I fell in love with fiction long before I started writing.
My mother and I would make a weekly trip to the Sun Valley Library and come back with stacks of books. I always had Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden books, because I liked the idea of solving mysteries, but I ventured into Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov with the discovery of Star Trek.
I started writing fiction when I was eight years old, inspired by a friend who was writing a school play. My stories were wanted I wanted to see in books: people like me–girls–having adventures. That’s in my stories today: women having adventures.
Maybe even solving a mystery.
Private First Class Linda Maye Adams, U.S. Army
And I’ve had adventures of my own. I enlisted in the Army and ended up going to war. Story adventures are much more fun!
I just follow the front of the story like an explorer and see where it takes me.
Contact me at LindaAdams900 AT outlook dot com.
It’s been a hot week in DC. As I write this, it’s 91 degrees at 5:45 AM. And it’s supposed to be even hotter. Even the pool water will be hot!
Rūta Grašytė on Bored Panda
A little fun for Friday. Colonel Sanders, Ronald McDonald, and Wendy’s all reimagined as anime. I really liked the Colonel Sanders one. The Hamburglar appears on page 2–not one that’s been seen in years–and he definitely looks more on the bad guy side.
There’s been a lot of online discussion lately about how people are always on. The slightest hint of boredom and they head over to play a game or look at email. Sometimes boredom is where the creativity comes into place and the leaps of intuition take place. At least take a walk today and look at everything around you. And keep the cell phone in the pocket. Hopefully it isn’t too hot outside.
Domagoj Valjak on The Vintage News
Gene Roddenberry originally wanted an actor more like William Shatner in Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s amazing how much difference an actor casting makes to an entire series.
Nate Hoffelder on Valiant Chicken Digital
WordCamp was a weekend conference on WordPress in DC, which I wish I’d known about–I might have gone. But it lists a couple of interesting features about WordPress that are worth looking at.
Joanna Penn on Creative Penn
This is an interview with a writer who writes full time and takes on the myth of “writing fast means your story is crap.”
Grace knew the lighthouse was closer, but it looked still too far away, and the sea folk too close. The current was more choppy now and working against them. Samuel rowed for a while and then Alexander took over. Both refused to let Grace row.
She shifted her injured leg to a more comfortable position. The gash wasn’t deep and had stopped bleeding, but it stung.
“Here.” Samuel passed her a canteen of water.
She unscrewed the cap as she glanced behind the boat. The five sea folk followed, popping up above the surface periodically to check for the boat. Two of them were together. Maybe mates. The other three were spread out.
Grace stretched her back, easing the stiffness. They needed more hunters. They weren’t going to get any.
She gulped down the warm water, clearing her dry throat.
The sea folk stayed twenty feet away. Wary. They never got too close to the boat.
But they didn’t leave either.
“What are they waiting for?” Alexander asked. He’d taken off the fussy waistcoat and rolled up his shirt sleeves to above his elbow. Sweat gleamed off his skin as he dug the paddles into the water.
“For us to go ashore, I imagine,” Samuel said. “Be easier to catch us.”
“That’s right,” Grace murmured, suddenly glad that the men were with her. They were making her think beyond what she’d trained for. It had always been about the dive, because the only way to kill them was to catch them off guard, when they were sleeping.
That was probably what got the more experienced hunter killed.
And almost had gotten her killed.
Except the sea folk had been too eager. They’d come up to the surface thinking easy prey.
“They’re afraid of the boat,” Grace said.
“That doesn’t make sense,” Samuel said. “It wouldn’t take much for the five of them to swamp us. Why haven’t they capsized us?”
“Because they live underwater,” Grace said. “They don’t need boats. Probably don’t even understand what one is. Other than it holds us, anyway. Maybe we can use that.”
“What are you thinking, Grace?” Samuel asked.
“We have to kill them. They’re not going to let us off this boat alive. And I have to get close enough to them for the hunter magic to be any good.”
The idea was still swirling around in her head, refusing to come together.
Alexander: “Can the boat be a weapon?”
