Irkadura excerpt, Draft 2

by Ksenia Anske


Wow. I don't know how I forgot to post an excerpt to the 2nd draft of IRKADURA. Like, drown me in a tub of vodka? I started writing it in February and should've done it then. Anyway. A bunch of you asked how I'm planning on adding magical realism and horror to this book, so here you go. You'll see what I'm doing in the first sentence. Also, a bunch of you asked if you can beta read it when it's done. Yes! I'm about 82K words in (the total is about 148K words), so it should take me another 5 weeks to finish this draft, which will be 12 weeks total. End of May? Something like that. I know. This is a hard book because I was asked to write it by a friend, who is also a writer, to whom this book will be dedicated, and I didn't realize it would cause me to go back to the pain of being a pregnant teen in Moscow, in the midst of constitutional crisis and general chaos that came on the heels of Soviet Union collapse. And boy, it is hard, so hard, to go back every day. But. Here it is. How does it compare to the plain no-magic-no-fantasy-no-other-shit sample of the 1st draft? Let me know, guys. I'm all ears. Oh, and the post on what I would've done differently when publishing my 1st book is coming next.

IRKADURA

A novel by Ksenia Anske, Draft 2

Chapter 1. The Bed in the Woods

Irka Myshko woke up at a quarter to six in the morning next to a boar and a catfish, on a bed in the middle of the woods. She looked them over and her mouth tightened. Nothing changed since yesterday; on the contrary, they looked a bit less threatening, peaceful even. Morning sun sent feeble rays through dense ceiling of leaves. Light greased the boar’s fur with shine. Its snout wheezed in guttural snores, the bulk of its beastly body heaved. Irka passed her eyes over the shape next to it. The bloated sot of a bottom feeder. Parasitic. Naked. Its barbels fluttered like a mutated mustache. As big as the hog, the fish opened its suckermouth and wiggled. Old bed’s springs whined under its weight. The boar snorted and turned to the side, exposing its paunch. The kill zone area.

It’s good you have a fat dick. I’ll have something to hold on to while I gut you. Thought Irka, seething, forcibly immobile. It was important not to wake the boar. Last night she failed to change into a mouse, to scurry out of her mind, to hide behind the subliminal barrier of indifference. Last night that swine has dined between her legs, the usual, only it didn’t get satisfied with what it tasted, it went farther. It crunched on her spine, it ripped her in half, from thigh to thigh, it devoured her all the way to her heart, sucked on her lungs, leaving her no air to scream, and stopped only when it chewed the last of her neck, kicking at the head to swim in a pool of soaked sheets.

It fell asleep after, but Irka didn’t, couldn’t. She waited for two painful hours until all was still, then gathered her remains and washed them one by one in the narrow bathtub littered with chipped enamel spots, with cheap soap. She endured the sting, taking care to lather and rinse every fold, douched with pink water of potassium permanganate, then dried herself with a large bed sheet since no towels were big enough to wrap her body in, and returned to bed, to plan her escape. Only where? In the whole of the overwhelmingly vast Moscow, there wasn’t a single place for her to disappear into.

Except one.

Every day Irka hitched a ride to a feral sub-reality inside her head. It made life bearable. It made her forget the violent faces of the family that hurt her. She turned animal. She turned them animal. Boreal. Wild. As wild as the wildest taiga devoid of people. People were pain, they brought suffering. It was easier to descend into numbness, to beat confusion with the macabre, the bizarre, the prankish and the clowny, with the grotesque over-exaggerations instead of the stark reality of aggression. Cruelty. Malice.

Detachment helped Irka survive.  

The boar’s piggy eyes fluttered open for a moment, closed. Its breathing pattern quickened. It started losing its fur, shedding at an alarming rate. Clumps of dark hair littered the camel wool blanket stuffed into a duvet cover with a diamond opening in the middle. Swine trotters morphed into callused hands and feet sticking out from under threadbare cotton. The snout shrunk to a pear-shaped nose riddled with veins. The stink of a wild pig gave place to that of an unwashed man’s body. Irka had to make up her mind, fast. Soon the hog would turn back to Lyosha Kabansky, her mother’s drunkard boyfriend of one year, the longest any of them stayed.

