Monday, November 30, 2009


NaNo's site reads my novel as only being 50,196 words - but I knew that would happen, so I wrote until I had 50,318 on OpenOffice, just to be sure.

But I WIIIIIIN! After cranking out, what, four thousand freaking words today?? Insanity. But I did it! And I think I actually covered all the ground I'd had planned out (aaand then some), so I'm really, really happy.

I feel like it might actually be somewhat readable in its current form, too, which is new. There are some bad rambling places, but overall... I am pretty darn happy. There are scene changes! There are people with personality! There is some less-than-painful dialog! wooo!

...and the book I mention in that last paragraph? Is the one with the flower-meaning lists that I've been consulting all along. :)

Yaaaaaaaaaay. That makes three wins out of six attempts - wooo for a 50% success rate! \0/

oh quantum physics

Tom gave me a pretty good explanation, and I read the following articles and looked at their pictures, to try to get my own grip on the physics of the teleportation we've been doing lately:
(The second one is a rather old, outdated article, but the basic premise is the same - and it's explained muuuch more simply.)

It took me awhile to realize that we're not actually moving particles around, just the information that makes the particle what it is. Or something like that.

The best way to learn something really is to try and explain it to someone else... even if that someone is a fictional character. That you yourself are writing. (Bonus points if she knows even less science than you do!)

But I am GOING to make it to 50k! I had a coworker's party Saturday night, and then went downtown for a little while, and I need to remember I can't drink as much as other people I know. ;p Crashed that night. Sunday I worked early, as did Tom, so after getting home and then going grocery shopping... uh, we were out by like 8pm lmfao. So I wrote about a thousand words before showering this morning, spent the day on a belated Thanksgiving dinner for us, aaaand now am trying to write before the three glasses of wine make me fall asleep. woooooo!

Parts 28-30

      I find myself hitting one dead end after another, my path blocked by overgrown plants, or bridges that have collapsed after long years, or bogs that have appeared where once a creek bed flowed or pond was retained. The air only gets hotter as the sun climbs into the afternoon, and it's gotten awfully humid. However slowly I walk, I find beads of sweat trickling down my neck every few minutes, and the heat only makes me feel more frustrated when my way is blocked. So I head for home, I'll come back another day, maybe earlier in the morning next time – exploring in this heat is ridiculous.

      But at home, I'm restless, my thoughts continually going back to Calvin's death. I try to think of other things, try to distract myself by getting caught up on washing dishes, even cleaning the bathroom, headphones cranked up loud, but it's no use.
      Finally, exasperated, I flop down on the living room floor with a sketchbook and some pastels. I'm going to have to draw this kid, there's just no way around it. Hopefully that will get all of this weight off my chest...

      My doorbell rings.
      I jump about half a mile, narrowly missing drawing a line of cobalt blue all over my drawing. My doorbell rarely ever rings, I don't know all that many people in town... I stand up--- and stagger, finding my feet have fallen asleep again. I seriously need to get a drafting table or something, working on the floor just isn't cutting it anymore. Rubbing my hands together to try and get some of the pastel dust off, I manage to get to the door, taking a quick glance through the peephole – which I'm not in the habit of doing, but, I'm really confused about who's there.
      Then I laugh and fling open the door. “Dad!”
      He chuckles and gives me a hug. “Hey there, Kimber. Sorry to drop in without warning, but there was a trade show I had to go to today, and I realized on the drive down how close my route took me near you. So I thought I'd stop by if I had time on the way home. You up for some supper?”
      I grin, feeling much lighter at heart, now that I have a chance to be out of my own head for awhile. “Sure! Just let me go wash up, I'm a bit of a mess.” I hold out my rainbow-colored hands and smile sheepishly.
      He just smiles, shaking his head. “Some things never change...”
      “Just look out for my stuff! It's all over the floor,” I call out as I head to the bathroom to clean up.
      “I can see that... who's the kid?” he calls back, curiously.
      I stop a moment, unsure how to answer. I haven't even thought about how to explain these drawings to other people... saner people... “Just a sec,” I answer, a little weakly. I glance in the mirror, and, seeing color smudges on my cheek and forehead, wash my face, then dry my hands slowly, still not sure what to say.
      Walking back to the living room, I find Dad flipping carefully through the pile of drawings on the couch, all in various stages of completion.
      “These look really good, Kimber... the fountain's a little different for you, but I think it's interesting. Lot of details in everything.”
      “Who are all these people?”
      “Well...” I rub the back of my neck, a little embarrassed – but it's my dad, I can give him pretty much the truth. Just leaving out a few of the unbelievable details. “There was this family that lived near here, but the house burned down a hundred years ago and they moved away. But the gardens are still there, sort of, they're really overgrown... but it's such a pretty place, and it's not all that far to walk, so I've been over there a lot this summer.”
      “Ah, I see. It does look like a beautiful spot.” Glancing down at the first drawing I did, of the boy by the creek bed: “Is that the original tile work? It looks almost Turkish.”
      I nod, smiling. “It's the original, yeah... it's missing in places now of course, but I cleaned one of the tiles and the colors really are still that bright.” I rummage through my pile of reference material (mostly print-outs of flower photographs, both ones I took myself and ones I found online), and hand him the tile.
      “Wow... hand painted, you think?”
      I nod. “Pretty sure – you can see the brush strokes, especially here, and here...”
      “Oh yeah... huh.”
      “I'm going to take it over to campus sometime, and have Dr. Reiff take a look at it, see what he thinks.”
      He nods. “That's a good idea. So! Where do you want to go eat, kid?”

