Saturday, December 19, 2009

Plotting (and sanity) Break

Yep, time for another one of these. I know broadly where the story's going, but somewhere in between "overall plot" and "daily writing," I'm getting kind of muddled. When it gets to the point that I'm up past 5am still trying to get my writing done (I write the evening before it goes up, like most webcomickers, but sometimes have to do it in the wee hours of the morning), it's probably a safe bet that I'm screwed for the day -- and possibly for the next few days, until I figure out whatever's getting in the way of my story. Add in some other positive but definitely serious changes in my life at the moment, and looking at some more before too long, means I'm feeling a little overwhelmed.

Writing is the first thing getting a break because one of the other biggest time-consumers in my life has already been cut (socializing with friends, most of whom are gone thanks to winter break). I'm also dead serious about doing this story right, so the idea of floundering blindly through a couple fairly important scenes is currently quite anathema to me.

So, I'm going to be taking a day or several off. Hopefully not too many, because I really do want to move forward with this story. But I do need some time to recharge and get in the right headspace. I know that Frank Herbert is quoted as saying how he could never tell the difference between writing done in a flight of inspiration and writing done just to get the writing done, but I'm not Frank Herbert. I'll hold myself to more professional standards when I've got a much better chance of being a professional.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Five Days, 1111 words

A tiefling man, not feeling quite so young as he had five years ago, stared up into the night sky. Above, the lights and fires of the Hive sprayed across the darkness, like a scattering of stars. Every point represented a person, or a group of people. Sometimes one of the lights went out, but a new one would alight to take its place, changing the constellations in an endless, intricate dance. Even in a place as dismal and hopeless as the Hive, love could blossom and burn, for a time.

From his vantage near the Grand Bazaar, on the blurry border between the Market and Guildhall Wards, the tiefling wanted nothing more than to reach up and swipe every one of those lights away. He wanted to plunge the whole city – nay, the whole of the planes – into darkness. If day never rose again, that would suit him well.

What had he to offer, he reflected bitterly. No wealth and no prospects. He was not an ugly man, but with his fiendish heritage he was far from fair. He had a little magic to his name, but no more than she. There was nothing, not even his affection and attention, that she couldn't get from someone else.

Cold seeped into him from the stones of the bridge, through his palms and the seat of his trousers. He had perched on the half-wall that came up the side of the bridge, which arched over one of the small canals-cum-rain gutters that ran throughout much of the city below The Lady's Ward. Despite its proximity to the Bazaar, the street saw little traffic – no shops lined the street, just the homes of countless faceless guild factors and city officials, who liked their peace and quiet. In the old days, the Hardheads probably would have tossed him into the canal for simply being a tiefling in the wrong part of town. Now the Sons just nodded as they went by on patrol, content that he wasn't doing anything wrong.

He lifted a hand off the cold stone and pressed it to his forehead, as if the chill could quell the thoughts in his head. Memories. Too many memories, all his but... not. The same night burned in his mind, the same acts done six, eight, a dozen times, in a dozen different ways and places. The same first kiss done a dozen times over – here on the bridge after a chance meeting; outside a cafe where they'd shared a meal; while gasping for breath in an alley after an desperate flight from a pair of muggers; at the front stoop of her home...

Living in Sigil could do that to you. If you weren't careful, if you tried to live too many lives, suddenly you really were living all those lives. And, they discovered, they'd been living them together. All the different copies of them, all the possibilities collapsed into one after that first night.

The trick was living in one life after spending so long in so many others. Too many memories. Too many different versions of her and him, of them – too many hopes and fears crowding together in the same head, jostling for space. Too many expectations.

Her embrace had grown claustrophobic. Her eyes were a cage. Her kiss was suffocation. And, she had revealed after their disastrous first time sharing a bed, so his had been for her. They had become too much and too little for one another all at once.

He closed his eyes and wished... wished what? That it had never happened. That she had been a bad dream. That one day he had turned left instead of right.

A warm hand pressed down on his, on top of the bridge stones, and he flinched. He hadn't heard anyone. He looked over and saw her, a beautiful aasimar, granddaughter to angels and sitting on the bridge next to him, and all but jumped away. He held his hand close as if burned, staring at her. It still hurt to look. Five years since he had met her, three since they'd exchanged even a single word, and it still hurt.

“What,” he managed to croak, his voice strained as if he hadn't said anything in those intervening years.

“I didn't know you still came here,” she said, her voice melodic still, if softer than before. Unfair, he decided, hating the planes all the more. She looked up in the skies at the same fires he had been staring at just moments before.

