A Writer's Touch

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

I have tried writing several other chapters in the past, but scraped them away. This, to be honest, was the first chapter which I actually felt comfortable writing, that sat well with me. I'm proud of this chapter, it has taken me a week to write (though its rather short), but any comments that allows me to improve is much appreciated!

To anyone familiar with the books that inspired this, you would be able to see that the ending was inspired by the ending of 'The Giver'. The words used, and the language, is very similar. And Kyra of Forge isn't mine; she is in Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter One

Submitted: July 08, 2016

Reads: 205

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Submitted: July 08, 2016

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One

 

The shelf was stacked full of books. To an observer, it would seem like the books had been left untouched for a long time. Some had pages reeling and curling from the passage of time, its pages flaking and turning yellow. Grey dust had settled on the books, on the forgotten manuscripts, lined with tiny scripted handwriting, the ink long faded on the script. Some were leather-bound, with golden letters glowing in contrast of the dark backdrop that the spine offered, while others were simply bound and tied together by string looped through holes in the paperwork. One row of books and manuscripts stacked on top of each other, and another, and another, and when it was not enough, the man who owned the bookshelf layered the documents in such a say that the more recent ones were put forward. The other books would just have to been forgotten.

The man’s name was Francis. Some of the books on the bookshelf he bought, others he written himself.

His apartment was untidy and unkempt, to say the least. A creased leather tunic lay draped across the chair he was sitting on. He had tried to flatten the tunic out to get rid of the creases, but while he did so, another one would be born anew, and he eventually gave up. Three hundred pages were strewn about his cluttered desk, the parchment reflecting the sunlight that streamed down his silted windows, and whenever he moved, the pages would rustle.

The oak-grained table was where Francis sat at now. The sun was beginning to rise and its light set fire to everything in his room, but the writer didn’t notice. His eyes were intently focused on the typewriter and the sheet of paper in front of him, his fingers flying and tapping each key lightly, his ears grown used to the rhythmic clicking of the keys. As the words printed themselves on the page and moved across to the end of the page, he would have to slide the decal back to the start as a new line scrolled from beneath. That was how typewriters worked, and Francis enjoyed the clicking sounds and the occasional clang of metal against metal as the decal moved. He loved the fluidity of his movements, and the way his fingers and mind would rise to the challenge of putting words on the script.

Slowly, the darkness gave way to a light blur. It took a few moments for Kyra to notice it, and another precious few before she could understand it. She could see. Again! She’d miss all the sights, all the colours, which seemed so ordinary before, suddenly overwhelmed her, leaving her with a sense of loss. She summoned the last of the strength to kick a clump of snow by her feet to make sure that she wasn’t dreaming, that she wasn’t tricking herself. And the snowball moved, pure and white and as mesmerising as ever, sailing gracefully through the air, confirming that, once again, the revel of colour wasn’t something that was anymore confined to her memories and dreams…

And what was that? Did she imagine it? The wind had a voice. A voice that she never thought she’d hear again. It brushed against her, buffeting her ears, and causing her to shiver. But it wasn’t from the cold. This was something else entirely.

As she began to reach the limits of her strength, Kyra knew that the end was near, and that she would die very soon. She pictured Flick’s warm smile, the soft eyes of her mother, and all the memories that she had bottled up inside her. It exploded with breathtaking beauty, and for a moment, Kyra could see her life flash out before her. It seemed so short, so sad, everything so complex and intricate, all those emotions that whirled inside her, condensed into the last moments of her life. Kyra remember her playful moments when she was younger, crawling under blankets and climbing walls and the miserable moments where she tried into Flick’s shoulders after her mother had died.

Though life had been unkind to her, she knew that she had it better than most. And she wouldn’t change it even if she had the chance. But although she was ready to go, she wanted more. She wanted to see what the world had to offer, the beauty of strange and forlorn lands, and all the sights and experiences that she would never get to experience.

Downward, downward and downward. Kyra could feel herself losing consciousness as she headed down. But just beyond, she could see people singing, dancing, celebrating love, and she knew that at last, she had reached the Elsewhere, where coins grew on trees and the rivers ran of ale. She could see all the colours now, and they seemed to be calling out to her. Here, the voices danced in her ears, beckoning her forward.

From the vast distances of space and time she’d crossed, she thought she’d heard voices too. But perhaps it had just been an echo.

 

He’d left the last page blank, to symbolise Kyra’s death. The novel was complete. All three hundred and one pages of it. Francis fingers rested on the keytop, and he tore the page out of the typewriter and began rearranging the sheets, starting from page one.

