Done (not really)!

2013-Winner-Facebook-Cover

Yes! I made 52000-plus words. Iʼm done (not really). The reason there hasnʼt been a post for months is in the past now.

NaNoWriMo 2013 — won.

Morte Saison isnʼt half finished at this point — really just a lot of (nearly random) scenes and sections, not even tied together, and certainly not complete. Thereʼs a ton of work ahead. But this year (even more than last, which topped the utter crap I churned out in 2011), I feel like I have gotten quite a lot accomplished. I am even looking forward to more writing and lots of editing and revising ahead.

Right now, it feels wonderful not to worry about getting in hours of writing time for a day or two (and definitely catch up on unfinished and unwritten letters and blog posts — hey, I still have an entire vacation to write about).

Anyway, year four complete. Iʼll add the little winner icon to the sidebar soon…

(Even better, we have our Christmas tree up and decorated — and all the lights have lit!)

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

A Really Good Book

So. I missed “yesterday,” as stated in my previous post. And I missed yesterday, as in relation to this post (I hope) as well — meaning that I also missed posting on Pi Day (preferably known as Einsteinʼs Birthday), as well. In both cases we must blame the computer (and somewhat my own sloth — but mostly the computer: bless you Apple with all sanctimonious and cynical sarcasm). Even today, with a new update for Mountain Lion, I have spent most of the day with the iMac frozen and (seemingly) forever restarting (fortunately, The Lovely One asked me to clean the house in preparation for some guests, who called last night to indicate illness all week was undoubtedly going to prevent their visit; so I could at least go away from the detestable device and do something worthwhile today — as yesterday I determined to not just sit and fume at spinning gear images and what not but read instead).*

Clearly I should keep this brief before the computer interferes with working successfully yet again.

KindlleHere it is: I love my Kindle (not so fond of the Kindle app for Mac, however, as it now takes a full five minutes to start and run, when not in “safe” mode when it loads perfectly fine and fast, and also apparently caused the most recent system freeze and forced hard restarts). It is really cool to be able to carry a full library around with me in one little, thin device. And I do mean a full library. Although the Kindle Reader only counts 437 books downloaded and included, a huge number of those are the cheap and usable “complete” collection available from various packagers of royalty-free material, meaning that about 50 of the “books” include from twenty to fifty books each!

However, the best thing about the amazon.com device is that I really get into reading things on it — new, old, reread for the umpteenth time and utterly fresh. I have always been a lover of the actual, old-fashioned book — the scent, the feel, the comfort of real pages in a real binding (paper or otherwise). But on the Kindle, reading works just as well, and I get perhaps even more lost in the stories. In my contemporary state of increasing joint pains (sometimes desperately excruciating), holding the Kindle beats trying to keep a hardbacked book open in my lap (not to mention the utter delight for My Beloved to be able to make the font just as large as necessary for her post-surgical eyeballs to perceive readily).

wolf-hallAnd one of the best things that I actually read (new and complete) thanks to the electronic reading machine has been Hilary Mantelʼs Wolf Hall, a brilliant book that thoroughly captured me and kept me up late, late (intolerably so when it came to arising sometimes less than four hours later to get out and work out), unwilling to pause at any story break and go to sleep.

I had first encountered her text in portions published in various literary magazines before the book was actually published (at least here in the U.S.) — in the TLS for certain and I also think in the New York Review of Books and possibly The London Review of Books** as well. Although I read the material each time (and also the subsequent glowing reviews), I wasnʼt entirely whelmed at the third-person present-tense imprisonment in the protagonistʼs perspective.

I did eventually buy the hardback at a Borders going-out-of-business 80%-off price a couple of years ago, but I never got further than the first fifty pages. Maybe, for an old man weened on the hagiography of A Man for All Seasons, it was too hard to imagine a Thomas Cromwell not utterly wicked and venal (although one can clearly perceive his hardening character in Mantelʼs telling, once I did read the book).

