Pizzamancer is my National Novel Writing Month project for 2014. You can read Days 1-5 and Days 6-14 here. If you're unfamiliar with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), you can read my description here. This is my progress, unedited, through the month of November. I enjoy sharing my work, unrefined or otherwise, to prove that a novel can be written in just 30 days. It may not be the best 50,000 words I've written, but they will be written, and therefore, the best. This is 2,914 words written sometime between November 15th and the 17th. As of this post, I'm still very... very far away from my goal. Such is the nature of the NaNoWriMo beast! A BEAST I SHALL SLAY! Eventually.
#Pizzamancer Days 15-17 for National Novel Writing Month
a story of epic portions
by Michelle Brumley
“Is that a new bike?” William asked, tapping the glass of his shop window. “Is it still running?”
“Uh...” Suzi pulled the keys out of her pocket. She looked out the window. It hadn't turned off, she wasn't sure which button to push. She pressed a button on the key pad and a blaring alarm was set off.
Her dad turned away from the window, bushy-white eyebrows raised.
“I got a great deal on it, but it's got some ticks—never mind,” Suzi pushed all the buttons on the remote until the moped stopped beeping and finally shut off. It hadn't been any kind of gas-driven motorbike, it was some kind of electrical powered one that she didn't understand. She made a note to return it to the owners once she had the chance. It was more trouble than it had been worth, and could barely carry the two of them. The prince's armor hadn't made the ride any easier.
“I need your help,” Suzi saw her dad's eyes light up momentarily. He hadn't aged well; the lines around his eyes spoke volumes of the arguments he often had with her mother. She'd probably taken years off his life with the threats and accusations she threw at him. All he had now was his costume shop—much smaller than one he had owned while he was still married—an apartment in downtown Laketown, a cat that was going deaf and a daughter and son who never visited.
“Anything, Suzi-Q. Who's your boy friend?” He smiled as Suzi rolled her eyes. Tom studied the shelves just inside the door with a sudden fascination or need to avoid the conversation.
“His name is Tom, and he's the reason I came to see you--”
“Suzi, are you pregnant? Does your mother know?”
“Pregnant?” Tom dropped the purple feather boa hat he was holding.
“Oh. Was it a secret, Suzi-Q?”
“Dad. Dad. Stop. I'm not pregnant.” Suzi didn't think she'd ever felt so red. She couldn't even remember the last time she'd had sex. She wasn't about to tell her dad that, however.
“Just, come here. Tom, can we have a moment alone? You can look around the shop but don't... don't touch anything, OK?”
“Is there Stromboli roaming around?” Tom's hand drifted to his sword.
“No. No Stromboli.” Suzi cast a glance to her dad and laughed nervously. “But there might be. Just—go and look around, make sure. But no sword.”
The prince frowned and dropped his hand, but bowed slightly to Tom and Suzi and wandered off to the back part of the store.
“He's certainly one of the oddest boys you've dated. Are you sure you're not pregnant?” William looked his daughter over skeptically. When Suzi gave him that say-it-again-and-I'll-slap-you look, he coughed and motioned towards his office. “No, no, of course not. You're a sensible young woman. Unlike your mother.” William smiled despite himself. Suzi half expected her father to look over his shoulder and make sure her mother wasn't around listening. Suzi wasn't so convinced she wasn't.
“His name is Tom. He's not my boyfriend, he's not anything—he just kind of appeared at my work.”
William pushed his thin-framed glasses up higher on his nose. She could see he was willing to listen, unlike her mother, who would already have dismissed her story.
“That sounds crazy.” Suzi continued. “Well, look at his armor. Can you tell me what Renaissance Faire he bought it at? Or traveling carnival? He doesn't seem to know where he's from and I thought, maybe, you could use your costume connections. Maybe I could find the place that sold it to him and get an address or family names.”
“Of course I noticed his armor. It's not every day you see a man walk in to the shop in full plate mail, that looks convincingly heavy enough to be from the 1500's. Or an expensive Renaissance Faire or Society for Creative Anachronism extremist.”
William gazed off towards Tom as he was stalking the dusty aisles of the costume emporium.
“Where did you say he was from?” William asked.
“He just sort of showed up at work.”
“Oh, you have a new job? Where are you working?”
“It's not special dad, and I'm not sure I even have the job anymore.”
“Oh, Suzi-Q. You know, you always have a place here if you need it--”
Williams' voice was cut off by a loud crashing noise. And banging. And something that sounded suspiciously like breaking glass.
“Sunami,” Tom's voice called after the noises had stopped. “Do not come out here.”
“I'll pay for anything he just broke.” Suzi didn't have any money, and she couldn't afford anything in the store if Tom had actually broke something. Her dad knew that, too. The tightness around his mouth was all Suzi needed to know she had just lost any job her dad may have just offered.
“Tom, what did you just brea—WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?”