 

Francis wasn’t one to smoke. Or to drink, for that matter. But he did allow himself to have a rare privilege of doing so every time a novel is complete. Francis looped a string across his novel that he’d stayed up all night to finish, using his teeth to bite away the remaining yarns of string after the knot had been tied. Beside him was a tray with three things: a matchstick, a cigarette, and a glass of his favourite wine. Tomorrow, he would take Kyra and her adventures to the publishers. But for now, the moment was his to enjoy.

Kyra.

Kyra.

He felt himself being more and more attached to the main character as the story progressed, and felt a deep pang of sadness as the novel ended with her death. This was a brave girl that he’d created, one with fire and life in her eyes, one who wasn’t afraid to do anything she wanted to do. Here was a story of a midnight thief, who stole from the nobility for a living, and when a fateful raid left her blind and deaf…

He forced himself not to think about it. Of all the horrific moments Kyra had to experience. But why? She was just a fictional character in the fictional city of Forge.

She was her, and he was him. She was what she had created, but still ultimately words on the page. Francis told himself that there was no reason to pity Kyra. No reason at all.

But, for that moment, the words on the page came to life and fluttered about the room, and Francis thought he saw Kyra too, sitting on the opposite side of the page. The brave girl who kicked a pebble from the sidewalks and it glanced off the skirts of the jeweller’s wife.

“Sorry,” she had mumbled. That scene, in the seventh chapter, played out in Francis’ mind as though he knew Kyra himself.

 

What was it about writing?

Francis had been in his current trade for twenty ears. But the joy of putting his inner voice in the paper had never faded over the years. He liked the way the world seemed to shrink when he was writing, how the ideas slowly bled themselves across the page, how he and the typewriter slowly morphed into one, and how the world would captivate him, leaving him awe-stricken and mesmerised by the world in the pages for days. Oftentimes, he would finally break his composure, only to find himself still in that smoke-filled tavern, with the loud shouts and the click of flagons. Or he would find himself on the rooftops with Kyra, spying on the noblemen and finding holes in their defences. He would imagine, long after he’d stepped away from the typewriter, that he was still in his city of Forge, Kyra sneaking up on him and flipping his pockets quietly. And when he walked in the streets, he would walk in that graceful way which Kyra walked every time he saw her on the page.

 

November sixteenth, 1759. An outbreak of cholera swept the nation, leaving Francis orphaned. He had only been three then, a life laid out in front of him and a world looked upon with fresh eyes. So he did not understand it when his parents were quarantined away from him. He certainly did not realise that he would be seeing his parents for the last time when his father said: “Take care, my son. We’ll be watching you from the heavens.”

As they were led away.

It was only some time later that he was sent to live with a distant relative. The woman introduced herself as Jolica, and he remembered meeting her sincere smile with wide and unblinking, confused eyes. At this point in time, he had no friends who would miss him, no connections at all. But the feelings of loneliness won’t set in until later on in life, when he had seen more of the world. She too, once had two children, a son and a daughter, but she’d lost her son in the epidemic.

“How was he like?” He had asked Jolica one day, as she was doing the dishes.

“Who?” She put the dishes aside and brushed her wet hands against her trousers. Jolica was a middle-aged woman, but the greys of her hair were beginning to show. But there was this intensity that burned deep within her, a sign of courage and kindness, and she projected an air oflanguid readiness around the room.

“Your son.”

“Ah…I’ve never told you about his name, have I? His name was Jerome, and he was a bright boy. He was a really cute kid back…” Then she stopped herself abruptly, and as if catching herself in her moment of hesitation, she continued on track, without missing a beat. “He used to hide under the bed and bring home piles of tree branches in an attempt to set up a tree house.”

“Sounds like he was a really boring kid.” For some reason, he felt himself unreasonably angry towards Jolica, and her son.

“No! Jerome was a truly kind person! You’ve never seen him before. When the epidemic struck…” Jolica threw up her arms, the tears welling in her eyes, “He would be in the thick of things, delivering supplies even though his body was weak. Jerome was…”

“So what you’re basically saying is that I’m stupid and unkind.” The eight-year old Francis spat, and marched up the stairs, feet stomping and the floorboards creaking, up to his room.

It was only when the footfalls faded and the room was quiet except for a quiet weeping sound that her daughter, Leila, now turning ten, asked, “What’s his problem?”

Upstairs, Francis wept into his pillow. The soft cotton supported him, like how a mother would to a child.

