Blood Ties Screenplay Act 1 – DRAFT

Part of a project for my Screenwriting Class at Southern New Hampshire University for my Master’s of Arts in English and Creative Writing (currently taking the class).

FADE IN:

INT. COFFINDAY

A smart phone buzzes and illuminates, revealing the pale face of sigourney “ZIGGY” wallachia. she is surrounded by expensive and comfortable red silk coffin walls and lid.

ZIGGY raises the cell phone to her face and looks at the screen.

ZIGGY

Ugh….6:00AM. Time to get ready for school….sigh….in person.

ZIGGY turns on the camera to selfie mode and watches herself retract her fangs, which takes a moment of willpower.

ZIGGY

This is always easier after I’ve had my coffee. I don’t know why Mom insists I retract them before I even get out of my coffin. It’s not like me crawling out of a coffin in my bedroom isn’t already a clue to normal.

ZIGGY lifts the lid on her coffin carefully, testing her hand in the sunlight outside the coffin. She sighs with relief.

ZIGGY

Still doesn’t burn. Dad’s theory is right. I probably won’t turn into a real vampire until I’ve drank human blood.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. BEDROOMDAY

ZIGGY’s coffin, a modern day style construction, rests on an ornate dias, among an otherwise normal teenage bedroom with band posters, clothes strewn on the floor from not cleaning as much as she should, with a school bag hanging from the bag of a chair in front of a computer desk.

ZIGGY crawls out of the bed, dressed in pajamas, and looks in the mirror at her unnaturally pale reflection. She changes out of her pajamas an puts on clothes that cover all of her skin except her head, then lifts the hood on her hoodie and slips on her sunglasses over her golden-brown eyes. She tilts her head to hear her mother calling from downstairs.

NATASHIA (O.C.)

ZIGGY! Hurry up or you’ll be late for school!

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. KITCHENDAY

the kitchen at the back of the house have stairs to the second floor independent of the stairs in the front living room. in the kitchen, standing at the counter, natashia, ZIGGY’s mother, talks on a cell phone. sitting at the table in the kitchen, reading the newspaper over his breakfast, is bob, ZIGGY’s stepfather.

ZIGGY walks down the stairs and moves to the coffee maker.

NATASHIA

No, Diane. The pants should keep their pleats and tell patterning to plan for thin padding on the shoulders. The late 80s are coming back…again….God knows how many times.

I don’t want them changing my designs.

ZIGGY puts some (brand name product with obvious box) in the toaster and proceeds to add sugar to her coffee. BOB glances up from his newspaper, barely noticing her, as usual.

BOB

I can’t believe you only put sugar in it. If you want to cut the bitter, just add milk or creamer like anyone else.

ZIGGY

I don’t know how many times I have to tell you, milk curdles around me. It’s part of the curse.

NATASHIA

Just a moment, Diane.

NATASHA faces BOB but keeps her hand out of sight of ZIGGY. She wiggles two of her fingers at BOB.

BOB

Huh?

BOB pauses, confused.

BOB

Whatever.

BOB returns to ignoring ZIGGY and reading his newspaper. The backdoor opens and, without knocking, ZIGGY’S friend AZ walks in cheery, a cloth mask on her face.

AZ

Good morning Mister and Misses Smithers! Morning Zig!

BOB glances up from his Newspaper and returns to it. NATASHIA waves quietly and points to the phone to indicate she’s busy on a call. AZ nods that the message has been received.

BOB

Good morning, AZealia.

AZ

Like I said before Mister Smithers, I just go by AZ.

BOB grunts half-attentive acknowledgement.

AZ

Excited for school Zig?! First day out of lock down from COVID!

ZIGGY screws the cap onto her coffee go-cup and pulls out her mask.

ZIGGY

I see you’ve already had your coffee this morning. I’m not quite caught up.

AZ

No coffee for me, Zig. You know I’m a tea girl. Like Star Trek – Earl Grey, Hot!

ZIGGY

Ha. Nerd.

AZ

It’s the first day back to school after the lock down, ZIGGY. We better not be late or your parents will ground you and lock you down again.

