29 September 2013

On "Islands of Joy" and new writers

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. —Ecclesiastes 3:11

These hauntingly beautiful lands… somehow never satisfy… —C.S. Lewis, Letters I:970

The times has come, the walrus said, to talk of names and things. The name of this blog has officially changed to “Islands of Joy.”

I wanted something less personal, less private, more artistic, and more expressive of the vision of this blog than the obscure “Iambic Admonit.” I am also bringing on a few new writers and focusing the content a bit more. The name is inspired by C.S. Lewis, who is perhaps my greatest literary inspiration. His writing as simple and profound, imaginative and rational. He is the master of the perfect analogy, and a storyteller of consummate skill.

Throughout his entire life, Lewis has haunted by “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction… I call it Joy” (Surprised by Joy).

Islands of Joy” are moments of sehnsucht or sweet desire evoked by art, poetry, music, or nature. A line from Tennyson, a phrase by Wagner, a glimpse of Turner, or a sudden wind across a field of wheat—and the soul springs up, yearning for something more, but not sure what it wants. It wants to possess the beauty: to ingest it, devour it, assimilate it. It wants to become that beauty. It wants to make more beauty. And it wants to know Who made that beauty in the first place, then be united with Him.

This desire shot through C.S. Lewis's heart, a painful, glorious yearning, at the sounds of certain words, the sight of a distant landscape, or the strains of sublime music. He tried a wild variety of words for this experience throughout his life: It, Romanticism, heraldry of heaven, intense longing, sweet desire, enchantment, the Blue Flower, the dialectic of Desire, immortal longings, divine discontent, the authentic thrill, the heraldry of heaven, inaccessible longings, ice-sharp joys, unfulfilled desire, and Sehnsucht. He finally settled on “Joy,”

So a lot of the content on this blog is inspired by or related to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and the other Inklings. The primary writer, Sørina Higgins, is a Charles Williams scholar: please check out her other blog The Oddest Inkling, all about Williams. All the other writers enjoy the works of the Inklings, some as fans, some as scholars.

Here on Islands of Joy you will find book reviews, film reviews, articles on Inklings themes, and other Inklings-related posts. You will also find discussions of any arts that take our fancy at the moment. There is plenty of analysis of Doctor Who.

There is another Lewis connection, too. He lost his mother at age nine, and later wrote: “With my mother's death all settled happiness . . . disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of joy; but no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent had sunk like Atlantis.”

In those astonishing encounters with great art, we are lifted out of the gray, dull, or stormy sea of everyday experience, shot through with a dart of longing. Those moments are bright sparks in the darkness of sin, violence, depression, and drudgery. As Chaucer wrote: We blunder ever, and poren in the fire, / And, for all that, we fail of our desire. But the desire keeps taking hold of us, sharp as swords, sweet as sex, swiftly-passing as the wind. It is a kind of wanderlust, a yearning to travel to:
The land where I shall never be
The love that I shall never see.
Lewis Letters I:283, quoting Andrew Lang
There is a huge theme in European literature of longing for Western Islands: Atlantis, Avalon, Númenor, Valinor, Venus/Perelandra, Sarras.... I hope to write or edit a book on this topic one day.

But rare is the traveller who reaches one of these longed-for islands.

Because the whole point of the longing is that it cannot be satisfied in this life. It is a signpost to Heaven. All satisfactions here fail to satiate, because we really want God.

In the meanwhile, we alight momentarily on these islands of joy, stopping to gaze at a painting, read a poem, listen to a piece of music, or stare out at the horizon.

23 September 2013

Islands of Joy?

What do you think? Is that a good name for this blog? Here's a draft description:

Each work of art and each encounter with nature is an island of "Sehnsucht": a moment of heavenly longing out of mundane existence. Here we reflect on how the arts show forth divine truth. 

C.S. Lewis wrote about "joy" or "sehnsucht" all his life: about those moments of insatiable longing that point us to God. In his life, as in mine, those moments are most frequently stimulated by a work of art (poetry, music, etc.) or something beautiful in nature.  

The other title I'm considering is Surprised by Everything, since that is also how I live. I am like a child in the face of great art or natural beauty. It is always new, always shocking, always uplifting. 

I believe that all great works of art, whether their creators meant them to or not, bear witness to the deep truth of the Christian faith. 

So what do you think? Is that a good title for this blog? What encounters have catalyzed sehnsucht in your life? Does art show forth Christian truth?

13 September 2013

Blog name change!

Dear readers!

The time has come to change the name of this blog. When I began writing this blog 8 years ago, it was mostly personal thoughts about art and faith. As it has developed over time, it has become more of a mish-mash: some more professional, some even more personal.

But now I'm trying to gather up the bits and pieces of my online life and streamline them a little. So the time has come to change the name of this blog.

It's a contest!

Suggest a new title for this blog. I will give a copy of my book Caduceus to the person whose suggestion I take!

So come on and give me your best creative, clever suggestions. You may want to skim through the archives to see what the content tends to be. There have been a few common themes:
- Inklings (Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams)
- Interviews about the current state of the arts
- Doctor Who, theology, and literary theory
more broadly:
- "literature"
- "poetry"
- "theology"

Most importantly, it's a blog about FAITH AND ART. The Christian faith, and fine art.

Furthermore, let me know if you are interested in writing for me on either a random or regular basis. Cheers. 

11 September 2013

Sharon's #3DNC Prologue and First Chapter


Flit, flit. Dart, dart, dart. Flit flit. Dart, dart, dart.

Hummingbird skitted about the cornstalks, happily chirping her little ditty. The rustling of the sheaths added a slow rumble to the tempo of her song. Next, the crickets added their voices to the mix, and it wasn't long before all of Beauty was singing along with her.

Hummingbird soaked in every beat, hum and whisper offered up around her. Slowly she began to dance with the cornstalks, unable to resist the inviting swishes across the face and pushes of the back. With corn as her partner, she danced her heart out and cried with joy.