“Suzi, get back.” William threw his arm up and kept his daughter from walking any closer. Tom's sword was stuck deep through a creature—and a few inches in to the wood floor beneath it. The creature was long and skinny with tan, leathery looking skin. It looked like the most viscous wiener dog Suzi had ever seen. Four paws ended in deadly sharp claws, and a mouth was full of red froth. The creature's back was curiously lacerated, with green and red speckles across its skin. The eyes were black and endless.
Suzi smelled pepperoni.
“Please don't tell me that's a Stromboli.”
“How did you know?”
“Again? You are lucky.” Tom reached down and pulled his sword out of the Stromboli's back with a grunt. He wiped cheese and bits of pink meat from the blade.
“It appears some things are already following me through to your—town. Things must be worse at home than I thought, for a Stromboli to have broken through.” The prince reached to the hourglass necklace at his throat. He held it up and the purple sand still drifted, suspended.
“I need to sleep. The answers will find me there.”
“Suzi, what just happened?” William lowered his arm to let Suzi step around him. Tom sheathed his sword.
“A monster just appeared in your store? I told you, I think he's crazy--”
“I'm not sure he is. Wait here.”
Suzi looked from William, to the Stromboli, back to the prince. Maybe it wasn't them. Maybe she was crazy.
Her psychiatrist had warned her about reading too many books—something Suzi didn't believe was possible—or reading too many comic books or playing too many video games. Maybe she had gotten stuck somewhere, dreaming, and this was the result. If that was the case, she wished she had gotten stuck somewhere with more money.
She watched as her father strode to the opposite side of his shop. He didn't seem worried that another creature would show up, and neither did Tom. The prince knelt down and inspected the body of the Stromboli, running his hand along the leathery skin and testing the points of the beast's claws.
Her dad returned with a dusty old book. The weathered brown leather cover had the faint image of a white hourglass.
“Wait, dad, where did you get this book?” Suzi asked. William cleared room at his register and set the book down.
“I always knew this book was worth keeping around. Just in case. I lost the keys not long after you were born, Suzi-Q.” William brushed the dust off the front cover. “Do you recognize this book, young man?”
Tom nodded and approached the book. The leather cover was bound with a leather strap and key hole; the book was locked.
“Did you open this book before, Sir William?” Tom asked.
“And did you read this book before? Have you been to Anywhen?”
“I have, my prince.” William bowed his head slightly.
“Alright dad, did you hire this guy to come in and sweep me off my feet? Is this some practical joke that you and Jared are playing? Because I've had enough of his 'Suzi, you need a boyfriend,' 'Suzi, you read too many comic book' conversations to last me a life time. I don't know what the hell you think this is but...” Suzi stopped when William was laughing.
“Dad, this isn't funny. Why are you laughing--”
“Oh, Suzi-Q. I really thought you, of all people, would be able to believe in something like this. Maybe you're too much like your mother after all.”
“Wait... mom knew about this?”
“She did, and then she left when I was gone too long.”
“Your father has visited Anywhen. In fact, I dare say he was Knighted upon his last visit.”
“Indeed. And shortly after, I was divorced here. And your mother wondered why I preferred Anywhen...”
Suzi sat down. Right in the middle of the floor. All the strength was gone from knees. Her legs felt like cold jelly.
“I don't understand, how, when, I think I need to go and lay down.”
Tom and William reached down and lifted Suzi to her feet. William guided his daughter to his office and helped her lay down on his spare bed.
“I thought you had an apartment, why do you need a bed in your office?”
“Hush now, Suzi-Q. Get some sleep. I'll explain more to you in the morning.”
Suzi couldn't argue. Her eyes were too heavy and her brain was too full. She fell asleep as soon as she hit the pillow.
“Did you just cast a sleeping spell on your own daughter, Sir William?” Tom asked as he began to unfasten the belts on his armor. William stood up to help the prince.
“It's a harmless spell, beginner's magic. I wanted Suzi out of the room—in case there were more Stromboli listening—and so I could speak with you alone. I'll have to erase her memory of our conversation. A little more advanced magic than I'm used to, but she can't be allowed to remember what just happened.”
“You certainly have my attention, Sir William. And my sword, should you need it.”
“Too much time has passed since my last visit. My sword wouldn't be of any use if it came to that. My magic is weaker than ever, too. Time passes differently in our kingdom.” William grunted with the effort of pulling off a metal sleeve and shoulder pad. “And ever since I lost the key—I haven't been able to return to Anywhen. I tried, my prince. How I tried. But the witch was too powerful, and I failed.”
“We often wondered what became of you. You have a statue in the Grand Hall, you know.”
“A statue? Did they think I had perished?”
“There's a song about it, too.” Tom nodded. “You have Sunami, and that is hardly a failure, I dare say.”
William smiled, the wrinkles around his mouth lightened for a moment and he nodded.
“Yes, I have Sunami, and her brother—but their mother I have lost. Forever, I'm afraid. And with her, the key to returning to Anywhen. The witches of Lakewood guard it, and they are too powerful for me.”
William moved to sit near the window and motioned for Tom to follow.
