I’m going to try some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent here, though noth­ing that’s never been done before. A while back I let a char­ac­ter, Cock, leak onto this blog; he’s actu­ally a prin­ci­pal from a work in progress called The Seven-​​Year Mirror. Overall I think the nar­ra­tive is doing well but it’s stalled; I’m going to begin post­ing it here seri­ally to see if that reignites the flame and lets me carry it through to completion.

7YM is a log, long work — a cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand words at least, so far — and it’s by far the strangest work of fic­tion I’ve done to date. I like it, but it’s not for every­one, and it’s def­i­nitely not for kids. This is Adult Content mate­r­ial we’re talk­ing about here. Not porn, but mature sub­jects and, in some chap­ters, dis­turb­ing ones regard­less of your age.

The fol­low­ing posts in this cat­e­gory are from the first book (or major sec­tion, or move­ment), “Cool” — which super­fi­cially is meant to be a descrip­tion of the sea­sons on the world where this story takes place.

In terms of back­ground: The set­ting is a pelagically-​​oceanic world called Castor, which has a twin, Pollux, that shares a close enough orbit around their blue-​​and-​​yellow stars the worlds actu­ally occult each other’s skies reg­u­larly. Castor and Pollux are part of the Twenty, an agglom­er­a­tion of human-​​habited worlds I’ve men­tioned else­where in my Beasts of Delphos and Allasnu Nomu.

The set­ting is about 2500 years in a human future, and to date no one has ever met any extrater­res­tri­als. There was a Golden Age of sorts that ended some 2000 or so years pre­vi­ous, when a lot of rich tech­nolo­gies that enabled fairly fast and fairly non-​​Einsteinian trans­port among stars fell into a Diaspora of forgetfulness.

Cock is a teen youth who lives on Castor and, with his friends Fan, Rip and Tube, basi­cally heads up a band of some­thing like a motor­cy­cle gang, except they use hydro­foils instead.

Cock is also schiz­o­phrenic and bipo­lar, and for that rea­son is a pro­foundly dif­fi­cult char­ac­ter to like — and to write.

The nar­ra­tive begins, here, not from his point of view, but rather with another char­ac­ter, whose sig­nif­i­cance appears later in the story.

This is a work in progress and as such is quite organic. What you see posted here over the next few months will prob­a­bly not resem­ble, in either con­tent or chrono­log­i­cal struc­ture, the final prod­uct — but my aim is to even­tu­ally pro­duce a fully-​​finalized novel that more or less is true to what you’re going to witness.

All con­tent, BTW, is ©2007 me. You are not allowed to repro­duce this, but you can link to it.

Hope you like it.

==== The Seven-​​Year Mirror ====

Bind us in time, O Seasons clear, and awe.

O min­strel galleons of Carib fire,

bequeath us to no earthly shore until

is answered in the vor­tex of our grave

the seal’s wide spin­drift gaze toward paradise.

Voyages II, Hart Crane

This is a love story.

Prolegomenon

I first real­ized that I was dif­fer­ent when I was eight.

No. That’s not wholly accu­rate. I was aware of being dif­fer­ent long before then, but I wasn’t truly con­scious of it, or wor­ried by it, until that day by the sea. Before that time I didn’t have the aware­ness that let me look into the mir­ror of Treva’s eyes and say to myself, I am not as he is.

But I’ve got ahead of myself.

I tend to do that quite a lot.

What do I recall of that day? I’m no longer sure. It’s been recounted so often, by me, by my mother and father, by Treva. I no longer know with cer­tainty what is a true rec­ol­lec­tion ver­sus what is some­thing that I only think I recall, some­thing patched together like a bad vis­cast effect, some­thing mas­querad­ing as mem­ory, or insin­u­ated into my mind by the rem­i­nis­cences of oth­ers, rather than being the real thing.

I’m fairly cer­tain I remem­ber the ride to the shore, but we took so many of them in those days that what I recall is truth­fully more of a mon­tage of jour­neys, tak­ing place in at least three run­ners, the first one so old that it actu­ally used hydro­gen power. That was before my father’s career had sta­bi­lized around his tri­une tasks of teach­ing, tutor­ing and terrology.

(Perhaps I should apol­o­gize for the allit­er­a­tion. It’s not always easy for me to tell if I’m being clever, hack­neyed, glib, or just irri­tat­ing. I usu­ally err to caution’s pref­er­ence and assume I’m the lat­ter­most. I’ll try not to be too bur­den­some with my delu­sions of wittiness.)

Regardless of the actual run­ner we used, regard­less of the par­tic­u­lars of the jour­ney that par­tic­u­lar day, I can relate some details with some­thing like cer­ti­tude, for in most respects the land­scape of Taliesin has not changed in its cen­turies of habi­ta­tion. Sand is sand, sea is sea and the suns are still red and hot yellow.

