Should That Really Go There?

Should That Really Go There?

Ah, at last. A writing-based topic I haven’t at least mentioned a good bit.

Editing. AKA, what I hope to be doing once I officially graduate from college, along with freelance writing, in the hopes I myself get published.

Editing takes writing on in a bigger way. Before I started college, before I took certain, specific classes, I thought all editors were the same: They work at big-name publishing companies, editing and proofreading hopeful authors’ works, or behind a desk at the New York Times, scanning line after line, picking out and correcting typos and grammatical errors the way one would pick out and toss tinsel from a Christmas tree, after the season’s over.

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Yes, that is ONE kind of editor. However, that is not the ONLY kind, and that is NOT all they do.

In fact, that is only the description of what the professional industry refers to as a “line editor” or “copy editor”– proofreading, correcting, catching boo-boos before a disgruntled reader does.  Design editors work on arranging the material on the page of a newspaper or book cover in a way that is presentable. A certain kind of editor is used to read the material, rather than actually edit it, and write down any suggestions or ideas they have for the author’s CONTENT (the actual story, that it makes sense, etc.), rather than spelling and grammatical corrections. Chief editors oversee the whole shebang; while editing and touching up the final project, they also handle complaints from readers, hold the team together, etc.

(Me? I wouldn’t mind being either a line editor OR a content editor. I think that would be fabulous. Heck, I might even like being a chief editor, or even just an editor-in-chief. We’ll see where God takes me!)

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But the more I read up on the art of editing for my one class, Publishing, and the more I learning from my Tutoring Writing class, I realized that that isn’t even the average editor’s job. They look it over, yes, but they don’t just edit-edit. Their goal is to help authors, and to help develop BETTER writers,  not just better manuscripts and better books. You see, the whole idea behind that mindset is, if you help an author become better THEMSELVES, then in turn their writing, their books will naturally become better. Brilliant, eh? Help them help themselves. I love that notion.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. Some of you, actually probably a LOT of you, are probably looking at me like I just grew a second head and deer horns to boot. “WHAT editor?” you may say. “You act like I just have a professional editor to look over my stuff at my fingertips! I just write!” Fair enough. But in that case, you need to be your own editor, or start letting other people (preferably people you’re close to and who have a good sense of story, grammar, and spelling) read your stuff, and ask for their ideas, edits, suggestions, and overall feedback. The former can give you great practice if you’re like me, in training to be an editor/author. (Reading your works out loud, just to yourself, can also really help you. I’ve been in numerous instances in tutoring people where all I have to do is basically tell them to read it aloud to me, and they catch a LOT of snags they wouldn’t have otherwise!) The latter can give you a great sense of where you are story-wise, plot-wise, etc. So in short, both can be beneficial. If you want to learn how to write great, you must also learn to edit well– unless, of course, you are authoring something like messy poetry. 😉

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Image Credits:

https://stephaniehaggarty.wordpress.com/tag/futurama-fry-meme/

https://www.hastac.org/blogs/jennamcwilliams/2012/01/03/2012-year-productivity

http://www.memegen.com/meme/fdt0u5

https://bemclaughlin.com/category/meme-monday/

 

Ideas and Research

Ideas and Research

So, I think I milked this cow pretty thoroughly when it comes to the topics of characters, plots, problems, and conclusions. So now I’d like to talk about something a bit different: Ideas and research. If you already have an idea for a story, that’s fantastic, but if you don’t, that’s alright, too– I’m here to help.

So, as said in a previous article, and several other advice articles not authored by yours truly, ideas can come to you from almost anywhere or anything– dreams, when you’re in the shower, out for a casual stroll, or even reading. If you draw a blank, just free write, and word vomit whatever comes into your brain onto a piece of paper, not caring if it’s coherent.