In October or November (I donʼt now remember just when I bought the e-book version), with the next volume in the trilogy, Bring Up the Bodies, well reviewed and winning Mantel her second-in-a-row Man Booker Prize, I sprang the nine bucks for a Kindle version. And have been devouring it since (spaced judiciously for other reads, particularly various research items for Sepharad and other books I whimsically have afforded to create the massive library that fits into my pocket).

Wolf Hall. Wonderful stuff. Incredibly well written and easy to read voraciously.

Now I am postponing the start of Bring Up the Bodies (also on the Kindle for some time now) in order to enjoy other things — The Moonstone for the fifth time and for  second time Anthony Burgessʼs Earthly Powers, which became available in January. And triter trifles, too (like Jack Vanceʼs Demon Princes series again and a pleasant discovery from a dead favorite — a mystery by Roger Zelazny, The Dead Manʼs Brother, already completed and archived). And more to come.

* And even now Spotlightʼs incessant cataloguing keeps taken over from my typing and leaving me with not a cursor but an Apple-effing spinning beachball.

** That periodical did publish the text of the speech the author gave recently about the royals which got her into trouble for (not really) disrespecting the expectant mother of the heir-to-become.

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Søren and Judah (again)

Here is the second dose of the recent portion of “Mistakes by Moonlight” that I dictated this last week. As MacSpeech Dictate mishears meat least once every sentence, usually more often, you can help by letting me know what things you find that donʼt make sense (I already spotted and correct an “I” that should have been “A.”

Although, this, from the very original draft assumes that they are leaving from the Golden Bull, having just met. You and I know better, and this is really the second night, and I need to come up with a good reason to have them begin “well fortified with wine,” or else change the start of this chapter (which will be chapter 4; I was still writing chapter 3, all brand-new, when I scheduled this).

Enjoy.

“medieval thoroughfare” image search result

Thus, fortified with a powerful dosage of wine, and moderately fed, this small and the tall set out in the middle of the night to renew the interrupted escapade. As Judah had taken the route specified by Reynaldo’s plan when beset the day before, they both concluded the wisdom of trying an alternate path to their goal, the Green Tower.

As the planned route had wound through back ways and had been assaulted so easily, Søren suggested that they try the most public way possible, and the Street of Dreams led directly across town, just a few rambling blocks from the large, empty square where stood the witch’s power. It lay a bit further from the nasty alley which the Golden Bull fronted.

Even at this hour merry crowds filled Calle de Sueños, one of the five principal avenues across the city, and the two melted into the flow of folk, although Søren’s height placed him conspicuously overlooking the streams of heads.

On the other hand, no one was looking for him. Or so the two hoped as they strode along and dodged among the mixed classes and religions thronging the Street of Dreams.

Once, in a dark place between wavering cones of light from civic torches, a man rushed from an obscure doorway directly at Judah. But when Søren stepped in his way, the fellow appeared simply overstimulated with drink. A few minutes later, in another dark stretch where the crowds had evaporated into amusements within the buildings alongside, a pair of horsemen appeared ahead and charged down at the duo, who both dodged aside, as the mounted police laughed and clattered on. More sinister, both men felt and nervous pressure at every intersection and separately kept turning ahead to check behind. Søren plowing people aside, judo weaving and docking between folks and around groups. Every time all seem secure unless that group which quickly turned aside into that tavern on the left was the same group that had slipped off briefly to cheer a Gypsy dancer in a side street earlier.

In the better part of town, public buildings, palaces and places of worship — mosques, churches, synagogues — stood stately and widespread along the margins of the street. On this side of the city, businesses of all repute’s with rooms above, taverns, in his and gambling dens massed thickly on each side. The street remained wide, providing passage to pedestrians, carriages and carts, worsening as well as burdened donkeys and stevedores balancing pallets of goods on shoulders and heads. Upper stories are on side streets might nearly or truly touch over the passageway, but here have been remain clearly visible above.

