I finally felt like posting an excerpt on the NaNoWriMo site today. Might be the migraine meds affecting my judgement. I put the entire (unedited) first chapter up. I shall similarly afflict you, my dear readers, here and now.
Maybe I feel like, since I’m so behind quota, I need to prove I’ve written anything.
The first draft of the first chapter of my third NaNoWriMo project, The Tale of the Fugitive Phantasmic Oracle (plus its quick synopsis):
A twelve-year-old runaway decides to pay “rent” on his woodland hideout by becoming fairy godkid to the family who owns the land – eavesdropping in order to grant wishes, serve as a human Ouija board, and perform anonymous good deeds from the tree tops. However, his “magic” keeps leading to disaster, winter’s on the way, and rumors are spreading that could lead to discovery by the stepfather he’d hoped to escape.
Catskill Mountains, 1962
Mid-tackle, feet in the air, Jim realized this was the stupidest thing he’d ever done. But it was too late. Cartoon characters could stop time, could backpedal and change direction as they fell.
Jim Scott was no cartoon character.
A blur of trees, and then he slammed into the taller of the two boys with bone-crunching pain. It was pretty much for sure that he’d exploded, broken into shrapnel the color of idiot would-be kid hero. Was the other guy made of granite or something? He waited for the thunder of falling stone followed by the patter of a zillion shards of No Good Jim Scott. He was flabbergasted to hit the ground with more of a roll and a thud, just two guys. Meat and bone.
But who knew?
He was blind; he was numb. All he knew was the bitter smell of adrenaline and the roaring in his ears. For a moment. Then the pain came back with a vengeance. But the silence stretched out.
Confused, Jim blinked and opened his eyes. He was on a bark-padded trail through the woods he’d found on the far side of the ridge from his house. He’d never tried the path before. He’d rather stick to the trees above and feel invisible. He didn’t come here for company.
On his left stood the two little girls this pair of guys had been menacing. On his right stood the shorter (but stockier) of the two boys. They were a matching set of giant eyes and mouths. He could almost see tonsils.
He looked down at the villain he still straddled, and the world went more topsy-turvy upside down and vomitorious than before. Was he insane? This wasn’t a guy. Blond hair that half-covered blue cat-like eyes, long lashes, high cheekbones.
He’d tackled a girl.
Then the girl’s limp body went rigid as stone again, and Jim found himself back in the air, this time landing on his back in the mulch at the edge of the path. She’d thrown him as easily as a rag doll, and now towered overhead, one foot on his chest.
Jim took another look. Adam’s apple, wide shoulders, muscular arms, and a face that was a lot sharper without the initial surprise.
Jim drew a breath of relief. Thank god. Definitely a guy.
A quick scramble and he was back in the fray.
He’d climbed over the ridge of the hill a few minutes earlier, escaping trouble back at home, and from up above he’d seen the two girls cowering and clinging together, he’d heard boyish voices shouting and gloating. Skulking around the trees, Jim had come into view of the boys. They held ropes, sticks, and the taller one held a black sphere that looked like a bomb. He’d grinned as he passed his hand over it like some explosive crystal ball, and he said, “Beat the wenches? Or just drag them to their doom in the caverns?”
His friend had yawned and said, “What’s quickest? I’m ready for lunch.”
That set the girls screaming, and Jim had thrown himself into the fight.
Now he stood facing down the tall guy, hands in fists, but the guy broke the stare first, turning toward the girls as the ruddier one pointed at the black ball, which had rolled a few feet away, and called to Jim. “Bash his head in with it!”
The other girl, pale and hollow-eyed, whimpered.
The first girl looked at Jim and jumped up and down. “Ooh! No. Never mind. Let me do it!”
Were even the little girls savages over here? Jim almost felt admiration, then he blinked out of it. The guy was distracted. It was now or never. What the hell. He’d already started it with the tall guy. No looking back.
And the guy’d been after the girls. He deserved it.
Another launch of his body, fueled by righteous fury, and he knocked the guy to the ground again, this time from behind. Grabbing the guy’s hair, he shoved his face into the splinters and pebbles of the path.
