The Parasite of Writing

Now this is going to sound strange, and I’m very, very aware of it, but let me get it off my chest. I sometimes feel that comparing writing to a child is a little too kind of an analogy. All published writers, those making money from it, always say how its a little piece of their soul bounding into life and shooting off into a million different directions. And it is. They’re right. But what about all the unpublished writers?

I sometimes feel like the writing is more a parasite, as if its something that has infiltrated my body, my mind and my soul and is consuming more of me every day. Sure, some days I wake up with a blank mind that’s like, “Hey, chill out! You’ve earned it!” But most days I wake up with all these stories in my head, all these characters talking, and they all want out. Given that I have not (as of yet) earned any money from writing, it proves itself rather unwelcome at certain points in my life. For example:

It’s the final year of the undergraduate degree. Working 2.5 days a week. Being a trainee-teacher for an EFL class 1 night a week. Attending class 3 days a week. Working in an after-hours school 2 days a week. Creating lesson plans anytime I can. Sleeping whenever I can. And bam: dissertation. Dissertation slips in, has to slip in, has to fit in somewhere. There isn’t any time. There isn’t any time! But wait one more second, there’s Bryn. There’s Bryn, the main character of my recently edited mss, standing there, smiling, and waiting for me to tell her story. Where does everything fit? Where does it all fit?!

 

Well, luckily for me, I figured it out. I even got to sleep a few hours every night! But that is just one example of a period in which the ‘writing parasite’ struck at a most inappropriate time. Most inappropriate indeed!

I feel, sometimes, that I could be a lot more successful if the parasite would go away. Like, have a real job instead of working at a restaurant (again, ugh!). I feel, sometimes, like I’d be a lot more connected to reality if the parasite would go away.

But then I realize, life would be a lot more boring as well.

Then I realize, though the parasite’s timing sucks, I’m glad I’ve got it. That bug, under my skin, makes me see things that aren’t there and let’s me live in places that aren’t there. In fact, though it’s timing could be better, I wouldn’t give the damned thing up.

Not even when I haven’t slept more than 4 hours a night for weeks on end.

Foolish, foolish girl.

Stalked Part 1

            It was his third night in a row visiting the restaurant and requesting her section. She was beginning to get a bad feeling about him. Well, no, scratch that. She had a bad feeling about him. It had been a steady progression from bad feeling to dislike to anxiety and she remembered it all.

            The first night he’d seemed just like a business man in another town for meetings or some stupid thing. Lonely and alone. That had been the night he’d been in another girl’s section. The next night he’d come back, requesting her. She’d been polite, charismatic, charming. Everything you needed to be when you were a waitress trying to make ends meet. Especially with the cost of books for college rising every week. He’d left a generous tip.

            The next night he’d come back again, requesting her again. But there had been a comment here, a glint in his eye there, a careful, assessing up-and-down that she couldn’t miss. Safe to say, her chat had been a little more strained but effective nevertheless. She knew she had to flirt and charm to make tips but he’d begun to give her the creeps. Especially noticing his eyes on her when she moved around the restaurant. Following her, as if she were prey.

            Now it was the third night. He’d requested her again. And she stood before his table, feeling the red hot burn of his eyes on her as if he was violating her. Even though he’d done nothing. This feeling did not bode well. She did not like this feeling.

            “So what’s a pretty girl like you doing working late shifts like this?” he’d asked, eyes intense and dark. She’d wanted to punch him but smiled instead.

            “Gotta do what you gotta do, right? Classes are in the morning so the only time left to work is night.”

            “You’ve been working for the past four nights though. Seems a bit much for someone trying to make it through a heavy load of classes. I’m sure you’ve got a heavy load.” It was almost as if there was an insinuation in his words, in his voice. The balding patch in the middle of his head glowed at her, as if evil thoughts were collecting there.

            “Yeah, they pretty much keep me locked up in the basement.” The words had escaped her mouth without thought, a joke she repeated to regulars who’d made similar comments. A sly smile lifted the edges of the guy’s mouth and his eyes took on that sharp glint that sent a spike of fear racing through her core.

            “Do they now?” he’d murmured, as if it was an intriguing idea. As if he might like to do the same. “That can’t be much fun without any company.”