“But never mind the tales of an old knight—what is so wrong in Anywhen that they send their prince tumbling straight to my daughter?”
“Something terrible, indeed, Sir William. I need a hero, and our wizard sent me to find you—I must have found your daughter instead.”
“You know Suzanne can never return to Anywhen. And neither can I. You must find another hero, my prince.”
The words seemed to make the prince take pause.
“There are very few people, as you well know... who have the capacity to believe in a world like Anywhen. If you cannot be my guide for this journey, then my quest will fail. Anywhen will be lost forever.”
“Is it really so bad?”
“Worse than you can imagine. If my wizard sent me to your daughter, instead of you--perhaps I was meant to find her, instead.”
“Are you asking for permission to have my Suzi-Q be your guide?” William crossed his arms across his skinny chest.
“She can help me blend in, and in return—I can protect her. You know I'm the only person who can. In this world, at least. You said so yourself: you've aged. I don't think you can protect her any more. And Sunami will have more creatures looking for, as long as I am here.”
“Then you had better find your hero—and be gone quick, my prince.”
Suzi woke up with what felt like a massive hang over. Her mouth was dry and her eyes didn't want to focus. She rolled over on her father's hide-a-way bed and sat up. A little too fast.
"I think I'm going to be sick."
"Oh, I hope not. I can't afford to have this carpet cleaned." William said with a smile. Tom stood beside her father wearing--well, a convincingly accurate medieval costume. He wore a loose-fitting, cream-colored shirt that was laced half way down the front. His pants, or leggings, she couldn't really focus too much after she saw the waist--were held up by a belt that still held his sword. He wore knee-high leather boots and his hourglass necklace rested against his chest. His dark hair was messy and looked actually longer than Sunami's.
"So, I wasn't dreaming then." Sunami said with an arched brow. She took the bottle of water her dad offered her.
"What did you think you were dreaming about?" William asked. He cast a look at Tom that Sunami didn't understand.
"The last thing I remember... leaving work, a total mess, and bringing this train wreck to your store. He was wearing armor a minute ago, wasn't he?"
"Yes, he was. You didn't dream that part, Suzi-Q. Tom, may I have a moment with my daughter?"
Tom nodded, bowed slightly and retreated from the cramped office.
"It must've been all the excitement. Sorry dad, thanks for letting me crash here for a bit. Were you able to get ahold of any of your costume--nerds?"
"I'm not Google, my dear. It will take some time to get the boy figured out. At worst, he's an odd boy who is a bit of a costume extremist. Harmless, I imagine. He seems to need some help navigating Lakewood. You should help him, Suzi-Q."
"Do you believe what he says? About being a prince? Or talking about food like they were... wait, did he do that?"
"We talked a little, Suzi-Q. He does seem to believe he's a prince. Just make sure he keeps that part on the down-low, or however you kids say it these days. I'm not certain what I believe about him, but I don't believe boys fall out of the sky and find my daughter on accident. Help him out, you never know." William winked.
Suzi finished standing up and walked out to the lobby of the costume shop. As usual, it was empty, even on a Friday night. William's costume shop was really only open by appointment or special occasion.
"Oh! Dad, I forgot to ask you--Jared needs a favor."
"Your brother needs something? I really hope it's not another parking ticket."
"No, but it may be worse. All this excitement and I forgot to mention it."
William crossed his arms over his chest again. He was really good at trying to look intimidating. It never worked on Suzi, or anyone else.
"Maybe after you're done doing some research for me... you can consider loaning Jared a few costumes. For a fundraiser. It's super important, he says."
"Suzi-Q, Jared thinks beer and girls are 'super important.' That doesn't mean much to me."
"I know he doesn't always take the best care of things, and you two don't have a great relationship--"
"Not at all, really."
"Would you at least consider it? For me? For once in his life, he wants to do something--that I think is pretty cool. Yeah, they'll be beer and girls. But he wants to throw a dance. A legitimate, couples-only dance to raise money to pay for student rentals. My brother wants to actually do something useful for a change."
William scratched his 5 o'clock shadow and looked over the inventory of his shop. Even he couldn't deny his clothes were getting dusty without use. He wondered how many of the costumes Tom recognized as clothes from Anywhen.
"I'll think about it, Suzi-Q. Take care of this boy, and we'll go from there."
William was kind enough to offer Sunami and Tom a ride home--and even asked Tom to leave his armor for a few days to do some research.
"You won't be blending in very well, Tom, if you insist on marching around in this hunk of metal."
"Hunk of metal? I'll have you know some of the greatest artisans in--"
William gave Tom a don't-you-argue-with-me look that Sunami was familiar with as a little girl. It seemed to work just as well on Tom, prince or not.
"You'll keep it safe--sir, I mean, William?"
"You can call me Will. Suzi-Q knows how to get ahold of me, you can come and get it any time you may need it. But for now, Suzi will find you something normal to wear."
"The armor can go with Will. The sword stays with me."