Here We Go Again: Camp NaNo

Remember NaNo? Well, apparently they do a spring edition (and I think a summer one too), and I guess I’m on board!

I consider last year a success even though I didn’t win. I completed 31,882 words over the course of the 30 days that was November 2017, and it felt pretty damn good, especially now that those words are being put to use in Vacancy. So why not try again, eh?

The difference between November and April is apparently the April “camp” is a bit more laissez faire. You write whatever you want (of course you can do this during November as well) and you set your own goal which is appealing as fuck. I know I can complete 30k words, so I set my goal there. Not really challenging myself, I admit, but if I can succeed, and perhaps succeed again come July (and maybe at 40k?) then by November, 50k words should be easy peasy, right?

I plan to write these words on a new piece, the second in my nameless dragon trilogy (which is all saved under a folder called “Medieval Vampires” in my Google Docs which really gives you a sense of where my head was at years ago when I was brainstorming this stuff), while maintaining Vacancy, my blog, and a couple other side projects, but I think it’s doable. 1000 words a day is a nice number, don’t you think?

As an aside, it’s come to my attention that I’ll have been working on this blog again for six months when we head into April. There have been times when I’ve posted very little, and when I’ve posted every day, but she’s been in the front of my mind for a good half a year now, and that seems pretty solid, because what is a habit or practice without time?

And that, Dear Reader, is partially why NaNo doesn’t necessarily work to make you a better or more prolific (because those are two very different things) writer: you create a habit by doing it every day, but “it” must be sustainable. Vomiting out words to reach a numeric goal isn’t sustainable. But like, it has to work, right? Something has to!


This OnE WeIrD TrIcK Got My Motivation Back

Ew. I am SO SORRY about that title. That’s awful. But it’s true, there is one kinda odd thing I started doing maybe a week and a half ago that got me motivated to write more, and I’m going to share that with you now. But seriously, sorry.

So I have been on a slow but steady recovery from a bout of sorrow and grief, and it was super unfortunate that the place I was at in every word-related project I was working on at the time (my serial, my novel, and the book I was reading (A Casual Vacancy, lol I have a theme)) were all quite death heavy, but I knew I needed to push through on at least one of them, and Vacancy seemed the most pressing (Vacancy, my serial, not Rowling’s book which is, by the way, amazing). I needed motivation and inspiration, but from where?

I’m not proud of this, but I have a Pinterest. Hear me out. I both love and hate Pinterest. A link to a Pin should never come up in a Google search (Pins are the worst, almost never have any helpful info, and sometimes don’t even link to the actual image they’re showing!); however, the search feature on the site itself is pretty damn sweet. If you’re looking for actual how-tos or explanations, it’s a fucking crapshoot, but if you want images to create what the hipsters might call a “mood board,” this is where it’s at.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but I realized I could use this to my advantage with writing. I even had a “Writing” board already, but didn’t put this together til now. I was stuck on Part 1.10, afraid to push Lorelei into the seance, so I was floundering over the basement description and just wanted to look at photos of caves and lakes. As I mentioned, Pinterest’s search is surprisingly adequate at returning what you’re looking for (the catch is that you need to have an account to really utilize the site correctly), so I searched “lake underground” and I got what I needed.

So you’re wondering how this is different from Google image search, eh? Well, you can “save” Pins to your own “boards” for quick access later. I believe the original intention of this was to save links with eye-catching images, but somewhere along the way the users of Pinterest ruined it by adding and not maintaining links to actual sites, so there are a lot of pictures of cool crafts with no explanation how they’re done. But still you can save as many images as you want to a board serving some greater purpose. And you can modify the description of that image/link to whatever you want. It’s usually already a description of whatever’s there (or supposed to be there), but if I’m brainstorming or looking for inspiration, I replace the description with what the image inspires for me.

