WEP: Unraveled Yarn

This WEP entry is the Chapter 3 of my fanfiction novella Magic Senegalese. The story is set in Wen Spencer’s Elfhome universe. Please check out the other WEP challenge participants here. To remind you what has gone before in my story, you could read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.
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Two days later, Naomi drove her bright yellow Beetle into Pittsburgh. The lineup of cars and trucks was crazy. It took her from midnight to four in the afternoon to travel a couple hundred meters, from the last American checkpoint to the guard post on the Elfhome side of the border, manned by human guards. Would it be ‘elved’ if it was elven guards, she thought irrelevantly?

Surreptitiously, she touched her round, entirely human ear, while the guards studied her Pittsburgh birth certificate. Fortunately, nobody screamed: “Elf!” After some routine questions, they stamped her documents.

“Welcome to Pittsburgh,” said one of the guards and waved her through.

“Thank you.” She smiled as she drove past, a legitimate tourist for the next month.

A few hundred meters into the city, and she saw her first elves up close, sauntering along the street. They looked even more beautiful than on a TV screen. More unreal too. Would the elves realize she was one of them? Half of them?

She drove slowly, looking for a motel or a B&B, but the area seemed purely industrial. After a while, small businesses started to appear on both sides of the street, full of activity, although the sky was already darkening.

In the bluish dusk, further camouflaged by a drizzle, she almost missed a scuffle deep in an alley. She would’ve driven through anyway, if an angry girlish scream didn’t make her stomp on the brake. Someone was attacking a young girl; Naomi could never turn away. She had taught dancing to girls for the past two years. A couple of her students had been sexually assaulted. She couldn’t ignore it.

“Let me go, moron!” The voice belonged to a terrified child.

Her fingers trembling and heart pounding in terror, Naomi stopped the car, unzipped her costume duffel, and rummaged for her prop gun. At the strip club, men liked it when she wielded that gun while dressed only in her silver lame belt for the tips. In the darkness of the alley, it should look almost real.

She hopped out of the car before she talked herself out of this insane attempt at rescue and raced into the alley. The girl still shrieked like a banshee as she struggled with her assailant.

“Let her go,” Naomi growled and pressed the muzzle of the gun into the man’s neck.

He stilled and tensed but didn’t release the girl. His fingers dipped into the girl’s thin flailing arms. Naomi grabbed a handful of his long greasy hair. She yanked his head back. “I said, let go.” For good measure, she kicked him behind one knee. She was a dancer and wore hard boots for the road. Her kick packed a punch.

He cursed and pushed the girl away, his elbow poised to strike Naomi. She used his hair as a handle, spun him around, and delivered her second kick into his groin. He howled and folded.

The girl, short and skinny, looked about twelve. She had already scrambled to her feet and was inching away from the fight.

“I have a car. Come on.” Naomi grabbed her hand and ran towards the mouth of the alley, tugging the girl after her. “Get in.”

While the girl dived in, Naomi ran around to the driver’s seat and started the car as soon as her door slammed shut. She didn’t care where to drive, just away from that alley. After a few turns, totally lost, she stopped the car and took a good look at her passenger.

The girl had large blue eyes, a tangled mass of dark hair, and a bruise on one cheek. Her ears strained up—an elf. Her short red knit sweater was torn and unraveling along the bottom. She stared back at Naomi.

“I’ll take you home,” Naomi said quietly. “But you have to direct me. I just came across the border. I don’t even know where we are.”

“Thanks,” the elf girl said. “I know where we are. Drive. I’ll tell you where to go.”

“You’re an elf,” Naomi stated the obvious.

“Half. My mom is human.”

“I thought elves are forbidden to have half-blood children.”

“Only the domana caste. The other castes are okay. Why did you come here?”

“I was born here, but I lived in New York all my life. I wanted to see Elfhome.”

“Ah. So where are you staying?”

Naomi’s lips twitched. “I was actually looking for a place. Do you know any? A B&B or a motel.”

“No. But you could stay at my place tonight.”

“Your parents wouldn’t mind?”

“My dad… is not in the picture. And my mom has gone to Earth. For a surgery. I’m alone.”

Naomi frowned. “But you can’t stay alone. You’re a minor.”

“No. I’m twenty. I just look like a child because I’m half-elf. I’ll look like that for the next fifty years, but I already graduated and I drive.” She nodded ahead. “Next block. Stop at the yarn shop.”

