This week on Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge, it’s about NaNoWriMo (That’s National Novel Writing Month to those who don’t know). I’m taking part again, for my 4th year in a row (not counting some Camp NaNoWriMo’s!). This week’s challenge is to post the first 1,667 words of your NaNo novel on your blog – see the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in November. And if you write 1,667 words every day, you’ll reach that goal. Of course, i’m a bit of an overachiever, and aim to write about 80,000 words in November – which means I have to write about 2000 words a day – that’s my goal – to write at least 2000 words. But for the sake of Chuck’s Challenge this week, i’m just posting my first 1,667 words (not the 2,332 i’ve written so far). These aren’t edited or spell-checked yet, just copied and pasted directly from the words that i’ve spewed up (or vomited, as Chuck so eloquently said in one of his previous posts) onto the page since midnight last night.
Anyways, here’s the start of my story. Enjoy!
The Secret Carriers
Anise just couldn’t do it. She couldn’t stand and watch the flames. The acrid stink of burning hair filled the air. Another smell, one she didn’t want to think about involuntarily made her stomach twist. She stood with her back to the pyre and a handkerchief to her mouth. She tried to block out the smell, but the stench of death, of a burning body seemed to get inside you. No matter how much you tried to block it out. She focused on counting the small flowery pattern on the carpet that crept up into a dizzying pattern on the wallpaper of the old theatre.
She almost reached a thousand, after losing count and having to start from the beginning a few times, when Colin’s voice snuck up behind her in a whisper,
“It’s done.” He laid a hand lightly on her shoulder.
Anise stifled a scream and spun around, awkwardly on her injured leg on its crutch. Tears of anger and regret flew from her cheeks. She removed the handkerchief from her mouth. The smell had dissipated slightly. “It should have been me!” she tried to stop her voice from quavering. “It should have been me to do that. She was…” Anise was about to say that Ophelia was her friend. She wasn’t really, she had only met her briefly. But she had made a promise to her. Ophelia had chosen her to pass on the secret. She had trusted her. And she didn’t take that lightly. “It should have been me!” her voice rose with frustration and sadness. “She chose me to carry Alchemy. I should have been the one to…” she paused, trying to think of a nice way to put it. “Dispose of the evidence.”
Colin’s green eyes filled with sympathy looked out from a flushed face. “You shouldn’t have to do something like that.”
“What do you mean I shouldn’t do something like that?”
“I mean women, ladies, they shouldn’t have to deal with…” he trailed off.
Anise’s face flushed, but not from the heat of the funeral pyre. She shook her head angrily, auburn curls coming free of their hairpins. “I…I can’t believe…” she spluttered. She shook her head again, to clear her thoughts. “We don’t have time to stand here in a back alley arguing. Ophelia’s secret is gone. That’s what we needed to do.”
“And Defoe too. We couldn’t very well leave him lying in the theatre lobby!”
Anise waved it away dismissively. She hadn’t liked the magician from the beginning. “Yes, yes, Defoe too, of course.” But he didn’t deserve to be dead. And either did Ophelia. Tears started to well up again at the thought of the blond soldier. She was the same age as Anise. Or close.
“We need to go,” she emphasized this by turning and going back inside the back entrance of theatre. “I can’t stand being out here anymore with…” she waved her hand vaguely in the direction of the large dumpster. “We need to find our way out of here. Gideon is on his way to the Garden of Eden to get Ophelia’s secret. We can’t waste anymore time!”
Colin nodded and followed Anise through the dark corridors and finally out into the busy streets of London.
Anise and Colin stood, watching the multi-coloured cars, buses and taxis whiz by. “How can there be so many automated carriages?” Colin’s voice was lowered and filled with awe. “There’s not a single horse drawn carriage!” Anise glanced at him, his eyes were large, and his mouth slack as he stared. She watched the people herself, particularly the women, who wore pants. Some wore skirts, like the women back home, but most wore trousers like men. Like she preferred even though her dress garnered her reproachful looks from the men and disgust from the women.
The chaos of London swirled around them. The crutch Colin had given Anise for her injured foot, like a prosthetic leg barely received a single glance. At an intersection a car honked loudly followed by a woman leaning out her window shouting angrily at the other driver.
Anise nearly screamed again at the blare of the horn. She leaned over to Colin. “What was that?”
Colin looked at her incredulously, raising an eyebrow. “Do you not have many automated carriages where you’re from?” he spoke with his soft, lilting English accent.
