What of Heaven and Men?

Partially inspired by adventures in the highly illuminating Omnibus series, I find myself drifting back towards writing fiction. Like I said, yes, I am doing The Writing Month thingy this year. Finally. But still, I procrastinate and write about OTHER things BESIDES this imminent project that shall be here in like . . . gosh . . . 12 days. There is a blog thing going around in regards to the endeavors of National Novel Writing Month. One of my favorite blogs called Further up and Further In is hosting Beautiful Books, a project designed to provoke thoughts and questions concerning the novels. My answers to their questions should be here soon. In the meantime, have a short story meant to be expanded on in my WIP, Heaven’s Sight. 

The corners of Father O’Connor’s mouth curled slightly as he peered down at the paper in Anton’s hands. “Well,” he murmured, bending down a bit more. “What a work is this! What a work indeed.”

“My sketch,” Anton said tremulously. He forced himself to look straight up into the priest’s face. His eyes revealed that skittish anxiety which one could notice almost immediately when looking at him.

“Yes, my lad. That is quite a sketch. It is a wonder!”

Anton’s stricken features suddenly relaxed—an infinitesimal bit.

“You needn’t look as if I’m ‘bout to rap you o’er your knuckles, lad,” Father O’Connor sighed, and then laughed. He ruffled the boy’s dark curls, with a full-fledged grin spreading out his mouth. “I was in a good mind to when I called you to stay here, but I don’t believe Michelangelo’s teacher would have done that, if Michelangelo was working those marvelous hands o’ his.”

Anton sat in twitching silence, clasping and unclasping his own damp hands.

Father O’Connor laughed again. “Aye, lad! I will send you on your way now. You’re lookin’ a wee peaked now, and I believe you’ve been punished enough, by your own doing. And I’d be mighty pleased to see if you have a book of these sketches hidden away somewhere.”

“Oh, Father!” Anton burst out at last, terror etched sharply in his features. “I won’t ever draw in class again! I won’t! I won’t!”

“Hush, now. None of this. If you fear that I will seize your sketchbook, you have me quite wrong. Nothing of that sort shall come about, I am only desperately curious to have a look at your pictures.”

Anton, pleadings burning on his tongue, sat in heavy silence. A flicker of worry sent a faint chill through the priest. He laid his hand gently on Anton’s fist. “There, there, my lad,” he said softly, “you mustn’t be afraid of me. Or of anyone else here. What a blessing it is that you should be here now, reading books, learning, safe and warm with everything a lad could need! ‘Tis a fine blessing, Mother Mary’s benediction for you.”

Anton did not stir or speak. So Father O’Connor continued. “And I only asked to see your pictures, for I find you do a splendid job of it, a real dandy hand you have. You must have many a reason to thank heaven—”

His words might have been sparks to a bed of straw. Anton’s eyes took on an uncanny frigid brilliance. “Heaven hasn’t given me anything,” he said simply.

Father O’Connor’s eyebrows leapt up his forehead, and his mouth tightened at once. “Crikey, lad! What do you mean by that?”

“I mean,” said Anton still in that frank, slow tone, “That I haven’t ever heard or seen anything from Heaven good. Nothing will.”

“One does not see or hear a divine thing, my son. It is something beyond that. Beyond the tangible and the reasonable. And indeed, nothing is ever wholly good on this earth—that is only material. What is in it—that is the beautiful substance of life.”

But Anton had stood, his limber young figure akin to a healthy sapling. Father O’Connor let his tongue rest, even as he clasped his hands. He watched Anton silently gather his things, noting the masked expression—not even an expression, but some new hardness.

Song prompt

aad856badedbfadc3a39a15d08d0ebc0I challenged myself one night a couple of months ago to turn my Spotify music to a random song and let it play, and write a snippet inspired (not necessarily directly) by the song. So it happened that “Love is an Open Door” came on and I began to write. This came out, featuring a couple of characters from my historical fiction work-in-progress, Fortis Corde. It’s just a tiny snippet . . .

           Diana wrinkled her nose, a giggle rushing out of her lips. Francis’s eyes suddenly took an unprecedented glow, his delicate features lit by a flush of appreciation. They sat together in the corner of the Waylands’ parlor, the fire cracking furiously in the hearth, and between them sat a small stack of books. Poetry. Most of them had been fondly rifled through, and they often lingered on one page to revel in its written magic. Yes, there was some sort of odd enchantment at play that evening. Most folks present noticed it, except Diana. She had long ago recovered from her little infatuation for Francis Stuart, and now she found him an excellent friend. He understood the beauty of language, the allure of the storybooks. He often spoke of someday writing volumes of fairy stories, after he travelled through Europe and gathered a collection of folk-tales, myths, and legends. “Even here,” he had told her once, “there are stories just waiting to be upturned, in this fertile soil.”

