NaNo Day 12: Let’s Do This Thing

I AM CAUGHT UP IN NANOWRIMO.

I can’t believe I get to type those words. I got on a roll and ended up writing about 3,000 words yesterday, when I only had a goal of 2,000–then I accidentally woke up over an hour before my alarm was supposed to go off this morning, so I ended up pulling out my laptop and cranking out another 1.5k before class, which brought me up to where I’m supposed to be by today.

Which means that for the first time since NaNoWriMo 2015 began, I AM NOT BEHIND.

I am dying a little inside from relief.

Now I just need to keep up this momentum for the next couple weeks and I might just survive this month.

In the meantime: tonight at 8 PM EST is our monthly Ch1Con Chat on Youtube (info and watch link here), tomorrow I’m spending the day at another career forum on campus (this time on the entertainment industry), and in between I have about a thousand and one budget breakdowns and grant proposals to write (yay asking people to pay for me to do fun things).

I’ve got a half hour before Ch1Con Chat starts though, so I’m going to take this opportunity to eat something yummy and take a breath.

(Then maybe I’ll do a little more writing later? I’m so pumped up right now, I feel like I could run a marathon.) (Or, you know, actually run at all.)

Goal for Today: 1,000 + 500 (from Friday)

Overall Goal: 20,000

Current Word Count: 20,035 <– LOOK AT THE PRETTY

~Julia

The Creative Blogger Award

I’ve been nominated for another blogging award! A huge thanks to the ever lovely Adriana Gabrielle for the nomination.

The Rules:
~Nominate 15-20 blogs and notify all nominees via their social media/blogs
~Thank and post the link of the blog that nominated you (very important)
~Share 5 facts about yourself to your readers
~Pass these rules on to them

The Nominees:
Kira of Kira Budge: Author
Ariel of Ariel Kalati, Writer
Mel of The Ultimately Useless Stories of an Average Teenager
Joan of The Spastic Writer
Hannah of Just Hannah dot Rose
Hannah of To Journey Toward
Shelby of Shelby Writes

(Not nominating 15 to 20 people, because whoa that’s a lot. So: even if I haven’t nominated you, if you’d like to complete this tag, go for it!)

The Facts:

1. I’m super into movies. Like, SUPER into movies. I almost ended up double majoring in film (in addition to my creative writing and literature major), but couldn’t quite justify it since I don’t currently have plans to work in the film industry. (Instead I’m a film minor with a bunch of extra film classes just for fun, like the screenwriting course I’m in right now.)

2. I’m trying to get in shape this summer, so I’m currently doing a hundred situps and biking about twenty miles a day. I like biking, because when I’m riding one of the stationary bikes in my building’s gym I can watch endless Netflix. My goal’s to get up to thirty miles a day.

3. As a counterpoint to the getting-in-shape thing, I’m also really into cooking and I put on like eight pounds this school year because I was finally out of the dorms and so had a kitchen at my disposal.

4. I’m addicted to the CW’s crappy superhero shows. The Flash, especially. There’s just something about attractive actors and bad writing.

5. I own a ridiculous number of mugs. It started because I didn’t own any, so I had to borrow one from my parents when I moved to college freshman year. So I bought myself one on a trip, then two–then all of a sudden I had like twenty and people keep giving them to me as gifts and I’m starting to run out of space for them. (But also, like, can you ever have too many mugs?) (The answer is yes. And I’ve just about reached that point.)

Thanks again for the nomination, Adriana! I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s facts. 🙂

~Julia

Scheduling Is Hard

I schedule for fall semester of senior year on Monday.

Besides the fact that that’s absolutely crazy (HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO BE A SENIOR ALREADY?), it’s also, well, crazy. Because there are approximately a thousand more classes I want to take than I ever would be able to.

Probably the worst part of this whole scheduling thing is that it keeps reminding me how I’m not sure what to do for the next couple years of my life. For one thing, there are enough film classes I want to take that I might as well add a film major. But do I want to work in the film industry, and would it really be smart to spend the the time and money necessary to get a film major (at least one extra semester of classes) if I’m not planning on it?