Like how a mother would…

He saw how readily Jolica was willing to defend her son. He pictured her again, Jolica’s voice so full of conviction and pride as she spoke about him. And he knew that he would never receive that kind of treatment, and that he could never be what Jerome was, no matter how hard he tried.

That night, he wept and wept, for the parents that he knew that he would never see again, for the love he would never feel, and for the part of him wrenched away by reality. Long into the night, he wept for all the misfortunes life had thrown him, and for the horrible, horrible unfairness of the world.

 

A few weeks later, Jolica suggested that they go on a trip. It was supposed to be her way of making it up to him, to be the mother he never had.

They had visited hanging gardens with lush greens hanging off the sun-baked rooftops, the Palace, with squires and pages milling about and the spires looming over them. They poked their heads into midnight taverns, and the establishment would light up with revel with loud laughter and talk, the occasional click of the flagon, and the voices of a talesinger, weaving magical stories about love and danger and bravery. They’d visited cities, far away from their own, where pink flowers bloomed on the sidewalks and mountains lay in the far distance, and Francis wondered if he would ever get to scale one of them. They circled from city to city in wagons, taking turns to spot and pick out distant farms and cottages in the plains. They saw trade caravans, the produce loaded in the wagon, and the men who had been sent to ferry the goods.

But that wasn’t what Francis saw.

He saw worlds of injustice, heaps of sadness and hate, a mad and cruel place to be in. In his mind’s eye, he saw wars payed by the blood of the masses and the poor. He saw deprived men, begging for quarters outside the luxurious homes of the rich. He saw people who worked too little, had too much to eat and slept in excess. And then he saw those they had taken from: the weak. He heard stories in taverns about certain corrupt officials’ rise to power. He saw a father, thin and dirt-stricken; kneel beside his daughter demanding that she love him back. In the city square, harsh words were exchanged and the men came to blows, all because they did not have enough to eat. He saw a woman of nobility spit at a beggar in front of his door, calling him a gutter rat.

And when he came back to his home city of Tortall, he saw that it wasn’t much different. The soldiers were lazy, and the Palace council was riddled in corruption and bribery. Walls being built to separate the rich from the poor. People turned away from Palace rations because they were of a different skin colour. Women who were abused in the household. He also saw people, too. People who were kind were far and few between. Mostly, he saw loud people, people who imposed their beliefs on others, people who stole, who lied, who cheated to get their way. He saw people who were downright mean, arrogant, selfish and stupid, and Francis wondered if he would ever become one of them.

I want to rule the world, one day, if I can. That had been one of the lines Kyra said in his new novel. I will make changes…just watch…and in the future, I will promise you that you will never have to live in fear of your life again.

And lastly, he saw the hospitality that Jolica and Leila provided him as what it was. He saw their unwillingness to handle and take care of him, how they treated every request he made like a chore that needed doing.

Which was why, one night, when he was thirteen, after kissing Jolica on the cheek and wishing Leila sweet dreams, he quietly packed his belongings and set out into the night, never to return again. But as he turned to look at the sleeping house one last time, he’d thought he felt love, back there, in that little cottage with them. And then he strengthened his resolve and embarked on his adventure.

He decided that he wanted to be a writer.

I want to rule the world…

But he couldn’t, of course. He was mature enough to know the folly in his dream now. Francis saw the world as it really was, a cold hard shell sustaining not people, but beasts, and living was a curse, not the romanticised blessing fools have made it out to be.
He wanted change, but he knew that there was no way.

So he decided to become a writer. What better way was there for him to avoid the world than to lose himself in an imaginary one? Each turn of the book, each flick of the page captivated Francis, and only within those magical pages of golden stories was he able to find solace. There, the people were fine men, nothing like the beasts that ruled his world.

He knew then that if he couldn’t rule the world, he would create one within the pages, a world of his liking, where he could impose his beliefs on his characters without anyone judging, questioning. A tale created, where the characters are his best friends and lovers. A thick story, which despite all its twists and turns, ultimately leaves him feeling satisfied, so unlike reality. A world, where he was free from any fear or suffering, a world, which he could be the lord over.

 

Francis’ mind drifted out of his thoughts. He was sitting in front of his typewriter again, an empty wine glass in his hand. A stack of papers sat in front of him; and the tale he had taken years to tell had finally ended.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow, his wish is fulfilled.

Tomorrow, he would take the manuscript to his editors and publishers. It would probably still take several years before Kyra is made to the public. Comments will be given, drafts and edits will still have to be made. Even the cover would take some time to design.

But for today, it was just him, with no obligations to the world. It was just he and Kyra of Forge.


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