            Diana agreed wholeheartedly. In fact, she herself hoped to someday find a wellspring of inspiration, a time when there would be a liquid rush, a stream of fire and enthusiasm. Only now she felt tingles whenever she picked up her pen to write a story. But that fire remained remote, untouchable and mysterious. She often envied Francis . . .

Not that kind of horse

6051e418cbd6bf0a65544866f95ec654I love Omnibus. I mean, these huge literature textbooks my mom discovered a year ago when I came back from private school after a semester. Just as a sidenote, I absolutely loved the Literature sessions in English class at the school, and Paideia (which is Greek for “the study of society”–or in other words, the study of such subjects, rhetoric, theology, philosophy, which makes a well-rounded classical student). I loved the Latin class, because it introduced me to this much beloved dead language which entrances me, and comes to me when I’m reading. (And I love the idea that if I ever got thrown back into ancient times I could converse with an Ancient Romans–I LOVE LOVE studying ancient Rome, some of it).

Back to Omnibus. The creative writing assignments always exhilarate me. For this particular assignment from this past Spring semester, my sister and I were assigned to write our own journal entries from the POV of a soldier during the War Between the States. I forgot the exact guidelines, but here it is for now!

1864
Every moment of the advance, every scream of a cannon overhead, every burst of musketry—cab0a2656a6570f030d4b44ac80c3bdaevoked a new memory, a new image. Those images rendered themselves with the preciseness of a master artisan, gloriously depicted and I couldn’t put them out of mind. The faces! O, the faces of my comrades, soot-marked and pale or sallow-skinned, all of them faced towards me intently. They watched me for each signal and gesture. I might have been a hunted animal, they the prey. They depended on me for their triumph, their lives. So I inhaled, and did not look at them. I forced myself into a solitary world, a universe where I alone existed and moved. No one else checked my motions. Only I judged myself by myself, and my fear of other men did not possess me.
            There, far ahead, I could make out the stirrings of the opposite side, coming upon us from a stone barrage on the field rise.
            I started, for they rose out of the misting grounds like strange inhabitants of the earth who had not been buried very long. Their faces stood out to me, white and yellow dots of flame with dull navy caps hiding their expressions. I put my hand upon the pistol at my side, and I heard the imitating rustle around me. There! I had just signaled a battle. I nearly guffawed, wildly and stupidly. What would my father say to this, back at home with his bristling brows and thin mouth? He would never believe it of me. I am his youngest, his coolest son, not at all the war horse of my brothers’ ilk, but the mild-mannered pasture nag who dislikes activity. Nor was I the plow house, which was my laborious mother. And now I believed that I had become a god, Zeus with his lightning bolts, who signaled the thunderous roars to begin.
            I cursed softly, which always puts Ma out of countenance. “Here comes Hell,” I heard a boy hiss close by.
            “The Yankees are bound for that place,” came another fellow’s voice. I dared to look around at them, and noted their nervous movements, their meaningless gestures which they could not help. I stared at my own hands, and found them clenching the butt of my pistol. No one fired yet. We waited, waited, as those heavy-footed Yankees remained in a frozen line behind their wall. My own line paused, and gazed out across the narrowed width of field at our targets.
            The kid who foresaw Hell’s coming suddenly raised his musket. He pointed it with a jeer at the starred and striped banner over the blue caps.
            “Not yet!” I snapped quietly.
            His grin froze, and he reluctantly lowered his gun.
            When? When? But there came a messanger from the general, who informed me to wait for a follow-up division. Why? We were here, so plain in view. Those behind the barrage would not wait.
            They didn’t.
            I, supposed to Zeus, became a dethroned monarch, who lost command. I could not shout out at the dull-blue idiots over yonder to wait till I signaled the thunder and fire.
            They did it themselves, they fired into us.
            Men around me crumpled, and a shard singed my epaulet.
            The skin burned beneath. It seared as if scalding tongs pinched the skin beneath the cloth.
            Suddenly I stopped being the indolent field-nag. I became a bull, abandoned to rage, to animal wrath. I stepped forward and the men behind me surged, and we spilled forward in a single tide, a grey tide like the ocean caught beneath a silver moon.
            We went ahead in bounds and strides and sprints, no careful tread demeaning the ground we walked. O, caution drowned beneath us, beneath our pressing vehemence. We came athem, those nameless, faceless dull-blue caps beneath their flamboyant banner. I raised my pistol and shot till it fired no more. And then I knelt, one knee catching a piece of shrapnel. This made it awkward to hold the kneeling position, but I didn’t care. In heaven’s name I say that I didn’t care. It drove me on again with the suffusion across my eyes like a scarlet film and through it I watched the navy caps blurr and discolor, and some of them disappeared before my sight. I shot at each cap and hoped the bullets would pierce the cloth and the bone beneath. Better them than I, for I had a purpose. I write it here, for it is truer than ever, as I am able to pen it. I do admit it, I will admit it in the face of my father and brothers, though I will have nothing to say. They will see it for themselves—they will see how the plow-horse has one leg less than before, and he is all the better for it. He learned to defend, to run, to survive, and destruct anyone who would make a poor beast like myself its prey.