As stated before, I get a lot of ideas and influence from books and movies, mostly books, but Star Wars has also (subtly) impacted my writing. BUT one of my biggest ideas (that I’m planning on hopefully someday making into a trilogy) actually started with a dream. Not even a daydream, mind, a night-dream. I woke up the next morning with that idea lingering, and a single name echoing around in my cavernous mind (not elaborating; that would go too much into spoilers). I started writing my story on my tablet for a very laid-back homeschool writing class I was taking at the time; people actually really liked it, so I decided to develop it and work it further, the way a potter works and kneads clay into something magnificent. Around that time, another idea popped into my brain, an idea related to the first idea and my original dream (it’s killing me right now to avoid giving you guys all the goodies…), and I got even more excited. I felt like this could be HUGE. So the second story I started, going off of the first, was, in my opinion, even BETTER than the first– a rarity for second books in a trilogy. But I genuinely and truly loved the idea, still do. And I can’t wait ’til it’s published, ’til people can read it and say what they think (feedback is always a value tool.).

But, now I’m getting ahead of myself.

The bottom line is, a good idea can just pop out of nowhere and almost literally smack you upside the head, so you need to be ready for that moment, whenever it comes. That’s why I try to always have a notebook and a writing utensil in my nearby vicinity– because you never know.

As for research, depending on your story, you may or may not have to do that. If you’re writing dystopian fiction on something that requires survival techniques, like The Hunger Games, Divergent, or  The Maze Runner, chances are pretty good you’re going to have to do at least SOME looking into things like how people manage to survive on a daily basis. What about shelter? How do they get food? Do they compete with other people or even animals/bizarre or dangerous beings for resources? Are they in a post-apocalyptic world, or are they part of a bigger conspiracy? What similar conspiracies and theories could you research and incorporate into that, to make it seem believable to your reader?

If you’re writing a book on the high seas, do research on ship life and sailor-speak. If your one character has schizophrenia, Google through various web medical sites (just not WebMD.). Research, research, research. I cannot emphasize this enough.

While sometimes you have to do research, other times research-based things will come to you; as I previously mentioned, I got ideas for my Junk Collector series from my Natural Sciences class, ideas I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to study myself, otherwise. But do know what you’re looking for, when you have a new idea to work into your story or questions about something, it’s definitely handy. I myself have several ideas I’m actually planning on looking into and researching to make a future story more believable and to draw the reader in more. Even if you’re writing something like fantasy or sci-fi, you do want to keep at least a degree of realism. Would my character really do this if they were autistic? What if they lost their father in a war– how would they react in such and such a situation then? Medical research, place research, PTSD research and other kinds of research can really get you going a LONG way.

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Image Credit:

http://www.wisegeek.com/how-do-i-write-a-technology-research-paper.htm

Conclusions: Happy Endings?

Conclusions: Happy Endings?

Allow me to elaborate on that title: When you are writing, you do NOT have to make a cliche happy ending. Personally, I’d settle for at least a somewhat satisfactory ending, but it doesn’t have to be entirely strawberries and cream. Depending on your writing style and what your story is, it could be a real tearjerker. The trick is, you need to make it meaningful to YOU, and convey that meaning to your readers. You don’t always have to have a “moral of the story” at the end, but often there’s a subtle little lesson or theme.

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For instance, in The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the main character, Edna, is frustrated with her life, and just wants to be a free, independent woman– a highly difficult feat to accomplish in that specific era. Throughout the novel, Chopin  cleverly weaves the themes of birds and water (more specifically, the ocean) into her novella, symbolizing luxurious freedom. However, we get a glimpse at the end that Edna has perhaps bitten a bit more off than she could chew, as clearly demonstrated by a bird nearby with a broken wing, that skydives down into the ocean and drowns; Edna too swims off too far, and it is implied that she will not be able to make it back to shore.

