Wordy Wednesday: The End Where I Begin, Chapter Fifteen

First off, this:

Also this:

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way: Hi. How are you? Are you having a good day? (I’m going to assume yes after those two videos.)

I’ve been sick(ish) for the past week or so, but I’m almost over it now and I just finished reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue and my plans for the evening involve revising and a meeting with a couple amazing Ch1Con team members, so I’m well. (Also: HOLY CRAP NANOWRIMO BEGINS IN THREE DAYS SOMEBODY HOLD ME.)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin. As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Also, heads up that this is the last chapter of TEWIB I’m posting. This is less because I plan to actually do anything with it (because it was always just a practice novel anyway), but because I kind of, sort of definitely have not written anything on it since the end of last year’s NaNo and that 53k ends in the middle of Part II. And this is the last chapter of Part I. So this is really the onlyhalfway decent stopping place.

Thanks for keeping up with this over the past year! It’s been fun.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

**********
Chapter Fifteen
The blast of searing air knocks me off my feet. I fly down the hall. I land on my back, and my skull knocks against tile, and everything is a thousand colors, temperatures, swirling sensations. Chunks of concrete and twisted metal rain down upon me.
I hurt everywhere—no longer just in my jaw or my elbow, but everywhere—and it’s a wonder as I found myself on my feet, limping away from the explosion, with a scream in my throat but no way to hear it.
All I hear is a high-pitched buzz in my ears. Rich, black smoke chases me down the hall. I don’t know where the recruiting officers are, or anyone else, but I know the Second Origin must have set off this explosion, they must have, and I have to keep moving.
If I stop moving, they will get me. Again.
The smoke fills my lungs, clogs my throat. I lean against a wall and cough, retch, have to keep walking.
I don’t know where I am. This entire hallway looks the same—just one long expanse of blank walls and doors, and now it is torn to pieces, I can hardly see anything, why is no one else down here?
The tears burn down my cheeks, but I am not crying, and finally I spot the other end of the hall. A second stairwell. A way out of this madness.
I wrap my swollen fingers around the knob, clumsy, and push. It won’t open.
It won’t open, it won’t open, why won’t it open.
I shove my shoulder against the door, the entire side of my screaming body—my ribs are on fire, my leg is weak and covered in blood—and it moves just enough, just enough for me to slip through—and I trip over the thing on the other side of the door.
I still can’t hear my screams, but I’m aware that they must echo around this compact, concrete room, and Dr. Reede is on the floor before me with blood all around her head and a hole in her face and someone is saying my name. I don’t even notice it until I realize I can hear.
I spin. Dr. O’Brien lies on the floor behind me, only the hole in him is in his chest, and it’s not just one hole but several, and the vomit is in my throat but it won’t come the rest of the way out. My head is spinning, I want to lie down on the floor beside them but also run, run as far as I can, and the light is flickering, flickering, about to go out overhead.
Dr. O’Brien’s lips twitch ever so slightly. “You have to go, Miss Dylan. You have to go now. I’m sorry. We wanted to give you time. But you have to go.” He takes a breath, thick with liquid. His eyelids flutter, but he forces them to stay open. “Fifteenth floor. Press the green button. Prick your finger. Say your name.” He gasps again. It’s the sound of a fish without water, only of course he has too much liquid instead, and in the wrong places, and now I am crying, but I do not know why, because I barely know him anyway.
His last words are: “Don’t let them succeed.”

I don’t know how I find my way to the top of the staircase, but when I crawl through the door to the lobby, it is into a world of screaming sirens and flashing green lights and a bomb went off here too, so everyone is dead.
I pull myself up against the wall, but before I can move a step towards the elevator bank, the vomit finally works its way past my teeth, and I retch across the glossy black marble floor, now dull with blood, and the acid is not nearly as hot as it should be against my raw throat, because the explosion was so much hotter.
Faintly, faintly, beneath the alarms, people are screaming. I slide my feet across the floor, shoulder braced against the wall. The elevators are so close.
I press the up button and a sob breaks free as it lights up in response, because thank God, the elevators are still working, I cannot climb fifteen flights of stairs right now, and I don’t have the time.
I sag against the wall. I close my eyes. I don’t want to see the people. All of the Clinic’s extravagance torn apart, coated in dust and blood, the terrorists are real and I am truly leaving.
The doors slide open with a ding.
I step inside.
Someone shouts, “Help! Help me!”
I don’t want to look, I don’t want to see which poor soul on the floor is yet to stop breathing, but I look anyway. It’s not one of the blast-victims. It’s a woman covered head-to-toe in black striding towards me through the smoke, perfectly whole. Even her face is covered. She levels a gun at my head.
A member of the Second Origin.
“Alexa.” My name does not make sense on her lips. It sounds like a foreign word.
My heart is in my throat. I am no longer in pain, but numb. I don’t feel the button to close the doors beneath my finger, but when I look down I have pressed it.
“Alexa!”
I slam my fist against the button for the fifteen floor. I crumple against the marble.
The elevator lurches upward and I vomit again. All that is left is acid. It burns in my nostrils, sends fresh tears to my eyes.
I rock back and forth.
Dr. O’Brien did not tell me which room to go to on the fifteenth floor. I do not know how I will find it.
The doors ding open. Finding the room is not a problem. The fifteenth floor is a single, carved-out space with no windows, everything covered in the same black metal as the door to Ramsey’s cell was made out of.
So close. I am so close. I can see the control panel that must house the green button from here, in the direct center of the room. A low black thing.
I stumble out of the elevator and my forehead cracks against an invisible wall.
No, no—not invisible. Transparent. Of course. Glass. A glass wall, keeping me out of the room I need to get to.
“Let me in.” My voice is hoarse, lower than it should be. “Let me in, I have to get in, I have to go!”
They’re going to kill my family. They’re going to kill Daddy and Calvin and Amelia if I do not go. I don’t care if other versions of them exist in the other realities, these are my version, and I want them, I want them so badly. I don’t want to go, but I need to. I need to go to save them.
“My name is Alexa!” I scream. “I am Alexa Dylan!”
The glass wall shifts, separates. It comes apart before me and I fall to the floor with a hollow bang. It is hollow beneath the metal.
I crawl forward. I am so close to the control panel. I need to press the button before the Second Origin figures out where to go—before they come to stop me.
Press the green button. Prick your finger. Say your name.
Press the green button. Prick your finger. Say your name.
I reach the control panel. I am sobbing, blind. My cries echo throughout the vast, empty room so loudly it feels as if the entire reality is crying along with me.
I drag myself upright. The control panel contains two buttons.
The one is green. The other is the same color as my Identiband keeps flashing.
The elevator doors chirp open behind me. I spin.
“Leave me alone!” I scream. I know it will do no good, but I don’t know what else to do, but no one barrels out of the elevator at me. It is empty.
I don’t know what’s happening.
I turn back to the control panel and press the green button. A needle presses into my palm, but the pain is so miniscule compared to everything else that I barely feel it.
I sag against the panel. “My name is Alexa Dylan.” The lights in the room flash—go out. I am filled with a ticklish, upside down, sick feeling, the way I used to feel when my dad carried me with my legs over his shoulder, arms parallel with the ground. Laughing and kicking and screaming.
Only now I am crying. I cry as the Fifth Reality disappears from around me. I cry as they all disappear, and I never got to say goodbye.

**********

Happy early Halloween! TALK TO YOU NOVEMBER FIRST.

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: The End Where I Begin, Chapter Fourteen

This weekend was fall break for my university, so Hannah, a friend from Oxford, and I just got back from being outdoorsy up north for a couple days.

We went horseback riding on trails surrounded by trees showing off their orange and red (with a guide who potentially was a murderous gang member hiding out in northern Michigan based on his teardrop tattoo, BUT WE’RE STILL ALIVE SO WE’RE GOOD), hiked to a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, and made s’mores over a camp fire that lasted approximately two minutes before rain drowned it.

We watched many movies, and played Jenga, and sang through Spotify’s Disney station like four thousand and one times.

We made blueberry bread, and drank lots of apple cider, and spent the entire trip in crewnecks and sweatpants/leggings.

So, all in all, a really nice break.