Irka glanced up. The ceiling acquired the density of a soot-darkened plaster in place of leaves. The bed didn’t float in the woods anymore, it plopped right on the creaky parquet, each leg slammed snugly into a hole from missing boards, either worn out by age or pissed through by dogs and cats. The gigantic catfish next to the boar stirred. Fat arms and breasts sprouted on its girth, spilled unsightly over the blanket. Its whiskers grew small, thinned to a mustache on a face of a sleeping woman, bloated from the alcohol consumed last night.

I wish we weren’t related. Thought Irka. I wish you weren’t my mother. I wish I was never born. Gritting her teeth, she glanced at the window and retracted fourteen years past, to when she was two, to a sunny September morning. The catfish wasn’t a catfish back then, it was Marina Somina, the woman Irka, in her absolute toddler naïveté, loved and feared above anyone else. She just got done peeing into an enameled pot with bright crimson peonies painted on it and waddled over to her mother, proud. She learned how to say her first word.

Dua!” Said Irka brightly. She couldn’t roll a proper Russian ‘r’ yet, so it came out wrong but recognizable. She heard the word dura often, unaware that it meant ‘female fool’, under the best of circumstances. Under the worst of circumstances, it meant ‘retarded bitch’, which is exactly how it was used in Irka’s household, at the time comprised entirely of women: Irka’s mother Marina Somina, aunt Sonya Seledkina with her daughter Lenochka, grandmother Valentina Tarakanova and great grandmother Nadezhda Koza, all crammed into a three-room flat on the last floor of a nine-story Brezhnevka.

Dua, dua, dua!” Irka poked the snoring shape on the naked mattress.

Marina grunted and opened one eye. Her normal morning started with a couple bottles of beer. Money ran scarce that month. She couldn’t afford her hangover remedy and suffered the consequences in the form of a blinding headache several days in a row, dousing it in vodka. The sun didn’t help.

Marina turned to the other side.

Dua! Dua!” Irka chanted on repeat, clapping hands, her feet doing a little dance.

“Go away. I’m sleeping.” Marina mumbled into the pillow.

Dua.” Said Irka uncertainly. In her short life she learned to recognize her mother’s tone of voice, predicting the future with astounding accuracy. It went down two paths, bad and not so bad.

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ROSEHEAD excerpt, Draft 2

by Ksenia Anske


It's my tradition to post excerpts from each new novel draft. I started writing 2nd draft of ROSEHEAD last Monday and should've done it then, but have completely forgotten. Don't kill me, because I'm cheating. I'm prepping a big huge humongous blog post (to come out after this one) on everything I learned about self-publishing, how to do it, how much it costs, etc, and there seems to be little else that can occupy my brain at the moment. So... I will throw in a twist. My boyfriend suggested that instead of posting an excerpt from Chapter 1 like I did for 1st draft, I should post his favorite scene from Chapter 6 (he reads my daily writing every night). In case you're wondering what ROSEHEAD is all about, here is a summary for you. Hopefully you will enjoy this.

Photo by JenniPenni

Photo by JenniPenni

ROSEHEAD

A novel by Ksenia Anske, Draft 2

Excerpt from Chapter 6, German Breakfast

Bloom was a very large family, its legacy firmly rooted in the gardening business. Naturally, most living Blooms were floral experts, cousins and second cousins and third cousins to Lüdke Blome’s direct descendant, Alfred Bloom. Him and his late wife Eugenia had one child, Daniel Bloom, who in turn had also only one child. Lilith. That meant one day Blooms’ mansion and its rose garden would belong to her. Lilith froze, thunderstruck. Could this be what grandfather announced yesterday? The thought never occurred to her until now, and it made her even more determined to uncover his secrets. There was no way she’d consent to owning a deadly garden that used people as a fertilizer.

Forgetting all about counting and lost in thought, Lilith pulled out an unoccupied chair. Immediately, all people at the table turned to look, calling out their good mornings, where as the day before hardly anyone noticed her. This confirmed her guess. On top of it, Schlitzberger twins arrived and sat next to her.

“We heard you got lost yesterday…” Daphne said with a nasty smile, stacking her plate with waffles.

“…in the rose garden.” Gwen added with a snigger, grabbing a roll.

Daphne slapped her sister’s hand. “That’s mine! I saw it first!” They proceeded bickering at each other in German.

Lilith gulped, desperately searching the table for Ed. He wasn’t there. Disappointed, she turned to face the twins.