Probably there were bur­ras wing­ing through the sky and call­ing to each other with their strange, laugh­ing cries. Probably the land shone under the cloud­less or nearly-​​so sky. Rocks by the road­side would have bulged like strange geo­log­i­cal warts, growths as pecu­liar and baroque as a cil­i­ated mole, dark brown ancient-​​pocked basalt some­times with the wink of sil­i­cate or mica crys­tals, or rusty or pale trans­muted sand in lay­ers like pastry.

The air surely crack­led with the dis­charge from the sandrunner’s repulser field and with the ecmite seat­cov­ers’ fric­tion against our swim­ming trunks. Mother’s hair ruf­fled in the induced breeze when Father goosed the runner’s thrust­plate. The air, though we were near the shore, was dry and cool; most of the light and heat energy that reaches Taliesin is not from the red dwarf it orbits. The yellow-​​spectrum com­pan­ion is the source of much of it, most of it, and Taliesin’s orbit is far enough from its dual loci that the oceans, at its poles, are thick plates of ice.

Father used to believe that the polar regions of Earth, the lost cra­dle of us, were sim­i­lar, bas­ing his con­clu­sions upon his stud­ies of the van­ished planet’s records. But the evi­dence, such as it is, is incon­clu­sive. At least as many ter­ro­log­i­cal papers have been writ­ten on the sub­ject of a warm, wet planet like Delphos or Gem, but with less sur­face area and con­sid­er­ably fewer forests, based in sim­i­lar cita­tions from Earth’s scant remain­ing records. Father argued that the dis­crep­an­cies were explain­able sim­ply: The cli­mate changed.

He was ever at a loss to show how such huge changes could have been wrought in the memory-​​span of only two gen­er­a­tions; records from one era speak of frozen poles while those writ­ten a bare cen­tury later men­tion no glacia­tion what­so­ever. No nat­ural effects could have pro­duced such a rad­i­cal dif­fer­ence, it’s been said many times; the best con­ven­tional expla­na­tion I’ve heard is that Earth’s peo­ple (who were just like us, of course) were fond of myth and fable. Much of the cul­tural and lit­er­ary his­tory we have today came from them, and we still love sto­ries of the fan­tas­tic. Therefore, obvi­ously, the accounts of Earth with rimes of ice at its axes are exam­ples of such flights of fancy.

Father accepted none of that. His ideas were shock­ing, and — but I have left the sub­ject, I fear, and quite con­sid­er­ably besides.

It’s funny, I sup­pose, if funny is the word to describe the urge I still have, so long after his death, to defend my father’s work; but I still feel a flame of ire in my breast when I hear cer­tain patron­iz­ing tones in some people’s voices. They spoke of my father in the same way. As he got weaker, they became less and less care­ful about sound­ing so demean­ing, so belit­tling, when he was in range to hear them. And after a while … he seemed to stop car­ing, but he hadn’t; he sim­ply was too tired to go on. And still I want to join the bat­tle, rally to his ban­ner, though he can­not carry it any more.

====

But all this is years after the day I began with some eight hun­dred words ago. We halted the run­ner by the hiss­ing bub­bling fizz of the tide as it broke across the flaw­less porce­lain sand. When I was very, very young I used to press my feet into that sand to look at the con­trast, the fas­ci­nat­ing inter­leave of my toes against the wet pack, the way they seemed to mesh together in the spaces between, like gears of black and white. Or ink run­ning across a page of pape.

When I was older and study­ing some Pollucan texts I got that sen­sa­tion again, so pow­er­ful that it was a com­bi­na­tion, almost, of déjà vu and home­com­ing. The Pollucans’ T’hey-che’yah is pred­i­cated upon the same idea, the inter­pen­e­tra­tion and inter­de­pen­dence of the dark and the light. One with­out the other loses much significance.

Contrasts and reflec­tions, meshes of the unlike. Granting mean­ing by oppo­si­tion. And Treva.

Yes, and Treva.

Father went up the shore to search for spec­i­mens. There never were many to be found. He explained that to me once when I fol­lowed him, ask­ing what type of spec­i­mens he was look­ing for. The ocean pounded every­thing to sand; all that was left to find was the occa­sional well-​​scoured flake of stone that might once have con­tained traces of min­eral deposit or even that grail of all Talec stud­ies, a fossil.

Fossils are nearly impos­si­ble to find on Taliesin because none of its indige­nous life ever got as far as devel­op­ing cal­ci­fied struc­tures or, indeed, any hard body parts at all save sub­stances anal­o­gous to chitin and car­ti­lage. Even the preda­tors are toothless.

The Delphan Sirens are not ours.

I wanted to know why Father sought spec­i­mens if he knew that there wouldn’t be any. He sim­ply shrugged.