But now we’re back home and I’ve got a midterm in a few hours that I’m terrified for and yeah. (Don’t’cha love school?)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin. As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

**********

Chapter Fourteen
“I don’t understand. Collapse? Collapse of the reality?”
Dr. O’Brien nods. He uses his lab coat to pat the sweat gathered on his brow.
Dr. Reede’s voice is uncharacteristically thick and she concentrates on a spot above my head. “Not just the Fourth Reality, either. The actions of the Second Origin have led to the collapse of every reality before ours within the Quantum. The fact that the Fourth Reality version of Miss Carp has essentially hijacked the Fifth Reality version of her is just the first of the atrocities the Second Origin is likely to cause now that they are here.” She focuses her gaze right on me. “One of the reasons we brought you here today is because we need your help.”
Dr. O’Brien nods. “It is difficult to hear, we know, but we have no way of stopping the Second Origin from within the Fifth Reality, because they are already here. It is too late for us.”
I look between them. “What do you mean ‘too late’?” My voice raises an octave. “They’ve caused the collapse of the realities before ours. The major events that happen in one reality bleed into the next, and somehow that’s led to the Second Origin existing within our reality—which means we’re doomed? The Fifth Reality is going to collapse the way the Fourth did?”
“Not necessarily.” Dr. O’Brien says the words slowly, like this is a point he has been hoping to reach. “We do have a chance to save the Fifth Reality, and stop the Second Origin all together before they spread like a plague throughout the rest of the Quantum. That’s why we need your help.”
“Help?” I scoff. “How can I help?” The hopelessness is building inside me—a hollowness in my stomach; my heart pounding too hard against my ribcage.
“The Fourth Reality attempted to warn us about the threat of the Second Origin by messaging us. Evidently that did not work.” The barest of grins flickers across his lips. “We plan to send a person to the Sixth Reality, instead.”
“A person. To another reality.” My mouth falls open. “That’s possible?”
“More than possible.” Dr. O’Brien’s grin widens. “It’s been done before.”
“Why? How?”
Dr. Reede interrupts. “That is not relevant to the task at hand.”
I fall back in my chair. My Identiband flashes back and forth, back and forth, but I ignore it. “I’m sorry. Right.” I shake my head, but my pulse is no longer pounding out of fear. Adrenaline shoots through me, and I want to move—excited. The Fifth Reality does not need to collapse. “You want to send me? Why?”
“You are young, and although you did not choose to be, you are connected to the activities of the Second Origin, because of Miss Carp. This combination of factors makes you the most practical candidate.”
A smile finds its way onto my face. The idea of traveling to the Sixth Reality is daunting, but I will do it no questions asked if it means saving my dad and Calvin, Amelia and Eric. “What will I have to do once there?”
Dr. Reede returns my smile, although hers does not appear natural. “Do not worry about that now. We will provide further directions when you arrive.”
Dr. O’Brien clears his throat and we turn to him. Dr. Reede’s lips twitch, but she does not speak.
“We must let you know,” Dr. O’Brien says, “once you leave the Fifth Reality, because of the linear nature of the Quantum, you will have no way to return. You can only travel between realities in one direction. But know that you will be saving countless lives by leaving.”
“I realize that.” I feel as if I am standing at the top of a building, about to fall. “I’ll do it.”
“Thank you.” They stand and walk for the door. With shaking legs, I get to my feet.
Their backs are to me as I ask, “When?”
Dr. Reede does not look back as she opens the door. “This evening. Before things have a chance of getting any more out of hand. We had hoped to give you more time, but the actions of the Second Origin yesterday, by kidnapping you, have proven that we must do this as soon as possible.” She exits.
Dr. O’Brien turns to me, one foot in the conference room and the other in the hall. “You have an hour to say your goodbyes. We will meet you in the building lobby at 1600.”
“Okay.”
He dips his head, then is gone.

 

 

I don’t leave the conference room at first. Its elegance is far less intimidating now that I am alone. Or maybe it’s just that I am preoccupied by the enormity of what I have agreed to do.
I don’t want to lose Daddy and Calvin. I can’t imagine a life without Amelia and Eric and even the other students at New Capital High who I dislike or do not know as well. Even Ramsey.
But they will all die—I will die—if I do not do it. So that is why I said I would.
The actual act of doing it, however, will be more difficult than the initial decision, and I don’t know how I am supposed to say goodbye to the only people I have ever known. I don’t even know what the Sixth Reality is like.
Is it as healthy as the Fifth Reality? As clean, with our bicycles and electric trains? Our nice, structured neighborhoods and yearly Recruitment Assemblies?
We have had our problems—the wars from when I was little prove that—but we are strong. How could a single terrorist cell pull us apart? How have they destroyed so many realities already? The realities in the Quantum are held together by the Thread of Reality. As long as that Thread exists within a reality, it is connected to the rest of us. It cannot be destroyed.
The Quantum is in a state of constant expansion. To destroy a part of it is like dividing by zero—it shouldn’t be possible.
Yet the Second Origin has found a way to do it.
Heat spreads through me. Anger. I step towards the door, and my knees no longer tremble beneath my weight.
I glance at my Identiband. Moisture has gathered beneath it and it slips, loose, around my wrist. I don’t want to have to worry about whatever’s happening with my eyes right now, not when so much more is at stake, but the bracelet is fine. Just a brilliant, bright, solid green.
I leave the conference room and the door automatically slides shut behind me.
Just under an hour. I have just under one hour to say goodbye—forever.
I open the door to the stairwell and a low, sharp click echoes off the walls. Then the entire thing explodes.

**********

Thanks for reading!

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: The End Where I Begin, Chapter Thirteen

Sorry this is coming to you technically on Thursday! I completely spaced. (First week of fall semester and all that.)

So far, my classes are awesome. My film classes are kind of freaking me out, because it’s the first time I’ve formally studied film stuff and I don’t know if I’ll be any good at it yet, but also I love movies and I’m really excited to learn more about their history and how they’re made. So fingers crossed this goes well.

Choir is as lovely as ever. Creative writing starts next week and I am READY to dive back into the weekly short stories (who would have ever thought I’d say that). Whoever decided U of M should offer a YA lit class is my hero. MY HERO.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin. As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

**********

Chapter Thirteen
I’m not sure who I expect to find standing on our stoop, but it is certainly not Dr. O’Brien and his partner from the Recruitment Assembly.

“Hello, Miss Dylan.” The woman dips her head. Her ears appear even more prominent this close up. Her features are youthful and pixieish, from her wide eyes to her small, pointed chin. “My name is Doctor Lindsey Reede. You’ve already met my associate, Doctor O’Brien. Your family reported you missing when you did not return home yesterday after school.”

I squint against the sunlight behind them. “How did you know I was back?” I raise my left hand to shield my eyes.

“Your Identiband.” Dr. Reede trains her eyes on it. I glance up at it and a jolt of fear runs through me. It’s flipped colors again.

“What?” I try to make it sound like I don’t know what she’s talking about.

Dr. Reede frowns. “We knew you were back because we were monitoring your Identiband. It showed that you had entered your residence.”

“Right.” I lower my arm. Of course she didn’t see the other color, not when what’s causing the problem is obviously my eyes. “Sorry.” I look at her and Dr. O’Brien, the way they stand stoic but uneasy outside my house. I close my eyes for one, long second. “Hold on. You knew I was home because my Identiband told you so. Right. So that means you know where I’ve been for the past twenty four hours as well, correct? What happened to me?”

“We unfortunately don’t know,” Doctor O’Brien says.

“How is that possible?”

Dr. Reede bristles like I’ve accused the Clinic of something. “Someone hacked your Identiband. They looped the information from what we assume was Monday—the last day you walked home normally from school—and the loop didn’t end until you entered your house. We wouldn’t have had any way of knowing that anything was wrong if it weren’t for your family messaging the police.”

I run a hand over my eyes. “I didn’t even know that was possible.”

“Only the very skilled and very well-connected are able to perform such crimes.” Dr. Reede glances around me into the house. “Is your father home?”

For some reason I look behind myself too, although I know he isn’t there. Calvin has barely had enough time to contact him as it is. “No, but my brother is.”

Dr. Reede stares. “How old is your brother?”

“Why does that matter?”

Dr. O’Brien steps around Dr. Reede. “We need to bring you in for questioning. Everything that has happened over the course of the past several days dealing with you is too much of a coincidence. We must know why these events are occurring. In order to legally escort you to the Clinic, we need permission from a family member over the age of eighteen.”

“My brother is twenty one.” I turn towards the kitchen. “Calvin?”

“Yes?” His dark head pops around the doorway. Dr. Reede raises her eyebrows at his bushy, curly hair. My brother smirks.

“Hello, Mr. Dylan,” Dr. O’Brien says. “We are from the Clinic.”

Calvin’s smirk widens as he takes in their uniforms. “I can see that.” He shifts his gaze to me. “They want you to go with them, I’m guessing?”

I nod. “Don’t worry. I’ll be back in no time.”

“Fine, go ahead. I’ll let Dad know.” He disappears back into the kitchen.

Dr. Reede nods. The movement is robotic, perfected. “After us, Miss Dylan.”

I follow.

 

They do not take me to office suite 4581 as I expect. Instead they lead me from the lobby to a long, narrow hallway that ends in a flight of stairs leading down.

“Why aren’t we going to your office, Doctor O’Brien?” I grip the handrail as I descend the steep stairs behind the two recruiting officers. Dr. Reede walks with even steps that are so rigid they seem almost painful, while Dr. O’Brien follows behind her a little bit looser, with his arms swinging at his sides.