As they advanced, the number of people gradually dwindled along with the streetlights and the noise until they found themselves alone on the now black street, just a block from the turning to the narrow way debouching into the bleak and vacant square outside the Green Tower.

A cat yowled suddenly when they stepped into the square of few minutes later and fled, all white streak, across an open area and to one side.

“I hope that wasn’t some demonic guardian warning of our approach,“ Soren opined.

“If she cares, if she’s away, she probably knows all that transpires around her tower. But our boss says she’s grown comfortable and careless. Thus her supernatural slumber twixt midnight and dawn. Come, let’s hurry. Always lies where the Went, a coincidence not at all reassuring to me.“

“medieval green tower” image search result

“Maybe he was sent by the wizard we indirectly serve, Judah.“

“A thought even less comforting. I almost think I’d rather have her attention on me than that blackhearted Necromancer’s. Here’s our alley. Follow.“

Halfway down this side passage, Judah drew a key from his purse, using the device to open very small and the road door in the building they had been passing. Quickly he rushed Søren, ducking and twisting, within, and although the plan had not called for the action, relocked the portal from inside.

“That will make it difficult to leave again, should the need arise,” objected the Northerner.

“Our plan is to exit her tower another way.” Nathan repocketed the key. “Besides, safely locked, I hope no one can follow us from here. Go. Grope ahead: a stairway should open on the left.”

It did, and the two climbed in darkness, up and up, turning on landing after landing until suddenly Søren’s head thumped against the rough unseen in the utter black. He swore under his breath.

“Perhaps I should have gone first. Sorry. Feel for the ring,” Judah urged. “It’s a trap door onto the roof.”

Søren made no sound locating the ring his head had barely missed in the collision, turned it as instructed, and heaved upwards slightly, just a few inches, peering out on the vaulted surface of the rooftop. All looked silent and deserted in the single direction he could barely see.

The thin slit of starlight illuminated the top steps to Judah’s dark-accustomed eyes, and he quickly located the gear Reynaldo had promised hanging on the wall. Gathering this stuff into his arms, he asked, “All clear?”

In reply, Søren pushed the door up right and leaped out, his left hand still on the ring as his right swept his sword up and out to challenge… nothing. All clear. He stepped aside as Judah swarmed up and out with his new burdens, and then he lowered the door again, dropping the ring and grasping the portal’s edge.

“Let it close all the way,” Judah instructed. “There’s little enough we could do were we able to retreat this way again.”

But Søren cautiously kicked a pebble to lodge in the gap as he released his grasp. Now they could return through the trap door, if necessary. An unlikely need, perhaps, but he also noticed no ring topside to lift the door again to permit ingress. The Green Tower loomed to their left across about twenty yards of open space. They crossed to the edge of their roof, standing behind a low parapet just higher than Judah’s knees. From up here they could see that the open square actually surrounded the tower on all sides, isolating it with at least the distance before them between it and any other building. Indeed, their rooftop came closer than any other structure to the Green Tower.

And it was green, even in the nocturnal darkness which made the tower black, hints of reflection winked greenly. Color by starlight was almost impossible to perceive, but Søren realized he had seen the towerʼs top as a memorable element of the cityscape when he rode down out of the mountains to the plain. And Judah naturally had several times circled and deleted the building in the square, providing a sop and a stimulant to his everthirsting curiosity. Looking upward, Søren could see the rows of periodic windows which would be their primary interest. Far higher yet that crenellated tower top — far too high for any strength to launch a climber’s hook.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A



And Da Winnah Is…

Perhaps you have noticed that as of yesterday I made some changes to the layout and contents of the blog. Nothing major or important, really, I just moved some of the items in the two columns to the right around, added one new category/image/link, and replaced the old NaNoWriMo “Participant” emblem with a “Winner” badge. Yep, itʼs true. I “won” the National Novel Writing Month challenge yesterday afternoon, certifying my 50,520 words about 3:50 PM.