      Half an hour later, we've placed our orders at a favorite local restaurant (something of a bar and grille, but a little upper-scale than that, some of the best food in town and a nice casual atmosphere), and have caught up on all the news from home.
      “The town pretty quiet, with college out of session?” Dad asks.
      I consider this. “Yeah, you know, it really is... I've hardly even noticed though, I've been so caught up in what I'm doing, with work too, but mostly the drawings, and walking through the garden, and trying to research...”
      I tell him about a few of my research efforts, and we both laugh at the banter among the historical society members.
      “The drawing you were working on today, was that one of the Masons?”
      I nod, suddenly saddened. “Yeah... That's Calvin, pretty sure he was the youngest of three kids – though I could still be missing one or two kids, it's hard finding mentions of them. But he died at the age of maybe five or something, really young.”
      “That's always so sad... What did he die from?”
      “You know, I'm actually not sure... something was wrong with his lungs, might have been tuberculosis or something. But he was weak pretty much his whole life, was always stuck in bed.”
      I pull myself back to reality. I need to remember that not everyone is as obsessed with this family as I am. I'm probably starting to sound just the way he does, when he's going on and on about his latest audio project. At this, I start to laugh.
      “What're you laughing at?” He looks up at me, suspicious.
      “Nothing... just thinking that I'm starting to sound like you, rambling on and on about a hobby until your listeners fall asleep.”
      “Oh, my hobbies aren't that boring, are they?”
      “...hate to break it to you, but, yeah, they kind of are.”
      “Oh, you hypocrite. How many mp3s have I made for you and that silly iPod? You know how much it pained me to do that, right?”
      I giggle, nodding. “Yes, Dad...”
      “Still can't see why they couldn't have built in a little support for other file types... with the market cornered like that, they were really in a fantastic position to set a new standard for quality.”
      “Yes, Dad...”
      “Alright then, I'll try another hobby. You remember the transporters, on Star Trek?”
      I roll my eyes. I know I'm not the only one my age who was force-fed the show in its various incarnations, but it's still not something I like acknowledging in public. “Yes...”
      “We've done it.”
      I raise an eyebrow, skeptical. “Really.”
      “Really! ...alright, so we can't do anything much bigger than an atom, and it's not actually moving, but...”
      Our food arrives, and I take my plate gratefully. If I'm eating, I have an excuse to not answer coherently. Alongside the audiophile in my father, lies the inner science geek. I suppose it's all related – figuring out the inner workings of the world, understanding how things work, way down on the most basic structural levels. I can usually follow the general idea of what he's discussing, but I get lost pretty quickly when he gets really into it. Still, it makes him happy to have someone listen, so I'll listen – even if I don't entirely understand.
      “It's still a huge step in the physics world, and really, what it might do in the computer industry is pretty astounding. We really can't push computers much more in terms of speed, going on the current technology.” He takes a bite of a roast beef sandwich, nodding approval. “This's pretty good.”
      I grin, munching on a salad – well, barely a salad, it's so covered in pecan-crusted chicken, strawberries, blue cheese, bacon bits, some more fruit, and a raspberry vinaigrette. “Their food's always good, yeah. And I promise I'm listening to you.”
      “You know, I think they're actually working on this at your college – or maybe it was one of the college's extensions. Somewhere near here, anyway, they're working on some aspect of the whole thing. But anyway... So there's this whole quantum entanglement thing... which I'm sure you don't remember. Basically, two little bits of matter – on the subatomic level – have this invisible link between them. You know electrons though, right?”
      I nod, high-school chemistry drawings of electrons in their orbits skipping through my memory. (It figures, I remember the freaking drawings, if nothing else!)
      “Well, if you split an atom up, and take two of its electrons, they somehow remember that they once shared a connection of some kind, even if you move them really far apart.”
      I smile at this – that's actually a really cool, surprisingly romantic concept. And I know that anything I take from the garden, no matter where I may move to with it, will always cling to the memory of that place...
      “So. What they've done now, is taken two of those entangled particles. They take a look at the properties of those particles, and find that, say, they're forced to compliment each other. If one is polarized – that is, the field around it vibrates – at 45 degrees, the other one goes at 135 degrees.”
      He must have seen my eyes glazing over. “That's a 180 degree difference – it... well, it made it spin the opposite way, think of it that way.”
      I giggle. “Sorry. Okay.”
      “So a third particle is brought in, and they give it a specific set of properties. Then they measure that particle alongside the first entangled particle. The results are sent to the second entangled particle... and it changes. With the third particle sitting next to an entangled one, the other entangled one sees that new information, and changes into it!”
      He's practically bouncing in his seat. I think I have the gist of it... maybe. “So... without actually touching the second particle, we've reprogrammed it? Changed its properties... which basically turned it into something else, without us touching it?”
      “In essence, yes! Isn't that incredible? Think about that ability in a computer... in cloud computing, especially, you could edit files at a distance without any kind of wire, or even a wireless router or anything! least I think so.” He sits in silence a moment, brows furrowed.
      I laugh. “Did we talk ourselves into a corner again?”
      He chuckles, shaking his head to clear it. “I suppose. I haven't had any more science classes than you have, and mine were much longer ago...”
      “That actually is very cool. Only... my science is pretty sketchy, but wouldn't that mess with conservation of mass or something?”
      “No, it doesn't – the information basically passes from one molecule to another, it's not actually adding or taking away anything from the universe.”
      “...but what it might mess with, is the whole space-time continuum.”
      I raise a skeptical eyebrow again. “Are you talking Star Trek, or physics?”
      “There's quite a bit of physics in Star Trek, thank you! But I do mean physics – space and time really are inextricably linked. So I have to think that if we're poking around, moving things – even just information, swapping properties – around space willy-nilly, it might start screwing with time a bit. Last I read, they were almost up to moving visible things around, there might well be experiments going on with things visible to the naked eye – nothing is ever really published until they've proven it and can explain it, I'm sure the cutting edge of science is far beyond what gets into the public.”
      “You're going into tangents,” I point out casually, popping a strawberry into my mouth. This is such a frequent occurrence that my sister and I have gotten into the habit of pointing it out to him, to save everyone involved time and sanity. He no longer bothers to be offended by the reminders, knowing full well that we're right.
      “So I am. But, space and time, definitely linked. Can't mess with one without messing with the other. They keep shifting bigger things around, they might just open up a giant wormhole into the past, which will suck people in, and then with the time line being affected, the people who went back in time would never have been born, and---”
      We're both laughing now, and he digs back into his sandwich.
      “Alright, well, I'm done. What else is new in your world, kid?”