“My office?” He looks back. “Oh, the room I met you in yesterday was not my office, Miss Dylan. It was just one of the many multi-use spaces available throughout the building for employees to use in meetings and such. I was only assigned to it for yesterday.”

We exit the stairwell for another hallway, this one lined with unmarked doors. They walk side by side now, leaving little space for me to get near them.

I walk a good several feet back—it’s evident they don’t want to talk to me right now—but the question itches against my tongue anyway. “Why weren’t you there yesterday, Doctor Reede?”

She throws the answer over her shoulder: “My job during your meeting with Doctor O’Brien was to monitor everything behind the scenes, to ensure that safety procedures were maintained at all times and that we obtained the information needed to properly analyze the situation at hand.”

“You were behind the cameras the entire time I was in the building yesterday?”

She doesn’t break stride as she speaks—just keeps moving as if my questions are not distracting in the least. “Yes.”

“So you were the one watching my conversation with Ramsey, not Doctor O’Brien?”

At this, she glances back and nods.

I fold my arms. “Why didn’t you let me out?”

She faces forward again. “We still needed more information.”

I scowl. “And did you get what you needed?”

Her tone is plainspoken, emotionless. “Yes.”

While it would have been nice to have some assistance with Ramsey, they were just doing their job.

I force a smile into my voice. “Good.”

Dr. O’Brien stops at a door that looks absolutely identical to all the others and holds his Identiband to the scanner, then pricks his thumb. The scanner beeps, followed by a click from the door as its lock disengages.

The room they’ve brought me to is long and low, with a mahogany conference table centered beneath a sparkling glass chandelier and wood paneling along the walls.

Amelia would love this place. It’s even nicer than the formal dining room in which her mother holds biyearly dinner parties for the intercontinental representatives of the different branches of the Clinic. For all the times I have visited Amelia’s house since May, we have never once been allowed to set foot in that room.

My dirty school uniform and the braid I have not redone since yesterday morning make me feel like I should not be allowed to breathe the air in this conference room, let alone touch the table or sit in one of the plush leather-upholstered chairs. The recruiting officers do not notice my discomfort as they stride straight to the nearest chairs and sit down on the same side of the table. I swallow and take the chair opposite.

“Tell us exactly what happened yesterday after you left the Clinic.”

I tuck my feet under the chair and fold my hands in my lap. I still feel like I should not be allowed in this room. I explain about staying at New Capital High for an hour after school let out, and making small-talk with the stranger in the subway station who knew my name. My cheeks warm as I tell them about getting off the train one stop early, and they cool when I describe running, only for the man to catch me.

The entire time, the recruiting officers don’t take their eyes off me. They don’t blink, don’t write anything down, and I know they must have cameras in this room to record everything I say, but it is still disconcerting to be able to watch them try to figure it out right before me, rather than on tablets, where they wouldn’t feel the need to look so closely at my face.

When I finish, Dr. O’Brien leans back in his chair. “You weren’t aware at all that time had passed between the man drugging you and you waking up?”

I shake my head. “No. To be honest, I thought it was all a dream until Calvin told me I had been gone for so long. My only injury was from when I fell on the sidewalk.” I hold up my elbow to demonstrate. The blood has dried my sleeve to my skin, and I grit my teeth as I lower my arm. “They didn’t touch me.”

Dr. Reede turns to Dr. O’Brien like she thinks she is speaking only to him, although I can still clearly hear her. “If they did not want something from Miss Dylan’s body, then it must have been something in her mind.”

Dr. O’Brien shakes his head. “The girl does not know any vital information. She knows nothing the terrorist cell would go to that much trouble to learn.”

“Perhaps they were curious why we recruited her a year early?”

“No, they already know why. It had to have been for some other reason.”

“Perhaps they simply wanted to learn how much Miss Dylan knows of the situation at hand. After all, we now possess Miss Carp.”

“We’ve allowed them to retain access to Miss Carp’s Identiband as it is. They already know all that transpired yesterday. They—”

They speak in such a rapid fire it is difficult to keep up, but one part does stick out: “The terrorist cell.” Not a terrorist cell. The.
“You know who attacked me.”

They keep speaking, words nearly overlapping in their ferventness to be heard.

“Perhaps what they wanted was not from her mind at all, but her Identiband.”

“What would they gain by kidnapping her, then? They had already hacked the Identiband. They already had all the information stored in it at their fingertips. It’s—”

I raise my voice. “You. Know. Who attacked me.”

Dr. Reede turns so quickly her neck cracks. She does not even flinch. She levels her eyes at me. “Of course we do. Very few people exist not just in the Fifth Reality, but in the entirety of the Quantum, who could have committed such an act. Even fewer would have wanted to.”

“Then what are you doing in this room right now?” I throw a thumb at the door. “Why aren’t you out there tracking them down?”

“It’s… complicated.” Dr. O’Brien shifts in his seat. He pulls at his collar. “I’m afraid we have not been entirely frank with you until this point, Miss Dylan.”

His voice is so constricted, my mouth goes dry and my palms grow damp. My muscles clench. What little confidence I had before dissipates. “Meaning?”

He leans towards me and says the words gently. “We did indeed recruit you because of the actions of Miss Carp, but they weren’t the actions we led you to assume. We already were monitoring your old friend before the Recruitment Assembly. That is because, since May, she has been assisting an inter-reality terrorist cell known as the Second Origin.”

My Identiband changes color at the name. I glance at it and it flickers back to green.

Dr. O’Brien glances at Dr. Reede, who nods him onward. He swallows and takes a breath. “We have heard reports of the atrocities committed by the Second Origin for nearly a year now—first as rumors passing between realities, then as actual warnings. Brutal murders, citizens disappearing, break-ins at important buildings. The final warning came on May fourteenth, from the Clinic of the Fourth Reality, and you must understand, Miss Dylan: what they told us is confidential. No one outside a select few members of the Clinic of the Fifth Reality knows what we are about to say.”

He turns to Dr. Reede, who does not lose her nearly inhuman posture or tone as she says, “The final warning about the Second Origin came in the form of a message. A single word. One we thought to be impossible until the events of recent.”
Despite Dr. Reede’s stoic demeanor, when she opens her mouth, not a sound comes out.

It is Dr. O’Brien who, tears in his eyes, manages to choke out, “Collapse.”
**********

If you’re a student (or a teacher or someone else involved in the school shenanigans), how’s the fall term going so far? Any fun stories or cool classes? Do tell.

Thanks for reading!

 

~Julia

#MyWritingProcess Blog Tour

Hey there! Today I’m participating in the #MyWritingProcess Blog Tour. The uber amazing Patrice Caldwell (who’s also one of our Ch1Con speakers this year) tagged me for it, so make sure to check out her post on her own writing process.

Before I get into actually answering the questions for the tour, two things:

1.) Like I mentioned last week, Thursday I went to an advance screening for the film adaption of TFIOS. And I’ve already gushed about it all over Facebook and Twitter, but I figured I’d mention it here too: This movie is basically perfect. It is beautiful, and preserves so much from the book, and the acting is great, and I highly, HIGHLY recommend seeing it. (And yes. You WILL want to bring tissues. Because while I didn’t really cry myself–both because I’m not a crier and because a jackhole sitting a couple seats away laughed through all the sad parts–the rest of my theater sobbed through probably the last thirty minutes of the movie. THIS IS NOT AN EXAGGERATION.)

And 2.) I read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and people are not lying (pun very much intended) when they say how good this book is. If you’re looking for a twisty, sad, super well-written YA suspense novel (AS YOU SHOULD BE), then read it. Read it now. And don’t let anyone spoil the ending for you, because IT IS WORTH IT. (I totally didn’t see it coming. Like WHAT THE HECK SO GOOD.)

Anyway. Onto the blog tour:

***********

1.) What am I working on?

Right now I’m working on two main projects. One of them I shouldn’t really talk about in detail (it’s a seeeeecret), but basically I am extensively revising something (and have been for a few months now).

My other main project is writing the first draft of a YA scifi, The End Where I Begin. It deals with alternate realities and all that fun stuff. Unfortunately, first between school and my internship, and now planning for Ch1Con and Europe, I haven’t had much time to work on it since, like, Christmas. But I’m planning to finish it someday (hopefully by next NaNoWriMo, so I can finally start on something new–I’m getting tired of languishing in the saggy middle of this thing).

2.) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think The End Where I Begin differs from other multiple reality stuff in that it has a strong mystery element. The narrator is unreliable and nobody‘s ever entirely sure what’s going on. (Until the end, obviously. If I’m ever lucky enough to actually reach it.)

3.) Why do I write what I do?

I adore YA as a category, because it’s all about self-discovery and growing up and all that. Within that I just really love stuff dealing with high stakes and morality and mortality (and people figuring out who they are under circumstances that I’ll hopefully never have to experience myself).