ZIGGY and AZ wave goodbye to NATASHIA instead of interrupting her call. She waves back. They wave goodbye to BOB who fails to notice.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. HIGH SCHOOL MAIN HALLWAY

STUDENTS BUSTLE ABOUT AS AZ, ZIGGY, AND THEIR FRIEND BONDY STAND BY AN OPEN ORANGE LOCKER, ONE OF HUNDREDS LIKE IT IN THE SCHOOL. AT THE ARCHWAY OF THE HALL IS A SIGN READING “PICADILLY HIGH SCHOOL” AND “WASHINGTON STATE CHAMPIONS 1999.” INSIDE AZ’s locker door are stickers for both lgbtq pride and a commonly used lesbian pride flag.

AZ

How did your parents take you coming out as Trans, Bondy?

BONDY shuffles their feet and looks down.

BONDY

I didn’t have the guts to tell them…

ZIGGY

I get it. It’s hard to risk rejection. I haven’t come out to my parents as…whatever I am.

AZ

Well, whatever it is, you aren’t lesbian, bisexual, or pansexual. As far as I can tell, you’ve never demonstrated sexual preference at all.

BONDY

Well you clearly identify as female, or at least you haven’t said you don’t. What you prefer is inside, so no one really notices what you aren’t as what you are.

ZIGGY

That’s true. It sucks that you have to keep coming to school wearing those girl clothes your Mom keeps pushing on you. You want to borrow my hoody again?

BONDY

Are you sure? Last time you did that you broke out in a rash because of your sunlight allergy.

AZ

It was just an allergy, though! It’s not like ZIGGY is going to burst into flames or anything.

ZIGGY glares at AZ, who chuckles nervously at nearly revealing ZIGGY’S real secret. ZIGGY pulls her hoody off and hands it to BONDY.

ZIGGY

I have long sleeves on today. I should be fine. I’ll just wear my hair over my ears in class. Mister O’Leary’s class is the only one I have to sit by the window.

AZ

Still? I thought your mom had the Nurse write him a note. He is supposed to let you…

AZ keeps talking but ZIGGY doesn’t hear any of it as she stares, in awe, as SAMSON “RINO” TANER emerges through the main doors of the hall in his yellow letterman jacket with a large purple “P” on it. He is flanked on each side by two larger football players, linemen from the school team.

AZ

ZIGGY? Hello? Are you listening to me?

ZIGGY does not react to AZ attempting to snap her out her glAZed look. AZ looks back and forth between ZIGGY and RINO, frowning. BONDY looks curiously between AZ and ZIGGY and sighs, rolling their eyes.

BONDY

I’m telling you, she’s never going to realize you like her.

AZ stares daggers at BONDY who puts their hands up and waves goodbye and heads off putting on the ZIGGY’S hoodie.

Suddenly AZ leans in to ZIGGY’S EAR and whispers.

AZ

Your fangs are starting to show.

ZIGGY’S eyes go wide as she suddenly blushes and turns away just in time for RINO to see the embarrassment, but not the teeth. The football players joke to each other inaudibly about it as they make their way down the hall toward a group of cheerleaders.

ZIGGY

Oh my God! He didn’t see did he?

ZIGGY concentrates and retracts her fangs.

AZ

Oh he noticed, but not your teeth. They’re over their laughing at you for obviously crushing on him.

ZIGGY looks over to the football players who finish their jokes and start flirting with the cheerleaders.

ZIGGY

I should go…bells about to ring. See you at lunch, AZ.

The two friends part ways in the hall.

DISSOLVE TO:

QUICK MONTAGE OF ZIGGY’S CLASS LIFE

ZIGGY CHECKING OUT RINO FROM ACROSS A CLASSROOM AND SNAPPED OUT OF IT BY ANDREA, A POPULAR GIRL, AND HER FRIENDS THROWING CRUMPLED PIECES OF PAPER TO SNAP HER OUT OF IT.

