Fading sunlight lit the windows with a soft, reddish glow, the edges fading first to orange, then to gold. All along the street people lowered their heads, tugged the brims of their hats farther down or shielded their eyes with hand despite the sunglasses guarding their delicate peepers. The brightness, magnified times six, tall, sky scraping buildings clothed in sheets of perfect glass, created a world bathed in its own fashion dilemma; a look to rival Godiva’s famous ride where only a fool could see the truth. For sixteen minutes, there was no fool, only the dimming of the lights.
Whistling air again, Mr. Jones slid himself onto the table, pausing for a moment as his feet came off the floor and his body settled back onto itself. He sighed, the lines at the corners of his mouth becoming shallower as the muscles beneath relaxed. Raising his head, he gave Master a smile.
When no further explanation followed, Master narrowed his eyes slightly and shifted his sight again, this time looking specifically at the stated area. The murky, brown aura swirled around Mr. Jones like a delicate dust storm. No area stayed motionless long enough for a visual assessment. In the seven years he had been professionally clearing energy paths and helping to open chakras he had seen several unusual behaviors in a person’s aura. This swirling was something new. He had no reference for it. His eyes flicked involuntarily toward the small mirrors then back to Mr. Jones.
“Can I lay down now?”
Seeing Mr. Jones’ eyes watching him, Master nodded and held out a hand, palm open.
“May I take your jacket, sir?”
It was a simple request that clients acquiesced to without question. Mr. Jones was no exception. Shrugging his shoulders the grubby, tan jacket dropped down his arms, landing in a pile on the table’s soft, blue cushion. Master tilted his head slightly to one side, surprised at the ease of the man’s movement.
Plucking up the garment by its collar he turned to hang it on one of the round wooden pegs by the door. When he turned back his foot froze in mid-step. In that small, two seconds of time, Mr. Jones had, without a sound, become stretched flat on the table. His hands were again folded, the fingers laced tightly together and resting on his stomach.
Finishing his step, Master made two more and stood again at the head of the table, behind Mr. Jones’ closed eyes. Every hair follicle on his body was erect. He could feel the energy gathering around him. Unable to help himself, he looked again at the small, reflecting discs hanging so carefully over his windows. They had been a gift from his mother the day he had opened his doors.
“Evil takes many forms. These discs only guard against one.”
Showing him how to measure the strings and make the knots, she patiently explained the significance of each one. He had never moved them from his windows.
Raising his hands he brought them together over Mr. Jones’ forehead, cupping them around the area commonly considered the third eye. With shifted sight he focused his energy. The response was immediate.
Mr. Jones opened his eyes and looked up, his blue gaze fixed on Master. The area of his third eye swirled deeply, the murky brown color of his aura sweeping together into a vortex.
Master’s hands became captives of the storm, trapped in the tidal pull. His own energy lashed out like a whip, violently looking for something to hold onto and finding nothing. The vortex opened wide, revealing an iridescent jaw filled with teeth, the upper and lowers showing large, canine-like fangs.
Struggling to pull his hands back, Master felt his wrists bind together. His personal energy poured out of him into the waiting jaws where it swirled away. Dizziness swept over him. His eyes rolled upward as the soft, hazy blackness of unconsciousness mercifully captured him in its waiting arms.
Master awakened alone, curled atop the blue cushion of his work table with his head pillowed on one arm as if he had lain down for a quick nap and fell deeply asleep. He blinked repeatedly, trying to recall how he had come to be there. Mr. Jones had been been laying here.
Memory jerked him upright and his head screamed with pain. Dizzy, he pressed a palm to his forehead where it hurt the most, the skin over his hands feeling thin and tender. He squinted at them, studying them through pain filled eyes, then looked at the peg by the door.
The tan, grubby jacket was gone.
Slowly he sat up. Every inch of him ached as his weight shifted from one part to the next. It took both hands pulling at his slacks to get his legs over the edge of the table. The step is still in place. Carefully he lowered himself down, wincing as his right foot settled on the step.
Behind the sideboard where he kept his crystals, acupuncture needles, incense and hot rocks, is a full length mirror hung on its side. He had hung it that way to increase the power of the candles he burned while he worked. The light was softer, more golden and easier on the eyes. Catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror he is numb with shock.
Black hair, once rich and thick, is now thin, peppered with gray and flat in color. The skin around his eyes has become creased. The brown of his irises are now flat and washed out, like he had been drained of his vibrancy. Knowing what was coming, he shifted his sight to see his aura.