            “Hmm,” she’d simpered sarcastically, biting on her tongue to keep from telling him to get the flying fuck out of her fucking section. She turned and walked away, images of her smacking him racing in her mind. If only her sister had heard, that man would be nursing a broken nose at the very least. As it was she needed the money, and last night had brought a tip of $20.00 from him alone. But the guy made her feel sick for no apparent reason.

            “Good chat?” Jo asked when she reached the bar, an eyebrow raised. Everyone had noticed his repeat business repeatedly following her.

            “He’s a fucking creep,” she muttered, leaning on the bar with her elbow as if exhausted. Jo leaned closer.

            “He’s been watching every move you’ve made.”

            And didn’t she know it? She’d felt his eyes on her when she’d been talking to the chefs at the open kitchen, when she’d been making drinks at the bar, when she’d been collecting and carrying food, when she’d been talking to other customers and staff, everything. Weirdo. Freak. All the names she wanted to call him when all she could do was smile and laugh at his pitiful jokes.

            Even now, glancing up confirmed he was still watching, swirling his wine like a snob though his discount suit revealed a life of working for a merely decent salary. Loser. At least his meal was almost over. Maybe she’d even ask one of the other girls to take him his check while she hid out in the staff room, texting her boyfriend that the freak businessman was back. But that was cowardly. And God knew she had faced up to far worse things than some weirdo with a crush. Even one that was potentially insane.

Editing

Quote

Well, good golly Miss Molly, I never would have imagined editing could be such bleeding hard work! You get to the end of writing a novel and think, hell’s yeah, I’ve just finished! I have created something and brought it into the world! There’s only a little way more to go so that it can (hopefully) get published.

Wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Editing properly appears to be taking a little bit longer that writing it did. What’s that you say, ‘impossible’? Apparently not. And worse than that, I think all writers out there know that writing in and of itself is fun. The escapism reading a book offers is exponentially increased when you have all the control you could ever hope for. But editing? Blah! Tedious, dull and repetitive.

I think Regina Spektor’s song, ‘Edit’, provides a good view of the way it feels to be editing so that’s why it’s hanging about up there. If anyone has any words of encouragement please feel free to share. I’m not sure how much longer I can take this!