ZIGGY SITTING BY THE WINDOW, LOST IN THOUGHT ABOUT RINO, AND SNAPPED OUT OF HER DAYDREAM BY MISTER O’LEARY. SHE LOOKS DOWN AT HER HAND TO SEE IT IS STARTING TO GET A RASH FROM THE SUN AND FEELS FOR THE SAME RASH ON HER NECK, COVERING IT WITH HER HAIR.

MISTER O’LEARY WRITES A NOT ABOUT ZIGGY AT HIS DESK: “RASH FROM SUNLIGHT.”

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. KITCHENevening

NATASHA IS RUBBING ALOE CREAM ON ZIGGY’S NECK RASH LIKE IT IS A SUNBURN. ZIGGY IS SITTING AT THE TABLE. THROUGH THE OPEN DOOR TO THE LIVING ROOM, BOB CAN BE SEEN WITH A REMOTE CONTROL IN HIS HAND WATCHING THE NEWS. AZ SITS BY DOING HER HOMEWORK.

NATASHA

What did I tell you about loaning BONDY your hoodie? Last time the rash was so bad, they almost sent you to the doctor. Then what would have happened?

ZIGGY rolls her eyes and answers as if she knew this argument by heart.

ZIGGY

They might have done some tests to find out why I react to sunlight and possibly figured out that I am a vampire.

BOB

What was that ZIGGY?

NATASHA goes to the open door to the living room and wiggles her fingers at BOB.

NATASHA

Nothing, Dear. Everything’s normal.

NATASHA closes the door to the living room as BOB goes back to watching television.

NATASHA

Well be more careful in the future, ZIGGY. I’ll put this lotion in the downstairs bathroom if you need it.

NATASHA disappears around a corner near the kitchen stairs.

AZ

So, I’ve been learning some Mind Magic from my mother’s coven and I am pretty sure your Mom is low-key altering BOB’s perceptions.

ZIGGY

What do you mean?

AZ

I mean does BOB know you’re a Dhampir? A half human, half vampire?

ZIGGY

Sure he does! I’ve never kept it a secret from him.

AZ

I dunno. Every time BOB even pays attention to you, your Mom seems to distract him and sense a little tingle like a spell went off…then Yeet! Off goes his attention again.

ZIGGY

No way. Mom’s not a witch. Just because she knew some back in Salem before we moved here, doesn’t mean she is one. She’s as normal as they come.

AZ

Normal huh? If I didn’t know better it was like she was making him forget things so he thinks you’re normal and so you don’t have to live in your own house keeping your secret in the closet.

ZIGGY laughs.

ZIGGY

Keeping it in the coffin is more like it. As for keeping things in the closet, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. I know I feel sexual urges…I just have never felt them about anyone particular. I’m not attracted to…anything. That’s definitely not normal.

AZ

There’s nothing wrong with having nonstandard sexual identity or preferences. Not only do you know that, but you do a great job of sticking up for BONDY…and me.

Besides, I saw how you were looking at RINO of all people. You were practically drooling, with your fangs all out and stuff.

Maybe you’re a little bit more normal than you thought…not that normal is really that normal.

ZIGGY blushes and becomes thoughtful.

ZIGGY

Normal….

NATASHA emerges through the closed door from the living room. BOB is seen having dozed off watching television. She is carrying a brown wrapped mail package.

NATASHA

I forgot to tell you, ZIGGY. Your father called.

ZIGGY perks up at the mention of her father, VOIVODE “VINCENT” WALLACHIA.

NATASHA

He sends his apologies that he can’t make it for your birthday. He’s working a big case with the Boston PD and they wouldn’t give him the time off.

ZIGGY slouches, crestfallen.

ZIGGY

This sucks. We move all the way across the country to Camano Island and this rinky dink town of yahoos…

AZ

Hey!

ZIGGY

Present company excluded, AZ. And your Mom, and her coven. All cool people.

AZ

And BONDY and the rest of the Pride at school. It’s not like you don’t have a tribe here.

ZIGGY

Sorry, AZ. I just mean there isn’t as much to do here as there was in Boston.

AZ

We have our first Boba Hut Tea Bar down town now. That’s not nothing.

