Good news first; I have been writing this week. I’m not back up to my daily wordcount goal, but I have been writing at least a little bit every day and that is a big step up for me. So I’m taking a second to celebrate that accomplishment.
That was a good second. But the truth is that even though I’m getting back to my writerly self, that doesn’t mean I’m doing all better. This was an incredibly rough week work-wise and my mental health has been really messed up. Yesterday I thought maybe I was getting through it but then something happened to punch me in the gut and make everything that much worse, so that was fun. A silver-lining is that before last night, I was feeling horrible but there wasn’t really a reason for it. Just general depression being an asshole. At least today, the pain in my gut has a root, an origin, I know why it’s there. It doesn’t make it hurt any less, but it’s just kind of nice to know there’s a reason, you know?
Aaaaanyway, back to business; first Saturday of the month – September, incidentally, the best month of the year possibly except December – and once again I have let you down, dear friends. I still have not revised the first episode of Valentine & Maxwell. Here’s hoping I get to that before next month.
Instead, today I am posting this random scene that I wrote out of nowhere a few weeks ago. It doesn’t belong in any book or short story, I just decided “I want to write something loud” and this is what came out. I have to admit, I kind of love it, so I might use it for something at some point.
So, presenting: Random scene about a Dragon Attack and a Box.
When the first explosion happened, I didn’t even realize what it was. Everything turned so bright I had to squint my eyes, and the ground shook underneath my feet. I remember dust getting in my mouth and worrying the skirt of my uniform would get filthy and I’d have to change before serving Madame breakfast.
I tried opening my eyes just in time for the second explosion, and only at the sound of that blast and the screams that erupted around the household did I realize what was happening. Something truly was exploding in the city.
Exploding? That didn’t make any sense. Bombs were a human invention. A human means of destruction. We didn’t have that kind of weapon in Hurst. Magicals didn’t have weapons that caused explosions. Only magic could do that, and who would –
I crouched down behind the white stone banister as the next blast shook the air. I tasted smoke now, the smell of fire clinging to my uniform. I peered out from between the banister and noticed other household staff running around the foyer, screaming and scrambling, shouting names. Most were shouting for loved ones but some were shouting for Madame.
Madame. Where was she in all this? Was she still in her room? I turned to climb up the stairs when I heard Fredrick shouting my name from downstairs.
“I have to find Madame!” I shouted down at him, and he accused me of being insane and stormed up the stairs, grabbed my arm and pulled me after him. His grip was hard and not to be resisted. I had to follow him against my every instinct.
“Maggie, don’t you know what’s happening?” Frederick asked over the sounds of screaming and shouting, smoke hanging thick in the air with the smell of flames and ashes. He pulled me towards the kitchen, which was well isolated and had its own entrance. Others seemed to be thinking the same thing, because the corridor was crowded with panicked Magicals. Why were they all trying to leave the mansion? Surely this was the safest place to be if things were catching fire and exploding outside. The cellar or the temple in the garden. The kitchen entrance would take us out into the courtyard and to the street.
“What’s going on?”
“The Djinn was successful, he convinced the dragons to help him.”
My heart seemed to momentarily forget how to beat as my lungs filled with ice. Dragons. Dragons were attacking our city, just like he warned. Madame had told the Alderman to take him seriously, she knew he could be a threat. The Alderman wouldn’t listen, didn’t believe the dragons could be persuaded to take any sides in such a conflict no matter what price they were offered.
I wished I could be equally convinced, but I remembered how the Djinn had been with words, so smooth and elegant, I’d imagined he could talk anyone into anything. And now dragons had come down on our village.
That is why everyone ran towards the kitchen, I realized. The street outside the kitchen brought them closer to the road heading for the lake. I couldn’t imagine what they were all thinking – were they going to hide in the lake, every citizen not already dead from the fires and explosions?
“What about Madame?” I asked. It seemed I was the only one at present who cared about the mistress of the house.
“She’s not here, she went to visit the Alderman at first light!” Frederick shouted over his shoulder. We were getting near the kitchen now.
His words caught me so much by surprise that it took me a long moment to adjust my priorities. Madame wasn’t in the house.
Her orders. I had to keep my word. I couldn’t do that from the lake.
In the hustle and bustle I managed to slip my wrist out from Frederick’s fingers. He looked like he might come back for me but I called “I’m right behind you” and hoped it was convincing. I ducked into a small side corridor we used to bring extra blankets and firewood to the bedrooms in the winter. I scurried down the tight space, around corners and up the staircase. Nightmarish sounds still reached me from outside, but the shakings and bright lights didn’t reach me in here.