Meet Bryn

A few words of introduction: Bryn is the main character of my first urban fantasy manuscript. She and her sister work for the government as the clean-up crew when the paranormal world spills over into the “normal” world. They’re best friends and enjoy their jobs thoroughly. This is the first part of the first chapter, a short introduction to their lives. The book’s working title is ‘Roadtrip to Were?’ and is currently in the last stages of editing before being sent off to the literary agents I respect most. If you have any feedback feel free to post it. I would love to hear your thoughts. You are, after all, the people who may hopefully one day be reading the rest of the story in paper form.
Chapter 1
            The clan of feral vampires was huddled inside the building ahead of us, along with their human bonds. Human bonds being, of course, non-vampires who’d been bound to a vampire with a combination of blood and sex magic, essentially something even less than slaves, just in case that needed clearing up. That could include witches like me, humans, or maybe even stronger beings. It wasn’t like the magical practices had been openly experimented on with results published in national papers.
I looked at Nadeah, my best friend and adoptive sister.  Her dark hair reflected the moonlight above us. She was ridiculously beautiful no matter what face she was making, and she was making a face that should have been uglier than a squashed mongoose at that moment. Her deep blue eyes were tight around the edges, mimicking her hands locked around the gun loaded with silver bullets. She was actually a little funny to look at just then. Her light-reflecting hair creating a halo around eyes glaring daggers that could kill.
            At that point in time it wasn’t even the stupid vampires that were causing us problems. The vampires and their human bonds we could handle. The great Goddess knew we could handle paranormals, like ourselves. We were witches, granted it was of our own respective brands, somewhere between human and… not-so-human. We were Government operators, the cleanup crew for when the paranormal world dared spill over into the ‘normal’.
            Our problem at that point was the two civilians trying to take our case away from us.  The two Dark-Hunters- mortals who tried to protect the human race from less than wholly human beings like us, but on their own time and dollar- were crouched across the street from us. We’d had the misfortune of running into them a few times before. Goddess, they were a real pain in the ass, though to be perfectly frank, I knew they meant well.
              “Bryn, Nadeah, we were here first,” a mature female voice called over to us with a patience that spoke of having raised unruly children. We weren’t unruly children. We were adults, and dangerous ones at that. Tedious, tedious, tedious. I heard her husband loading a non-standard shotgun with whatever strange ammo they’d concocted that time. I sighed, leaning against the car we’d taken cover behind in case the vampires were craftier than we thought they’d be.
            Odds were looking pretty high, they weren’t.
            “Darlene, sweetheart, you know that the government sent us here to take care of it,” I called back across the empty air. Annoyance at the tediousness of the situation made me sarcastic. So sue me. At least my two handguns were still holstered. I didn’t think the situation really called for guns considering the other weapons I had at my disposal.
            “Plus, you’re getting old,” Nadeah cracked out, humor rich in her voice. I shot her an exasperated look, only getting a smile for my trouble. Darren, Darlene’s husband and fellow Dark-Hunter, growled.
            “We ain’ gettin’ old! Fidy-five ain’ old, girl! Kids these days, don’ know how to respect their elders,” he yelled. I sighed theatrically so the ‘elders’ would hear.
            “Isn’t your daughter’s wedding next week? You want to show up in a cast?” I waited through a few seconds of silence before continuing. “There’s a clan of at least 12 vampires in there that have gone off vampire rule. They’ve got another 12 human bonds. That’s an awful lot of trouble for you two, isn’t it? When’s the last time you took on a clan that size?”
            Silence met my words. Nadeah snickered to me, amused with the situation. In the building I sensed the vampires getting excited.  The human bonds were blank, emotionless, void until commanded. Their emotions were sluggish, drugged. The vampires on the other hand were balls of energy that my extensive skills at empathy could easily pick up. It was practically like being able to see through the walls. Well, seeing through the walls without eyes really. Darren coughed.
            “Government cleanup don’t always get the job done right, girl. We know what we’re doin’,” he yelled back.
            “We aren’t assassins and you know it. When have we ever not done the job right?”
            “When that psycho boy got involved, girl, you know. We know he is… was?… dating you. Things didn’ get done right then! And don’ try an’ say they did,” he replied angrily. I shot up to glare over at where they were sitting. The vampires were stupid, they weren’t going to blow our heads off with guns. And if they did, well, I pretty much deserved it for standing up. So there.
            “Was dating, and yeah, that went to hell but when else? It’s just us.” My voice was more annoyed than I’d meant for it to be, taking a warning tone as I continued. “Now, the government sent us to deal with these feral vampires, and it’s in Ithel’s territory. That makes it doubly ours. I want you to clear out before things go to shit.”
            “We don’ listen to no vamp-er, girl, you should know that by now,” came his response. I should have expected it. Dark-Hunters didn’t like anything supernatural, even the vampires responsible for protecting the humans in their territories. There were nine American vampire territory owners, Ithel being the one in charge of the states surrounding our home. We were something like advisors and assistants- when it suited us- for him.
            “Well then listen to us for Goddess fucking dark-magic fucking crap-eating sake!” Nadeah screamed out, standing up beside me. I gave her a look of disapproval. From across the street Darren stood up, in spite of his wife’s whispered warnings. We were all acting like idiot rookies. Thank the Goddess these vampires were stupid or we’d all be dead by now.
            “Now you listen here, you bad-tempered lil’ sprite of a girl,” he began to Nadeah, who was almost as well-known for her temper as he was, “don’ you go round cursing at me when my wife is sittin’ righ’ aside me! You have got the most foul tongue that ain’ never been to sea!”
            Nadeah began yelling something back at him but I forgot to listen, finding my focus drawn entirely to the building. A new set of emotions had joined the group and they weren’t the numb emotions of a bond or the quick, shifting emotions of a vampire. They were brilliant and multi-faceted. Human. I turned back at the dark building even though it showed me nothing, sensing the human stuck inside with them, feeling his mind-numbing fear, straightening like a dog catching the scent. The thrill of the chase, the race of adrenaline, flew through me. This was what I loved about my job. I was a highly skilled predator seeking out my unwitting prey and saving those who couldn’t save themselves. The sense of the human inside was all it took for me.
            I took off sprinting, leaving Nadeah screaming at the two Dark-Hunters in the hopes that it would distract them, leaving the guns holstered. The uncontrolled force of my mind forced the front door to explode of its hinges, letting the others know that I’d run off without them and bringing an end to their fighting. Nadeah, Darlene, and Darren all started after me with shouts of confusion and excitement. The chase was on and by God, it felt fucking good.

