A Writing Challenge that Is Challenging I started a Facebook Group and a bi-weekly Writing Challenge that I hadn’t intended to be so challenging. It isn’t the material or subject matter, but the actual writing itself. I’ve been trying to find time to do it. Yesterday, the first Saturday I’ve had “off” for a while, and I did my taxes instead. My business taxes for DistractedDragon.com (shameless plug!) and my personal taxes. I did taxes to avoid doing homework or writing.
I can't tell if I should be proud or ashamed that I did my business and personal taxes JUST to avoid homework... #CollegeLife
— Michelle Brumley (@BloodGateKey) March 12, 2017
Today I slept in (I can blame Daylight Savings Time a little), had coffee, and started doing math. Yuck. But I sat here at my desk for a few hours and just did it.
I realized I still hadn't unpacked from RadCon that was nearly a month ago. My cat, however, had a glorious time rooting around in my suitcase.
And then I was considering taking a “break” and listening to my Biology lecture. And then I remembered: oh, yeah, that Writing Challenge I keep getting pissed off about that no one else is writing for. That I am not writing for. What kind of leader, no, what kind of author am I, if I can’t even meet my own Writing Challenge?
So what is the Writing Challenge this time? “The protagonist meeting the antagonist for the first time.”
At first I thought, “Oh! This will be Jaq meeting Ubel a long, long time ago--but then I remembered, hey, Jaq, stop butting in, you’re not my protagonist!
Of course, Jaq didn’t care, he just kept pushing Nox and Malisyn aside and tossing his beautiful hair over his shoulder. And winking. He does that.
Then I went to my bookshelf and pulled down a folder I have for my new InGifted outline. And realized, uh, yeah--Jaq isn't going to be in this part of the story. Sorry Jaq! My notes say right here that it is Allyn and Ubel, and Nox and Malisyn. You'll have to wait your turn.
I'll admit this was hard to write; I can feel that I am out of practice, that my lines feel labored and out of breath. That I use too many commas. That I lack the knowledge or experience to make this sing yet. But I will get there, one, slow, comma'd step at a time. It felt good to see the characters on the page again, to work out subtle changes, to try and keep them all close but apart. To wander the Glass Plains and let it feel like home. I will never give this place up, but the world around it may change.
Malisyn’s breath burned in her throat, her heart pounded in her ears like a drum, drowning out her fear. She clung to the Glass Plains, pressed against the glass, trying to make herself as compact as possible. Just over the rise--her brother Allyn was there, kneeling beside a fluffy gray and white cat. His small body protected the cat from the bulk of the wind.
Nox placed his hand on the small of her back and she startled.
“We can’t rush them, we don’t even know--” His voice trailed off. The cat’s head turned and flicked an ear in his direction. Allyn’s voice drifted over the ridge but was drowned out by the wind. He scooped up the cat and continued to walk, carefully avoiding shards of glass. As soon as it was safe, Nox slipped over the ridge and held out his hand for Malisyn. She took it and slid down, eyes scanning the distance wildly for signs of her brother.
Nox held a finger to his lips and pointed at a large crystal shard. They followed quietly, thankful for the ice-cold wind that masked the sound of their footsteps. Nox drew his blood dagger from the sheath at his hip. He pressed the blade against his wrist but did not press. The blade was cold against his flesh but he did not feel it. Malisyn was shaking now, the adrenaline of the chase beginning to wear off; Allyn was in sight, she wanted nothing more than to rush forward and gather him in her arms. But something was wrong.
Why had he followed the cat and wandered off into the Glass Plains? Had she upset him somehow? She tried to remember, to recount everything she had said the night before and nothing made sense. He followed the cat, that was all. She was angry at herself for not noticing he was missing sooner. She stumbled into Nox, lost in her thoughts.
Allyn stepped into the darkness of a large shard crystal, a schism cut deep into the ground and the shard itself forming a cave of purple glass. The cat leapt from his arms and wandered ahead into the darkness. Allyn hesitated at the opening. The darkness made his legs unable to move any closer. The shrill sound of a cat’s meow echoed from inside the cave, and Allyn followed.
Allyn swallowed, trying to catch his breath. The darkness closed in on all sides and he wanted to scream but didn’t. He didn’t want to scare the cat.
Don’t be afraid. The meow sounded again and his feet moved without thought, shuffling deeper into the cave. He closed his eyes and tried to keep his hands from shaking. When he didn’t hear the cat again, he opened one eye to peer around. It was dark but early morning sunlight filtered in through the top of the shard, illuminating the inside of the crystal with shades of deep purple and red.
