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NaNoWriMo 1/11/06

Am going to give NaNoWriMo another go this year. Back in 04, I petered out at around 10,000 words ... but it was 10,000 words more than I'd written in a long time. Since then, I've written some scripts, but no prose to speak of.

Unless I change my mind at the last minute, I'll try to write a Star Trek fanfic I've been thinking about, and even wrote the first 1500 words to a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, I discovered afterwards that one of the premises of the story duplicates a Trek novel that's just come out. Not that this would decrease my chances of a professional sale to Pocket Books (can't get any lower than zero), but I wouldn't want anyone to think I stole the idea from David R George III. (Least of all Harlan Ellison !)

On the other hand Michael Cunningham would have valid reason to complain. My aim is to write a "literary" Star Trek novel (whatever that means), specifically: to duplicate the structure and tone of Cunningham's The Hours. To get into the swing, I very blatantly ripped off the opening passage from Cunningham's book including quite a few key sentences. These should be eliminated in a re-write of course, but for the moment the similarity goes way beyond mere "homage".

Anyway, since I wrote this prologue before the 1 November starting date, it won't count towards the 50,000 words.

Shadow and Reality

by “Jean Prouvaire”
Based on a passage by Michael Cunningham
© 2006 (the bits that aren't blatant copyright infringements)


She hurries from the house, wearing a coat too heavy for the weather. It is 1956. Another war has ended. She has left a note for Leonard, and another for Vanessa. She walks purposefully towards the river, certain of what she will do, but even now she is distracted by the sight of the skyline, millions of square feet of new steel and dark glass, a monument to the achievement of unity and prosperity, the hint of incandescence playing across the modern, square-jawed surfaces as the sun begins to tinge its spindly fingers over the horizon. A lone gull swoops overhead like a glider in vast elongated circles, cawing only occasionally at the dawn. She pauses, watching the bird and the city come to slow light, then walks briskly on. Soon she passes the dustman (she feels like she should know his name – Rosenfeld? - no of course not, what was she thinking), his blue overalls and cap, hanging off him like from a coat hanger, both stained black with oil and dirt, a beaten, gnarled stick of a man, sweeping the slimy refuse off the gutters and lifting it into the gaping hole of the garbage truck that sputters and coughs its mechanical sickness into the biting morning air. She thinks of how successful he is, the dustman, to be cleaning the street in his discoloured, ill-fitting overalls and cap. She herself has failed. She has not saved anyone, has not made the world a better place, has not even helped her ever-decreasing circle of friends. She is merely a tool, used by a greater power, a far greater power than herself; no, not just the Nazis, but a far more malicious, capricious force than that and one she once believed in, gave thanks to, paid devotions to. Patches of sky shine in puddles left over from last night’s rain. Her soft shoes, her formerly two good shoes, scuff violently against the rough pavement, stinging her soles. Her toes, then her heels become slick and wet, begin to squelch. She has failed and the darkness encroaches again, more violently than ever before, as if it was a ravenous thing come galloping out from the alleys, a rough-furred beast that embraces her in a violent hug, choking off her sight and breath. And not for the first time she welcomes it.