Yes, yes. Grace went to the stern of the boat to analyze where the sea folk were. There was always at least two on the surface, alternating disappearing under the surface.
But which one? What was going to give them an advantage?
If she could get both of them at the same time. If they didn’t kill her.
“Wait until the pair goes under,” she said. “Then aim at them. As fast as you can.”
Samuel got on one oar and Alexander on the other. They put all the muscles into rowing towards the sea folk pair. The boat began to pick up speed.
Grace counted to herself, doing her deep breathing prep. The hunter magic told her when to go. She slid over the port side of the boat, going under the surface.
The cold water made her body tighten up. The water was murky and hard to see. She could only see dark shapes up ahead.
She dove, going deep enough to be below the shapes.
With great, reaching strokes, she swam for them. The boat blocked the light above her, surging ahead of her.
The shapes scrambled to get out of the way.
Grace pushed it, stretching it out, eating up the distance.
All she need to do was touch them…
She caught a ankle from each. The hunter magic reached.
It began to take.
The sea folk struggled, in sheer panic. Their screams were muffled by the water.
One kicked at Grace, catching her in the ribs.
She lost her grip on one ankle.
No, no, no.
The creature was trying to swim away.
She planted her feet on the first one’s backside and pushed off.
Seized the nearest body part, the foot.
The first one’s struggles weakened.
The second thrashed violently, stirring up the water so she couldn’t see anything.
She could only trust the hunter magic. And pray.
Her breath screamed in her lungs. Black spots crowded in on her vision.
Then the two creatures were both floating, not moving.
Grace surged to the surface. As soon as her head cleared, she took deep breaths.
The boot was only a few feet away. Alexander was watching the other sea folk. Samuel was watching for her.
She gave a thumbs up and swam to the gunwale, looping her arm over it.
“Ready to try it again?” she said, panting.
“We’ll go for the one at eleven o’clock,” Samuel said.
Grace paused to picture where that was, then nodded.
She waited until the men started the boat moving again, then dove. She was shocked at how fast they were going. It plunged ahead of her. She swam after it, her body sure with the purpose of what she was doing.
She heard the crash even underwater. The boat came to an abrupt halt. A black cloud exploded out.
Were the men okay?
She surfaced. Samuel and Alexander were both looking over the side. A dead create floated on the surface.
Before she had time to gloat, the remaining two attacked the boat. The grabbed the starboard side and tried to pull it under the water.
Samuel and Alexander lurched starboard, trying not to fall overboard. Alexander grabbed the nearest thing–one of the oars–and began hitting the creatures’ hands.
It wasn’t doing much good. Their grip was strong.
The boat rocked back and forth. If Grace didn’t do something now, the men were going to be thrown into the water and killed.
She took a deep breath and dove under the boat, going deep.
Swift strokes took her directly under the two creatures.
She kicked, propelling herself up, between them, hands, locked around their waists.
The hunter magic began to take.
The two creatures screamed and broke free. They couldn’t get away from her fast enough.
She stayed down long enough to make sure they weren’t coming after her again, then surfaced.
Samuel and Alexander were cheering and roaring.
Samuel slapped the gunwale. “We got them to turn tail and run!”
As Grace climbed back into the boat, she couldn’t help smiling. She’d thought she was not going to make it out alive. Instead, between the three of them, they’d killed four and run off two. Not bad. Not bad at all.
It was a week before Grace was able to go back out to the beach to swim. She’d dressed in her bathing attire for the walk down. The early morning sun set off sparkles on the surface of the water. She glanced up at the lighthouse. Samuel stood out in front, just keeping an eye on her.
She waved at him.
The hunter magic stirred, impatient. It had been keeping her up these last few nights, wanting to fulfill the last part of its duty. But she’d had to hold off until the gash on her leg had healed enough.
“Be patient,” she murmured to it.
The waves rolled in to greet her feet, bringing a butterfly shell in for inspection. The sand squished between her toes as she waded further out. The hunter magic drifted up, as if to say, Finally.
She smiled. It was time for the hunter magic to return what it had taken to the sea.