Then there’s grad school. I’m looking at getting a masters in a few different things. Creative writing, or literature, or film studies/criticism. But do I really want a masters? Do I really want a masters in one of those things? What kind of masters program would I want to complete? I DO NOT KNOW.

Then there’s also the possibility of trying to get a job straight out of college, and what job would I even go for? I know that I more than likely want to work in publishing (I mean, that’s been the plan for years now and I do adore the publishing industry), but at this point I’m not positive what I want to do in publishing. Work for a publishing house or literary agency? Work in editing or marketing or something else? Move to New York or try my luck elsewhere? (Once again I say: SOMEONE GIVE ME AN INTERNSHIP. I need help figuring these things out.)

And the decision of which classes to take senior year is going to influence what I can do after college. And that’s terrifying.

All of this is terrifying.

I know whatever path I take from here isn’t the only one I’m ever allowed to take. If I’m lucky enough to live until I’m all old and grey, life will be a long haul. I can do many things if I want. But still. I’m scared for the next few years.

Anyway, all this to say: Scheduling is hard, and I know a lot of my friends are just as freaked out about what to do after college as I am, and fingers crossed that everything works out for us and everyone else in similar positions.

Are you dealing with any scary existential crises too? Want to commiserate together?

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Distractions for Waiting

I’m exhausted right now because I was up until 2:00 AM writing, but can I just say: So worth it.

I don’t know if the short story I wrote last night is any good. For all I know, my creative writing instructor will hate it and it’ll never make it past revisions with him. That happens sometimes.

But last night, something finally clicked with a story I’ve been trying to write for months now. I wrote for hours and lost track of time. And feeling that way about writing? It hasn’t happened in a really long time.

So, of course, I’d love my instructor to love it. I want this to be a story worth reading.

But when the writing feels that good, it doesn’t matter what happens after. I’m just happy I got to write it and feel that way while I did–

Kidding. Sooo kidding. I turned in that sucker to my instructor a few hours ago and I’m not going to hear what he thinks of it for another week, so I am now, of course, freaking out.

This week’s Wordy Wednesdsay is a writing process post. DISTRACTION METHODS EDITION.

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Listen to music. So much music.

I’ve gone through the soundtrack from The Fault in Our Stars and my work out play list so far, and I think I’ve got a massive dose of Taylor Swift in my future.

Go shopping.

Friend is throwing a British-themed costume party for her birthday in a couple days? Why yes, I think I do need a thousand little things scattered across several stores and sketchy shopping sites for my Bond, Jules Bond costume.

(Okay, let’s not let this get out of hand. I spent like five seconds surfing the sketchy shopping sites, then went running to Amazon.)

Do homework.

Hahahahahahahaha jk. (The rubric for my first project for my film criticism class is staring at me. I refuse to give in.)

Go for a walk.

Unless it’s like ten degrees out, like here. In which case walking outside is a last resort reserved for those times you forgot something you needed in your apartment a mile away. Which totally didn’t happen today, not at all, never.

Work on something else.

Okay, this one is serious. The best way I’ve found to distract myself from something I’m waiting to hear back on has always been to keep moving forward.

Write another story. Revise an old one. Submit something to a literary magazine.

The biggest thing is to keep moving.

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Are you waiting to hear back on something right now? How are you keeping yourself from going crazy?

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Balancing College and Writing

Things going on right now:

1.) Ch1Con activities will be starting back up again in the next couple weeks, so watch that blog (here) for info on live chats, writing sprints, etc. Also keep a lookout for conference-related announcements! Registration and the speaker list should be going live really, really soon.

2.) My first post is up on Teens Can Write, Too! I talk about why critique partners are awesome. Check it out here.

3.) The bot chose the winners for my third blogiversary giveaway and I’ve been in contact with all of them. Congrats if you won, and thanks anyway if you didn’t! I wish I could give a book to everyone who entered.

Classes started today and while I’m nervous about being able to handle everything I need/want to do this semester, it’s also really nice to start getting back into a rhythm. I work best when I’ve got a routine and deadlines, sooo. Yay school, I guess?

