Tuesday, March 06, 2007


The Day's Progress - Tuesday Edition

Getting up to speed. This last section is the easiest going, which is as planned. The other week I was moaning to my editor Lou about having to look up references for everything in "Jubilee," and couldn't describe what a character was wearing without checking out sites on Victorian fashion to make sure that I wasn't making some anachronistic gaffe.

Now, I'm writing about a girl from Austin who goes to London in 2000, and if I want to say that she's wearing a Ramones t-shirt and jeans, I can just say "Alice was wearing a Ramones t-shirt and jeans." I don't need to cite sources, or try to figure out when the brassiere was invented (as early as the 1880s in France, if I recall correctly, though not commonly adopted until the early 20C). At most I need to check to see whether the pop culture references in the narrative are anachronistic, but then I just need to visit IMDB and I'm through.

It's bliss...

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
126,285 / 140,000

Covered a lot of ground today, including bringing Roxanne Bonaventure onstage for a brief appearance. The story doesn't really begin in earnest until tomorrow, when the ravens start talking to Alice and Stillman Waters comes on stage. This first 10K words is basically just setting the stage, and gradually introducing Alice and her backstory.
Alice’s arrival at the London Eye was something of an anticlimax. If she’d been expecting the heavens to open up and a host of angels to descend, she was disappointed. Not that she had, of course. But still, something a little dramatic would have been nice.

Instead, she’d stood in one line to purchase her ticket—seven pounds, or about eleven dollars American—and then gone to stand in another line to wait her turn. And waited. And waited. And waited.

It was some hours before her turn came around at last, hours of shuffling forward slowly, with a pair of German tourists in hiking boots and brightly colored t-shirts in front of her, bandanas tied jauntily around their necks, and a group of London schoolchildren behind her, kept in line and more or less in control only by the sheer force of will of the teachers who were with them, one at either end of the group, merrily carrying on a conversation at the top of their lungs over the shouting of the kids, pausing occasionally to bark reprimands at this kid or that for cutting up, or for stealing each others action figures or whatnot. Finally, she mounted the ramp that zigzagged back and forth, carefully watched over by a guy in a uniform, but Alice couldn’t tell if he was a cop or a security guards, not that it mattered. Then she and the German tourists and half of the school kids, accompanied by one of the teachers, where ushered into one of the glass-and-steel pods. They looked less like pillbugs up close, and more like some impossibly large lozenge. But more distressing was the fact that the things didn’t stop moving. The wheel kept on turning, slowly but inexorably, and as the pods slid by the deck the doors opened, the people onboard jumped off, the people waiting on the deck jumped on, the doors closed, and the pod climbed back up into the sky.

Now Alice started to worry about falling. There was maybe an inch of daylight visible between the edge of the deck and the pod, so it wasn’t likely that she could fall through, but if anyone could manage to do, it was Alice. Maybe she’d suddenly shrink down to the size of the action figure between one step and the next, and find herself plummeting through the gap and out of sight. She’d fall into the green-grey waters of the Thames, and that would be that.

But she didn’t shrink to the size of an action figure, and she didn’t fall through the gap, but jumped onboard the pod, and when the door slid shut behind her she finally started breathing again, and her pulse started to slow, if gradually.

Then the wheel turned, and the pod climbed into the sky.

Alice thought about pictures she’d seen in books of medieval engravings of the wheel of fate, which never stopped turning. In the pictures there was always a king sitting at the top, thinking that he would never fall, and some poor bastards being crushed underneath. But the pictures also showed that some schemer was on the side of the wheel heading up, and some unfortunate soul was on the other side heading down. The lesson of the wheel was that it kept on turning, no matter what, and that today’s king could be tomorrow’s poor bastards crushed underneath. Which meant, by analogy, that Alice was on the way up, right? So what happened when she reached the top of the wheel? And, more worrying, what happened when she started to come down again?

As it happened, she needn’t have worried. Nothing happened, not going up, not at the top, not coming back down. It took half an hour for the wheel to make a complete revolution and the pod door to slide back open again at the deck, but in all that time, all Alice could see was the city of London. And the German tourists and the half-complement of school kids with their teacher. But mostly London.

No choir of angels. No pink light striking her forehead and imparting holy wisdom. No flock of ravens and no gem and no mysterious guy with the ice-chip blue eyes. No fate, no destiny, no message, no meaning.

The German tourists were first off the pod, eager to soldier on to some other tourist destination, and the teacher had to struggle to herd all of her charges off the pod. Alice was the last onboard, standing at the edge of the pod, watching the deck slip slowly by. The people running the Eye kept shouting at her to step off and onto the deck, pointing urgently at all of the passengers waiting on the other side of the deck to get on, but Alice found herself frozen, unable to move.

Was she not on a mission? Not for god, or the Queen of Faerie, or space aliens, or future super computers? What if she didn’t have some special destiny, but was only a mixed up eighteen-year-old runaway who was off her meds, confused and alone in a foreign country?

In the end, two of the attendants stepped into the pod, gently but firmly took hold of Alice’s arms, and dragged her off onto the deck, just in time for the rest of the passengers to get onboard. The attendants told Alice not to worry, as they ushered her back to the ground, saying that it happens from time to time, that people get a bit locked up trying to get off the wheel. But Alice knew better. She wanted to tell them that just as the wheel of fate never stopped spinning, no one could ever get off, not really. No one got off alive. But she was pretty sure that they wouldn’t understand.

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