Time is just flying like crazy, no? I took a 2 month break from book-writing and did ghostwriting, and now I'm back to book-writing, and I have started writing like mad. Seriously. At a pace of 6K words a day. I hope I can keep this up, because now I'm on a schedule. Have to finish 1st draft by November 5th, before going to OryCon, and have to finish the book before March 2015, before going on my Amtrak train adventure. Yes, they have finally reached out to me and I'm asking to be put on the train in March or after. More on that as it gets close to Spring 2015.
Now. As is my custom. I am going. To post here. An excerpt, the very opening, Of the 1st draft of CORNERS, for you to tell me what you think. Here we go.
A novel by Ksenia Anske, Draft 1
Chapter 1. Number 348
The world had corners. All kinds of corners. Dark creepy corners, dusty corners, corners full of spider webs—not that Bells was afraid of spiders, she wasn’t, but we’ll come back to that later. What was it again? Ah, corners. We were talking about corners. Secret forgotten corners (ohh, are you scared yet?). Hidden corners. Corners to be discovered, like pages of a book that hasn’t been read. Hasn’t even been written. Waiting to opened and fallen inside. If you knew where to look, of course. Bells knew. And didn’t. She didn’t know she knew, she was about to find out.
“Piss it!” She yelled at Peacock.
“Watch where you’re going!”
“Gee. Bossy today.” Peacock steered his bike out of the way.
Bells furiously pedaled past, head high, dark pony tail whipping in the wind.
“Girls.” Scoffed Peacock.
“I know, right?” Came from Rusty.
Rusty only shrugged. He always shrugged when Peacock scolded him. It was better not to argue with Peacock. His grandmother Agnieszka told him not to. “Never argue with your friends, Russell. You hear me?” She’d shake her veined manicured finger at him. That is, before pugs Teeny and Weeny would yap to her attention. It was no time to think about grandmothers, however. It was time to enjoy skipping school. The day before last of the fifth grade, to be specific.
Rusty straightened his shoulders. “Girls. Right?” He tried on Grand.
Grand didn’t say anything. He pedaled last in the group, his jiggling girdle giving him trouble. His white socks grey from the dust kicked up by tires. His face red, sweaty, concentrated. Nothing ever was easy for Grand. It took him effort, deep thought, and lengthy pessimistic ruminations, mostly picked up from his mother, a funeral home cosmetologist. He was often envious of Peacock and his two dads and their nonchalant style of life, but kept it to himself.
“Here!” Cried Bells, turned into a dirt road, dropped her bike and ran up to the water, picking up stones and skipping them across the lake.
“Nice choice, Bells.” Peacock carefully dismantled his prized multi-speed possession, passed a hand through bright periwinkle faux hawk—it was only periwinkle this week, last week it was turquoise—and sauntered up to her. There were two things on his mind. What color hair he should pick for next week, acid-green or magenta, and if he could beat Bells this time. She always won, always. No matter how hard he tried, how many exquisitely flat and polished pebbles he found, Bells managed to tilt her head just so, lift her arm that special way, squint her right eye, and fling the stone, twisting it perfectly, watching it hop one time, two, five, ten!
“Glorious tulips! How do you do it?”
“With female grace, you dolt.” She clapped her hands to get rid of the sand. Female grace was something her mother mentioned quite often, when rehearsing for her next opera, and Bells thought that it was a great way to get back at the boys. It’s something she had and they didn’t, and it made her feel superior. In any case, she was feeling great. It was sunny. It was warm. It was a nice June day. And she didn’t have to see Ms. Carbuncle’s poisonous face. And it was poisonous, especially her lips, two slugs that dropped mean words like slaps in your face.
“Sit straight!” She’d yell. “Take out your notebooks! Use your pens! I don’t want to see any scratch marks, so better think before you write! Belladonna Monterey, what are you looking at?”