Donʼt believe me? Click here and check it out. (The winner badge over there under the book title works as well.) I feel relatively pleased with myself. I did not really believe I could do it, especially on an entirely new project about which I had planned or thought almost nothing whatsoever. Moreover, I also got the blog up every day, too, and only have 31 further daily posts to go to fulfill that other, but-partially-acknowledged goal… But back to the November novel project!

I donʼt have a finished novel, as I suggested recently. Slaves to the Lesser Moon is going to run considerably more than NaNoWriMoʼs 50,000 words. In fact Dylan Hunter (I finally came up with a first name for him, one which the reptilian folk of Tysriel could conceivably pronounce, unlike that surname, which at one point I have a native mangle as “Humʼterh”) is currently, in the midst of Chapter 12, stranded in a city (Batsuʼyillogh) of baddies, the Boʼmghtsaly, having just fought a forced duel with another prisoner/slave, after nearly a full month in a dungeon dug in the earth a long way underground. Heʼs got a lot ahead of him (no bird-people yet, no Travelers, although I had about three paragraphs written out of sequence on them). As a potential series, itʼs got (many) ways to go. Even so, I am delighted to have written that much in one story. Unfortunately, I have just as much and more to go.

So one of my changes yesterday was to move the NaNoWriMo badge (switched out for the winner status) to a more prominent spot. The other was to add an indication of my gratitude to the software that made Slaves (and I hope much more soon) possible — Scrivener, the ideal program for writing long books, fiction or nonfiction. Lots of programs put Microsoftʼs Word to shame, but Scrivener leaves all the rest choking on dust as well.

I want to credit writer Gwen Hernandez, who was one of my instructors on the use of Scrivener with her “Tech Tuesday” posts and other observations about writing technology on her blog. Thanks to Scrivener Facebook updates directing me to her insightful essays, she gave me more information than I have yet used on the ins and outs of this fascinating and worthwhile piece of software. Furthermore (and more relevantly for this paragraph), in reading her blog, I grew envious of her cool “A Mac Writer Using Scrivener” badge, which I appropriated (borrowed?) and tagged with the Literature & Latte URL some time after 4:00 yesterday afternoon. I hope she approves because without the program, I am sure I would not have written so much, and I would like to honor its role in my writing.

Not that Slaves to the Lesser Moon doesnʼt need work. In fact if you check the “Novel Info” tab on the NanoWriMo site and read my little sample from Chapter 4, “A New World,” you can see right away that I was not merely overwriting wildly (at least sometimes) but throwing away words that would serve no purpose except to get cut — to wit, “I was alone on a strange world where the most horribly hideous creatures swam the upper air and apparently craved my flesh for food.” I can live with the alliteration of the “flesh for food,” but only horrible or hideous can remain to describe the flying lizard monsters Hunter will later name pterodaunts, thus reducing the word count from just that sentence by three words (as “the most” is unnecessary as well): “I was alone on a strange world where hideous creatures swam the upper air and apparently craved my flesh for food.”

I should create a Longer Items page for Slaves Chapter 1 that I have posted here, but I didnʼt take the time yesterday. I also have edits on things that I have noticed (like problems with “Mantorville” and perhaps a Longer Items entry for some of the essays I have stretched over days of posts previously, including “Whereʼs Your Head This Morning” — godawful title, that, Tarzan and the four parts about Religion and the First Amendment). And thatʼs pretty much my changes (mostly discussed just so I can brag, at least to myself, that I did it). Maybe now I can read something other than my own scrivenings — although I did get all the way through rereads of A Princess of Mars, Tarnsman of Gor and City of the Chasch as nightly research this past month, plus opening chapters of about a half-dozen other planetary adventures, including the first third of Dragonflight.