Glimpses {A post of fragmented story}

 

7d09d4cc71a11a557c46a1d878c7d926So, just because, I thought I’d share some of the story I discussed in the last post. Heaven Sight is largely in the works, mainly because I haven’t come up with much incentive to delve into it, (I mean, seriously, hardcore!)

The parts of the story I’ll share are more like short stories, so they’ll be categorized as such.:)

The minute Anton caught a glimpse of Maria he could not stop thinking of how much he would like to paint her portrait.

“So you are the one,” she said the moment they had a chance to speak.

“The one?”

She regarded him from beneath half-closed lids, a lazy effect that was somehow comely. “Yes—the one who helped my brother. Do you think he would neglect to tell me of you?”

“I did not imagine that thanks was necessarily due.”

“Neither did I. But since you are here, I shall.” A flicker of warmth appeared in Maria’s eyes, eyes the color of rich chocolate.

Anton suppressed a smile and glanced aside at a passerby, pretending to be vaguely interested. “Then the honor is all yours. I am not the sort who one would easily thank. Considering the circumstances. Gratitude would be an extravagance.”

“I fully understand the circumstances, thank you.”

“Now, didn’t I just tell you to not thank me?”

Maria tossed her head back and laughed, a rippling sound that poured over Anton like a Mediterranean tide, warm and soothing.

He sucked in his breath, and began to laugh with her. So he amused her? That was evident, the way she peered at him, her lips parted and tilting with mirth.

“Oh-h-h . . . you are much too serious. Just as Armand said.” She shook her head, her russet curls spinning and glinting about her cheeks. “You sound as if you would much rather grate your teeth in oppose to laughing.”

Anton felt foolish. “Is that so?”

“Yes, it is so!” Maria cried. “Why, you sound as if you genuinely didn’t realize that! Gracious, how did you happen?”

Irritation bubbled for only the fraction of a second in Anton’s chest. “I have had little to laugh about. If that is an inconceivable notion, than I am at a loss to explain more . . .”

Anton helped Maria into a cab, and as they rolled off down the street Maria began, “You needn’t explain anything. You seem dedicated to excusing yourself. Is it a felony to laugh? A felony to cry? I believe there are far worse things in the world at present.”

“How clever of you to enlighten me on the state of world affairs.”

“Is calling a girl ‘clever’ rare for you, Mr. Heller?”

“Are you saying that I am closed-minded?”

“Narrow minded is more like it. But forgive me, I take too many liberties. You see, I’ve got a dash of Irish in me, good old common-sense Irish. I say what I think.”

Anton was shocked to see a blush in Maria’s cheeks. Somehow, she didn’t seem demure enough—like she said, too sensible, too straightforward for such modesty. But it pleased him nevertheless. He struggled with the momentary temptation to appear offended by her calling him narrow-minded, but the desire passed when he saw that she had sobered.

“I have every reason to hate you and to be grateful to you. I cannot decide which is better called for.”

“As I said, gratitude would be unwarranted.”

“Yet, you helped my brother when no one else would. That deserves something more than a handshake and a ‘thank-you’.”

Aaaand some more! I’d love to hear what any of my followers think, or just any random feedback in general (politely given, if you please :D)

“This may surprise you,” Anton said sharply, “but I haven’t any particular desire to be of service.”

