Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Night

There seems to be a rich profusion of car alarms and sirens last night and this morning. The sun is out and it's warm outside. Halloween is always an EVENT in this town but tonight, if the weather holds, it's going to be a serious shebang.

I've been sick with the flu otherwise I'd wander down to the Castro to take in the sights. I don't have a costume but it wouldn't matter anyway. Authorities keep saying there will be NO Halloween this year in the Castro in an effort to keep people away. We've had problems in the past with the wrong sorts showing up. In a town full of diversity just who are the wrong sorts? People with guns and knives, gangbangers who like to shoot and stab people. Those people who would never go into the Castro otherwise. Everyone else is welcome.

Instead, I'll probably just watch some scary movies tonight. Last night I took in some scenes of The Shining on youtube to get in the right mood, then I read this person's blog about the numerology, intentional changes to the props in scenes, and hidden meanings in the film. The intricate level of detail suggestions a person who has plenty of time on his hands. There was an interesting theory on the meaning of the last shot of Jack in the 1921 picture but I had to wade through tons of other stuff to get there.

Here's the official trailer showing the iconic elevator scene. Spectacular. I love the use of the sound and music in this film. The sets. Oh, and the camera angles and cinematography in general. Jack. Wendy. Danny. What a wonderful film!

I just came back from walking the dog and noted that tonight is the last day for the pumpkin patch across the street. I noted with satisfaction that they seem to have sold plenty of pumpkins this year. People are out and about, families rushing in for those last minute jack o' lanterns.

I do miss dressing up though I haven't done it in years. Dressing sexy is so unimaginative. I outgrew that when I got out of my teens. My favorite costume was when I dressed as the Mad Hatter. I made a huge hat out of cardboard and went to a second hand store to get the clothes. It worked out very well. The hat looked great. I couldn't find a checkered vest so I bought a plaid shirt and cut it into a vest. I also had a big soup bowl and saucer that looked like a giant tea cup. I spent the day at work walking around saying "Don't come around here no more."

Time to go scope out some scary movies for tonight. I hope you all have a Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Writing Life: NaNoWriMo

As many of you know I participated in the 2006 National Novel Writing Month where I wrote a novel (50,000 words) in a month. The NaNoWriMo takes place during November. Every year I think about doing another one but decide against it.

The novel I wrote is the first draft of the current novel I'm working on. I'd rather continue to focus on it for now. Getting started on another one, and believe me, there's at least two waiting in the wings right now, would be too much.

This year, my friends in my writing group have been talking about participating. Several of them have suggested that having another project to work on would be good since writing a novel is such a long term project. I have to admit taking a break and writing "FailSafe" was really great. I came back to my novel feeling refreshed and able to look at it from a slightly different point of view.

I also wonder about my endurance. The first time I participated I just didn't have the practice and ability focus like I do now. Now I attend marathon writing sessions where we write in three 1.5 hour sessions with breaks and I have no problems sitting and writing for that long. It would be interesting to do the NaNoWriMo now just to see how my work habits and story processing have changed.

I think I'm going to pass, though. Maybe next year.

FailSafe - The King of Pop (Part 8)

"Hello," says Michael. His voice has a disembodied, slightly metallic sound. "I'm the Archivist. How may I help you?" He smiles at us. His bizarre, overly plastic surgeried face has the look of a computer avatar, all smooth and slightly stretched out. He's wearing black, skinny trousers, loafers, his trademark white socks, and a black and metallic fitted shirt.

"But you''re. Fuck! You're dead!" Nick stammers. I stand up slowly and then help him up. He picks up the sword.

"You won't be needing that here. There's nothing to swing at unless you're going to kill your friend there," says Michael, he folds his arms. He's wearing red lipstick, his eyes rimmed black.

Nick puts his sword away never taking his eyes off the man. Michael takes a couple of steps towards us and he shimmers for a moment.

"Wait a minute. You're not a dead soul. You must be a computer generated something or other," I say, realizing if he were truly a dead soul he wouldn't look solid.

"Hmm," is all he says. He folds his arms, glancing at me in mild annoyance.

"How did you?...How did...How did you die?" Nick asks. I'm a little surprised. I never thought he would be interested in something like the death of Michael Jackson in the real world.

Michael smiles at him. "Heart failure due to the wrong combination of drugs."

"It's July 5th and the toxicology reports haven't come back yet. You could be wrong," I say, feeling slightly embarrassed that I even know such a thing.

"If I'm wrong then you're wrong, Girlie," he says smiling even broader. The smile has a weird, cartoonish look to it as it stretches his face beyond where any smile has a right to go. I feel a chill run down my spine.

"Now, what can I do for you?"

"Are you really a computer generated whats-its?" asks Nick.

Michael sighs and then throws up his arms. "Of course, I'm computer generated. I'm the Archivist. I can take any form of being I like and today I want to be the King of Pop." He looks at us pointedly. "Now," he says slowly starting to walk up and down, "are you going to ask me a question or are you going to just stand there and gape?"

"Where is Mithra?" I blurt out.

"Mithra. Mithra is a divine entity, part of the Zoroastrianism, protector of the truth and justice. And since he is considered a pagan god, well, he's in the Citadel. Is that what you need to know?"

"No, I meant Mithra the Sword," I say looking on eagerly. Michael pauses in mid-step, frowning at me.

"Why do you want to know that?" I hear a faint pounding noise behind us but pay no attention.

"Because I need to know, is all," I say, not sounding very convincing. I'm holding myself tense with anticipation. The pounding sound gets a little louder. Nick turns away from us and walks towards the door.

"I don't think I can talk about that, Girlie. Ask me something else," he says, frowning.

"No, I need to know the answer to that question. Tell me," I say, standing my ground. "You have to tell me the answer."

"Damn, protocols," Michael mutters. "All right, Mithra. Mithra is an ancient sword supposedly forged out of a black substance that destroys energy but it only works for the person for whom it was made and I can guarantee that is not you." He arches a perfectly plucked black eyebrow at me.

The pounding is louder. I look back at Nick. He walks quickly to us, swiftly closing the vast white space between us.

I turn back to Michael. "I hate to tell you this but I'm the person the sword was made for."

Michael stares at me for a moment then bursts out laughing. "Oh, that's really funny," he laughs some more. There's a loud splintering sound behind us and I turn to see the door starting to shudder.

"She's here," Nick says.

I grab Michael by the arm. "Tell us where the sword is. That's all you have to do."

"Wait a minute! What's going on with the door? No one's allowed to break the door down. And it's impossible besides!" he says, looking at the slowly breaking down door. The door splinters again.

"Tell me where Mithra the Sword is. Tell me NOW!" I yell in Michael's face.

He looks genuinely hurt. "No reason to be rude." He straightens up and says just as the Stranger breaks down the door, "The sword is in the White Tower."

"Run!!!" I yell at Michael and then I grab Nick's hand and stretch out my arm. The Stranger is rushing at us, much faster than Michael, as a blue door appears in front of us. It says "The White Tower." I grab the doorknob and pull it open, dragging Nick after me. As we are slamming the door shut I catch a glimpse of Michael's horrified expression as the Stranger grabs his head and shoves her thumbs into his avatar eyes.

FailSafe - The Archives (Part 7)

When Nick and I get off the elevator there are demons everywhere, shouting and assembling weapons. Nick still has his arm around me and I'm rubbing my other arm. My ears are still ringing and I can barely hear all the noise.

He steers me towards the exit but I pull him in the other direction. "Concierge," I say, knowing he can't hear me. We move off in that direction. The office is crammed with demons of all shapes, sizes, and colors. I'm surprised that they're completely ignoring us but demons tend to be very single minded creatures. Give them something to focus on and they'll do so for eternity. We stand opposite the office and I can just see the human soul who was sitting at the desk. He is now standing in the corner while the demons shout at each other in the devil's language. The sound of their grotesque voices make me shudder. I realize then that my hearing must be coming back if I can hear them.

