By now we should all know that my brain isn’t fully formed and therefore I like to work on potential new stories even before I’ve finished my latest novel(s). This would be a huge problem if I had a publisher waiting for my next book, but we’re not quite there yet, people. Meantime, shrug.
At some point—I can’t remember when because it was probably late and there was a good chance I was drunk—I wrote up the beginnings of what would be a far future post-apocalyptic story called Dust and Fury. I wanted to create a first-person novel, which I hadn’t done before, and then my fingers did that thing they do. Type, in case that wasn’t clear.
Not sure I’ll ever come back to this. Maybe. Maybe not. Right here and now, it doesn’t call to me. That’s probably because I’ve got a few other ideas that have my immediate attention. (Yes, after Degenerate.) There’s an innocence and mystery to the main character in Dust and Fury that I do find quite genuine and intriguing, though. So anyway, here’s an excerpt of a story stuck in time.
Before my sister turned wrinkled, saggy and brittle, in the days when the wind still smelled of sulfur, she would sing to me. Back then her voice was fresh silk, skin like milk, eyes as blue as the iciest spring, and heart not yet scarred by the blades of time. She would part my hair, stroke my locks, and sing the old songs from the old world, and I would lay my head on her lap, stare up into the orange sky, and sing back.
Sometimes we argued about silly tasks. Whose turn it was to replenish the purifiers in the garden. How many apples to eat and how many to freeze. When to light the bonfires so that we might ward off the mud demons.
And yet, for all of the suns I’ve seen since, I still remain a student of my favorite memory. I cherish it. I protect it. She, with her long, curly hair as bright as fire, singing, and me singing back.
She lives in the soil now. Like most of the others. Before she moved, her teeth fell out of her mouth and her hair took silver and thinned away to nothing as the fat melted off her bones. She started to forget the world, me included, and when I looked into those once-fierce blue eyes and sang, she only smiled her gums and nodded, but she didn’t sing back.
The biggest, ripest apples grow above her now and I think it’s because somewhere down below she’s finally found her voice again.
She once told me that the reason I don’t grow saggy and frail, too, is because some smart people cracked my head open and dropped a crystal inside me when I was a baby. She said the crystal tells bubbles in my blood to keep me ripe like an apple forever. I know this is some manner of science, just like the rusty turbines on the Great Bridge use science, but nobody really understands it. And if you don’t understand it, is it still science, or is it magic?
I don’t know.
There are some books with thousands of words in them in the city treasuries, and I’ve heard they tell of the First Ones and all of their peculiarities. They say they had big, whopping machines that drank black water and farted smoke. Windows that shone imagined realities. Carriages that traveled so fast they left sound itself in their wake. Elixirs that made them strong as giants.
Sometimes I think they must’ve been gods. But gods don’t die. And they’re all in the soil with my sister now.