Flit, flit. Dart, dart, dart. Flit, flit. Dart, dart, dart. Flit, Flit. THUMP!

Hummingbird's dance was brought to an abrupt end as she collided with her new partner. She went sprawling. She laughed as she bounced back up, excited to see who was there. The smell of lilies met her nose before the face met her eyes.

"Hello, Hummingbird." A deep, soft, powerful and comforting voice greeted her.

"Oh, hello! Do you want to dance with us?" Hummingbird had noticed that Beauty had continued to dance and sing without her.

"Another time. I have something for you." He handed her a picture of a child. She took it and frowned. "What's wrong, Hummingbird?"

"It's a sad picture. I don't like sad pictures. I only draw happy, pretty pictures."

"Not everything sad is ugly, Hummingbird. You don't have to draw her, only to watch out for her and visit her. She is going to suffer many things and will need encouragement."

"You mean she is going to get a boo-boo?"

"She is going to get several."

"Why don't you keep her away from the boo-boos?" Hummingbird looked at him, almost accusingly. She watched him give what might be called a sigh as he bowed his head and took a moment to contemplate.

"I don't know the full answer to that question," He responded. "But I know it is better for her to experience the suffering than to be saved from it.”

Hummingbird frown again. "I don't understand."

"I don't always understand either, but I always trust. Will you watch her?" Hummingbird looked at the picture again; the frown deepened. She nodded her head. "Will you encourage her?" Another nod. "Good. Keep dancing, Hummingbird; you do it well." With a slight bow of his head he left her.

"Wait," she called out. "What's her name?"


Chapter 1

A hand grabbed onto the sack on her head and ripped it off. Joyel was shaking, her head was spinning from the dizzying ride, her eyes burned with the visions of her bodyguard’s slaughter, and her body ached from being jostled, kicked, hit and thrown about.

"Where am I?" her pitiful, childish voice rang out. The men who were with her turned on her roughly.

"Don't ask questions," one of them responded, shoving her into a chair.

"But where am I?" She insisted. Her fear made her bold. Her anger made her reckless. She stood and shot back at him: "Why did you hurt Micah? Are you going to make sure he's alright? Where have you brought me? When are you going to take me back home?"

"Shut up!" A slap across the cheek knocked her back into her chair.

"That's enough, Jothram." A new voice entered the conversation. Joyel looked up. It was a third man. He was tall, slim, but powerful-looking. His bass voice added to his impression. "When a child asks you a question, you must answer them gently? Isn't that right, Gorath?" He addressed the other man in the room, mockingly. Gorath turned away and said nothing.

Joyel was emboldened by this third's presence. He seemed more gentle and welcoming. She felt her pulse relax. This was all a mistake and he was going to set it right. She didn't rise this time, but she repeated her initial question to him all the same. He crouched down next to her chair and matched his face to hers in order to match eye levels.

"You are in Miarnsol. In my home."

"Why have you brought me here?"

"Don't you like it here?"


"Why not?"

"Those men aren't very nice. They hurt Micah."

The man glared at them. "This was supposed to be a clean job. You shouldn't have nabbed her with other children around."

"She's talking about her bodyguard," Jothram explained in defense.

"Ah. I'm sorry about that, Joyel, but it couldn't be helped. You see, he wanted to keep you from visiting us, and we so wanted you to come."

"Well, someone should take care him. He'll get sick otherwise."

"Listen kid - " Jothram stepped forward but was stopped by a look from the man still crouched next to Joyel.

"I promise you, Joyel, that Micah will be taken care of."

Something in his tone made Joyel feel uneasy. She was tired and her skin chaffed against the rope. "Take these off." She demanded lifted up her bound wrists; the man Gorath stepped towards her with a knife. He also was stopped. The crouching man stood up.

"No, she can take them off herself."

Joyel did not like the sound of that. She sat a bit straighter, stuck out her chin and stared up at the three men. "Untie me right now and then take me home. I don't like it here. I don't want to visit."

"Demanding little thing isn't she?" He turned to leave; the other two followed his example. Joyel was still tied and they were leaving her. Panic was starting to rise in her, forcing her to her feet.

"Wait!" She almost screamed. "Aren't you going to take me home?"

The third man smiled at her: "This is your home." And shut the door.


Joyel must have passed out. She was lying on the floor and someone was shaking her. A gentle whisper encouraged her to get up.

"Come on, girl. You'd better get up before he comes to see you. I have breakfast for you."

Joyel felt foggy. She didn't recognize the voice. Did she get a new nursemaid? She tried pushing herself off the bed but she couldn't; her arms must be asleep. Hands reached out and pulled her up into the chair. Joyel finally was able to open her heavy eyelids. Sun beamed in through the window but there was something strange about the curtains. She glanced around the room; everything seemed out of place. Why had she been moved to a different bedroom? She was about to ask the maid who she was and why she hadn't been told about the change in rooms, when she felt something odd on her wrists. She tried to move them but she couldn't. The slightest movement hurt as if skin was being rubbed raw. She looked down at her hands only to find them tied together.

That's when it hit her. She let out one scream. Then another, followed by a continuous stream of screams. The woman with her tried to calm her down, but Joyel took no notice of her. Someone barged into the room; Joyel barely noticed he was one of the men she had talked to last night.

"What is she screaming for?"

"I don't know."

"Well shut her up!"

"I can't."

Something like a growl came from him. He walked over to where Joyel sat and smacked her soundly. She stopped screaming. "That's better." He rubbed his temples and walked around the room, loosening himself up. "Well, since I'm here I might as well get on with my task of the day." He pulled a chair up next to her. "Joyel, my name is Anson." He might as well have introduced himself as Lucifer. In her current state, he appeared very much like the devil to Joyel, exciting and enticing but deadly and treacherous. "I trust you slept well." He waited for a response but got none. "I want to tell you about your new life. The life you knew as Joyel is gone. She’s dead."