Bells didn’t hear her at first, fascinated by the spider weaving a net behind the window. See, I told you we’d come back to the spiders, didn’t I? Every girl in class was scared of the spiders, except Bells. Girls despised her unhealthy, in their opinion, love for the insects. Boys adored it, Peter Sutton especially. Peacock, that is. They were friends since first grade, since that moment when he picked up Bells’ tooth—milk tooth, mind you, it was falling out already—that she lost after that fat redhead Wilma Pufpaff whacked her on the head with a heavy backpack for stepping on her foot. Bells bravely tore out a chunk of Wilma’s hair for that, but that’s a whole another story.
“Belladonna Monterey!” Ms. Carbuncle would shout right in her ear, and Bells jumped.
“I’m talking to you, miss! Answer me.”
“Nothing? Nothing??” Ms. Carbuncle’s already purple face turned the color of it’s-about-to-explode. What happened after is not as significant as is the fact that Bells decided it was reason good enough to skip school the next day.
Whatever Bells decided, Peacock, Rusty and Grand would do without question. When she declared last year that Belladonna Monterey is a grossly inappropriate and a rather pompous name for a ten-year-old future scientist, because, mind you, she would never, never, become an actress or a singer like her mother wanted, naturally, her being an opera singer and all, her faithful friends agreed that they should do the same for all of them.
Conspiring behind the bushes in the farthest school yard corner—it was one of those corners, only they didn’t know it yet—Belladonna became Bells, for the sound of her laughter. Russell—Rusty, for the sound of his screeching voice, too shrill sometimes for his small knobbly frame. Peter—Peacock, for his hair, obviously. And, collectively, they decided that George will be Grand, for his size. He neither protested, neither appeared excited about this significant change.
“My mom says—” He began. He always shared his mom’s depressing wisdoms.
“That’s enough about your mom,” interrupted Bells. “Let’s go.”
And they did.
They went places since then, on their bikes, speeding furiously down the streets, scaring cats and looking for convenient places to drop their bikes and conspire on how to wiggle Bells out of her singing lessons with Mr. Yowl and explain to her parents that she didn’t want to be a singer or any kind of a stage star, she wanted to ride bikes with her friends and study science. Insects, in particular. Not that her dad had any problem with that. He only grinned and winked and went back to fixing his cars, but her mother... Oh, that was a different case entirely. A hot-blooded Spanish woman by the name of Catalina Monterey with savage curly hair and piercing eyes of a diva. Double eyes, in fact, because whenever she lectured Bells, her little seven-year-old sister Maria would appear and mimic her mother, her idol and object of adoration, which made Bells want to strangle Maria later, when they were it the room alone, and spend most of her time outside of the house, as much as she could help it.
Everything was always Bells’ idea. Skipping school today was her idea too, of course. And now that they’ve tired of skipping stones, in other words, tired of trying to beat Bells, who always won, three pairs of eyes, Peacock’s hazel eyes, Grand’s grey, and Rusty’s brown, stared at Bells’ steel ones. She got them from her father, Trevor Monterey, a third generation car mechanic holding down Monterey’s Repair just like his grandfather did when he came to Boston from Texas. Her dark hair she got from her mother, but not a trace of curl in it. It was straight as ropes, thick and shiny.
“Stand guard.” She told Peacock.
“Stand guard, I said!”
“Because I need to pee!”
It no longer embarrassed any of them to watch Bells pick her way through the bushes, and, not caring if she could be seen from the road, lower her jeans, squat, and do her business. She firmly believed in nature taking its course as nature intended. “Restroom are bullshit.” She would tell them, using her father’s favorite expression. “If you feel like peeing, you need to be able to pee where you want and not hold it in your bladder. It’s bad for you. It can give you kidney stones.” Bells always knew what she was talking about, having picked up her facts from numerous science books she would pore over when not biking or attempting to strangle her little sister.
Such unorthodox life-view naturally attracted boys and repulsed girls in school, which Bells rather liked. She couldn’t stand girly gossip, their fretting over what clothes to wear, discussions on whether or not they were old enough to wear a bra, what boy looked at whom and how and why and did it mean he’d ask one of them to go out with or not, or what going out meant.