Dawn flared blood red across the horizon. The wind was cold blowing in off the sea when Grace and the two men started out in the rowboat, following along the coast line. The waves were choppy, making the little boat bounce and creak.
But it was the best time. The sea folk would be in the cave, sleeping, less alert.
Grace sat in the front, eyes on the water and trying not to think of the danger she was facing. She was dressed in her diving suit—a black sleeveless blouse and a loin cloth. She’d made it for herself, or she’d have to do the dives nude.
Behind her, Samuel manned the oars and Alexander had brought a pair of binoculars. Both men were silent, a grim cloud hovering over them. Samuel had brought a shotgun, too, down near his feet on the bottom boards.
“What’s the plan?” Alexander finally asked, his voice wavering. He was probably figuring out now how bad it was to volunteer.
Grace sometimes wished she hadn’t been volunteered for this. She’d been born a hunter and had no choice in the matter.
“I dive,” she said. “You pray.”
Her breath caught.
The hunter magic stirred inside her. She imagined it like a dragon, raising its great head. Looking around for prey.
“They’re here,” she said.
Samuel stopped rowing, going still. “Where?”
“Close,” she said. “They know we’re here.”
Silence fell over the little boat. The only sound was the water slopping against the sides.
Grace tried to follow the scent of the hunter magic. But all it knew was that the sea folk were near.
A hundred feet to the starboard side, a head popped up from under the water. It was gray like a sea gull and looked like it had been molded out of clay. A wide mouth sneered. Huge round eyes that didn’t seem real stared at them.
Water splashed behind Grace. The boat tipped precariously to port, knocking her back against the gunwale. The stink of decay nearly overwhelmed her.
The sea folk had grabbed the gunwale with clawed hands. Lord, it was strong!
“Take that!” Samuel yelled.
He swung his oar at the creature’s head. It contacted with a loud whap…and didn’t do a thing.
The creature opened its mouth, exposing two rows of sharp teeth and additional teeth on its tongue.
Grace launched over the side, plunging into the water. Cold instantly hit her body, snatching her breath.
But she’d done this before.
She kicked off the boat with her feet. Got behind the creature.
Her hunter magic snarled. And reached.
Began drinking in the life force of the sea folk.
The creature jolted up and screamed.
It released the boat and tried to dive.
“Oh, no, you don’t!”
Grace locked her arms around it from behind.
She took a breath right before the creature went under the water. It thrashed, trying to throw her off.
Clawed hands reached blindly behind.
But the hunter magic was cold and impersonal. It didn’t care. It just drank it all.
The creature’s struggles became weaker and weaker.
The hunter magic withdrew.
And flared immediately.
Pain scored down her leg. Dark blood clouded the water.
Another one had come up behind her.
No time to react…
Hands reached down from above and grabbed her arms. Pulled up and out of the water.
She fell into the boat, chest heaving. The air chilled her skin. She had a long gash up her thigh from the sea folk’s claws.
“Move it!” yelled Alexander. “They’re coming!”
Grace scrabbled to the starboard side.
Five heads. All eyeing the boat like it was a meal.
The oars splashed into water. Samuel put muscle into rowing. The tiny boat began to move.
And it wasn’t fast enough.
The shotgun blasted. Grace screamed and ducked her head.
When she looked up again, Alexander was lowering the shotgun. The sea folk scattered, diving under the water.
“That got us some time,” she said. “We have to get to safety.”
If there was any safety.
Grace had to go outside to be by herself. She didn’t want the two men to see the fear that gripped her. They would think less of her, and she was supposed to be the expert.
But the sunlight did little to warm her up. The cold that had seeped under her skin had gone into bones, burrowing deep.
The door banged and heavy feet thumped down the steps.
“You okay?” Samuel.
Grace stared at her bare feet. “It’s a nest. There were at least three of them. I’ve never gone after that many without help.”
She didn’t say it aloud, but the other hunter had been a lot more experience. She only had seven kills; he’d had more than twenty. How was she supposed to take on this nest when he hadn’t been able to? The sea folk were fast and dangerous on land, and even faster under the water, in their element.