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This is not to say you should kill off your main character; few authors actually do this successfully and with little upsetting reactions from their readers, but if it’s relevant to YOUR story, think it all ties together nicely that way, then go for it. Few fellow readers will agree with me on this, I fear, but I must say Veronica Roth herself actually pulled this off pretty well, in my humble opinion. I normally don’t like it when main characters (especially protags) are killed off, unless there is an EXTREMELY good reason for it. Many readers, after reading Allegiant, swore off the series simply because Tris died, forgetting she died for a very good CAUSE– to save MILLIONS of others’ lives in dying, herself. It was the ULTIMATE act of Love, a Sacrificial Love kind of death (that totally does NOT forecast Roth’s faith as a believer in ANY way, shape, or form. ). It was true, it was pure, it was “hauntingly beautiful” as one Facebook commentator once put it. I think it was a satisfyingly good ending. The same goes for Roald Dahl’s children story, The Witches (major spoilers ahead, if you haven’t read it!). No one but the villains are killed, but the ending may have been less than satisfying for some, who might have wanted the protagonist to change back into a boy, as he did in the movie (that was, by the way, the primary reason Dahl totally disowned that film); instead, the boy remains a mouse-boy, who has a shortened life span but has easily adapted to his new life very well, and excitedly plots with his also aging grandmother about how to sneak into witches’ secret lairs and “get them” before they do away with all the children of the world, before their time is up, and they pass away peacefully together, with their mission accomplished. It gave me the utmost feeling of satisfaction, the same feeling I believe Dahl must have felt upon completing that wonderful work. But the readers who wanted to change the boy back, and filmmakers who agreed, forgot to take into account one thing that Dahl had already thought of: If the boy had been turned back, and his grandmother died, he would literally have no one to take care of him, since he was essentially an orphan otherwise.

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That being said, make sure your ending with the characters makes logical sense, too. Sometimes, we let our own feelings and affections bias us to certain characters, and it prevents us from letting them do what they need to do– like overprotective parents, we cushion our favorites, rather than shoving them out of the nest so they can fly. Don’t forget to give your characters flying lessons, of course, but let them SOAR. Soar off into a wonderful, and perhaps very meaningful, ending that neither you nor your readers will be inclined to forget. You won’t regret it, I promise.

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Image Credits:

http://themetapicture.com/i-fear-this-might-actually-happen/

https://onsizzle.com/i/to-all-the-girls-who-no-longer-believe-in-fairy-8323376

https://memegenerator.net/instance/54845789/writer-leopard-try-to-write-an-ending-that-you-will-actually-be-satisfied-with-brain-explodes

 

Sundaze

Sundaze

Drowsy,

Drifting,

Distracting

Thoughts

Play with

My head;

I should be

Doing

Homework

But instead

I laze,

My eyes

Graze

The monitor;

My attention

Slips

Into a

Coma–

And then,

Quite suddenly,

it’s time for bed.

 

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Image Credit:  http://www.embracinghealthblog.com/2009/04/16/youre-not-lazy-its-your-thyroid/

 

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Note: I rarely write this good poetry when I’m feeling tired and especially lazy (due to carbs, lack of sleep, and generally just feeling like not doing anything but needing to do everything…), so this one surprised me. I especially liked the punny little title I came up with, it being Sunday and all… 😉 

 

 

 

 

The Deceiver {Part 7}

The Deceiver {Part 7}

Wren gazed out at her family’s private lake. Huddled in the center of the mini “island,” surrounded by mist-blanketed waters, and pine trees out for miles and miles. A handful of apple trees dotted the island, and the only other pieces of scenery were a giant rock in the very center, and a weeping willow tree on the left hand side, its long, drooping branches and leaves grazing the water’s surface lightly. The early morning clouds drifted lazily by, as they had done for hours since she’d rowed out here. The relaxing coos of mourning doves, accompanied by early chirps of robins, drove into her a serene sense of belonging. She belonged here, no where else. Here, she was almost completely free, entirely whole. She was tempted to just stay out here, just remain on this rock, until time passed and passed, but she was no more. Just like her friends.

No. Can’t think like that. 