But now itʼs writing time on a Tuesday. A new month looms tomorrow. I should get to dictating the rest of “Mistakes by Moonlight” to Scrivener, and take a look over the few hundred words I penned in the Michaelʼs parking lot yesterday on its sequel, “Death Wizardʼs Vengeance.” And thereʼs at least another 50,000 words to add to push Slaves to the Lesser Moon to a finish. See you tomorrow.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Planetary Romance, 6

And now, to end the month of November (at least on the day for your weekly dose of bits from fiction), hereʼs the rest of Chapter One, “End of an Affair,” from Slaves to the Lesser Moon. The previous part was here, last Sunday.

Hunter and Birch are talking as Terry passes out in the apartment. Birch is trying to explain Dr. V.J. Fairchildʼs accidental intrusion into the nature of time and space…

“So you push things through your… — gap into another time? Is that it?”

“Kind of, sure. Only the things are the gap, in a way, probabalistically. Theyʼre equivalent with timeless spacetime, only timeless and spaceless, too I guess. See, she was working with some abnormal results published a few years back, in Physics Notes, from CERN, and she realized last year, about now, I guess, a year ago, that if you removed the temporal elements in the equations — she was developing different equations than youʼd have thought — , dividing out the vibrations in the strings, the abnormalities made sense, fit her new timeless equations… but those were highpowered experiments. I mean, itʼs CERN, itʼs the biggest, most-highpowered… Then in second semester last year she realized that the same results, well, similar ones, equivalent, could be reached at relatively low powers, too. Not exactly. What took her attention, what captured her imagination, was the time absence. See? Her idea was that we could manipulate, create an actual gap, thatʼs what I call it, in spacetime, so thereʼs no time, and so I guess no space, same thing, you know, within the radius, briefly.”

He made no sense to me. I donʼt think he did to himself. He acted really frustrated.

“But you did it? You made whatever you are talking about happen?”

“Um, yeah. In a way. I guess. Yeah. We have demonstrated her equations. After Thanksgiving, we used a pencil, then bigger objects. We celebrated New Yearʼs using a mouse I, uh, liberated, from the bio lab.”

Terry mumbled suddenly in his stupor, and I realized I was feeling pretty dopey myself. Maybe what Birch was saying made sense if you hadnʼt guzzled a dozen beers. Thirteen. I looked down at the one still in my hand, heavy, barely drunk at all.

“You used things? How?”

“We, uh, made stuff change their place in time, spacetime.”

“You made stuff travel through time?”

“Uh, sure, although I donʼt think thatʼs really a very good terminology, Hunter. The device creates this spacetime gap, and if we introduce something into the gap, or rather create the gap around the object, well, as the object, really, it no longer occupies spacetime. Itʼs independent of the framework. The whole framework. Thatʼs what Valjean doesnʼt see. Even gravity doesnʼt affect them. Maybe not even dark matter or energy.”

“I donʼt get it. You put things in your machine and they just sit there? How do you know you are doing anything at all? What is it? They donʼt age or what?”

“No. Well, they donʼt. Age, that is. Or rather, they shouldnʼt. Not while they equate with the gap, are the gap, become the gap…” He was losing us both trying to identify just what happened inside their time machine.

“Can I see it?”

“See it?”

“Yeah, Birch. Will you let me see it? Maybe you could show me what it does, you know. Maybe then Iʼd understand…”

I had lit a little fire in him, visible in his eyes. “You want to see what it does…”

“Sure. Show me. Maybe itʼll all make sense then. I want to see what happens to the things in your gap.”

“Not in the gap. They are the gap. Briefly. Well, not briefly, thatʼs time. But they re-emerge. Before we put them in. Sometimes.”

An exaggeration (for the story)

“Before? Before you put them in? They go back in time?”

“Sort of. Not always. The cat came back, came out right away — “

“You tried this thing on a cat?”

“Valjean found it hanging outside her condo. Brought it in on Monday.”

“But it didnʼt work on the cat?”

