Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Taking Advantage

I couldn't help myself.  I had to join in Nathan Bransford's "The Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge."  I hate to take advantage such a clearly nice guy.  He even posted my submission for me because (I'm guessing) the dial-up load times were interfering with my ability to comment on that particular post.  I was able to comment on other posts so I believe I was timing out or some such.  Anyway, I looked over my stuff and decided, weirdly, to try with the opening to Mayhem, I think because it stands out most of all my openings.  This makes me want to rewrite the opening to Masks yet again.  Gawd, I just want to smash my head through the wall every time I think about changing the opening to Masks.  Anyway:

As a small child I once lost my balance and touched my hand on a red hot stove.  Before the pain stabbed into my fingers and struck my mind I remember feeling foolish and frightened.  I cried out a not-very-small-child curse and put my fingers in my mouth just as the pain hit me.  My mother hurled herself across the kitchen and pulled me up into her arms.  That scent of our tribe's plush wool, the softness of homespun cloth against my face, the red hair of a Kilhells woman and green eyes staring into mine had always brought me comfort.

I know I'm dreaming, but that same hot pain I remember feels real, and there's no comfort this time.  I'm trapped in that room again, the desert heat doubled by infernal fire in a hearth.  I'm tied with bark rope on top of a camel hair rug.  Instead of hot pokers, carving instruments are heating to white brilliance three feet from my face.  There's a helefrit straddling me.  Nearby, the blood of an infant has dried to black flakes.  I want to wake up, but just like when it was actually happening, I'm helpless.

Something wooden cracks nearby and all at once I'm awake, gasping, my heart pounding so hard it hurts.  My body tingles from the memory of my flesh burning and I'm sticky and smelly with sweat.  I'm back in the present, cradled in a hammock in the belly of a sailing ship.  Sailors stand around a barrel they've dropped.  One sailor glances my way from under the brim of his dirty white hat with an apologetic look.  The others don't meet my gaze.  I'm not sure if they know something's wrong with me, or if it's just me.  My name is famous.  I'm famous, though hardly anyone has met me.  It's always a surprise when people take my word for it that I am who I say I am.  I'm plenty tall for a woman, but I don't think I'm tall enough for a myth.  I don't wear armor, I've lost my sword, and not only did I fail to do anything to aid the war, I think I might be on my way to assassinate the only man who can save the world.

I think people believe that no one would dare claim they were me.  I don't feel up to defending my name or my honor, though, as I awkwardly climb out of the hammock and go to ease the pressure in my bladder.  I don't stagger as the massive ships rocks from one side to the other.  My sea legs come back faster each time I sail, and take longer to go away when I'm on dry land again.  For hours after a long voyage, sometimes overnight, it feels like the land rolls under me, and I often dream of storms at sea.


Carissa said...

Congrats to entering!

One of these days, you'll have to start giving us Mayhem to critique. So I won't do it here. Except to say that I think your opening line should be "I'm plenty tall for a woman, but I don't think I'm tall enough for a myth." That just jumped out at me.

And you aren't going to want to know what I think you should do about your opening to Masks. Actually, to everything before him sailing up to Perida, where the tone changed for us.

But I think you know what I'd say.

Carole said...

Quite honestly, I think this is the finest writing I have read of yours to date, and I've read some great stuff.

Carissa said...

Oo, yeah, my comment sounded snarky. Sorry. I had written in there that this was a great opening and I loved the descriptions about touching the hot stove, but I must have deleted it when I was tweaking the comment.

Anyway, yeah, ditto Carole. Definitely want to read this (and not just for a critique!) Having never read the original ms would make it all the more interesting, too! It'll be a brand new story that I've heard so much about over the years.

I'm really glad you worked on it during Nano.