She folded her splayed legs under her, and rose up on top of the rock, which she had long ago dubbed, “Queen’s Rock, ” jumped down, then walked among the small orchard in the middle of the island. She smiled faintly as she recalled, years ago, her and Jake finding the  massive, but well hidden, lake on their property. They had made a bet that whoever could reach the island first would name it, and by the time eleven year old Jake had reached the island, she was only a quarter of the way there, chest deep in mud-swirled water, and bawling. Like the big baby she’d been. Jake had actually taken pity on her, dove back, scooped her up, and carried her the rest of the way on his back. He’d named the island, “Island Tapu,” a stupid sounding name to her youthful ears. She, on the other hand, was allowed to name one thing, and one thing only on the island; she named the rock smack dab in the middle. When questioned by a laughing Jake why it was named, “QUEEN Rock,” rather than, “KING Rock” after him, she stated that she wanted it to be different. Wanted it to make a statement. Wanted to let the world know that it wasn’t just kings who ruled the earth. He’d laughed a second time, and she’d gotten so annoyed at him that a mud-throwing contest had begun. By the time they were back, their mother had been so astonished, so amused at their mud, leaf, and pine-needle covered appearances that she had to take pictures before cleaning them up, laughing. Their mother wasn’t like most, who would have easily scolded their children for such a rambunctious thing.

Wren tilted her head back to gaze at the sky once more, a tiny half-smile stretching the edges of her mouth at the memory. Good times, fun times. Times that were so faded and distant now. She could hit “replay” as many times as she wanted, but that didn’t alter the fact that they were all long past, not in the here and now, or even in the future. To preserve her future, to make it something worth saving, she had to protect her loved ones. At almost any cost.

At this thought, her sensitive ears pricked at a rustling. And, judging by the loudness, it was close. Very close. A deer? A bear? No… smaller. She whirled back around, in a defensive stance, only to face… a squirrel? She blinked, and lowered her guard a tad. Really, Wren? On the other hand, it could be rabid. Or maybe she was just overreacting, for the fifth time this week. The creature raised its head curiously, nose and fuzzy tail both twitching as it eyed her. Sighing at her own paranoia, she walked back and plopped back down onto Queen Rock. Much to her surprise, the squirrel had followed her. She raised an eyebrow at it. “I’m not Briar Rose– I don’t sing to animals. You don’t have to come to me. Go back to your tree hole or whatever.” More twitching. It suddenly jumped onto the rock next to her; Wren gave out a squeal of surprise and a little jump. A wild animal? This friendly? MUST be rab– Her thoughts were interrupted when the squirrel leaned forward, so much it was almost flat on its stomach. She was startled a tiny leather pouch fastened to its back. A TRAINED squirrel? What the–A tiny paper scroll was rolled up inside. The squirrel glanced up at her, half-expectant, half apprehensive, as if to say, “Well?” In fact, she almost expected it to talk. Narnia-style. This had been a strange week, what was one more strange thing? But no, it remained silent, steady. Like a trained dog.

Slowly, cautiously, she reached out, and plucked out the parchment. The squirrel straightened the instant she did, standing upright on its hind legs like a little person, waiting patiently as if for further orders. Like she was in any position to give them. She snorted, then scanned the page. It was written in similar script to the previous letter-writer, similar tone,

Wren,

Speaking of Briar Rose…This will be our instructions place, from now on. If you desire my help, you shall sing, my little song bird. This will signal one of my little messengers to bring further word from me. They are trained to respond to specific tones of voice, and certain voices; yours, and especially your singing voice, triggers this reaction in them. Don’t think of it as brainwashing; they are simply conditioned this way– it’s very humane. 

Our meeting place will be in the northern most place of these woods. Unfortunately, I myself am unable to meet you; in my stead, I send my younger brother. He will show you how you must be trained to help and retrieve your friends. I would advise, however, to come in secret. Not even those boys may know; if they do, they will only interfere. And we don’t want that, do we?

Do not abandon hope, Wren– what you seek is right around the corner. Change is happening. It is going to happen. We are close, so very , very close to our goal, to your goal, I know it… I only ask that you simply trust me. “

It was left unsigned. Wren felt a slight trickle of shivers crawl down her spinal cord. This person, whoever he was, knew about her special place. Had gone to the trouble of training and conditioning squirrels, of all creatures, to actually respond to her voice. Her voice. Specifically, of all things. That in itself said volumes– this person DID care, but in a way that was extremely unsettling to her. But what was more– the person had rephrased who she had likened herself to– Briar Rose– and had even known she was self-conscious about singing for anyone. Almost implying…

That they’re nearby. Listening in. Her head jolted up at this; eyes narrowing, scanning the nearby area, all the apple trees, all the tall, knee-high grass surrounding her. It suddenly felt like a wooden jungle-esque savanna area, with a large predatory cat watching her, ready to make its move for dinner. She swallowed, and, without breaking her gaze, slowly retrieved a pencil from her bag to respond to the parchment.