Pintrest save

You can do this for specific places, of course, but it would work equally well for characters, atmosphere, and of course writing in general to save non-image based links (there’s functionality to save anything as a Pin, so you could take, say, this post and Pin it, and if you’re a responsible user, you’ll get the link right).

Once you’ve saved some Pins, you can go back to that board for inspiration when needed. Here’s a quick example of something I might throw together for a character:

Kimber Board

Since you’re using this for personal reference, I don’t object to losing the written attributions for images by writing over the descriptions, and if the images actually link out properly, you will still have the sources, which is nice.

Anyway, that’s my quick and dirty one weird trick that’s been quite helpful to me these last few days. Maybe you all already do this? Maybe there’s a better site for it? Pinetrest sure isn’t paying me to do this while simultaneously dragging them, so any suggestions you have, I’d love to hear!

An Excerpt

Since I’ll very soon be able to focus on writing and editing a trilogy of fantasy quest stories I’ve been working on over the last *muffled number* years, I thought I’d share a little excerpt from the first book. The series is as yet unnamed which is probably a mistake on my part, but it is what it is.

Jayn’s first memory was of a bucket of dirty water going clean. She held blurry glimpses of a time before, a smiling woman in violet robes, a moonlit field of white flowers, but her first real memory was of a bucket she wished she didn’t have to drag outside, dump, and refill, and then–somehow–she indeed did not.

Jayn had detested trips to the well and back, but the purified water that ran indoors was for drinking, cooking, and occasionally bathing only. Mistress insisted. Her small stature, young age, and sheer boredom made the task tripley difficult. The wispy girl found, however, by concentrating very hard, she could make use of the first bucket she carried in from the local well all day. It was something she couldn’t explain, but after watching Master do all sorts of tasks with what seemed like only his mind, she never felt the need to explain it to anybody. A lucky thing, that was.

A much older Jayn, who now found herself traveling away from the place that bucket resided with no hope of returning, knew that what she had done was manipulate aether, the invisible force within all things, and, though it was no secret that this magic existed, she had developed a different kind of need to keep her ability hidden. As she pressed herself into the cushioned seat of the carriage and peered through a slight break in the curtains, she saw that dirtied bucket of water all over—the color of the ground, the sky, the murkiness beyond the horizon–but this she had no chance of making clean.

The skyline bumped along as she traveled farther away from Mulrennan, and she could almost feel the town breaking away from her as she went, every jar in the road ripping it off a bit more. It stuck to her like sap and though it was not particularly well-loved, it was all she had known, and that, she thought, was far better than the unknown.

There had been another girl, an indentured housegirl like Jayn, who had shown to have similar abilities, and much to the dismay of her masters, the garrison had taken her. The girl had been excited to go, but to Jayn the circumstances felt ominous. While magic wasn’t a secret, it was highly guarded. The family to which Jayn was beholden was one of the few who openly practiced, but they operated their shop with an edict from the royal court that Master would serve on the village’s council, providing his services when needed. And though Jayn had seen her do little things beyond explanation, Mistress swore to the gods she had never manipulated aether, and as far as anybody else was concerned, she was common: the magic was passed down through Master to his sons. Mistress was many things, and chiefly among them smart, so Jayn mimicked that she too was common for as long as she could, and so she was doubly annoyed that her skill with aether wasn’t at all what had gotten her into her current predicament.

The carriage had taken her passed the farthest farms supplying the village, travelling down into a grey fog, distorting what lay beyond. Fog was rare in Mulrennan and considered foreboding. Though Jayn found the superstition silly as there hadn’t been anything more fearsome than the odd wolf sighted in Mulrennan in longer than anyone could remember largely thanks to the temple of Seele a few days’ ride north, she suddenly felt perhaps there was more to the tales of fog delivering demons and monsters than she had once believed. Yes, travelers came to the village and spoke of shapeshifters, lycans, and even the odd draugr, but her home had always been safe. Safe from the monsters beyond the village, at least.

