The next segment of Before the Empty Moon, hopefully to be critiqued tonight if my constellation test doesn't take too long.

Just to refresh your memory:
1. Does it make sense, does one event follow the previous event, are new concepts well explained?
2. Does it hold your interest? Where and why do you get bored?
3. Do you want to read more?
4. (I know, I'm adding more! Sorry) How do you feel about the characters? You don't have to base your opinion purely on this excerpt. I'm just curious how they're coming across thus far.

If you haven't read the first and second installments...
Beginning of Chapter One

It took us five days to make it around Upper Saranac Lake, and Dad never left me alone with Jesse for more than two minutes. By the last night of our trip, the secret was burning a hole in my tongue.

A thunderstorm cut our bonfire story time tragically short, but at least we’d already pitched the tent and hung the bear bag. All that was left to do was crawl into our sleeping bags and wait for the Andasi to take us.

Sleeping proved to be nearly impossible, though. Dad’s warning and the prospect of telling Jesse coupled with the cold and wet made for a particularly restless night on my part. Fantasies of all the things I’d like to do with magic kept lapsing into fitful dreams in which I was controlling the storm. I clashed the clouds together like cymbals and stirred the treetops with my finger. I breathed onto the beach and scattered sand like stars. I twirled and twirled across the thunderous purple sky, spilling diamonds on the water and trailing my regal veil in the waves. My footfalls were as big as a valley, but they left no crater because I weighed nothing; I was made of sky. And I held wind and water and lightning in my hands, but darkness threatened at every step. Though every stride carried me across lakes and mountains and even nations, the line of day receded before me and I couldn’t shake the coming night. I didn’t know what would happen if it caught me, but its hunger for me was like rusting iron on the backsides of my teeth. Relentless. Insatiable. I knew I couldn’t withstand its might if it overtook me.

I woke with a shiver, feeling only marginally more rested than when I’d gone to sleep. For all I knew of Jamus, I was a stranger to nightmares, and this one had deeply shaken me.

The first strains of dawn were leaking through the dripping foliage and seeping into our tiny haven: the storm had passed. Jesse was nestled into his sleeping bag so that only his brow showed. It was furrowed as if he were concerned about something, and while I watched, he murmured something and rolled over. Dad was nowhere to be seen, which explained the cold spot at my back. Tired as I was, I sat up, struggled into my fleece and went to see if he was puttering around the campsite. Having no luck, I checked near the trees we’d suspended the bear bag from, but he wasn’t there either.

Back at the campsite, Jesse was crouched beside the sopping fire pit, poking the sodden ashes with a stick. He looked up, blinking, obviously half-conscious. “Where’ve you been?” he grumbled.

“Looking for my dad. Did he tell you he was leaving?”

Jesse shook his head.

“Wonder where he is,” I murmured.

Jesse shrugged. “He’ll be back. You know how it is with him.” It was true: my dad was known for disappearing and appearing at random, seemingly into and out of nowhere, and could be gone for an entire day without anybody knowing his whereabouts. Still, he’d never done anything like this while we were camping, and I was worried.

“I had a dream…” Jesse said, rubbing his face and muffling the words with his hand. We both considered dreams very important because of what we knew about Myriad, so I gave him my full attention. “We were on the Reservoir. In the paddle boat. It was just like it always is, but then the water started to boil and evaporate. It turned black, and as it evaporated, it darkened the sky. I was terrified because I knew that when the water was gone, all that would be left was a monster of some sort. The dream wasn’t clear what kind of monster it was or what it would do, but I knew the thing was hungry, and I was the meal it wanted.” He shuddered and drew his arms tight around himself. “I felt like it would’ve done anything to get me.”

“That sounds a lot like what I dreamed,” I remarked, and told him about the darkness. “I feel like the Andasi are telling us the same thing…. But the monster didn't get you, did it?”

“No, I never even saw it.”

“Me either. So I guess that’s a good sign.”

There was a pause. Then Jesse said, “We tried to stop it from coming. Or I did. For some reason you weren’t doing anything, but I remember… I did some sort of magic….”

Then I remembered. We were finally alone, and my words broke through the dam of secrecy. “Jesse! Magic is real. I’ve done it!”

“You have? Where was I?” I loved that he believed me immediately and unquestioningly.

“You were there. It was when Dad was talking to Mr. Castillo before we left.” Jesse’s eyes widened expectantly. “Let’s walk,” I suggested.

Jesse heaved himself to his feet and we set out in the direction of the rising sun. Pine trees left cool, clear droplets on our faces as we brushed past. Early morning mist wrapped itself around their trunks and branches, clinging thick enough to shroud the campsite from view almost instantly. It was the sort of fog that could keep a secret if you asked, and I spoke again.