“Wren!”

She and the squirrel jolted simultaneously, and as if cued, the critter scurried back into the tall, thick grass, and vanished– as skittish as any other wild animal. Wren’s chest almost tore open in pain until she saw Kodi’s head bob into view. She hurriedly stuffed the note into her jeans’ pocket. “What are you doing out here? How did you find me?” she said angrily, finally releasing the wind from her lungs with some relief. “No one but family is supposed to know about this lake, this place!”

“Jake told me. But that’s the least of our concerns.” Kodi grabbed her wrist. “C’mon, we need to get you outta here. It’s too open, too exposed.”

“What do you mean, “too open, too exposed”? This is one of the most private places around the area, almost no one knows about it!” She forced out the image of the squirrel carrying the note to her, knowing exactly where she was. “It’s a LOT less exposed if I was, say, downtown, in the middle of the night, when all the goons are out and roaming.”

“And you DON’T think the goons ever come this far out into the woods to make moonshine or toy with drugs or whatever?”

“Most tend to only go on the outskirts, if they DO do anything of that sort,” she said smoothly. “I would hardly think I’m in any real dan–”

“And yet, if something happened to you, and you alone, all the way out here, who could you turn to for help? You’d be in total isolation from society!”

“Kodi, stop this. Look at me.” She took hold of his shoulders, facing him directly, and gave him a good, hard shake. “What’s WRONG with you? Why are you freaking out about nothing? I’m fine, as you can see–”

“No, you’re not,” he retorted. “If you were, you would’ve been in school ages ago, not boarded up in your room like a hermit. You’re going through a lot, I get it. Just let us help you.”

She could feel the note burning a hole in her pocket. She was suddenly frightened he would spy it. “No, thanks. As much as I appreciate the offer, I don’t need you two anymore.”

“So that’s it, then? You use us for your own purposes, then when you don’t get what you want, you just toss us to the side like toys you’ve outgrown?”

She sighed heavily. “OK, look, it’s not like that. I’m sorry to have dragged you into this, to have burdened you like this. If it were up to me, that kid would’ve never anointed us or whatever. I should’ve just confronted that Junk Collector by myself. You have lives of your own, I was just too selfish to realize it. From now on, I’ll leave you two be.” She started to turn away, but Kodi grabbed her arm. “It’s not like that,” he said, “I LIKE being a Junk Collector. It’s like it gives me a purpose, a higher calling in life. I love it when my drawings come to life, though I need to be more careful about WHAT I draw, sometimes. ” Here he paused. “But I know there’s a lot of risks that come with being one. They’re risks I’m willing to take, but…” He chewed his lower lip, gazing up at her.

“But what?”

“But they’re risks we’re ALL exposed to. Including you, Wren.” He took a breath. “Just this morning, I was almost buried alive. By two kids, just like us. Only… I don’t think they were like us, exactly.”

“What?” She felt like she’d been slugged in the gut. “You– You sure it wasn’t a hallucination, or anythi–” In answer, he held out to her a sandwich-sized Ziploc baggie. It was filled to the brim with dirt clumps. “I brushed and washed most of it off, but kept about a fourth to show you. I almost suffocated, and probably would’ve starved to death down there, if I didn’t have the grace of light to see to draw a giant beanstalk. I rode my way out of that pit pretty quickly. But I’m pretty sure it’s not the last I’ll see of them. Or the last ANY of us will see of them.”

“Of WHO?”

“Of…Of the Shadow Six.”

There was a long silence.

Kodi was the first to break it. “You don’t believe me, do you.” It was a statement, not a question. Almost defensive-sounding.

“It’s not quite like that,” She shook her head, ponytail flailing behind her. “You see– I’ve had enough of the stupid Junk Collector and all his games. And I would never want to be one, I’d rather be shot than become one.”