“No. It worked. Just — … differently. Itʼs really hard to explain…”

“Youʼve got to show me, Birch.”

“She wanted me to try it on a bigger subject. Living things donʼt behave, react, the same as other objects. Shouldnʼt matter, but apparently it does… And sheʼs not considering the gravitational aspect. She thinks thatʼs an electrodynamic effect that weʼre observing. But it isnʼt shouldnʼt be… Sometimes I wonder if itʼs not  dark energy thing. — I didnʼt want to try it myself, you see. I think thereʼs other issues… She just focuses on the time-negativity all the time, but time is space. I know it. Timelessness is spacelessness, too. That matters.”

He was all worried about something else, trying to make all the numbers add up or something. I wanted to see the machine. I wanted to see something travel through time.

“Come on, Birch. Iʼve got to see this. You have to show me.”

Something clicked in his mind. Something changed. He agreed. “Okay. I can show you, Hunter. Hell,” he looked sly, somehow, “if you ask real pretty, I might even let you try it out for yourself…” He was staring right at me really funny, but I didnʼt register it at the time. He had made me think.

Could I try it out? Go back in time? I suddenly imagined stopping Jen from hooking up with her Jack last summer… It was only a few hours from Pashitakua to Hartford. Could Birch send me that far back? He wouldnʼt want to. Heʼd never want to help me with anything. But if I didnʼt tell him…

“Youʼd let me try it out, Birch?”

“Sure, dude. Maybe. I mean itʼs experimental. But if you see it, and want to try it out. Why not?”

Why not indeed? I started to see it all in my head. I could steal my own car from myself, my old self, and drive straight to her house, the day after she got home. Sheʼd said she didnʼt see that Jack jerk for the first time until the middle of June… Itʼd be real romantic. Sheʼd like that… Sheʼd like that a lot…

“So, Hunter, you want to go? Give it a looksee?”

By now I wanted to do a whole lot more than see. I thought the only hard part would be getting Birch to really, truly let me use the machine. If only I had remembered what he had said when he arrived. But I didnʼt. I just sucked on the beer can instead.

And thatʼs the end of Chapter One, about 5500 words altogether. Scrivener estimates that at fourteen paperback pages. Too long?

The big issue is whether I have had time to finish (or will in these next three days) the final 7000 words to reach 50,000 and thereby “win” NaNoWriMo.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

And Just How Is That Novel Going, Anyway?

I havenʼt bored you readers with any recent updates on the progress of my NaNoWriMo November novel, but as I have been very diligently writing all day long every time I am able (like both yesterday and Monday), and even with Janetʼs grudging permission churning out at least a few hundred words a day over the past weekend (on Sunday as she was wrapping gifts we will exchange with my side of the family at Thanksgiving tomorrow), I am almost done.

As I type this post, Tuesday evening, I have only 7000 words to go to make my requisite 50,000. Itʼs hard to believe that something which was just a vague idea in the back of my head not only has taken over most of my waking and sleeping thoughts (well, aside from obviously distracting medical issues recently) for a month (and really not any more days than that), but Slaves to the Lesser Moon has become the longest piece of writing I have done, nearly three times longer than the next most protracted pieces.

Not that 50,000 words — which according to lengths I read about years ago, really qualifies as a long novella in the science-fiction world — will complete my story, although I think I will be close or at a kind of cliffhanger climax once I reach that magical number. My full plot is beginning to seem as if itʼs twice or three times as long as the NaNoWriMo goal, which probably means I am taking the events too slowly. On Sunday youʼll be able to read the conclusion, at last, to Chapter 1, which is the average length I am shooting for per chapter, roughly 5000 words.

not my reptile humans, but itʼs astonishing how many "lizard men" Google turns up

As far as the story goes, Hunter gets zapped from earth via the Fairchild Device (and my chuckling apologies to my Fairchild friends and acquaintances, one in particular, for heisting your name for the story) at the end of Chapter 2. He spends Chapters 3 through 6 living on his own in the wilderness on Tsyriel, having all kinds of dangerous encounters and adventures. Chapter 7 marks his first meeting with a native Tsyrielean reptile-human, and he settles into that personʼs village in Chapters 8, 9 and 10. All of this is written.