Everyone was yelling now. Jim was squished by a new weight on his back, and a strong arm around his neck showed the other guy had finally joined the fight. Jim refused to suffocate or have his head torn off, though. He kicked, struggled, and got the tall guy in a similar headlock. The three of them punched, kicked, and strangled their way down the path. Must have been rolling because Jim started noticing the side of his head scraping against the dirt, and when they finally stopped, the tall guy was on top, choking and wheezing, but he didn’t give in to Jim’s attack. He just gasped, “My spleen! You’ve turned it to jelly.”
Shocked out of his fury, Jim almost laughed. Then he felt his brutal grip on the boy, remembered the kick he’d just delivered to the guy’s back, and he balked. His mouth filled with spit. He was going to throw up. Muscles turning to water, he let go, and the stocky guy finally managed to pick him off, throw him to the path, and help the tall one to his feet. The tall guy wiped at his mouth and turned, face streaked dark with mud but not so much that it hid his expression of utter disbelief, something even Jim understood and recognized. He couldn’t believe himself.
Jim closed his eyes and curled up on the ground, reeling and trying to breathe. Confusion. It was day; it was night. He saw this guy’s face; saw another face with stubble and broken veins. He felt each blow he’d delivered like it was happening to him.
Then it really was. Kicks, punches, and rocks hit him. The guys were back.
But the voice was wrong.
Jim twisted, tried to sit up and look. The blows continued, but through his flinches he saw the two guys standing a few yards away and laughing. Standing over Jim was the girl who’d wanted him to bash in a skull with the black thing, and she was livid. Maybe she’d meant she wanted to bash in his head.
He tried to say something in his defense but wasn’t fast enough. Talking was never his strong suit, and that power went away altogether when fists were flying. All that came out was, “Hey! Hey! Hey!”
“Get off my brothers!” The girl slowed but didn’t stop her punches.
Blocking her as well as he could, he forced words. “They were hurting you.”
She stopped punching him. But then she went right back to it. “You moron! It was a game! Are you that nuts?”
The stocky guy helped Jim stand and shooed away the girl. Up close, he could see that this guy was older than the others, even if he wasn’t tallest. Maybe a high schooler. He’d guess the tall guy was closer to his own age. Twelvish. The girls seemed a few years younger. Embarrassing as that was, since one had beat him up.
The tall boy stared at Jim – lofty and cool but with half a squint and a crease between his brows. He was half turned to go, but he didn’t move. Stayed a tall blond statue. With dirt and scrapes all over his pretty face.
“Just trying to help,” Jim muttered. “Didn’t know.”
The stocky guy chuckled, though. He put on a pair of thick glasses and said, “C’mon, Amie. That’s enough. Laura? You okay?” Gathering the two girls, the rope, and the weapons, he headed west down the path, calling “You coming, Robin?”
The tall boy – apparently named Robin – blinked and frowned. After a pause, he said, “I believe the saying goes, ‘Look before you leap,’ my dear little fox.”
As Jim scowled, rubbing his bark-covered red hair, getting the taunt, Robin bent and lifted the black ball. He held it up – just a toy, one of those Magic-8 Ball fortune tellers he’d seen in the back of a comic book. He looked hard at Jim then shook the ball, flipped it over and read something in the circular window at the bottom. A smirk and a nod. “Yeah. Just like I thought.”
Down the path, his brother shouted, “Robin!”
Robin stepped closer, and Jim recoiled. Too close. He didn’t like people to be so close. Except, apparently, when he was beating on them.
Robin darted his hand toward him, and Jim managed not to bolt. But his cool broke when Robin tugged on his t-shirt, showing how it was torn from hem to arm pit. Jim spun, yelping against his will. No touching. No touching. He couldn’t make his breath slow down.
Robin was silent. Jim turned his head to look at him.
“Did we do all that to you?” Robin tilted his head as though trying to see around to Jim’s front again. His lofty, princely tone was gone. Games over.
“Screw you.” Jim pulled the shirt tighter to cover the sea of cuts and bruises, many faded and scarred.
When he looked up again, Robin curled his lip and shoved the Magic 8-Ball into the pocket of his now-rumpled, scuffed great coat. Jim noticed that he wore similarly destroyed, expensive looking boots. Coat billowing behind him, Robin strode down the trail toward the others, only turning back just before reaching a bend to glare. Then he disappeared.