Fiction: Half Shaman

Trial Book Cover
  1. Vigil

Jeb gulped water. She flailed and splashed, but sank to the top of her head. She hit a wall with her knuckles. Rose. Breathed, big gulps of air. Saw the sky, a round dark disk. No stars. Called. “Help!” Heard a couple of some-ones running away, their feet pounding on the hard dust of the central yard.

She trod the water faster to keep her head above it. Earth water was thinner than Lotor’s treacle-like stuff. The Earth-born ate Lotor’s water from a spoon. She bent her neck. Sucked in cool melt-in-her-mouth water with hardly a scent or flavor.

No cistern-woman would ever tolerate someone dunking in a cistern. Accidental or not, Jeb would be hauled to the magister and sentenced to waste-and-water-carrying for the rest of her time.

But this was a dream. Lucid dream, she’d had it so often. She stayed upright by paddling with her hands, hating the nightly drowning.

The sides of the dream-well tonight were dressed stone. Impossible. Lotor’s thirst for Earth’s water was legendary. Lotor would suck a human dry … say a man wandered home drunk between a pair of villages and accidentally stepped from the stone path … Lotor would’ve tossed aside his husk by the time the man’s friends came looking for him. As a child, Jeb always wondered how Lotor would suck a human dry?

But anyway, real cisterns had seamless metal envelopes inside their extruded-stone walls. How did this water not soak away between the dry-laid stones?

****

I open my eyes. Only while dreaming can I still be Jeb and even that isn’t my real name. I tip my head back to see the state of the day by the light in the window slot high in the wall opposite the door. The sky is grey. Therefore the time is dawn. Can I recall anything useful from the dream?

The fact that everything followed logically could mean something. I am getting better at lucid dreaming?

Clink.

Be still. Don’t move. I listen. I’ve been here for three years and now they put a prisoner in the next cell? Does it mean they have discovered me? Who I am? What I am? During my first week here, guards told me every day they’d be fixing the gap between the top of the share-wall and the ceiling. Nothing was ever done.

Suspicion flares through me. They left it undone purposely. It took them all this time to find the right informant? The gap is about the height of a ten-cube, enough that I hear every move the new prisoner makes. He snores now. Why not before? He snuffles sometimes. Am I meant to think that a guard broke his nose? To make me believe he is not in their pay?

Clink.

That tells me that he is in chains. He’s meant to be dangerous?

I grin silently and ferociously. He has to be dangerous to be next to me. I creep out of bed. Sling my cloak around me and silently slide down to sit cross-legged against the opposite wall.  

“I heard you, you little fake,” the prisoner says.

My cloak slithered down the wall. I laugh silently. I’m pretty sure we’ve never met. I doubt he’d call me names if he did know me.

“You’re the shaman,” he says. “It’s up to you to save me.”

“What?” I’m so astounded that I forget that I’m masquerading as a young man.

“You’re the shaman that people out there are talking about.”

The man appears not to have taken in the girlishness of my voice. I hug myself to hold still my wobbling heart. “I’m not a shaman. I was kidnapped from the school after only three years training.”

 “Half shaman, then. A fake. Couple of hundred of Lotor-born sleep in the right-hand yard. A Field of Dreams is their destination and you know what happens there?”

I don’t say a word of what I know. All Earth-born know Soowei’s story inside out. She who was the daughter of the first Captain-of-the-Ship, saved herself from the first Field of Dreams and told her story to all who came after her.

The man continues without even taking a breath. “The fifty Totems in the left-side yard are here for saving and though I’m not one of them, so am I. They’re saying that all the shamans know the way home and that there’s only the couple of you remaining. Process of elimination, wouldn’t you say?”

My heart rolls over, I swear it. When I was taken three years ago, there were eighteen shamans still in the world. Oh tell me tell me what do someone?

There’s never any answer to such whims, of course. Next time I have a minute, I’ll have to recall Soowei’s story. Might be something in it that I can use.

The prisoner is the griping sort. “Where I want to go too,” he says. “Home, I mean. I picked a fight so I could get in here alongside you. Get you going? If you do nothing, I’ll be taken to the Field of Dreams with the worn-out Lotor-spawn. So get your act together and save us.”

I narrow my mind’s eyes. Him fighting in the Lotor-born yard or in Earth-born yard makes a big difference to my suspicions as to whom he might be. I niggle at his logic. “And if you hadn’t picked a fight?”

“The salt mines. No one comes back from them either.”

With that he tells me he picked his fight among the Earth-born.

Clink. Clink.