“I don’t remember ever hating anybody before,” I said. “But I sure hated Lila’s dad that morning. And you know what my dad says about emotions.” I looked at him meaningfully, and he nodded. Jesse knew the adage as well as I. “When Castillo came down that walkway all big and bad, ready to ruin our camping trip, I wanted to kick him. And then, when he started shoving his finger in Dad’s face, I just lost it. I wanted that finger to fall off. I thought, that’ll show him!”

Jesse swallowed a laugh.

“I hardly realized what I was doing. Of course, now that my head’s cleared, I remember thinking about the skin cells coming unstitched from each other and the bone pinching and coming unfastened from the knuckle….”

“Castillo’s finger didn’t fall off, Samjay,” Jesse pointed out in his no-duh tone.

“Well, thank goodness my dad was there to stop it,” I said.

“Mmm.” Jesse sounded skeptical. Then he burst out, “He was playing with his fingers! The whole time they were talking! I’ll bet he was doing some sort of counter magic or something.”

“I’ll bet you’re right.”

The sun began to eat away at the fog as we walked. The raindrops wobbling at the fingertip of every pine needle seemed to hold miniature suns captive inside of them and the forest glittered like something out of a fairy tale. “Do you think I could do magic again?” I asked.

Jesse shrugged. “If it took that kind of emotion to fuel it, it must be pretty hard.”

I thought. “Maybe there are different degrees of magic, though. A human body is complicated, so maybe it takes more to affect one.”

“So something simple… like a… a leaf,” Jesse said, picking a glistening green specimen off a nearby beech tree. “Could you make it, I dunno, change color? Or wilt?” He held the leaf out to me and I took it gingerly by the stem. I thought about a cell and all its tiny parts. I thought about the chloroplasts pumping out juicy green life. Then I imagined them all stopping still in their tracks.

Nothing. I realized I was holding my breath and let it out with a big puh. “Maybe I’m not supposed to think about it so much,” I said. “Maybe I just need to… think about the result more than the process. That’s kind of how it was with Castillo.” Jesse nodded encouragingly and I tried again. This time I pictured the leaf going brown and crumbling between my fingers. Still nothing.

I looked hopelessly at Jesse. “I don’t know what’s wrong. Obviously it worked fine the other day.”

“I wouldn’t think something was wrong,” said Jesse. “There are so many different interpretations of how magic works, it’s hard to say exactly what you should be doing.”

He was right, of course. But it frustrated me that I could’ve done something so dramatic before and now I couldn't even change a little leaf to brown. I glared at the stubborn specimen.

Suddenly the leaf caught fire in my hand. I shrieked, dropped it, and stumbled backward in terror. Jesse, practical young man that he was, rushed forward to stamp out the flames and steady me. We watched the smoke curl upward to mingle with the mist and vanish.

Jesse’s face was pale enough to blend in with the fog, but he feigned fearlessness. “Well. I guess that makes you about the coolest person I know,” he said faintly.

I shook off his hands and started walking again. “What, because I can make body parts fall off and light things on fire?” I snapped.

Jesse was flabbergasted. “Are you angry?”

I sucked on my scorched fingertips, deep in thought. “I’m scared,” I admitted. “I don’t know what I’m doing. All the magic I’ve ever done has ended disastrously. What if Dad isn’t there next time and I really hurt someone? There’s just this sudden weight. I want to do good with my magic, or else what’s the point?”

“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” Jesse consoled me. “You can’t possibly know everything about magic yet. I’m sure with practice you’ll be able to direct it however you want.”

At once we both stopped dead, for quite suddenly, a cottage had emerged from the sparkling mist ahead of us. It was bathed in the kind of golden light that only happens when the sun goes highlighter pink, and everything about it, from the ivy-laced rock wall to the snow white gables, shimmered like the pines with an infinite number of twinkling raindrop Christmas lights. Though the fog revealed its secrets at random, there was no question that the cottage hadn’t been there a moment before.

So I just realized my spatial synaesthesia extends to movies as well as time, numbers, and music. I don't know why I never noticed before. I guess it just seemed normal that The Wizard of Oz had that spiraling shape and the weird tumor at the part where they go to the Witch's castle. It's just always been like that. Castle in the Sky is easily the wackiest though. Think if you handed a two year old a crayon and some paper. That's Castle in the Sky. o_O


Anonymous said...

you should draw Castle in the Sky with some crayons yourself. and then take a picture of it. and then upload it on here.

i love your story. i'm easy to please. C: you shouldn't post it ALL on here though or else no one will want to buy it down the road! C:

Amandasaurus said...

I know, I don't want that to happen. But I also don't want people to be lost and bewildered if they haven't had the back story. It's quite the conundrum. =/

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