This whole writing thing is still new to me. Admittedly, I’ve never had trouble in any of my English classes, and never hated the act itself, but it never occurred to me that I would enjoy it.
It has been about a year now since I started writing actively in various forms, and I finally took the plunge with writing fiction for the very first time.
It was the most difficult thing I’ve written in my life.
If you are a writer and have never written fiction, I would encourage it wholeheartedly. I probably learned more about writing in these last few weeks than in the past year.
It made me question a lot of things that I had taken for granted as a reader: How do I create the right pacing? How do I slow things down or speed things up? When do I need to be detailed, and when do I need to be simple and clean? How often do I need to throw in a character’s name before all the pronouns get confusing? What do I do if I don’t want a character to have a name? How do I structure dialogue? How much back story should I explain – should I tell it all in one go, or spread it out throughout? And how should I tell it?
Every step of the way, I had another question that I had to wrestle with. Ah, the perks of diving in without any preparation. In hindsight, it was probably the best thing to do.
Honestly, the plot was the easy part. Although I did go back to revise it over and over again, editing wasn’t as painful either, since I’ve been doing it so often here for the past year. Vomiting out my thoughts and cleaning them up have become sort of a routine. Wiping away huge chunks of brilliant descriptions and clever sentences? No problem!
I should probably get my stomach checked.
As with all creative mediums, you appreciate the artist’s work all the more after you see what it takes to make it happen. Every word, every sentence, and every punctuation mark has thought put into it. Just as every detail in a film is present for a purpose, so is every letter in a piece of fiction.
I’m not completely satisfied with it, but I know I need to move on – and I’m proud that I got this far.
So here it is.
If you want to read it in a magazine format, with some mood-setting background, you can read it here in Issue 9 of GameOn’s WildStar Community Magazine (it starts at page 24). Otherwise, I have posted it below:
Disclaimer: This takes place in the world of WildStar. Some things may be unclear to those unfamiliar with the backstory of the game. If you are, I hope that you catch some subtle details in the story. Enjoy!
Life Beyond Death
Some say I was lucky — to survive was a miracle.
But that luck came with a heavy price.
Orvel moves quietly behind the bushes, stepping carefully to avoid being heard. The night is warm and pleasant; the air, pungent with the smell of lush wildlife. The moonlight washes over the jungle with a soft, white glow, casting deep pockets of light through the thick branches. It is a surreal scene, as if it was hand-crafted by the gods themselves.
His life-scanner was useless here; there was just too much of it. He had put it away, resorting to the old-fashioned methods he had learned in his youth. Back home, hunting had been his specialty. But, that was a long time ago, and this was far from Grismara.
He watches the thick grass carefully for signs of disturbance, all of his senses alert at peak capacity. His surgically enhanced nasal senses pick up the distinctive, unwashed smell of his prey.
“I swear. Somebody sent me,” said a quivering voice.
Orvel becomes still and listens. He had found his mark, and it was just as he had hoped.
“I can take you to him. Please, don’t hurt me!”
Orvel remains crouched and still, slowing his breathing to minimize his presence. He hears the sound of female laughter. Then abrupt silence.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Orvel approaches slowly, visually scanning the surrounding trees and bushes for the source of the mysterious laughter. A man lies on the ground in tattered clothes, eyes shut tight, bloodied and in pain. One hand is held against his open chest wound, and the other is clutched tightly around a crumpled piece of parchment.
It was the map Orvel had given him.
“How unfortunate, human,” Orvel says, stepping closer, fixing his eyes on the wounded man. “She left you to bleed.”
The man’s eyes snap open, startled by the new presence. He looks around frantically until it finds Orvel’s face. His eyes widen in a moment of realization. “You… you Mordesh scum…” he says with ragged breath. “You led me to this…”
Orvel frowns at the remarks. He stops next to the man, speaking down to him. “No, human. I had only suggested.” He crouches down and looks at him evenly. “It was you who took the bait.”
“You never meant for me to return…” the man whispers softly.
Orvel does not respond, but gently lifts the man’s limp arm from his chest. He quietly and quickly traces his fingers down the wound stretching cleanly from the man’s upper chest to his stomach. “A sword wound…and clean,” he says, lost in his own thoughts.
The man lays his head on the ground, groaning, and closes his eyes. “So, it was all a lie…this water…of life…” His other hand releases his grip on the parchment as if it had lost all of its value.
“No,” Orvel replies quickly as he recovers the map. “It must be true.” He stops for a moment and looks up into the dense canopy of enormous leaves and impossibly thick branches.
“Just look around you, human. Have you seen anything like it in the entire galaxy?” His eyes light up with wonder at the thought of being one of the few living sentients to witness such a sight. “Something must sustain it. Perhaps it can even give you a second chance.” He looks back down to the human, whose eyes have started to glaze over. “Perhaps. If you last long enough.”
Orvel notices something, and pulls on a thin strand stuck to the man’s sticky torso – a strand of long, black hair. He pulls out a tube filled with clear, viscous fluid. “Tell me. Which way did she go?” he asks, carefully lowering the hair into the tube.
The human coughs violently as he regains consciousness. His eyes wander back to Orvel’s face. The man grips Orvel’s forearm weakly. “The people… they will not let you get away with this. Do you think you will stay free forever?”
A sudden expression of rage flashes across Orvel’s face as he grabs the human by the collar, pulling him close. “I am already bound, scavenger! Do you not see?” Orvel growls intensely and forces the man’s face near his own — a face, once flushed with color and life, now dull and grey; his vital functions held together solely by the grace of technology. The human stares, wide-eyed with fear as he struggles violently, clutching at Orvel’s arms.