“That can’t be,” Naomi muttered as she parked the Beetle in front of the yarn shop.

The girl snickered. “Why? How would you know?”

“I’m also half-elf; my father said my mom was an elf, but I look my age, twenty-one.”

They gazed at each other.

“Maybe because you lived on Earth, without magic.” The girl smiled and climbed out of the car.

Flabbergasted, Naomi followed, rolling her suitcase behind. She didn’t have anywhere else to go.

“This is our shop.” The girl opened the door and ushered Naomi inside, through a narrow aisle with shelves stuffed with colored yarn on both sides, towards a back door. “We live upstairs. Did I thank you for my rescue?”

“Yes,” Naomi said.

“You pointed a gun at that jerk. Would you shoot? For me?”

“It’s not a real gun,” Naomi confessed. “It’s a theatrical prop.”

Her hostess rocked to a halt at the top of the staircase between two opposite archways. One opened up into a living room, another into a kitchen. She glared at Naomi. “You came after a man twice your size with a fake gun? Idiot!”

“He thought it was real,” Naomi said defensively. “And I kicked him. That was real. I’m a dancer. My kick’s almost as good as a bullet.”

The girl snorted, shook her head, and continued along a narrow corridor towards the last of several closed door. Between the doors, beautiful knitted tapestries with a bright abstract pattern hung, filling the entire place with coziness and warmth. “This is a guest room. The next one is the bathroom.” She opened the door and turned, her hand motioning for Naomi to enter. “I’m Dina. Welcome to my home,” she said.

“I’m Naomi. Thank you, Dina. Did your mom knit those tapestries? They’re gorgeous.”

“No. I did. If you’re a half-elf, like me, why don’t you have the ears?”

Naomi shrugged. “Maybe I’ll find out while I’m here.”

“Strange,” Dina said. “According to the treaty, no elven child, no elven DNA at all, could be taken from Elfhome. I wonder how your father managed.” Her eyes sparkled with interest. “Dinner will be ready soon.” She turned on the light and closed the door, leaving Naomi alone.

“Yeah, I wonder that too,” Naomi murmured to herself.

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Hats

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
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If you watched the Royal wedding in May, you might’ve noticed the variety and the mere gorgeousness of the female guests’ hats. I was looking at them and thinking about hats throughout history. I write fantasy, set vaguely in the imaginary past, and an occasional sci-fi, set in the future, but my characters never wear hats. Maybe they should. Maybe the hats they would wear could tell my readers something about them.

Historically, hats developed as a clothing element designed for protection of the wearer’s head. Protection from cold or from the sun. Protection from fire or weapons or injury. Protection from bees.

Later on, in most societies, a head covering became also a statement of social status. Often, a woman’s uncovered head would be equated with loose morals or extreme poverty. That still holds true in some cultures, but fortunately, not in the Western world.

For us, besides their simple functionality – like a knit woolen beanie in winter or a panama in summer or a bicycle helmet – hats serve more and more as fashion accessories. Furthermore, a hat might underscore its wearer’s financial situation or a quirk of character, as in the aforementioned Royal wedding. Or it could signify its wearer’s belonging to a specific group, like part of a military uniform.

An amusing factoid: in Roget’s Thesaurus, the entry for headgear is the longest of all clothing entries, three times as long as the entries for dress or trousers. Obviously, there are many more types of headgear than there are dresses.

Do hats play any part in your fiction?

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My mom and peonies

My mother will be 85 on June 29th this year. She lives in Israel and doesn’t travel anymore. Several years ago, when she still could, she visited me in Vancouver, where I live, during the summer. We went to a botanical garden and admired a sprawling peony bush there. Big creamy blooms covered it so densely, you had trouble seeing the green leaves.
“My parents had a bush like that,” she said. Then she told me a story I had never heard before.
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Peonies at Nichols Arboretum

When I was a toddler, one year old, I think, mama had to leave home for a few hours, to go shopping. She took me to stay with her parents. In front of their house, in the small front yard, grew a huge peony bush. That morning, it was awash with flowers.

When she came back to pick me up, the bush was empty, no flowers at all. Her parents were hysterical. And I was sitting on the floor in the middle of the living room, strewn with peony petals, and happily pulling petals from the last peony in my supply pile.