I usually write spy stuff set in modern day, so with The End Where I Begin I thought it would be fun (and a good exercise in world building) to try out a story that took place in the future instead.

4.) How does my writing process work?

I’m going to give the resoundingly boring answer of: whatever works. I’ve never written two novels the same way.

What I can tell you is that I have no idea how I get ideas, except suddenly they’re just magically there in my head, and I’ll stew on one–letting it grow and get more complex–for a pretty long time before I actually start writing. Sometimes it’ll be half a year; sometimes it’ll be a few years.

For any novel I have finished, I probably have a LOT of false starts wasting away on my laptop (some a solid 20 or 40k in). It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out how I want to tell a story. (I’m working on getting better at this, but sometimes it’s still necessary.)

I write chronologically, but for the past few novels I’ve kept notes and lines and short passages for later at the bottom of the document.

NaNoWriMo’s really useful, because I’m all about quantity over quality for my first drafts. (If I focus on making the writing even somewhat close to decent, I’ll never get anywhere.)

I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, but I do plan a lot of stuff out in my head as I go, so I make lots of little notes scattered across documents and notebooks and iPhone apps as reminders (obviously I never lose these/completely forget their existence ever). Even if I do figure out stuff ahead of time for the rest of the novel, though, I don’t like to have a set plan for my climaxes. It’s more fun to write with several possible endings in mind, then choose one at the last minute. (Also, if I’m at a point when I’m bored or don’t know how to continue? It’s fun to drop a random bomb on the characters. Either metaphorically or literally. Or both.)

After I finish a draft, I force myself to put it away for a bit (preferably a couple months, but more commonly only a couple weeks–life is busy). Then I read it over once myself to fix any super obvious problems (basically a line edit, with some random plot fix stuff thrown in). Then it’s off to the critique partners (CPs), then back to me, then off to the CPs, then back to me, and so on and so forth until we’ve gotten the thing as good as we can (CPs are the best, man).

Then it’s time to get to work on the next novel.

***********

So that’s my writing process. (Suuuper interesting, amiright?)

Thanks again to Patrice for tagging me! Now, my turn to tag people for next Monday’s round of #MyWritingProcess Blog Tour posts:

1.) Kira of Kira Budge: Author

Kira is one of my lovely critique partners, the Associate Web Administrator for Ch1Con, and one of our Ch1Con speakers this year. To quote her speaker bio, “Kira Budge is a sophomore at BYU-Idaho, studying English: Creative Writing. She has been writing seriously since the age of six and has completed 18 novels, most in the realm of YA fantasy. Many of her shorter pieces have been published online and in print and she is currently seeking novel publication. She once worked on a novel with a literary agent, during which she learned much about editing, writing, and the industry. She has won many writing community awards and worked as a freelance editor and writer online and off, covering a great variety of topics and writing styles. In her free time Kira plays cello, fawns over cats, and stalks British actors.”

2.) Joan of The Spastic Writer

Joan is one of my writing friends and an all around fantastic human being. I can’t wait to read one of her books someday. To quote her blog bio, “Joan … started writing her first story in 3rd grade. It was something about a girl who lived in the prairie and her snobby grandmother who came to visit from the big old city and who then developed a Deadly Disease and decided to make quilts for the rest of her life. Joan thinks it was going to be titled SEVEN QUILTS, but she’ll never know because she didn’t have a laptop then and wrote half of the story with pencil and paper and of course lost it. … When she’s not procrastinating or worrying about life, Joan loves to read and write YA, bake sweet things because sugar makes people happy, and use her cats at pillows.”

3.) “Mel” of The Ultimately Useless Stories of an Average Teenager

Mel (penname of actual human being Katelyn) is my brilliant writing partner for the This is a Book trilogy and a great CP (you know, on top of also being an awesome writer in general). We went to school together growing up, and now she’s studying English and such in college like a boss. She also vlogs on Youtube, which you should check out because she’s hilarious.

 

I hope you have a good Memorial Day. I’m so grateful to those who fight to keep us safe and free. I can’t imagine the depth of their sacrifices, but all of us in the US are indebted to them. (So enjoy your parades and barbecues, but remember why you’re having them.)

Talk to you Wednesday!

 

~Julia

PS. Countdown to BookCon: FOUR. DAYS. WHAAAAAAT!

Wordy Wednesday: The End Where I Begin, Chapter Twelve

This is an exciting week for Movie Nerd Julia, because I get to go to not one, but TWO advance screenings.

Yesterday Hannah and I attended a test screening of How to Train Your Dragon 2. It was AMAZING–went completely above and beyond expectations–and I cannot recommend this movie highly enough, if you enjoyed the first one. We were one of the first ten screenings in the country, so the studio reps (who, by the way, sat DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF US) warned everyone that what we were going to watch was only a rough cut of the film. Hannah and I were both kind of like, “Oh great. Does this mean we’re going to have random clips of storyboards in the middle of the action sequences?” But we honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell that the movie was anything but finished if they hadn’t told us. It was SO GOOD. Buy tickets for when it comes out June 13th.

Then, the other super exciting advance screening I get to attend: Tomorrow a friend and I are seeing The Fault In Our Stars! With all the rave reviews this film adaption’s been getting, I can’t wait to finally see it for myself. (And dude: Not having to wait until June 6th? Always a positive.) I’ll let’cha know how many boxes of tissues I blow through. You can purchase tickets for when The Fault In Our Stars comes out here.

(I’m also attending the country-wide Night Before Our Stars event on June 5th, which involves an early screening of the film plus a simulcast live chat with John Green, the principle cast, Josh Boone, and Wyck Godfrey and mooore. Tickets are still available in some cities, so you can check that out here if you’re interested in nerding out with your fellow fans.)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a new chapter of my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin.

As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

**********
Chapter Twelve

I dream of being in windowless room, something hard against my back. The sterile, thin scent of antiseptic burns my nostrils.

I think I should stop letting people knock me out so often, because this is getting ridiculous.

Then I wake up exactly where the smiling man caught me, and I am perfectly fine, and I am perfectly alone, and the sun has barely moved across the horizon.

I sit up with caution, worried I will be dizzy, my head will throb, my spine will ache from lying atop my backpack. But I am perfectly fine. Like nothing ever happened.

Maybe I imagined it. Maybe the stress of the day has caught up with me and this time when I lost consciousness, it was because I was hyperventilating too badly while I ran from a nonexistent threat.

As I push myself to my feet, my button-down shifts against my right elbow, and I bite my tongue to keep from shrieking. The pain is raw and sharp. I run my fingers down my arm and they come away sticky with blood that has leaked through the fabric. I must have hit my arm when I fell.

I wipe the blood against the ruined sleeve and scowl. I start for home.

But wait—what color was that?

Blood can’t change color, numb brain.

I swipe a finger across my elbow again just in case, but as I do my Identiband catches my eye, and it is the wrong color. Not just flashing the wrong color, but very assuredly stuck on it.

The same color I thought my blood was just now.

I’ve been wrong to think something is wrong with my Identiband this entire time. It isn’t that. Something is wrong with my eyes.

A lump forms in my throat. I’ve never heard of this sort of thing before, someone seeing a color that does not exist. Could I be going blind?

I should tell someone that something is wrong with my eyes, but my stomach twists at the thought.

The Identiband turns back to green.

All I want right now is to curl up in my bed and ignore the rest of the reality for the rest of my life.

I walk the last hundred meters to my house and cut across the dry front lawn to the door.

“Alexa?” Calvin’s voice comes from behind me, panicked and full of air.

I turn. “Hi. I know I probably look terrible, but it’s been a long day. I just want to go to sleep right now, so—”

“Alexa.” Calvin approaches me slowly. His steps are methodical over the crisp grass. His mouth hangs as if it’s on a broken hinge. He tilts his head to one side.

“What?” I glance around me, but see nothing that could cause such confusion. I turn back to my brother. “It truly has been a long day, if that’s what you’re wondering about. First I had to visit the Clinic, and then I had school, and—”

Calvin stops when he is just close enough to touch me. He brushes a hand over my shoulder and his lips angle up in a disbelieving smile.

“What is it, Calvin? What’s wrong?”

“Alexa.” He shakes his head. “That was yesterday.”

I pull away. “What are you talking about?”

He squints at me. “What are you talking about?”

“I just got off the train on my way home from school. I had to stay late to collect the assignments I missed from my teachers. I walked home.” A sinking feeling rises in my stomach—a sensation as impossible as what Calvin has implied. “What do you mean that was yesterday?”

“Today is Thursday. You never came home yesterday afternoon. Everyone’s been looking for you.”

I slouch against the door.

The man who smiled, who chased me—he was real. He drugged me. He kidnapped me.

But I’m fine. Outside of the eye thing, which was already occurring, I’m fine. He let me go.

A cry rises in my throat. “What happened? What happened to me? Why me?”