“I thought I had sensed another,” a voice speaks from behind. Orvel catches a reflection moving in the man’s eyes. “…and it smells of death,” it continues. Quickly, Orvel spins back onto his feet, dropping the human to the ground.
It was the woman. She was tall — nearly as tall as he was. Barely clad in armor or clothing, her well-defined musculature exuded strength and confidence. She takes slow, full, confident steps towards them as if not to startle her prey.
“Why are you here, tall one?” Her eyes stay locked on Orvel’s at all times, an over-sized sword held out to her side. He steps back cautiously as the woman approaches, away from the human and toward the trail he emerged from.
She stops next to the wounded man and looks down at the whimpering figure. “Do you wish to share the same fate as this one?” The man’s eyes widen in sudden fear as she drops the entire weight of her sword, straight through his chest.
“He owed me a debt,” Orvel says cautiously, watching the woman closely as the man’s pained expression slowly changes to one of resignation. “I came to recover it.”
“You are in sacred ground, outsider. None but those who serve Vitara are welcome here.” She raises her blade and settles into a fighting stance.
Orvel continues to step away slowly, until his back meets something sharp. He sees the silhouette of another warrior in the shadows, female as well. The local rumors were true, it seemed — the mysterious “Sisterhood” who guards that which he seeks. He must be close.
“Well played…Sisters,” Orvel speaks slowly, buying time, his mind churning fast. His eyes flicker left to right, quickly scanning his surroundings. With a quick intake of breath, he presses a switch embedded into the side of his gloved finger with his thumb, releasing a disorienting burst of pulsating energy. He rolls out of striking reach as the sisters quickly recover. As he dashes away, he releases a handful of attack probes and sees them being quickly dispatched as he runs out of their sightlines.
Orvel sprints through the jungle, cursing his mixed luck, searching for any signs of the trail back to civilization. He hears a rustle up above. He glances up and is nearly pierced by an arrow, shot by one of the sisters, a good ten meters above. Another arrow grazes his shoulder and he stumbles, losing his footing. As he struggles to find cover, Orvel reaches over to grab the weaponized medical resonators holstered on his back.
A shadow suddenly overtakes him. Glancing over his shoulders, he sees the swordmaiden leaping from the thick branches toward him, sword raised high. He sees a gap in the trees and dives through, landing with a splash. Orvel recovers and rises quickly, knee deep in water. As he stands, a blade is rested upon his chest. The two sisters stand before him, unphased, untired.
“Where do you come from? Why do you bring foreigners to our land?” asked the swordmaiden.
“Stop this! I am not here to–”
“You do not belong here, tall one,” she cuts him off mid-speech.
“We mean you no harm,” Orvel steps backward, the cool water swishing around his feet, “but we need your assistance.” He adjusts his grip on his weapons. The sister flicks her eyes down to his hands, taking notice. She takes a step forward to match Orvel’s movements. She shakes her head slowly, just once. “I have seen your kind,” she says. “You will bring us only death.” The sister pulls back without warning, lifting her blade for a swing.
Sensing a moment of opportunity, Orvel discharges his weapons. A massive, focused electrical charge instantly scorches her arm and torso, burning through her exposed flesh. She screams and reels backward, dropping her sword into the water. The second sister flinches in surprise. She quickly reacts, launching backwards into the air, firing an arrow mid-flip.
Orvel hears a thump, and feels a strange sensation in his gut. “What…”, he glances down and sees the arrow protruding from his stomach. The sister lands gracefully, smoothly nocking another arrow. She lets loose again, this time, piercing his upper chest. His heart.
He loses balance and stumbles to his knees, just as the first sister had done. He sees her, gritting her teeth, bending further, reaching into the water with her unburnt arm.
“No…” Orvel says, slowly realizing the severity of his plight. He looks up at the second sister, who now has another arrow fixed on him. She looks back at him with a curious expression. “I cannot end this way…” He struggles to his feet, his eyes losing focus. Pain surges through his chest, and the world turns white.
Scenes flash by of a life lived long ago; some happy, mostly rough. Memories come and go; of him as a child, hungry and orphaned; as a youth, finally in love with the life he had chosen; as a man, facing the many sorrows brought about by death.
He thought he had seen many horrors in his youth, but it was nothing compared with what came after. What he had seen, what they had become, was worse than death itself.
More visions flash through his mind’s eye.
Billions of faces, screaming in sheer terror. Millions of people, disfigured; losing their minds. A mere handful of survivors, patched up and sustained mechanically.
He sees the scarred remains of his country, thousands roaming mindlessly, diseased, wandering through the wastelands of what was once his home. They stop, and one by one, they turn to look up.
They looked up at him, those thousands of eyes. They looked up at him, with uncertainty and fear.
They looked up at him — with hope…
The visions slowly fade as Orvel feels himself falling backward. Time seems suspended as his body hits the surface of the water with a quiet splash. He does not remember why he is here. He feels a slight twinge in his chest and stomach, but his mind is hazy; his senses dulled.
The sky is clear and the two moons shine gently up above. The stars twinkle softly, speaking to him. “We are waiting for you,” they seemed to say.
Orvel slowly closes his eyes as the water envelops his body. His muddled thoughts dissolve into the calmness that enfold him as he is fully embraced by the pool’s soft caress. He hears them speak to him one final time, a faint whisper in his ear.
“You will save us all.”
And for once in his life, everything becomes still.