But there had been an air of change in town, specifically since Baron Allaire had died and his son had taken hold of Mulrennan and the neighboring villages. He’d recently returned from the capital, Helmsrian, and had gone, what some called, “a bit off.” Jayn had heard them, the ladies gossiping, while she picked up fruit and bread at market. When she dallied with the other housegirls along the river before heading home, she heard them more crassly proclaim that the new Lord Allaire had gone absolutely mad.

He’d taken to restoring a fallen manor in the heart of the moors that had last been home to Allaires so long dead that no one living had known their children’s children. While his father frequently made visits to the other villages and lived in the largest of homes in the heart of Mulrennan, his son only came into town every moon or so, and when he left, a letter would arrive at the home of one or two of the housegirls in town requesting the permanent services of the girl. Of course, to call it a request was a stretch, but Allaire was at least generous enough to send a purse of gold in exchange.

The ladies being served lunch at the tearoom in the town square spoke in hushed whispers that the lord’s newly begotten hobby of training and marrying off the common girls to his friends from Helmsrian, which of course was what he was doing since he needed replacements so often, was almost charming if it weren’t so improper. The girls working in the seamstress shop argued that his abduction of their cohorts, never to be seen or heard from again would be suspicious if they didn’t agree that they too would abandon this life if someone swept them away to Helmsrian to be some wealthy merchant or lord’s wife. Now, as Jayn sat within the carriage she’d only previously seen amble through town with the shadowy form of someone she once knew inside, she was fairly certain everyone was wrong.

The Sportball We

I love language. The trivialities of linguistics, the odd words we use, how simple semantics can change entire meanings, dialects, colloquialisms: it’s all awesome (except, I admit, there are some accents that I hate, but that’s a whole other thing). English is remarkably complex and word-wealthy, borrowing from so many other languages and spreading across the whole globe, that there are practically no rules in English that aren’t at some point broken yet still considered correct, and just when you think “okay, this thing is a rule and there’s only this one exception”–BAM something else hits you in the face!

But I think I’ve come across something wholly unique in the English language, and I am fucking pumped. I have come to affectionately deem it “The Sportball We,” and, Dear Reader, I would love to explain, especially since it’s about to be the Super Bowl.

The Sportball We is something that we all are familiar with, but it hides in plain sight (hearing?), and you’ve probably never given it a second thought. Let me be clear: this is not a rant. I don’t care that people do this; I just find it fucking fascinating. What I am calling The Sportball We is the phenomenon that occurs when a person speaks about a sports team as if they are part of that team despite it being understood by everyone that they are, in fact, not a player of or other peripheral teammate to, that team. Example:

Did you see the Lightning game last night?

Yeah, we really crushed the Canucks!


Do you think we’ll make it to the Super Bowl this year?


Are you guys getting a new head coach?

Those second two examples are especially interesting since they can be said utilizing The Sportball We as a total replacement for the team name if all the speakers in a conversation know which team the answerer is “part of.”

What is most fascinating about this to me is sports are the only activity or organization that the speaker is not actually a part of yet speaks as if they are. When I tried to find other examples, my mind immediately went to religion and houses of worship. People say “we” when discussing their congregation or religion; however, they actually are part of these things. People are Christians or people belong to and attend a mosque. Sportball We-ers don’t take an active part in the game in the way a Jewish person might actively celebrate Passover, but SBWs do, in some way, take a passive role in sports by being fans.

So I thought, okay, what are other things of which people are fans? Music, of course. But do Beyonce’s fans leave a concert declaring “We totally slayed it on stage!” or ask one another if they’ve seen our new video yet? I don’t think so. Sometimes people refer to a fandom as a whole that they are part of, but that’s the thing: you are part of a fandom as you can take an active role cultivating it, but you’re not part of the band or musician, and music fans have a distinction in their speech that SBWs do not.

The same can be said for people who say “we” about their hometown or their alma mater. Though they might not live there or attend that school anymore, they did at one time, took an active part in living there, and would still be considered a representative of those peoples.