      It was a long and leisurely dinner, finished by splitting a piece of the restaurant's absolutely amazing ice cream lasagna (which is really good, I promise! Layers of ice cream, crumbly cookie bits, hot fudge, that sort of thing). Dad drove me home, and then headed home himself, the sky turning dark with the oncoming night.
      The apartment always feels so quiet after I've had company... wish I was allowed to have some kind of pet here. (Fish do not count. Fish are not cuddly, and really don't have any personality to speak of.) But there on the living room floor, are the faces of those who... well, I suppose Evelyn and Calvin are almost friends, of a sort...
      “Are you Ev'lyn's friend, Kimber?”
      I smile sadly, my heart sore at the memory of that delicate young voice. He had asked it by way of confirming I was the same Kimber that she'd told him about, but I hear the question differently now. I am their friend... though removed by so much space, so much time...
      And I can't help but laugh, remembering my dinner conversation - how could time and space be anything but connected? Though just now, all I can feel is how they team up to keep me farther away from things... Farther away from friends who died a hundred years before I was born. And what makes it all the stranger, is that I know we would be friends, if we lived in the same world. As far removed as Evelyn's elaborate dresses are from my jeans and t-shirts, something in her eyes, in her speech, in the things she noticed, I know that we see the world in the same way. She's an artist too, though I have no idea if she's ever had a drawing class. And Calvin... who could help but love the child?
      Where were his parents, as he lay dying, could have died alone, in his bed? I blink back tears, a lump in my throat. Evelyn would have been there, whether I'd shown up or not, I'm sure of it, but... it was such a near thing. In all fairness, if the child had been sick his whole life, I guess I couldn't expect Cora to have been at his side every moment... but “charity begins at home”, as I'm sure she told a hundred other women in the town. I can't help but feel angry at her for her neglect. And to let the father treat the children so roughly, too! I'm almost glad Calvin spent his days in his room, it saved him from beatings, at least...
      I sit down, spreading the drawings around me, looking from one to the next, as at the faces of dear friends. I'll keep you all near... and Calvin, I'll give you what life I can, here in my time, where you would have been safe, and cured, and able to run free in that beautiful garden...
      I work a little more on the original drawing of Cal and the forget-me-nots, but soon another image is burning in my mind, demanding my attention, and I pull out a fresh sheet of paper. I begin to draw a new composition, sketching in the lines of a part of the garden I was in this morning. Bold-colored flowers are planted in large dots over the green ground, a mound of golden yarrow, a snowball of white daisies and spherical flame of red ones, a low pool of violet pansies... I put in a little pocket of Canterbury Bells near the border of the page – Evelyn wouldn't ever be far from her little brother, I'm sure of it. But the main feature is a long row of arbor vitae, and though the shapes are now blurred, I know they were once trained into perfect geometric forms – so that's how I'm drawing them, trimmed into spirals and pom-poms, and there, off to the left, that one's an elephant... a giant elephant-shaped bush, probably the size of a real elephant. And running toward it, laughing in delight, is a small boy with chestnut curls, joy in his every gesture.