ZIGGY

And this is the first time Dad has ever missed my birthday since the divorce.

NATASHA leans in and gives ZIGGY a hug.

NATASHA

VINCENT, your father, is doing his best. He does more than many divorced fathers. He pays a very handsome child support, in ancient coins no less, and if he didn’t have someone very dangerous to hunt down in Boston with the Police, you know he’d be here. It must really be important.

NATASHA slides the package across the table to a teary-eyed ZIGGY.

NATASHA

Besides, he sent you a birthday present. But he says you aren’t to open it until your 18th birthday this next week. Something about being an adult then and needing to make adult decisions and him wanting you to open your presents on your birthday like a normal person.

ZIGGY

Pfft….normal….

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. BOBA HUT TEA BAR – DAY

THE DRINK ESTABLISHMENT IS LOUD AND OBNOXIOUS LOOKING IN COLORS AND FULL OF TEENS FROM THE HIGH SCHOOL. SOME ARE DRESSED IN COSPLAY, SIMILAR TO THE ANIME CHARACTERS HOLDING BOBA TEA CUPS WITH LARGE STRAWS DECORATING THE NEON FILLED WALLS. EVERYONE IS WEARING MASKS EXCEPT AT THEIR SOCIALLY DISTANCED TABLES. BOBA HUT IS A VIBRANT OASIS OF ASIAN-AMERICAN CITY CULTURE IN A SEA OF AMERICAN PIE RURAL ISLAND LIFE.

ZIGGY gets a pair of plastic Boba Cups, full of orange thai tea, ice, and black tapioca balls.

ZIGGY

Ok, try this one. It was my favorite back in Boston.

AZ sips the orange liquid and a pair of boba up the large straw, swallows the liquid and begins chewing on the boba.

ZIGGY

That is so weird. I love it! I’m so happy they set this place up last month! I was afraid COVID would keep it from opening. Thank the Goddess we went into Phase 3.

ZIGGY nods in acknowledgement as she sips at her own straw, oblivious that AZ is watching her lips intently.

ZIGGY

And they opened it right next to the only place in this town I otherwise feel like going to outside of school.

ZIGGY and AZ in Unison

The Bookstore!

ANDREA and her popular girl friend enter Boba Hut, maskless, and no one requires them to put on face coverings. They’re dressed in expensive fashionable clothing, their parents being old money in town. ZIGGY looks at them pensive.

ZIGGY

AZ, I was thinking about what we were talking about last night. Being….normal…

AZ

What do you mean?

ZIGGY

Well, everyone at school thinks I’m the Goth kid because I don’t wear any color or anything to draw attention to myself. I cover my head with my hood to protect from the sun, the mask is an extra bonus for that. I wear sunglasses in school, thanks to permission from the Nurse. I come off very antisocial.

AZ

So? I notice you.

ZIGGY

Well, I think I finally know what attracts me…I think.

AZ

Are we talking about yesterday at school? About Rino?

ZIGGY

Yeah. I….I think I’m attracted to him. Not because he’s a cute boy, and he is cute, or because he’s a boy at all. But, because he represents…normal.

AZ

Rino’s a jock. He’s just about scoring touchdowns…and probably just about scoring in general.

ZIGGY

You don’t know anything about him. Either do I really. But, he is he high school football captain. He’s dashing. He’s cool. Everyone likes him. If I was someone that someone like that liked back…that would mean I was….normal.

AZ

I like you the way you are.

ZIGGY

I don’t. Or rather, I don’t like having to hide. And being who I am has to. I want to be normal. And I think I want Rino to like me. I think it would make me feel normal.

AZ

That’s just hiding in the closet farther, ZIGGY.

ZIGGY

I’m already in the closet. And I’m in the coffin about what I really am. I just want to actually….live. AZ, I need your help. I need you to help me be normal and get Rino’s attention. Will you do it?

AZ

You’re already pretty, ZIGGY. I’m telling you as a lesbian, you are a pretty girl. And not being normal makes you interesting. Normal is…boring.

ZIGGY leans in, taking off her sunglass, urgency in her golden-brown eyes.