Calvin wraps an arm around me and sits me on the stoop. I rest my head against his shoulder. I resist the burning in my nose.

“You truly don’t remember a thing?”

“I thought I passed out on the sidewalk. I thought it was only for about an hour.” My words are thick but tiny.

“I need to message Dad. I need to message the police and Susan and Amelia.” Calvin squeezes my shoulders, then stands. He offers me a hand. Some of my blood is stuck to his palm. He grits his teeth at the sight but doesn’t mention it. “Come along. Let’s get you inside.”

As he unlocks the door, I ask, “Dad isn’t home, then?”

“No. He’s out looking for you. Took the day off work and everything.”

Dad hasn’t taken a day off work since Mom died.

I want to throw up.

I drop my backpack in the foyer and start up the stairs.

“Alexa,” Calvin says. I blink away the tears gathering in my eyes and turn back to him. “You can’t remember anything since this time yesterday. Don’t you want to talk about it? Aren’t you, I don’t know, at least hungry?”

I shrug. “I’d rather talk later, if that’s all right. All I want right now is to rest. And actually,” my forehead crinkles, “I’m not hungry. At all.”

“Huh.” He walks towards the kitchen. “Well, I’m in here if you need me. I’m going to message everyone to let them know you’re back. The police will want to talk to you, but I’ll let them know you’re okay so it isn’t urgent.” He pauses in the doorway. “Make sure to clean and bandage your arm, okay?”

I touch the sticky patch of blood. “Thanks. I will.”

Before I have a chance to climb the rest of the stairs, someone knocks at our door.

**********

92Don’t mind me. Just hanging out in my pajamas all day, e’ry day.

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: The End Where I Begin, Chapter Eleven

So my birthday was earlier this week, which means that this is my first post as a twenty year old. Also known as: no longer a teenager. Craziness.

Twenty’s not generally a super huge year for people, since it’s conveniently caught between eighteen and twenty one. But it is a big year for young writers, because a lot of us have this sort of insane goal of getting published while still teenagers.

I did manage to succeed in this venture in little ways, with short stories and poems appearing in (primarily small-time) lit mags. But the ultimate goal–publishing a novel–never happened for me. And honestly I’m okay with that.

While some people’s writing is good enough to snag an agent and book deal when they’re fourteen or sixteen or eighteen, mine wasn’t. But that’s okay, because it was writing all those novels that weren’t ready yet, and getting all those critiques and rejections, and working so hard to construct better sentences, create more realistic characters, and craft more complex and interesting plots that allowed both my writing–and me as a writer–to mature.

Looking back on it, I would be horrified if something like my first novel had somehow magically made it to print. (It was called Pennamed. Basically a Hannah Montana knockoff. I am prepared to pay copious sums of money to the people who have the file to keep them quiet.)

So: I might not have been able to publish a novel before I turned twenty. But I still did do so much with my writing before now. And I’m really proud of that and grateful for all the support I received as I pursued publication throughout my teen years. I’m glad I had the freedom that comes with being an Unpublished Little Nobody to explore, and make mistakes, and figure out my voice and the types of stories I want to tell.

I’m going to miss being a teenager. But I’m also really excited for what the next stage of life will bring.

So here’s to being an aspiring author without the “teen” part attached. Here’s to working hard and dreaming big and never giving up. Here’s to being twenty.

In other news, today was the Hopwood Graduate and Undergraduate Awards Ceremony. I was extremely grateful to receive the Arthur Miller Award for a short fiction collection. It was an honor to be in the company of so many talented young writers, and it was really nice having my family there to celebrate with me. (Thanks for coming, guys!)

Here’s me with my coolio certificate:

And here is my beautiful signed copy of Death of a Salesman:

Arthur Miller Signed Book

This post is already a thousand years long, but finally getting to what it’s supposed to be about: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 Camp NaNoWriMo project The End Where I Begin.

As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

**********

Chapter Eleven

By the time I finish collecting my missed assignments, it’s well pasted 1500 and the rest of the students are gone for the day. I walk alone to the subway station with my backpack heavy against my spine. The sun winks from between the tall buildings of downtown, and dampness collects beneath my armpits. It’s warm for the end of September.

I pull apart the top few buttons of my blouse so I can breathe more deeply, and trundle down the stairs to the subway station.

A heavier, middle-aged man falls into step beside me, smile plastered on his face like he has never frowned before in his life. Crow’s-feet crinkle around his dark eyes. “Hello there. Beautiful day, isn’t it?” He says the words with an unrecognizable accent.

I force a polite smile as I say, “Yes. The sun is lovely.”

“Have a nice day, Alexa.” He waves and moves further into the station.

It isn’t until I’ve passed through the Identiband scanners and boarded the uptown train that I realize he used my name, even though I have never seen him before in my life.

A cold alertness spreads through my limbs. I grip the safety pole I’m standing beside more firmly.

A woman reading a newspaper on her tablet glances at me then lets her gaze fall back to the screen. It is difficult to swallow.

It feels as if everyone on the train is staring at me. Was Ramsey’s attack on the news? Why would anyone care but me and the Clinic?

The train reaches the stop before mine, but my palms are sweating too much to keep my grip on the safety pole, so I exit here instead and hurry up the stairs from the station, eager to feel the sunlight on my cheeks.

The voices and automated announcements of the subway station fade behind me as I walk, and my heartbeat slows. I become aware of the weight of my backpack again.

I am a good twenty minute walk from home. I am only on the outskirts of Riverhorn. Sometimes the gangs who frequent the slums venture out this far, and although no one is in sight, I still quicken my pace as I walk past the condominiums and smaller homes that dominate this portion of the neighborhood.

I don’t know why I’m spazzing so much, but some of the earlier lightheadedness returns as I try to block out the thoughts of all that has happened today and all that might still be to come. I wish I’d gone to Joe’s with Eric and Amelia and the rest of them.

You’re being as crazy as Ramsey is, I tell myself as I turn a corner. My house is only three blocks away now. A couple passes on bicycles, on their way home from work.

I hold two fingers to the pulse at my neck and deepen my breathing. I slow my pace.

A footstep falls behind me.

I don’t look to see who’s there. I just take off running.

My backpack thumps against my tailbone in time with my frantic steps, and I race past house after house, street after street. The heavy stomps of a man out of shape chase after me. My breaths come in short gasps that leave me dizzier and dizzier.

It’s as I turn the final corner to my street—just as my house comes into sight, so close—that a body slams into mine. The man pins me to the sidewalk and shoves a needle into my arm. I thrash against him, try to call for help, but my tongue is heavy and clumsy.

My eyes refuse to focus, but I can just make out the squinty eyes and natural smile of the man who spoke to me at the station.

In a tone not nearly as chipper as the one he used before, he says, “It’s all right, Alexa. Go to sleep now.”

I don’t want to, but I have no choice, because my eyelids are already slipping closed and I cannot think anymore.

**********

88

Countdown ’til summer: 2 days!

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: The End Where I Begin, Chapter Ten

I am eating Panera mac and cheese right now. It is the most delicious thing in the world.

Also, therapy dogs are on the Diag, it’s not snowing (unlike yesterday), and I get to write a blog post. So it’s a good day.

Oh, oh, oh. And the first trailer for the If I Stay film adaption is out, and it is beautiful and heartbreaking and beautiful:

They just HAD to use “Say Something” in the trailer. Of course. Excuse me while I flood the world with my tears.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin.

As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

**********

Chapter Ten
“Do you know what we don’t understand?” the woman asks as she checks me over for new injuries and dabs numbing cream against my swollen cheek.
The other side of my mouth lifts in a smirk. “How someone like Ramsey Carp and I used to be such close friends?”
She allows the smile I’d hoped for, but that’s it. “No, not that.”
“Then what?”
She pauses with her fingertip right beside my cheek, so close the heat radiates off her skin through the plastic sanitary gloves she wears.
“The words Miss Carp said as her fist connected with your jaw. We couldn’t figure out what they were at first, but when we looked at the sound-byte stored in Eric Flynn’s Identiband, we were able to work it out.”
I frown. “Not Amelia Anderson’s?” The nurse shakes her head. “That’s strange. She was the one sitting beside me.”
“Perhaps Eric Flynn knows her better, so he was better able to understand her.” She returns to dabbing my jaw. “The point is, Miss Carp didn’t shout something about hating you or giving you what she thought you deserved, like we originally assumed.”
She steps away and screws the cap back on the tube of numbing cream as she informs me, “She said, ‘I’m sorry.’”

