She looked from her tiny window to the wall, her back hunched against the cement wall, and closed her eyes, breathing only through her nose, slowly, feeling for her heart, waiting for it to stop and skip, finally lying on her side, keeping her hands around her legs, trying to fall asleep like that. But she couldn’t. She flipped from her side to her back and had her hand in her jeans, under her panties, tucking her finger in, not moving it, just keeping it there, cupping her hand over that, thinking she would never be free. She slept once the sun had left her window, nearing seven in the morning, and slept through the afternoon; she was happy to see her church iceberg as she had left it, its pyramid bright white and fluffy, its shirts every shade of electric blue. She was lonely and empty, sick with it; it was like a gas she couldn’t swallow. She didn’t want to be here. None of this had anything to do with her. There was nothing she could understand, just the rocks and ice and never-ending light. She needed something else, something to fight against. As much as she hated the hypocrisy and greed, the contradictions, the lies and hate, she needed them to work against. Without the avarice, she had nothing to despise, only the emptiness of space, endless and eternal and gut-wrenching, the same feeling she had looking into the water, into those depths.
Some statistics after completing the 4th draft of Anori:
Pages: Edited 13% of the text; 99,867 to 86,742 words
Problem Phrases: “Falling forward”, “it was there and then not”
Music: Fireworks (Tragically Hip), soundtrack during process, repeated 300 times.
An outtake from Anori, the first book in my science fiction trilogy:
The glacier rumbled behind, a low deep shift of ice and snow, and then another rumble after that, further away. She watched the smoke and steam from the launch, the rocket nosing out of the valley, the bright ball spitting out beneath, arching up steadily in a thundering blur.
She wondered how she had come to this ridiculous moment, collecting creatures, ready for the next disaster, or pretending that this was so, that there wasn’t a cloth hanging down disguising the true intent, their responsibility for this, their predicament in this self-made trap and looked down at a cluster of pink and purple flowers in the shape of a one-armed girl, her chest thrust forward like she was being pulled to heaven.
“Everyone’s a goddamn pervert.” Dee traced her nail along her palm, following the lifeline up to the base of her index finger. “We repress that. We deny it, turn it into porn, the door locked, like it isn’t what we dream. But we all have these tiny demons. They’re our essential thing.” “What about her?” Val nodded toward a woman at the far side of the tavern, her hair pulled back, posture straight.
“Two masseurs, lots of oil.”
Dee considered the man leaving, his pink striped sleeve rolled up one arm. “Squeaky toys.”
Dee wiped her hand through the drink rings, pushing the thick puddles into small lines, making a long claw-like streak. “The thing about men is that they love to stare at their hard cocks, like a rare and marvelous wild thing.”
“They’re like little boys, amazed by that thing between their legs. They can’t fathom anything so stupendous and god-like.”
“Wards off the fear of death.”
“For, like a minute, anyway.”
“Back to the perversions.”
Dee sat on the floor and went through the books on the bottom shelves, and opened an old Pop-Up book, Babar’s Moon Trip. She opened and closed the center of the book, the space station rising up, falling down again. She played with the bent point of the space tower, toying with the tip of it until it broke and rolled the dirty piece of cardboard between her thumb and forefinger.
“Miss Sinclair.” Officer Duncan sat pert behind his desk and held out a blue index card. “You fill in one of these?”
“I need you to fill it in.”
“I’ll wait for my lawyer.”
He hunched over the desk, his black pointy hair sticking out from his small features and hands, and turned away from her to Officer Manzoni at the desk beside him. “Processing the 10-64?”
Officer Manzoni, intent on his screen, his goateed chin pushed forward, wire-frame glasses tight against the bridge of his nose, took a moment to respond. “Series two.”
“It’s not Series two.”
Officer Manzoni shrugged.
Officer Duncan glanced down at Dee again, almost surprised she was still there, waiting like a child. “1151, you can have a seat.”
Dee waited, looking through the newspapers again and considered the picture of her jumping again, peering at her half exposed breast again and then her arms awkwardly out, her right leg almost straight out, like she had been pushed. It made her stomach turn, looking at herself, thinking how she could have broken her ankle and then remembering the tunnel and the dark and thinking she might actually still be in there, comatose, leaking toward her last breath. She looked around and saw Officer Duncan over her, Officer Manzoni just behind.
She opened her eyes to see the intern with his phone up, flat, facing her; he was taking a picture.
“What are you doing?”
He lowered it as she stared back and looked down, opening a file. Dee waited for him to look back, but he wouldn’t, keeping his face stupidly low.
“Hello?” Dee knocked on the table; everyone looked up at that.
He hunched forward. “I’m sorry?”
“Fucking admit it.”
He made a ridiculous quizzical face and looked around at the others.
“What is this?” The judge returned from the hall.
“This guy just took my picture.”
“Miss Sinclair, you will have to sit down.”
“Is it allowed, judge? Yes or no?”
She glanced back at the lawyers. “Mr. Cates, did you take her picture?”
“I was scrolling through my messages, looking for a file-”
“Did you take her picture, Mr. Cates?”
“I was…It was a mistake.”
“You know The Partridge Family? Or you’re too young?”
“You wanted to have suckle with her.”
“That beautiful Hammond organ, the harmonies. Do you remember? It was a real world, real, an alternate space that had real possibility, following interior childlike rhythms, saying those things out loud.” He breathed in and took Dee’s hands like they were precious things, like she had brought them from somewhere distant. “I would sit and stare at the TV after it was over, just sit there through whatever was next. I hoped it would come back. It was real to me. Can you believe that? It was as real as anything I will ever know.” He scraped his sandal back and forth. “I met the guy who wrote the music. I met him in California.”
The door led into a hall back into another room like this, another door, another corridor, and then the bathroom. Dee sat in the stall. She had to shit but then couldn’t. It was trapped inside her like everything else. The door squeaked open and someone came in the stall beside her. The protracted silence became funny and she wanted to laugh, but she couldn’t get it out, and her face was getting red. She was scared of an aneurysm; she was pushing that hard. And then she was done. Malcolm’s assistant pulled out three paper towels in quick succession and balled them together. “I’m praying for you.”
“I’m praying for you.”
“I’m praying for you to have the strength.”
“You’ll have to stop saying that.”
“I can’t stop praying for you.”
“Prayers have nothing to do with it. It’s the lawyers.”
“Prayers are in my heart.”
“Why would you…? I’ve never heard anything so stupid.”
“I’m praying for you through this difficult time.”
“Jesus Christ!” Dee’s hands cramped around the empty air. “You say that again and I’ll have to punch you!”
“Say that one more time and I will punch you in the jaw. Got it?”
She peered back, her eyes pleading with Dee to find peace and love in everyone’s heart.
And then Qoorog was there, coming up the path, along the edge of it, plodding forward, his head down, his hair hanging down, knees up high, one after the other, like he was sleepwalking. The hill was steep and the steam thick. I waited for him. He was a heavy guy, thick jowls and stomach, but he wasn’t out of breath; he didn’t look at her as he approached.
“You smoke?” His voice wasn’t like she imagined; it was normal, like she was talking to someone in the park.
“Yes.” He had a big head, round and impressive, high heavy cheek bones, a wide jaw, a silvery walrus neatly trimmed mustache, large ears and a thick neck; his eyes were bright behind his wire-framed glasses, almost stern. “I don’t.”
“I’ve seen your cat.”
“Yes.” He was already moving past, his walking cadence the same, slow and hard, his feet shooting out ahead and then almost gliding, like a mute spirit-walker supreme.