2012

How crazy, all this talk about ‘The End of Time’. How are we meant to know what’s going to happen? How are we meant to know what to expect? The Mayans, interestingly, were able to predict all of time down to fractions of a second even this far past their existence. So then, what does it mean that they’ve stopped predicting within the year 2012?

Does it mean they’re lazy? I sure hope it does. This idea, of the end of time, it worries me in a deeply psychological way. I’ve been having nightmares about just what it could mean for the past week or so.

What does it mean?

Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Boom!

Boom!

            Out on the middle of an island, at an exclusive resort, a woman was having a nightmare. It was a nightmare she was not enjoying, not a sweet sort of nightmare where she had control over the events. Rather, it was a dark nightmare where everything felt out of control. She’d laugh later over the details, mocking herself for being unable to remove herself from work, but within the world of the dream she would shake and shiver with terror.

She was serving a table and it was breakfast. Outside was cold and misty. That was common enough on the island. The new waiter, Brody, was serving a table while she watched him from the corner of her eye. She’d have to have a word about his style; this was an upscale establishment not the local pub down the road. If he didn’t learn to adapt he’d have to go.

“Oh yes, often dark in the mornin’, ye ken? Not much to do on these days but keep te yerself and hope the boogies dinnae come,” he was lilting to the much unimpressed guests. His smile didn’t serve to ease the tension.

The door flew open then, revealing a small girl with an elfin face. She was filled with terror at the sight of the girl, who was missing her left eye. Only a dark, loose eyelid covered whatever horror was lurking inside the dark socket and that wasn’t enough to protect the imagination of the dreamer.

In her mind, she was running down a dark hallway, part of the resort, a part only decorated by ancient, disturbing paintings that had been created by the resort’s son. But that was only for a second before she was jerked back to the breakfast room.

Everyone stared at the girl, who wore a sick smirk on her face as she stood there, arms behind her back.

“And who are ye?” Brody questioned, face distorted with disgust. The little girl’s smile spread as she walked to him. She seemed like a demon. Her knee-length dress may once have been white with a blue ribbon round the waist but now it only seemed gray with dirty dark spots all over.

“Who am I?” the girl whispered back. Brody backed up hastily, tripping on his over-large feet as he did and falling hard to the floor. The guests were silent in palpable fear. Even she was struggling to breathe. Who was the girl? She’d never seen her before and she’d been on the island for years. She always dealt with the new arrivals. When did the girl get here? What did she want? She surely wanted something.

The girl stopped nearly on top of Brody, who was sweating where he’d fallen. Her wilted socket fluttered briefly as the smile continued to spread, taking over her triangular face. It took her a moment to bring her arms around, revealing a rusty sawed-off shotgun. Only a breath of a second to fit it into her tiny shoulder. She stared down the top with her one good eye.

“Boom,” she whispered, then pulled the trigger.

The dreamer awoke, screaming and tangled in the sheets. Nightmares, nightmares. They would never come true.

Memory

            That night changed my life. To this day I can’t figure, was it for the best? Or was it bad? Things were different back then, when I lived there. It was always quiet. It was always calm. Everything was open and the fields stretched as far as you could see.

            Everyone was kids of farmers, or farmers themselves. Or wives of farmers. Wheat was our town’s lifeblood. Well, wheat and secrets. We loved each other. Not just the little families, not just the little cliques. We all loved each other. The entire town. I suppose that’s what a little secret-keeping does to a group. It brings them all together.

We all knew what was happening, the secret war going on. We all knew the days it would happen. We all knew what was waiting, out there, in the dark. We all knew. We were all prepared.