“But I saw you… GUY saw you…”

“I said that to get that kid to stop rambling and to get us out of there.” She knelt, picked up her knapsack, and swung it around her shoulders gracefully. “Doesn’t mean I am one. I’ve never even gone on one of your ridiculous little missions. So why should I be at risk?”

“You don’t understand,” Kodi pleaded, “You don’t get what they’re like. If they even so much as know you’ve been associating with us, they’ll come after you! They’re out to kill!”

“Kodi,” she said sharply. “Enough. My mind’s made up. I’m sorry, but this is the way it has to be, from here on out. Besides, I can handle myself.”

“So that’s it, then?” Kodi shouted behind her as she stalked off. “You’re just going to run off and do your own thing, act like we’ve never met, like Guy and I don’t even EXIST? We’re trying to help you, for Pete’s sake!”

“Thanks,” she murmured under her breath, “But I’ve all the help I really need.”

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Image Credit:

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/climate-weather/blogs/why-steam-fog-rises-ponds-morning

 

The Deceiver {Part 6}

The Deceiver {Part 6}

Kodi sat, alone in the dark, trying not to hyperventilate out of sheer panic. It would not do to waste air in a time like this. Trying not to think of all the different ways he could die down here, being buried alive.Lack of food and, more importantly, water.  But most of all…Lack of oxygen. He’d tried pry his way out of the branches continually to reach the surface, to try and claw his way out, but it was all futile. He was officially trapped. He felt stupid, for falling for– literally– such an obvious trap. Of course, he hadn’t known it was a trap at the time, it had seemed innocent enough at the time. Little had he known.

He should have gone with his gut. He should have tried to whip out some drawing to fight the two characters cloaked with suspicion. But no, he’d just froze, waiting for it to all go down. And he was still mentally kicking himself for it. Once. Twice. Thrice.

He pressed his forehead into what felt like a nearby branch, closing his eyes and recalling the retreating footsteps of Twilight and Dusk up above, and their conversation:

Twilight’s arrogant voice: “See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Dusk apparently remained silent enough for his voice to gain a brand-new tone, one that shocked Kodi just as much as being swallowed alive by the earth did: concern. “Look, if he finds out you’re going and fraternizing with one of THEM, we’re BOTH gonna get it. D’ya understand?” More silence. A sudden thump right above Kodi’s left, and he heard her give a slight gasp of surprise and pain. “Sorry, but it was either that, or… you know…”

“I– I know,” he heard Dusk finally say. Kodi listened to the rest before he could detect no more: “Anyways, he’s where Night wanted him, now– out of the way. We can’t afford any more liabilities, you know that. It’s better this way.” No reply, but he did hear a sudden gush of wind, then the two voices simply were gone. With no explanation with how or why they had co–

Kodi stopped, suddenly horror-stricken. Dusk? Twilight? His heart hammered even more, so much it hurt his chest, his rib cage. All references to dark, evening, and nighttime and  names he suspected to be actually code names, not real ones. The unusual behavior, showing up out of the blue like that. The cat in the tree brambles. The underground, tree branch-lined prison suddenly gave the impression of an underground icebox; Kodi couldn’t stop shaking. And it wasn’t just because of the environment. The question was, why? Why had they wanted him out of their way, when he had only been trying to aid the girl in rescuing her kitten? What had he ever done to the likes of them? Unless…

Unless they already knew something about him that he did not know about himself. Or that they knew he was a Junk Collector. Something in that that threatened them enough to make them want to kill him. It chilled his blood now; it was bad enough that he knew nothing about his past, did he have to play guessing games with the little psychos Mikey had warned them about? But then, why did the girl seem to sympathize, reluctant to do away with him? It was a complete mystery; from what Mikey had told them, all of the Shadow Six were dangerous. Perhaps she had been faking it in order to lure him into a false sense of security? But then, on the other hand… fraternizing? 

Why?

His mental analysis process was interrupted by a pinprick of light from above, and unexpectedly the girl’s voice echoed softly in his head’s cavern: “You know what to do. I know you do.”  What had she meant?