The only thing that seems to come close is when men say “we’re pregnant.” Your buddy Bob at the office is hauling around a fetus and vomiting his guts out as much as he’s tackling Tom Brady on the 30, but at least he actually (probably) had a hand in making it possible for a fetus to eventually exist, and in that way we can kind of parallel conception to being a dedicated sports fan who “helps” their team win. However, there are a lot of people who find the “pregnant we” weird, and almost no one who thinks The Sportball We is bizarre.

In fact, I never thought The Sportball We was weird until I started working in a male-dominated department where sports were discussed in numbers equitable to how children were discussed in my previously female-dominated department, so the language was constantly in my ear. It’s just a part of American culture and language, and that’s kind of cool. There is, of course, a lot that could be said sociologically about patriotism and sports fanaticism, but I’ll leave that to someone else for now. Instead, we can all just marvel at the uniqueness that The Sportball We brings to English.

Also if you think you have another instance of a “we” used in a socially acceptable and understood instance despite the user having no actual, active participation in the activity or organization, leave a comment below, Dear Reader, and I’ll be happy to tell you why you’re wrong.

The Journey

So, I failed. I didn’t get my latest Vacancy post out on Monday, which is a huge personal bummer, but at least I have a good excuse: WE’RE MOVING!

The last week has been a whirlwind. Husband has accepted a job in a new state, we’re resigning from our current jobs, working with a realtor to sell our house, securing an apartment in our future home city, boxing up everything we own, donating what we don’t want, getting some much-needed landscaping done, and trying to do it all in under three weeks so he can start ASAP. (Also there will be cat wrangling. Lord, give me the strength.)

While I did write Vacancy during NaNo, every part needs a handful of edits and some holes filled in before posting (and really it needs much more than that, but to be fair it’s free reading for anyone on the internet so grammatical and continuity errors will exist, and overall it’s not going to be my best and brightest work). I didn’t get to those edits last week, so I didn’t have a post this week. It sucks, it feels like a massive failure, and I’m sad, but it’s a reminder that while I’ve been pretty stoked with how I’ve been planning out and getting writing done in general, I’m far from mastering the planning process. Thankfully I did not see through a post idea for how to make a plan for your blog or novel last week L O FUCKING L.

So I’m planning to get Vacancy out next Monday and fingers crossed I can swing it even with setting up and shutting off utilities and boxing up my life (including the lovely nest I just showed you all) and being overwrought with anxiety about nothing in particular and everything all at once.

But really I’m quite excited for our familial journey. When Husband and I met, I moved in with him right away. We moved from that apartment to a second apartment in Columbus, OH, then we moved above someone’s garage in St Petersburg, FL on a whim with everything we owned including two cats packed into a two door Dodge Stratus, then we moved to an apartment in Tampa, then our first house, then our second house, and we’ve been quite comfy for quite awhile, so it’s probably time for the next great adventure. To be honest, I think we’ve both been getting a little antsy.

So here’s to the adventure, eh? I’m sure loads of fucky things will happen, and congrats because you have a front row seat.

Also, you won’t find out how they get the chandelier back up in Moonlit Shores Manor, but that’s because Lorelei doesn’t see it, and it’s magic anyway, not because I won’t be posting.

Letting Your Writing Sit

I wanted to call this post “Take A Break From Your Writing” but sometimes people just read headers, and I’d be remiss, Dear Reader, if that’s all someone took away from this post. Everyone gets overwhelmed and burnt out at some point, and taking a break isn’t necessarily bad, but I don’t think I’d really ever suggest a true break from writing.

This post is actually about taking a break from a piece of writing. I find the longer between writing a first draft and returning to edit it, the more clarity I have. Over time, your own writing can become almost foreign to you. I have much less a problem crossing through and suggesting changes to others than I do with my own work, and when I put enough time between writing and editing, my own work begins to feel like someone else’s. Sometimes I discover the bad: “Who wrote this? It’s garbage!” but (less frequently) sometimes it’s good: “Wow, that dialogue was convincing!” I become less attached to specific words or phrases, or even scenes and characters, so I can make changes, even big sweeping strikethroughs and plot disruptions, divorced from my original love for whatever my past self’s fevered brain thought was good.

