I have this habit… I guess it’s a bad habit?… of starting new projects when I get stuck or bored with the one I’m working on. So I haven’t been working much on Reverie, although to throw you a bone, here’s a recent little excerpt:
“Me?” the girl says. There’s none of her normal good humor twinkling in her brown eyes. “You were the one who spent practically all afternoon with… that woman again.”
“You could’ve come out and joined us,” Lucinda says, hurt.
“You could’ve knocked on my door and invited me,” she retorts.
“You’re right,” Lucinda says. “I should’ve. I’m sorry.”
The girl sighs deeply and flops into one of the rocking chairs. She’s still in her usual sleep clothes — a white undershirt above short, plaid boxers. Lucinda notices that she’s not wearing a bra.
“I thought we were spending the day together,” the girl says. “Instead you gave your whole day to her.”
But then there’s also this project…
I have this concept for a lesbian vampire romance (aren’t those totally three of your favorite words put together? Lesbian + Vampire + Romance???) that I’ve been toying with for about a year. I got inspired to sit down and write an opening scene for it a couple weeks ago. Let’s just say it’s going to be rather, um, “different” from your typical vampire romance. But then again, you wouldn’t expect anything less from me, right? Here’s what I was fiddling with the other day:
After two centuries, immortality still seems appealing. Two hundred years gives one the chance to see dynasties rise and fall, to see the legacies of arrogant men destroyed by feckless descendants, to see societies and technologies change in ways that the originators of those changes never could’ve imagined. At three hundred years, almost everything that had been recognizable in one’s own youth is gone; some of the same streets are there, a few of the same buildings remain, but there’s no one left who remembers why things are the way they are, or how they got to be that way, or why they should continue along a certain course. Yes, people know the broad brushstrokes of history — every schoolchild can name history’s great wars, the generals and kings and presidents who stumbled into a decision that would forever shift the ever-unfolding banner of fate — but the actual collective memory is reduced to nothing more than data, a bland recitation of names, dates, and events as hollow and meaningless as the memory itself.
And as no one can recall their previous lives, save a few babbling children under the age of five, like malfunctioning robots, men, women, dogs, and deer repeat the patterns they cannot remember time and again. They die, they rise, they follow paths they think are original, never realizing that they are little more than rats running a maze.
Yes. After three hundred years, one begins to wonder if immortality is more curse than gift.
After four hundred years, there is no more wondering about it.
Upon reaching five hundred years of a single life, one wishes one might forget again, become like the mindless rats — because, yes, they are nothing but wind-up dolls, Turing tests gone terribly wrong, but they don’t realize it, and so in that way, at least they usually find a way to enjoy their mayfly’s existence. At least they live within the blissful illusion that their lives — that they themselves — are unique, special, important.
At one thousand years, there is no denying the truth: Life, which once seemed so precious, so all-important to preserve — so precious, in fact, that one was willing to pay a horrific, nightmarish price for one’s immortality — is nothing but a mindless wheel of death. A wheel that rolls forward without rest, animating corpses only to crush them again, a cycle that never ends, never slows, never even bothers to pause long enough to laugh at its own joke.
Living is defined by death. Which suggests that I, a Deathless One, have not been truly alive for a millennium. No wonder mortals call us the “undead.” We occupy a space outside of death, yet also outside of life. Another cruel jest of immortality.
And yet, even after a thousand years of serving as humankind’s silent witness, one question lingers in my dusty old mind: Could it be that I have it wrong? Could it be that the wheel that turns through the centuries, the wheel that automates existence, is composed not of death but of love? Could it be that seven billion insignificant love stories are the droplets of glue that still hold that wheel of existence together?
Could it be that even my own immortality, my undead existence, is paid for by love and not death?
And if that is the case, is there still hope for me, the demon cursed to stalk the truly living for all eternity?
I answer my own question thusly: Even if the wheel of existence rolls forward through the power of love and not the power of death, I remain outside the wheel. I remain outside seven billion insignificant love stories.
I remain cursed, because I remember, and she does not.
And the project I’m most excited about? Cord and Moon.
I’ve occasionally mentioned my girlfriend to you. I haven’t talked to you about her much, for reasons that have to do with her privacy and mine, but in a nutshell, she is an incredibly talented writer who’s finishing up a master’s degree in creative writing this semester. I love her work. She’s much more literary than I am — I am content with being a genre fiction hack.
Anyway, we have had an idea to write a novel together for a while. It started as something we were just joking about — “What would it have been like if we’d met in high school?”
I insisted she wouldn’t have liked me back then. I was too nerdy, too shy, and too closeted. She said, no, no, she would’ve been interested in me anyway, and she started writing me a story imagining the two of us as high school kids. She wrote a scene; I wrote a scene back. It became a fun pastime.