When I came out behind the tapestry in Madame’s bedroom, I found the window had shattered from some outside blast. Glass had torn the curtains and lay scattered over the floor. I stepped carefully and moved as quick as I dared towards Madame’s vanity. In the drawer, underneath the lacy green gloves, just like she said, was the oval box the size of my palm. It was golden, with flowery engravings and a decorative cushion embroidered with the mansion on the lid. The clasps were biting down hard, reminding me of my instructions not to open the box. I slipped it dutifully into my pocket and was about to head back for the tapestry when fire burst through the broken window and the wall collapsed inwards, stones and furniture flying across the room, blocking the tunnel.
Stone and glass scraped my skin and I screamed in shock and darted instead for the bedroom door, out into the same hallway I was heading to when the first explosion hit. Down the same stairs while hit after hit shook the mansion. A dragon must have set its sights on it in earnest now. I hoped the others had made it out in time. I didn’t like the smoke and falling stones in the direction of the kitchen, and instead turned the other way, moving through rooms that used to be beautiful that were now falling apart. Paintings tumbling from the walls, tables with expensive vases falling over and shattering to the floor, hindering my progress. Something somewhere in the house had caught fire that rapidly spread through fabrics and furniture as I tried to outrun it.
Finally I arrived at the glass doors to the garden park. They were already open, gaping outwards to what was normally an inviting view of the stunning garden path lined with cherry blossom trees and lanterns. Now it was chaos, planted uprooted and trees bent in half, but there was no fire in the yard yet. I could still make it.
I wasted no time and ran across the white gravel, stones prickling through the thin soles of my shoes. I headed straight for the temple and around it to the family burial ground at the far corner of the lavish garden. There it was; the old and magnificent fountain in the center of the graveyard, standing all black stones and miniature gargoyles underneath a marble pavilion. As always, water sprouted from the gargoyles into the lovely wide pool beneath, nearly as large as Madame’s bed. I tapped my pocket to ensure the box was still there, and then I heard the blood-curdling sound of heavy wings and the smell of smoke and fire spreading through the garden. I looked over my shoulder only enough to glimpse red scales flying through the air before I drew breath and climbed into the water of the fountain.
Never had I been so happy to be cold. Water soaked me in an instant, the uniform clung to my skin as my fingers clung to the box I was tasked to protect with my life. I stayed underneath the water’s edge, only poking my head up for breaths each time my lungs burned, until my body was numb to the cold and my skin was wrinkled and strange. Despite the breaths, my lungs ached and my skin felt strange as more and more time passed. At last, after what might have been an eternity or a few minutes, when I stuck my head out for air, it was quiet.
Eerily quiet. Never in my life in this village had there ever been a moment with no sound but running water. No Magicals, no animals, no insects, not even wind in the trees, it seemed. The smell of ashes and dust clung to the air, but it seemed to be settling. Timidly, I sat up in the water. My body felt strange, numb, my limbs difficult to move. Through much effort I managed to get myself out of the water and fell down on the ground beside the fountain. I fell hard. It would probably hurt once I regained feeling. I sat on the cold stone floor and shivered as sensations slowly returned to my limbs and I looked around the graveyard. Madame’s family had been entombed and buried here for as long as the property had belonged to them. Generations of Magicals belonging to an honorable family, some remains of good people, some of unspeakable ones.
It didn’t seem to matter now, how they had lived their lives. Nobody deserved this kind of desecration.
Around me were no longer fine tomb stones and crypts, gently made urns placed in finely crafted cabinets. No, around me in the burial ground there was nothing but dirt and rock, the remains of all the finery now nothing but rubble. And between the rubble; bones. White, grey, brown and yellow-ish bones. Some charred black from fire. Some cracked, all scattered in piles like toys disregarded by a neglectful child who no longer had any interest in them. Pieces of skulls seemed to look at me from here and there, where they had been uprooted from their graves and landed only to find a servant girl dishonoring their fountain by hiding in it.
I imagined the skulls staring at me for so long that I soon became convinced that indeed they were staring at me. I felt I could hear sounds and whispers coming from every bone, calling out to the world and weeping over having been so cruelly taken from their peaceful slumber. Whoever these bones belonged to surely were not at rest anymore. I felt certain I could sense them all with me, judging me for being present at such a sensitive moment in their afterlives. I didn’t want to be present under the gaze of empty skulls, but my body seemed frozen. I could not move. I sat huddled against the fountain, hand clenched around the box, and I waited.
Waited for what, I could not be sure, but after what might have been minutes, hours or days, voices called in the distance and I knew I was about to be saved. Though I still felt like those skulls might forever be staring at me, no matter how far from this place I went.
That was my random scene. I hope you loved it as much as I did.
To anyone out there going through something, you are loved and strong and you can do this. We can all do this.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel to write.