I arrive at school in the middle of Español class—unfortunately also my last class of the day.
The profesora is in the middle of discussing the book reviews we turned in last Friday, but she stops midsentence as I slip past the door. My classmates stare.
New Capital High tries to keep English and foreign language classroom sizes smaller than our other classes, where we’re likely to have sixty or seventy students packed into a room. I’m not a school person, so I have never appreciated this logic—it just means the teachers actually try to give equal attention to both the nerds and the slackers like me, rather than ignoring us as I prefer.
However, I have never disliked the smaller size as much as I do today. It is impossible to disappear as I slink to the back of the room and drop into the seat beside Eric’s. Even Profesora Ramirez has trouble continuing her rant about our inability to properly analyze La muerte de Artemio Cruz. I am the girl who was recruited a year early by the Clinic, then knocked out by her old best friend right in the middle of the Recruitment Assembly.
In Español Eric whispers, “Please tell me you took a nap in the park while you were gone, rather than being at the Clinic this entire time.”
“I wish I could.” I drop my backpack on the carpet and unzip it. The noise is too loud in the quiet room, and Profesora Ramirez’s glare zeroes in on me. “I’m sorry.” I hold up my hands in the Quantum-wide gesture for I-come-in-peace. She returns to her rant.
As I lift my Español notebook onto my desk, Eric asks, “What did they do to you?”
I don’t want to let onto how shaken my conversation with Ramsey left me, so I shrug. “Nothing major. They just needed me to answer a few questions.” I open to a clean page and write down what I can catch of Profesora Ramirez’s tirade.
Idiotos.
No tienen un futuro.
¿Cómo puedo tener confianza en ellos cuando se gradúan si no pueden comprenden un texto tan simple como La muerte de Artemio Cruz?
“Are you officially recruited, then?”
I look at him. I frown. “Actually, I’m not positive. I guess?”
“Interesting.”
I hold back my laugh. “Interesting? Why is that interesting?”
“Just the fact that you were there so long—the entire school day—yet you still don’t know whether or not you work for them now.”
He’s right. “I guess it is kind of strange.” How do I still not know?
How did Ramsey figure out they would recruit me early before they even did, yet I spent several hours at the Clinic today and I still don’t know whether or not my agreement to help them continues past the problem of her?
The bell rings and the class switches effortlessly to speaking in English. I slide my notebook back into my backpack and stand.
“Some of us are putting stamps together to get a couple of pizzas at Joe’s. Are you interested in coming? Amelia would be glad to see they didn’t use you for experiments. We’ve been placing bets on why you weren’t back in time for lunch, all afternoon.”
“As fun as that sounds,” I roll my eyes, “I need to speak with my teachers about the homework I missed.”
“What are you talking about?” Eric grins. “That sounds like a much better time than goofing around with your friends. Go have fun, you wild thing. See if you can snap a shot of Principal Scully with his toupee off.”
I smack his arm. “Go away.”
“With pleasure.” He winks and leads the way out of the classroom.
Amelia waits in the hall. Her eyes widen when she spots me and she throws her arms around me in a pressing hug more passionate than the situation calls for.
“I was so worried!”
“Oh, shut it.” I slough her off. “Both of you.”
I can’t help the grin that crosses my face, though, at the fact that my two best friends care so much for me. Even when Eric glances at my Identiband, auburn eyebrows drawn, and it switches to the other color almost in response.

**********

87

Countdown ’til summer: 9 days.

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (The End Where I Begin, Chapter Eight)

I am currently sitting on a bench between classes, absolutely exhausted and basically to the point where I want nothing more than to sleep for the next 48 hours until it’s the weekend. Midterms are kicking my butt, but THANK GOD, because I just turned in a literature paper in my previous class, and that was the second to last major thing I’ve got this week (every day has had something–quiz Sunday, quiz Monday, exam yesterday, paper today, project tomorrow; I basically feel like I’m going to die).

Meanwhile, yesterday I had the huge honor of participating in an event here in which creative writing instructors nominate their students to share their short stories and poetry in a reading at the undergraduate library, as well as in an annual anthology. I read my short story “The End,” which you can check out here if you’d like. It was really fun. Everyone else’s pieces were amazing and so unique and it makes me really proud of my school to know such talented people attend here.

Reading 2014

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is Chapter Eight of my NaNoWriMo project for 2013, The End Where I Begin.

As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

**********

Chapter Eight

My pulse slows. Dr. O’Brien is not sweating due to heat—it’s nerves.

He has been nervous that I will be upset that Ramsey does not remember me. That she actually does not remember me.

My jaw throbs as I smile. “Ramsey doesn’t remember me? Ramsey’s personality has been altered by that of the Fourth Reality Ramsey?” A laugh builds in my chest. I suppress it. “Okay. That explains why she suddenly got so violent.”

I’m lightheaded, but I don’t know why. The soft, expensive yellow lights are too bright overhead.

“Would you like to sit back down, Miss Dylan?” Dr. O’Brien’s tone is gentle, but spikes with alarm on my name.

“Yes. Yes. Maybe.” I giggle and smack a hand over my mouth. I gasp with pain as my fingers connect with the bruise. “Ow. Sorry. Ouch. That hurt.”

“I understand this is big, complicated news.” He stands and places a hand on my back. He leads me to the table. My palms brace against the cold-as-ice steel and the urge to laugh leaves me as quickly as it came. The lightheadedness does not.

I pull myself onto the table and press my palms against my temples. The lights are so bright.

Ramsey probably does not remember me.

If I am the only one who remembers all those conversations we had, all those games we used to play and the nights we spent soothing her little sisters’ nightmares, how real does that make them? Do they even count?

My Identiband flashes again, and this time I cannot help but stare at it. My eyes have trouble focusing, they struggle to take in the color I do not have a name for—the color that I have never seen before, that does not seem like it should exist.

Dr. O’Brien clears his throat. “Is something wrong with your Identiband?”

“No.” I shake my head once, twice, then three times. I clench my eyes closed to clear the fog, then open them. “It’s fine. I’m fine. I’m sorry. I don’t know what that reaction was.” I turn to where he’s standing beside me, an awkward but safe distance away. “I’m fine. That was strange.”

Something feels incomplete. Missing. “You mentioned that something major had to have happened in the Fourth Reality in order for their influence to bleed into ours. To alter Ramsey’s memories and personality. How does that happen? Why are you telling me these things?”

Dr. O’Brien takes another step away. “It’s tricky, these things. Inter-reality communication is difficult to say the least. After all, we weren’t even aware of the existence of the multiple realities and the Quantum itself until sixteen years ago.”

“I’ve taken history classes. I know that.”

“Of course you do.” He nods. Quieter, more to himself, he says, “Of course.”

“Doctor O’Brien.” My eyes ache, but I stare at him until he meets my gaze. My jaw throbs with the effort to speak. I hear my pulse in my ears, my heart is pounding so hard, and I don’t even know why. “What happened in the Fourth Reality?”

“Well, we aren’t… positive… exactly, yet.” He lifts his shoulders in a manner that would seem almost sheepish if it weren’t for the fact that he is the authority figure in the room. The way he looks at me has stopped being the way a parent views a petulant child and more like the expression my father wore the day he told me Mom had passed.

Lips pinched together so hard they lose some of their color. Eyebrows low over downcast eyes and a stiffness to every swallow.

I fold my hands in my lap, fingers gripped so tight my knuckles go almost immediately numb. “It’s bad, then?”

“The fact that it is bad is entirely the reason we chose to recruit you, Miss Dylan. And why you are here today.” Dr. O’Brien steps around the table and faces me head-on. The lights reflect off his receding hairline. I hadn’t noticed his age until now, because his hair is cropped close to his skull and the wrinkles around the corners of his mouth smooth when he frowns.

But Dr. O’Brien is indeed older than I assumed, and it is this—the fact that he has been alive long enough to truly experience life, to know when something should be made a grand event or not—that scares me. He is old enough to know when to be alarmed, and alarmed is the best way to describe the wobble of his Adam’s apple as he speaks.

“We think you could be of some use to us, you see.”

“I don’t understand.”

“But don’t you?” He is trying desperately to maintain is composure, I think. The sweat continues to drip from his brow. It catches on the dark shadow along his chin and slips down his throat. Damp patches have gathered beneath his arms. “As I said, we have monitored you for many years to decide whether or not to recruit you, and even without the unfortunate circumstances we currently face we most likely would have invited you to join at the Recruitment Assembly next year.”

I twist my fingers until one of my knuckles cracks, and the sound is like a gunshot in the small room. Dr. O’Brien’s stare leaps to my hands and I separate them, return to clenching them around the edge of the table. I lick my lips.

He brings his eyes back up to meet mine. “As I was saying, we likely would have recruited you anyway. However, at the moment you are in a unique position that has become most valuable to the Clinic.”

“How exactly?”

His left eye twitches, like he is trying not to blink. Like he is afraid to lose the staring contest we have stumbled into. “The only notable way the Fourth Reality has bled into the Fifth has been in the personality shift and memory loss of Miss Carp. You know her better than anyone. You could help us determine why the events in the Fourth Reality touched ours solely through an otherwise unremarkable sixteen-year-old girl.”

Ramsey has never been unremarkable, not to those who know her. But of course he doesn’t, so he doesn’t know that.