In Chapter 11, excitement breaks out (there has to be a certain amount of exposition in learning the language and exposing the nature of the nomadsʼ society, so 9 and 10, the shortest individual chapters, are the least adventurous, although I also tried to leave an important plot element to reveal in that section); its working title is “Battle by Night.” And it may be the climax of that chapter, now that my word-count has risen so steeply, that ends the “novel” so far.

I actually have one major scene of about 1500 words written that comes significantly later than the big battle as well as some short fragments from even further on in the overall story (all of which are currently counting toward my full goal). Otherwise, I more or less wrote what I have in sequence, sometimes jumping ahead a scene or two when I felt bogged down or uninspired by the section I was really at, a technique that this month only inspired me to finish what I had lost interest in and fill in the gaps (so I will have to use the same system on things I have to write yet, both in this novel and other things).

I had a lot of fun yesterday making up the reptile-peopleʼs nomadic civilization and information about their language.

Anyway, thatʼs how the novel is going, not that anyone other than I really cares, I realize. Even The Lovely One is somewhat cooler than less-than-tolerant about this endeavor. But I have had fun. Itʼs been a blast actually writing up to 7500 words a day (more on a few days when I count the quotidian blog material, like this).

And with that, having run really verbose throughout last week, Iʼll quit for today, having vegetables to chop for stuffing and potatoes to mash all to be ready for the big Thanksgiving feast tomorrow.

 

(In reality, for me, itʼs 6:30 Tuesday evening, Janet just called, and itʼs time to make her lunch for today/Wednesday. But the same principle holds, and today/Wednesday I do have the turkey-day preparations to complete.)

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Planetary Romance, 5

As work stalled somewhat last week on my November novel, Slaves to the Lesser Moon, due to real life grabbing me up (giving me work opportunity, stealing a day for lessons in ocular migraines), this old portion from Chapter One doesnʼt seem so distant and unrelated to where Iʼm at as it shoud. Enjoy. The former pieces are here, here, here and here. Our hero, Hunter, is talking to physics nerd Birch Thorstein, who is annoyed that Hunterʼs roomie, Terry, has spilled the beans about a possible secret time machine in development.

Then he gave me the opening I had forgotten: “What do you know about the device?”

“What device?” My drink-stalled brain had also, like Terry, lost the thread of recent conversation. “Do you mean your — Fairchild machine?”

“Thatʼs exactly what I mean, asshole.” Birch was rapid firing his thoughts at me. What do you know? How do you know?” His brain was working very fast indeed, at least relative to mine. “— He told you, right?”

Terry jerked his head from a slump toward his chest at that. He knew he must be “he.”

“I was explaining why you were coming over, Birch.”

“Perfect.” Now Birch was mad, too. “Did you tweet everyone as well?”

“Aw, Birch, his girl dumped him…” Terry whined inanely.

“I donʼt care if his girl screwed the whole football team fifty times over!” Birch roared, the only sober one among us thoroughly losing it. “I want to know who all knows what about my personal, private business!”

“You built a bogus time machine,” I sniped bitterly. “Big deal.” His face blanched, looking upward at me. “No one cares.”

His watery gray eyes widened with fierce intensity. “How do you know these things?”

Good guesses, actually. I have always been a good guesser (as with Jen this fall). Sometimes I just donʼt want to acknowledge what my intuition tells me.

Now he grabbed me by my sweatshirt collar, arising from my chair, shoving his acned face very close to mine. “Tell me what you know. Tell me!”

Terry stirred to wakefulness. “He only knows what I told him. Just now.” His diction was very vague, sounds all sloshing together.