Perhaps she thought it was a bizarre, cruel sort of kindness in letting him live, only to slowly suffocate under the earth’s prison. Or…

His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the smallest pinprick on light on the tree branches beneath him. He started, then eagerly twisted, eyes following the tiny trail of hope heavenward, to the earthen ceiling. He gasped. The morning light had filtered through a small gap; the faintest flicker of hope, as small as the few millimeters large crevice, grew in him. It could be the only reason he hadn’t suffocated. Yet.

Suddenly, he knew. He knew what she’d meant.

Feeling around in his backpack, he fished out his sketchpad and a pencil, and, edging towards the speck of light, found it suitable enough for his purposes. When his eyes adjusted to the extraordinarily dim lighting, he began to draw as though his life depended on it.

Because it very well did.

*************

Guy could hardly believe what he was becoming. He had always received good grades in class, but this was completely ludicrous. Being the academic type was far from his style. He did not normally stay awake, deep beyond homework hours, to crack the codes of light re-fragmentation, the laws of physics, etc. But then, he was no longer a normal student. His responsibilities had at least doubled in the past week or so, ever since that Junk Collector incident at the creepy, almost-abandoned house. Between school and his leadership duties as the Junk Collecting squad’s leader…

But still, even if it WAS tiring, it wasn’t a total waste of his time. He’d never learned so much in so little time, and how each piece of material, every sheet of metal, every cord or spare shard of glass could contain so much potential. Glass shards, for instance, could be pieced together in such a way to reflect light, and, if positioned closely enough and at the right angle, could fry away like a laser– like a giant magnifying glass. Springs could be used in a variety of ways– launching things, propellants, adhered to a pair of older boots and you could leap great distances, depending on the spring and its size, capabilities…

And don’t even get me started on what sheet metal and small, broken pipes can do, he mentally added. He had learned a good bit, indeed.

He sighed, finally looking up from his textbook-pillow, and groaned a little when he realized he’d been drooling in his sleep. Oh joy…. He mustered the strength out of drowsiness to wipe off any remaining saliva with his sleeve, and peered sleepily but hopefully at the text, praying it wasn’t soiled. The last thing he needed at this point was more tension from more people. Fortunately, only a sentence or two was a bit smudged; he could probably touch it up with his pen, no problem.

After yawning and stretching, Guy dragged himself upward and to his feet, feeling and probably looking about as intelligent as a caveman, combing his mussed dark brown hair with equally lazy fingers. Ooka Ooka. He continued the drag-slump-drag process until he reached his dresser, and exchanged one shirt for the next, throwing the previous in a nearby laundry bin. He shot a glance in the mirror, and let out another sigh. Even if it WAS Saturday, he’d still have to get cleaned up. He’d promised himself he’d try to get Kodi and Wren to meet in secret, even if he himself could not. Even if it WAS against Dad’s wishes.He got dressed, then grabbed a few things he thought he could tweak into a new metal-based project. Maybe Wren would cheer up if he built her something nice– and not just something duty-based.

Lumbering out of his room, he almost ran into Dad on the way to Kodi’s. “Hey, sport,” said Dad. “You’re usually not up this early.” He glanced past Guy’s shoulder. “Burning the midnight oil, I see. Good. I can only hope that your attitude toward your academics is rubbing off on your attitude towards your elders.” Guy bit back a caustic reply. “Good morning to you, too,” he said through clenched teeth.

Dad looked at him for a moment. “You know, I was thinking last night, hoping to work something out… but, if you’re going to be surly…”

“Work what out?”

“I know you’re mad at me,” Dad said almost gently. “And I know you’re trying to get to know people and make friends. I get that, I do.” He paused, running a calloused hand through bed-mussed dark brown hair. “Which is why I’ve started looking around for job opportunities for you– part time, of course. I think the more you get involved in the community, and spend more time with the right kinds of people,” here Guy bristled a little, “the more likely you are to make better, lasting friendships and get experience with a trade. That’ll really help you after you graduate.” Dad’s eyes seemed to scan him, trying to gauge his reaction, and, upon receiving no negative one, went on. “So… I’ve noticed you’ve been unusually committed to all your classes, but physics in particular. And you’ve been out at the machine shed with your tools a lot, so… I asked Mr. Haney, who runs the auto-parts store downtown, if he could use any help.”