“Do we have any other choices besides killing them?” That was Alexander, standing in the doorway. “Can we drive them away?”
Grace almost snapped at him, but Samuel squeezed her shoulder gently. It wouldn’t do to get angry, not right before she was going to dive. How could the Lighthouse Council, managing all the lighthouses for that last one hundred years, not understand anything about the hunters or the sea folk? It had to be the reason why the lighthouses were slowly being closed down.
“No,” she said when she trusted herself not to get mad. “These have fed on humans. Once they do that, they’re going to continue killing. And they’ll get more aggressive, more bold. There was a nest ten years back that went into a town. Everyone dead.”
“What about if we kill them when they came ashore?” Alexander asked. “I could get you men and rifles.”
This time she couldn’t help it: Her anger flared out at him. “And they would all die.”
“They’re God-awful fast,” Samuel said. “I wouldn’t want to face one, even armed with a rifle. I don’t think I could shoot fast enough.”
From the way Alexander was looking at Grace, she wondered how much he really did know about hunters. There were lots of stories, many of them made up. Most of the Lighthouse Council didn’t like dealing with the messiness. They used to be better, years ago, when the attacks were more frequent. But politics had intervened, and men with different agendas had signed on. Those men thought the lighthouses were too expensive to maintain, and the hunters a story perpetuated by scam artists. Where did Alexander fit?
“I dive down to the caves during the day, while they’re sleeping,” Grace said. “If I’m lucky, I can catch them off guard.”
“You think you know where they are?” Samuel asked.
“There’s cave near where I found the footprints.”
Samuel gave her a smile. “You got me. I’ll go out on the boat with you.”
“And me,” said Alexander.
“Why?” she asked, her voice going stony.
Alexander came down the steps like he was thinking about each step before he took it.
“The last person was killed while I was there. I wasn’t far away. I heard him…it was a horrible sound. I ran…and I was too late. It was someone I knew and he was alive and then he wasn’t. I don’t know if I can do any good, but I’d like to help.”
Maybe it would be enough. Grace wasn’t sure if anything would be enough.
Grace came back to the lighthouse and the smell of brewing coffee, and breakfast. From that smell, Samuel had prepared hot soup, no doubt expecting her to have come back from swimming. The wagon was still parked out front, the metal jingling as the horses shifted around. One of the horses swung its tail to chase away a fly that was being annoying.
She stopped and stared at the wagon, wrapping her arms across her chest. Lighthouse Council or not, this couldn’t wait.
Samuel Freeman would be in the light keeper’s cottage behind the lighthouse. The cottage was a simple one story building with a porch stretching across the front and the left side. The white paint was peeling on the face side to the sea winds. She’d always found the cottage a little primitive for such an important—and dangerous role.
She was halfway up the wooden steps when she realized she’d left her shoes out by the lighthouse door. She debated running back for the shoes, which would take time to put on, or letting the visitor be scandalized. She looked down at her feet and wondered what was wrong with them. Most everyone had a pair.
Thinking of her feet reminded her of those footprints. Before she thought about it, she opened the door and went inside. The wind pulled the door shut behind her with a bang.
Samuel and the man in the waistcoat were seated around the eating table with tin cups of coffee. Two pots on the wood stove against the wall simmered, probably the coffee and the soup.
She recognized the visitor as Alexander Tidwell, from the Lighthouse Council. He was blond, with his hairline receding back like the tide. He had a big bushy beard that looked like he’d taken one of the scrubby chaparral plants on the hills and plopped it on his face. The waistcoat looked new, and expensive.
Both stood up at Grace’s entrance, their chairs scraping the floor. Their faces were grim.
“Grace, I’m glad you’re back,” Samuel said.
Seeing him eased the swirling currents in her belly. Samuel always looked like he had just gotten out of bed. His gray hair was tousled, with a cowlick that vexed him with its persistence. He was dressed in a white homespun shirt, collar half folded under, and suspenders holding up black trousers. He’d missed a spot on his cheek when he’d shaved this morning.