There is probably a break point where you become too detached, your style evolves too far from where you started, or your passion for the topic has been snuffed out, but I’m not sure where that is, or if I could even council others on where it might be for them. Stephen King suggests a minimum of a six week break for the first draft of a novel. Close the file and don’t open again for a month and a half. That’s probably a pretty solid time to clear your mind and heart of what you created and long enough to complete some other writing task (because, remember Dear Reader, don’t take a break from all writing, just this writing). I put a solid month between NaNoWriMo and editing the latest part of Vacancy and that felt like a good amount of time. Another couple weeks would not have hurt, and perhaps would have helped had Vacancy been longer or I had worked on it for more than a single month. (King also suggests no project should take you more than three months/a season. Good thing I live in Florida where it’s summer 90% of the year.)

What actually did help was finishing up Blogmas, which I considered a writing project, if not traditional fiction. Filling the time between vomiting thousands of words and heading back in to edit those words with vomiting other words that held a totally different meaning (non-fiction) with totally different parameters (no word length, just a daily requirement and a very loose topic) felt like a reset. I let go of Vacancy and didn’t have pangs of missing it, desire to edit it, or conversely dread for having to edit it later (probably the more likely feeling for NaNo-ers), that was all replaced with another project. Blogmas also gave me a little boost of confidence because I completed it and felt particularly successful doing so.

So I came back to Vacancy with a new excitement because I already felt so victorious over Blogmas, and a fresh set of eyes that weren’t already fed up with Moonlit Shores Manor or too in love with some trash sentence that I couldn’t bare to drop in the bin just yet. Editing now is easier than it would have been a month ago and, more importantly, more pleasurable. I normally really enjoy editing, but this go around has been particularly fun. And I owe it all to letting my writing sit.

Vacancy – 1.05

pexels-photo-572688Vacancy is an ongoing web serial. Find out more about it and start reading here.

The afternoon sun fell in wobbly blotches across the grass, cutting between the oaks that had sprung up all over the yard decades prior. Lorelei rushed across to the barn, this time empty-handed, but happily laden with direction. She found Ren, bent at the waist and staring at a large bird perched on a rail inside the structure. The bird’s sharp eyes were locked on the man’s. Neither moved.

Lorelei took a careful step toward them, her foot falls quiet on the hay. Then there was a screech, and the odd little hatchling that she had delivered to him that morning popped its head out of Ren’s pocket. The man gently guided it back down without looking away from the massive hawk that was staring him down. Finally, Lorelei cleared her throat. Ren still did not look away, “Yes?”

“Ziah sent me.”

The bird puffed itself up, its chest dotted with brown and gold feathers expanding.

Ren mimicked the creature, standing to his full height and taking in a deep breath. “Oh?” He sounded mostly disinterested.

“Yes, she told me to come to you and get the cart so I can get the luggage.”

“Did she?” He raised a nearly white eyebrow, and the bird appeared to mimic him.

“And she had a message for you. She said she needed your help with something tonight.”

“Hm?” Ren looked at her then, and in the moment he broke their gaze, the bird took flight, nipping the point of his long, extended ear. He grunted and pulled away, and Lorelei swore the bird laughed as it swooped out though the open doors at the back of the barn.

“That’s all she said?” he asked, a hand cupped over the side of his face.

“Yeah, super vague, I know.” Lorelei shrugged and offered a laugh which Ren did not return.

“Well,” he looked away again, his interest piqued and past, “I’m a bit surprised she’d ask you, but I suppose it’s simple enough.”

He turned and went to the back of the barn, and Lorelei followed, though she was unsure if she should. From the shadows of the stalls, errant noises sounded, perhaps like horses, perhaps like something she couldn’t begin to imagine.