Guy stared. Mixed emotions welled up in him. On one hand, how was he going to have the time to go over Junk Collecting things with their team and try to reach Wren (albeit in secret) if things just kept cropping up? On the other hand…

I can use this to my advantage, too. It’s perfect. Being around the stuff, and figuring out how it works, along with getting ideas… The idea made him nearly nauseous with excitement.

“Dad, I don’t know… what to say…”

“Guy!” He spun a little at Kodi’s voice. Kodi was at the top of the stair, grimed from head to toe in what looked like fine dirt.

“Kodi!” Dad’s face was a mask of surprise and anger. “What do you think you’re doing, tracking dirt through the house like that?! What have you been doing?! Go clean up, and then get the vacuum. Now.”

“I will, I will!” Kodi stumbled, evidently trying to gain proper footing while catching his breath. “I… just… need to talk to… Guy… for a moment.” Still panting, he waved a hand dismissively. “Ya mind, old man?”

Dad raised his eyebrows. “You had better get this mess cleaned up,” he warned, as he descended the stairs. “And afterwards I want an explanation.”

“Kodi, what’s going on?” said Guy in a hushed tone. Kodi held a finger to his lips, and, when Dad was about halfway down, he grabbed Guy’s wrist, yanked him into his room, slammed and locked the door. “KODI!” Dad’s voice resounded.

“WHAT did you DO?” hissed Guy.

“I  might’ve kind of drew a beanstalk with my special drawing paper and pencil, and kind of accidentally uprooted our mailbox in the process.”

“WHAT the HECK? Are you TRYING to get us killed, again?”

“No, but after this week, Dad may not have the privilege of doing that.” Kodi exhaled.

Guy’s eyes narrowed. “What the crap are you talking about?”

Kodi took another breath. “Obviously, you two don’t know what happened this morning. I went out to practice drawing some… less dangerous things… but then…”

Guy felt his eyes grow larger and larger still as Kodi related to him the whole thing– until her felt like they were practically popping out of his skull. “So, you think that those two random kids…?”

“Weren’t just some random kids,” said Kodi grimly, wiping off his arms with a moist paint cloth. “I wonder what they’re up to though, aside from trying to kill us. My main question is why? Why do they want us dead, if we’re not even bugging them, let alone fighting them?”

“Maybe they think it’d be better if they just wiped us out from square one, so they don’t have to deal with that possible threat to begin with? You know, cut off the problem at the roots.” It made Guy shudder to think it, let alone say it, but he couldn’t deny the possibility.

“Probably. But we still don’t know who exactly they are, or what they want… what they’re trying to achieve.”

“Sounds to me like they want us dead in a hole. Or any other way.”

“But I kinda got the gist the girl was pretty conflicted… like she was torn between helping or at least feeling sorry for me, and… you know, her loyalties with… them.”

“And how do you know they are some other Junk Collecting team that’re rivals? Mikey never said there weren’t others, or that we couldn’t kill each other. Although I would assume the latter is naturally a given, you never know.”

“Naturally.”Kodi rolled his eyes as he finished wiping off his neck as well as he could manage. “They might not have been WEARING black, but they used code names. Twilight and Dusk. Specifically related to nighttime. I wouldn’t exactly call that “normal,” would you?”

“Maybe they’re a part of some sadistic cult?”

“Dude, the Shadows basically ARE a cult. Mikey himself warned us about them.” He shook his dreads, spraying dirt. “We just don’t know what their goals are. What or who they’re targeting next–” Suddenly, he froze, mid-shake.He slowly raised his head, looking Guy in the eyes, face a mask of shock and horror.

“What?”

“If YOU were a villain and wanted to pick off your enemies one by one, you wouldn’t go for the strongest threat, right? You’d pick off the most vulnerable, most compromised of the pack, wouldn’t you?”

The metal scraps tumbled from Guy’s fingers to the floor.

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