There's a loud crash and then a terrible roar from below us. The sound is so loud that I can feel the vibration in my feet through the floor. All the demons freeze into place, listening. The ground shakes again. And then the floor down the hall from us starts to buckle downwards, the floor collapsing. The demons run out into the hallway as the floor shudders and drops down, pieces of concrete falling inward. Nick and I watch, glued to our spot, until the collapsing floor rushes towards us and the demons back away into us. I grab Nick by my good arm and run into the Concierge's office. I pull him into the doorway and hope the demons used decent building codes. The floor gives way causing some of the demons to stumble but they do not fall. Instead, their great reptilian wings open and they hover a few feet above the floor, watching the damage. Nick and I hold onto each other as the building shakes and stumbles. Dust puffs everywhere and then the power goes out, turning everything dark. Now, it's like a full fledged earthquake is going on, the ground falling and the walls shoving back and forth. There's a high pitched whine and then the backup generators go on, bathing the room in a pale yellow light. It's still dark in places. The shaking stops all at once and I can hear the demons shouting at each other. Dust and debris is everywhere. I take a deep breath.

"We need to get out of here." I jump at Nick's voice close to my ear. I look up at him. We don't say anything for a moment.

"We need to get into the archives in this office. Now is the best time," I say still looking at him.

We look into semi-dark office. The human soul is now huddling on the floor. He has long dark hair, and piercing dark eyes. I walk up to him.

"What's your name?" I say to him. He is muttering. I lean down and touch his shoulder. "What's your name?" He jumps and stares at me.

"What was that thing in the prison cells?" he asks, eyes wide, "I saw it on the monitors. It...." He blinks at me. "Adapa. That's my name." I frown, wondering what kind of name that is.

"We need to get into the archives, Adapa, and we need to get in there now."

"What?! You can't get in there! It's..."

He's interrupted by a loud buzzing sound outside and then we heard the screaming of a demon. The sound of more cracking bones and then a long sucking, wet sound as the demon goes silent. Both Adapa and I turn in horror at the silence. Then the other demons are shouting and a battle begins. The Stranger's buzzing grows louder and the roar of the violence rages right outside our door.

Adapa stands up and runs for a blank wall. Nick and I run after him. He presses the blank wall quickly in a series of taps and the wall opens. He runs inside and we run after him. He doesn't look back, instead, he runs off down the dark, narrow hallway. The hallway goes on and on. There are featureless doors here and there at regular intervals but no signs. Eventually, Adapa pulls away from us as we slow down. Nick and I both stop, our chests heaving. I watch Adapa continue to run on.

"Must be nice to be able to run forever like that," says Nick. I can hear him just fine now.

"Sure, it's fun to be dead with no body," I say, "This is a good time to look for the archives." As soon as I say the word the door I'm facing glows white for a moment. When the light fades there's sign on the door that says "Archives."

"That's convenient," says Nick. I place my hand on the door knob and jump back with a yelp.

"What? Is it hot?"

"No, it's freezing cold," I say. I have a vague recollection that this is a dialog from a movie but I can't remember which one. Nick reaches into my backpack and pulls out a pair of big, thick gloves that go up to the elbows. I remember my Dead Self putting them in there. He slips the gloves on and opens the door without any problems. The door swings open and I can see that it's dark inside so I reach through the door and find a light switch. The lights switch on systematically and we step inside. Nick closes the door behind us.

We say nothing. This is the largest room I've ever seen. All white and it looks like it goes on forever, but there's nothing here. No shelves, no books, no computers, no tables, nothing. In fact, it appears to be just a huge white space.

"This is creepy, Miss Turtle." I step ahead of Nick still looking around. I'm moving slowly, taking care where I step even if the floor is the same white everywhere.

"I can't see where the room ends," I say. I feel little more confident and walk forward into the room. It's a little chilly as it would be in a server room. We move out into the expanse of white and then there's a loud click. We both try to locate the sound but it seems to have come from the ceiling. I'm looking up at the ceiling and then I hear Nick gasp. He is pointing behind me.

There's a figure coming towards us from very far away but it's moving very fast. As it gets closer I can hear its whooshing sound. Nick draws his sword, shoving me behind him. I draw my knife and wait. The figure is running towards us. I can see now that it's a man, very slender with dark hair falling in front of his face.

When he gets close enough so we can see who it is, Nick staggers backwards dropping his sword. I manage to get out of his way but stumble to the floor anyway. We are both staring upwards, open-mouthed, for standing in front of us is none other than the recently deceased King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

FailSafe - The Jail Cells (Part 6)

The Stranger stands up slowly from the bench she's been sitting on. I back away right into the demon. He gives me a push.

"Now, now, I know some of your cell mates are less than savory but we all have to try to get along," he says, then he laughs.

"That thing is going to kill us if you put us in there!" yells Nick. The Stranger turns towards him, buzzing.

"At least you'll already be here once you're dead. It will spare you the having to be processed first," the demon smiles, his teeth gleaming stained yellow.

"You can't put us in there. You don't understand, she'll..." Nick's demon ignores me and goes to the cell to open the gate. "Stop!" I yell, "You don't understand. She'll tear everything apart!"

He ignores me and then almost on cue, the Stranger grabs him with her emaciated hand and yanks him with inhuman force against the narrow opening of the cell bars. The demon is yelling and then screaming, the unholy sound filling the air and echoing through the vast prison. I realize what she's trying to do then the demon's arm breaks at the shoulder. She then grabs his head and slowly forces it through the narrow opening. She pulls and pulls. The sound of breaking bones and the rotten smell of the demon's body coming apart assaults our noses. Nick turns and retches. My demon is shouting now but still keeping his distance. The other demon's body is still being forced through the narrow opening and she twists and turns, breaking and pulling. He is wailing in pain, poor thing, since he can't die.

Her metallic wet smell and buzzing mixes with the poor demon and I get dizzy but still manage not to get sick. I glance up and see a security camera. The cell doors at the end of the hallway open and six demons are running down the hall towards us carrying weapons. The largest one, the officer who took our belongings, shouts when he sees the Stranger.

"That weren't the girl who was in here before! What happened to her and what in Hades is that thing?" The Stranger pulls the last of the unfortunate demon through the bars and throws him aside as a broken heap, his black blood pouring onto the concrete floor. She slams up against the bars, gripping them with her bony hands, and right at that moment April's face appears under her hood.

"Help me!!! HELP!!" she screams, her eyes wide with terror. She reaches her arm out from under the hood, extending it towards me. From her eyes I can tell she can't see any of us. I grab her hand, pulling. April's body pulls out from under the hood just to her shoulders and then the Stranger grabs my arm at the wrist. Something grabs April from behind pulling her back into the darkness of the Stranger's hood. I'm yelling and yelling but I don't know what I'm saying. The Stranger pulls my arm with tremendous force and I slam up against the bars.

Fear and anger like I've never felt drives me to a frenzy. I kick at her and try to pull my arm. She pulls and pulls, the buzzing is getting louder. I leverage my foot where her knee is and shove with all my might. She buckles but still does not let go. Now the force on my shoulder is unbearable. In a moment my tendons will tear and my bones will break. Nick is yelling at the demons to do something. One of them reaches through the bars and slices off her arm at the upper arm.

I fall backwards into the other demons, the Stranger's hand still holding my wrist. It's moving oddly. I try to pry the hand off, but the grip is iron. Nick drops to his knees and together we pry off the hand. He throws it down towards the cell and the Stranger grabs it.

