Saturday, September 22, 2012

Swanmaiden's Blues Pt 2

Note: this was an attempt at writing a modern fantasy short story I made several attempts at in 2010 and 2011. It took forever, I revised every sentence three or four times. I gave up in resignation. It's overwritten and cheaply melodramatic.

But looking back at it now, it's not all-together terrible, so I'm going to post it as is as a spur to myself in the run-up to National Novel Writing Month. Any constructive criticism gratefully accepted.

Thanks for reading. :-)


Lying on the grass, her head propped on her hands, the Swan watches the herons fish. She follows the fluent signs of sun and trees on the the water, listens to the glitches and hiccups of song-birds in the branches above.

The Swan learns forward to observe her shadow in the river. It flickers and shudders with the flow. Contemplating the disquiet of the water, she does not notice the other shadows appearing over the stream.

A man's voice, repeating the Swan's alias several times, calling her back to another century. A tentative hand on her shoulder. The Swan pulls away in readiness. She could drive her elbow back as hard as she can, kick in him in the knees as he hits the floor, then...

Yet the Swan takes the human option. She turns and talks.

Since the Swan has a job, ipso facto, she has a manager. This is Sig – a red-headed six foot three of Scots-Scando genes, ripped jeans and several too many Krispy Kremes. The tiny alley, with its high walls and pinhole camera view of the night, gives him no choice but to loom, but his face is kindly and his hands are open.

Am I back on already?” she asks with a slight tremolo in her voice.

That depends.” Worn out by shouting over the music inside, the reply is softly spoken. “Do you need more time?”

He looks at her as if trying to understand. Sig's been doing a lot of that recently, the Swan realises. She tries to decide if sympathy is the first or the last thing she needs right now.

Control. Always control.

It's been a bad day.” she forces out at last.

Do you want to call it a night? Make it up another time?”

No!” The Swan responds with such force that it takes her by surprise. She takes a deep breath, and repeats for emphasis. “No. It's nothing that work can't take my mind off”

He looks sceptical, but after a long measured look says nothing but “Okay. Back in five, then?”

The Swan nods in mute agreement and he returns inside, ducking his head to fit under the doorframe as he vanishes. She watches him as he goes, aware that something – something new - is wrong.

Wherever the Swan's been, down the years, there's always someone with enough of a sense for the Other to spot that there's something not quite right about her. Even in London, where Uncanny Valley pretty much has its own tube station, stand still long enough and they will single you out.

This time it was Sig. When they first met, the Swan had written him off as someone with no more up top than an encyclopediac knowledge of thrash metal and Zone One chinese takeaways. But she found herself, against her usual policy, telling him as much as she had thought he could cope with, when he finally asked after a year and more than a couple of rounds of after-hours tequila.

Sounds like a case of PTSD,” he'd told the Swan as they'd staggered through Soho to catch the first trains home. “A lot of boys coming back from the sandpit with crazy memories. Handle with care. Don't push their buttons. Give them time to get over it.”

Time!” cackled the Swan through harsh peals of laughter echoing across the dawn-smeared streets of Soho. “Time … get ...over it” she gasped, refusing to be drawn on exactly what was so bitterly funny.

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