Bells couldn’t stand these pointless conversations. She was consumed with desire to save the giant flightless darkling beetles that lived in dead trees and were in danger of extinction and couldn’t understand how picking out glittery nail polish at the mall could be more important than reading the latest news on emerald dragonflies.
She pulled up her jeans, zipped them up, and came back out to the beach.
The boys stood motionless, staring at her. A moment of awkwardness hung over them, threatening to dispel the magic of we-skipped-school-eat-that-morons. Morons here were, of course, all those who didn’t skip school and had to sit in the hot classrooms, longing to be out, out of school, ready for the summer break.
A fat wasp buzzed around ripe with sweat Grand. “A wasp.” He noticed dejectedly. “It will bite me.” That’s Grand for you, pessimistic and philosophical. “It will—”
“Guys, guys, let’s climb trees!” Rusty pointed excitedly at a sad looking willow with branches hanging over water like long uncombed hair. Underneath it were empty beer bottles and a couple of sneakers, either lost or deliberately left unattended. There were also unidentifiable empty cans and a sock. One lonely sock sitting in the sand.
“That’s dumb.” Said Peacock.
“Why is it dumb?” Rusty’s little face pinched in indignation. “Why is it everything I say you call dumb?”
“Because it is.” Parried Peacock.
"Bells, what do you suggest we do?” Peacock threw her an inquisitive glance. Bells was absorbed in studying a line of ants that marched across the grassy patch of the ground.
“Shhh.” She didn’t raise her head, her finger pointing at the something.
“Bells, come on already.”
“What?” He voice was exasperated.
“What do you think we should do?”
“I don’t know. Read?” She tried very hard to hide the sarcasm. It was best to deliver it with a straight face. It had the most effect then.
“We didn’t bring any books.” Said Grand gloomily, his sneaker tracing a line in the sand.
“And how is that my problem?” Said Bells with fury typically reserved for Grand’s pessimisms.
“I didn’t say it was your problem.” Grand said, cautiously taking a step back.
“Then why are you looking at me like that?”
“You know like what.”
“No, I don’t. Honest.” When Grand wanted to placate, he added the word “honest”, as if it would persuade Bells to soften, which it never did, of course.
“We could write one?” Offered Peacock. He picked up a stick and wrote BELLS IS DA BOSS in the sand.
“Stop it.” Bells said sharply.
“The uncalled for anger of—”
“I’m not talking to you.” She cut him off. “I’m talking to Rusty.”
“What did I do?” He covered his nose.
“It’s disgusting and you know it.” She pursed her lips.
Rusty grinned. He couldn’t compete with her in witty remarks, but he could annoy her with his very special skill. That skill involved snorting out a long greenish line of snot from his right nostril—for some reason it never quite worked with the left one—and then sucking it back in with a rush of pride. Letting it hang, sucking it in. On very special lucky days Rusty succeeded in hacking it out far enough to catch it on his tongue, fling it up in the air, swallow it, and pass it back through his rather cavernous nasal passage to send it hanging out of his right nostril again, much to agitation of the boys in class, none of whom could manage the trick and watched Rusty with awe, while he performed it tirelessly at this back desk, that is, until Ms. Carbuncle noticed and gave him a timeout.
Rusty snorted it in, feeling rather accomplished.
“Boys.” Professed Bells, putting as much meaning into this exclamation as she could into a thousand words.
“I’m bored.” Said Rusty.
"You’re always bored.” Commented Peacock, rather crass. The fact was, he was bored too, but he couldn’t afford to lose face and admit to it, not in front of Bells.
The beach stretched from one end of the park to another, maybe a couple miles, dull, grey, and speckled with geese poop. The geese themselves were currently occupied with harassing a homeless man who tried to sleep on the bench by the beach’s entrance. Apart from him and couple tired mothers trying to convince their shrieking toddlers to succumb to sunblock being liberally applied on their plump pink, there wasn’t anyone there. Or anything, for that matter. There was a pier. They could go on the pier and stare at the water, but that was also boring. Besides, some old guy in tattered overalls already occupied the very tip of it, with a plastic bucket and a fishing pole shaking in his trembling hands.