Those nights, when we knew it was coming, they were dangerous. Our town would go from a bustling little town- where children walked down the street and rode their bikes without fear, where doors and windows were always left open, where everyone knew everyone- into something else. Something worse. No one left their homes. All the doors were locked. Passerby were sent away. You couldn’t tell who you could trust. But the secret must be kept.

Bodies disappeared quietly in our town. Whispers would pass round, funerals would be planned, mourning would take over but missing persons reports were the only thing filed. The coffins for the funerals went down empty. And smoke would drift up out the top of the forest. In this way, the secrets were kept. No outsiders knew.

I still can’t figure, why is it my papa went away? That night, I knew it was coming. My papa knew it was coming. Even my baby brother knew it was coming. Everyone knew. But papa had business in the city, important business. Or maybe his reason for leaving is still a secret. Secret-keeping comes natural for us.

It had been an Indian summer, red hot and vicious. Working in the fields had been hard work but my reward had been golden skin kissed by fairies. Freckles aren’t necessarily attractive on all girls but I’d always been lucky in getting a perfectly adorable trail across the top of my cheeks and nose. I was young and pretty that summer. These are the way we remember these traumas, through the good bits.

The first bitter whisper of winter was in the air; I remember because it smelled of the crispness- that earthy barbeque smell of crispness- that always means winter. It was still warm enough to leave the windows open, if you had the balls. Like I said, no one had the balls.

I was sitting with my baby brother, praying to God that it didn’t come for us while papa was away, when I knew. Every hair on my body stood on end and my brother started screaming. In those days, the days of the secret war, we all knew out duties. When it came to you it was your duty to fight it. For the good of the others. If we didn’t fight it we’d never be rid of it. Some of us might perish quietly, nothing but smoke rising out of the distant woods, but one day we might be free. One day, it might be gone.

My brother was too small; he was a liability. I took him down to the basement, hid him away in the room, settled him down. When he’d quieted I told him he was going to be there until morning, maybe without me. I told him he was getting locked in. He didn’t stir or cry. He knew.

Locking him inside filled me with a lump, a horrible lump. I had a moment of weakness. I was young and pretty, and just getting to be woman enough to be sexy. I wanted life in all its largeness rather than the smallness of death. But I knew my duty. My feet marched me up the stairs.

The shotgun was waiting by the door. Papa must have known it would come to me. He must have known the way it would want me, particularly then. He must have been keeping a very big secret.

The shotgun was bigger than the one I liked. I preferred the 20 gauge, which was less difficult because of its reduced recoil. But papa said to always use the big gun when it came, because the increased field of splatter helped. He even said that maybe the stronger recoil would work to my advantage, thrusting me back enough to push me away from it.

I stepped outside, almost numb. The only thing tying me to the physical world at that moment was the weight of the gun, anchored in both my arms. My legs spread to shooting stance without thought. I had been very well trained. Time to see if all that training had worked.

It would be my first battle with the enemy. I had only been outside with it once before, and that had been as bait while papa shot. That sounds cruel but papa’s a great shot and there are strict rules guiding our secret war. First, and most important, is to keep the secret. Second, and almost as important, is only one death per night. From our side or from theirs is irrelevant. Only one death per night.

Though the night was dark, there was light. Out there in the country there’s always light from the sky. The stars are bright and when we’re lucky, the moon is shining with no clouds in sight. I could smell the edge of crispness in the air, and the wheaty smell that never left our land. The stalks nearest our house still stood high, blocking my view. All I could see was wheat.

Nothing moved.

Everything was still.

The artificial light coming from the house felt unnatural so I moved away from it, further out the porch. I felt a strange calmness inside, as if I had turned off. The gun in my hands tethered me to the earth. If I hadn’t had that, I think my soul might just have floated away into a different world.

Nothing moved.

I could smell it out in the darkness, smell the sweat off its body. Or bodies, perhaps. You never knew how many would come, what their tactics might be. I could sense its nearness. Eyes were watching me, big scary eyes wanting a toy to play with. Big scary eyes with big scary teeth attached. And claws that would rip through skin without much resistance.

Nothing moved.