Joyel took him literally. She screamed again, pain ripped up with sore throat as her high-pitched fear escaped her. Anson started yelling at her again but she would not stop. He struck her again but this had no effect on her either. The woman tried to intervene, but she too received blows and was sent out with orders to fetch something for him. Anson closed the door behind her and leaned against it, waiting for Joyel to finish. Eventually her screams subdued. She had no voice left. Tears became her next outlet and she wept freely. He waited patiently until she was finished, occupying himself with reports the woman had brought back to him. Finally there was nothing left. Joyel was empty. She felt hollow and believed she was dead. Anson waited a moment to make sure she was actually finished before continuing. Satisfied, he put down his data pad and again sat beside her.

"As I was saying, Joyel is dead. You, however, are very much alive, but you are being reborn into a new person. Think of a butterfly. For a butterfly to exist, the caterpillar must be transformed; no doubt it is a painful and frightening time for the caterpillar wrapped up all alone in that little cocoon, but after it is all said and done a beautiful butterfly emerges. So it will be with you. You came to me as Joyel; you will leave as Joy. You came as John Denevar's daughter, but you will become mine.

You have before you choices - you can resist the cocooning or you can embrace it. A cocoon may seem restrictive, but think of how safe it keeps that little caterpillar until he is ready to face the world in his new-found glory. You can resist my adoption and choose to live as a prisoner. You will remain tied until you loose your own bonds; your door will remain unlocked but you must choose to walk through it into freedom. As my daughter, you will learn to trust me and obey me. This is for your own good; do not fight against it."

Anson stood up and placed a hand on her shoulder. It was strangely comforting. Joyel looked at him, bewildered by all that he had said. He smiled at her. The door opened and Jothram walked in. Her eyes went from Anson to him. He was tall, obviously muscular in a brutish, brooding kind of way. He returned my glance with a sneer.

"She's finally calmed down? She's got some powerful lungs, you have to give her that." He ran his eye over me again. "She's a pretty little brat, isn't she? She'll be a looker when she loses her childish form."

"That's not her purpose. Touch her and you'll regret it." Jothram balked at the severity of Anson's threat but said nothing. He stormed out of the room, leaving her alone with her new father. "I have to go now, Joy. Eat your breakfast. I'll be back to see how you are doing after my work is done for the day."


When Anson returned, he found Joyel exactly as he left her: sitting on her chair staring at her bound hands. Her breakfast tray remained untouched, as well as her lunch tray with had been brought to her some hours before. He spoke to her, calling her by her new name but she didn't respond. He tried to get her to eat but that didn't work either. She was in a stupor and would not be brought out.

"She's in shock." He spoke to Gorath who was with him. "I don't have time to get her to snap out of it. Stay with her and make her eat." Anson glanced at the tray of food in Gorath's hands. "At least one of her meals." Anson left and Gorath placed the food down on the table near her bed. He observed her and was overwhelmed with sadness and compassion. This poor little girl was just like him: a slave of Anson's with no way out.

"Admira Joyel?" hearing her title brought her up, but her eyes remained cast on the floor. "My name is Gorath. I am your servant and will help you in any way I can." Their eyes locked. "Won't you eat something? I've brought you your dinner. It looks good."

"It smells disgusting."

Gorath smiled at her frankness. He could see why Anson took her: she was bold, stubborn, and used to having things her own way. "That's because it was made in the food generator. It has a funny smell but it's still good." For you at least, he thought to himself.

"What's a food generator?"

"It's how we supplement our food supply. It's like a replicator from the modernist space stories but not as sophisticated. That’s why it smells. Here try some."

"How can I? My hands are tied."

"You must untie them."

"How?" Joyel's temper flared and she jumped to her feet. "Why does everyone keep telling me to untie them myself? I can't. I can't!" With her last cry she thrust herself at the table, knocking over the trays off food. She began kicking the table, the bowls, trays: anything her feet could find. She was yelling again. Strong hands took hold of her but they were gentle and they drew her into an embrace.

"Hush Admira Joyel, hush." Joyel tried to struggle but she couldn't get free. Her body, faint from hunger and shock, gave in. She pressed herself against Gorath's chest and sobbed.

"I want to go home. I want my Mom. I want my Dad. I want to see Micah. I'm scared and I want to go home!"

"I know," was his only reply. He rocked her back and forth until she went limp from exhaustion. He led her back to her chair and asked her to eat, but Joyel just shook her head. He looked at her again, trying to think of what to do. Her matted hair caught his eye. It hung about her in clumps and knots. She was young, but her hair was long and thick. He searched the room and found a comb. "Admira Joyel, with permission?" He held out the comb to her and her eyes lit up. She nodded her head and he went behind her to begin slowly working the knots out of her hair. It was a long process but worth it. Her body relaxed with the comforting familiarity of a comb being worked through her hair. The more knots he got out, the more calm she seemed.

"Is your name really Gorath?"

"Yes. Why do you ask?"

"That man wants to call me Joy instead of Joyel. I thought maybe he changed everyone's name here." She was silent again. "How do you know how to comb hair?"

"I had a little daughter about your age."

"My father never combed my hair. He said he couldn't because he was a man and wouldn't do it right. Plus he was always busy."

"Your father is an important man, Admira Joyel. I'm sure he didn't have the luxury of spending as much time with you as he would have liked, so combing your hair seemed of little importance."

The idea of her father not having a luxury was strange to Joyel, as her whole life was surrounded by luxury. But she liked the thought of him wanting to spend more time with her than he had. Maybe he did actually want to but was unable to. Gorath finished her hair, found a tie and braided it for her. He replaced the comb, lifted her off the chair, and placed her on the bed.

"I think you need to rest. Why don't you sleep some, then I'll have some women come and give you a bath and some clean clothes. Would you like that?"

"Oh yes, thank you. I've never felt so dirty in my whole life."