 “Something going on outside,” he says. “Damn it, I can’t reach the window.”

Every night I stand below the wide slot in the wall that serves as my window and look up to see the stars. I look for a fast-moving speck crossing the sky. The Ark Ship. Never seen it yet.

To see the exercise yards at the base of the building, I need to step up onto the piss-pot and grab hold of the bars in the slot that stop me escaping. I cling to them while I wedge my elbows into the sides of the blessed width.

The slot’s narrow vertical dimensions are to prevent a grown man crawling through. How would it even help him with the cell not on the ground floor? Never mind, a prisoner’s lot is not to reason why. I push my right toe into a depression in the mud-bricks worn there by every prisoner in this cell since the beginning of time. With my other foot I scrabble for the angle the back wall makes with the side wall.

Spread-eagled, I can see out. “The Lotor-born are being encouraged to rise,” I say. “They that need it are helped quite gently. They are allowing themselves to be marshaled into lines. There’s a soldier doling out hunks of bread.”

 “To chew during their walk,” the prisoner says.

I contradict him. “Their gates remain shut. It seems to me that they are being trained in the lining-up procedure.”

I’m chilled by the sight of the Lotor-born cast out from their villages for being sick, lame, old, and unproductive and being ministered by prison guards. I slide down to the floor. I sit down again, hunching my cloak around me.

“If the guards don’t come to get me in the next three minutes, you’ll have till tomorrow to spare me from the salt mines,” my neighbor says.

Ideas Mash-Up

First, being in a state of nit-picking doubt about my novel Meld, I re-read about the need for micro tension at sentence level. The novel’s so far milky pale sentences paraded in front of my mind’s eyes. I wondered where or when to start. Continue writing pale and milky? Start writing micro tension when I’m about half way? I haven’t even finished the first draft?

That was last week.

I started writing micro tension in Zebe’s POV chapter—where my head was at that moment—but soon hit a place where Zebe’s mood needed to be able to play off a moment of micro-tension that should’ve been written several chapters earlier.

Writing is a lot like sketching. For me, anyway. Sketching, I make a mark on my paper. Another mark alongside it, or continuing from it. If I make a mark in what proves to be a wrong place, I’ll erase it, and redraw it in a better place, or draw over the top of it.

Getting a story down, if I change direction, I can’t just keep writing into the now incorrect direction. I need to go back and change where that direction is coming from, to be able to remember it correctly for the next swag of material to be fitted into place.

And so I decided I need to start again, again. Bring the manuscript up to scratch before continuing.

BUT the day I present the Fungi Walk-and-Talk is approaching. Saturday 21 at 1 pm I’ll be out in Brunswick Valley Heritage Park trailing twenty keen-to-learn-all-about-fungi learners. Gone are Zebe and her problems. Because this week I’ve needed to refresh my mind on all things fungi. The novel is on the back-burner of the writing stove again.

Path through Brunswick Valley Heritage Park

Because, yes, there is what started as a little idea on the front burner. I asked myself, what could be a better way to practice writing micro-tension than with single, or at most two sentence stories? Of course I agreed. Who doesn’t, when they’re talking positivity at themselves?

Little stories they’ll be, part of larger stories of approximately 30 sentences and or 300 words. With that word count it could only be a kid’s book. Inevitably, I mashed that idea onto the Duplo story idea.

The Duplo people are tired of living in a box … They build a staircase for everyone to get up, and out…


[The staircase (previous post) is a MOC I learned, which is an acronym for My Own Creation.]

I’m using these sentences to learn my new version of Powerpoint, which is the only appropriate format I could find to publish a read-aloud book for toddlers. That, as well as another idea, is also a justification/rationalization to continue with this much more finishable project when I could working on my so far 77k sf manuscript.

At the same time as studying up on Fungi, of course.

Ideas … don’t ignore them

#ideas #Duplo #Duplofigs

Completely distracted today by an idea. My son is 34 and my grandson is 2. My son messages me with photos of fungi. I send my grandson photos of my cat, and of interesting stuff I’m doing.

So, the idea. I got my son’s Duplo down from the attic, built a staircase to get the Duplo figures out of their box, should they be bored in there, and took photos. Sent them.

Have yet to hear of the junior’s reaction, his parent sent me the usual.

Writing Part 2 of the Doomed? Trilogy …

This knit-metaphor illustrates where I now am in Meld–modeled in this way I can see a few changes need to happen

… is my daily grind. I’m laboring somewhere in the middle of the middle book, writing and rewriting the same chapter. It’s new, recently inserted. Zebe, seeking revenge for her twin sister’s misfortune, needs more time than the main plot can spare to put her conspiracy into place. Hence, her own POV chapter.

