadow is beyond some vague allegorical ideas) as I quite like it. I would change the names as the first couple were nicked from the French football team as I was watching them play in the World Cup at the same time as writing… the latter ones (Ombrager, Aurore) had more of a point relevant to events when translated. Sacre bleu.