Years later I encoun­tered a fish­er­man angling in a placid lake and over­heard his con­ver­sa­tion with a bystander. He knew there were no fish to catch, yet he did it any­way. It made me think he and my father would have got along well.

But by then Father was gone.

====

Treva and I swam out, as always, and as always he went faster, stroked far­ther and longer, had bet­ter endurance, and as always I felt a sick, help­less fury in my breast. He never failed in any­thing we played at together, as long as the con­test was phys­i­cal. (In the mind, at least, we were evenly matched, with one exception.)

But that day I felt some­thing else. Something that drove me more than I’d ever been dri­ven before. Something that com­pelled me to dare, to push, to strive as I never had.

Shame can do strik­ing things to a per­son, even when he’s just a boy.

And I had gone too far. Childlike, I didn’t real­ize it until it was much too late, and then it seemed to be too late all at once. So fast, so fast.

I hes­i­tated, the shore still dozens of meters off. A wave caught me and I fal­tered, foundered, and knew I was lost. I had begun to drown before I’d even caught my first lung­ful of the sting­ing, too-​​acid water of Taliesin. I gur­gled and choked and then the water was wash­ing into me in surges.

Water in the lungs is a ter­ri­ble sen­sa­tion. It is too cold, heavy, dense, feels almost like wet sand. It is ter­ri­bly alien and my body, which was barely old enough to be under my con­trol at all, even mar­gin­ally, stopped obey­ing my com­mands and tried to gasp the water out. The prob­lem was that my head was still below the sur­face, so when my lungs expanded they filled again with that awful cold den­sity, and that only made me cough more.

And the whole time I was think­ing, you knew you were too deep to touch the bot­tom; if you had just lain on your back and floated you wouldn’t be dying now.

I was almost clin­i­cally detached. I didn’t have the time then to feel the emo­tion of it. I was too busy dying to have an opin­ion on the fact. I was sim­ply very dis­ap­pointed with myself for pan­ick­ing, for let­ting myself be goaded, and espe­cially because I knew Treva was not goad­ing me. He had stopped boast­ing of his vic­to­ries more than a year ago. Lately he had seemed more des­per­ate, more fran­tic, more urgent for me to suc­ceed. Each time I failed to match him in a con­test he would give me a search­ing, wor­ried look, and those looks fright­ened me because I almost knew what they meant.

If only my feet could touch the bot­tom, I’d have a sta­ble place to launch myself from and I wouldn’t be so afraid. I felt so lonely sud­denly, out of touch with the land, with the air. An unut­ter­able wave of sad­ness washed through me. The ground wasn’t under me any more and the sky was too far over me. I was falling into black­ness entirely out of touch with every­thing I thought I had known, every­thing that had seemed so sure and so solid. Abandoned and doomed, betrayed by life into silent, tooth­less jaws.

And then a hand, clutch­ing tear­ingly at my hair, jerk­ing my head toward the light.

I sput­tered to the sur­face and gasped, retch­ing, and felt myself pulled on my back, Treva’s arm about my chest, humil­i­at­ingly supine and help­less in my brother’s sav­ing grasp. Hot silent tears of frus­tra­tion and betrayal burned in my eyes, but I didn’t resist, didn’t try to fight Treva off. I was too embar­rassed to be ungrate­ful, to strug­gle much. Besides, I was exhausted.

I lay on the shore where he dragged me and man­aged some­how not to groan, I think. A thin streamer of mucus and bile ran from my mouth; some­where in the process of try­ing to purge itself of Taliesin’s ocean, most of which I believed I had aspi­rated, my body had also cleared itself of all things esophagus-​​related and I coughed until my throat felt shred­ded. At least I had man­aged to main­tain con­trol of the sphinc­ters and other del­i­cate sys­tems below my waist. That humil­i­a­tion atop every­thing else might have caused me to crawl back into the sea facedown.

Treva tried to make it look a game. He leaned over me and smiled, water drip­ping from his nose and chin into my face. “Next time you play res­cue on me,” he said, filled with false jol­lity. Our par­ents, faces pinched with worry, heard his words and relaxed, though not much. I nod­ded weakly, furi­ous and twice furi­ous. I owed my life to Treva and now I owed my pride as well.

And then I began to won­der. I began to won­der why I was not as he was. I began to truly under­stand that it was a prob­lem. I began to grasp why Treva always looked at me as he did when I lost these contests.

Treva was a stronger swim­mer, and that wasn’t all. He was bet­ter at run­ning, at climb­ing rocks or trees, even at jump­ing, and he slept less than I did, always had a bet­ter appetite, never seemed to run low on energy.

And, lying on my back that morn­ing, water droplets that had fallen from my twin brother’s mir­ror­ing face dry­ing on my own, I began to under­stand that didn’t make sense.

But then, nei­ther did the eerie way in which I could almost see the near-​​drowning and res­cue before they’d actu­ally occurred.

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