      A few days later, I head to the library, to poke around at art books, history books, flower books... anything that catches my eye that might help shed some light on the Masons and their world. And their house. I really should check to see when I can drop by the town hall and flip through their old photos and things, but it's a weekend, I'm sure they'd be closed today.
      Stepping into the library, I pause a moment to savor the coolness of the building. Libraries are always just the right temperature in the summer – cool enough to be a fantastic relief, but not the ridiculously frigid freezers that big chain stores are.
      “Kimber! How are you?”
      Turning to face the desk, I grin - Mary Sueter is again at the helm of the library. “Doing all right, how are you?”
      “Oh, bored to tears, the usual for the summertime. I really shouldn't be reading while I'm on-duty, but there's only so much organizing you can do in one day. I cleaned up the old card catalog, making sure everything was where it should be – it's a ridiculous old behemoth to keep around, but, people my age just don't catch on to them new-fangled computers, don'tcha know.”
      I stifle a giggle at her impersonation of her peers. Despite the fact that her voice is full-volume, I still find it hard to break the quiet library habit that's been drilled into me since birth.
      “I don't feel I could look at another bit of typewritten text for weeks... and books aren't much relief. Please tell me there's something I can help you with? Please?”
      Now I can't help but laugh, and she joins in. “Well... I'm really not after anything specific I don't think, but...”
      “Oh that just makes the challenge all the better! I know – well, very nearly – every book in this place.”
      “Well... I'm really just looking for anything that might be relevant to the Masons, anything about their time period, or the history of the town then, or more on the culture of the time... or more about plants, or the type of sculptures in the garden, or...” I spread my hands in helplessness.
      She beams. “Five books have popped into my head already. You just find a seat and make yourself comfortable, and I'll be back in two shakes.”
      I'm a little amazed at how quickly she moves – and the efficiency. She makes a beeline for one aisle, scans along the Dewey numbers (which still manage to elude me) with a fingertip, then skims the titles, and slips a book off the shelf into her fingers, already turning her body toward her next destination.
      It can't be more than three minutes when she's returned to drop the promised five books into my lap. “There! Record time – but I have to admit that I cheated, I reshelved one of those first thing this morning. Now, you flip through and see if any of those suits your fancy. I have another in mind that I'll have to do a bit of a search for... would it be in with history, sociology, or botany...”
      I am officially in awe of this woman. Somehow, she makes being a librarian seem like an adventure, which I would have never thought possible.
      I take the first book off the pile on the low table beside me. A small paperback, with a history of the town outlined in it. Portions look pretty detailed, giving decent biographies of some of the town's founders, though there's not half as much detail as I'd like. Still, it looks like a great starting place – and skimming the index, I see Cora is mentioned in several places.
      I set it back on the table, picking up the next. It's another slim paperback, but I grin brightly as I spot the author's name: Dr. Carl Reiff, Ph. D. Hooray! It's actually a book on local architecture, showing photos of some of the older houses in town, with discussions of the different styles and trends in architecture. Not a topic that interests me a whole lot, but I wonder... I flip through the pages, pausing anywhere I see a tower at the left-hand corner of the house.
      And then I stop:
      It's such a dark, blurry image, I can barely make it out. There are huge trees to either side of the house – I almost missed the tower. But I know that pathway, and I know the shape of those rose bushes, and I'm sure those are day lilies blooming at the base of the house, those little white spots there among the leaves.
      The notes beneath the photo read:
      “Only remaining photograph of the Mason estate, near present-day Central Ave. and Walnut St. Possibly built 1820s, though date is uncertain. Style is largely in imitation of an Italian villa, however the touches of Gothic make it an unusual case. Burned in 1902.”
      I touch my fingertips reverently to the image, squinting to try and see more detail... but the photo must have been badly damaged by the years, and making a copy of it did it no favors. Still, the shape of the house is there, anyway. Taller than it is wide, looks like three stories? The tower on the left is actually square, and goes up to a fourth floor. The roof is fairly flat, looks like it might be tiled, Italian-style, but it's hard to be sure. There is a porch around the front door, and the columns form pointed arches around the entryway – those pointed arches are definitely Gothic, I remember that much from Dr. Reiff's lectures. And it looks like there's some intricate brickwork, there on the edge of the house... but it's impossible to make out, the shadows are too dense there, and the contrast in the image far too low. I sigh in frustration, trying to memorize the image anyway... wondering where Calvin's room was in that towering brick house.
      “Find anything interesting, dearie?” I jump, and Mary laughs kindly. “Sorry... I walk like a librarian, I know.”
      I point at the decrepit photo on the page, and grin up at her. “I found this – thank you!”
      She leans down and peers at the page. “Ahh... the Mason place, isn't it? Such a shame no better pictures survived the years... you'd think there would be more, a place that well-known.”
      “Cameras weren't really mainstream until just about when it burned down though,” I point out. “Anyway, if the family was that rich, they'd probably have wanted a painting done, rather than photos – photography was seen as a pretty low, imitative art form for a long time.”
      She beams down at me, nodding. “So it was! Come be a junior member of the historical society? We could use a breath of fresh air, in among all of us old fogies.”
      I laugh. “You're much farther away from being an old fogie than I am, Mary... But what other goodies have you brought me?”
      She holds a little red book above her head, triumphant. “Found it! It's only tangentially related to your request, but I just know you'll love it.”
      I reach up, and Mary puts the book into my hands.
      It's a very pretty little thing, the deep red leather covered in what were once bright gold vines and flowers, in intricate patterns. No title is on the front, and the one on the side is faded beyond reading. The first few pages are blank tissue, and then I find... “Is this the title page? This is officially the longest title I have ever, ever seen.”
      She chuckles. “Brevity was not their concern, it would seem.”
      I read it aloud, in pompous tones: “Our Deportment, or the Manners, Conduct, and Dress of the Most Refined Society; including Forms for Letters, Invitations, Etc., Etc. Also, Valuable Suggestions on Home Culture and Training. Compiled from the Latest Reliable Authorities, by John H. Young, A.M. Detroit: F.B. Dickerson & Co., 1883.”
      I take a deep, dramatic breath. “That... is ridiculous.”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Part 27