“Grace,” he said. “How was your swim? Mr. Tidwell came from a council meeting with news for us.”
“What’s going on?” Grace asked.
She clasped her hands behind her back to hide the shaking. The Lighthouse Council didn’t come here unless they were making changes.
“It’s okay,” Samuel said. “Sit down. I’ll get you some soup.”
That, she trusted. But Alexander’s presence and that he wanted to talk to her was worrisome.
Samuel poured her a bowl of soup and a tin mug of coffee. The smell won over her nerves and she dug into the soup. It had chunks of potatoes, carrots, onions, and the last bits of venison. He gave her shoulder a light squeeze and sat down.
“I’ve been talking with some of the other council members from down south,” Alexander said. “They’ve…found bodies. On the beaches.”
A cold chill brushed Grace’s shoulders. “How did they die?”
A shrug. “Don’t know. But the head and stomach were gone.”
“Definitely sea folk,” Samuel said.
“Can you show me where?” Grace asked.
There was a map on the wall of the entire shoreline. Alexander whistled when he saw it. Maps had to be made by hand and took a lot of time, so they were quite expensive. This one not only showed where all the towns and ports were, but underwater caves and deep water.
“How did you get this?” he asked.
“We made it,” Samuel said. “I used to make maps for my officers when I was in war.”
They’d gone out in the boat every day. Samuel had sighted off the shore, and then Grace had dove to see what was below. It had taken many months of painstaking work to finish. But she’d wanted to know where every rock and cave was. It was as rugged under the waves as it was on the beaches.
“There’s been five that we know of,” Alexander said. With his pinkie finger, he pointed, being careful not to touch the map itself.
“Is that in the order the deaths happened?” Samuel asked.
“I believe so.”
Samuel shot a glance at Grace. “The sea folk are moving toward us.”
“No,” Grace said with a weary sigh. “They’re already here. I found tracks this morning. Why didn’t the other hunter stop them? There’s a lighthouse down near the first killing.”
“That,” Alexander said, “was the first body.”
The rumble and bang of a wagon made Grace Carrington glance up at the lighthouse. She was on the beach below the rugged cliff the lighthouse stood sentry on, stark against the morning sky. A wagon pulled by four horses stopped at the base. A tall man in a black waistcoat and stovepipe hat dismounted stiffly like he was filled with sticks. From the Lighthouse Board.
No swimming today.
It was hard enough managing even in the isolation out here. The world kept pressing in on places like this lighthouse, like it was trying to push the old out. Soon there wouldn’t be any place for her either. A hunter had stayed with each generation of light keepers for over two hundred years. It wasn’t the first time she thought she might be the last.
She didn’t look like a hunter. She wasn’t very big or tough, but the daily swims in the ocean had made her arms and legs strong. She wore a plain cotton dress, in violet with broad white stripes. A wooden hairpin held her fine, coffee-colored hair in a bun at the nape of her neck, but the wind always knocked strands loose around her face. Her feet were bare, because she always wanted to connect with the sea. The shoes were back near the lighthouse.
She decided she would continue walking and give the man time to leave.
She went around a clump of seaweed reeking of decay. A small crab picked its way through the tangles, searching for food. Up ahead, the beach broke up into rocks that jutted out of sand, black and sharp.
She waded close to one that was partially submerged in the tide. The waves, almost as if recognizing a kindred soul, rushed in around her feet with a swirl of froth and sand.
Sea life liked these rocks. The tongue lashers in their volcano-shaped shells reached for the water, and a many-armed flower was clogged with sand in a hollow. The waves played with a cone shell near her feet. She knelt to pick it up.
The scent of magic rose, carried by the wind.
Her mouth ran dry. She recognized the scent.
An echo or a trail left behind?
The sea washed up everything, sometimes from many miles away. She always found bits of glass smoothed out by the waves, barrels or crates that had fallen off ships, and even fishing nets carried away by the currents.
That’s what Grace tried to tell herself. The seafolk were more discreet than that. They had to be. To come ashore within spitting distance of a hunter was plain stupid.