“Where have you been for so long?” my grandparents demanded from their daughter. “The baby started crying the moment you stepped out of doors. The only way we could keep her quiet was to give her flowers to pull the petals. But we don’t have any more flowers. We thought about going to the neighbors. Don’t ever leave her with us again!”
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I don’t pick peony petals anymore, even when I miss my mother. And I do miss her. Every day. Happy Mother’s Day, mama.

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Skin color in speculative fiction

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
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Beware: this is a rant, inspired, at least partially, by a recent review I read of Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti.

The reviewer liked the story and waxed poetic about the heroine, especially because she was black. Then he branched out and started talking about speculative fiction in general, and how it needs more black heroes, more Asian heroes, more Latin American heroes, and so on. (I’m using the word ‘hero’ for simplicity, not to indicate gender. It could be ‘heroine’ as well.) More racial diversity, the reviewer cried.

I’ve heard this refrain before, and so have you, no doubt, but I wonder. Why nobody ever demands more Bulgarian heroes. Or Finnish? Or freckled red heads, for that matter? Why do they fixate on dark skin and dark hair? It feels like some sort of perverse racism, when the authors of such appeals count the percentage of colored people in America and announce that the percentage of colored heroes in speculative fiction should relate.

I disagree. Conforming to percentages is a dangerous direction, and it leads to some ugly places. I grew up in Soviet Russia, where anti-Semitism was subtle and sanctioned by the government. There were certain prestigious universities, like Moscow University, which didn’t, as a rule, accept Jewish students. I’m a Jew and I knew it. Every other Jewish boy and girl I met at school knew it too. We didn’t apply to Moscow University. We applied to the institutions known to ‘take’ Jews. But there was an exception to this unspoken rule. The percentage of Jews in Russia at the time amounted to a certain small number (I don’t remember the exact digits), and the Moscow University was obliged to ‘take’ a few token Jews as students, so their ethnic student distribution looked the same as the country at large. Is that what we want happening in speculative fiction? The racism in this notion is camouflaged, true, but it’s no less real.

I think that the only reasons for a fictional hero to be black or white or blue with tentacles should be creative, organic to the story, not political or inspired by a popular hashtag. Such choices should have nothing to do with the racial demographics in the US. Besides, the percentages are different in different countries. So do we need more black fantasy heroes in America than we do in Canada? How about the racial statistics by state or province? More Chinese heroes in British Columbia and fewer in Ontario? It gets ridiculous pretty fast.

If your story wants a black hero, like Binti – wonderful. If it wants a white hero – equally good. Neither is better than the other, and the writers shouldn’t go out of their way to comply with the false demands for diversity. Only your muse knows what makes your writing alive. Artificiality never improved any story.

Most of my protagonists are white young women. That’s how I see them, although I’ve stopped describing my heroines several years ago. But the protagonist of my latest speculative fiction story is a colored girl. That’s how I saw her even before I started writing her story. It had nothing to do with the absurd concept of racial diversity in fiction. It was just how the story unfolded in my head: her father is an African American human; her mother is a white elf. That’s what the story whispered in my mind, and I followed its tune.

Am I wrong in my musing?

 

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WEP: Road Less Traveled

This WEP entry is the installment #2 of my novella Magic Senegalese. Please check out the other participants in the challenge here. To remind you what has gone before in my story, you could read the first part here. It ended with Naomi’s father telling her that they’re going to Pittsburgh.
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“Pittsburgh?” Naomi gasped. “It’s on Elfhome. Another planet. Has been for as long as I’ve been alive. What are you talking about? I can’t go to Pittsburgh. I don’t have any papers, just my driver’s license.”

“You were born there,” her father said. “Drive, Naomi, and I’ll tell you your true story.”

“I was born in New York,” she objected. “I saw my birth certificate.” She ventured a sideway glance at him.

He seemed inscrutable, as always, and she returned her attention to the road.

“It’s a duplicate,” he said. “They issue one to every baby born in a foreign country of American parents, when they first arrive back in America. The original was issued on Elfhome. In Pittsburgh. It’s in here.” He patted his breast pocket.

“Really? What about my mom? Was she an American too? Or is she still in Pittsburgh? Is that why she isn’t with us?”