She reaches the Hudson River bank, contemplates the lapping of the waves, like quicksilver against the concrete walls and wooden pylons. She scans the paved foreshore for stones, something heavy. There – a pile of discarded concrete bricks. She hefts one in her hands clumsily, the surface icy and rough against her palms. Twenty years ago it might have torn skin. She unbuttons the left jacket pocket (the button for the right long since lost) and forces the brick in, tearing the seam, but it will hold well enough, long enough. Picks up another brick, repeats. She thinks of Leonard. She thinks of his smile, his generous, wrinkled humanity, his vision of a better future, so alike and yet so different to the one she once held, his hands, once soft and skilled like the surgeon he was, now dry and atrophied from arthritis and disappointment. She thinks of Vanessa and the children, Matthew – no, Matthias - now an Untersturmführer for the local precinct, his step and smile curt with military ignorance, Jonah long since gone of course. They have all failed, haven’t they? She is suddenly, immensely sorry for them. She imagines turning around, hurrying back before they wake. She can probably get to the notes in time, destroy them, carry on as if nothing had changed, as if nothing of importance had changed. It would be a kindness to them. Facing the river, she decides against it. The darkness will only find her again, and again like the night, spinning her into the air like a leaflet in a storm, lost, torn, adrift. She considers removing her shoes in a bizarre, parallel remnant of etiquette but no, the extra weight, little as it is, will be better. Petering on the edge, she spies a tugboat up-river, sees silhouetted figures moving like ants on its deck, but probably too far to make her out clearly, certainly too far to call out to her even in the dawn stillness. Her final observation. The river embraces her, not so cold as she thought it would be, but more putrid, invading her nostrils. She coughs, then swallows, then coughs again, shakes her head, kicks off a shoe she feels slipping from her feet and into the murkiness. She is not sinking, the heavy coat spread out on the water’s surface, even so weighed down, keeps her afloat. She panics – how will she get back onto the shore, how could she have miscalculated so badly – but then, relief as the water soaks through the fabric like tar and pulls her, in a sudden, violent motion, under. It feels personal.

More than an hour later Leonard calls in to see her, as he does every morning. He lets himself in and heads to the kitchen to brew a coffee. He finds two faded envelopes on the table. One is addressed to him. Inside is a letter.


I feel like I am going mad again. That the million voices of guilt and accusation are drowning out any remnant of light & hope. I can’t bear to go through this again, to put you and Vanessa through it again.

Leonard, you have been my dearest friend these 26 yrs and I cannot thank you enough for your support and love through the dark times.

I wished that the future you so often spoke of would come to pass, but I know that it will not, and that I am the reason for its extinction. I thought I – with God’s help - could build a better world, but I’ve only snuffed it out, haven’t I? And God along with it. I only tried to help, to sow the seeds of peace & hope for a better, stronger world. I didn’t know it would make us weak instead.

You told me I was right, just not at the right time. But these are empty words, aren’t they? There is no place for me in this time.

You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. Everything is gone but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been closer than we have been.


Leonard races to the bedroom, shakes awake Vanessa. He says to her, “I think something’s happened to Edith. I think she’s trying to kill herself. Do you know where she is? Did you see her go?”

Vanessa begins to cry, shakes her head. Leonard rushes out, down the lane, past the old, abandoned 21st Street Mission, through all the old neighbourhoods. Eventually he reaches the river’s edge. In the distance a tugboat sighs its way over the waters.

She is carried by the current down the river, swirling in the cloudy depths, bumping gently against the river bottom, entangling momentarily among the aging pylons like scattered bamboo forests. Her hair contracts and swells, weaves like gossamer tentacles. Her lost shoe finds her, swept along the same flow, nipping at her side, shooting ahead, falling back, then shooting ahead again, edging her on like a small dog. She comes to rest, eventually, against one of the pilings near the Canal Street Tunnel. She is pressed against the squat, square column, her back against the river’s bottom, one arm caught in a rocky crevice, the other dangling loose. Her eyes, wide open, do not see the sun’s rays piercing the depths, nor the small fishes that nip and tug against her flesh, nor the shadow that begins to obscure the light.

Above her, on a small tugboat, a man clears his throat and spits into the water. He scratches his chest through a rough woollen pullover and sniffs the air. Across the river on the shore he thinks he sees the small figure of a man, obscured by the reflection of the morning light against the skyscrapers that surge like glass and steel giants waking with a new age. He does not notice a small, soft shoe rise to the surface and bop softly into the bay. He will read in the news today that Germany has won another victory, at long last against the hordes of China in the far east. Perhaps the final victory needed to secure peace across the world. It will make him deliriously happy. The celebrations – with fireworks, parades and martial music - will resound throughout New York for a week, will travel over the air and through the water, penetrate and resonate in the stone and wood of the pilings, and enter Edith’s body, where she takes it all in, silent, waiting, forgotten, like the guardian of a forever that never was.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 1, 2006 12:40 AM.

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