      “A doctor... can we call a doctor?”
      “I'll have Molly send Joseph for one, but--”
      “Just go! Quickly!”
      Evelyn dashes out the door, yelling for the servant girl – for anyone. I helplessly hover by Calvin, rubbing and humping his back, trying to clear his throat, his lungs... I don't know what to do... He whimpers and moans, gasping every second for air.
      Evelyn is back in a few endless moments, and I let her take my place – she has far more claim to be near the boy than I. But she has no better plan than I did... and we exchange a helpless, fearful glance.
      “How long..?”
      “The fastest he can possibly get to town is a good quarter of an hour... and if the doctor's out on a call somewhere...”
      “Has he been this bad before?”
      “No... almost, but, never this long...” And as the words leave her mouth, Calvin suddenly gulps down a lungful of air, and does not cough.
      We whirl to stare at him, in anxious disbelief. He takes a few tiny sips of air, his eyes wide and hopeful and scared. “I... Ev, I...”
      “Shh shh shh! Don't talk, Cal, I'm here, don't talk, just breathe, all right? Just breathe, darling boy...” She cradles him tenderly in her arms, laying her cheek against the top of his head. “Just breathe for me.”
      “Ev...” he whispers, pulling his head away to look intently at her. “Evelyn, I'm not strong enough... I can't...” He stops for a moment, catching his breath, as if winded from a long run.
      “Calvin, hush, don't talk like that... don't talk at all, just breathe.”
      “Evelyn, I've got to talk, while I'm here... Evelyn, I love you.”
      “Cal... I love you too...” His somber tone keeps her from continuing to shush him, and she looks steadily into his face, a little puzzled but taking him completely seriously.
      “Evelyn... you won't ever forget me, will you? I don't care about anybody else, but, you won't forget me?” Every word is punctuated by a rasping gasp, his body shaking with each inhalation, I can hear him nearly choke with every breath.
      “Not ever, Cal... not ever.”
      “Don't... don't forget me.”
      Evelyn is sobbing, holding him close to her, and his breathing softens, and I almost dare hope...
      And then there's no more sound.
      And Evelyn wails, her voice breaking along with her heart, and I'm crying as well, I move closer to her, to hold her in comfort and sympathy, but...
      I'm alone again in the silent garden, the sound of her weeping still in my ears, my face soaked with tears under the dull gray sky.

      I return the next day, with a small shovel in my bag. I find a little grouping of forget-me-nots in a corner of the clearing, and carefully dig down around them, trying to cut as few of their delicate roots as possible. I cup the bundle of limp plants and roots in my hands, and bring them to Calvin's room. I dig a small hole where his bed, long, so long ago, held his weak body, and I tenderly plant the forget-me-nots in his place. I pour half of the water from my water bottle onto them, and check to see how much sun is here. It should be shady enough for them... but to be sure, I walk slowly around the house's outline, and carry over some bricks, to build a small wall to provide the delicate blue blossoms a little more shelter.
      “I won't forget you either, Cal... and I'll be sure you're remembered by others.” There is a drawing just beginning to sketch itself into my thoughts, of a sweet child's face, his curls dotted with tiny blue blossoms.

      I take a long, slow walk, all around the garden, trying to finally see the rest of the grounds as best I can. I can't follow every path in a day, I'm sure, but it's still a little before noon, and I have the rest of the long summer daylight ahead of me. I feel a little disconcerted by the garden's beauty, after so much sadness it doesn't seem fair that the flowers should be so bright and beautiful... and I know it's ridiculous, because all of the Masons have been dead, what, at least fifty years, if not more. All the same... I saw the lifebreath leave that sweet little face, I saw the last breath of a mere child... and such a sweet, loving little child...
      Many of the paths, even the ones carefully paved in stone, tile, brick, are impossible to follow now. The plants grow so rampantly in places, they've entirely covered the paths. One immense wisteria plant has plummeted down through a long tunnel of a trellis that once covered a path – the splintered wooden frame is almost entirely lost now beneath the thick vines and dense leaves.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Part 26