Shuffling closer to mirror he peered at his forehead. An iridescent smear seemed to cover the area of his third eye. Bracing both hands on the sideboard he leaned in, his tired eyes trying to make sense of it even as his stomach seized with horror.
Bite marks surrounded a gaping, ragged hole where his third eye had been.
Mr. Jones had left and taken Master with him.
How do you maintain forward motion when life is dragging you down?
I’m not sure how to answer this. My life has taken a few turns these past few weeks but nothing has changed. Same job, same first novel. I’m tired though.
I keep staring at my files and poking at the words, changing sentences and editing spelling and punctuation. I’m afraid if I don’t at least look at it, I will forget about it. I’m doing what I have to in order to keep my dream in motion. This tiredness will pass eventually and I will be off and running again. Until then, I’ll continue looking at it, reminding myself of what I’m working for.
Before I go, I want to give a joyful thumbs up to all the Camp NaNoWriMo participants. I’m sure you are all waking up everyday super excited to get your fingers on your keyboards. Keep going. The feeling you will have when you reach your goal is worth all the work. You guys are awesome!
One hundred and twenty seconds on the timer. It would be fast.
Outside my window I could see the neighbor’s kids drawing pictures on the sidewalk with pink and yellow chalk. The pictures were always the same, ugly flowers with awkward centers. A concrete garden that only got better when you watered it and washed it away.
Starting the timer, I stood there and watched the numbers roll down. Two, short, quick minutes.
The Hot Pocket was wonderful.
The man’s shoulders were slumped and rolled forward, his neck appearing bowed under the heavy weight of his own head. His brown, linen jacket seemed worn and overdue for a wash while his denim jeans looked comfortable, loose enough in the waist at least for him to bend fully forward without stress on his stomach. Brown work boots covered his feet, the thin, black soles heavily scarred from wear.
Master thought if he were passing this man sitting like this at a bus stop, he would have judged him to be in his mid fifties. The streaks of gray through his stylishly cut, light brown hair looked to be the result of age, not stress. There was a difference.
Looking up, the man’s pale, blue eyes skimmed nervously across Master’s dark brown ones and he nodded.
“Yeah, that’s me.”
Not moving from the sofa, the man looked back at the floor and tightened his hands, the laced fingers clinging together almost like he was resisting an invisible force trying to pull them apart.
Master held himself motionless. The information form on the clipboard stated that Mr. Jones was thirty-three. Was it possible? Could he really be that young, or had he simply made a mistake when he was writing? Shifting his vision ever so slightly, he was not surprised to see a murky, brown aura surrounding him.
“Would you like to come with me, Mr. Jones?” Breathing out slowly, Master used his stomach muscles to fill his lungs. The surface of his skin tingled with anticipation.
Slowly pulling his hands apart like they were sticky, Mr. Jones placed his palms on the sofa on either side of his thighs and pressed down, his breath whistling through his sinuses as he strained to stand upright. His right hand came forward in the air, an attempt to balance himself as his legs and feet became burdened with the weight of his torso. For a single heartbeat he was frozen in time, every muscle in his body taut with the stress of being between positions. Then his weight slowly settled forward. His spine relaxed as his feet found their place.
Letting his breath out again Master pressed one hand flat against the frame of the door behind him. He hadn’t realized he had been holding his air. Taking a half-step to the left, he made room for Mr. Jones to slowly pass him by. The man’s presence felt heavy as it brushed against his own.
“Go ahead and have a seat on the table, Mr. Jones.” It was a standard request.
There was a short, mobile step on the floor positioned to assist with the ascent. Moving slowly toward the step, the arch of his neck deepening as the brown, diagonal pattern of the carpet flowed beneath his feet, Mr. Jones made his way to the step.
“Is the lighting too bright for you, sir? I see you are squinting.”
“Um, no, it’s not the light, thank you. The mirrors…” Pausing at the step, Mr. Jones turned his head away from the row of low hung reflectors strung across the three, frosted window panes. His face scrunched uncomfortably.
“The discs?” The back of Master’s neck prickled a warning, his small hairs rising.
“Yes. They hurt my eyes.”
Each octagonal disc was tied securely to an eyelet screwed into the wooden frame of the window. Master could easily snip the strings and remove them, but the rehanging would a project. Every string was measured to a specific length and tied with a unique knot different from its mates. In combination, the strings, knots and reflective surfaces worked together to provide a specific form of protection for the work room.
“If you are pleased with our progress today and wish to return, I can make arrangements to cover them for you in the future.”
Sighing deeply, Mr. Jones seemed to wilt inside his clothing like a discouraged flower realizing its water had completely run out.
