I've been struggling to continue with my story, Beyond the Void, recently. Partly, that's because my brother has been in the hospital with a ruptured appendix, so normal life is currently forsaken. Partly, that's because I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around this particular story.
After reading it aloud to my brother and one of my sisters, my sister commented, "It's one of those weird, fascinating fantasy stories that reminds me of George MacDonald's style."
My brain jolted. Oh! That was it. That was why I couldn't write the story the way I wanted to. I was categorizing it as epic fantasy (think Tolkien), but the story simply didn't fit. It wasn't fantasy; it was a fairytale for grown-ups.
Somehow, just knowing the story's category helped me to slip into its world so much easier.
I intended the story to be short (another novelette), but it surprised me. I believe in writing only the number of words that tells the story. Apparently, fairytales need more words than a lot of my sci-fi, because I'm over 20,000 words into it, and I still have a ways to go (about another 15,000-20,000 words).
Below is a sneak peek of the rough draft, for those who are interested.
Excerpt from "Beyond the Void"
Erin’s phone beeped, and she fished it out of her back pocket as she approached the terminal with long, purposeful strides.
Her dark eyebrows puckered. A new voicemail. Strange. Her phone had not rung. Must be a problem with her phone service.
The waiting area bustled with activity, and her eyes roved the seats for a single vacancy. She thought that she detected one on the other side of the row facing her, but, no, a child rested in it, slumped against his mother’s shoulder. Surveying the area, she tried not to sag with weariness. Her fingers reached unconsciously to her throat, and she fingered the sliver of a thick glass-like material that hung from a slender leather thong around her neck. She knew the pendant’s shape intimately—a lopsided heart.
“Miss?” A male voice spoke behind her. She turned in time to observe a young man rise from his seat, a guitar case in one hand. He tilted his head toward the vacancy in an obvious gesture.
“Oh no…” she began, stammering.
“It’s no trouble,” he interrupted. “I’m sick of sitting.”
“Thank you,” Erin intoned with full gratitude, and sank into the offered seat. The young man moved away and leaned against a square column, standing his guitar case on its thick end and humming a soft tune to himself.
Erin wished to lean her head against the back of the chair and close her eyes, but airports were the last place in which to let her guard down. She remained fully upright, fully alert—at least, as alert as she could manage.
Casually, she scrolled to her phone’s voicemail to listen to the message.
At first, she heard nothing but voices muffled by a constant roar like wind or water. Then the rumble receded, replaced by footsteps and labored breathing, which echoed as though reverberating throughout a cavern.
A voice began to speak.
“We haven’t got much time left. She’s right on our heels. Enrin, you must listen carefully to everything I am about to say. It’s likely that you will only hear this message once. Are you listening? Remember everything.”
Erin flinched with surprise. She could have sworn that the speaker was herself.
“Laska is wounded. We don’t know exactly what she did to him, but he can’t get beyond the last note. If he doesn’t find a note beyond it, there is no hope. None. He may be the last one left. That’s why he must hide his gift until it is safe to play.
“Don’t walk in the blue snow. She’ll be watching, and she’ll find you.
“Don’t trust the Winters. Some of them are on her side, and those that aren’t have no power to help you anymore. The River people and the Verdis will do all they can to help you. Make sure to ask for the Cypress; he will make everything clear to you. Understand? Winters unsafe, River and Verdis safe.”
The voice broke off and asked in the background, “Have I missed anything important?”
“We’re losing him,” said an older male voice urgently.
“Cold,” a third voice gasped—another man. “I’m cold. Please…”
“It’s all right, Laska,” the woman said, but her voice hitched. “We’re almost there.”
“Let me have it,” the first male voice said, and the recording scratched and hissed momentarily before his voice returned, louder and sharper. “Enrin, I don’t know what you’ll find when you come back. I don’t even know when you will come back. And in case I’m not here anymore to help you, just remember, the Void is not what it seems. If you can find what made the Void, you can find what can fill it. There is—there must be—something Beyond.”
“Hurry!” the woman with Erin’s voice said again. “Help me lift him.”
“I’m so cold…”
Then someone cried out and the sound returned to hissing and popping. A faint beep marked the termination of the recording.
For a moment, Erin stared at the great windows of the terminal, unseeing. Then she pressed a button to repeat the message.
Only an old message from her therapist replayed. Erin sifted through her entire voicemail inventory, attempted to trace the call’s number… Nothing. It was like the call had never existed.