I don’t want to work for the Clinic, but if it’s important enough for them to recruit me one year early, I probably should. The Clinic would not change their traditional protocol unless it was important.

Perhaps that’s why I said yes yesterday afternoon, as well.

With my heart in my throat, I lean as far forward as I can without losing my balance. My fingers slip against the smooth steel and my knees clench. “I’ll help you find out why what happened to Ramsey did. What do you need me to do?”

Without thinking, I glance around the office again, in search of a clock. How late is it getting? An hour must have passed since I first slid onto this table. The metal has grown warm beneath me.

“Thank you, Miss Dylan.” Dr. O’Brien walks to the door. “If you will just follow me.”

I don’t move. “Follow you where?”

He releases a breath that almost sounds like a sigh. “You are going to speak with Miss Carp for us. We will monitor your interactions to see if her behavior aligns with our theory, in which case we will be able to better determine what occurred in the Fourth Reality.”

“When? Now?” I am not ready to see Ramsey, not when I have still had so little time to think that I will never have to see her again.

I don’t want to see her again.

It’s not fair to take this away from me so soon.

Dr. O’Brien slides his fingers around the doorknob. His knuckles are swollen. He has been using his hands too much for something, and I do not want to know what. I have already learned more than I want to know.

He nods. “Now.”

**********

78

 

~Julia

PS. My sleep-deprived brain just realized that the short story I read at the library is “The End” and the novel the chapter above is from is The End Where I Begin, and for some reason this is hilarious.

PPS. I WANT SLEEP.

Wordy Wednesday (“The End Where I Begin, Chapter Six”)

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!

Sorry things have been so wonky on the blog the past couple weeks. Break + holidays = weirdness. (I mean, look at this–I’m posting a Wordy Wednesday on Christmas Day. Who saw this one coming?) (*cough* Anyone with a calendar. Which apparently does not include me. *cough*)

For Christmas this year, amongst some other fantastic gifts (Kira sent me probably the comfiest, cutest scarf known to mankind), I got like fifteen new books (aaand some B&N gift cards, which I am already itching to use), vegan black “leather” boots and a jacket that I am super excited to wear as part of my costume for seeing the Divergent movie, and just about the coolest surprise ever–a full-size copy of the gorgeous Catching Fire IMAX poster, which my parents shipped from Thailand. We’re framing it. Because I am in love with the complexity and symbolism of this thing. So much.

Of course, though, the best part of Christmas isn’t the gifts, but getting to spend so much time with my family. 🙂 I hadn’t seen some of my relatives in a really long time, so it’s been nice getting to hang out with them again.

Two reminders:

1) You have until New Year’s to enter my 2nd Blogiversary giveaway, which you can access here. I’m giving away signed copies of books by the lovely and talented Ally Carter and Kat Zhang and I’d love to send one to you, so go enter!

2) I’m going on a social media hiatus from tomorrow through the end of my break from school, so I won’t be around for the next couple weeks. However, I’ve got an awesome guest post by an awesome fellow blogger coming your way to make up for it, so watch out for that next Wednesday. (If anyone super urgently needs to contact me while I’m on my hiatus, I will occasionally check my email, so feel free to send me a message. Just know I won’t read anything or reply unless it’s something, you know, important and time sensitive.)

Now, to the purpose of today’s post: Wordy Wednesday. Based on the most recent poll, the winning option for this week’s WW is a new chapter from my NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin.

As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

**********

Chapter Six
A fish tank gurgles in the corner of the waiting room. It is the only sound. Macy Pen types silently on a tablet worth more than all the houses on my block in Riverhorn combined. Everything about the waiting room of office suite 4581 is sleek and expensive.

The lights are halogen rather than fluorescent. The floor is polished black marble. The door leading to the offices in the suite is made of swirling, dark mahogany.

I shift, uncomfortable in the baggy, dark green trousers and white button-down blouse that make up my school uniform. My shoe squeaks against the marble.

“It’ll be just a moment longer,” Macy assures me, even-toned, without looking up from her tablet.

My jaw aches and my fingers itch with the urge to touch it. I slide my hands beneath my thighs, let the pressure drive the urge out of them. When I looked in the mirror this morning, my skin was puffy and the purple of grape soda.
Ramsey is somewhere within this building right now. Hopefully nowhere near this office suite.

My pulse pounds in my wrist, skin pinched tight between my leg and the Identiband. Sweat gathers along my hairline. I’m glad I thought to braid back my curly, coffee-brown mop today, to keep it from frizzing as badly. My bangs are pinned back from my high forehead with a school-approved headband in place as an extra measure of restraint.

Macy Pen still looks at me like I am too feral a creature to sit in one of her waiting room chairs. Maybe the Clinic will change their minds about recruiting me because I could never look as polished and anonymous as the recruiting officers who visit the schools every year.

A latch clicks somewhere beyond the door beside the secretary desk. Macy turns, nods at someone, and looks back at me. She doesn’t smile. “Doctor O’Brien will see you now.” She presses something on her tablet and the mahogany door buzzes as it unlocks.

I walk with stiff legs across the waiting room, glance one last time at the goldfish swimming in lazy circles in the corner, and open the door. On the other side is a long hallway lined with doors much like the first one, green lights glowing above about half of them.

I have never been inside an office suite of the Clinic before. The New Capital school district takes elementary students on tours of the public areas once a year in October, just before the Recruitment Assembly, but generally only government employees are ever granted access to the inner workings of the building.

Amelia will love to hear about all this once it’s over. I’ve been excused from school for the morning for this meeting, but as soon as it’s done I’m supposed to take the subway straight to NCH and return to class. I hope I’m back in time for lunch.

I turn to Macy to ask where I’m supposed to go, but her head is lowered over the tablet, fingers tapping, dark hair shielding her eyes from mine. I step forward and she still doesn’t say a word. With a deep breath, I make my way down the hall.

The second to last door from the end, on the left, is leaned open instead of latched shut. I raise a tentative hand to knock, but before I can touch knuckle to wood, it swings open.

A man stands on the other side. He is short, with thin black hair buzzed close to his scalp and a pair of reading glasses slipping down his nose. He wears dark brown scrubs and a white lab coat so starched it barely moves with his arm as he holds out his left hand. I get a flash of his Identiband—polished so that the light is almost blinding as it slips out from beneath his sleeve.

“Hello, Miss Dylan. I am Doctor O’Brien.”

I take his hand. My tongue feels thick. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

He gives a minute shrug and gestures to the shallow room behind him. “Please do come in.”

It’s at the sound of these words, the way the cadence of his voice curls around them, that I realize he’s the male recruiting officer from the Recruitment Assembly. The one who was new this year.

I didn’t realize recruiting officers also worked as scientists, and a scientist he clearly is as I follow him into the room.
His office is a small lab, more like a physician’s examination room than anything else. Plain white plaster walls contrast with the continuing black marble floor, and a stainless steel table, seemingly too thin to actually support the weight of a person, juts from the wall beside the door. Along the far wall is a row of glass cabinets, full with yellowing text books and polished steel medical apparatus. He walks to the sink and scrubs his hands.

“Please do take a seat, Miss Dylan.” He nods at the table.

I swallow and lift myself onto it. He slips on a pair of latex gloves and sits on the swivel chair beside the desk in the corner.

“Tell me,” he meets my eye and holds his gaze there, “how much do you know about why you are here today?”

I force a shrug despite the nervous tremor running down my arms. I wrap my fingers around the lip of the table to steady them. “Just what the secretary wrote in her message. You’d like to speak with me about what occurred at the Recruitment Assembly yesterday?”

He nods. “Precisely. However, what I’d truly like to learn is how much you know about that.”

“What do you mean?” The air in this room is cool and smells of antiseptic—sharp, bitter. I shiver.

“I mean, what do you know about Miss Ramsey Carp’s motives in attacking you at such a pivotal time in not just the assembly, but your life as well? The decision to accept or decline the invitation to join the Clinic is a big one—I know because I made it once myself.” He smiles, and the expression is so genuine I don’t believe it coming from him. “I understand that you were surprised to hear your name called by my partner, because you are only a year eleven, and we rarely invite anyone below the year twelves. But is that the reason Miss Carp attacked you? Was it out of jealousy? Or did something else provoke the attack?”

I can’t hold back the laugh that bubbles past my lips. “Believe me,” I say. He cocks his head. “The attack had nothing to do with announcing my name. Ramsey Carp is a psychopath, and she hates me because we used to be friends before she lost it.”

“You were once friends with Miss Carp?” He pulls a tablet off the desk and types something on it.

“Of course.” I lift my wrist. “Didn’t our Identibands tell you that?”

He looks up quickly at this question, eyes jumping from the tablet screen to my face. “Well, yes,” he stammers. “Of course. It’s just good to hear the words come from you, yourself, to verify.”