“What is it,” he demanded, finally sounding like normal. He too-casually held his hands at his side. He couldn't help but remember five days before, when they'd suddenly bumped into one another in the Bazaar – he with more deliveries to make, she with some new purchase. Literally. They'd dropped their things, scrabbled desperately to gather them together, and separated without a word. He'd glanced back, and she had still stood there, looking a little lost.

She looked at him again, now, and he turned his gaze away. Her eyes shouldn't have shone that brightly in the dark. “I'm sorry,” she said. She may as well have driven a sword through a lung. “For my part in how things happened. I'm sorry.” She sat silently, hands folded in her lap, watching him now that she had said her piece.

“I... I...” He stumbled over his words, nervous under her eyes. Finally he managed to blurt out, “I'm sorry, too. But I wish – I wish we'd never... I wish I'd never met you.”

“Do you still love me,” she asked barely above a whisper. He almost couldn't hear her. Wished he hadn't. He felt like he'd kicked something small and fluffy.

“After what I just– what do you think?” He looked out over the houses, imagining the people inside settled into sleep. Sleep and silence. He envied them.

She took his hand and his heart leapt in place so, he feared it would escape. “Would it be so bad? To say so?” she asked.

He tried to draw away but she twined her fingers in his, held him fast. “Reda, please,” he half-moaned. “Don't ask me that.”

“Colius,” she said, and his stomach knotted up at hearing his name on her lips again, “it's been three years. The same mistakes don't have to happen again.”

Colius let out a shuddering breath, and squeezed Reda's hand back. “I...” He couldn't say it, couldn't get the words out. But something about her hand in his felt better.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Five Years Apart, 603 words

The following two vignettes were written five years apart, almost to the day. I can think of nothing I've written that better illustrates my views and fears about what the passage of time can do to people. Call it emo and angsty if you will, but it's something I need to get out of my head.

Colius and Reda are six people. Colius, a young male tiefling, first met Reda, a female aasimar, when he was delivering a package to her home. He met her again when he started studying under the same wizard who teaches her, and met her again by chance in the Great Bazaar a few days later. Each time, the two fit themselves into distinct roles. When he delivered the package, he became polite and deferential while she was gracious and welcoming. When they studied under their teacher, they argued magic in sharp debates that both thoroughly enjoyed. When they met in the Bazaar, they exchanged pleasantries and went back to the business at hand.

Colius has been absolutely infatuated with Reda almost from the moment they met. He's gotten hints from the aasimar that she reciprocates the interest. He can't bring himself to break out of the roles they find themselves interacting in, however, and chastises himself constantly for his cowardice.

Reda is attracted to Colius as well, but is reluctant because she knows so little of him, and her own father would never condone the relationship.

It was not long after their third meeting before strange things began to happen. Various friends of the two would mention seeing them arguing near their teacher's, or chatting politely in the Bazaar, far more often than the two had been going to either place. It was strange, but strange is normal in Sigil.

What had happened was that the two created more of themselves. They began to conceive of their different roles in each case almost like being different people. They became different people in different situations and eventually there were three different Coliuses and three different Redas. The six continued their lives as if their alternates did not exist, fulfilling their defining roles.

There are still at least three of each wandering Sigil, each Colius drawn inexorably towards its counterpart Reda, and vice versa. Neither has yet become aware that its "brothers" or "sisters" exists, and any attempts to tell them seem to be swiftly forgotten. There may be dozens of other pairs of the two, created each time one of the existing pairs defines a new role for the two to interact in. Those who have noticed the situation, and the few of those who care, think that perhaps if even one pair acknowledges their mutual attraction and establishes a relationship, the others will no longer be needed and will cease to exist.

***

Colius and Reda are two people. Once, they had struggled to get a grasp on their feelings for one another. Once, they had ended up as a multiplicity of would-be lovers each playing out a determined role in their intricate social dance.

"Once" doesn't last forever.

They came together. Briefly, brightly. Colius loved Reda and Reda loved Colius. All of them met their partners in a perfect embrace.

But every embrace ends.

They were circumscribed by one another. Defined, delineated, limited. And they found... that it wasn't enough. The circle bound by a lover's arms is a cage too small, and they had become too many to all fit. They fell apart and fell away.

Separated, they lessened even further. In each of them in their isolation, many became one, and one almost became none.

Now, they flee from one another. They flinch away and hide their faces when they meet. They turn their backs to avoid passing on the same street.

They each wonder how to admit to the other that no longer do they simply not love one another, but wish they had never felt that way at all.