      I bring him the elephant, tucking it under the blanket beside his curly head. He smiles, and brings his hands up to cling to the little thing. He moves the towel back from his forehead, and opens his eyes to look up at me. His eyes look just like his father's, the same color and the same penetrating stare, and the resemblance startles me – but then the eyes soften and blink slowly, and I see the innocent tenderness and trust that suffuses them, so different from the cold cynicism of his father's eyes.
      "Thank you..." he says quietly, closing his eyes and pulling the elephant close against his cheek.
      I smile gently down at the poor kid, reaching out a hand to stroke the damp curls. I wonder what's wrong with him? I've heard from others that he was generally a sickly child, bedridden at some point? Maybe there's something wrong with his legs, as well as whatever this flu-like thing is he has now. His lungs sound like they're in rough shape, at least just now, that cough sounded so painful... His breathing is still raspy, even while he's laying still and quiet.
      The scene wavers in front of me a moment, and I'm back in the silent garden, alone under a gray sky. There's no trace of the bed left here...
      But a single blink of my eyes, and the room is back. Calvin is seemingly asleep, his breath still rasping, just as it was before. Looking around, I have no idea if it's been a few seconds or a few weeks to him, since I left. I doubt if much ever changes, in this silent little room... I can't bring myself to wake him, and I do want to find out more, though I know he's too weak - and possibly too young - to answer many of my questions.
      So, I slowly open the bedroom door, and slip into the hallway beyond. But I get no farther than a step, into a corridor paneled with some rich, red wood, with a glimpse of vivid floral paintings on the walls and deep, plush carpet on the floor, when I'm frozen by the sound of approaching footsteps. I glance quickly up and down the hall, and see that to the left, it turns a corner maybe a dozen feet away – and it's from that direction that the sound is coming. So I haven't yet been seen, but I will be any second! And though I know I would never do any harm here, nobody else has any reason to know that, and I'd be pretty freaked out if a person in totally inappropriate clothing was lurking in the hall outside my kid's bedroom.
      Anxiously, I look up and down the hallway, but the few other doors are closed – I have no way of knowing if they're locked, if they're no more than closets, or if other people are behind them. I duck back into Calvin's room, and glance around for a place to hide. The wardrobe might be big enough? I open its doors and find that it is, indeed, big enough to hide in, so I step up and into it – and taking a cue from the Narnia books, make sure that I don't close one of the doors quite all the way. (I do hold it closed, so nobody catches a glimpse of me, but I don't let the thing latch.)
      A few moments later, I hear the bedroom door swing inward.
      “Calvin? Are you awake?” The voice is quiet and sweet, and I wonder if it's Cora. I wonder if she's much older than she was when I saw her that day by the honeysuckle...
      The boy whimpers weakly, his breathing loud and labored.
      “Oh I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to startle you... But Mother said to be sure you got some medicine this afternoon. She has a meeting in town, you know, and the servants are all trying to get the place in order before he comes home.” There is a slight hesitation before the “he”, as if the speaker is catching herself about to say something else in place of it. The voice doesn't sound all that old... I force myself to wait until I hear the footsteps cross the room, and then stop, presumably by the bedside. Then I allow myself to open the wardrobe door just the tiniest sliver, and peep through.
      The figure at the bedside is slim and beautiful, in a dress of pale aqua and soft white. The fabric shimmers a bit as she moves, but I'm not sure what it is. The skirt brushes the floor, looking all the more dramatic in contrast to the absolutely tiny corseted waist of the woman. The sleeves are puffed out from shoulder to elbow in a way that would look totally ludicrous, were the woman not apparently totally at ease with them. The fabric is layered, an aqua bodice that flares a little like a jacket, over an aqua overskirt that stops halfway below the knee, a layer of white covering the rest of the distance to the floor. The puffs of the sleeves layer in the same way, with soft cream-colored fabric blossoming out from underneath a layer of light aqua. All along the edges of each layer is a trim of dark brown lace, adding a graphic geometric edge to all the flowing lines of soft shimmery fabric. Her hair is bound in a low knot on the back of her neck, tied with a wide ribbon of the same light blue-green as the dress.
      Her hair is a soft brown, almost auburn where the light catches it, and a few wisps of curls escape from the knot to brush against her ivory skin. When she turns to reach for the water glass, I catch sight of her face---
      And I'm still not sure who it is. She looks very, very much like Cora, but there are a few differences. The eyes are a little wider-set, the nose a different shape. (I spent so long comparing the photo of the older Cora to the woman I saw in the garden, as well as the time spent drawing her, that I'm quite familiar with her underlying facial structures.)
      It couldn't be Evelyn. Could it?? The woman is... it's hard to guess at her age. The face is young and fresh. But there is a gracefulness in all of her motions – even something as simple as lifting a glass is somehow made incredibly elegant. Far more poise than any teenager I've ever seen, but there's still a sense of innocence about her that seems far more childlike than any teenager either. Maybe fifteen or sixteen? If I could see her face better, I might be able to tell if it's Evelyn, or just some visiting cousin or something...
      She pours some liquid into the glass from a bottle in her hand, then sets the bottle on the bedside table. Holding the glass in one hand, she sits gently on the edge of the bed. A small hand slips out from under the blankets, and rests on her lap, but there is no other motion from Calvin.
      “Cal, darling... it's all right. It may taste awful, but medicine will help, if you'll just take a little sip... won't you do that, for me?”
      “Ev... it hurts...” The voice is so faint, I can barely hear the words. His hand looks so pale! But he called her “Ev”... it must be Evelyn, after all.
      “Shh, I know, dear, I know... but you'll feel better soon. And we can play in the garden all you like. I'll go and bring you some fresh flowers right now, if you'll just take a little sip, for me? Please?”
      He whimpers again, but turns his head toward her. She slips an arm around his shoulders, lifting him a little, just as I did... five minutes? hours? weeks? ago. She holds the glass to his lips, and he takes a tiny sip, then sputters and begins to cough violently, his whole body shaking.
      Evelyn gasps, dropping the glass to the floor and putting both arms around him, holding him in a sitting position to keep him from choking. "Cal... oh Cal, I'm so sorry, are you all right? Cal!"
      But his coughing continues, I can't imagine how his tiny body can sustain such a powerful retching as that. Something flies from his mouth, and Evelyn cries out, pain in her voice. I let the door open farther, squinting toward the bed, torn between staying hidden and rushing to try and help... but it's Evelyn, she knows me, I can't just sit here and watch!
      I fly from the wardrobe, the door slamming back to hit the wooden paneling, and cross the room in a few steps. "Oh Evelyn, what can I do? What's wrong?"
      She glances up, startled, but far more concerned about her little brother than my sudden appearance. "Kimber! Oh Kimber, I don't know! He hasn't coughed so badly in months, and---" She glances down at the quilts, and I see what I couldn't from across the room: bright crimson drops of blood.
      Calvin's body is shaking violently with every cough, and I look desperately around the room, trying to think of some way to help. The glass has shattered on the floor, but I grab the pitcher and bring it to the bedside, pouring water into my hands, trying to hold it near him... but he can't stop coughing, and the water slides away between my fingers, his body too far out of his control to let him decide on any of its actions.
      “Oh Kimber, Mother's given him this medicine for weeks and it hasn't done anything like this! We thought it was helping, he seemed so much calmer, and the fever was finally gone... oh, what can we do?” she cries, looking up at me in desperation. But my mind, though racing, only comes up blank.