"Is there anything else I can get you?"

"It’s silly, but I want my doll. Donna."

"I'm sorry Admira, I can't do that. Something else?"

Joyel considered a moment, sucking her bottom lip thoughtfully. "Do you have paper here?"

"Paper? We have data pads."

"No. I want paper. I want to draw on real paper with a real pencil. Can you get me some?"

"I'll try. Have a good rest, Admira." He ordered the lights to darken and turned to leave. Her little voice stopped him.

"What is your daughter’s name?"

His heart sank at the question. He spoke her name in a broken voice. "Tessa."

"Do you think she could come play with me sometime?" His head dropped and he put a clenched fist to his chest. He stood there silently for a long time. "Gorath, can she play with me?"

"I wish she could, Admira. But she's dead."


Joyel sat on her chair with a table of food in front of her. A woman stood in the room with a pad of real paper and a set of real drawing pencils in her hand. Joyel eyed them hungrily but she was told she wouldn't get them until she ate something. Her hands were still tied but after her bath the coarse rope had been replaced with soft linen ties, still uncomfortable but less abrasive.

She was starving at this point. It had been almost two days since she had eaten anything but she could not bring herself to eat the food before her. There was some portion of meat on her plate, and what looked to be a vegetable and perhaps a pile of rice but it smelled hot like melting plastic and looked about as appetizing. She looked at the drawing supplies across the room, and she became famished. Awkwardly she picked up a fork, twisting her hands to get one free to be able to hold it, dipped it into her rice and brought it and both hands up to her mouth.

It was tasteless and had an odd texture but once that food hit her empty stomach Joyel felt as though she had never had a more delicious meal. She hastily dug into her food again but eating with bound hands became cumbersome. She threw the fork away from herself and flung her face upon her food devouring all that she could with her mouth and licking up anything she missed.

When she was finished the woman wiped her mouth, cleaned her table and set the paper and pencils before her. Joyel lifted her hands to her expectantly but the woman just shook her head no. "How am I supposed to draw with my hands tied?" she demanded.

"I don't know Joy but I'm not allowed to untie you. If you want it bad enough, you'll either untie yourself or find a way to manage with them tied."

She left her alone then, taking the tray of food out with her. Joyel stuck an irritated tongue out at her back. "Find a way to manage." she muttered with annoyance. She didn't know what was wrong with everyone here but they all expected her to magically be able to get out of her bonds. She tried to comply, twisting her hand s this way, than that way hoping to wiggle them free but nothing bugged. The fabric didn't even begin to fray. She was determined to draw. She picked up the pencil and moved it back and forth between hands and fingers to find a position that would work for her. She found that if she kept her drawing hand on top, she was able to 'manage' well enough. It took some getting used to but soon she was absorbed into her work that she forgot about her hands being tied.

She drew a picture of her doll, then the capital where her family lived, then a picture of her father and lastly her mother. She stared at her collection. The crudely drawn images stared back at her. She started feeling lightheaded and her breathing became labored. "Mommy, Daddy, come get me." She scooped up the drawings in her arms and clasped them to her chest. She tried crying but she couldn't. She started to panic as her breaths became harder and harder to take. She started to wheeze. Her drawings dropped to the ground as she frantically began trying to rub her chest which felt incredibly tight, like she was going to squeeze herself to death. She tried to cry out for help but she couldn't. She fell off her chair into a ball on the floor.

The doors opened and Anson walked in. He had been watching her on the surveillance camera and saw an opportunity. He gently picked up off the floor and held her in his lap. Her small body was struggling for air and against her panic.

"Calm down Joy. Everything's fine. Calm down, take deep slow breaths. Try, try to slow your breaths down. Here, breathe with me. In and out. In and out." His deep soothing voice counted a rhythm for her, which was reinforced by the rise and fall of his chest against her back. Slowly her breathing adapted to his breathing. She sat limp in his lap, breathing heavily and still rubbing her chest but she was more subdued now. He kissed her forehead, which caused Joyel to flinch, and gently rocked her back and forth. "Don't worry Joy, your father is here."

10 September 2013

#3DNC: Jeff's first chapter


It had happened again. The Dream. It had been recurring every night for the past six weeks. There were minor inconsistencies here and there, but several factors always remain the same.
Rochelle is always there. I miss her more and more every day.
Robert is also there, and he is arguing with Rochelle about Star Wars. He claims Empire Strikes Back is the best—which it is—but Rochelle disagrees. She says that all about Yoda it is. Robert says it's the best because it has the most Han Solo and nobody in their right mind could ever think it was all about Yoda.
And then there's the third man. I call him Orson Welles. Not that he looks anything like him, get it, don't you? Or you don't, fine. Whatever. I don't give a flying leap. O.W. is always giving a speech about why he doesn't tip waitresses. It sounds vaguely familiar, but I've given up trying to guess if I've heard it before and just assume that I'm remembering it from my previous dream.
Anyway, in the middle of everyone talking, suddenly Robert grows stiff and starts coughing. He grabs at his chest, moaning in pain. Even though I'm worried, I laugh at him. Every time. Makes me a sucky friend, I guess. O.W. keeps right on talking and ignoring Robert until eventually Rochelle yells at him to shut up and hits him with a beer bottle. I finally manage to control my laughter and then we all turn to see what's happening to Robert. Rochelle suggest heartburn and Mr. Welles recommends antacid. The end result is always the same. Robert falls to the ground and stops moving, stops breathing. Rochelle wonders if he is dead and then suddenly his chest bursts open and out leaps...a dinosaur?
I forgot to mention, there's always this creepy guy filming us. I've never seen him outside of the dream, but O.W. seems to know him. At least, he knows his name. Hefé, he calls him. The dream always ends with O.W. telling Hefé to stop filming.
The only major change between dreams is that I don't always wake up in a sweat.
I've told no one about my dream. I don't know why. Maybe I think it would frighten anyone else. Heckleberries, it frightens me. But it shouldn't, really. After all, it's just a dream.

