I'd read somewhere that sometimes, it’s a good idea to work on two different projects at the same time...
Two projects at once: the one can feed from the other. The other can procrastinate from the one. Or something like that. I wasn't sure how useful this was going to be, but I certainly was going to try it.
I’d been working on a novel project for a while. I called it Tides of Cathedrals. It was set in a far future, on a planet named Cathedrals—a planet with considerable tides, allegedly. Note that the title is still evolving, and so is the story to this day. But that’s another story.
Another story. Exactly.
I like to dabble with new ideas. Maybe it was during my morning pages, maybe not, but something brand new appeared out of nowhere. Just playing, just having a bit of fun: a little snippet, a fragment, maybe the intro to a new story. I didn’t know how it would turn up at the time, nor did I need to know right away.
I like to call this thing by its first words: So they left. Eventually, So they left became the first seed of my current novel project, Seven Drifts. Not the little bit of text itself, but the idea behind it.
I’m pasting it below. As is—or rather, mostly as it was, with only a few edits.
One must always manage one's expectations when it comes to first drafts. Same here: it goes in circles as it starts, looking for a direction before it finds its stride. And towards the end, with no idea where to go from there, it plants a little hook, an opening for an eventual story to take place.
So They Left was just a snippet of untidy prose, but I kind of liked it. Something about it felt like it was working for me, because it fueled my creative juices each time I read it.
But I wasn’t going to consider this a short story in its own right. To me, it was only a disconnected bit of narration, like someone introducing a story, maybe, or a kind of idea for a prologue, or something. In any case, I felt it could have a whole brand new story attached to it.
Whatever I chose to make of it, and no matter of much beginner-level it was, I decided I was proud of my little snippet of story intro. I allowed it to percolate somewhere in a corner of my mind—and hard drive. But I was definitely hooked. The little snippet of a budding story felt like it had potential. I wanted to make something of it.
Months later, something else clicked: what if this budding story idea was in fact the past - and reason - for the other story I had been working on?
The notion got me excited! I could have two storylines, one taking place in the past of the other. Let’s say, a few centuries earlier. The past (So They Left) could inform the present (Tides of Cath) in many exciting ways. Or I could just go for a series of novels.
That too, my dear friends, is a story for another day.
Note: please keep in mind that what you're about to read, So They Left, came well before all my subsequent work on my current project, Seven Drifts. The story project has evolved a lot since then. A lot! It keeps doing so, and it has yet a lot of evolving headed its way before it approaches the time where it will be ready for release. Don’t take any of what you read for granted! (For instance, the main character from Seven Drifts, the protagonist, isn't even mentioned in So They Left. She sprung to existence much later in the creative process.)
So, here it comes…
So they left. They took their leave. Please do not contact again. Kind of romantic. And they built a city of green and glass. The city hovered there for a few centuries, then rose to the skies and left. It is said the city accelerated evenly for a hundred years, then turned around and went about accelerating in the opposite direction for another hundred years. After two centuries, they were down to slow again. They had changed neighborhoods.
Problem was, there was nothing to be seen where they had ended-up. They were floating in the middle of nothing and nowhere, not a sun to be seen nearby, and no means of leaving anytime soon because the main drive of their city starship was damaged.
After waking up, the mayor wondered if their plan had gone awry. But no, they had gone exactly where they had planned to go. Only there was nothing there, or so it seemed. After a few dozen commissions, debates and even elections, and important people resigning from office, the fact remained all around them: emptiness. They floated in void.
There came a time when people got used to the idea of just living their lives as they had done for years, in their beloved city in the middle of nowhere. They reconfigured it so that with some rotation, they had nice rotational gravity, and ample supplies of energy exploited from the local sources: long range stellar winds, quantum foam, tokamak fusion. Who was ever to complain?
With the idea gone of ever moving again, there was less to fight about, so they lived in peace, turning their attention to more interesting things, like politics, sex scandals, arts and fine dining.
Only a few remained, who still thought about their predicament from time to time. One such was Felipe Crasotte. He couldn’t wrap his mind around the facts: the voyage was supposed to bring them to a bright new world, and at the end of the day, the bright new world was just not there. What could have happened? Nothing in the navigation logs ever hinted to a change of plan. According to them, they were exactly where they had planned to be. Where was the star they had sought, with its welcoming planetary system? Vanished without a trace? Hidden from the city's eyes, and from all her sensory systems?
Crasotte, under cover of a successful career as an artisan, hiding in his back-office, concealing his work from prying eyes under piles of working materials, spent his nights mulling over the logs and historical data. He reviewed all the intrigues, from before the voyage, during the voyage, and the current intrigues. Intrigues at all times, everywhere, about all aspects of the city: its inception, its birth, its very existence, its destination, its population, its goal. And most of all, its politics.
Data tended to crumble when looked at. It was just as if some of it had been planted after the fact, while some other parts had been tampered with, erased, re-created, and then booby-trapped to alter periodically. It was a bloody mess. But given time and attention, Crasotte was able to shed some light on a few aspects which had been eluding him for years.
And then he died. Suddenly, in an accident. His succession took all his research, which he had hidden in this wooden trunk he had made himself with his own hands…
“… On the trunk are carved scenes from the gathering, the birth of the city, the exodus, the mid-point with all its dangers, the arrival, the upheaval, the reform, the new ages. Take a close look, they are everywhere, even down there, near the bottom.”
There they were.
“You are inheritor of the family’s belongings now. The last great-granddaughter—“
“Madam... Crasotte, where would you like the legacy placed? In your attic?"
And so it was that Leona Crasotte came upon the treasure chest of her great-grandfather Felipe. It was a beautiful work of craft. The lock was nothing if quasi magical. Without the key, one could not open the chest for his life without destroying the whole content, and probably parts of the neighborhood as well.
Leona Crasotte pondered for a long time. She appreciated the fine craftsmanship of the carvings, she admired their beautiful and vivid colors. Finally, she placed a drape over the chest, then an assortment of wooden planks—an old door, and used it as the long, low table in her largest living room.
“Between your hands lies the truth about our beloved city. Do not treat it lightly.” Agreed, she wouldn’t, but on the other hand, she didn’t know what else to do.
With time, she forgot about her great-grandfather’s struggles, and his will.
Years went by.
Until she met your friend.
What can I say, he was tall, he was dark. Kind of handsome in a weathered way... and she saw a dose of mystery at the bottom of his eyes.
BEFORE YOU GO...
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