killing off characters freaking hard. Originally, Kimber was just going to get a little glimpse of Cal, right as he died. But then the kid started talking, and now he's sweet and I don't want to kill him!

I made the mistake of telling Tom this as I was writing last night.
"The character you're killing off... who are they closest to?"
I thought about this for a moment. "Probably his sister."
"Have her be the one to kill him."

...for dramatic purposes, he is, as usual, entirely correct. But I can't do that!!! It was going to be hard enough to let this poor little child die of some disease. But... to have that guilt cling to little Evelyn, would be a nice, if horribly sad, touch. Even if she just *thinks* she killed him, some coincidence or another. But... I still haven't thought of any way she could influence his death. I have no idea. We'll see if I can polish off this scene tonight... or if I'm going to weasel my way out of finishing it for another day. ^^;;

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Part 25

      My gaze is interrupted by the sound of a loud, hacking cough, followed by a muffled moan. Turning, I see there's a child, lying in a bed - which does indeed have several quilts, though the patterns are very intricate, the colors far more carefully considered than the patchwork family ones I've always had. I can see short brown curls, and two little fists balled up against the face. I can't be positive from a distance, but it looks like the poor thing is shaking... There is a glass of water on a wooden nightstand beside the bed, as well as a brass bell - presumably to call for someone, should he need something. But this poor child... I doubt if he'd have the strength to reach out and lift something even as small as that. Moving closer, I can see that the boy is maybe four years old at most. His face is largely covered by hands and hair, but his skin looks abnormally flushed over an incredibly pale white base. There is sweat on his brow - his curls are absolutely plastered to it.
      ...I still don't feel like I should be able to make contact with anyone here, but Evelyn held my hand, so I'm sure I can touch this child. But will I catch whatever he has, I wonder? I guess I would... wouldn't I? But the boy whimpers, and his breath rasps so loudly in his throat, I can't just stand here...
      “Can... can I get you anything?” I ask gently, kneeling down on the floor by his bedside, looking up at the tightly balled fists.
      The boy whimpers again, shaking his head ever so slightly, pressing his fists harder against his eyes. “It hurts too much... don' wanna move.”
      “Shh, it's okay... you don't have to move...” I look around, and spot a pitcher and basin on a low table a few feet away. I hope the water's cold - though I suppose anything would feel cool against the flushed brow. I get up and walk over to the basin, finding a very soft white towel beside it. I pour a little water into the basin from the pitcher, and dipping my fingers into it, find that it's fairly cool at least. The temperature in the room is comfortably warm, but maybe the porcelain of the pitcher helps it stay cool? I dampen the towel in the water, wring out the excess water, and return to the bedside.
      “Here, sweetheart... move your hands, and I'll put a cool cloth on your head. Here...” I touch a corner of the towel to his forehead. “Does that feel good?”
      “Unh-hunh...” he mutters weakly, his hands moving away from his face and plunging under the heavy quilts. “My head is so hot, but I keep shivering all the time...”
      “Here...” I murmur, using the towel to smooth back the damp curls from his forehead, before gently laying the towel over his brow and eyes. He has such long, dark lashes... and the prettiest little face I've ever seen, though it's contorted by pain and a little wasted by illness. I can tell the child has been sick for a long, long time... There's a weary sort of patience about him, the air of someone who's suffered long, and doesn't expect to ever feel any differently. His skin is blotchy with the fever's flush and something else I think, though I'm not sure what, some kind of rash? “Does that feel any better?”
      “Unh-hunh,” he sighs wearily, his lips parting to ease his labored breathing.
      “Do you want any water to drink?”
      He nods – though the movement is so slight it's barely noticeable. Lifting the glass of water from the bedside table, I start to dip a finger in to check the temperature, thinking of refilling it from the pitcher--- but I stop as soon as I lift the glass, there's the weirdest smell coming from it.