The biggest thing is about finding a balance between all the different things I’m doing. So, for this week’s Wordy Wednesday: some of the ways I do that.

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Keep Several Types of Schedules

I personally use a planner to keep up with my day-to-day activities, especially homework and events I’ve scheduled with friends. But I also usually have a weekly to do list on my computer, a day-to-day to do list on a white board on my wall, and if I’m in the middle of a writing project, I’ll have a separate schedule written out for handling that as well.

The more detailed my schedules are, the more easily I can stay on task and keep up with everything I need to do.

Dedicate Time to Writing–And Dedicate Time to Not Writing

This is one I have trouble with a lot, but basically what it boils down to is this: It’s not healthy to write for long stretches without breaks. (And I’m talking mentally, not what sitting around all day on your laptop does to your poor defenseless abs.) So even when it feels like you don’t have time to get everything done that you need to, it’s important to take time away from working to hang out with friends or catch up on your favorite TV show or whatever.

HOWEVER, it’s also important to take time to write. A lot of people don’t see writing as a real job, but we need to treat it that way if we want to get anywhere. Set aside time to write each week and don’t let people take that time from you.

Don’t Write During Class

It can be really tempting to write during class, especially in those really boring three-hundred-person lecture hall gen ed classes, but DO NOT GIVE IN. By writing during class, you miss what the professor’s saying, then end up having to take more time later to look up and learn that info on your own. So what little time you save by writing during class, you lose two fold later on.

Instead: Pay attention in class. Don’t procrastinate on your homework. Then reap the benefits of all the free time you suddenly have.

Be Flexible

You can plan and schedule and work ahead all you want. Things will still get in the way sometimes.

Be flexible. Write in the little moments. Stay in to work instead of going out with friends sometimes (but also still go out with friends sometimes). Take a break from doing homework by writing and take a break from writing by doing homework.

And more than anything: Do what feels right for you. Sometimes it’s going to be hard to fit writing in with school, but if you want it badly enough, you can do it.

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Thanks for reading!

Are you back in classes this week? How’s that going? (Please tell me it’s warmer where you are.)

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Break Time

Heads up: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is supposed to be a short story, but this topic is a little more relevant right now. Sorry! I’ll put the short story up next week.

Two days until I get to go home!

I’ve honestly been really enjoying the finals period this year, which sounds weird I’m sure, but I’m currently in the middle of a week-long break between my last two finals and I’ve been spending it relaxing. I started out with these grand plans of finishing my NaNoWriMo novel or the other writing project I’m working on, but I tried that and I can’t. I’m too burned out.

The whole Burned Out thing is something I’ve been suspecting but ignoring all semester. While I’ve been able to do the work for my creative writing class, and won NaNoWriMo, and have been doing a little writing on the side here and there, I’ve gotten to the point where I just can’t get anything to work quite right; I have ideas, but I can’t get them to come out properly on the page. All the pieces are there, but I can’t figure out the puzzle.

And I was really mad at myself all semester over this, because I took winter semester of this past year off from my creative writing class because I was feeling burned out then, so that should have helped me recharge. And I spend two months in freaking EUROPE over the summer, so THAT should have helped me recharge.

I’ve had so many adventures this year and I’m so happy with life right now.

And towards the beginning of this break between finals, as I was struggling to just make writing work already, I thought maybe it couldn’t because I was too happy. Like, too many things have been going right for me, you know? But then, also, I’ve been making myself miserable by stressing out over all this.

So, I gave up and decided to take this week off.

I’ve done a little writing here and there, and I’ve been thinking a lot about writing, but it’s nothing major. Mostly what I’ve been doing is sitting around and watching Netflix. I’ve been hanging out with friends and going out to eat. I’ve gotten back into the routine of working out every day and eating maybe a little better (but also letting myself eat junk food without feeling TOO guilty) and yesterday I spent a couple hours hiking in the Arb in the misty rain. Today I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to go see The Theory of Everything ten minutes before the movie started.