On the other side of the building, a wagon was parked, four-wheeled with a tented roof. It was charming, with old painted sides in red and purple flowers, faded from the elements. At its head was a makeshift bench that served as a seat, and a yoke to which Ren was fastening an animal.

Lorelei caught her breath at the sight. Not horses, but massive stags were strapped to the cart, their antlers crawling up to the sky. They were very still as Ren fastened the yoke, and she stepped toward them and reached out a hand to touch the velvety length of an antler, but then it turned a black eye on her, and she froze.

Ren barely noticed, “Here you are, then.” He motioned to the cart and took a step back.

She hesitated, “But I’ve never…driven deer before.”

He shook his head as one of the stags pawed at the dirt, “I assure you, no one else has either. They know the way.”

Lorelei hoisted herself onto the cart, and settled in, turning to Ren, “Thank you.”

He scrunched up his face as if he wanted to say something, but the creature in his pocket chirped at him, and seemed to break the thought he was having. “Don’t go wandering.”

She glanced ahead and could see a worn path leading down from the barn, through a field, and into a dense treeline. “I don’t intend to.”

The stags traveled at a quick rate, gracefully pulling the cart along the flattened path. Wind swept back the sprays of Lorelei’s hair that were uncontained in the bun atop her head as they went, the forest gently humming all around. She breathed in the piney scent and smiled up at the sun’s warmth breaking through the branches. Without human voices to speak with or tasks to complete, time lost meaning, and before she realized, the forest had become denser and darker, and the sounds changed. She spoke to the stags with a chuckle in her voice, “You do know where you’re going, right?”

They glanced back at her with a huff, but continued on. Lorelei stammered out an apology and sat back.

The darkness wasn’t wholly unnerving, the bounce of the cart lulling her into some kind of calm, but the question of what lay beyond in the shadows left her on edge. She wiggled her toes and drummed her fingers, sitting with her back pressed firmly to the seat. There weren’t birds singing out here, she noted, and the stags were slowing. Was she there, wherever there was? Ziah hadn’t told her, had she? No, she’d just sent her off, alone, into the woods.

Lorelei swallowed hard.

Then there was movement in the trees, a soft rustling that grew quickly as the something beyond the ferns came closer. Lorelei held the reins tight and, unblinking, stared at the dark foliage before them. The stags had come to a complete halt, but her heart was flying a mile a minute.

A glow, shimmering white light, parted the leaves, though how a light could become corporeal and affect the physical world, Lorelei had no idea, but that wasn’t the exact thought she was having. No, it was more of a What the hell? kind of thought. A creature emerged from behind the light with a soft, silvery glow and the very obvious shape and build of a horse, but atop its head from between its ears, a golden horn protruded.

The creature stood at the path’s edge, black eyes locked on the cart. The stags moved then, tipping their heads down, and the white animal returned the nod then continued ahead of them across the path before its glow was swallowed up completely by the dark leaves on the other side.

Lorelei sat, mouth agape, as the stags continued on. They were back to a normal pace almost immediately and she wondered if she’d hallucinated. Broken from her trance, she whipped around, but there was no trace left of the animal. “Did you two see that?” she rubbed her eyes, still searching the wood for any sign. They did not respond.

The rest of the trip was a blur for Lorelei, more dark forest, but the fear replaced by wonder, until finally the path ahead changed, leading to a cave. The mouth of it was quite wide and tall, but inside it fell into total darkness. Without hesitation, the stags led her within.

A gentle, yellow glow of something crystalline jutting out from the earthen walls lit the opening, but the way ahead betrayed nothing. With a glance back at the shrinking light of the entryway, Lorelei squeezed the yoke’s reins tight, and pulled her knees up closer to her chest. The darkness closed in around her and silence filled up the cave as even the sound of the stags’ hooves fell away. She tried to grip the reins tighter, but they seemed to just be floating in her hands. She couldn’t feel the seat beneath her, and the air had lost its chill, a breeze, everything. For a moment, Lorelei was unsure if she even existed at all.