I'm rubbing my shoulder and the other demons move in front of me. They are cocking their weapons and then the sounds of gunfire echo madly through the cells. The sound is deafening in that place of steel and concrete. I put my hands to my ears but it doesn't help. Bullet casings fly everywhere and they are shooting the Stranger who is now at the back wall of the cell and jerking and swaying as the bullets hit her over and over. The acrid smell of gunpowder makes my eyes water as I watch in horrified fascination.

Nick hauls me to my feet with my good arm and pulls me towards the entrance. The door is open and there are no more guards at the station. I slump down on one of the chairs as Nick breaks open the locker with our things. He throws me my backpack and takes his sword. We can't talk to each other because the gunfire is still going on. As he turns to open the door I reach up to the wall and grab a couple of bowie knives still in their holsters. We run through the doors as more demons are running towards the station. They ignore us.

We find the elevator and go up towards the Concierge's office. We don't talk. Instead, I lean against Nick and he puts his arm around me, my ears still hurting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

FailSafe - Walk Into Dis (Part 5)

We walk through the door marked "Hades" and are standing to one side of a huge path with thousands of souls walking by. The path is at least four highway lanes wide and set into the rock. Three feet from where we are standing is a huge cement barrier and the roar of the traffic, mostly commercial vehicles, goes by. The barrier is pockmarked and streaked from various collisions. The path is worn smooth from the millions of souls who have used it. On the other side of the path are the cliffs and the huge landscape of Hell stretches out, all rocky landscape, black sky punctuated by red-orange clouds, and rivers, both watery and flaming. To our left is the flaming river Lethe and the giant bridge 20 lanes across. The bridge looks like the Golden Gate Bridge on steroids.

Nick is coughing. It is hot and the air is alive with the smell of sulfur. My eyes are stinging from the dust and I wipe my eyes. "You'll get used to the sulfur smell," I tell him. The souls glare at us as they pass by but they say nothing. Nick backs away away from me since I'm not longer shivering in the heat. The warmth is spreading slowly through my body, to my relief, although I know I'll be very uncomfortable soon when my seawater soaked clothes stick to my body.

"Hey, YOU!" We look at one of the souls, the shadow of a burly man wearing a torn jumpsuit. He shoves his way past the others and walks up to Nick. "Your sword is useless," I say, quickly. The man rounds on me.

"That's right, it's useless, pretty boy!" he says looking back at Nick. Then he turns back to me, laughs reaching out to grab me. I make a quick movement and then he goes flying into the crowd, knocking some of them down. The man recovers, sputtering and cursing, and then runs at me again. This time I easily throw him, slamming him into the barrier.

He gets up slowly, an ugly look on his face, but my words stop him short. "You're just a shadow. We can't hurt you and you can't hurt us."

He stands up, hands fisted, "It's NOT FAIR!!! I shouldn't be DEAD! I shouldn't be here with all these assholes!!! I shouldn't be dead at all!" The man begins to cry and then he runs at me one last time. I give him a gentle push. He collapses, sobbing so loudly that his voice is getting hoarse. I feel sorry for him but I know he'll get used to it eventually.

The rest of the souls just watch us as Nick and I walk in the same direction as them. We are heading towards the Great Gates, which loom ahead of us, blotting out the landscape.

"Okay, Miss Turtle, tell me what this is about," says Nick. I feel a pang as I think about Mr. Gryphon. I miss him and still won't let myself feel that loss. I don't speak for a moment as I get a hold of myself.

"This is Hell, as you no doubt guessed, and the way into the city of Dis. Let's hope April came this way."

"How will we know if she has?" Nick is no longer coughing, but he's still wiping his streaming eyes.

"People who are still alive don't come down here very often. I don't think we would be here if she wasn't here already. I have to put some faith in the emerald stones we all have." The crowd in front of us is thickening and slowing down. Everywhere we look the souls are mere shadows.

"Once they all settle in they will become less shadowy," I say, " They'll never be 'solid' as it were but they will become a little more solid. It's a way you can tell who has been here for a long time." The sounds of traffic and honking horns further off where the bridge ends and the roads are still a constant but aren't as loud.

"What's with the traffic?" asks Nick. We have stopped along with the crowd. My clothes are now heavy with saltwater and making my skin itch. I sigh. It will be a long time before I'll be able to take a bath.

"The demons are driving supplies into the city."

"Supplies?" Nick looks out over the heads of the souls towards the sounds from the roads.

"Yes, they need supplies here to keep everyone occupied," the crowd is all around us and I feel a deep pain in my chest. I try to get a hold of myself again but I can't this time. My throat begins to tighten and when I blink my eyes, tears run down my cheeks. I wipe my eyes, surprised. Nick turns to ask another question and stops. The hurricane that was threatening to blow through me is now tearing up my insides. I am shaking and then I am crying. Then I am wailing, then I can't see anymore.

I feel Nick take me in his arms and I lean up against him. He feels warm and reassuring but I miss the odd feathery smell of Mr. Gryphon. I wonder what I've done to myself and my world. I wonder what's going to happen to all of us, to me in the real world. I cry, a trembling loss. I'm grieving with sheets of salt water pouring out of my eyes. I cry so hard I'm not embarrassed anymore.

I cry for a long time and don't notice when the crowd around us starts moving. When I finally look up with puffy swollen eyes and stuffed nose I see the crowd is looking at me and still moving towards the Great Gates.

"Be glad you can still cry," says an old woman. She has short silver hair and is wearing a track suit. I say nothing in response, as I get my watery self together.

"Thanks," I say to Nick. He smiles at me. I wipe my nose with the handkerchief he's given me.

"Keep it. You can cry on my shoulder any time. It's nice to see you emotional and not so no nonsense. I look at him, my longing extending to him. I wonder what happened to him and why he is the way he is now.

"Nice, very nice," says a gutteral voice at my ear, making me start, "It's time you live ones came in for a chat." I should have noticed him coming from his rotten smell but I was too distracted.

Another demon appears next to Nick. He reaches for his sword but I put my hand up to stop him. "Tell your pup this is a neutral zone, designated by the Treaty. If he draws his sword he will be in violation," says the demon at my ear. His voice is rough, like sandpaper.

I nod towards Nick, "You'll have to leave your sword along. Can't use it here, like he says." Nick says nothing, just glares at me but he takes his hand off the sword. We are both escorted to the Gates, the demons' spidery fingers holding our arms. Both demons have reddish sweaty skin, angular bony bodies and narrow faces. Their eyes are black and they have razer sharp teeth. None of them have tails.

The other demons wave at our escorts as we pass the massive gates. The top of the Great Gates are thick enough for three lanes of traffic although there's never that many vehicles on top of it. We are taken to a door way in off to one side of the main gate and shoved into an elevator takes us up.

"You'll be needing to talk to the Concierge. He's going to have a lot of questions to ask," says the demon holding my arm. The rotten smell of them is overwhelming, making our eyes water even more. The other demon speaks in a low guttural voice and we can't understand him. The sound makes my hair stand on end. Nick shudders behind me.

"It's the language of the devil. That's why it has that affect on you," I say to Nick.

"You know a fair bit about us, eh?" asks my demon. My eyes are watering from the smell of both of them in the elevator.

"Yes," I don't bother to explain to him that this is my world and I should know something about it.

"The Concierge will be happy to see you. It's not often that we get three live ones in one day," says Nick's demon. Nick glances at me. I feel a flush of relief. The stones do work to keep us together. The doors open and in the vast white marble hallway more demons and monsters from a thousand nightmares are scuttling back and forth.

A bored looking human soul, sitting at the front desk of the Concierge, barely glances at us. He is an almost solid form and is dressed in purple robes. He was a young man when he died.

"Take them to the cells. Concierge is in a meeting," he says waving us away.

