Thursday, April 19, 2012

Itareña: Chapter One

(And now for something a little different... fiction I wrote only today!  A dream came to me last night of like Tolkien breadth and length... it deserves to be written.)

James Gillefear would always remember this day in perfect detail. There had never been such exciting news in the little town of Zerhu. There were barely enough homes and businesses gathered together on that farmland to be called a town at all, and one could say that, except for the summer festival, there was never anything to do except watch your crops grow. Everything and everyone always seemed to stay the same, changing and growing only as the cycles of nature necessitated: Just as the crops would grow, bear fruit, and whither and die, so too did the people. There were no very prosperous persons in town, but there were none in poverty either. Everyone lived a comfortable, safe, healthy life, for the most part.

Yet on that day, change came. It was finally time to shake up Zerhu until nothing would be the same- just as a farmer would change out his crops to keep the soil fresh. For even if Zerhu's citizens lived comfortably and safely- not everyone was happy. There is always room for improvement in the world, and there certainly was in this town.

James yearned for this change, though he couldn't quite put his finger on what exactly he wanted. He only knew that he couldn't stay. He knew that he had never really been happy here. He was spending another day meditating upon this, within the embrace of his family's grapevine at the rear of their backyard orchard- that little space in the vines where he'd often played as a child. The vines were so thick there you couldn't quite see through them on most sides, but they left enough space for a child to play. There was a wall on one side thanks to a shed, and wire fences on the others to provide structures for growth. The vines pressed against James' arms now as he stood in that little space, looking out over his neighbor's rock garden.

Every cell in his body wanted to leave this town, even if he didn't know what he'd do with himself once he'd left. And why should he leave? Here he would be safe from the vagaries of the outside world; here his family would care for him. But there was something wrong with this place. Though it seemed idyllic and heavenly, the population was not comprised of angels. Rather, he saw them as demons. Perhaps they did not mean to be cruel, but ignorance is a leading cause of demonic activity.

It was not that Zerhu's citizens were physically violent towards one another, at least not past a little domestic violence here and there. No, it was just in the way everyone had an attitude that “I am the best and everyone else is a sinful infidel.” This expressed itself through indifference, cheating, escapism, ubiquitous verbal abuse, and even the mayor's disregard for the deteriorating state of the lagoon. James knew that, in time, this oversight would cause health problems among a portion of the population, but the mayor could not be bothered about it- she'd lose money. It would interfere with her son's hog business- she wouldn't make them relocate just to keep the lagoon cleaner. So everyone ignored it.

What lurked so stagnantly underneath everything that caused the world to be this way? Why should people so blessed by the gods, in such a beautiful place, with the most fruitful soil in the world, be so hideously awful to themselves and one another? James couldn't put his finger on it, and he couldn't figure out how anyone could ever fix it. Even his family was poisoned by this prevalent way of being. James knew that he himself had also given in to this behavior on occasion. He supposed it was a natural reaction, even if he didn't want to do it. Maybe- maybe if he could get away, he could be a different man. Maybe there was another place, somewhere in the world, that was not like this.

It was the end of spring, and the summer festival was still two months away. James had only just returned home a little over a week ago. He was one of those few people who would travel away to the city for higher education. Most people in the farm country of Raops never bothered, and would go to work on the farm having or having not finished grade school. Still, the affluent in other, larger communities far away, or the occasional gifted youth of at least some means would travel to study at greater institutions of learning. James wasn't rich, but he may have been considered affluent compared to those not lucky enough to live in Raops, where the country's government was able to make sure that almost everyone's needs were met. Everyone could live comfortably if they wanted. At least, all the farm children. The city was a different story. Not everyone there was so lucky. James had seen this when he'd gone to live there.

James had been teased for preparing himself to go to school, but really, he would have been teased whether or not he had been intelligent and ambitious. He would have been teased for things he did or did not commit, for things he was or was not, as everyone was teased. When he returned from school, he had discovered that, of course, things had been the same for his younger sister.

