I wrestled with myself over the decision whether or not to take part in the “challenge” Chuck Wendig posted today, which is to post your favorite 1,000 words from your National Novel Writing Month project and share them for friends, family, and fellow NaNo-ers to read. There are a couple of reasons I didn’t want to: 1. I hate sharing my work before it’s edited and polished, 2. I’m constantly afraid of sharing my writing on the Internet, lest someone steal it, and 3. spoilers!
But I’m quite happy with my favorite scene in the novel, and I’m fairly confident it won’t be edited out when it comes time for me to revise, so that ruled out Excuse #1. It’s also early on in the novel. Spoilers would be minor, so goodbye Excuse #3!
I’m still afraid someone will steal it, but this post is my unofficial claim to this work, as its original owner.
So now I have no excuses. Below the cut is an excerpt of “The Granddaughters.”
It’s not quite 1,000 words, but it’s one of my favorite scenes, so I thought I would share it anyway. Consider it an early holiday gift. :p
Keep in mind that it’s still just a rough draft — “Draft Zero” as I like to call it — so any typos/inconsistencies, etc. will eventually be edited away. No need to be a jerk and point them out, hah hah.
The context you need is this: We’re in post-magical-apocalypse Salem, Massachusetts. There are dragons and zombies and all manner of magical creatures roaming the earth. My main character, Rosaline (aka Ros), was driven out of her shelter way back in chapter one by someone she once trusted and loved. After wandering for a few days across the city (which is now essentially a magical forest), she decides to find her way to her grandmother Carolyn’s (aka Cara’s) home on the northernmost tip of Salem, which she trusts will still be standing thanks to protective spells her grandmother placed around her property. Ros makes it there, just barely, thanks to the help of what she thinks is her grandmother’s spirit; but the whole street is flooded because the sea level rose in all the chaos of the apocalypse. At the beginning of this scene, Ros is sitting at her grandmother’s old kitchen table, eating the last can of (cold and uncooked, yuck) soup she has in her backpack, thinking that her grandmother’s cellar will be stocked full of canned goods…
As Ros filled her shrinking stomach, realization dawned.
Cara’s vegetable garden would be drowned beneath the new sea level. The tomatoes, the peppers, the fence too, all swept away. And the cellar doors out in the backyard would be sealed shut.
She set the half-empty can on the table. Shelter was only so useful. What good would it do without a supply of food?
Heart racing, Ros got to her feet and went to the back door. The water was halfway up the steps of the back porch, and undoubtedly got deeper the further one stepped into the backyard. The wood on the back porch was stained from where the high tide washed over the boards, and seaweed tangled around the railing, against which an old wicker bench had slid.
Ros couldn’t think straight for her panic. Even if she could get the cellar doors open, it would just flood – that is, if it hadn’t already. But she didn’t consider this as she waded in, the water up to her shins, her knees, and finally her thighs, soaking straight through her boots. She paid no mind. The water was still a little chilly from the night, the sun not yet high enough to warm even the surface.
The old cellar was to the left of the back porch. She strode through and, when she reached the spot where she remembered the doors being, she swallowed a lungful of breath and ducked under the water.
The doors were already open, flapping in the current.
Ros resurfaced, pushing her thick hair from her eyes and shivering in the breeze. Looters had come. Looters had found the cellar, maybe even before the sea levels rose.
There had to be something left. Cara wouldn’t lead her all the way here for nothing. One deep, slow breath. Two. Three. And then, with a gasp, Ros dove back under.
She was never a good swimmer, but she was desperate. Her movements underwater were clumsy and slow. She gripped the edge of one of the cellar doors and pulled herself inside.
It was nearly pitch black, with only a little sunlight from above offering some light. The cellar was much smaller than she remembered, perhaps no bigger than an average bedroom closet.
Ros felt around the shelves as if blind. Her fingers brushed against seaweed and the cold, rusting metal bars of the shelves. But no cans. No jars. Not even any fishing rods.
She paused, floating and staring through the murk in disbelief. And then, when her chest finally started to burn, she clawed her way back out of the cellar and up to the surface.
Coughing and sobbing, hungry, frantic and frustrated, she stumbled up the stairs onto the back porch on hands and knees. Her whole body shook. She sat on the top step, her boots still submerged in the water, and wrapped her arms around herself.
Hours passed, and eventually so did her grief. Ros opened her eyes to find the sun directly overhead, glimmering on the ocean’s surface. She held her arm up to block the glare and squinted. No boats, no islands. Nothing but the sea for miles and miles. Was England still out there, on the other side? Greenland? Africa?
The tide was starting to rise, brushing the bottoms of her thighs. Late today. She paid it no mind, but rested her pulsing skull on the railing and hugged her knees up to her chest. Her eyes were raw, and her mouth dry. But the sea was beautiful and shone brighter than any gem.
Far out there, something broke the surface and sprayed water into the air. A tired smile spread across Ros’s lips. She closed her eyes and remembered whale watching trips down to Boston with her grandmother and her parents, remembered her father and mother telling her to be patient and the whales would come. Remembered her grandmother’s contented smile as the boat bobbed over the waves. Remembered the goosebumps on her arms when, on their last trip, one of the giant creatures seemed to wave its flipper at her, as if it knew it was their final visit.
Gulls cawed overhead. Ros reopened her eyes now and lifted a hand to greet the whale way, way out there. Its great tail broke the surface and fell again with a splash. Goosebumps.
What a view. It was as good a place as any to die. Even better: it was familiar. It was home.