Here’s the drill:
20 minutes. Fresh, free fiction (of the imaginative variety), based on a few preset parameters.
Every Tuesday, I’ll spin you a quick tale and give you something to think about. Call it a writing drill, an exercise in imagination. I spend nearly a year to get a book together, so what better than an opportunity to have something finished by the time I click “save”. Now I like that, and hopefully, so will you.
What is a writer not allowed to do? Some writers would like to tell you they can do whatever they want, but how come it is that so many are careful to capture their story just right? You can plan all you want, but the tale has a mind of it’s own. For twenty minutes today, I’ll tell a story without a plan – a story that has a mind of it’s own from the first sentence – to prove a point: no matter what you set out to write, the story has a way of working out, so long as you know how to run after it.
“I’m going to the moon!” she demanded.
“That’s impossible,” Jonathan replied. He always stood so tall, it seemed his legs were made of trees. It let him stare down at his sister with that pointy nose of his. “Do your homework.”
“Fine,” Laura said. As soon as the door closed, though, she grinned and put her pencil away.
“Are you ready?” came the whisper. Laura jumped up from her desk, hurried to the closet door.
Ryan and Celia wore their goggles. Raymond had the flashlight turned on, pointing down the long tunnel. They must have been in there all day. “Flight’s at midnight. We have to hurry, or we’ll miss it.”
Laura could barely keep up. She ended up running, trying to stay close enough to Raymond’s flashlight so that she didn’t trip on the uneven gravel. When they emerged into the night, it was cold, like winter, even though it was the middle of July. “Where are we?” Laura asked.
“Somewhere near the north pole. Not sure.” Ryan unfolded a map, pored over it under Raymond’s flashlight. His thumb went over something like a circuit chip. “They will be here. Any minute now.”
“How are we getting to the moon?” Laura asked. She looked up at the sky, but couldn’t see a thing. It was all black, just like the trees surrounding them. On second thought, it was so dark she couldn’t be sure they were trees. No. They’re too tall…
“What is this place?” Laura looked up at those pillars, so tall, they had no end in sight. “I thought we were going in a space ship. I thought we were going to outer space to explore. You told me you built a space ship.”
Ryan quirked a grin. “Not space. Somewhere better, far better. I’ve had this plan for a while, but didn’t want to say too much. People can’t know.”
Laura looked back at the shadow of the tunnel from which they had come. Jonathan waited in their bungalow. Soon, he’d be by to check on her, and he’d come looking. There was no time to hesitate. “Let’s go – wherever that is.”
“Good.” Celia came and took Laura’s hand, leading her with the other boys toward the cover of the towering pillars. They didn’t go far before Raymond stopped them again.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know. This isn’t what was supposed to happen.” For once, Ryan didn’t smirk. He looked confused as he took the flashlight from Raymond, held it high, stepped forward cautiously. “Watch out!”
Laura stopped just in time. The flashlight shone on the edge of the ground, revealing a canyon. Warm air blew up, like heat through a vent. When she squinted, Laura saw the small orb, far below, glowing like a red sun, like hot magma in a pit. “I don’t want to go down there. You’re all crazy.”
But Ryan already stepped over the edge of the pit. His foot fell on some sort of translucent bridge, making it shine red and blue and green when he pressed down with all his weight. “This is the gateway. It’s not what I thought, but it will take us where we need to go.”
The others followed him, leaving Laura alone, staring down into the strange world below. This wasn’t the moon, it wasn’t even outer space. Whatever this place was, she didn’t know if she’d ever come back. But then she thought of Jonathan, knocking at her door, looking down at her with his big pointy nose, and it was enough to push her to take the first step. Once she began to walk, the other steps were easier.
She didn’t speak until they reached the bottom. Rather than reaching the glowing sun, the bridge met a ground of white diamond and green, jagged stones. The dim, red light glowed through it, tracing out faint lines in the sky. Ahead of them, the stone reared up into an uneven arch or blue and gray, opening into a dimly lit room. That was where Ryan led them. Only when she stood before it did Laura realize that it wasn’t a room at all.
“What is it?”
“Another world,” Ryan said. “No one’s ever discovered it before. It’s ours. My grandpa told me about it, before he died, said that now is the time. He said…I…I have no choice.”
Intrigued, Laura looked through, into the vast canvas before her. She felt like someone standing before a map, except every detail felt twice as real…like she could reach out and touch it…
“Careful!” Celia warned. “That’s how you travel. We need to stay together, at least for now, until we understand how everything works. Ryan’s explained everything to us, what we’d find when we get here. We have to go to the Heart first, that’s the highest mountain – there, you see?”
Celia pointed to a mountain in the middle of the world, one that stood so high it must have been twenty thousand feet. It poked up like a dagger. She looked around at the other parts – the seas, some of them green, some of them blue – the exotic islands and plains. One place looked like a floating continent, with domes so large they looked like Christmas baubles. She wanted to go, to explore, even if it meant she never came back.
“What is this place called?” she asked.
“Earth,” Ryan said. “It’s my home, or at least, it was, before my people destroyed themselves and fled to this world. Soon, though, we’ll have it back again. And you’re all going to help me. All of you. Are you ready?”
Want to read more by Graeme? Be sure to check out The Pact, coming May 1st.