“I thought not.” And the way misery pulled at Armand’s mouth indicated that he had known this long before.

Anton resettled his spectacles upon the bridge of his nose, something he had taken to doing when his hand began to feel unreliably tremulous.

“I have given you somewhere to stay, so that you wouldn’t resort to a doorway in some black alley.”

“Yes.”

Anton jerked around so that he directly faced the teenaged boy. “Then quit with the vague hints, will you?”

“Sure, sure.”

But Armand’s face paled, and he sat with a glazed look in his eyes, hands resting in his lap, too limp for comfort. Anton swiveled around in his chair to face the desk again, and trained his attention as well as he could upon the sheet of paper, his charcoal stick lying on the desk, ready to be picked up. Anton touched it with a shaking finger, a strange discomfort tingling in his nerves, so that he could not be sure of his present ability in rendering a suitable picture, a sketch even. He grimaced, his gaze wandering to the window in front of him, finding his dark reflection against the glass. The nausea that had become so familiar began to stir warmly in his stomach, and he swallowed.

flashes, flashing, flare (lighting up the night with my lamp and racing pen)

For lack of a better title, that actually sounds like a title. Because the post title I’m using sounds nooothing like one. Whatever.

this usually doesn’t happen. I mean, I’m usually not alone in the bedroom, but this weekend is an exception. My sister Abby (who shares a room with me), has flown away to TeenPact, leaving me here, to be a hermit, basking in solitude (JUST kidding, my sister. I miss you.)

My lamp is on, and there’s no one to tell me to “turn the freaking lamp down”. (But she doesn’t say freaking, usually).

My headphones boom “Neon Lights” by Demi . . . I have a Modern/Contemporia folder on Spotify . . .

I am in the blogging zone, a place of digital sunshine, flowers, and graphic exclamation marks. So. Here’s to kicking blogging-block to the curb. Farewell!

And . . . oh noes . . . my headphones are dying. Shucks.

54b2bde28d0068918dca0b604e9672fa (1)And now, here is some of my writing snippets that I’d care to sprinkle on now, as a (possible) blogging finality for the night. Probably won’t be the last word from me though. Shucks again.

It was an old joke that must have been over-exhausted by now. Even the puppet felt limp with it as Lydia pulled it out of her basket and examined its velvety material, the little bunny ears flopping forward on her palm.
            Grandmama tautly watched Lydia from her seat on the couch, shoulders bent forward. Not in the elderly stoop, but in the manner a person assumes when prepared to jump in, start commenting with enthusiasm.
            Lydia did not want to look up. She continued to watch the way the ceiling light glinted on the bunny-puppet’s velvet body.
            “Lydia?”
            Lydia’s lashes stirred slightly, as with her slight effort to look away from this joke of a puppet. She would have to slip it on her hand.

 

“Darling, I couldn’t wait for you.”
Her voice pierced him, although she never spoke. He could read the words in her eyes.
His throat slowly began to swell, until he could not even imagine speaking, until the pain constricted his every other sense, even his vision. Her face became blurred, her pile of hair an inky smudge over her brow. And her eyes! Like caverns, and his dizziness prevented him from seeing their spark.

The following was inspired by these lyrics:

//You’re trying to save me, stop holding your breath

You think I’m crazy, yeah, well that’s my plan//

(“The Monster” by Rhianna and Eminem)

and these:

//But you tell me to hold on, you tell me to hold on,

But all innocence is gone

What was right is wrong//

(“Bleeding Out” by Imagine Dragons)

0e357f099fd626479994d6c66cc9eb54

“Look, something’s coming! Okay? Something’s going to happen and we can’t do anything about it.”
            “We can’t?” He sounded, for the life of me, like a dazed child. Tears suddenly burnt my eyes.
            “Yeah.” Because, I realized just then that he was lost, confused, and his ties that rooted him to past entangled every part of him. It became so disgustingly clear to me and I couldn’t stand to look at him.
            All at once it was like I was the older one. I the firmly-grounded, while simultaneously my heart orbited out into oblivion wildly—he stood so near. His breath touched my cheek as his fingers brushed my arm.
            “If i have done anything to give you cause to—to run away . . .”
            Why on earth was he saying that? Something in his eyes frightened me. I did want to run away now.
            I shook my head mutely.
            A slow smile crossed his face, startling.
            “The day ought to be fair, sweet—sweet, pungent of other greater things, and you must think me clumsy.”
The tremulous music of his voice flowed down over me to the ground.