My brother stayed over last night after we went to an advance screening of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and he parked on the street, so I had to get up to put money in the meeter at five AM, and it was absolutely lovely to walk around Ann Arbor when it was dark and cold and not a single other person was awake.

And I’m realizing that I’m not burned out on writing because I’m too happy. (Which is a very obvious conclusion to reach, but I’m a sleep-deprived junior, so bear with me.) I’m burned out because even when I haven’t been writing all this time I was supposed to be recharging, I’ve been doing stuff.

When I took that semester off from creative writing class, I replaced it with a remote internship with a literary agent.

The month I had off between winter semester and leaving for Europe and study abroad at Oxford, I spent working a thousand hours a day planning and running Ch1Con 2014. (Like even while I was hopped up on Vicodin after getting my impacted wisdom teeth out. I slept off the rest of the day of the surgery, then the next morning I had to get back to work.)

Actually being in Europe, every day we were off on a new adventure.

I was exhausted when I got back to the States, but the very next day I was in the midst of moving into my apartment and fall classes began less than a week later. And this semester has been crazy.

I’ve had no rest in all of this. I keep getting sick, no matter how well I try to take care of myself, and I’ve been having trouble sleeping, and more than anything: I haven’t been able to write. Not like I should be able to.

In finally taking this week off to relax, I’ve realized how exhausted I truly am. I haven’t had a chance to just sit around and do nothing and not feel guilty about it in over a year.

And the dumb thing is that I’m scared. I’m scared that letting my momentum slow for a week will mean it’ll be harder to get started again than to keep going would have been if I’d never stopped, and that taking a week off that I could have spent finishing a project means that I’m falling behind and not good enough, and that people will look down on me for this decision.

I stood in a bookstore today, looking at the travel section, when a song came on in which, not kidding, the chorus basically just repeated, “Where are you going?” a thousand times. And at first I was sad, because I want to be going somewhere. I want to go to Australia and South Africa and Germany and everywhere else in the world. I want to experience absolutely everything. I want to do absolutely everything.

But it’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to take a break.

If I want to be able to keep having and appreciating adventures, I need to recharge.

Wherever I’m going, I’ll find out later. Right now I’m drinking vanilla chai, curled up in my desk chair, and I’m about to start the next episode of Gilmore Girls. I can still taste butter on my lips from the movie theatre popcorn and my plans for tomorrow involve a little studying and packing but mostly doing Whatever I Freaking Feel Like.

This week, I am going absolutely nowhere. And I’m realizing: it’s okay.

The stories will wait.

~Julia

PS. GUESS WHAT TOMORROW IS. That’s right. My third blogiversary. (You totally guessed that, I know.) Be on the look out for a post!

NaNo Day 30: Here We Go

I’m home! By which I mean I’m back snuggled up in my desk chair at my apartment and suddenly it’s the end of the semester.

I’ve been kind of pretending this semester wasn’t this close to over the past few weeks, but now that Thanksgiving is over and I have final projects beginning to be due this week, I figured it was time to risk looking at my finals schedule. And these next few weeks are going to be hell.

I’ve loved this semester. I love my classes and my professors and my terrible schedule. Which is probably why finals exist. (They’re making us take them to pick off the few lone optimists who have clung to their love of school to the end to make sure everyone properly enjoys their winter break away.)

NaNoWriMo already feels like ages ago, even though November’s technically not over yet, since I finished on Tuesday. Now I’m halfway through my first term paper of the semester and I’ve got that, a term paper proposal, a final project and presentation, and a choir concert this week. So definitely no time for writing for a while, but hopefully I can get back to my NaNo novel soon.

NaNoWriMo was really weird this year. I spent most of the month either super behind or ahead of schedule, with all kinds of unexpected craziness going on. And this novel sucks–like, really, really sucks–but I also got to the point with it where I could write a thousand words in fifteen minutes (which is a fourth of my average from before this month) and I’ve had a lot of fun writing something so stupid and terrible.