Then she spotted the footprints.
A lot of good links this week.
Brett & Kate McKay from The Art of Manliness
I’m using a military obstacle course for my third GALCOM Universe book, Cursed Planet. What better way to train for heavy gravity? While hunting down resources online for it, I ran across this nifty link about the history. Lots of historic photos.
John Allsopp from A List Apart
This is a fascinating look at how web design evolved, which starts by using the example of how TV evolved from radio. The eBook industry is still very early in its own development (only about 10 years–can you believe that?), so it provokes the question about how ebooks might evolve in the future.
Piper Bayard and Jay Homes on Bayard & Holmes
With all the inaccurate news getting into major newspapers, it’s hard to navigate through what’s true and what isn’t. This gives some guidelines for figuring out what’s fact and what might not be. The guidelines are pretty sensible and allow you to make the decisions.
C. Hope Clark on Funds For Writers
This was a survey of about 5,000 people on Facebook, and the results are pretty interesting. Most readers pick a book based on genre. Which makes sense. If you walk into a bookstore or a library, you have to go to the right shelf to find the books you want to read and those are categorized as genre.
The lecture description doesn’t do this justice, I think because she’s focusing more on the EDITS system. This lecture covers writing in depth–five senses, character opinions. Best coverage I’ve seen of rhetorical devices and how to use them in novels. And one hidden benefit…it covers an aspect of pacing (backloading). Loads of examples from best selling writers.
My version was from 2011, so there may be changes. It came in a zip file with Word document. Formatting made it hard to read.
Tam and I go down into the cellar. He says the foundation is closest to the time line break and the best place to talk to time.
I haven’t used the cellar since I moved in. It’s got a musty odor of disuse. The old wooden stairs creak painfully as we descend. A naked bulb yellowed with age illuminates the room with a shuddering light. Boxes left by my cousin are stalked up against the walls. I hadn’t touched them. Didn’t want to deal with the spiders.
Tam goes to the far wall and begins hauling boxes out of the way. He drops them aside with a crash, sending up a cloud of dust. But he doesn’t go too near the wall. He grabs the flaps on the last few boxes and drags them to the side.
The brick on this wall is definitely old, the mortar cracked. But there’s a drawing near the foundation. I catch my breath. It’s the same drawing that was on the letter Elias left me. My original interpretation was correct: It is a stylized eye that is both looking forward and backward.
Before I realize it, my feet are moving forward. Like I’m being called. Tam steps out of the way.
I stop. Whatever it is seems okay with that. Curious perhaps.
Then a tinkling of a laugh in my head. There’s nothing pleasant in the laugh. It’s a trickster’s laugh.
I look back at Tam. He’s shrunk away, sweat breaking out on his upper lip. What isn’t he telling me?
“Tam—” I say.
A thousand voices erupt all at once. It should crowd me into cacophony, but the voices flow around me like water.
And they’re all saying one word: “Elias.”
Could he have come from the past through the leak to here?
Tam’s face is stricken, going to pale. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s true?” I say.
I don’t even have time to process this. The voices spring to life again, turning into a wind. It’s not cold and it’s not hot.
It swirls around me, like it’s checking me out. I catch the perfume of spring and the decay of winter before it’s whisked away.
The laughter again, all around me, and yet coming from nowhere. A flood of images assaults me, too many to many…new birth, squalling for attention…and ancient life, so old it makes my teeth hurt…and everything in between.
The world spins. I think I’m dying.
I’m on my knees. Tears run down my face.
Tam’s—Elias’ voice breaks through to me. “Talk to it, Michelle.”
My brain is stuck. I say the only thing I can think of: “Stop it! Stop it!”
And I’m hitting the floor with my fists, the pain clearing my thoughts. I remember Tam—Elias—saying time was vindictive.
“You want revenge?”
I almost say that it’s had two hundred years of revenge. But it’s time and it’s ancient. Two hundred years is probably like a single drop in an ocean. It won’t understand.. I have this vision of being stuck here in this bubble for the rest of my life. I resent it. I’ve had to spend my time avoiding people because I happened to be born to the wrong family.