"What's he meeting about?" says my demon.

"I can't tell you that!!! Now take them away!" My demon sniffs in irritation.

The demons take us down the hallway to another elevator, this one has stone walls. We go down and the demons resume their inhuman comments to each other.

"Looks like we lucked out, Miss Turtle," says Nick.

"Yes, it sure does. I'm not sure how we're going to get out of here once we're locked up but it will be good to see April."

"She'll be irritated but glad to see us anyway," says Nick. I glance at him, a feeling of jealousy spreading over me. We are dragged through security and then searched and stripped of our belongings and weapons. We are then escorted into the elaborate prison but there are no other prisoners. Still, I'm happy we're all going to be together again. I'm thinking this when we are escorted past a long line of empty cells and the other prisoner finally comes into view. It's not April.

FailSafe - The Maze (Part 4)

It was decided that Nick, April, and I would take the trip to Hell to look for the sword. The others were afraid but I could tell they were relieved. We spent a half day getting ready and making last minute arrangements to reinforce the Library. I'd finished wrapping both feet and were trying to slip on my sturdy black boots when April knocked at the door and came in. She closed the door.

I glance at her but turn my attention to my boots. "What's on you mind?" I ask.

"I don't know. I think I'm afraid," she looks forlorn all of a sudden. A small teenage girl in a schoolgirl outfit.

I lace the boots up, finishing one then starting the other, "You should be afraid, this is Hell, after all."

She fidgets. "Don't you think it's...wrong to even talk about Hell? I mean, it could offend someone."

I finish my boot and stand up, testing them. "No. Dante didn't shy away from talking about Hell, did he?" I look up at her. "Look, I'm not saying I'm Dante but it's been done and who cares if people are offended. They can leave the story if they want. Even send me hate mail. I don't care."

"It's just weird. You aren't even religious and yet you talk about religious things all the time in your stories."

"The Bible's great fodder for stories. Christian imagery is well-known. I'm on the outside of the stained glass window looking in. Take your pick."

"I don't get it. Are you preaching at your audience?" She is still uncomfortable.

"Come on. It's time to go. We need to leave this conversation and move on with the story," I say grabbing my small backpack, "Are you going to change?"

"Yes, I think so," she says.

"Good. Meet us down at the maze entrance." She leaves, frowning when she looks back at me. I can't tell if she noticed I changed the subject instead of answer her question about preaching.

Later, we are all assembled at the entrance door to the maze. April has changed from her usual school girl uniform to wearing boots, loose fitting green cargo pants, a blank tank top and a black linen vest with pockets. The doors are reinforced metal. I am giving everyone instructions to seal off the doors after we've gone.

"No matter what happens seal the doors closed until I come back."

"What if she tries to impersonate you?" I stop. I hadn't thought of that happening but since she looks just like me it's not something that's impossible.

"I'll give you a password," I lean towards my Dead Self and whisper in her ear. She smiles at me.

"Good luck, Girlie," she says. The three of us, a now silent April, a nervous looking Nick, and I, wave for the last time and then step through the double doors. As soon as the doors are closed, we can hear the sounds of the doors being sealed and reinforced. We walk down the short flight of stairs and into the maze. The blue doors have a distinctive whoosh and grinding sound as they move and shift. The lights are on and we are approaching the first fork in the path and the first map.

[The Maze is a huge section of the sub-basement of my Cathedral and it is really a maze. It features thousands of my blue doors that shift and whoosh by. They are either geographic locations (some fantastical), songs, films, other times and places. If you open a door that says, "Kew Gardens," you can walk through the door and walk right into the garden.]

"What are we looking for?" asks Nick as he looks at the map.

"Nothing there, that's just to get you oriented. We need to find the right door. It will come along or something like it soon enough but we have to get deeper into the maze to increase our chances," I say.

Nick looks at me, "That's weird. Why have a random maze that changes all time?"

"Makes it more difficult," says April. I look at her. She's bothered by something and not just the religious aspects of this story. We walk on. The floor is still carpeted but the path will slope downwards taking us deeper underground and the carpet will give way to dirt and then to stone. We are all looking at the doors as we walk by. Titles like "Burning Man 2007," "The Iliad," and "Atlantis" whoosh into place, pause, and then move on.

We start on the downward slope randomly taking any path, still looking at the doors. The path gives way to dirt and then to stone. The air becomes still and the smells of dirt and stone take over. We don't talk. April is still brooding. I stop to look at a door that says "The Endurance Expedition."

"What happens if we get separated in here?" asks April.

I look at her, "We won't."

"What if we do?" I look at her not knowing what to say. I can get back home just by summoning a blue door but neither of them can. If they get lost, go through one of the doors in this maze, they might be trapped there forever. I can always come find them but if something happens to me, no one else will be able to.

"We're screwed, aren't we?" says April. I press my lips together. Nick is a little ways down the hall. Beyond him is a corner. He walks back towards us.

I smile, remembering. I pull off my small backpack and pull out a large emerald large enough to fit in the palm of my hand. I found it on my last major adventure with Mr. Gryphon and it saved my life. I squeeze it once and it splits neatly into three stones. I hand one each to Nick and April. "It's the Light of my Way. It will bring you home when you're in lost and will light your way when there's no light. Don't lose it."

"Do you think it will bring us together if we get separated?" asks Nick, looking at it closely.

"I don't know. I've never split it up before." April gives me a small smile. She looks visibly relieved as she looks at her third of the stone. It casts her Asian features in green light. She pockets the stone. We continue on down the hallway and turn the corner staying close together and looking at the doors.

The lights go out suddenly. It is so dark that the inky black seems solid. Nick's stone lights up first and then mine and April's. I pull out my knife looking around. April pulls out her own knife and Nick draws his sword. We wait. The blue doors, now an odd shade of gray green in the emeralds' light continue to whoosh by, pause, and then leave again.

I smell the Stranger from behind just before she slams into me. I'm pinned to the current blue door and before I can do anything, she opens the door and shoves me through it. I yell. I'm falling and falling then I hit freezing cold water. I slip easily into the crystal clear water, the cold enveloping me, as I slide down three feet below the water. I look up and fight for the surface. The daylight is blinding, bright blue, cold, and I see icebergs when I surface. I can't breath, taking a breath feels like death, and it feels like a thousand knives are stabbing into my body. I flail in the water. The sea water must be below freezing or close to it. I have to get out of here before my limbs go numb and hypothermia sets in and before the Stranger does the same thing to the others. I stretch out my arm and a floating blue door appears while the cold is squeezing all the air out of me. I take small gasps, mostly because of the pain. I swim to it as fast as I can, my arms moving awkwardly in the water. I push the door open, and fall through the door, choking and gasping. I'm back in the hallway. The door slams, keeping out the cold water. I can't breath and my body is shaking violently. April is nowhere to be seen but Nick is fighting the Stranger with his sword. I can't move, I'm so cold. I can't feel my legs but I will my limbs into motion. I stumble towards her and I pull out my knife and stab the Stranger in the back of the neck. Curiously, she screams instead of buzzing and looks back at me, her hood falling away. I am almost eyeball to eyeball with my own self. It's like looking right into the mirror only she has that weird wet metallic smell. I feel my stomach contract but I don't retch. She hisses or rather buzzes at me then runs for the nearest blue door. She vanishes through it. It says "US Festival." The door moves whooshes on

"Doesn't seem fair," I say when I can finally speak, still trembling from the cold.

"What isn't fair?" Nick is leaning against the wall, he picks up his emerald which has fallen on the floor.

"She gets to see the Ramones and I don't."

Nick laughs, an ugly hard sound. "She could be there on Heavy Metal Day. You know, Quiet Riot, and all." Now it's my turn to laugh but it turns to gasps.