Plymouth Rock

This was one of the sweatless awakenings. Thank goodness, I thought. I was in the car with my family and Robert on our way up to Plymouth Rock and it would be quite embarrassing to perspire in their presence. Although, I doubt Robert would care overmuch. He'd been my best friend since the move. My older brother Elmer, on the other hand, would tease me about it for weeks. He'd probably ask me which boy I'd been dreaming about that would get me so worked up in a sweat. Gosh, he could be so immature. You'd never guess he was heading off to college in the fall. Sometimes I wonder if he ever really aged, or if he's still a little boy inside, wanting to play in the sandbox with all the other kids. He's certainly more rebellious than I am, and I'm a teenage girl right at the height of the angsty stage of life. I've often heard my parents refer to me at the angel in the family, while Elmer is the black sheep. Personally, it bothers me when they say that. I'd rather see a sheep that's black over an angel anyway. I mean, when an angel tells you what to do, you gotta do it, but when a sheep tells you what to do, you can just tell it you can't understand what it's saying. Which would be the truth, so long as you don't speak sheep.
“Are we there yet?” It was me that had spoken. But don't worry, I'm not some irritating little kid that you want to strangle every five seconds; I'm sixteen. The question was not a loud inquiry to my parents, it was a soft one to Robert, who was sitting across the car from me in one of the chairs in the middle of the car. Elmer sat in the back and our picnic lunch sat in the way, way back. Not that we had a rear-facing—or, “rumble”—seat anymore, that was our old car. When we bought this minivan, all the worlds I'd imagined while riding in the car backward died out like stars, or something. I guess bugs die out pretty quickly too. Especially that one kind of fly, that only has a twenty-four hour life cycle. What is it called? Fuscrew it, I don't know.
Anyway, so I asked Robert if we were there yet and he didn't reply. I noticed that he had his headphones in, so I tried to guess what he was listening to. Kids in the Way? Nah, too dark for a bright sunny day like today. Anberlin? Nope, they're not good road trip music. Relient K? They're fun and talented and Robert enjoyed seeing them in concert when we won tickets to go see them(on my birthday, no less! Best birthday present ever!!! Matt Theissen's hair was glorious, so abundant you could have fit a cow in it. Although, why anyone would want to hide a cow in their hair is beyond me. Also, they ended up playing “Up and Up” which is Robert's favorite by them, as well as “Be My Escape”, which is my favorite song ever!!! Whoa, two uses of bold ever's followed by three exclamation points in the same rabbit trail. Righteous!). Having decided that they were most definitely the band he was listening to, I reached out and took one of Robert's earbuds and put it in my own ear. I was greeted with what sounded two knives being rubbed together while a third knife was stabbing a victim to death and we could hear her screams.
“What is this junk?” I asked Robert.
He looked up at me, shrugged, and said simply “I like heavy music some times. This is The Polygons.”
“Mmhmm,” I nodded, “Well, I've just been sleeping; do you know how much further we have to go?”
“Just half an hour, sweetie.” That would be my mom. Of course she was listening in on our conversation. “Would you like me to style your hair for the rest of the trip?” she offered.
“Mom,” I rolled my eyes, “I don't need to do anything with my hair when all we're doing is looking at a rock.”
“But it's an important rock,” she said defensively, “You'll wanna look your best.”
“Why?” I raised an eyebrow. I was so happy when I first learned to do that. “In case George Washington is there and asks me to marry him?”
A smart reply followed, “Actually, George Washington was not one of the original pilgrims who landed at Plymouth—”
“Shut up!” I snarled.
Again, you're probably thinking I'm horribly bratty and rebellious to speak that way to my mother, but actually, it was my brother who had piped up, and it was he I was silencing. After I'd snapped at him, he gave a satisfied smirk and opened up his book again. How could he read in the car and not get carsick? It's so unfair! Besides, he's using his ability to do so to read Ted Dekker. I mean, really, can you get any lower than that? If I was able to do what he could, I would be reading classics, like Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, or Anne of Green Gables, not trash about murders and alternate universes and such.
After a brief silence, Robert piped up. “I hear Plymouth Rock isn't even that big.”
“Where'd you hear that piece of rubbish?” asked my dad from the front. That was my dad, always trying to put Robert down. I don't know why he hated him so much.
“Have you ever seen Plymouth Rock?” I queried.
“No,” he admitted.
“Then how would you know that he's wrong?” I retorted. That shut him up for a while.
Okay, so maybe I do have a bit of a rebellious side
After what seemed like hours, but was only half of one, we finally reached our destination.
“Anyone want half a piece of gum?” my mom asked.
“Mom, stop taking only half the stick,” whined Elmer, “Nobody wants the other half!”
“Actually, if you don't mind, I'd love to finish it for you,” volunteered Robert.
“Here you go,” said my mom, delighted. I just rolled my eyes. That was Robert, always sucking up to my parents.
“And here we are,” announced my dad triumphantly.
We all took a moment to gaze upon the majesty of Plymouth Rock and ponder its significance in American history—hey, is that a butterfly? So pretty!
It was Elmer who broke the silence. “You know what? Robert's right, it's really not that impressive. I'll be in the car.”
“Come on, son,” chided my dad, “we just got here. Stick around for a bit.”
“Why?” Elmer wanted to know, and to be honest, I was wondering the same thing.
“Because it's history, man!” uttered my father, going off on one of his over-dramatic tangents, “Culture! You have to appreciate it while you're young! Lord knows I didn't fully comprehend the significance of history when I was your age.”
Elmer smirked, “Then I guess I'll just wait until I'm an old fogey like you to appreciate it. See ya.”
Elmer strolled off toward the car. My dad followed him, still trying to reason with the boy. The rest of us just sort of hung out and waited for them to come back. Eventually, we realized that they weren't going to and that my dad, despite his claims to the contrary, was probably just as bored as Elmer and in all likelihood, they'd slipped off to have a burger or something.
Around the time I figured this out, my mom decided to move off to a distance to admire the rock from a new angle, leaving Robert and I alone.
“So this is Plymouth Rock,” I said.
“Yup,” he agreed.
“And what spiritual significance have you gleaned from this enlightening experience?” I inquired dramatically.
Robert smiled. “Never take part in a Kirschbaum family trip.”
“I wish I could choose to opt out,” I groaned.
“You were born into the wrong family, Marie,” Robert remarked. Then he reached into his mouth, pulled out the piece of gum he'd been chewing, and flung it at Plymouth rock. The white glop stuck to the rock as if determined that it should be part of history too. For a moment, I stood in shock, nearly furious as my friend for defacing such a significant monument. Then I looked again and realized it was just a rock with a piece of gum attached. I turned to Robert and we both burst out laughing. I high-fived him, and we turned to go back to the car.
“Smile for the camera!” a voice called out. I hate random crowd photographers, but Robert and obligingly turned to face the camera and smiled. The man pressed his finger on the button, but there was no flash, no beep, no noise of any kind. To my surprise, I noticed that he was not photographing us, he was filming us. I was immediately taken aback, but then my shock multiplied tenfold when I realized that he was the man from my dream. Hefé.