ZIGGY

Please, AZ. You’re my best friend. I need your help.

AZ looks away, closes her eyes and nods.

AZ

Fine. But, I don’t have a lot of experience in that area either. I like girls, which means I can at least imagine was boys might like in girls. But I don’t have any experience trying to get their attention. And I’m a witch…it’s not like I’m out of the broom closet about that myself. So, I’m kind of in the same place.

ZIGGY

We can figure it out together. Where do we start?

AZ

I’m a witch, ZIGGY. It comes from same root word as wizard….wise. And my mom says the first place you can find wisdom is with knowledge…and the first place you can find that….is the library.

ZIGGY

The bookstore is next door. Close enough?

AZ

Close enough….

FADE OUT: (probably DISSOLVE TO: as we enter ACT 2)

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Interviewed by WOWI

As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, I was recently interviewed by the guys over at Writing On Whidbey Island (WOWI). This is a local blog and podcast on my island.

We talk about my Short Story collection (Baker’s Dozen Vol1. – Fresh Baked) from 2016 and my upcoming science fiction novel and my efforts (and the challenges during COVID) to get it traditionally published.

You can see the blog entry and hear the interview at https://writingonwhidbeyisland.com/

Check it out!

Has it really been 5 months?

Well, it’s been about 5 months since I last updated. Mostly still in some form of covid-19 shutdown. Where I live has opened up a bit and school is back in session – but entirely online for everyone grade 5 and up, restaurants are open at half capacity, and our local two screen movie theater is open 3 days a week (full deep cleans in between each showing and between each day open) at half capacity.

As for my personal life, it’s been pretty hard shut down still, though. I have significant respiratory issues and some autoimmune problems – so I can’t take a lot of chances with COVID out there.

But, work has to happen at some point and I need to put this English degree to use in the only place, other than writing, it will do much good. As such, I’m applying as a substitute teacher in a nearby school district for whenever high schoolers find their way back into the classroom. I’m anticipating that will be just after the New Year at this point, assuming the phased approach of kids going back to physical school works out.

In the world of writing, I’ve been slowly crafting my Fantasy novel in parallel with my Master’s in English and Creative Writing program from Southern New Hampshire University. I could write faster, and with all of this down time I certainly am chomping at the bit, but I feel this is a great way to directly apply my learning as I go.

The Science Fiction book is getting on more round of edits – I learned stuff in this Master’s program that I wish to apply to it. Then, I will make a final push for Agents and Publishers. The market isn’t great for traditional publishing right now though. It got hit hard with book stores having been shut down, transportation of books to book stores facing challenges, paper stocks in warehouses that weren’t considered essential being closed, and overseas supplies of paper being the source for most American printing having been closed for a while. So, the entire industry is way behind schedule even if I found an Agent.

So, should that avenue fail, I will self publish. I just want the book out there at this point and I can pursue traditional publication with the Fantasy novel when it’s done. And who knows, maybe some of you folks will tell your friends you like it and it gets enough demands for copies that an Agent and Publisher sees it worth reprinting and making some money off me.

There are wild fires all along the west coast, hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, social and political tension mounting with potential violence from either side of the aisle, and a world wide plague claiming the lives of almost 200,000 Americans at this point. America isn’t feeling so safe right now, so watch out for yourselves and your people. Stay safe Bakers and catch on the next update.

COVID-19 Lock Down Update

Here’s the latest update. Pardon me for being brief and infrequent with my posts. I anticipate things will build up more soon.

  1. My mother-in-law in Canada does not have Caronavirus – just an unrelated pneumonia, strep, and bronchitis. She’s getting the right meds and will likely be fine.
  2. I have started my Masters program in Creative Writing online at Southern New Hampshire University (the same school my oldest daughter is attended in person). This will no doubt generate some stuff I will likely share here, in terms of projects.
  3. I am making steady progress on Volume 2 of Bill Baker’s Dozen, which I am thinking of subtitling either “Pi Rack”, “I Scream Cake”, or “Quarantine Edition: Coughee Cake”. Not sure…lots of choices.
  4. My science fiction novel’s edit is coming along….slowly. It is taking so long because it is just tedious work and one of my areas of self improvement I need to work on. This isn’t story edits, it’s the mind numbing act of making sure everything is consistent and necessary. The grammar and spelling is all done and the story itself is written. I’m on the nit-picky details.
  5. The fantasy novel is developing nicely! Not more to add to that just yet news wise. Early months still on that project.