"Did you see where April went?" My legs are cramping from the cold.

"No. Too busy getting attacked by your evil twin."

"Thought so. Come on," I reach out my hand to him, he takes it. I sigh. I'm still freezing cold and his hand is warm and reassuringly large. He moves closer to me, hesitates, and then puts his arm around me to offset my shivering. I reach out my hand and a blue door appears in front of us. It says, "Hades."

FailSafe - A Break In the Action

***The following post was written after I wrote the first three chapters of this story, formally known as "The Tower" now entitled "FailSafe." I'm including it here because it's part of the whole package.***

So I'm seeing that my new story, "The Tower," has taken on epic proportions. I knew I had to write another story about Mr. Gryphon but I didn't know what to write. I just started the opening line and then we were climbing the stairs in The Tower. I didn't know about the Stranger until I literally looked out the window in the story. I did scare myself too because I saw the Stranger for the first time when I wrote those words. Likewise, I didn't know Mr. Gryphon was going to be killed until I couldn't hear him climbing up the stairs. Everything is unfolding as I'm writing or minutes beforehand.

Such is the creative process. Almost all my stories with Mr. Gryphon unfold like this as they go along. I was surprised about the Rocketeer. I thought he was gone a long time ago. I knew he was going to pull me through the door but only after the door appeared and I pushed it open.

I have a vague idea how the story as a whole will end but I didn't know the Stranger was me until they were carrying me to the clinic. They say we battle ourselves in stories and that's what mythology is supposed to show us.

Sometimes when I'm working on my novel things unfold like this but more often than not I attempt to do some advance planning. Lately, though, I'll write a scene and forget about it. When I go back to read it I've been pleasantly surprised.

All the characters here existed before in other stories or there have been references to them on my blog. There are three other aspects of myself: my 36 year old self, my Dead Self, and April. In truth, all the characters are me but those three are most directly me. April is a teenager and lethal when she wants to be. She is very dangerous. It's probably why she looks like Go-Go.

The Forest of My Imagination consists of the Library, a massive cathedral-like structure I dreamed about a few times. There's a huge maze in the basement with many blue doors. The doors shift and move around all the time so it's difficult to find the door you're looking for. The doors have signs on them that say things like: "London in 1875," the "Song-Every Day Is Like Sunday," and "The Ed Sullivan Show Featuring The Doors." If you go through the door you'll find yourself there. I can travel back through time, into songs and books, but not forward in time. There's also my living quarters where Chapter 2 of the story takes place. A conservatory, gardens, and observatory are in the "backyard."

Also in the Forest is a 20 bedroom mansion situated on a hill that used to belong to Mr. Gryphon, but now belongs to everybody else who lives here. There's a smaller maze with blue doors in that basement. There are the picnic tables in the forest, the Still Pool which is really a vast lake that goes back into the mountains beyond, and now The Tower.

On a parallel plane is the Burned Out Place Of My Nightmares. It's another place that I've dreamed about many times. Most significantly, my dream with April took place here. The landscape is desolate with very few trees and shrubs. The ground is stark and cracked. It seems as time goes on there are more and more crashed cars, planes, and other vehicles. Everything is rusting out and most of the vehicles are broken apart and lying upside down or on their side. It's not always dangerous but there's always that possibility.

Further out from the Forest is The Garden of Eden, Hell, and various points in between. I've written about all these places in stories before so all of them are fleshed out.

I'm not sure why I'm revealing all this information right now. In the past I've been loathe to disclose anything pertaining to these subjects but I feel compelled now just like I feel compelled to write this story down. I guess we'll see how it goes.

FailSafe - The Sword (Part 3)

I'm alone in my sitting room having tea at my table. There's a large chair opposite me, Mr. Gryphon's chair. It was custom built just for him. The living quarters in my Library are crowded with library staff and the others. I'm mending quickly, of course. Since this is all happening in my head I can afford to grant myself a speedy recovery. Dr. Patel, a straightforward woman, administered to my injuries. She didn't talk about the Stranger. My ankle is still sore but not broken. Dr. Patel made me promise that I would wrap my ankle and wear sturdy boots when I went out again.

There's a knock at the door and the Rocketeer comes in. He's wearing jeans and a shirt instead of his usual jumpsuit. He looks at the large chair. "May I sit?"

"Sure," I say. I wonder if he's going to sit at Mr. Gryphon's chair but instead he pulls up another one.

"How are you feeling?" he asks. He's frowning, but only a little.

"How do you think I'm feeling?" I shoot back at him, my voice too sharp, then I contain my anger. I take a breath. "I'm feeling much better, thanks. I have to wrap my ankle when I go out next."

"Are you going out next? May I?" he asks, gesturing towards the teapot and the empty cup. I close my eyes but I nod. Mr. Gryphon and I have spent many hours having tea together. I don't remember if anyone else has ever drank tea with me. I hear the sound of tea pouring into the cup and open my eyes. The Rocketeer says nothing as he sips. Instead, he watches me.

I blink tears from my eyes. "Of course, I'm going out. I have to. You know that," I shake my head in irritation, "Do you have another name besides the Rocketeer?"

"Of course I do," he says as he sets the cup down, "It's Nick. You're going to need help."

"Yes," I say, looking away from him, "I have to retrieve Mr. Gryphon's head." The opposite wall has plate steel over it to keep the Stranger out. It doesn't do anything for the soft sage green wallpaper.


I look back at him. "So I can bring him back, of course. Why else do you think?"

"I didn't know you could do that. Can you bring back Rex too?" He asks. I notice that his eyes are hazel colored with green flecks, like my Mom's eyes. He is reaching for a cucumber crustless sandwich.

"Of course. This is my world. I'll tell you this thing will end one of two ways. Either I get everyone back, including Mr. Gryphon, or that thing outside will destroy everything." I didn't realize it but now I'm standing on my feet looking down at him. The coldness starts in my chest again.

"April wants to know what that thing is exactly. She's right, you know, we won't know how to deal with it until you tell us," he says. He has finished with his cucumber sandwich and is reaching for the other one. I remember he's a vegetarian. I'm angry now but I take another deep breath. I want to tell him I don't know what that thing is and they're the ones who should tell me.

"Call everyone in and I'll do the best I can."

Nick assembles everyone while I pace the floor. My ankle feels steady enough. I remember how the Stranger had grabbed my left foot and broke by twisting it. It knew that I have a weak left ankle. I wondered if that's why it killed Mr. Gryphon outright. It probably knows all my weak spots. Everyone pulls their chairs closer to me. I have a lot of chairs both in my sitting room and in my real apartment. Many more than a single person should have.

Everyone is done assembling but I am still pacing. I gather my thoughts and then look at my Dead Self. She is still worried, her brow is furrowed. "You didn't see this happening, did you?" She doesn't speak, only shakes her head.

"You may know how my life turns out in the real world but you don't know about this one," I say.

"I suppose not, Girlie." It's a comfort to hear her nickname for me. She smiles a little. "'Tell me, will this affect the real world?"

"Of course, I just don't know how. I suppose it's another way of me working through the fact that I'm going through a major transition in the real world. No job. Uncertainty." I shake my head again.

"You do have a habit of putting yourself through hell," says April. She is watching me carefully, her arms folded across her chest. She doesn't have to remind me that Mr. Gryphon was always fond of telling me that. "Now tell us what we need to know."

I look at them all. "The Stranger is me, as you said. Only I am capable of destroying any of you and only I am able wreck so much destruction but it's a separate part of me. A part of me that has been exposed and gotten out of control. I don't know why. Maybe it's anger and frustration." I am pacing again. "The thing, as you've noticed, cannot be killed by conventional means. It's almost indestructible, in fact."

"Why?" asks April.