As far as Naomi knew, her father never talked about her mother, except saying she couldn’t raise her daughter for family reasons. He never answered any of Naomi’s questions, never blamed her mother for anything, but Naomi had always been resentful. She had always assumed her mother was a white married woman and wouldn’t acknowledge her illegitimate daughter with a black lover. Maybe she didn’t want a half-blood girl? On the other hand, if her mother was an Elfhome citizen, perhaps the situation was different. Perhaps she couldn’t leave home. Maybe the elves, who ruled Elfhome, wouldn’t allow an illegitimate child? A mulatto child? Who knew what the elves thought?

Her father sighed. “It’s not as simple. Your mother is an elf. Raindrop Tossed by Wind.”

“What?” Naomi’s hands tightened on the wheel.

“It’s her name. Raindrop. She was so beautiful,” he said dreamily.

“Are you saying I’m half-elf? But I don’t have the ears.”

“You did. When you were born. She…” He winced and looked away at the car window.

“She what?” Naomi prompted. She was so flabbergasted she felt as if she was listening to a fantasy show on the radio. An audio version of Game of Thrones, maybe. It didn’t feel real.

“She is a domana caste elf.”

“The ones with magic?”

“Yes. By the elven law, the domana caste can’t have sexual intercourse with anyone else. Only among themselves or with their sekasha.”

“Their bodyguards,” Naomi translated softly.

“Yes. If anyone finds out that she had sex with a human, had a baby with a human, she would be in trouble. They might even kill her. And you. And me. Anyway, she could never acknowledge you, even if she’s still there, in Pittsburgh. I think she left it.”

“Wow! Slow down. The elves might kill me? Then why am I going there? Might as well stay home and risk my murderous former classmate. At least I’ll know what to expect.”

Her father snorted without humor. “Nobody in Pittsburgh knows about you, except one person, your mother’s friend. She is some sort of a healer at the elven hospital. She helped with the birth. In secret. She also helped with the surgery afterwards, when they… sculpted your ears to the human shape. I think they did it with magic. There was no blood or scarring, but you cried for a week, poor baby. I was terrified. Then you stopped crying, and I took you home. Became a single parent to my wonderful baby girl.”

“What did you do in Pittsburgh anyway?”

“I was on a student exchange program. Went to Elfhome, to Pittsburgh University for a month. Stayed for a year, and left with my daughter.”

“I didn’t know,” Naomi said.

“No,” he agreed. He still gazed out the car window and wouldn’t meet her eyes.

“But the way to Pittsburgh only opens once a month, Dad. On their Shutdown day, when our two universes align, or whatever.”

“Shutdown is two days from today, Tuesday night. I keep count. We’ll stay in a motel for the next night, then you’ll go to Pittsburgh, and I’ll go home.”

“And then I’ll stay on another planet alone? For a month?”

“Probably longer, pumpkin. On the next Shutdown, send me a letter, to let me know how you are. I’ll keep you informed about the situation with Bob. If it is ever resolved, you could return home.”

“That’s why you wanted me to have cash.”

“Yes. You could buy a house in Pittsburgh for a dollar. Find a job. Teach dancing to the local kids. You should be okay.”

“What if Bob or his associates come after you, Dad?”

“Why? Nobody will trouble me. I didn’t witness a murder, as you did. I won’t even know where you are, at least not for the first month. If anyone asks, I’ll tell them you took off to San Francisco, where they offered you a dancing gig. Let them look for you in San Francisco.”

Naomi smiled, probably her first smile since she witnessed Bob killing a man. “Should I look for my mom in Pittsburgh? Raindrop.”

“Better not,” he said gravely. “Tell the guards on the border you’re considering immigration. You have the rights: you were born in Pittsburgh. When you settle, look instead for the other elven woman, the healer. Her name is Field of Rye Bending to Wind. I called her Rye.”

“Rye,” Naomi repeated. To escape a murderer in New York, she was driving to Elfhome, an alien planet where immortal elves wielded magic. Where she didn’t know a single person. Where she half-belonged, maybe even could work magic herself, but she couldn’t tell anyone, because if someone found out about her mother, they might kill her. In her wildest imagination, she could never imagine such a road trip. A trip to Elfhome nobody but her would ever make. She shook her head and started laughing. It was either that or howling, and she preferred laughter.
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The image of the book cover is by Caique Silva from Unsplash, a free image website.