Then there was light, dim and blue, but all around her. She glanced up to see a ceiling high above, curved walls coming down to a floor laid with large, mismatched tile. Lights hung on the walls projecting a sapphire cast over the place, and benches dotted the way. In the massive room’s center was a giant divot running across its length and through a tunnel at each end. Somehow, despite entering a cave, she’d ended up inside what she could only call a train station.

“Finally come for the luggage?”

Lorelei jumped at the creaking voice. An elderly man leaned against the wall just beside where she had entered. He wore dirtied coveralls and a deep frown, but his eyes twinkled when she met them.

“Yes.” She did her best to sound like she knew what she was doing, simple and to the point, she thought, would pull that off.

“Them dwarves is like a hurricane,” he remarked, pushing himself off the wall with great effort as the stags rounded the cart up to him, “Don’t recognize you though.”

“Oh, uh, Lorelei,” she gestured to herself, “Ziah sent me.”

“Well you don’t gotta brag,” he waved her off the cart, and she jumped down. “They brought lots, might take some time.”

Around a corner, the man pulled back a sliding door onto which “Moonlit Shores Manor: Luggage Depository” was carved. Inside, a mountain of bags, boxes, and suitcases was piled taller than Lorelei herself, the uppermost pieces teetering dangerously. There were many, but they were at least small.

Her eyes big, then determined, Lorelei reached for a bag at waist height that didn’t appear to be too load bearing, and slid it from the pile, knowing she had to start somewhere. It came out with ease, but the moment it did not have others supporting it, its full weight became realized, and Lorelei crashed to the ground under it with a yelp. What were these dwarves traveling with? Rocks?

The old man laughed deeply from his belly, “Nope, you’re not going to be able to move these, I reckon.”

She grimaced, but held back the desire to ask how he planned to move them if she couldn’t. Not responding also likely had something to do with the weight that was crushing her chest.

Her answer came then in the form of the walls shaking. An earthquake was coming upon them suddenly and without mercy, but only the wall closest to them seemed to be suffering any damage. Bricks broke away from the wall, crumbling into a fine dust onto the tile, but leaving behind two clearly defined forms. Man-shaped stone creatures stepped out onto the tile with slow, meticulous steps, leaving giant-shaped holes in the wall. The stags were unphased, but Lorelei squeaked up at the newly animated beings without words. One came to her and lifted the bag from atop her with bulky, brick fingers and gently placed it in the cart.

“Might be a bit,” the old man laughed and settled down on a bench nearby. Lorelei nodded and picked herself up; she could see they moved the luggage with no effort, but they were incredibly slow. Without eyes, she didn’t know how they saw, and without ears, she didn’t know how they were called, and without organic material, she didn’t know how they were alive, but at this point she’d given up trying to reason anything. She’d see a unicorn for crying out loud, so she just turned away to admire the building.

The terminal was otherwise empty, and she walked its length. She could see from where she’d come there was an archway that appeared to lead into a black tunnel, but she knew, if anything would make any kind of sense, it would spit her back out into the forest. Above it hung a sign that read simply “Moonlit Shores.” Two other archways were in the station, one reading “Hagan’s Academy” and the other “Bexley.” She stood in front of the center archway and stared up at it. If she traveled down it, where would it lead? Presumably to Hagan’s Academy, as the sign read, but it appeared to go in the same direction as the Moonlit Shores archway. How did it work? Farther down the archway she thought she saw movement, a light perhaps, or a shadow, and she took a step toward it.

The terminal exploded into life. Bodies were suddenly coming out of the archway and knocking into her, pushing her toward the platform. A rush of sound hit her, many voices all at once, talking and shouting, and she felt herself be turned so that she was staring at the large opening in the middle of the space. Then a gust of wind flew by, pulling at every part of her. If she had been alone, she thought she would have been sucked right down along the path, but instead, the great tug finally released her and instead of the hole in the ground, a bullet-shaped train sat before her.