After we put about 10,000 words down, we stood back and looked at what we’d written and said, “Hey, wait a second. This is actually a really interesting and different coming out / coming of age story.” We took the two main characters, fleshed them out so that they weren’t just caricatures of ourselves, and started outlining a plot around them. We named them “Cord,” which is short for “Cordelia,” and “Moon,” which is the English translation of a common Vietnamese girl’s name.
Don’t look for this story to be finished anytime soon; my girl still has her own manuscript to write, and of course I’ve got Reverie to finish before I can move on to other things. But here’s the opening scene I wrote for Cord a week or two ago:
Some sisters hate each other when they’re little, but start to like each other once they’re both adults. Other sisters like each other when they’re little, hate each other when they’re adults.
Some sisters just always hate each other.
“…my home, eating my food, sleeping under my roof — ”
“Go to hell, Lynn!”
I gave my baby sister a weak smile as I poured milk over her cereal. “Let’s never yell at each other like that,” I said to her in a soft voice.
She was all big-brown eyes when she looked up at me and whispered, “I’d never say things like that to you, Cord.”
We both turned at the same time when we heard my mother’s heavy, frustrated stomps making their way into the kitchen.
“Get your things,” she said curtly. “We’re leaving.”
She wasn’t looking at us, of course — she didn’t look at us much before Dad left, but ever since he disappeared, it’s like Amelia and I are ghosts. Dead to her — or at least invisible. Two things she senses the presence of but never really sees. So my mom stared at the counter instead of us; she leaned against the counter with both palms, like she was bracing against it, like it was holding her up. Her round, downturned face was blotchy and red, definitely from anger and maybe from crying, too.
I exchanged a glance with Amelia before turning back to my mother. “Now?” I asked. “But… We can’t leave right now. Today’s the first day of school.”
My mom’s head snapped up, stormy anger replaced with surprise. “Today?” she repeated, suddenly uncertain.
Before I had a chance to answer, my aunt Lynn marched into the room. She threw an empty soda can at my mother’s back, then another, then an empty bag of potato chips, which only fluttered a foot in front of her before spiraling to the ground like a dead leaf.
The second can of soda, though, that reached its target. It sloshed a little with whatever was left inside it as it bounced soundlessly off my mom’s back and then clonked onto the linoleum floor below.
“I’m sick of cleaning up after you, Kitty, absolutely sick of it!” Aunt Lynn screamed.
Amelia slapped her hands over her ears and shrank into herself. It was a thing she did sometimes. If she could, she’d shrink and shrink and shrink and climb into that cereal bowl and paddle away on a life raft made of Wheaties, just like those kids in that old Rick Moranis movie.
Except the problem with paddling away in cereal bowl would be that she’d still be stuck in the kitchen.
I addressed my aunt. “I’m sorry. I guess I forgot to clean up my soda cans last night.”
“They aren’t yours, Cordelia,” she snapped. She glared at my mother, whose back was still pointed towards her. “They’re your lazy, good-for-nothing mother’s — and you know it.”
Which was the truth, of course, but I’d hoped that if I took the blame myself, maybe Aunt Lynn would stop yelling at my mom long enough for Amelia and I to finish breakfast and make it to the bus stop on time.
Mom’s eyes were still wide with shock — though at this point, whether it was the shock of realizing that she’d completely forgotten the fact that today was the first day of school, or the shock of her sister throwing soda cans at her, I didn’t know.
I sighed. I didn’t want Amelia and I to be late on the very first day of school, in a new school district, in a new state, in a whole new part of the country. We had enough other crap to worry about; we didn’t need to add a day-one tardy to the list.
In one quick motion, I grabbed the uneaten bowl of cereal from in front of Amelia, poured the milk down the sink, dumped the soggy, barely touched Wheaties into the garbage can, and stuck the empty bowl and wet spoon into the dishwasher. There. Aunt Lynn wouldn’t have any reason to complain about us not cleaning up after ourselves.
I put my hand on Amelia’s shoulder. She flinched.
“C’mon, Mealy,” I said gently. “Let’s get to the bus stop. We don’t want to be late for our first day. Right?”
She nodded once and pulled the battered metal lunchbox from the kitchen counter, carefully keeping her eyes away from Mom and Aunt Lynn. Like maybe they’d stop her if she looked at them. Or maybe it’d be like Medusa, and one glance would turn her to stone right there in the kitchen.
Amelia had complained about the lunchbox every day for the past week — it was one of my old lunch boxes, complete with Voltron’s black lion on the front, and she’d griped both that the lunchbox was old and it was for boys — but now she took it without a word and carried it to the front door, waiting for me to catch up with her.
I lingered a moment longer, standing behind the kitchen counter that served as a buffer zone between me on one side and my mom and aunt on the other. They both watched me wordlessly while I tried to find words to fix the situation. But I was just as wordless as they were.
Sometimes there wasn’t anything to say. Some sisters just always hated each other.
I followed Amelia to the door.