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Genre exploration – A to Z challenge (G)

This April, for the first time in my life, I participated in the A to Z challenge – sort of. I’m a member of the WEP team, one of the 4 hosts there, together with Denise, Renee, and Nilanjana. The captain of this year’s challenge, J. Lenni Dorner, invited all four of us, as a group, to write a guest post for the letter G. We decided to explore the word GENRE. We used a photo by Celia Reaves of Word Wacker website as our prompt, and each of us wrote a micro story inspired by that photo – in different genres. You could read our group post, all four little stories, here.

Below is the quaint photo that inspired us all. Maybe it will inspire you too.

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Cover art selection

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This Wednesday, I’m one of the co-hosts, together with my wonderful fellow co-hosts Tamara Narayan, Chemist Ken, and Renee Scattergood.
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OPTIONAL IWSG QUESTION: When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?
MY ANSWER: I play with images. I love looking at images, collecting images, and lately, designing book covers. I design covers for Wattpad writers and I design all my own book covers. That’s what my post below is all about.
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I haven’t written any fiction in March, which spurs an insecurity of its own, but I embarked on a big project. Over the years, I have written a number of short stories in several speculative fiction sub-genres. Most of them have been published in magazines, but I own the copyrights. Others are new stories, not published anywhere yet. I decided to get them all together under one roof and self-publish a collection of my stories. But it appears I have too many stories for one book. It would be a door-stopper tome. So I compiled three short story collections, one for each sub-genre:

  • Magic realism
  • Fantasy
  • Science fiction

I’m going to self-publish them as soon as I finish the final editing, formatting, and the other tasks involved in self-publishing. All three will be e-book only. I’m not planning paper books. I also designed several possible covers for all three, but I can’t decide which covers to choose. I don’t trust myself – they are all my darlings. This is a classic case of artistic insecurity, and I need your input.

For the majority of those covers, I used images from the free image sites, mostly Pixabay and a couple from Public Domain Pictures. I also included two covers made with the classic art images: by John Melhuish Strudwick (1849-1937) and Francesco Sasso (1720-1776). Both artists are long dead, and the art is copyright-free.

All the covers are on a dedicated Pinterest board. If you have a minute or two, could you please, please, please click on this link, check out the covers, and tell me which you like best in the comments. They are all numbered for each sub-genre.

Please keep in mind that one cover for the science fiction book has a different title. It’s still the same book, but its cover reflects a particular story, and I named it after that story, while the other three science fiction covers use a different story for the collection title.

Thank you, friends.

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Lies propel the truth. Do they?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
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Recently, I’ve written several stories where my protagonists lied. They didn’t lie for their own monetary gains or power, but they did lie to achieve their goals or to protect someone they loved or to get out of a tough situation. In all the stories, lies were instrumental. Without them, the characters could’ve been in deep shit. Their lies held them afloat, kept them acting rather than sinking.

Then I thought: what does it say about me as a person, that my characters lie so often? I’m not a habitual liar myself, but occasionally I do lie. Everyone does, I think. Nevertheless, it made me uneasy with my choices as an author.

By strange serendipity, I have been re-reading novels by one of my favorite romance writers, Jayne Ann Krentz, and in one of her books, White Lies, I came across the long quote below. The protagonist, Clare, has an unusual paranormal ability: she can detect human lies. Here is her conversation with a friend on the subject:
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“When you look at it objectively it seems obvious that the ability to lie is part of everyone’s kit of survival tools, a side effect of possessing language skills. There are a lot of situations in which the ability to lie is extremely useful. There are times when you might have to lie to protect yourself or someone else, for example.”
“Okay, I get that kind of lying,” he said.
“You might lie to an enemy in order to win a battle or a war. Or you might have to lie just to defend your personal privacy. People lie all the time to diffuse a tense social situation or to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or to calm someone who is frightened.”
“True.”
“The way I see it, if people couldn’t lie, they probably wouldn’t be able to live together in groups, at least not for very long or with any degree of sociability. And there you have the bottom line.”
“What bottom line?”
She spread her hands. “If humans couldn’t lie, civilization as we know it would cease to exist.”

And a little bit later:

“The ability to lie is a very powerful tool. In and of itself, I consider it to be value-neutral, sort of like fire.”
“But like fire it can be turned into a weapon, is that it?”
“Exactly.” She folded her arms. “You can cook a meal with fire or burn down a house. In the hands of a person with evil intent, lying can be used to cause enormous damage.”