That’s about all that I can think of as a writer. But, as a reader, I am super excited that one of my writing heroes, Jim Butcher, is finally releasing not one, but TWO, Dresden Files books this year. The Wizard Detective has been absent from my reading consumption for too long! If you have not checked out that series, GO GET IT. That should keep you occupied for a while.

Until next time, be safe out there. Wash your hands. Keep your distances. And stay in contact with your loved ones for their mental health.

Obligatory COVID-19 Post

I’m fine. Nothing bad happening specifically in my life from all the caronavirus stuff…yet. Some suspicion that my wife’s mother in Canada might have it – and they won’t let her come in for testing. But, it could just be a basic bronchitis. She’s in the risky population that should be extra concerned, though – and she refuses to be. We’re keeping an eye on it.

Otherwise the world is basically stuck at home for the most part and life feels like we’re in the flashback scenes of some Young Adult dystopian novel, where they talk about what lead the nation/world to that dark and oppressive place.

Speaking of stories, don’t forget that my short story collection is out there for purchase if you’re stuck at home.

I’ve removed the ebook from the Barnes and Noble site, since I’ve never had a sale there, and as soon as that’s delisted, I’ll be signing up for Kindle Direct Publishing’s ability to have sales on my stuff. You can’t sign up for that if your ebook is available somewhere else.

When that goes through, I’m planning on marking the short story collection down to make it cheaper during these hard socio-economic times to buy…maybe for a month or two.

Watch here for a sales announcement.

Untitled Poem (by me)

From within nebulous gradients
Creeps countless horrors grey
Innumerate and unyielding all
Lurking eidelons, misty they

Ephemeral, we witness them
Disbelieving our Godly gifts
Assiduousness, blind eyes turned
Abiding, seeking our shrifts

To rend them from us nocturnally
Whispered from trembling lips
Exposing us and hidden desires
Far beyond our fingertips

We grasping for lost causes
Lost causes grasping for us
Till ash returns to ash
And dust returns to dust

Back to the Books!

So, I thought I’d just pop in and give an update on where I am with writing at the moment.

About a year and a half ago, I finished writing my first novel – a sci-fi hard boiled detective adventure. It is intended to be the first book in a series of, hopefully, six.

I haven’t had any luck finding an agent or a traditional publisher, though admittedly, I’ve probably put a C+/B- effort into that so far. But, it is a very emotional and challenging thing to do being willing to receive rejection that much.

I have found a publisher I feel good about that I am getting ready to submit it to. But, in this last ditch effort to traditionally publish before I self publish the book on Amazon Kindle and Amazon Paperback; I’ve decided to have the book looked at one more time and have hired an editor to look through it and give me feedback. I’ve already had it looked at by a group of beta writers with limited feedback.

But, I want to put in my absolute best foot forward on this last publisher. If it doesn’t work out with them, at least I will have a better sense that I’m releasing a quality book on my own when the time comes.

In other writing news, I’ve had a Fantasy book series churning in my head lately. I’ve been world building a blended “high” and “low” fantasy setting since the late 1980s, adjusting it and crafting it and changing it over and over again. I have told many stories on tabletop RPG in that world. So, I decided to write a book series set in my created fantasy setting. But, I am also going to be taking my time on it. I’m taking what I have learned as a writer and what I know now as a 45 year old (instead of the 15 – 44 year old who built that world until now) to completely reboot the craft of that world…cleaning it up and prepping it for the book series.

I have already plotted out a high level six book series arc for it at the moment. That might change and get tighter. It might grow. Who knows?

But, between editing and finally getting the last book out into the world (one way or another), continuing to craft the second book in the sci-fi series, and now starting on the fantasy setting…I have a lot to do.