She shook her head, embarrassed. “Not in my section of the United American Empire anyway. There’s a few. Including my employer. He’s an inventor, like yourself, so has made his own steam powered vehicle. But the Coalition frowns on things like that, you know.”
Colin nodded. “I’ve heard of your Emperor’s Coalition. It’s similar in the British Isles, but not as strictly. Though there are people higher up-“
Anise looked around her. Behind them stood the Volupte Lounge, still empty as Defoe’s magic show was slated for later that night. But of course it would be cancelled when the organizers wouldn’t be able to find him. She wondered how long it would take for the remains of Defoe and Ophelia would be found by police. “What do we do now?” She spoke outloud, but seemed to be asking herself. “Where do we go? We need to get back to our London, quickly! We’re wasting time just standing here looking around.” Anise started to hobble off down the street, towards the second hand furniture store they ended up in when they first crossed over into this new world. Colin took a couple long steps after her.
“I think my foot is doing better now,” Anise complained awkwardly manouvering her bent knee that rested on the top of half a wooden leg. She stopped and began to undo the strap tied around her upper leg and then undid the belt tied around her waist.
Colin appeared at her side and held her arm as she removed the prosthetic crutch. She bounced up and down on her healthy leg, gaining her balance. Gingerly she tested her foot, and wobbled precariously on her other leg.
She winced in anticipation of the pain shooting through her foot. But her foot didn’t hurt. Much. It was tender, but she could put weight on it. That was something positive in this big mess. “We need to get the alchemy instructions before Gideon does. I promised Ophelia I’d be the carrier of her secret and if Gideon gets it, then…” Tears sprang to her eyes again and she wiped them away. “Then her death is for nothing. And her role, or I guess it’s mine now, as a Secret Carrier has been compromised. The first time in history. And I can’t be responsible for that. I just can’t.” She had reached the door of the thrift store and pulled it open, heading to the back in between a cluttered jumble of used furniture. She felt along the wall for the existence of a door to get them back to their world. She screeched in frustration and pounded the wall. “How can we get back? We’re stuck!” Tears of defeat edged their way out of the corner of her eyes.
She dropped her head. A hand fell on her shoulder. She turned, expecting Colin once more. “Montgomerie, I swear if you-“ she started. Her mother always used her last name when reprimanding her, because she knew that Anise hated her surname with a passion. She cried out and stumbled backwards falling against a heavy low set of drawers. A hand reached out to help her but the drawers caught her, and she pulled her arms into her chest, protectively. She fell silent as she found herself looking into the face of a small figure shrouded in darkness. Well, she would be if she could see their face, but despite the light of the store, albeit dim in the back corner with the tall book cases and armoires casting long shadows, she could see nothing but shades of black underneath a large, dark cowl.
“Are you looking for something, my dear?” The voice was soft, pleasant, but Anise realized she couldn’t tell if it was male or female.
She raised her hand and waggled it in the air nervously. “Yes. I mean no. I mean yes we are,” she looked over the stout figures shoulder to Colin who gave her a puzzled shrug. “We are looking for something, but no furniture. It’s nothing you could help us with, I mean.” She felt stupid, the words tumbling from her mouth in a jumble. She talked fast when she was nervous.
She could almost hear the smile in the person’s voice when they spoke. “You won’t know if you don’t try.” The voice sounded muffled, unclear, as if it were many voices speaking at once at the same time.
Anise glanced again at Colin, pleading for help with her eyes. She hoped he would get the message. She didn’t have to actually ask for help. He took a hesitant step forward, and his quiet voice floated towards them, easing the awkward tension between them like a knife cutting a rope.
“The garden of Eden.”
Anise jumped in with an apologetic explanation at the ready. “I know it sounds ridiculous, and you probably don’t believe us. I know I wouldn’t if someone said they were looking for the garden of Eden in a furniture shop in London.” She tried to peer into the shadows that draped the figures face in darkness, but it was impenetrable.
The smile returned to the strange layered voice. “And why exactly are you looking for in the garden of Eden?”
Anise had been staring at her feet, feeling her face grow hot with embarrassment. Her head shot up. It was unnerving looking at someone in the face when they didn’t have eyes to gauge their thoughts.
“You’re not asking us why we’re looking for the garden of Eden in a store? Or that we’re looking for it in the first place?”
The hood shook and remained silent.