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I couldn’t have said it better myself. My characters usually lie because otherwise they can’t help the good guys or defeat the bad ones. They lie to reinforce the forces of light, so to speak, and to drive the story forward. They lie to tell the bigger truth.

As I pondered it some more, I realized that lying has been a literary plot device for centuries, often on the side of the heroes, but sometimes on the side of the villains. A lie is a time-honored technique in fiction. There is even the charming little liar Pinocchio (Buratino in the Russian literary canon), the protagonist of the famous children’s book. Obviously, children know a great deal about lies.

Do your characters lie? Do you lie as an author or as a person? When does it work for you, and when doesn’t it? Want to talk about it?

 

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WEP: In Too Deep

Last year, I wrote a series of thematic flash stories for the WEP challenges, all sharing the same protagonist. I liked the coherence it brought to my WEP posts. I decided to continue the tradition, but with more focus. This year, I’m going to post chapters 1 through 6 from my novella Magic Senegalese. Originally, I thought it would be a complete short story by December, but the story ran away from me and became twice longer. It is also a fan fiction story, based on Wen Spencer’s Elfhome universe. I will post it in full on Wattpad.

Elfhome is one of my favorite fantasy (or sci-fi) worlds, and it needs a bit of an intro. According to Spencer, some time in the first half of the 21st century (very soon now), China built a hyper-phase gate in orbit over Earth, to allow spaceships to travel to other star systems quickly. The side effect of that gate was that the entire city of Pittsburgh, PA, was dropped into the parallel world of Elfhome, the planet the same as Earth geographically, but populated by immortal elves who have magic. They don’t have the Earth technology though, and they didn’t start traveling to the Americas until recently. Most of the American continent on Elfhome is still a virgin forest. Pittsburgh was dropped into the middle of it. One day a month, when the Chinese power down their orbital gate, Pittsburgh returns to Earth.

My story doesn’t use any of Wen Spencer’s leading characters, except peripherally. The plot happens (by the Elfhome timeline) a couple years before Tinker, the first of Spencer’s novels set in Pittsburgh, and about twenty-five years after the Chinese gate first went into operation.
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Naomi Peterson clapped a hand to her mouth to stifle a scream. Her horrified eyes met Bob’s astonished ones through the dirty glass of a small window inserted in the door. She just witnessed him stab a man to death in the alley, and he knew she did. It didn’t matter that they had been classmates at school. It didn’t matter that they had kissed once in eleventh grade. She just saw him commit murder in broad daylight. He would come after her. She was deep over her head in peril.

She saw the realization unfolding in his eyes too and didn’t wait for the inevitable. She whirled and raced for the front door. The locked back door of the club rattled behind her, as Bob tried to force it open. It would take him some time to circle the long building to the parking lot at the front, the time for her to escape.

Her fingers shook on the car key. It took her three tries to start the car, and her hands still felt unsteady on the wheel. She accelerated out of the parking lot. He would find her soon. He didn’t know her address, but he had the Internet, like everyone else. It was only a matter of hours until he found her. She needed to disappear.

She drove on autopilot, her mind numb with dread. Should she report him to the police? And then what? Testify in court? Was he with a gang? Mafia? They had never been friends at school, and she had known, vaguely, that he was into a bad stuff, but she had never been interested. She had been with the intellectual crowd in those days, set for university and a glorious dancing career. She had never dreamed that their paths would cross again after graduation, and in such a drastic manner.

She calmed a bit when nobody chased her on the highway. By the time she turned into the driveway of her house, she was almost back to normal, but she was glad to see the windows downstairs glow with light. Her father was home. He would know what to do.

She let herself in the downstairs apartment, where her father lived alone since she had moved upstairs during her freshman year. Her friends mocked her that she still lived at home, but she didn’t care. Both she and her dad had their privacy—the apartments had separate entrances—while still being in the same house, close enough if they needed each other. She needed him now.

“Naomi?” He just had his shower and was dressed only in sweatpants, with a towel hanging over his neck. His brown chest rippled with muscles, even though his short fuzzy hair was almost white already. It had still been mostly black when she met Bob last, at her prom three years ago.

Bob! She started hyperventilating again and leaned on the door to support her jellifying bones. She opened her lips to tell her dad, but no sound emerged. Her throat locked. She gazed at him in a mute appeal for help.