09 September 2013

#3DNC: Marian's first chapter

Here is the first chapter of Marian's novel-in-progress, Aakroveil, which she has been writing for a couple of years now and worked on over our three-day-novel madness. Enjoy!

Chapter One

“She’s dead.”
Dorian looked down at the crumpled corpse. A hundred pairs of eyes were on him, seeing how he would react. He could feel the horror and fear streaming from the people around him. They all held their breath, waiting for him to fix things. But he couldn’t bring her back.
She was face down in a puddle of blood, and there was a trail of blood on the grass, leading back to the woods. The woods which were at least a mile away. He knelt, and gently turned the body. Her face was unfamiliar to him, but she had been pretty once. His eyes swept down her, looking for the wound. Several people gasped. Her stomach had been gashed open. The cut was so deep that there was more than mere blood on the ground. Dorian, sickened, turned the body back to its original position.
“Who found her?” he called out. A young boy stepped forward. His face was ashen and streaked with tears.
“I, sir.” He answered timidly.
The crowd lost their hushed silence, and began to murmur anxiously. A few shouted questions. “Was she killed by an animal?” “Is she really a faerie?” and so on. Dorian nodded permission to the undertakers to wrap the poor woman’s body up and take her away. Yes, she was definitely a faerie. Her damaged wings and soft, ethereal features made that plain. No, she was not killed by an animal. She was murdered, and her murder could start a war. He thought these things to himself, but spoke no more to the crowd. He pushed past them, ignoring their pleas and hysteria. It was if there had never been a murder before in Wenton. His head was exploding, and he collapsed into his carriage with relief, as the closed door muffled the sounds of the crowd.
Dorian leaned his head back against the cushioned seat with his eyes firmly closed. He wanted to swear loudly and angrily, and break something costly. Never had there been a murdered faerie in all their land. Not during his time as Lord of Wenton, and not anytime before that since the faerie kingdom of Brightveil and the human kingdom of Aakroveil signed a treaty; a treaty that had been upheld for over a hundred years. Now, suddenly, someone gets it into his mind to go into faerie territory, brutally kill a faerie woman, and drag her back unto human land so that there would be no confusion as to which species had done the deed. The treaty was broken, and Dorian knew who had done it.
“I’ve never seen one up close before.”
Dorian jumped and opened his eyes. He saw a figure sitting in the dark corner of the other side of the carriage.
“I didn’t scare you, did I?” she asked innocently.
Dorian relaxed. It was just Lady Winters. Actually, it was a good thing she was there, he thought. It was easier for him to think when she was around. He often thought of her as his second brain.
“Well, when you sneak into my carriage, I’ll admit it is quite frightening. You will forgive me,” he added, “if I am a little on edge.”
“Understandably so.” She swiftly moved over next to Dorian. “Here,” she handed him a glass containing a hot substance, “drink this.”
“What is it?” he sniffed suspiciously.
“Dorian!” she chided playfully, “don’t you trust me?” He glanced over at her wearily and took a sip at her coaxing.
“Tea.’ He muttered, again closing his eyes. “Thank you. I won’t ask how you managed to brew some all the way out here.”
“That’s good, because I wouldn’t tell you.”
They sat in silence for a little while. The rocking of the carriage and the clip clop of the horse were the only things to be heard. Dorian was surprised at Meg’s silence. She had been on his council of advisers for seven years ever since her husband died and always had an opinion on every matter of importance. How she could be silent at a time like this was beyond his understanding.
“What am I going to do, Meg?” he finally asked.
“That’s not for you to decide.” She responded. “This needs to be taken up with the king.”
Dorian grimaced. King Harding had been a good ruler, but he was currently incapacitated by grief. Queen Olivia had died a few months before, and Harding hadn’t been thinking straight ever since. His daughter, Princess Emma, was also gravely ill. She was so ill that she’d been sequestered to her rooms for the past three months. Dorian prayed that she would not die; Harding’s grief might kill him is she did. Dorian doubted he would realize the gravity of the situation or propose any possible solutions with the weight of his wife’s death and his daughter’s illness upon him.
“How long do you think we have before the faeries retaliate?” he asked, avoiding the subject of their King; although, he knew the answer better than she could.
“It depends. That faerie could have been the daughter of a prominent family in the community, or she may have been a loner. Her absence may be discovered this minute, or it might go unnoticed for months.” She grabbed his tea, took a sip, and handed it back. Dorian was about to protest, but decided against it.
“It is safe to say,” she continued, “ that we have a week or two before anything dramatic happens. Dorian,” she stared at him intently, “we have to find the killer.”
Impossible, Dorian wanted to tell her. The man who killed that woman cannot be found, unless he wants to find you. In which case, you’re probably already dead. Yet, Dorian could not tell her this, so he simply shook his head.
“No, Meg. This is beyond me and my soldiers. We are dealing with a mad man. You would have to be utterly mad to kill a faerie.”
“Agreed, but we can’t let someone get away with this. It’s murder, Dorian.”
“I know what it is!” he replied, fiercely. She set her jaw, but turned her face away, and let the matter drop. They had left the country behind now, and were nearing the city.
“I’ll tell the driver to take you home.” He said. Meg stopped him with a hand on his arm.