My outrage boils free. What is it going to do to me that everyone else hasn’t?
“How dare you? I have no life because of you. I can’t even get a damned newspaper like a normal person! This place is a nothing town, because of you, just so you can have entertainment.”
The laughter spins around me, like it’s waiting for me to join in.
Outrage pushes me to my feet.
“You’ve had your fun. Go on your way. You’re not having any more fun here. Not if I can help it. I’ll go get my damn-self arrested and thrown in jail. What will you do then? There’s no one left!”
The laughter falls silent.
Then there’s a low sound like a sonic boom. It locks me to the ground, stunning me. My brain screams to get up, but my body is having none of it. Gradually sensations return to my body. First, awareness that I am breathing. Then how much my hands and knees hurt. And I’m hungry.
Elias is gone. So the time symbol on the wall.
I crawl across the floor to it, my knees scraping the concrete.
No energy either.
The leak is closed.
For a long time, I sat on the floor, afraid to go out and face the world I’ve just changed.
It’s been now nearly three weeks since I sealed the leak. I went out the first day when I could muster up the courage, and everything had snapped back to the way it was. But the town of Graham was different, like a storm had gone through the night before and washed the air clean.
The people? They’re different, too. Same faces, but the feeling of blame is gone. People look at me, and sometimes they smile, and sometimes they greet me. Today, as I walk out of the restaurant at 3:00, my fingers close around a folded sheet of paper in my pocket, and I smile. It’s a phone number. I hope there are more changes like this.
The house is suddenly too hot. I have to go outside, though it isn’t much better. Time travel, the town dying. It’s too much for me.
The rain has stopped. The sidewalk is already drying out. As if it had never rained in the first place. A man and woman walk past on the cracked sidewalk, arms linked. He is in a brown three piece suit with a gold watch fob and a bowler hat. She is wearing a plaid camp dress and petticoats, a parasol resting on her shoulder. A jogger with an bud stuck in his ear runs past, calling out “On your right” to the couple, who move out of the way.
Tam comes out behind me, closing the door with a click.
“How come no one else seems to notice?” I ask.
“It’s an effect of the blending of the time lines,” he says. A sigh. “Elias didn’t understand what he was getting into. He just thought he’d take a peek. See what was up ahead. But time is a vindictive mistress.”
“You talk as if time is alive.”
“It is, in a manner of speaking.” Tam sits down on the top step, stretching out his legs. They are quite long compared to mine.
I sit next to him. My brain is trying to make sense of this. I don’t tell Tam, but there’s something in his words that calls to me, like I’ve been missing something all my life. It makes me tremble. Excitement?
“You’ve seen time come alive,” he says.
“Me? No. I don’t have any special…anything.” My head droops with my voice.
“It’s what everyone experience. Time speeding when you have fun. Or slows down and drags when you want something to end.”
“That’s not vindictive,” I blurt. “That’s just perception.”
“Is it? Tam grins in a way that makes his face light up. “If you have trouble judging how long something takes, how do you know that time herself isn’t messing with you?”
“You’re just making fun of me,” I say.
His face turns serious. “No, I’m not. All the notes were with the house, everything that Elias researched about his experiments with time. I think it must have frightened someone and the notes were destroyed.” He shrugs, gazing out at the street. “I only know what was passed down to me. When Elias touched the time line, it formed a bubble around this town. People can come in and leave, but everything is—”
He breaks off, his tone faltering. He doesn’t have the right word.
I do. “Stuck?”
It’s the only thing that fits.
He stares down at his legs, his voice low. “Yeah.”
“What does the house have to do with it?”
“Elias tried to fix it, but the time line tore. I—I think Elias didn’t know what to do. He used the house as an anchor. All the mathematical calculations of the structure. The house hold the time line together.”
I’m trembling now. I’m not sure from what, fear or excitement. “And the energy I feel pulling at me?”
“It’s a leak from the time line.” Tam leans back to gaze up at the house. “It was patchwork at best. Probably’s always leaked, but it’s gotten worse.”