Every once and a while, I’ll probably write a short story again here and there and release a second short story collection.

I’ll update as it all comes together. Please keep an eye out.

Love to all my handful of supporters, beta readers, my editor Natalie, and my wife S.A.M.

Sincerely,

W. Garrett Mobley
Aka William Boulanger (author)

Update and Story: The Next Turn

UPDATE: This is a short story I had written as an entry to the L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future contest. It did not win, as most obviously don’t. But, I was proud of the story and wanted to share it with you. If you like this story and want to see other writings I’ve done so far, go check out my first Short Story collection “Bill Baker’s Dozen Vol. 1 – Fresh Baked” (under my name as the Author…my last name means “baker” and I thought it cute to include in the “Baker’s Dozen”) and keep an eye out for an eventual second volume that I will self publish which will include the below story.

I also have a science fiction detective novel I’m in the process of hunting for an traditional print Agent and Publisher for. I’ve been looking for about a year (not full time, because I sadly have a life outside of writing). Failing to find one by the end of the year I will likely self publish it.

So, here we go…

STORY:

The Next Turn

by William Boulanger

Jun NicKeen remembered the last flying of the Turn. She remembered being a little redheaded girl made fun of by the other Asiatic kids because of the strange color, which she got from her mother Keen NicSage. She had never been made fun of for it before kindergarten and she remembered the shame was a new sensation – that’s how she marked the date of the last flying of the Turn.

She also recalled the sight of them, rising from the clouds at the base Asiat City, as they flapped the flipper arms with impossible grace to elevate them upward toward the blue sky, many with heavy deposits of what the television announcers called Earth, from which large plants grew in a way that look unlike any of the fungus or moss she’d seen from the depths of the city, where her father worked from an office managing janitors and Repairmen.

No one knew where they flew to as they rose up into the heavens, though some have claimed to have seen them return in smaller numbers in the night, sinking below the cloud base that the ancient city rose out of. But no one believed them. They said when the Turn left, they were gone forever – only for another generation to ascend roughly two decades later.

The ancient lantern festival to welcome the Turn was just days away. Skiff pilots near the clouds had seen the Turn near the surface, hunting the Oni-Fuka, wild sharks the fishermen usually catch to provide meat to the city’s residences. The traditions say that when the fishers begin to see the Turn, it is only days until they fly.

Now warned, the lanterns needed to be painted in the traditional method. Jun’s mother, Keen, had taught her how to do it as a child, having learned it in the previous flying of the Turn herself.

“Jun,” she had told her, “I am so excited for your first lantern festival. It’s only my second, unlike your father. We don’t celebrate with lanterns in my city. This is so much fun.”

“What do you do in your city?” Jun recalled asking her mother in wonder. Okaasan was from the Westerlands, in a city called na h-Alba. She rarely spoke of her city or her people, nor how she had met her father.

“We would burn the Clavie and dance around it as the Turn flew by.” She explained. “Clavie are barrels made of trees found deep in the clouds, discarded by the Turn as they fly away.”

“What are trees?” she remembered asking, to which her mother showed a tattoo on her arm. Jun did not understand what she was seeing until she had seen it again upon the shelled back of a Turn. The giant green creature was magical in its flight. But the tree on its back did not droop all the way down and wrap into the roots that held it to the earth on its back.

Her mother explained this was because the tattoo on her arm was an ancient mark of her people, that told of the cycle of life and the connection of all things. “Like In and Yo!”

“Yes.” Her mother had rewarded her with a Wester-cookie of baked dough and chocolate chips as they watched the paper lantern covered in depictions of Turns float glowing into the sky with the beasts.

Jun was a woman now, almost 26 years old. She knelt in front of the small shrine for her mother, with the black and white photo of her Okaasan painted into color and the smell of incense burning.

At the end of her prayer she clapped her hands together twice, indicating she was done with her whispered remembrance of her dead mother. Then, her familial duty complete, she went out to the balcony to prepare to launch her lantern for that year’s festival.

She had no children to share this festival with, a fact her father disapproved of. Already in her early twenties, she not only hadn’t married, but had chosen to go to University – as had become common for unmarried women of her generation.