It was nice to take the pressure off myself of trying to make it something that could someday be decent, and in turn the Terrible Novel actually has helped me get back into being able to write more easily for the things I actually have been taking seriously. (The amount I’ve been struggling to write short stories for creative writing this semester is ridiculous, but I wrote two of my best ones in one night this month. I’ve been doing better in a couple of my other classes, too. There’s just something about actively writing that makes everything easier.) (You know. Besides, like, having time to bathe, work out, and socialize.)

Whether you’ve reached your goal for the month or not, I hope NaNoWriMo has helped you in some way too. And I hope you’re proud of what you’ve done, because no matter how much you wrote, you made the choice to write, and that means so, so much.

As far as I’m concerned, we’re all champions.

Goal for today: 0.

Overall goal: 50,000.

Final word count: 50,127.

Onto finals and the holidays and all that entails. Thanks for sticking with me through this month of blogging daily, and look out for the return to twice a week blogging in December. 🙂

Here we go.

~Julia

NaNo Day 16: Catching Up

Today I finished reading Eleanor and Park (really liked it, but not as much as Fangirl), finished the business work I needed to get done this weekend with my amazing mom’s help, then headed home (school-version) to catch the tail end of a local write-in.

I love write-ins. I cannot recommend them highly enough. There’s something about being in a room full of people working their butts off on on the same thing that’s super motivating.

So I’ve started catching up on NaNoWriMo. I’m still behind (I’d need to write another 5.5K today to catch up with my weekly goal and my arm’s already really sore and my brain’s going numb), but I just wrote 4K in an hour and a half, and I’m proud of that.

Here’s to hoping I get in another couple thousand words tonight, along with finishing catching up on homework. And if not: I’m happy to be back at it anyway.

How’s NaNoWriMo going for you? Any unexpected problems/burn out to deal with?

Oh, also: This song was featured in Big Hero 6 stuff and I’m kind of in love with it. Listen if you’re in need of a pump up.

Goal for today: 2,000 + yesterday’s leftover 3,000 + Friday’s 5,000 + Thursday’s 1,000 + Wednesday’s 1,500.

Overall goal: 33,000.

Current word count: 27,568.

~Julia

PS. I JUST REALIZED I HAVE NOT MENTIONED IN A LONG TIME HOW FREAKING EXCITED I AM FOR MOCKINGJAY – PART ONE TO HIT THEATERS. GUYS. GUYS, GUYS, GUYS, IT IS THIS WEEKEND OMG.

Wordy Wednesday: The Unreliable Narrator in Young Adult Fiction

I swear, someday I’ll begin posting Wordy Wednesdays before midnight again. (In my defense this week, I spent the entire day either in class or doing homework, then tonight friends came over and we all watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and ate funfetti cake Hannah had made in honor of the occasion, so I was kind of busy.)

Anyway. The past week’s been pretty uneventful. I walked a 5K Sunday with my parents, then spent Monday barely being able to move because I am actually SO OUT OF SHAPE that walking three miles in a row destroyed my muscles. (You don’t need to make fun of me. I did enough of it myself between winces as I walked to class.) Monday night, I turned in my final research paper for Oxford and very melodramatically drank Sainsbury’s peppermint tea out of my Magdalen mug while missing England.

Long story short: I’ve gone to a ton of classes and done a ton of homework and eaten a ton of cookies.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post that takes form in an essay I turned in for my YA lit class recently, discussing the idea of the unreliable narrator. [Update: I got a very deserving B on this, primarily for a flawed representation of the unreliable narrator, due to not expounding enough on my argument, and the multitude of typos that occur when you finish a paper fifteen minutes before it’s due. So. Keep that in mind while you read. Hopefully I can do a post actually discussing the unreliable narrator from a writing perspective at some point, to clear up the issues posed by this essay. But in the meantime, enjoy!]