It smelled of stale water and dry grass. Insolent seagulls cried overhead, riding the wind and curiously circling over the old man’s bucket.
“Look!” Cried Bells suddenly.
“What? What?” Rusty dropped to his knees.
“Find a new ant species or something?” Threw Peacock with an air of disinterest, but he craned his neck to see what the deal was.
Bells cleared off the sand, exposing an edge of a thick metal sheet. It lied flat on the ground. Nothing interesting, really. Just a sheet of metal with an edge that ran deep down into dirt.
“Probably some construction workers forgot to remove it.” Said Grand sadly. Everything he said was sad and miserable.
Bells didn’t answer. She hastened to clear off the rest of the edge, her heart beating so loud, she thought the entire beach could hear. Nobody paid them any attention, however. Both mothers busy pulling fighting toddlers apart, one having dumped a bucket of sand on top of another, their wailing cries echoing those of the impatient seagulls and geese that were done harassing the homeless man and were now screaming at a passing old lady with a fat dachshund.
“Help me.” Said Bells, her fingers black from digging.
“Wait. Why would anyone leave a metal sheet here, in the middle of the beach?” Said Peacock. He was wary of soiling his new pants, and, obviously, he didn’t want to mar his hands either.
“It’s has a number, look!” Bells excitedly cleared off the sand from the corner of the metal sheet.
“348,” was stamped on it in faded black numbers.
Bells found the corner, slipped her fingers under it and attempted to lift it. It budged a little, and when it did, a gush of freezing wind breathed on her knees. He skin erupted in goose flesh.
She looked up, wide-eyed, and, not seeing anyone in particular, and not talking to anyone in particular, said, “There is a hole. It’s covering a hole.”
“A what?” Peacock forgot all about his pants and scrambled next to her.
“Help me lift it.”
“Grand, come on!”
“Guys, guys, let me.”
“Get out of the way, Rusty.”
Two pairs of hands on one side of the corner, two on the other, they succeeded in peeling it off the ground to a black gaping space underneath. It smelled of nothing, it had no sound, and it stretched deep down underground, an endless abyss. How they all knew it, they didn’t know, but they knew it immediately, and, at a loss of words, stared at each other, suddenly exhilarated and terrified of their discovery.
Bells was first to decide. She was always first.
“Let’s go in.”
“Go where in?” Peacock’s hazel eyes turned scared green. “Are you out of your mind?”
“Can I see? Can I see?”
“Stop fidgeting and hold it, will you?” Snapped Bells. “You’re all sissies, I tell you that.” Sissies, along with bullshit, where perhaps her father’s two favorite words. “Last I heard, you were complaining of being bored. Well, here is a perfect opportunity for you to get un-bored.” She gave her load to silent Grand and lowered her legs inside.
“It’s cold!” She shivered, and for a brief moment a terrible doubt gnawed on her stomach, giving her an uneasy feeling of danger waiting ahead. She quickly dismissed it. She’d gone too far now to turn back. Beside, the blackness underneath the metal sheet pulled on her like a magnet.
“But what is it? What is it? Is it a dungeon? A grave? A...a...” Rusty was looking for suitable word and couldn’t find it. Then he gasped and let go of the sheet. It began lifting. Grit and dirt and loose twigs rained off it. The gap widened and slowly opened to a large rectangular blackness without any feeling of depth, a blank space without dimension. Bells’ legs disappeared in it, as if cut off. Her eyes grew round and with a weak yelp she slid in, her pony tail and all.
“Bells!” Cried horrified Peacock. “She’s gone!” A moment’s hesitation, which included a passing of hand through the hair, and Peacock jumped after her.
Grand looked at Rusty. Rusty looked at Grand. Their faces, grey in the shadow of the gigantic metal sheet now standing at a ninety degree angle in the middle of the beach, twitched in indecision, but before they could utter a word, the blackness sucked them in and in another second the sheet thumped down on the ground.