“Naomi, what happened?” He reached her in two long strides and clapped his big brown hands on her shoulders. “You’re trembling. Come, sit down. Tell me what’s wrong?” His strong grip was reassuring, his familiar round face a brown mask of serenity. “Talk to me, girl. Do you want some whiskey? No, you don’t like whiskey. Ouzo?”

He moved unhurriedly as he talked, fitting words to actions, his deep baritone a soothing balm for her frazzled nerves. By the time she downed a large splash of liquor, she was finally ready to talk.

He listened without comment, as he always did, nodding thoughtfully now and again.

“Should I call the police?” she asked uncertainly.

“If I were an upstanding citizen, I’d have said ‘yes’,” he murmured. “But I’m not sure the police is as uncorrupted in real life as it is on TV. I don’t want you to testify in court. It could be dangerous. I agree with your assessment: you’d better disappear, at least for a while. Until he’s arrested.” His eyes turned sad. “Maybe a long time. I’ll miss you, pumpkin. Was there anyone else at the club?”

“No. I rehearsed for a while. I was alone. Nobody was there. It’s too early.”

“I knew it was a bad idea for you to dance at the strip club,” he said without heat.

It was an old argument she had already won, but she replied all the same, as she always had. “At least I could pay for my schooling. No student loans for me. I wouldn’t be able to do that with any other part-time job.”

“You could’ve taught dancing at a community center. Much safer.”

“I do. Much less money,” she countered.

“I would’ve paid your tuitions.”

“I know. I wanted to do it myself. Besides, the girls are all safe at the club, you know that. The bouncers wouldn’t let anything happen to us during the night. But it’s daytime. No bouncers.”

He sighed. “Well, we can’t change the past. Go, pack, Naomi. We’ll leave as soon as you’re done.”

“Where will I go?” Naomi obediently stood up. Her hand draped around the door handle. “To your family in Virginia?”

“No. Anyone can find you in Virginia. We’re going… I’ll tell you in the car. We’re taking your Beetle. I’ll rent a car to return home.”

Naomi nodded and opened the door. It wasn’t like her father to be secretive, but it didn’t matter. She jogged around the house to the back stairs, leading to her second-floor apartment, while the cold sick fear in her stomach finally started to melt. Obviously, her father had a plan. He would tell her when he was ready.

An hour later, they were on the highway, heading west towards Pennsylvania, and Naomi started fretting again. Where were they going? They already made a couple of detours, to his bank and hers, and withdrew as much cash as the banks allowed from all their accounts. The money resided now in the backseat of the car, stuffed into her old backpack. Her father didn’t think she would have access to a bank wherever he was taking her. Did he want her to camp in the wild? For how long? Maybe he knew something about Bob that she didn’t.

“All right, Dad. Spill,” she said between her teeth. “You’re scaring me. Where am I going?”

“To Pittsburgh,” he said quietly. “Nobody would find you there.”
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The image of the book cover is by Caique Silva from Unsplash, a free image website.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Novella, Olga Godim, science fiction, WEP | Tagged , , , , | 23 Comments

Speculative fiction sets me free

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
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OPTIONAL IWSG QUESTION: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

MY ANSWER: I mostly write speculative fiction: fantasy, science fiction, and occasionally magic realism. I like it because speculative fiction provides an escape from reality. It sets me free.

When I write speculative fiction, I immerse myself in my own imagination. I reinvent myself as a heroic princess or a modern witch or a shy dragon. I can have magic. I can travel on a spaceship or have a neighbor who is a fairy. I can even follow the antics of a telepathic squirrel.

Like dreams, speculative fiction allows me to be what I’m not, where I’m not, without complying with the rules of science. I can disregard the historical facts of medieval Europe or the limitations of physics and invent any details I wish. If I want to have an interstellar music competition, I can. If I want to have a walled elven district in my city, I can. If I want to have giant, carnivorous butterflies rampaging the Canadian north, I can too. Nobody could gainsay me: it is my world – my creation – after all, and reality has no place in it.

In my world, I take outrageous risks alongside my characters. I have extravagant adventures and achieve marvelous victories together with them. And through my characters, I can always say what I might never dare to say in real life: to my friends and my enemies

What about you?

 

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Posted in Fantasy, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim, Writing | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments