Friday, November 6, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09, Chapter Six: How Things Are

The below is a section of the novel that I wrote for National Novel Writing Month. It isn't a stand-alone story, and it's probably not worth your time to read. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month so wordcount is valued above quality. This is a good thing, as it encourages people to actually finish a project. Nobody expects that the result will be ready for public consumption without heavy editing. If you want to read it for some reason you can view the whole thing in one place HERE although that's still totally unedited and terrible. You have been warned.

The guards talk, because they know we aren't ever going anywhere. I know there are only four of us here right now and Tamara is clearly a woman's name, so that means the man strapped into a seat in front of me is either Charlie or Walter. I smile at him, and he smiles back with as much of a shrug as the straps allow. He doesn't seem too upset about this, but I've seen too much here to take any hope from that. I'm not going to get out of here except in a body bag.

This isn't how it was supposed to go. I was supposed to be a hero, appearing out of the shadows to stop muggers and foil bank robberies. It seems like ages ago that I set out from home, so optimistic… so certain that it would all work out. Really, I don't even know how long ago that was. After I left home it took them a year to find me, but I think I must have aged two years from spending so much time with everything paused. I even learned to keep things still while I slept so that I could be on the lookout for the feds all the time. There's something so beautiful about a crowd of people frozen in the moment. It's like a drug.

Speaking of, Charlie or Walter or whoever looks pretty glazed. Maybe that's why he isn't upset. Or maybe he's just tired of the needles. God, if I could just never see a needle again. One of the guys in lab coats is coming over, he's humming something to himself… it's that song from Aladdin. A Whole New World. He's getting equipment ready, they keep talking about something called the Extractor but they talk past me like I'm not here and if I ask - or open my mouth at all - I get beat again. The tools on his tray look like something out of a horror movie and he's still humming that stupid song and he's leaning towards me to…


I shouldn't be able to pause anything. They have me drugged. But he's frozen, just inches from me. There's a rushing in my ears and I know I can't keep things still for long. Good job, hero. You've stopped time but still can't get out of your restraints. This is hopeless, I can't save anyone. The scientist looks so cheerful, like he's laughing at me. He should be. I'm worthless, pathetic. I can't do anything to him, can barely even move.

If I crane my neck… but what good would it do? There's no point. Suddenly, without thinking, I'm doing it anyway. Pointless or not his finger is in my mouth and I'm clamping down as hard as I can - there's a sort of popping noise as time floods back and the air fills with his screams. His finger pulls free from my teeth, leaving my jaw sore, and I realize I've taken a chunk with me. He's on the floor, tangled in Charlie or Walter's IV, then the something happens and as the guards hit the panic button and run forward they dog pile an empty chair.

He's gone.

I did it. I saved someone.

The screams seem to fade away as hands press my mouth shut, and I feel the sharp pinch of a needle. The room swims, but I don't care. I'm a hero. The flashing red lights are warm and inviting, and my restraints feel unusually comfortable. It's lovely.

There's a boy named Darryl that looks just like me, that's writing a letter to his mother and getting wheeled out of the room back towards his cell. Everything is moving, moving too much all the time - I just need to feel it stop again. I need to make everything stand still so I can think. Daryl is on the streets, he's walking past the statues and it's so quiet, so perfect and quiet everywhere. I want to be there so badly. The Darryl writing to his mother is watching her, he's putting the letter right in front of her so it will be there when the world moves again. He's stealing food from a grocery store, he's fighting against the restraints in the room where nothing will stop moving.

There aren't any Darryls after that yet. Darryl from just a few minutes ago in his padded cell can hear someone humming about a whole new world, a new exciting point of view. Someone else is saying Charles is gone, that he's out of the compound. I hope that's not the drugs. The drugs, the drugs. So many needles. I have to think, remember where I am. Remember how to make everything stop moving so much.

I'm drugged, and dreaming. I'm not any of the places I think I am. I'm somewhere else, somewhere with needles. Not my parent's house, not the underpass by the freeway. That underpass kept me safe for what seems like forever, like some sort of horrible ugly landmark that I kept coming back to for a year, silence and then noise, motion and stillness. I'm there, under the graffiti'd concrete, slowly learning the hard lesson: There aren't any real villains. None.

With everyone frozen in place I slipped from neighborhood to neighborhood and I never saw a crime to stop. Or maybe I did. Maybe they were all around me, but when everything is so still and quiet you just can't tell. I never saw someone paused with a knife halfway into them. I never stumbled across a jewel heist. I saw petty theft of food from stores, because it was my hands. I was the only criminal in the world, the only living thing in the world.

I'm by the beach again, looking at myself. I'm frozen in place, watching someone who is frozen in place. She's crying. She's beautiful, even with red eyes and a runny nose. The wind I can't feel has blown her hair around her face and she's trying to pull it out of her eyes and just bawling. There's nothing I can do. There's nothing to say to her. Whoever made her cry, I can't go and find them and tie them up for the police. I look at my face, the me that's watching the statue of the girl, and it looks like I'm crying too. It might be all the needles in my back, though.

I'm not there. I need to focus. I would be able to think straight if I could just make everything stop, and I know I can make things stop if I can think straight. There's a way out of here, of wherever all the needles are. Charlie found it. I can too. I can taste blood in my mouth and I'm sure the guards hit me again, split my lip open, but it doesn't hurt. It didn't hurt when they took me, either, just a little pinch by the ear. A little feathered dart, like in a movie. That time my mouth tasted like lemons for some reason, and I remember laughing to myself because they didn't know I could keep things still while I slept. I would sleep it off and wake up and escape.

I didn't though. I failed, like I failed at everything else. I never saved anyone. Now I remember, though. I know where I am and I know why I can taste blood without my lip hurting. I remember that it's not my blood. It all makes sense now.

All of it.

I wanted to save people, to be a hero, but the real villains don't run around in black capes and make threats to the United Nations. They're sneaky. The people that make girls on the beach cry are just human; they're stuck in a shitty world filled with needles and restraints. It's not their fault. The government did this to me. To them. If I want to save anyone, if I want to be a hero, I can't be passive any more. I'll get them, one finger at a time.

I'm waking up in my bedroom - no, my cell. My cell. The drugs are wearing off, and I can only remember bits and pieces of my dream. My teeth ache, and my ears are ringing. I feel horrible. And wonderful. Whatever it is I dreamed about, some part of it was true, some part was real. I can't remember it right now, but I know that there's a way for me to get out of here and when I do, I can be a hero for real.

The door opens, and a man in a black suit looks down at me.
"Good morning Darryl," he says, "My name is agent Barker. I hope you had a nice nap."
He's not smiling, but it doesn't matter. He can beat me if he wants, he can even use the needles on me. It's all going to be okay.
"I have good news and bad news for you - the good news is that Agent Black has finally convinced the Director that you shouldn't be Extracted. That little episode of yours has made waves. The bad news… is that the Director doesn't like it when people make him look like an idiot. Do you know what vivisection is?"

Now he's smiling. This isn't the way out I was hoping for.