“Incidentally, one of my favorite pastimes is searching for bones of dead people—” she said icily, “—you know, skulls and stuff. The best specimen I cover in fluorescent paint and dangle at night in front of people’s windows. It took me a while to find one yesterday. It’s a nice once, still has all of its teeth intact. What room are you staying in, by the way?”

Daphne’s face lost color. “Mutter!” She squealed, pointing at Lilith and firing off a whining string of German words.

Irma Schlitzberger, clad in a tight purple sweater no doubt of Gabby Bloom’s handiwork, leaned over her plate to see better, same purse next to her pudgy hand. Lilith wondered if she could snatch another peacock feather from it.

“Tsk-Tsk, Daphne. It’s not nice to speak in German in front of your friend, when your friend doesn’t understand a word of it. Am I right, child?” Said Irma loudly. Other guests watched this exchange with interest.

Lilith’s face turned hot. “Excuse me. I thought I mentioned it before. I’m not a child…” She began.

Aber mutter, sie…” Daphne interrupted her, throwing shrill accusations at her mother, which Irma returned with scolding remarks. Meanwhile, Gwen stole the roll from her sister’s plate and quickly stuffed it in her mouth.

“Hello.” Someone tugged at Lilith’s sleeve. She turned.

A boy around ten stood by her chair. He had a very smart look about him, dark sleek hair parted on one side, eyes narrow and lips pursed. He was dressed in a suit with shiny shoes, and he smelled like hair gel.

“Um… My name is Patrick. Patrick Rosenthal. It’s very nice to meet you, cousin.” He stretched out his hand in a practiced movement, his round face splitting into a practiced smile. Even his speech sounded practiced, with very little accent. It was obvious his parents sent him.

Und… Um… This is my sister, Petra.” He pushed a little girl ahead of him, barely seven, her dark hair gathered in a ponytail, her tanned arms and legs sticking out of a festive red dress. She had an aura of sugary sweetness about her. It was the girl who demanded more cake, Lilith remembered.

Hallo!” She said brightly. “My name is Petra Rosenthal. What is your name?” The girl grinned, showing a missing tooth, and it was the first genuine smile Lilith saw since her arrival in the mansion.

“Lilith Bloom.” Lilith said automatically, astounded at how well both of them spoke English.

Petra suddenly pressed a piece of paper into Lilith’s hand. “It’s from my cousin Ed. It’s a letter. I like letters.” She kept grinning. “Is it a love letter? My cousin Ed—”

“Petra!” Her older brother said sternly. “He’s not our cousin, he’s step-cousin. We’re not even related. Mom told you not to talk—“

“Sabrina. Sabrina Rosenthal. Delightful to meet you.” A tall dark-haired woman was shaking Lilith’s hand, and Lilith recognized with horror the face of one of the heads, same angular jaw, same highly arched eyebrows.

“There she is, the lovely girl. You were hiding from us, weren’t you? Norman. Norman Rosenthal. I happen to be your father’s only second cousin.” A round heavy-set man, the grown-up version of Patrick, with the same smart look about him, was shaking Lilith’s hand now. Lilith felt numb. His face belonged to other head, same hair parted on one side, same narrow eyes. The woman and the man were, indeed, a couple, and they strongly smelled like dentists.

Holding on to her chair for sanity, Lilith soon found herself surrounded with more relatives who were eager to chat.

“Trude Brandt, young mädchen.” Introduced herself the old lady, Lilith’s neighbor, suddenly sweet and charming, her soap scent not as revolting.

“Hanna Haas, degree in botany.” A mousy looking woman with on odor of soil, large teeth and even larger glasses pushed forward a wheelchair. “My mother, Heidemarie Haas.”

Heidemarie resembled a dried out ghost sitting amidst blankets, a whiff of decay around her, her eyes milky and blind. She promptly seized Lilith with shaky hands, palpating her face and relaying something in German to Hanna.

“My mother says you look just like your father, when he was your age. My mother says—”

Ten guests total, thought Lilith, tuning out. Wait… the math doesn’t add up. Ed and the owners of two other heads are missing, but that makes it fourteen guests, not twelve.

Hanna was asking something, as was Petra, and Patrick, and Daphne. Their voices turned into a blur, smells mixed into a suffocating reek, when the same horrible sigh reached Lilith’s ears. She not so much heard it as she felt it, nearly jumping from freight. Nobody seemed to notice a thing. Her heart thumping wild, Lilith began gorging up on food, eager to escape into the garden to continue solving its mystery.

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