Insider [Flash Fiction]

In the spaces between my shallow breaths, I heard someone moving around the house. I knew, rationally, that my heartbeats weren’t audible to any ears besides my own, but I worried that my increasing panic would lead to hyperventilation and the kind of wheezing, huffing, gasping for air that would wrack my entire body with convulsive shudders, making me knock against the precariously stacked shelves of the storeroom I was hiding in; not only would the air passing through my constricting throat move my vocal cords, but, most likely, a whole slew of boxes, bottles and dusty bits of machinery would fall down on me, giving away my location.

I counted to myself, looking at the seconds moving on my digital watch, for once blessing my age-old habit of going to bed with it, a habit that my husband hated. I breathed in for two seconds, let the air out for three – the goal was to reach four seconds in and eight out, achieving maximum calm and minimal panic, but I was only human, after all, and someone was prowling around out there, looking for me.

Graham wasn’t home; he was on a rare business trip. He hated them and tried, whenever possible, to send our son, Graham Junior, in his stead. Junior actually liked the travel, the plane rides, the novelty of staying in hotels alone and getting to be the big boss among the small fry. Graham never really liked that stuff, and he still teases me sometimes that Junior isn’t really his son, because where did he get his outgoing streak? Maybe he got it from my side of the family, I tell him. Hiding in the closet, I was thinking about how convenient it was that Junior was spending the night with his new girlfriend and not at home. Junior isn’t nearly as outgoing as his father likes to think he is.

A tinkling sound, following by a soft rip made me lose track of my measured breaths and I felt the pins and needles begin to crawl up my fingers and toes as I started to hyperventilate. I opened my eyes wide and forced myself to track the seconds on my watch again – 00:03:26 – 00:03:27 – breathe in – 28, 29, 30 – breathe out. The intruder, whoever he was, was being careful. He was looking for something. The sounds I’d heard – I tried to figure them out. The first was probably my perfume bottles – my one concession to vanity; working in a hospital, I’ve come to appreciate being surrounded by a scent of something that isn’t death, pus, ooze, urine, feces or antibacterial hand wash. The second sound, the rip… That was harder to figure out and it made me very nervous.

A creak. A groan. That was the floor near my hiding place and a voice, the voice of someone who wasn’t aware of the loose floorboard and twisted an ankle in it. Even very rich people get lazy about house repairs, I thought sardonically, noticing with pride that my breathing was slowing and that I could afford to make it a smidgen shallower and thus quieter. The door I was behind was locked, of course, with the key inside it on my end. I had not even the tiniest bit of curiosity as to what the intruder looked like. I simply wanted him to think that the house was empty and to leave.

Graham and I have gotten death threats before. We both do work that’s controversial, in its own way, and there are many people who don’t like the wealthy in this day and age. I can’t blame them for it, though their discontent doesn’t excuse their bad behavior, nor does it allow them to ignore the fact that we are human beings with rights as well. We pay our taxes and perform our social and public duties and shouldn’t be attacked. But high powered couples are always seen as somewhat problematic and Graham and I have always been aware of it and have fought our battles together or alone, as need and our lawyers deemed fit. We are not sentimental about such things. But I know that this break-in is about me, because this is the first time that I have had a secret. My family knows nothing of it, nor does anyone else.

Except someone does, apparently, know. Someone, walking around my house that night, knew. He knew, and he was going to do something about it. I stood in my closet and counted breaths, quietly, determined not to be heard.

Ready… Set… Write!

Okay, so this post might just have the single most corny title I’ve ever written. I hope you’ll all forgive me for it, because it’s actually reflecting what my feeling has been since this morning.

NaNoWriMo is starting tomorrow – so one minute after midnight, I am going to start writing, and hopefully get to my entire word count before going to bed. This is the second year I’m participating in NaNoWriMo,while last year I was living at home, someone else was doing my laundry, and I had very little that I needed to do besides write, this year I have so much to do that the 1667 words I need to write a day seem extremely daunting and threatening.

Unlike last year, I haven’t created an outline for my novel. I have a cast of characters, and I know, in general, what I want them to deal with. I know some of their motives, some of their histories, some of their attitudes and voices, and that’s helpful, but I don’t know where I want them all to end up, so I’m very unclear about where they’re going exactly. But that’s exciting – writing is, for me, a lot like reading in that I discover things along the way.

I’m writing literary fiction this year rather than steampunk/fantasy, so that’s going to be very different as well, since I feel that I write the genres quite differently.

It also happens to be Halloween today. I didn’t dress up as anything, and I probably won’t, since I feel like I’m storing up all my creativity for 00:01AM tonight when I start writing. I really feel like I’ve spent the past couple weeks crouching low, ready for the gunshot that will announce that the race is on. It’s strange.

Finally, let me end this extremely disorganized and badly composed post by saying that I will probably be posting to my blog less in the coming month because of NaNoWriMo. However, I succeeded in posting every single day of October! Huzzah!

Carried Away

I’ve recently discovered two authors that I’m falling in love with. The first is P. D. James, the Englishwoman who produces fabulously intricate crime novels; the second is Mr. Charles de Lint, a master of urban fantasy novels. Both of them have swept me up and have whirled me about until I’m giddy with wonder. Their novels have absolutely nothing in common, mind you, I’ve simply discovered both authors around the same period of time.

What they do have in common, however, is that incredible and indescribable magic that pulls me into their worlds from the very first page. The first words of the first page draw me in completely, engaging my senses and imagination from the very start and holding me tightly. It becomes so that I walk around doing everything with my nose buried in the book – emptying the dishwasher, making breakfast, walking to do errands… I can’t for the life of me put down the books. I find myself making excuses to stand around the kitchen making coffee just so I can keep reading instead of turning to another activity.

I love discovering new authors that carry me away completely in this fashion. I get so excited when I realize how many more books they’ve written and how much more I have to look forward to. Have any of you recently discovered anyone new and exciting to you?

After a Separation

I missed reading fantasy.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed reading Jane Austen more than I can say. I adored the snide remarks and hidden humor and the endless subtle sarcasm that permeates her language and her characters. I adored the descriptions of situations and the way she mocked them so thoroughly without ever once denouncing them obviously. I love reading books about the real world, with characters that were believable and made sense and in whose shoes I could put myself.

But the rapture, the utter ecstasy of losing oneself in a world so extremely foreign from one’s own – that is something I will never be able to give up. Letting my mind run rampant in forests, encircle itself with magic, leap up on horses and grapple with an enemy – all those things I let myself get immersed in as I delve into the latest installment of whichever fantasy novel I’m reading; those things bring magic into my life.

I really, truly, missed reading fantasy.