He'd last seen Jeannie when she was seven. Hardly fully formed enough for James to have been interested in her personality, or at least he'd thought so. Now she was fifteen. Not yet marriageable, but old enough for suitors. She had none. She hadn't gone off to school as he had done, but hoped to do so upon his return, for then there would be enough money, with him staying and working at home. That is, if he decided to stay home. If not, she'd have to save up some more herself, because their family would have to support the both of them. James would need a little help getting out the door and getting settled elsewhere. James had discovered that Jeannie had entered the same situation he'd lived through, when he'd stumbled upon her diary a few days ago. He couldn't resist reading a little, but it soon became too uncomfortable, and he'd put it back down after only reading a few pages of her awkward teenage poetry, in which Jeannie expressed her intense desire to get away from it all.

But of course James would leave. He couldn't stay here. He couldn't stay here even another month. He needed to get away from it all, too. He'd sworn to himself last night that he would never come back, either- not until he'd made something of himself. Enough of himself that, when he did come back, he'd have a wife, and he could stay somewhere on his own, independent of his family. He'd sworn that to himself, because he didn't ever want to be near his mother again- not alone, vulnerable, and under her roof, anyhow. He'd want the distance, and the company, for protection. She'd been so angry with him last night. She'd thought he was possessed by demons after trying to tell her some of the things he'd learned while he was away. Perhaps he'd expressed certain things a little too vehemently, and he should have respected her right to her uneducated opinions as opposed to his own. But he knew she should never have held him against the wall, choking him like that. Luckily, she had backed down. He was about half her size, and would never have survived had she not chosen to do so. Yet in those few immobile moments that seemed so long, he had learned many things. He had learned that the world was capable of doing anything to you. He had learned that it wouldn't hold back just because something shouldn't be happening.

As James' thoughts fed upon themselves and ran in circles, leaving his mind far from the silence true meditation required, pondering what he should do with his life for the ten thousandth time, for the twelfth time in the last twelve days, for the third straight hour as he stood outside- he saw it. The first glimpse of something bearing what would change his life forever.

A motherfucking spaceship.


  1. Interesting setup with a very abrupt ending. I think you should condense the exposition and get to the action sooner. James' reflections on the social atmosphere of his hometown and his desire to leave get a little repetitive. I think certain parts would be stronger if they were revealed in the moment rather than though the summary of James' recollections, like his reading his sister's diary and especially the fight with his mother. More details about James' immediate shock/fear/anger will make those parts feel more visceral and offer stronger justification for his wanting to leave than just "he couldn't quite put his finger on it." Find a way to use James' relationship with his family to illustrate some of the problems with all the townspeople, perhaps by having his sister's diary reveal "it's the same stuff James went through...only worse" or having his parents deride his new outlook with things like "that's not the way we do things here" or "your old friend ____ doesn't act like this." Basically, find a way for characters' actions to elaborate on the oppressive atmosphere of the town.
    I DEFINITELY want to find out what happens with the spaceship!

  2. And by my egotistical "TOLKIENESQUE STORY DESERVES TO BE WRITTEN" I mean I am obviously writing this in the length of a children's/young adult's length... I wonder if I should cut out the cursing.

    Thank you for your commentary, Eric! I hadn't even thought of that. Good points.

  3. I rather enjoyed this. While I agree that the setup took a while but I always saw this as the start of a bigger piece. So I can excuse that to some degree knowing that once the world is established that the 'show don't tell' will be left in the distance.

    As for the world, I feel you definitely establish a clear world that is easy to connect to (especially us Iowa kids) and understandable why one would want to escape such a place.

    The thing I dug was the ending. The whole piece you had been jabbing with your left giving us hints of demons or at least some supernatural persuasion (possession) then you swing the right and its actually extra-terrestrial. And unlike Indiana Jones 4, I love it. A motherfucking spaceship.

  4. Yes, the spaceship is awesome. When it comes to what Eric said about exposition, some of it could be left for other chapters-it's interesting stuff, but not essential. Pacing is important for longer works like the one you seem to be planning.