Formal Writing

NaNoWriMo’18: ‘Fickle’ Day 11

So, I already know I won’t have hit the 50k mark on a single work this year or presented a deep and compelling novel to work on through 2019. I have no issue with this, as I have a trilogy to get finalized and sorted next year, and I just wanted to write something light and silly and for its own sake.

‘Fickle’ has been a fun write for me, and a personal challenge to find enjoyment in, as I have been posting my words without any editing, re-reading or anything as I’ve gone along. It was worth doing just to overcome the hurdle or letting my words out into the world, imperfect as they are, and to write something from start to end in one go, without over analyzing and picking at my idea.

Is it my best work? Heck no. And it never will be, no matter how many times in the future I come back to it and tinker with it, clean it up, rearrange and expand various parts.
I maintain that my trilogy ‘The Meaning of Power’ is likely to end up being the thing I am most proud of, in the long run, but ‘Fickle’ is certainly going to be something I always think of fondly for how it’s allowed me to cope with some massive upheaval in my life, and my own shortcomings.

And it was fun.
Today, the penultimate entry is presented for the enjoyment of those still indulging me, and tomorrow, it will wrap up with an ending.

It won’t be 50k words. It won’t be November 31st. It won’t be a great literary work the world was in need of.
But it will still have been a successful NaNoWriMo.

Part One: Click here
Part Two: Click here
Part Three: Click here
Part Four: Click here
Part Five: Click here
Part Six: Click here
Part Seven: Click here
Part Eight: Click here
Part Nine: Click here
Part Ten: Click here

‘Fickle’ Part 11


We never did get to go home like she wanted, that next day.
Not that we hadn’t intended to. Breakfast at the plaza she had been living in was a very pleasant affair, and I enjoyed seeing other people showing genuine and good emotions towards Gemma when it was time to leave – a far better parting than with the tribe that had first brought her to me, years earlier.

It also felt better than I was willing to admit to have a passenger on my back when we left. There was no mist near at hand, so I winged lazily and low over the land beneath us, traveling north while we talked. Eventually, after a basic catch up, our questions got more specific.
“So, tell me about this telescope.”
“Which one?”
“Wait, you made more than one?”
“Oh yes. I went to China fairly early on and learned the ancient glass grinding techniques people had gone back to. Then I went and did some reading to learn how the Germans refined their techniques. After that, I traded food and jewels from some abandoned settlements I used your island to get to and had craftsmen make me what I needed. The first telescope was alright, but nothing outstanding. We learned a lot making it though, and the third one is the one you saw in Singapore. I taught several people how to use it, and match what they could see against some of the old world books, and… well. Prophet, yadda yadda.”
“What about the second telescope?”
“I took that one to Hawaii. It used to be a hot spot for watching the stars, you know. Of course, the volcanoes there wiped away just about everything during the War, but a mountain is a mountain… it should still be there. Would you like to go and see?”
“Sure, why not.”

So, we went there first. It took a while, seeing as we had no need to rush and nightfall is the best time to look for lights in the sky.
We stopped off in a multitude of places along the way so Gemma could show me where she had been and what she had been doing with local communities, and gather up some food to eat that wasn’t just my usual fare. By the time we made it to Mauna Kea, I had a wagons’ worth of supplies on my back and the night was already creeping in.
On top of that, I also had the renewed prayers and belief of the places we had stopped in ringing in the back of my skull, though I didn’t tell Gemma – it would only have upset her.

Knowing in advance that all life on the island was gone meant we had the forethought to bring wood with us to make a fire, a feat Gemma set herself to with gusto while I sorted out a decent feast from our supplies and settled down, near the lone artifact of humanity on the black rock – a silver telescope.
It was a true pleasure to watch Gemma taking the machine apart to clean the lenses and put it back together while I munched on a haunch of bison. It still boggles my mind that a species so able to pin thoughts down, describing and conceptualizing the craziest of things until they can make them into machines and mechanics has such a capacity for ephemeral belief as well. In Gemma, that dichotomy mostly made itself known in how she talked to the telescope as she worked on it, cajoling and pleading with it when pieces didn’t do quite as she wished. As if it were alive, and resisting.

Her eventual exultation made me guffaw, but I refused to even take a glance through the thing until she sat down and had a proper meal herself. I told her more about everything I had done while she was gone as she ate until the night fully set in.
The sky above our heads glowed with light, the band of the milky way a beautiful silver stripe across the vault above, filled with possibilities. Perhaps that is why humanity can be so two-faced – the very universe around them certainly can seem that way too.
“It’s no wonder we put animals and legends up into the sky, drew pictures with our eyes,” Gemma said around a mouthful of salmon. “Did you know that when people first looked at Mars, they saw lines? No lines there, of course, but our eyes like to pick out patterns, everywhere we look.”
“It’s an interesting survival trick, I’ll grant you.”
“It’s why people find patterns in you too, you know. And the gods that were here before. Faces in rocks, shapes in the clouds, animals in the sky. But I think it’s even better that when we did send eyes to other worlds when we sent the robots to Mars and stuff, we kind of found the rocks and dirt there even more exciting than imagining little green men.”
“You’re an odd species.”
“Which is why you’re an odd god. Here, take a look. I was going to point it at the Draco constellation, for obvious reasons, but that’s pretty faint this time of year. I’ve got it focused on Pegasus instead.”

I changed size and shape, in part so I didn’t have to hunch up to look, and also so my eyeballs were the right shape and size to see the same way Gemma did. Through the small lens, with my other eye closed, the twinkling lights overhead resolved into a much smaller collection of lights, with far more detail. What had been a string of silver now also had some color in places, in blues and purples, with smudged clouds around some of the stars.
I don’t know how long I spent just turning the telescope around on its mount, taking in the night sky, but I enjoyed it. My concerns were always so limited to the one planet I was confined to, and its damaged populations, but infinity was still there above my head, just as much as Gemma’s or anyone else’s.
I even found myself wondering where out there, if anywhere, my parents were lurking.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Gemma finally said.
“And terrifying. And somehow, both too real and not real enough.”
“We’ll make out way back there again, one day. I know it.”
“Not in your lifetime, I’m afraid. But looking is its own rewar… oh no.”
I just had to go an jinx it. Looking around, turning the scope across the night sky, I made the mistake of cheating. Of changing my eye shape and focus, to act as another lens through which the sky became even clearer, and some of the dull smudges I was seeing turned to glorious red hues as I let myself ‘see’ other wavelengths of light.
And saw a new element in the sky even a human eye might be able to detect.

“What’s wrong? Did a lens move?” Gemma rushed to her feet, intent on fixing the scope she thought to be the problem.
“No. Worse.” I sighed and adjusted my view just a hair more to confirm my finding.
“Worse? Did a piece fall off?”
“No. Your telescope is fine. But I’m afraid the planet probably isn’t.” I peeled my eye away from the view piece on the scope and gestured Gemma to step up.
“What do you mean?”
“There’s an asteroid headed for the planet. It’ll hit in about three days.”
Through the other end of the telescope, like a shadow the size of a mountain, the piece of rock tumbled end over end, already having slipped past the behemoth Jupiter to come and pay a visit. While it wouldn’t cause another extinction event, given its size, wherever it hit… for those people, the world would certainly come to a crashing, hot end.

I think I may be permitted to say the revelation put something of a damper on our night.


Word Count: 30,455/50,000

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