“No, need,” she said. “I instructed him before you came in.”
Dorian smiled, ever so slightly. It was the first hint of a smile all morning. “Lady Winters, you never cease to amaze me,” he told her with gallant admiration.
She smiled back as some tension released. “I hope I never will.”
Dorian’s carriage pulled up in front of his fortified castle. He was relieved to see home after such a tumultuous morning. He had left Lady Winters at her home a few miles away. “No doubt we shall see each-other soon,” she said as she exited the carriage, “once the king finds out about this, he will surely call together a council and you will have to be prepared for it.” Dorian prayed not. The last thing he wanted was to discuss this matter with an ailing king and unconcerned nobles. No one, not even Meg who had a better head on her shoulders than most, really knew the danger that was about to come. Dorian stepped out of his carriage and stormed into his home through the massive wood doors. They slammed shut behind him.
Once inside, Dorian took a deep breath, and then proceeded to yell at the top of his lungs. It was something akin to a deep-throated scream. His servants nearby jumped at the sound, but carried on their duties quietly. Dorian had been known to make loud seemingly unwarranted noises at times.
At the sound of Dorian’s yell, an old man hobbled down the hall toward him. He was quite an amusing sight: a few days’ stubble dotting his face, shaggy, long hair sloppily thrown back into a ponytail. He was still in his dressing gown, even though it was almost midmorning, and he had a book and pen tucked under his thin arm. His bright eyes spoke of intelligence and delight. He moved as fast as he could toward Dorian, who signaled him to follow away from the servants. The old man let out a little chuckle as he nodded to the serving maids and half ran, half stumbled after Dorian.
Once they were out of sight, he burst out excitedly, “Dorian, my dove! You’re back! Fantastic!” he clapped his hands together like a child at a circus. “Tell me all about it. Was it gruesome? Who was murdered? I’ve been waiting in anticipation all morning! What took you so long?”
Dorian rolled his eyes. “You know, old man, I don’t know why I tolerate you and your babbling. Someone has been killed. Could you show a little more respect?”
“Ah,” the old man coughed and collected himself, “of course. Forgive me, Dorian. It’s just been a very exciting day.”
Dorian groaned. “It is eleven o’clock in the morning, and already the day has been horrible, Toepoh, not exciting. I shudder to think what will happen during the rest of it.”
Toepoh said nothing, but looked at Dorian anxiously. Dorian saw the eagerness in his eyes, sighed, and consented to tell him about the crime. He mentioned everything from the number of spectators to the size of the pool of blood. He carefully left out that Lady Winters had snuck into his carriage, as Toepoh had the ridiculous assumption that the woman had feelings for Dorian. Toepoh hung on Dorian’s every word and wrote down all the details dutifully. It grieved Dorian to tell the story, but Toepoh was quite thrilled to copy it down. Lastly, Dorian mentioned the cause of death. Toepoh stopped writing and looked up at Dorian, a little of the shine in his face diminished.
“Goodness me…you don’t mean-“
“Yes. This was Draven’s doing.”
Toepoh involuntarily shivered. “We’re in danger, then?”
Finally! Dorian thought. Someone who understands.
“Yes.” He replied. “I cannot help but think that this killing is a message, to me: a warning that something more is coming.”
“No doubt, no doubt.” Toepoh babbled energetically, “Dorian,” he paused, and the gleam in his old eyes returned, “this is fantastic!”
Dorian shot him an angry glare. “Fantastic? Toepoh, a woman is dead, and our entire kingdom is in great danger.”
“Indeed, but things like this make great stories! Think of it – murder, mayhem, a national pandemic of terror! War, suffering, intrigue!”
“Stop!” Dorian held up his hand, and then put it to his forehead. “This is not fantastic! This is frightening.”
Toepoh softened a bit. “Are you really frightened, Dorian?”
“Yes.” Dorian said. “I am.” They stopped walking outside of the door which led into the Scriptorium. Dorian unlocked the door. “I haven’t seen Draven in ten years. Suddenly, he is in my life again, and I want nothing to do with it. You don’t understand how powerful he is, and his innate capability to destroy lives. The worst part of it is, I don’t know what he wants or where he’ll strike next.”
“Maybe this will help you then,” Toepoh gestured inward to the Scriptorium.
The Scriptorium was the largest, most organized, and beautiful room in Dorian’s mansion. In it were all the things Dorian held most dear: books, desks, paper, ink, stories, and imagination. Whenever one opened the door to the Scriptorium, they could not help but be overwhelmed by its glorious majesty even if it was their hundredth time visiting the room.
Dorian’s Scriptorium was carpeted, something that was considered quiet a luxury. It was furnished with two fireplaces, the walls were lined with oak bookshelves (at a safe distance away from the fireplaces), chairs and couches, desks and tables, and even a small pantry if the men were working too hard to eat a proper supper. It was like home within home, Dorian often thought. He and Toepoh came here when he was upset or couldn’t sleep.
“What would you like to work on today, my dove?” Toepoh made his way to his desk and began arranging his paper, ink, and pen. Dorian threw himself down on a couch, exhausted.
“I don’t think now is the time for stories.”
“You’re tired, bitter, and emotionally distraught. It’s the perfect time for a story.”
Dorian truly did wonder why he kept the chintzy old man around. God knows he had tried to get rid of him. Toepoh had been his scribe for over ten years, and more than once, Dorian had fired him, but somehow Toepoh didn’t seem to think that affected his ability to work for Dorian, live with Dorian, and eat his food.

