108,000 Words

25 Apr

Looking back at my blog stream, I can see that it was over a year ago now that I reported I’d reached the 80,000-word landmark in my Work-in-Progress No.1 (see here). And now I find that in the intervening time I’ve added a mere 28,000 more. Life’s stresses and the rigours of work have sapped inspiration and motivation, to a degree. It’s not quite as bad as it sounds, though. Much of what I’ve been doing has concerned shaping the manuscript’s rather unusual structure and making sure that all of its constituent pieces cohere. It takes time, you know, creating a cast of over five thousand and inventing a language. Yes, I like to set myself a challenge… If I get my act together, a finished piece ought to be achievable by the end of the year. I shall then unleash it on my small band of readers. I’m also toying with an internet serialisation of the manuscript, since I suspect that it may lend itself to such an enterprise.

An image from said work...

An image from said work…

It’s also noteworthy that my writing friend, J Huw Evans and I are re-instituting the writing group that we joined ten years ago. It fizzled out for all sorts of reasons around five years ago. I have produced a great deal of work in the last two and a half years over which nobody has cast an eye and Huw needs an incentive to get writing again. It seemed that the time was right.

Anyway, here’s an extract from WiP No. 1 that you may critique if you wish.

Now imagine this.  Instead of boarding the train, you’ve chosen to remain behind and take your chances, staying on in one of those suburban villas in Ooskr or Kedruus’s North Central district.  We must give you a name – Torkvil, perhaps – why not?  Obviously, you’re already regretting your decision.  What will we find there? 

In all likelihood, all of your neighbours have left.  To begin with, you’re pretty much alone.  The elderly and sick in the houses around you won’t see out the winter.  Diarrhoea and bronchitis are rife.  The city’s infrastructure has collapsed.  The hospitals are closed.  All of the doctors have gone abroad.  Public transport has ground to a halt.  Waste collection has stopped.  Utilities are no longer provided.  You have no running water or drainage.  There’s no domestic electricity, no street lighting.  Nighttimes are the worst.  Imagination runs wild.  Is that someone watching from the street outside?  Is there somebody on the stair?  The police force has disbanded.  Perhaps, given time, a citizens’ militia of some kind will emerge.  Or maybe there’ll be vigilantes and lynch mobs marauding through the streets.  Maybe there’ll be nothing but lawlessness and chaos, total social breakdown. 

There are no shops from which to buy food.  You have to forage, to scavenge, to loot.  You’ll have to turn the walled garden over to vegetables.  The ornamental trees and shrubs are long gone, cut down for firewood to see you through that first winter (most of your furniture has met a similar end).  You’ll sow potatoes, beetroot, cabbage, the sorts of crop that might survive Noorii’s short growing season and hard frosts.  Will they be fit to eat, though, or will the soil still be poisoned?  Perhaps you’ll start to keep chickens or pigs, if it’s possible to obtain such things.  Maybe opportunistic peasant farmers will come into town on their horses and carts, bartering meat and vegetables in exchange for your valuables.  You have to harvest the rainwater.  In some ways, your existence will not be so very different from our own.  You’ll have to make your own tallow candles.  Your clothes and shoes will come from raids on the wardrobes of uninhabited houses. 

Over time, people will move into those abandoned villas.  You’ll no longer be alone.  They’ll turn into squats.  Itinerants, lunatics, vagrants, petty criminals… these then are your new neighbours. 

And where will materials be found to stave off the structural collapse of your own villa?  You’ll have to cannibalise the surrounding properties for roof tiles, barge boards and window panes.  Paint and nails you’ll have to acquire wherever you can, from forgotten sheds and lock-ups, from empty factory premises.  The smart district in which you live will have become almost unrecognisable.  It will resemble an inner city slum.  All the shop fronts in the local parade have been smashed in.  A rusting trolej or trolleybus has stopped in the street outside.  There’s no glass left in its windows and the seats have all been ripped out.  The floor has become invisible beneath a layer of empty beer cans and vodka bottles, discarded articles of clothing and used condoms.  Drifts of detritus blow through the streets on vicious winds.  The villas are falling down, windows boarded up, slates missing, doors kicked in.  Everywhere there are rats and stray dogs.  Ask yourself, then – is this what you stayed for? 

It’s the exact picture that Haarald Halvmanis has imagined, on many occasions.  He has good cause.  His twin sister, Haana-Lottii, elected to stay on.  Halvmanis has not heard from her since.  And so here he is, alone in Compartment 38F-4. 

All text and images © PSR 2015

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2 Responses to “108,000 Words”

  1. Mari Biella April 27, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    A cast of over five thousand and a language? That’s what I call ambition, Paul! Good luck with knocking it into shape. It sounds intriguing – as does the possibility of internet serialisation. I’ll look forward to hearing more…

  2. Paul Sutton Reeves April 27, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

    Hi Mari and thanks for commenting. If the book fails then it’ll go down in a blaze of glory! Not that anyone will notice. Ho hum. We have to aspire, don’t we?

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