"I don't know. Clearly it's trying to tell me something. I've had such monsters before. Maybe it goes back to that old quote about stories, monsters, and children. The stories are there not so children would know about the monsters but so they would know monsters could be killed."

"So how do we kill it?" asks Nick. He is sitting on the outer edge of the group near the front.

"We can't," I say. A murmur runs through everyone and my sitting room seems to have gotten larger to accommodate the number of people.

"But we can put it back where it belongs so it doesn't cause so much damage." I stop pacing. I'm dreading this next part because it will mean a lot more work and that this story is going to be longer than I thought it would ever be. "We do that by finding Mithra."

"Who is Mithra?" April sounds annoyed. She glances at Nick and he looks back at her. I feel a little tinge of jealousy.

"It's the only way," I say to them, spreading out my hands. "Mithra is a special sword I wrote about in a story years ago. I only got a little way through the story but Mithra is the only thing that will work. It has a special blade that only I can wield. It goes against everything in the Universe."

I close my eyes, feeling ridiculous. How the hell do I come up with all this shit anyway? And why am bringing the sword into this story for crying out loud? "The sword has a special blade. It's capable of destroying anything by obliterating its energy. In my story from years back the blade was capable of destroying angels, demons, maybe even God, because it absorbs any kind of energy."

There's a silence. "You mean like a Black Hole absorbs everything?" asks my 36 year old self. Of course she would know about this because she wrote the damn story.

"Yes, kind of like that but not really. A Black Hole absorbs everything, including light because of its tremendous gravitational pull." There's another murmur. I sit down again suddenly tired. There's a lot ahead of us. And yes, there will be more than one person involved in this story.

"Well, can't we just go get the sword and take care of things?" asks one of the library staff. I smile at him.

"We can't do that because it's not here," I say. I smile bitterly.

"And where is it?" asks April.

"It's in Hell where I last left it."

"You don't mean the place of fire and brimstone and Satan and all that," says my Dead Self.

"Yes, I do mean that place."

"How is that possible? A place like that doesn't literally exist, does it?" says Nick. I notice he is sitting up a little straighter in his chair.

"It does in this Universe," I say. There's a groan all around. I stand up again and put my hands on my hips. What have I gotten all of us into?

FailSafe - Into the Library (Part 2)

When I wake up my head is killing me. I'm lying on cold stone and the tower room is dark. There's a full moon outside and a beautiful shaft of moonlight is shining in the middle of the stone floor. I lift my head up and almost pass out from the dizziness. I move my head slowly and look around.

I am alone. The huge room is virtually identical to the octagonal room at the bottom of the stairs except for eight suits of armor lying crumpled on the floor, their weapons and accessories scattered. There are small rocks and pieces of stone here and there from the previous fight. I realize the thing, that thing, had probably used one of the swords to kill Mr. Gryphon.

Mr. Gryphon. I close my eyes, a hurricane of emotion threatens to tear through my body but I manage to it hold off. There isn't much time and I must stay focused. I stand up slowly and then limp over to one of the crumpled suits. I examine it as best I can in the light. The sword is too large for me to carry but it has a belt and a dagger so I unbuckle it and take it for myself. Something drips down my face and I think for a moment that it must be tears but it's blood from the wound in my head. I must get back to my Library so I can regroup and think of what needs to happen next. I can't leave yet, though. I need one of the swords. The seventh one is a smaller than the others and easier to carry. I'm too short to put it around my waist so I carry it instead.

I'm faced with the daunting task to getting down the stairs in the dark by myself with my hurt knee. I could call one of my blue doors but I have a feeling I need to make it down this tower on foot. No matter, the moon, my old friend, is full and will give me enough light to descend by. I make my way down as fast as I can holding onto the worn wooden railing so I don't fall. Each step jolts my knee and I start to cry from both pain and grief. I stop and will myself not to cry. I need to concentrate and crying will make me want to give up. When I get a hold of myself I realize that thing, that Stranger, has special powers. It has the ability to call my blue doors at will. Nobody has that ability except me. I wonder what this means, and who or what that Stranger is. I start the descent again.

I wonder also who has the power to kill Mr. Gryphon. It's true he died once but that's because I was run through with a sword at the same time. There was also that time where I was killed but he was unharmed. He's never died on his own before. I stop on the stairs, thinking. If he's never died before then that means...

And then I hear the sound of scraping on the stairs below me.

I freeze in place, gripping my sword, listening. I hear the steady step of someone climbing the stairs. I think about calling one of my blue doors or turning to go back upstairs but I decide to stand and wait because if it's that thing I can try to get Mr. Gryphon's head back. I grip the sword with both hands, holding it out in front of me. It's heavy and my left wrist is starting to hurt from carrying it. The dragging sound is getting louder and louder until I can hear it just behind the tower curve below me. The Tower stairs seem to be getting smaller, shrinking in on me. A cloud passes in front of the moon, casting everything in shadow. There's a cold breeze and I can just smell the sea. I wait, sweating. I feel stinging on my head as the sweat runs into the wound.

Because of the breeze I see the Stranger's cloak billow before it comes into full view. It's holding the sword it took but it doesn't have Mr. Gryphon's head. The thing stops and waits a few steps below me. The place below the hood is still nothing but blackness. It's as if the light itself has been absorbed where the face should be.

I take two quick steps and my sword sings as it slices through the air and cuts the Stranger in half at the waist. I lose my balance as I try to swing again, falling to the ground and then I roll down a few stairs. I look up at the Stranger and it is grabbing at its other half. I drag myself up to a tottering standing position, swinging my sword again. The Stranger grabs the sword blade, stopping its progress, and I slam against the stone wall from the momentum. I watch, the coldness in my chest stabbing painfully, as the Stranger's emaciated hand holds the sword blade. The blade should slice right through the fingers but doesn't. I pull on the blade but the Stranger holds steady. I pull again and the blade slices its hand, making it let go. I fall backwards, tumbling down the stairs, feeling something in my ankle crack. I cry out and the sword falls from my hand, clattering down the stairs.

I look up and see the Stranger crawling down the stairs towards me with only the top half of its body, terminator-style.

"Shit," I say, "I can't believe this is happening." I reach back for the sword. I can't grab it but I can push further it behind me and out of the Stranger's way. The sword clangs behind me and I turn to crawl down the stairs, my ankle and knees are hurting and swelling up. Then the Stranger grabs my foot and I start yelling and kicking.

The fury and grief overflow and I'm yelling and kicking. "No, No, NOOO! This is my world. This is my place. You don't belong here. Let go of me, you MUTHERFUCKER!!!" There's a buzzing sound in response and the Stranger has both of its hands on my left ankle. In one quick motion, it turns it, my ankle breaking and destroying the tendons. I howl in pain and then I turn away and reach out to the darkness with one hand. A blue door fades into existence and I will it to open as I slam my fist into the blue wood. The door opens and I try to drag myself through it but that thing has my other foot. I pull and pull away from it but then it grabs the back of my leg. I turn and pull my dagger from its sheath and slam the blade into the Stranger's shoulder. The thing buzzes again and I smell an organic wet metallic smell, like blood with too much iron in it. The Stranger lets go of my foot and I move as fast as I can. I feel the fingers brushing my shoes and then something grabs me on the other side and pulls me through the door. The door slams shut and I'm lying on a carpeted floor. I cry, pressing my face into the floor, my ankle broken and my knees hurting.

"Miss Turtle," I look up, eagerly expecting Mr. Gryphon, but instead it's the Rocketeer. I stare up at him.

"What are you doing here? I thought you'd gone." Before he can answer me, there's a pounding on the blue door behind me. I turn and stare in shock. The thing is slamming into the door on the other side.

"That's not possible," I saw, sitting up, tears forgotten. I turn to the Rocketeer, "How is that possible?"