Their first adventure together, the time they met, took place on a blistering hot summer day. Dorian had been a wanderer back then, traveling from distant country to distant country. He was running from his past on foot and through pen. Dorian was at this time staying in the village of Mertz. It was small and quiet for the first few months he lived there. One day he was taking his daily walk, and he happened upon a mob ready to lynch a man. He hardly had time to think before he rushed into the crowd. He tried to ask the men and women aside him what on earth was going on, but they were too busy hurling insults at the old man on the scaffold. Dorian saw the executioner pull a dirty hood over the man’s face, and knew that the condemned man had but a minute to live. Dorian pushed furiously through the crowd, reached the scaffold, and jumped atop it. That got the crowd to silence their cries. They all stared at him angrily and with bloodthirsty eyes.
“In the name of God, someone tell me what is going on here!” Dorian shouted.
A young man stepped forward. “Move aside, stranger. This man is being hanged for slander.”
“Slander?” Dorian scoffed. “Hardly a hanging offense.”
A voice came from behind the hood. “Oh, you don’t know what I said.” Dorian yanked the hood off of the prisoner. The old man’s blue eyes smiled at him. He seemed to be thrilled about his impending death.
“Shut up.” Dorian said quietly. He threw the hood down authoritatively. “What has this man said that could get him hanged?” He addressed the crowd once more.
“He wrote unspeakable things against our high lord! Lies!” Several cries of agreement and outrage rose from the crowd.
“They weren’t lies!” the old man screamed back at them. “Ha! Why don’t you go ask your precious high lord if what I said was true or not?” The crowd was in uproar. The young man who had answered Dorian’s questions tried to run up as If he were going to strangle Toepoh himself, but the crowd was too dense. He gave up, reached into his pocket, and threw a knife.
The crowd gasped as Dorian caught it mid-flight.
“Now,” Dorian said, calmly dropping the knife to the floor and wiping a little blood from his hand, “How much is this man’s life worth to you? I have fifty pieces of silver here.” He reached into his coat and produced a full money bag. “That is more than enough to compensate for any dishonor done to your high lord. Take it, and let this man go.”
It is amazing how quickly attitudes can change when the subject of money is introduced. The mob became more civil almost instantaneously. After a few of the people discussed the matter together, they accepted the bribe on condition that Toepoh would never show his face in Mertz again. Toepoh agreed to the terms, and he was cut down. Dorian nodded to him and hopped down from the scaffold to join the dispersing crowd.
“Wait!” Toepoh called after him, heaving himself to the ground. He had to run after Dorian, for he wouldn’t stop. “Are you simply going to walk away without giving me the opportunity to say thank you?”
“You have said it.” Dorian replied. “Good-bye.”
Toepoh chuckled. “Well, that was a close one! Never been so close to death in my life. It was an exhilarating experience. I feel a good ten years younger! Ah, it is too bad I shall have to leave Mertz.” Dorian glanced askance at Toepoh as he dug around in his pocket. He drew out a book. “Let’s see…” he scanned down a list, “Hebron, Alidar, Urrmon, and now Mertz! Soon I’ll be banished from all of Aakroveil!” He wrote Mertz in at the bottom of the list.
“Have you been banished from all those towns?” Dorian asked, astonished.
“Indeed, yes! Each experience livelier than the other! My mother was wrong to tell me that writing would be a boring career for me. I have found it to be life-threatening and life-enhancing!” Toepoh turned to Dorian. “Would you care to hear about the incidents? Let’s see…in Hebron-oh, listen up, this is a good story-you see, there was this woman, she was married to a wealthy lord, and she…”
Has he already forgotten that I just saved him from death a few minutes ago?
“Go on your way, my man.” Dorian cut him off as quickly as possible. “I must return to my lodgings and you must pack your things and be gone.” Toepoh looked at him, utterly incredulously
“You…erm, what do you call yourself?”
Dorian paused a moment, deciding whether or not this was advisable. “Dorian.” He said uncertainly.
“Yes, Dorian, darling, you saved my life…”
Apparently not.
“And I am not about to walk away and let you forget about it.”
“What?” Dorian stopped walking.
“Oh yes.” Toepoh chuckled once more. “You’re going to wish you had let me die on the scaffold…it would have saved you the trouble of having me indebted to you for all earthly life and heavenly life too.”
No matter how much Dorian slapped, ordered, or yelled at him, Toepoh refused to leave his side. He became his “humble manservant”, although there was nothing humble or servile about him. He became Dorian’s companion and scribe. In many ways, Dorian owed a lot to Toepoh. He helped him to open up to the world, and he encouraged him to keep writing, even when it seemed like the project would rob him of his sanity if he continued. It was also Toepoh who learned that the high lord of Wenton had died. The two of them traveled to Wenton, and it wasn’t long until the people there realized no man would be better for the esteemed position than Dorian.
That was ten years ago. Ten long, wonderful years passed. They were safe and loved in Wenton. Dorian ruled his city wisely, and rekindled a love of learning. Dorian finally found an outlet for his writing. He wrote mostly for children, and once a week, the young ones would gather in the town square to listen to him perform his work.

“So, Dorian, what do you want to write now?” Toepoh asked for what was probably the hundredth time. Dorian closed his eyes, opened his mouth, and spouted off what came to the top of his head. The two of them worked until supper. Toepoh blew on the many pages of the story Dorian had conjured, and put it in an envelope marked “Adults Only”. After a day of violence and fear, the story’s contents hadn’t been much different. Dorian declined to eat, sat in the Scriptorium, and sketched for a few hours. Finally, he fell asleep on the couch he had spent most of the day on. Toepoh gently laid a blanket over him, and went to his own rooms. He had never bothered to change out of his dressing gown.