But will she/won’t she achieve her goal? I’m finding that the original problem will not go away. Zebe’s sub-plot is too strenuous and intricate in its early stages to seamlessly be integrated into the main plot immediately before its stated take-off.

All it needs, you will be saying, is for the one plot-line to be stretched and the other to be shrunk until there is integration. That’s a paper and pencil task. I’ll keep you posted.

My second concern is that Meld is far stranger than Mongrel. A large party of alien ladies must be accommodated in Meld–Tardi Malko, protagonist extraordinaire, is the one in the picture to carry them–at the same time that he lives his life?

Because, while the alien ladies impinge on TM’s life big time, there are other things going on in it. How to do them justice, I’m wondering.

Then I wonder whether I’m being too optimistic? That I’m trying to stuff too much into the novel? I’ve already moved the end of Meld to the beginning of Part 3, Morph, where it might work better.

I feel like I’m having to learn to write again. My normal prose seems not strong enough to carry the weight of meaning the characters in this book will need to carry. So far this weekend, I’ve been re-reading How-To books such as Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass.

Fungi: Parasite

Fungal parasite on a ‘waxy’ bracket

This is the 83rd fungus I have observed in Brunswick Valley Heritage Park, a white crust … type 13 … that apparently parasitizes the undersides of ‘waxy’ and ‘pikelet-like’ brackets.

My filing system is littered with labels like that. Crusts get a number. Polypores and Agarics get descriptive words if I don’t have any other clue.

Fungi have three main life-styles. They are parasitic, like the one above, living on other organisms; they are saprophytic, consuming dead wood … if we didn’t have saprophytic fungi we’d be neck-deep in wood; and they can be mycorrhizal in habit.

Mycorrhizal fungi help keep us alive, by helping to keep 95% of plants alive. They help plants to gain more nutrients and moisture when plants and trees themselves can’t reach, by extending plant roots with fungal mycelium.

Fiction: Page 2 …

Page 2 of Mongrel, Book 1 of the DOOMED? Series; Link to Page 1 https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/ritadeheer385131918.blog/194

Up again. Quick look around to see what there was to see. On the glassy water’s surface, his surfboard rose a finger-width. The swell? He counted seconds. Cooler water from the depths raised goose bumps on his skin. Twenty. The board lifted again. Yep. It’s the swell.

Grung grung grung grung grung grung.
A vibration?
He sank to feel it better.
Rung grung. Rung grung. Rung grung.
Has to be a boat engine. A fisherman on his way home?
Up again to the surface.

The swell increased noticeably in strength and height while Tardi trod water waiting for the boat to pass and the water to calm after the boat’s passage.

RUU-UU-UNG. GRUU-UU-UNG. RUU-UU-UNG. GRUU-UU-UNG!

The water trembled and he with it. The increasing swell with him in the trough between two wave crests hid the boat till the last moment. It was coming straight for him! His heart hammered at his ribs. Frantically he sculled back down. The boat crunched down on his surfboard. Displaced water punched him down, hard.

Oof!

He slid along the wreck then along the sharp coral. Toxins from the coral flamed through him like a fire front ahead of a storm wind. He breathed in water. His chest burned. Lungs bulged. He was drifting away. Fading out.

Wait! He had to live! He had to live for his little brother Steve. Up! Up! Up!

Slivers of skin and trails of blood rose and twirled alongside as he exploded through the water ceiling, coughing, snorting, sucking in air with rasping gasps. His blood clouded the surrounding water. How long before a shark came nosing by? Where was the damned boat?

A huge pink tongue slurped over his back, wiping off blood and threads from his clothes and … Was that something in his mind? The toxins were at work already? For a moment, he forgot how to swim. Then he remembered Steve and spat out bloodied seawater. He kicked hard and hauled seawater from in front.

MONGREL by Rita de Heer (2019) books2read.com
UBL: https://books2read.com/u/bW9Pgq
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Forthcoming Fungi Walk

Spent the morning strolling around #MaslenArboretum (tree collection) with some of the people who look after it and are constantly improving it.

They accompanied me on my pre pre fungi walk ahead of the pre fungi walk with the organiser of #BigScrubDay, which in its turn is ahead of the day when I will lead a #FungiWalk.

The biggest problem is no rain so no fruiting bodies to show off. I’ll probably have to call the walk something like Evidence of Fungi in the Arboretum.

The underside of a large Cymatoderma elegans