"I don't know but its going to come through, believe me. We need to leave. Right now," he reaches down and pulls me up. I yelp in pain but he is strong and steady. He has his arm around me, holding me up. We start moving and I see we are in part of my Library. All the while the pounding on the door continues until there's a breaking, splintering sound, and I turn back to see the emaciated hand shoving the broken wood aside. It must be standing up to be able to do that which means it some how mended itself.

In front of me are two heavy metal doors. We are in one of the satellite research areas, and judging from the specimens on the tables, we are in the botany department. The Rocketeer shoves open the heavy metal door and pulls me through it. There's a splintering crash and whoosh behind us and I know the Stranger has come through the door. The Rocketeer pushes hard on the door but the Stranger slams into it. I push too but the thing is strong. I try to get purchase with my one good foot but I can't, and I'm sliding backwards. The Rocketeer pushes as I'm slipping to the floor, knees and remaining good ankle screaming in pain. I can see the thing's billowing cloak and smell that wet metallic smell. Then we hear the sound of running behind us and more people help us shove the door closed. It slams shut and the Rocketeer slams the huge, heavy bolt into place.

I slump to the floor, the tears overflowing again. People are standing above me but I don't bother to look up at them. Someone leans down to me. I expect that person to be concerned about me but instead I hear, "Stop crying." I look up and it's April. I first met her in one of my nightmares. The nightmare was so disturbing that Mr. Gryphon and I went into it to talk to her. I wrote a wrenching three-part story about it. April and I eventually made peace and now she's part of my world. She looks a lot like Go-Go from Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill, Part 1."

"We've been waiting for you," she says, her voice laced with a coldness I haven't heard in a long time. The thing on the other side of the metal doors starts pounding again. "Don't worry," she says gesturing towards the doors, "It can't get through them."

"But it's in my Library. What is it? And how is that possible?" I ask. They all look at me, the Rocketeer, April, and some of my library staff. I can feel the force of the blows on the other side of the door. No one answers. Instead, April and the Rocketeer pick me up and begin half-carrying, half-dragging me out of the room. I notice for the first time the Library is dark. I wonder why the lights are out.

"It's about time you came back, Miss Turtle. Everything's gone to shit since you've been gone," says April, her perfect cut black bangs swaying.

"But I've been here, haven't I? Somewhere below my consciousness? Haven't we've been having our usual adventures?" I ask as we turn right and make our way across the great reading room and under the massive dome above it. Moonlight is streaming through the windows, in strange broken patterns. I look around, "Stop," I say. We stop and I stare around at the main floor of my Library.

It's not only dark but books are piled on the floor instead of the shelves and I see the main entrance has been barricaded. The stained glass windows now have steel bars across the them. I feel a breeze because some of the windows have been broken. There's glass everywhere. The tables and chairs have been overturned and some of them are smashed. The massive dome above has a network of steel bars over the stained glass.

"What happened?" I ask, my voice faint and hoarse.

"While you were gone with Mr. Gryphon that thing attacked the Library. It killed many of the staff before we were all able to get here," says April. I make a choking sound but she ignores me. "T-Rex managed to hold it off for a bit. We thought it was going to be fine when he bit the thing in half but it has regenerative powers and it's able to make itself whole again. Rex finally grabbed the thing and dragged it outside while we barricaded the doors. The fight was horrible, but the Stranger managed to kill him all the same."

"Rex is dead?" I start to cry again but everybody ignores this. T-Rex with his 6th grader toilet humor was gone. He was always teasing Mr. Gryphon about how I was his "girlfriend."

"Yes, he's dead," says April, her voice weary, "He turned to powder immediately but his skeleton remains outside the door." I hang my head and they start walking again towards my suites.

"We barricaded the rest of the windows while the Stranger tried to smash its way through them. Thank God you insisted on thick glass and lead supports on your windows. It was only able to smash through a few of them," said the Rocketeer.

We stop at the entrance of my suites and the Rocketeer raps on the door. There's a pause as someone from the other side looks through the peephole and the door flies open.

"Oh my GOD! You found her. What happened? Is she all right?" It's my 36 year old self. She's wearing an oversize sweater as usual. She's chubbier than me and has long hair too. In one of my stories I found her in a cave deep underwater and we swam out of it together. She drowned and disappeared as we swam up the black waters for the surface but she ended up here anyway because we'd rescued each other.

"She'll be fine. Out of our way, we need the doctor," says April briskly. My 36 year old self closes the door behind us, locking it as we make our way to the clinic. There's free health care for everyone in Miss Turtle's world. I see my Dead Self whom I discovered in another story. She's usually so relaxed but I see her old face lined with worry. There's more library staff, all wearing long tattered robes. They smile when they see me.

"I can't believe this is happening! What happened to my universe?" I say, crying some more.

"Sure, you've been up on the roof in daylight with Mr. Gryphon having tea for months on end but you haven't been paying attention to anything going on down here.

"Mr. Gryphon," I say and I hang my head to cry some more.

"Shut up! We need you to focus on what's going on. We're all in trouble and you need to do something about it," April's voice is now ice cold angry. I recognize that tone.

"We're going to get you fed, patched up, and then we're all going to sit down and have a talk," says the Rocketeer.

"Who asked you?" I say, sniffing.

"You did since you left me here. Remember? You dreamed up and left me here," he says. He's still really cute even when he's annoyed with me. I notice that his glasses have been repaired since I last saw him.

"I thought you dreamed me up," I say. He look away from me, frowning. We are almost to the clinic. I'm feeling a grave helplessness where the cold fury used to be. I can't stand it anymore.

"For God's sake, People, what is that thing?" I finally shout. Both the Rocketeer and April stop.

"Miss Turtle, we weren't going to tell you this until you were seen by the doctor but I'm sick of your crap so I'll tell you now," says April. She is speaking slowly. "That thing, that Stranger, is you."

I gape but nothing comes out. I know deep down that she's right. I know this because there's no one who could kill Mr. Gryphon except me. I close my eyes trying to shut out the rest of implications of this truth. No one speaks again when we get to the clinic. I'm hurt and exhausted.

FailSafe - An Explanation

The original title of the story was "The Tower" and I had posted parts 1-3 on my other blog "Fainting in Coils." After I finished it, though, I decided to re-post the first three chapters here and will continue posting the entire story on this blog instead.

This is a long story, probably 30+ pages, and I realized "The Tower" wasn't the right title. I've done a bit of grammatical editing to "Chapter 1." I wanted to post the story here because this will be the first time I've offered a story I've written to anybody other than my ex or my therapist. Keep in mind that it's what I call a "personal" short story, that is, it deals with very personal issues going on with me. All of it is cloaked in heavy fantasy but it's still means there's something I trying to work through. I'm still not 100 sure what that could be. It should become clearer as I post these chapters, at least to me.

Just a warning, this story is very heavy in religious, most likely blasphemous imagery. The last major story featuring Mr. Gryphon was "The Coda" and it had some religious imagery but nothing like this one. As you all know I'm not a religious person but I find myself drawn to these subjects. I wonder what that's about?

I wanted to make this story available to my very small readership. I'm curious to see what you all think of it. Comments are welcome, as always. Thanks for reading.

FailSafe - The Stranger Upstairs (Part 1)

"Mr. Gryphon I've been trying. Really, truly."

I hear a sigh behind me. I'm getting winded as we climb up old narrow stone steps of a black tower. The stone walls look like they're straight out of some kind of medieval dungeon. The staircase curves claustrophobically upward.

"I've been going to and opening up a new post for days. I keep staring at the blank page but I didn't know what to write."