The doors opened and more bodies piled out of it, tall, short, wide, thin, and seamlessly traded places with those that had been standing on the platform. Lorelei was jostled about, the only real wrench in the otherwise smooth moving machine that was the platform’s transition, and she was eventually and unceremoniously shoved to the back with more than a few sneers. In an instant, the bodies loaded themselves up, and the train’s doors closed. There was another flash of wind and the train disappeared.

Lorelei spun around to see those that had disembarked filing through the three archways, barely stopping to admire the station. Just as quickly as they came, they were all gone, leaving her alone again with the stone creatures and the old man and the cart pulled by two stags of which no one had even stopped to take a picture.

Lorelei found herself staring up at the Hagan’s Academy archway again. Many had gone through, both in and out, but she was as alone now as she’d been moments prior. She took a step into the archway and the darkness. Her footsteps sounded hollow and echoed down the tunnel. She took another step in, Ren’s warning forgotten. The light from the station dimmed behind her and she took another step and then was met with a moving wall.

From her spot on the floor, Lorelei looked up to see two wide eyes peeking over an open book he’d obviously just been reading. While walking. The jerk.

“Maybe I should just stay down here. I think gravity wants me on the ground,” she mumbled to herself, sitting up.

“So sorry,” his voice was low but panicked as he dropped the book at her side. She cocked her head to read the title, Theoretical Necromantic Pharmacology, then took a steady breath, bracing herself to look up at whatever odd creature might be staring down at her.

Lorelei was somewhat startled to see there was nothing outwardly odd looking about the man. In fact, he was so normal looking, she cringed at herself for thinking otherwise.

He pulled back, biting a lip, brows furrowed over green eyes. A few days scruff covered his jaw and his hair was pulled back in a short, messy ponytail, and he wore a look that suggested he was genuinely sorry.

Lorelei grabbed the book and hopped up. He was significantly taller than her, but not so tall as Ren, not that anyone would be. “No harm done,” she handed off the book to him, “Heavy.”

Taking the tome, then locking eyes with her, he shortened the distance between them in an instant, and Lorelei felt herself frozen under his gaze. Her heartbeat thumped in her ears and she feared he could hear it too. Looking on him for longer, she studied his jaw, his eyes, the way his hair fell, and concluded, as most would, that he was particularly handsome, if in a sort of off-putting way, and simultaneously realized that without showering that morning, cleaning up goop all day, and running everywhere, she must look absolutely disgusting. Color rose in her cheeks, and the man took in a sharp breath, shaking his head, “I’m sorry, what?”

“Uh,” she stammered, finally letting go of the book, “The book. It’s heavy.” What a stupid thing to say, she thought, only the kind of thing people who don’t read say.

He raised a thick brow, “Oh, right, well turns out there’s lots to know about keeping the dead alive…theoretically.” He chuckled to himself and she did as well, hoping that had been a joke, but feeling in the pit of her gut it wasn’t, then he gestured over his shoulder, “Were you headed to class?”

“No,” she answered quickly, remembering Ren’s warning not to wander. This is what happens, she chastised herself silently, you run into a hot guy and he thinks you’re in high school. She scowled, “I’m twenty three.”

“Are you,” he paused and looked her up and down, “lost?”

Lorelei felt she should be offended, but admitted to herself she probably did look that way. Still, she couldn’t help but return the up and down he’d given her. The man carried a bag over one shoulder and wore a long, brown coat with many pockets. Plenty of places to keep that book. She huffed, “No.”

“Well, I’d offer you a tour of the place as apology for the, uh, knock down, but my ride’s here.” He gestured to the cart Lorelei had ridden in on.

“Your ride?”

He nodded, looking around the empty station, “Though I don’t see Grier anywhere–”

“That’s my ride.”


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