My heartbeat was rapid in my ears but I didn’t move. My hands didn’t sweat. My legs didn’t shake. The gun was so very heavy but my arms didn’t even begin to fatigue. Adrenaline was making me as unmoving as the creature, biding my time. A moment of weakness could mean death. Behind my eyes all I could see was smoke rising from the woods. Briefly, I smelt burning.

The wheat waved in the wind and I knew it was coming, felt it as if I was psychic. My heart stopped beating as time stood still, every nerve in my body tightening, every inch of my skin pulling in. A wave of fear rose, almost indistinguishably, before the survivor inside of me pressed it back. There was no time for fear because now there was too-quick movement, a flash of several pairs of giant eyes, before they burst into the open.

Great, shaggy wolves. My, what giant teeth you have. The shotgun rested firmly in my shoulder, pressed in tight. Great, shaggy wolves, six, bearing down on me like the hounds of Satan, moving so fast I can hear the wind screaming against their bodies. Their scent, nearly intoxicating.

They were so close, one young brown one already leaping up the porch, before I could pull the trigger. The shotgun nestled between my body and the wolf’s- the only thing protecting me from the crush of its claws- and the blast explodes. My body, thrown into the ground, the shotgun falling away from me.

The world disappears.

Everything is grey.

In my head, wheat is still and silent, but there’s something out there waiting. Watching. I step into the open, scared, I feel the warm wetness of fear all over my body, in my head, on my eyes. And out into the open he steps.

But it’s only Ernie. Relief washes over me. Ernie, my sweet boyfriend. I’m lucky the sun is so good to me because that’s what got us together. Everyone at school loves him, he’s so funny and so good. So sweet. A good football player, clever in class, so tender. Ernie, with his true brown eyes and brilliant smile. My first darling.

We live in the sun together, and when the monsters come in the night we pray to meet again the next day. I pray to God to let me make it through this, to let my shot have been true, to let the monster be dead so I can return to Ernie and papa and my baby brother. I feel hurt, broken, colour is returning to my head. It has to be time to open my eyes.

As sound returns, I try to sit up only to feel pinned down. Rough slates of wood cradle my body on either side, reminding me of caskets. The numbness is gone leaving a screaming panic in my chest, a screaming fear. Am I dead? Fear rolls off me in large swells, giving me another adrenaline rush, enough of one to push up against whatever’s on top of me.

When I try to open my eyes, still weighed down, there’s a horrific, sticky wetness on them. I brush it away, blinking at the world like a newborn, shoving the weight on top of me away so I can stand. The blast took me by surprise, I must have knocked my head because I’m disoriented. It appears that I’m standing in a destroyed little area that just recently had been my porch. Apparently, the impact of the wolf and the blast hitting my body took us down hard enough to destroy the porch.

Papa wouldn’t be happy.

The wetness looked red, deep red. Blood-like. It smelled metallic, and I knew it must be blood. But aside from a little achiness, I wasn’t hurting. It must belong to the wolf.

Looking around, I saw the shape of a naked body and knew that it had been the weight keeping me down. A naked male body, lying there, bleeding all over. Hair that was matted to his head with blood concealing his identity from me.

Who from the town would it be?

That was the worst part of our war, knowing our enemy was someone we loved. Some of the town were werewolves, the rest of us were not, and once a month- on the night of the full moon- we would battle to win. That was why only one death per night. It was all we could take. No matter which side, we all mourned equally. We all loved equally.

I knelt by the body, touching the warm skin, heard choking. A werewolf in his dying moments. By the time I had the courage to turn him over, he was already gone. His body would be next to disappear in smoke. The image I saw will forever stay with me. My sweet, darling Ernie with wolf-eyes not yet faded from the change, ripped to nothing but meat from a hole I’d put in his chest.

That night I learnt what it took to be a survivor, and learnt I already had the skills to kill. It took a while to come to terms with, but in the end, the only thing I regretted was that I’d been dating him. Everyone keeps secrets in our town, but I’d thought he’d been honest. I’d thought he’d been good. I still miss the Ernie I thought he was, but the Ernie that was there was a monster.

Even though I’ve left that town, the war still rages. Once a month a body disappears quietly, in the woods, in the smoke. The whole town loves each other, except on that one night when the line is drawn: us or them, us or them.

Everyone keeps the secret.