“You will be fortunate in everything you put your hands to.”
Each step made the ground creak, as if the entire world were a dry-rotted ship. The flood had come and gone and in the centuries since the water had left the land behind it had dried and wrinkled and the trees turned to dust. The tiny vestibules left by flatworms and mollusks cracked as the soil lost cohesion and collapsed under step, under any pressure or none, and blew away to leave the land serrated, rough, and ephemerally delicate.
The land, for as far as she could see, was flat. No markers save the sun directed her; her path was only so straight as she could make it by following the day’s slow transit. Still, so long as she didn’t circle back on herself she should be out in two days, perhaps a day and a half.
This island of dry was surrounded on all sides by ocean and between the two extremes of burnt soil and seawater there existed a mote of potable, cool, blue-green and clear water. Two days. Even without packing she could have made it. Just like taking a breath before a swim.
As she walked on she again looked ahead in hopes of seeing a rising horizon that would signify the edges of basin, but all still seemed flat. It wasn’t the heat, it wasn’t even that hot here, it was the tedium that made her anxious, she decided. A race to leave, still in a race, she realized, and now this slow plod. A slog through the center of the island to beat the others to the far side. Four or five days around, two through. She didn’t have as much extra time as she’d have liked, she had to feign a late start so that the others would leave without her and not copy her tactic. She didn’t know whether anyone else had considered her route, or knew an easy pass over the basin cliff side, but she wouldn’t be the one to put the idea in their heads.
The sky held no clouds save the thin, high, wisps of cirrus that neither threatened rain nor promised shade. Still, it was a beautiful day. There was, as always, a breeze. The depression dulled the gusts and twisted them in swirl so that wind came always from behind. All the dust that could blow away had already, save the puffs that burst and disappeared in time with her footfalls.
She stopped before turning back to look at her tracks, if there were any. She smiled to herself, proud to have remembered to stop so as not to redirect her path, not to detour her unnecessarily. The pits that followed her didn’t look as though they belonged to a person. The wind had etched the edges and worried the sides so that it seemed some great and gentle footed caterpillar had meandered through, not a person, not someone small. Even when the others found out her trick they couldn’t follow her. She couldn’t even follow herself, she realized. In three days, if the boat was gone and she had to return, she’d have to navigate back, but this time into the sun at its hottest, or she’d have to travel back with her jealous friends who would think she’d cheated.
But, she thought, the boat will be there. Grinning, she let the air push her on toward the invisible cliff and the ocean beyond.
I thought I’d write something cheerful for a change. No one’s died, no one’s fighting for his life, the risks aren’t mortally high. I feel sometimes that always relying on such high stakes has become a crutch.
I had things sort of backwards when I began writing this piece. In the past, I’ve had some vague idea of what I wanted to write before I started, even if it was just of a fragment I’d like to include or of a general direction in which I wanted the narrative to move, and no idea of what I wanted architecturally. This time, I had mechanics in mind but no idea of what sort of story fragment I’d write. As I almost always write older male protagonists, I wanted to write a younger female. I wanted the story to be somewhat less bleak than my normal milieu. I also want to continue trying to work more description into my writing. I don’t really care a great deal for scene setting in things I read so tend to omit it all together when I write. Sometimes this works well, but as I’ve been trying to rework one of my longer form stories I see the omission of detail as a failing.
As far as my mechanical expectations go, I’m not sure how well I’ve succeeded. There’s nothing particularly feminine or masculine about out nameless protagonist. She could be anything. The detail still seems pretty light. When I write detail I always think I’ve written more than I have, I have the sense that a little goes a very long way and a lot is bad writing; this way of thinking keeps me from adding as much detail as I could and I’m going to continue working on that.
I think I was most successful at the tone. This seems a pretty optimistic adventure tale to me. No one seems likely to explode to death, or be dipped in acid, or devoured by monsters. The girl seems happy and I think, or hope at least, the bit is still entertaining without the threat of galactic destruction looming.
Not my best day of writing but I’m happy with what I’ve got.
Thanks for reading and a bon week-end to you each.