“Verify?” I squint. I wrap my fingers back around the table. “The Identibands record all our messages, our calendars, and are connected with our nervous systems—you know when my heart races because I’m excited or my palms sweat because I’m nervous. I was friends with Ramsey for eleven years—ever since year zero. That was back when they still called it ‘kindergarten.’ Surely you don’t need word of mouth verification that the crazy girl and I were unfortunately friends.”

Dr. O’Brien takes off his glasses and folds them into the lapel pocket of his lab coat. He rubs the back of his neck.
“Generally, that would be true.” His gaze darts around the room—anywhere but at me. “Except that when questioned, Ramsey Carp said she barely knew you. Despite all the information collected from both of your Identibands, she said she had only spoken to you once in her life. Last May.”

**********

71

Merry Christmas again, if you celebrate, and Happy Holidays in general if you don’t! Talk to you in the new year. 🙂

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“The End Where I Begin, Chapter Five”)

I’M DOOONE. I’M DONE, I’M DONE, I’M DONE.

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Yesterday I had all of my last classes, took my one and only exam, and turned in my last two term papers–which means that fall semester 2013 is OVER for me! Including Spanish. It was bittersweet leaving the classroom yesterday, as all of us who have been stuck in Spanish for a thousand hours a week together for the past year and a half realized that it was over. The torture’s ended. We’re done. But it was also pretty fantastico, porque no puedo hacer más Español ahora. Es demasiado dificil para mí.

I don’t know what my grades will be like for this semester yet, but I’m pretty sure I at least passed all my classes (distribution requirements are hard, dude), and my creative writing prof has promised me an A, so that’s always good.

I registered for my winter semester classes a couple days ago, and unfortunately a couple of the ones I wanted were already full, so I am now on the wait list for one of those and hoping to take the other one sometime next year instead. In the meantime, because of not being able to get into that class, I’m now starting my literature classes this coming semester instead of over the summer or next fall like I’d planned. And the lit class I chose fulfills the hardest requirement for my major, so it’s not going to exactly be a fun one. Aaand it also happens to be a 400 level, and I have never taken a 400 level ANYTHING before, so please wish me luck, because I am terrified. (My goal remains to get all of the crappy classes out of the way now so I can take the ones I want to later, which means putting myself through torture all this year. But oh well.)

Anyway. This week’s Wordy Wednesday is Chapter Five of my NaNo this year, The End Where I Begin.

As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

**********

Chapter Five

I push myself into a sitting position so quickly the person hovering over me doesn’t have a chance to get out of the way, and my forehead smacks against his.

“Goodness, Alexa. Might want to warn someone before you do that.” Calvin rubs his temples and rocks back on his heels. He turns his head towards the doorway. “Dad, she’s awake!”

I look beyond him. I’m in my room. Scrubbed white walls and lilac curtains with a scuffed pine floor that leaves splinters in bare feet. My sheets cling to my bare arms, stuck with dried sweat. The lamp on my dresser reflects off the dark window—it must be night.

It’s difficult to move my jaw. I brush two fingers over it and wince as pain blossoms across the right side of my face. “Calvin?” The word is harsh against my sandpaper throat. “What time is it?”

“Just after twenty one hundred.” He leans against the open door and crosses his arms. The light turns his dark brown hair black.

“My jaw took a hit.” The swelling in my jaw slurs my words, makes them painful. I keep going anyway. “I should have only been out for a few minutes, not the better part of the day.”

Calvin offers a sympathetic smile. “After Ramsey knocked you out, she ran. They had us give you sedatives so you’d stay out until they’d caught her—wanted to minimalize the emotional trauma for you. The Clinic is holding her in a detention facility now until they can figure out why she attacked you, and why then.”

I laugh. The sound is like a bark. “I know why she attacked me. Ask anyone at New Capital High and they can tell you why she attacked me. The Ram is insane and hates me for breaking off our friendship.”

The words burn my tongue. I normally only call Ramsey “the Ram” around other students, because that’s the nickname everyone at NCH has called her since Ramsey got into her first spat with Amelia, back when Amelia’s family had first moved to North America year nine in order for her mom to act as the European representative at the Clinic, which is based here in New Capital.

But Calvin graduated before then—he’s a senior at the university now—so he still calls Ramsey by her real name.

He furrows his brow as he absorbs my words. “You realize Ramsey used to be your friend, Alexa. One of your only friends.”

“Yes.” I level my eyes at him. “Back before she went bonkers.”

My stomach twists, but I ignore it. Ramsey deserves what she gets, and it’s good she’s in a detention facility. She used to be calm and nice and, sure, a bit of a sarcastic twit sometimes, especially during our doubles tennis matches. But she had never hurt a soul before our argument four months ago, the day I left her behind to befriend Amelia. And now she attacks anyone who comes in her path.

The Ramsey who exists now is not the same Ramsey as the one who used to be my best friend. The Ramsey who exists now deserves whatever the Clinic does to her for hitting me during the Recruitment Assembly.

Head spinning, I fall back against my pillow. Calvin eyes me with dissipating distain.

I ask, “What all occurred after Ramsey knocked me out?”

“Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much drama.” He shrugs. “The recruiting officers from the Clinic want to talk to you, though. What’s that about?”

“I’m not even sure.” I rub the back of my hand over my eyes. When I open them, it’s to the sight of my Identiband flickering again to the non-color—still lit up, but a bizarre shade it should not be. I stare at it. “The Clinic offered to recruit me, which was strange since I’m only year eleven, you know? I should have another year still before that’s even an option.”

I turn the Identiband around my wrist and it flashes the other color for just a second longer. It reminds me of apples for some reason. “Plus, why would they pick me? It’s not like I’m a science nerd. I do all right in my classes. I play tennis and run cross country. That’s it.”

I let my arm drop back to rest on my bed and bite my lip. I look at Calvin. “I was confused, and I meant to say no—I don’t want to work for them—but yes slipped out instead. What do you think they’ll do? Can I back out?”

“I don’t know.” Calvin glances out the door, then back to me. “I think you’ll have to explain the situation to them and see. Generally, when people say yes, they mean it.”

“How’s my Alexa?” Dad’s deep voice booms from the hallway. His footsteps squeak against the old hardwood as he nears.

Calvin rolls his eyes and calls back, “As petulant as ever. Did you hear she’s messing with the Clinic now as well?”

“Playing with the big guns, are we, little girl?” Dad sweeps past Calvin to kiss my forehead. The whiskers above his upper lip tickle as he whispers a blessing into my skin, and I giggle, batting him away.

Daddy.”

He grins and sits down on the edge of the bed. My father is tall and stocky, with skin much darker than mine, even darker than Calvin’s, and very little hair left on top of his head. “So you think you’re ready to play with the big guns?” He raises a bushy eyebrow.

I glare. “They made me. What do you think? Will they let me back out after saying yes? I don’t actually want to work for them. I don’t know what came over me. I was so nervous.”

My father sweeps my frizzy, sweated-out bangs off my forehead and smiles down at me. “I’m sure they will, little girl. Now, are you hungry? Would you like me to bring something up to you?”

“No, that’s okay.” I sit up and swing my legs over the side of the bed. The skirt of Sierra’s dress is bunched around my waist. Cheeks warming, I pull it down and stand. “I think I can get food on my own. You get back to work.”

Dad is an architect. He’s helping develop a new branch of our subdivision right now. Sometimes I wish Mom could see how successful he’s become—while our current house is certainly in need of renovations, it’s on a good street. Amelia’s family lives just around the block. Our old house, the one near both Ramsey and Eric, was in the area known as Portsmouth. Half the buildings were overcrowded, the other half abandoned. On the walk home from New Capital Elementary, our shoes crunched over broken glass and we picked dandelions from between the shards of concrete—all that was left of the roads.

Dad worked hard to bring us to the Riverhorn subdivision after Mom passed.

I tiptoe with my bare feet across the splintery floor and slip on my school shoes, which someone has left by the door.

Calvin smiles as I pass. “Want me to make you pancakes, just like old times?”

I smile, am about to reply that he’s only offering because he wants pancakes himself, when my Identiband beeps. I have an incoming message.

I expect it to be Amelia, ready to arm me with all the latest news about how the Recruitment Assembly ended. Or Eric, making sure I’m okay.

I click the button on the side of the bracelet and it projects the message in the air above my wrist, angled perfectly for me to be able to read it and no one else—a feature just added to the Identibands this generation. It is not one of my friends.

TO: Alexa Dylan, year eleven

FROM: Macy Pen, Secretary of Recruitment Affairs—the Clinic, New Capital division

MESSAGE: Miss Dylan, we must speak with you about what transpired at the New Capital High Recruitment Assembly today. Come to the Clinic tomorrow at 0800, office suite 4581. Thank you for your cooperation.

As I reread the message, my Identiband flickers again, and for half an instant, before I remember that the assumption is not right, I think it is the color of blood.

**********

69

~Julia