Still no answer but at least my imaginary friend is behind me. I can hear the slight scraping of his claws on the stone steps. He can easily take many stairs at a time and has to walk hunched over because he's 7 feet tall. In fact, I'm having difficulty climbing the stairs myself. It seems they were made for people with small feet and short legs, smaller and shorter than mine even.

"This is not comfortable, Miss Turtle. You should have just let me fly us up to the top," he says. He's not winded at all. The light from the day is turning the stones a bluish color. Shafts of light play bright rectangles on the opposite wall. There's no glass on the windows, just the open air.

I say nothing because I'm breathing hard now. I haven't been swimming so I'm in lousy shape. My thighs are starting to burn as we wind our way up and up the tower.

We're on our way up a new building in the Forest of My Imagination. Both Mr. Gryphon and I saw it the other day while having tea on one of the small roof patios of my cathedral style Library. It was far off in the distance in a direction we hadn't spent much time exploring. The tower is on a slight hill, very tall and narrow. The stones are weathered and black. When we got there the gate was looked up tight but since this is my imaginary place I was able open the gate with my ring of keys. The door was locked too but when I opened it the huge octagonal ground floor was old but quite clean. No cobwebs at all.

There's nothing on the ground floor, no furniture, no rugs. Nothing but open stone space. I insisted we climb the stairs. Now the stairs are feeling drafty as the sun is about to set. I lean out of one of the rectangular windows and look up. And scream. Instantly, Mr. Gryphon pushes me aside and looks out the window. He looks around a bit and looks back at me.

"What did you see?" he asks. His claws are just visible under his talons. He does that when he thinks I'm in danger. I am leaning against the wall, just to the right of a sunlit rectangle. He is single-minded.

"I saw," I close my eyes and open them again. "I saw someone upstairs looking down at me from one of the windows. They were wearing a dark cloak and the place where their face would be was pitch black."

"You saw someone upstairs?"

"Yes," my heart is beating faster because of what this means.

"Was this person at the top or on the stairs?"

"Stairs," I say as my throat goes dry. We both look up. I can't hear anything. Mr. Gryphon cocks his head to one side, listening.

"I hear something, but I'm not sure what it is. I'm going ahead. You stay here and don't move. I'll come back for you."

"Why can't I come with you?"

"I have to find out what's up there first," he says. I'm looking down at my shoes. I'm afraid. I don't want to be left alone. "I'll be right back," he says leaning close to me. I get a whiff of his warm furry smell.

"Mr. Gryphon if something happens you're not going to be able to get out of this tower through the window or by flying down the stairs."

"Don't worry about it. I'll be right back," he says. I take a deep breath and slide down to the floor. The rectangles are starting to turn orange in the setting sun. I watch my friend disappear around the curve of the stairs. I wait, listening to his progress until I can't hear him anymore. My friend is my confidente and protector. He would never let anything bad happen to me. It's built into his nature.

The stones up here in the tower are clean too and there's a slight musty smell of old rocks. I hear a strange sound, a low buzzing sound. I cock my head. The buzz grows louder and then I heard a terrible screech that ends with a roar loud enough to vibrate the walls. Then there is a tremendous jolt that knocks me down a few stairs. Then another and another. Small pebbles scatter loose and fall down. I stand up and then the screech starts again. It's Mr. Gryphon and he's screaming now. I run up the stairs as fast as I can, falling and stumbling, but I keep going. The roaring and screeching gets louder and louder as I get closer. I fall and hit my knees and get up again. I run and run but I feel like I'm in a dream where I'm running from something and I'm not going anywhere. More jolts that slam me into the wall but I recover. Now, I hear a sound I've never heard before, the sounds of wailing. It's my friend and he is in pain and terror. My heart seizes up and I fall again. I get up and realize I've been calling his name over and over. Now I'm screaming and I see the top of the landing of the stairs, the door is slightly ajar. I throw myself through the door and stop cold.

I collapse to my sore knees, panting. Lying on the floor is my friend, Mr. Gryphon, or at least his body. The cloaked figure is holding a sword in one hand and Mr. Gryphon's head in the other. Mr. Gryphon's body is weeping blood and still twitching. His mouth is open from his last cries. I lean over, gagging.

I can barely speak, "What have you done?" I say to that, that thing. My voice is hoarse and a coldness is starting at my heart and spreading slowly outwards. The thing merely nods towards Mr. Gryphon's body. It's starting to turn to the color of ashes.

"No, NO, NOOOO" I scream as I run to his body. I reach out to grab his leg but he's already gone and all I have in my hands is a fine gray powder. I shove the powder into my pockets but I know it's no use. His body disintegrates and then the powder vanishes.

I try to stand up, weaving. There's grief, yes, but mostly there's a cold fury. "Give me his head," I say evenly. I advance towards the cloaked figure, limping but single-minded. I need his head otherwise I can't bring him back. The figure steps away from me and I realize his cloak is a very dark, almost black purple. There's a thin line of red around the opening where the hood is. Inside the hood there is nothing but blackness. The hands are bones covered with shrunken gray flesh. The thing holds the sword out to me. I hesitate since I'm unarmed.

A familiar blue door fades into existence next to the thing. I stare at the door not comprehending. In one quick motion it slips through the doorway taking Mr. Gryphon's head with it.

I scream and scream as I run towards to the door but I slam into the stone wall as the door closes and disappears. That thing and Mr. Gryphon's head are gone and I slip to the stone floor as everything goes black.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Writing Life: Writer's Notebook

I ponder the idea of the writer's notebook. I have one but I don't use it like I should. I've tried all kinds of variations on this theme. I've tried regular sketchbooks, so seductive with their hard covers and clean white paper, but they're too heavy. I use a larger size sketch pad sometimes but for all my regular sketching, when I'm at museums, for example, I'll use a small moleskine sketchbook. I used one on my last two trips and have it open to a page near my desk so I can see my own drawings. Very satisfying.

Back to the notebook. I've tried 3x5 cards along with the sexy circa notebooks from Levenger. Ah, Levenger. One of my friends said the catalogs were like crack cocaine. Indeed. I also have a cheaper circa punch and have make my own 4x6 circa index card notebook. Very, very cool if a little DIY. I have plenty of 3x5 cards with ideas, descriptions of things, etc. I don't read them, though.

Now I use a small squared (grid) moleskine notebook attached to a moleskine calendar with a few small binder clips. It's small, light, and satisfying. I sometimes think of keeping the calendar but switching back to my 4x6 homemade circa notebook but the moleskines look so wonderful so I just leave everything as it is. I've taken to making notes, doing rants in the notebook, writing lists, and generally writing down things that are sticking in my mind. I should be watching people and making a note of anyone interesting, listening to dialog and writing bits in my notebook, writing down descriptions of places, but I don't. It seems like such an effort. I do think doing these things would be a great way to pay attention to the here and now much like carrying around my camera everywhere helped me notice and see. I need to go back to carrying my camera again.

I hold back from making notes, though. I think it's because I keep telling myself that I should use 3x5 cards so I can file them away and have a great resource for my writing. The other day I read through a few pages of my notebook and was pleasantly surprised. It's fun to read something that seems kinda cool even if it's just a paragraph or two in my own notebook.

I should ask my fellow writers at my writing group what they do about taking notes. A writer is supposed to, after all. I do hold a bit of prejudice about such activities. I could take it to an extreme and remove myself from experiences because I'm too busy writing down rather than participating. Well, that's the extreme and it would take a lot to get to that point. These hesitations come from when I was working at the children's museum a long time ago. We would see parents behind their cameras and video cameras losing out on the experience of interacting with the kids and the exhibits. It was an ongoing challenge to get the parents to put down their cameras and just have fun with their kids rather than obsessively recording every moment.

The main thing is to use what I have. It's always a challenge for me whether a moleskine notebook or a great point-and-shoot camera.