“How do we fix it?” I ask.
“You have to talk to it.”
“Talk to what? The house?”
Talk to time? It’s about the craziest thing I’ve heard of. Well, almost. I watch horses pull another wagon up my street, following behind a minivan with a bunch of kids inside. The kids are screaming up a storm at the sight of the ‘pretty horses.’ I finger the envelope, still stuck inside the notepad. Elias must have seen me in the time line. How? My head is spinning.
The worst that can happen is nothing, that I feel stupid…right.
“Can’t you talk to it?” I ask.
But Tam is already shaking his head. “No.” Glances away. “I already tried. It doesn’t like me.”
“Then what makes you think I can do any better? No one here pays any attention to me.” My voice rises, anger riding it. The anger has been simmering long and I hadn’t noticed it before.
Tam lowers his head, staring at his feet. I catch something in his voice…longing, regret, guilt.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “It has to be you, Michelle. You’re the only one who can fix it.”
I shiver. It’s the words in the letter.
Writer’s note: In this scene, I show the cyclical writing (editing as you write) in red. I wrote the scene, looked at, realized I need some more details, so I added them.
His name is Tam. I make him wait on the doorstep while I go inside and change clothes. I trust him enough that I will let him into the house, but not enough to let him in while I’m dressing. I doff the soaked uniform and hang it up over the bathtub to drip out. I put on a sundress with a confetti print that has a nice bit of flounce at the hem. I add sandals. Not much I can do with my hair so run a comb through it and band it back in a ponytail.
Before I go downstairs, I open the top drawer on my battered dresser. My fingers linger on the yellowed envelope inside. My name is written on it in faded handwriting. I’ve memorized what it says:
The worlds will break. You’re the only one who can fix them.
Underneath is some kind of simple drawing. It’s right on the fold, and the paper has cracked, so I can’t make it out. I’ve always thought it was an eye that seems to be looking forward and backward.
My fingers tremble as I slip the envelope inside a legal notepad and tuck the notepad under my arm.
Tam radiates annoyance when I let him into the living room. His eyes take in the room. He’s shocked, and I’m embarrassed. Everything’s shabby, outdated—it was in the house when I inherited it. Blank walls, though that’s not my fault. When I try to put any up, it’s like house rejects it. The paintings are on the floor the next morning. I must have very bad taste in art if the house doesn’t even like it.
I have to flee to the kitchen to hide what must be on my face. I hate the disdain everyone gives me, and that I can’t leave to find better.
To cover why I left, I fix iced tea. It looks too sparse, so I add a plate of store brand chocolate chip cookies, giving them a quick zap in the microwave so the chocolate will melt. So when I return to the living room, I end up nibbling on gooey cookies that taste like cardboard.
He fidgets as he sits on the old sofa. He doesn’t know what to say any more than I do.
“How are you related to me?” I ask.
I’ve seen a few old photos of Elias. Tam looks like him around the jaw and cheekbones. Definitely not the hair. Elias had this weird hair bump, and Tam’s is like he ran a hand through it to comb it this morning.
Tam’s eyes flick up to me. Then he snatches up a cookie, inspects it, then breaks off a piece to eat. “From one of Elias’ other children. We’re cousins. No one at all told you what this house is?”
I shake my head. When I sip my tea, my hands are shaking. Why does this frighten me so?
“Elias would have been a brilliant physicist today.” Tam shrugged. “Then? He was beyond even the greatest of the scientists around him.”
“A scientist? I thought he was a land owner, a merchant.”
“He was those, too. But he was greedy. He wanted to make himself rich, not advance the science for knowledge. He figured how to connect the time lines so he could look into future.”
I stare, my mouth open, my brain spinning. I want to think he’s crazy, but I saw the people. I talked to them.
“What I saw…” I finally manage, “that’s the other time line.”
Tam nods. “From when this town was founded. He thought he could look into the future and see what was going to happen. That’s how the town became a big port.” He lowers his head and stares at the cookie in his hand. “And how it died.”