Jun looked down from her balcony alone, her father celebrating with his friends at the local izakaya – a pub of sorts that she learned was like what they had in her mother’s homeland, where they served free food called “tapas” while you drank beer that was very different than that of her city.

At the base of the city, below the forbidden levels long since abandoned to prehistory, the rolling clouds crept in all directions to the horizon. A large cloud-ship drifted between the skyscrapers, no doubt full of tourists. Normally such ships were used for Oni-Fuka watching and the tourists would keep an eye out for the large sharks to crest out above the mist.

But, today, they were waiting to get close ups of the Turn.

“What a waste of Yen-Yaun.” Jun commented to herself. “But what do you expect from Basement Dwellers?”

Everywhere in Asiat would get a good look at the Turn in flight except those who lived just below the cloud line. People there were so rural and provincial – harvesting the lichen and moss growing on the old pipes coming from the forbidden undercity and operating the massive hydroponic farms that provided all of the vegetable and fruit produce.

Scientists said that most of that could be grown above cloud – in the light of the sun – without using nearly as many resources. But, above the clouds were for urbanites and people of culture and not those who’d grown used to the artificial ultraviolet farm lights and otherwise lived in the fluorescent lights of homes without blocked windows.

Between the Sharkers and the Dwellers, Jun and the elite were able to have the good life, a life her father had worked hard to provide her through his work at the Company, managing the systems power and outfitting the adventurous Repairmen who delved into the forbidden city to keep the ancient systems in operation – many of whom did not come back alive due to what Jun’s father called “classified dangers.”

Jun thought about her Okaasan again. “Mother, you wouldn’t approve of me thinking poorly of Dwellers and Sharkers. You said they were honorable ways to live in your city.”

She was of two heritages but knew very little of those of her mother’s city, where they worshiped the sustenance provided by their undercity and told stories of a bottom deep below whence the Turn lived on a substance like the earth they carried on their back – in forests of ancient trees.

Horns began to blow from the lower depths of the city, echoing off the building walls. The horns grew in a cacophony, warning of the rising of the Turn.

“Okaasan,” Jun prayed as she made a decision, “forgive me for my ill thoughts to the Dwellers and the Sharkers. Watch over them and the Repairmen who delve deep. Help me to use my new education to find a way to honor the Turn and their home.”

Two claps and she lit the lantern. Shadows grew from the clouds far below.

Jun released the lantern so that it and her wishes, in line with the traditions of her father’s people, would rise to the heavens with the Turn to be blessed by the Gods.

Then they began to emerge! Long and oval, the Turn began to slip out of the clouds. Their shells were streamlined, with colors ranging from olive-green, to yellow, to browns and blacks. Their large limbs, like the flippers Jun wore at the rooftop pools on campus, flapped in the wind with impossible grace. A nubby tail stuck out from each shell, beyond the rear limbs, scaled like the heads with their black beaded eyes.

They made no sound of their own as they flew. Only the creaking of the trees upon their back interrupted the silence that followed the heralding horns. That and the gusts of wind as they pushed upward into the sky.

Somewhere down below, if her mother’s legends could be believed, there were shells of Turns yet to be born, like snake eggs grown by the Dwellers. Somewhere on the surface of a sub-cumulous world of legend.

Jun watched in wonder as they soared up and up above the buildings toward the sun amidst lantern after lantern – a sight that would become even more brilliant as the sun set and the Turn continued to emerge for days on end.

She made a vow to match her prayer. She would finish her degree as a power-maintenance engineer. But, unlike her father who operated from the safety of an office, she would join the ranks of the Repairmen – something no woman had done – and she would go deeper than any other and find the truth below. She would go and meet the Gods of her mother.

End

White Screen of Death

Well, it has been a while since I last posted. But, as a fairly uninformed user of WordPress, I keep my set up pretty simple – despite that I have become the latest victim of the White Screen of Death. An issue I couldn’t figure out for a while.

But, resolved, I am now able to post again. Keep an eye out soon for a short story coming your way.