“No bother,” he muttered and placed a hand on the table while he carefully lifted his right foot onto the step, using his free hand to help by pulling on his pants. “I get used to things faster than most, I guess.” A groan pushed between his lips as he leaned onto the step. His left foot rose a mere inch off the floor before settling back down.
Watching the man move with all the starts and stops of someone twice the age of what was listed on his form, Master stepped a bit closer and held out his muscular forearm for assistance.
Eyes widening slightly at the offer, Mr. Jones stared at Master for a second, his watery eyes searching into the clear, sharp brown ones. Then he nodded and moved his hand from the table, laying it firmly on Master’s forearm.
Surprise blossomed in Master’s chest at the strength in Mr. Jones’ grip. The narrow hand wrapped all the way around his radius and ulna, the fingers overlapping as they came together on the other side. At five feet and eleven inches, Master knew he wasn’t as large as they came, but he wasn’t small and he worked regularly at developing the strength in his forearms and wrists. Squeezing him tightly, Mr. Jones again leaned onto the step, pushing down hard on his arm as the weight of his body rose onto his right foot.
Stiffening his neck, back and abdominal muscles Master pushed back, forcing his arm upward beneath the choking hand. Mr. Jones’ left foot came off the floor and settled on the step beside his right. The weight on Master’s arm remained the same.
“Yes, you are a strong one.” Giving a powerful squeeze, Mr. Jones released his hold and braced himself against the table with both hands, turning slowly around on the small step. “Quite strong enough,” he breathed.
The impression on his forearm looked deep enough to bruise. Master watched his blood rush to fill the dents while his spine rippled in alarm.
I wrote this piece while I was at work last night. Evidently my sleep deprived brain thought that was close enough. When I got home, I ate, watched an episode of Criminal Minds and went to sleep without scheduling the post.
My goal of getting my chapters in order by the end of June did not get met. From the look of things, I may not be finished until the end of July, maybe the middle of August. I’m not real torn up about it. I’ve made huge progress and learned a lot about how to do this. My largest lesson has been about organization.
When I started this last November during NaNoWriMo I was really in the dark about how to go about things. I had index cards scattered across my coffee table and multiple files on my computer about all my characters. My brain refused to cooperate with the idea of structure so I was just typing out every possible scene for each character as fast as I could. Now that I’m about halfway through piecing my chapters together in a form that makes sense, I can see that I needed to structure myself a lot sooner.
Last week I bought a little program called NewNovelist that cost me about $30. I was eyeing Scrivener too, which was only $10 more and seems to be the favorite of authors everywhere. This late in the game I was really interested in getting myself more organized than giving myself a learning headache, so I went with NewNovelist. It’s not perfect, but I’m happy with it. Once I got my notes, characters, places and chapters ported over from Google Docs, I was pretty pleased with myself. Everything is now right at my fingertips. Some of the information the program gives me is nothing but gibberish to my eyes but the ability to have all my resources just a mouse click away without having to open multiple browser windows is really nice. I may have another look at Scrivener for the next book though. It offers some customization that I currently don’t have.
The other big lesson I learned this month is about timelines. Flying by the seat of my pants with that has not been effective. As it turns out, my lead character is moving along much slower than everyone else. I need to go back and bring him up to speed in order to get all my events flowing smoothly and in the correct order. Had I bothered with an outline (something I hate) I probably would have spotted that problem right away and corrected it. This doesn’t mean I’ll be outlining in the future but I will definitely be paying closer attention to the timeline.
Happy, productive writing everyone. I wish you all the best!
The sun was already reaching its zenith for the day. In a couple more hours, dusk would creep in, spreading a soft, Autumn glow over the canal. Sunset was always his favorite time of day down here.
Sitting on the pale, recycled, resin bench, legs spread wide and arms thrown open across the back rest to discourage people from trying to sit with him, Carl watched the fat boy with his too long, red hair struggle with his catch. He had managed to land fourteen fish in a little over an hour. That had to be some sort of record. As many times as he and JC had fished this area when they were boys, neither of them could boast of having caught fourteen in such a short time. It looked like catching them was only half the battle though. This kid was really working to get those fish home without losing anything.
Half-filled with water and bullheads, the blue bucket was too heavy. Alternating between dragging it a few inches, then trying to lift it while not losing the fishing pole clenched under his arm or the small gray tackle box balanced on the lid just under the handle, he battled his way along the path toward home.
Spotting the uniformed officer walking leisurely toward the him from the opposite direction, he thought this might be a battle the kid was going to lose. Shifting slightly to ease the growing numbness in his butt, he crossed one leg over a knee and waited. From his vantage point on the other side of the canal, he would have a clear view.