      “What is this??” I gasp – and though I didn't mean to address the boy, he answers me.
      “Med-cin. Mommy bought it for me. Spe... speshul water.”
      I raise an eyebrow skeptically at the glass. It smells absolutely awful – I can smell a bit of alcohol in it, and something sharp and rancid that I can't, and probably wouldn't want to, identify. I look around for a bottle, and though I don't see one, I feel sure it's somebody-or-another's patented elixir to cure all ills. Screw that crap, I'm not feeding it to this child! He doesn't need any alcohol in his system, and the smell makes me almost puke. He's too weak to be puking, and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't help him breathe any easier. I look around, and see another bucket on the floor beside the wash basin – I'm going to assume that's one that should be emptied. I pour out the glass into it, and hold my breath as the fumes rise up toward me. Ick ick ick. I rinse the glass in the basin, then refill it with cool, clear water from the pitcher.
      I bring the glass over to the boy. And realize he's not going to be able to sit up. “I'm going to help you sit up a little, so you can drink some water, okay?”
      He whimpers, and I instantly try to soothe him. “Not the special water, just regular water, okay? I promise it will help you feel better. And I'll hold you up, okay?” I slip an arm gently around the shaking shoulders, my heart breaking to feel this tiny body so weak and helpless to whatever's causing these tremors. I help him sit up just enough to be able to drink, and lift the glass to his lips. “Just drink a little... your body needs water to work right, drinking some will help your body fight off the illness, okay?”
      He takes the tiniest sip, and then gasps for breath.
      “Shh, it's okay, just take it slow... I'll stay right here, you don't need to hurry...”
      He whimpers, and after a minute or so of fighting for breath, takes another sip. I know he must be parched – how long has he lain here, too weak to lift the glass himself? Or too horrified by its contents to even want to drink it!
      I sit there for a long time, cradling the boy in one arm, lifting the glass to his lips to take tiny sips, until the glass is nearly empty. Then he slumps back against my arm, and manages something almost like a smile. “Thank you... Who are you?”
      I ease him gently back against his pillows, and sit a little more comfortably on the floor – or, rather, on the plush rug by the bed, which I suspect is actual animal fur (a thought I try not to dwell on). My feet have totally fallen asleep, and I rub them ruefully, wincing as pins and needles set in. “I'm Kimber... what's your name?”
      “Calvin Marcus Mason.”
      I can't help but grin at the imperiousness that somehow invades the tiny voice. It is an impressive-sounding name... which makes it all the sadder to see it linked with this frail little frame.
      “Are you Ev'lyn's friend, Kimber?”
      I start a bit at this. I'm... it's still so strange, to think of this world as being truly real, and to know that I'm as real in it as it seems to me... “Yes, I met her once, out in the garden.”
      The tiny dry lips purse at this. “No... you met her lotsa times. She told me. But... maybe I jus' dreamed she tol' me...” He trails off, groaning a little, apparently exhausted by such a long statement. “I dream a awful lot now... am I dreaming you?”
      I am honestly clueless as to how to answer this. But somehow, I don't think I'm a dream to him. “No, Calvin, I'm here... I can't stay long, but I'm here now. You want any more water?”
      “C'n I have my elfant?”
      I smile, and stand up, going over to the toy box. “Sure... it's a pink elephant, right?”
      I lift the little thing out of the box – noticing as I bend down that there are an awful lot of toys actually in here. All kinds of slightly creepy metal ones, a cast-iron elephant with jointed legs and a key on one side, among several other ones that I can see keys on, birds and tigers and bears. Lots of blocks, several picture books, and I think some marbles way down in the bottom... But the top layer seems to be mostly soft things, though they don't look half as cuddly as the ones I grew up with. Still, the elephant is snuggly enough – he's definitely some kind of felt, stuffed with something soft, and he's a very friendly-looking little guy. Pale pink with a royal blue saddle on his back, bright yellow trim, and the initials “C.M.M.” embroidered in dark thread on the saddle. He's fairly small, maybe four inches tall? But I suppose Calvin's pretty small himself.
NaNo '09! - Free Blogger Templates - by Templates para novo blogger