Birch turned on him. “I never told you it was a time machine. How did you find out? How!” He wasnʼt asking; he was insisting.

I explained, “You told him Fairchild had come up with some kind of — “ The word temporal still eluded my tongue.

“Breakthrough about time,” Terry chimed in, almost merrily.

“And you built a machine,” I finished. “Time plus machine equals time machine. Big freaking deal. Itʼs garbage, just like everything else sheʼs ever thought was important.” Dr. Fairchild was a huge joke around campus, probably academic circles nationwide, for her continual flood of ridiculously flawed insights.

Birchʼs eyes glanced around, away from me, even as his angry grip on my shirt relaxed. “Yeah. Yeah. Thatʼs right, all right. Just garbage.” He was lying. If Terry hadnʼt been nodding again, even he could have noticed. Birch was a lousy liar, his face and eyes all giveaways, at least to me. “I gotta go,” he added lamely, releasing me, moving away from my chair toward the door and the steps down to outside.

Terry snored.

“Birch. Wait.” I didnʼt realize at first it was me that spoke. Why shouldnʼt I be glad to be rid of Birch as easily as this? I usually couldnʼt get him out of our place once Terry had let him in.

He just kept moving, so I did, too, following. “Hold up.” I grabbed his arm, and he turned, looking quickly at Terry, unconscious. “Heʼs out of it, Birch.” I knew what he was thinking. “Itʼs just you and me. Come on, dude. I know youʼre lying, man. But I donʼt get it. What are you trying to hide? I mean, come on, we were just talking about — Fairchild… “ I thought briefly. “Does that mean… “ At first, I couldnʼt identify, pin down the scarcely conceived idea that had drawn me over to stop him. And then I couldnʼt admit it. “Itʼs her thing, isnʼt it? Thatʼs just not possible. Is it? — It works?!” Birch tried maintaining a stolid incomprehension on his face, but his eyes brightened enormously at my question. “Fairchildʼs time machine actually works!?” It sounded more like an accusation than a question, and he responded as though under interrogation, mutely nodding, not meeting my gaze.

an actual accelertor, CERN, Switzerland

“Keep it down, huh? This is all top secret stuff. Even Valjeanʼs not really aware that — “ he checked himself, and then added in a lowered tone, “that the device actually does what it — … does.” He pulled me close, nearer than I ever like to be to him, and whispered. “She thinks that because weʼre operating really low-power, and because it creates such a small aperture, that it only extends maybe a few minutes… but I think itʼs a lot more complicated than she believes. Iʼve run tests without her, when she wanʼt around… “

“What are you talking about?” He was confusing me. To me, time machine suggested H.G. Wells — you hop in, set a date, pull the crystal bar, and go. The movie-inspired image in my mind kind of made me want to see what the real thing was like.

“Itʼs hard to explain. Itʼs all math, you know, physics, spacetime. See, her idea was that we could force a gap in spacetime,” he paused trying to calculate if his words accurately expressed the arcane equations that actually made sense to him.

“A hole?” I offered.

“No, a point — thatʼs what she originally computed could be accomplished… “ My unscientific perspective was frustrating him. “Itʼs like a — gap,” he retreated to the word with which heʼd begun, “where spacetime doesnʼt occur.”

“A vacuum?” I was trying, but I really didnʼt understand.

“No. Yes, kind of. A vacuum of time… space, too, necessarily, I suppose… Einstein insisted they were an identity… Itʼs a point — well, originally probably just a geometric point, but we, really me, I was able to expand the, uh, gap lately…”

He was losing me utterly. Too many ideas too inadequately expressed. “So you can push things through this thing, hole, you make?”

“Not a hole, Hunter. Itʼs nothing. A gap. Where time isnʼt permitted, mathematically, doesnʼt happen… or exist, temporarily… But temporarilyʼs time-based… Damn!” Now he was confusing himself, trying to translate what must have been some powerfully wicked math into words.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.