He took a step forward and his boot splashed in water--but it didn’t smell like water. He lifted his boot to inspect it, and in the failing light, his boot was red. Blood red. He scrambled forwards instead of backwards, stumbled and fell hard to the ground. The glass sliced through palms and knees and suddenly he was damp. He knelt in a half-inch of thick, red liquid that smelled--like death. And he wasn’t alone.
A man knelt in the liquid, legs crossed, wrists resting upturned across his knees. His wrists were slit and blood had dried around his arms and pooled onto the glass below. The man’s skin was dark brown, now paled to a shade of ash, like old burned wood. His eyes were closed, his jaw slack. His hair was long, gray and white and fell over his bare chest. His body was covered in scars.
Was he dead? Allyn thought he must have been, by the blood. Matron Hawk had always told the children that water was often trapped on the Glass Plains. Allyn never imagined, then, so could blood. How long had the man been here? Before Allyn could wrestle with any of the questions that overwhelmed his fear--the cat reappeared. The fluffy, gray cat leapt from a clean piece of purple glass to the man’s legs. It pressed against his chest, rubbed beneath his chin--and reached out to lick at one wrist.
“Shoo!” Allyn yelled, horrified at the cat for touching the dead man and licking him. The cat blinked, cool silver eyes shining in the darkness. And then blinked again--and the cat’s eyes were a dull yellow. Allyn tried to stand but slipped on the damp glass and fell sideways, crashing into the wall of the cave.
The man’s eyes opened--cool, silver eyes--the same color the cat had once had. The cat now leapt to one corner, tail puffy, back arched, staring at the man. Blood still dripped down its chin but it did not try and lick it away. The cat darted out the front of the cave, paws slick with blood.
The man with dark, ashen skin snapped his head to one side, cracking stiff bones. He flexed his arms away from his knees and joints popped, dried blood flaked away from his wrists. Allyn, still dazed from hitting his head on the cave wall, was seeing double. He wavered and finally fell, face-first, onto the ground. The man began to laugh.
Malisyn screamed as a fluffy cat darted out from the cave and ran between her legs. She slapped a hand over her mouth and turned to watch as the cat scrambled across the Glass Plains.
“That was the cat with Allyn,” Nox whispered. Malisyn nodded and dropped her hand. Nox grabbed Malisyn’s shoulder and hauled her backwards suddenly. Malisyn shouted--just as a man stepped out from the cave. The stranger held a knife to Allyn’s throat—and was laughing.
The man shook his head as if clearing his vision and adjusted his knife. Nox still held his own blood dagger but didn’t dare move. The man’s silver eyes looked from Nox to Malisyn.
When his eyes rested on Malisyn, his laughter stopped.
“It appears I have kidnapped the wrong child. No matter, you are here now. Step forward, girl, or I will cut his throat.” The words were accented and strange, but the intent was clear.
“Allyn, don’t move--” Malisyn said as she took a step forward, reaching her hand towards her brother. The stranger grabbed her wrist, twisted, and pushed Allyn towards Nox. Allyn stumbled and fell, fainting, into Nox’s arms. Malisyn cried out as the stranger twisted her arm behind her back and placed the knife against her throat.
“There is a collar around my neck. Remove it.” The man hissed. Malisyn struggled to see past her own tears now, sniffling against the wind and the pain in her wrist, hoping Allyn couldn’t see her. She reached for the collar around the man’s neck and froze. It was purple glass, just like the cat. And their eyes were the same color.
“You--” She hissed, trying to take a step backwards. The man cursed and forced her against him with a cry of pain.
“Remove the collar or I’ll kill them both.” The man’s voice made her tremble; she could feel the power resonating through it. She had no doubt this man could kill them both. All of them. Her vision began to darken at the edges but she took a deep breath. She reached her hands up around the man’s neck and felt at the edges of the collar. The man’s skin was dry and scabbed around the edges, and scars etched his skin as if he had tried to claw the collar off a thousand times. There was no latch.
“I can’t open it, there isn’t a latch.”
The man’s silver eyes glittered. “It’s been so long, I had forgotten.”
The knife at her throat pressed hard.
“Malisyn!” Nox shouted. She felt the blade press hard against her skin and slide--but only a sliver, only a few drops of blood fell. Malisyn reached for her throat and touched the blood.
“That should do it.” The man smiled slightly. Malisyn reached for the collar again. As she felt the edges of the collar with her bloodied fingers--the glass parted and fell away. The man caught it before it hit the ground.