Never, ever, underestimate a writer’s skill at procrastination. I’ve had a story in my head for some weeks now, but would rather power-wash the house than sit down and type it out.
Then, I saw that NaNoWriMo has come ’round again. Dammit. I guess I’d better start writing this thing down.
This is very (very!) tentatively entitled “The Fourth Law”.
Set a dozen years hence, nursing student Lily Barrett lives in a shattered time: the US devolved into a group of smaller states and badlands, her sister missing, and her father, after earning the opprobrium of most of the world, presumed dead.
Two things keep her going: her job at the orphanage outside of Waxahachie, Republic of Texas, and Ai, her odd, but dear friend she met online: a young woman who only shows herself to Lily as a rendered CG image.
Troubled by her past and facing an uncertain future, Lily seeks only a quiet, normal life. But, her past and her present conspire against her.
She paused in her walk to survey the sky again. No change: cloudless, with a color that went from a washed-out ochre to gray. She returned her eyes to the ground and resumed walking. The smaller, shale-like rocks crunched under her shoes, but there were too many that were just the right size for twisting – if not outright breaking – an ankle.
“And nothing, not a thing growing.” She mutters. “I’d think that someone kidnapped me and left me in Big Bend National Park, but there aren’t any mountains, and even Big Bend has some scrub growth in it!…whoa!”
She steadied herself against what felt like a slight tremor. Looking about again, she notices something to her left that was not there just a bit ago.
“Power line poles? No, too thick for that. May as well go see.” She changes direction, trying to keep an eye both on the odd poles in the distance and the rocks before her. Something’s wrong with the perspective, she thinks. Why do they just, well, feel big? Getting nearer, they appear to emitting a hum of some kind. Just as she draws close enough to begin to doubt her sanity, she also encounters the first break in the seemingly endless, boring terrain: a drop of some distance. One hundred feet is too small, but a hundred meters seems too large. Perspective, again. She stares at the “poles,” but the longer she looks, the more perplexed she becomes.
“No…they’re…how can something like this even exist?” Seemingly made of a dark metal, she sees that the poles are spinning and that each pole is made up of layers of gears, themselves all spinning at different rates. “Don’t get it…they must be hundred of meters high…but they are at least several city blocks in diameter….” There’s another shudder, then, to her horror, the poles start weaving slowly. “They’re going to fall! On me!” The humming becomes louder and mixed in with it are what sound like cries of pain and terror. Not knowing why, she starts crawling on her hands and knees towards the cliff edge.
“Scared…I’m scared!” She cries
As close to the edge as she can take, she sits up and peers over the edge. The odd perspective makes her eyes water, but around the base of some of the poles are…sticks, trees? Wait…what’s on those trees…? A wave of nausea builds as she remembers those events of the last five years she has tried so hard to forget.
“Daddy! Nooo!!!” With tears in her eyes and bile at the back of her throat, she recalls the forests of crucified men and women along the borders of the new Republic. Crucifixions order by her father. “Stop! Make it stop…!”
“Lily! Wake up!”
Her head come up off her desk too quickly, and the wave of nausea breaks. She almost gets to the trash can in time. Almost. Coughing slightly, she wipes her mouth on her right sleeve.
“Hey! Lily! Are you okay? You were yelling and crying.”
Lily Barrett looks at the right-most of the three screens on her desk. The head of her friend, Ai, very large and a field of concern. She must be close to her camera, Lily thinks. But then, looking at the CG rendered face of her friend, her aquamarine hair in an ostentatious ponytail, and a dress that’s more a part of her than on her, Lily wonders for the nth time, why do you do that? Why wont you show me the real you? Arguments on that line had almost cost their friendship, and it was Lily that backed down, but it never not hurt Lily to know that Ai thought she had to deceive her for some reason.
“Yeah, I’ll be okay. Ugh.” She glances at her desk. “But this keyboard is toast; coffee is one thing, but I don’t think it’s going to survive getting puked on.”
Ai’s image pulls back as she does a spins about in her chair. Lily surmised some months ago that Ai might be a student of some kind, as the room behind her looked like an efficiency apartment.
“Yeayifications! I’m glad you’re going to be fine!” Ai cries happily. Then her face falls. “Was it…that dream again? The one with the cylinders?”
Lily nods. “Yeah. But this was worse…at the end….” Her eyes start to get wet again.
In a panic, Ai waves across the screen. “No, no! Forget I asked! Please don’t cry!”
Lily blinks the tears away. She glances at the time in the corner of the screen. Crap.
“Well, it’s about five in the morning; may as well get up and get myself cleaned off. See you, Ai.” She says, standing. Then Lily pauses a moment. “Hey, Ai. I don’t recall leaving any of my messengers on last night. How’d you…?”
Ai scrunches her eyes shut with a Cheshire Cat grin. “You’re my best friend, Lily! Of course I’ll be there for you! Bye-eee!”
Well, that’s nice, Lily thinks walking towards the bathroom. But she didn’t answer my question. She pauses in the doorway. How did it get like this?