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The unreliable narrator is a trope that pops up again and again in fiction. It involves, most commonly, a protagonist written from a first person perspective that asserts one idea to be true when this idea is actually false. The idea directly relates to the narrator in some way, to the point of defining him or her. However, all narrators are unreliable to an extent, due to their age, position in the world, personal ideology, etc. Hazel in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars tells her story after the fact, which means readers will never know for sure who Augustus Waters was as a person, because what they only know him through Hazel’s eyes. What arguably makes a protagonist not just commonly unreliable, but definable as an unreliable narrator, is the fact that it is possible for him or her to understand, with effort, his or her idea to be false. Maybe he or she knew the truth at a time but chose to believe it wasn’t true or forget it, or has known the truth the entire time and simply chosen to knowingly lie. Which is to say, what makes a protagonist an unreliable narrator is his or her decision, whether conscious or not, to lie. Within fiction, a category the unreliable narrator is especially prevalent in is young adult. From the way teenagers often relate more easily to the unreliable narrator than other age groups do, to the way stories utilizing this type of perspective are more likely to be twisty and fast-paced, the unreliable narrator trope finds its home in young adult fiction.

The teenage years, as presented in young adult fiction, are generally spent sneaking around with boyfriends and pulling one over on authority figures. In E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, the title character spends the majority of her story lying to her friends and playing elaborate pranks on the administration of her elite boarding school. Even if teens don’t personally take part in these types of activities, they’re fun to read and demonstrate sentiments teens are likely to relate with: hating how adults and peers underestimate them; wanting to be special but feel normal at the same time; needing a wild adventure to stay sane amidst of midterms and soccer practice. While a story with a straightforward narration style and normal characters can accomplish these things, like in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, an unreliable narrator pulls them one step further. In the S.E. Hinton classic The Outsiders, narrator Ponyboy is an accessory to a murder, but after the friend who actually commits it dies, he can’t stand the idea of remembering his friend this way—as a murderer—so he chooses to believe he is the one who murdered, instead, so that at least in his mind, Johnny might still be alive. He knew “Johnny was dead [and knew] it all the time … [but] just thought that maybe if [he] played like Johnny wasn’t dead it wouldn’t hurt so much” (Hinton 177). This adds another layer to Ponyboy’s story and actions. Perhaps one of the reasons the unreliable narrator appears more frequently in young adult fiction than other categories is because teenagers connect more with the narrator who chooses to believe one thing when another might be true. After all, they’re figuring out what they believe and don’t believe too; sometimes they lie about things happening in order to make life easier to live too. Maybe for a teen reader the distraction is a lie about the state of her geometry grade, rather than about whether or not her friend is dead. But details don’t resonate as loudly as overall actions. As unreliable narrators allow themselves to grow and admit their truth, so do their readers about their own.

On top of this, the unreliable narrator automatically adds another layer to how interesting the story is and involves the reader more. Not only must the reader try to figure out what’s going to happen, but also how much of what has already and is currently happening to believe. Also, unreliable narrators lend themselves to the sorts of stories in which it would be more logical to have a character who cannot handle what’s going on around them. While The Fault in Our Stars’s Hazel can choose to direct the reader’s opinion in one way or another, the fairly ordinary circumstances of her life would make it difficult for to be believable as an unreliable narrator. Ponyboy, on the other hand, lives with the constant threat of getting “jumped by the Socs” (Hinton 2) or the authorities tearing his family apart. His best friend dies from injuries incurred in a fire after murdering a boy who attacked Ponyboy. These extreme circumstances merit the mind shutting the truth out. Stories like these, with an abundance of plot twists and action, tend to be shorter and snappier, which keep readers on the edges of their seats and are more likely to keep teens turning pages, rather than putting the book down to check Facebook. With the way young adult fiction itself generally runs shorter and more to the point that other categories of fiction, it has a reciprocal relationship with the unreliable narrator: the unreliable narrator helps the novel move along, and the novel has no choice but to move in such a way that backs the interest created by the unreliable narrator.

From the way teens are more likely to be able to relate to a story featuring an unreliable narrator, due to the circumstances of the period of life they’re in, to how the unreliable narrator supports the form of the young adult novel and leads to stories with more inherent interest in them, this literary trope finds its home in young adult fiction. Together, as Ponyboy’s friend Johnny would say, they “[s]tay gold” (Hinton 148).

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Thanks for reading! (Now: Off to sleep. SO TIRED.)

 

~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

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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