Sunrise was an acquired taste. A bitter wash of gray on the horizon, scrubbing away the heavy night sky. A light brush of pink, and purple, and yellow, sweet almost to the point of cloying after the weight of the scouring that came before. A following brightness, fading through the last of the stars. Light that sept gently into blood and bone and breath, bright as mint. All of it drawn out, one insistent moment after another, to make it palatable.
Brance blinked into the growing light. He yawned. His tongue felt thick in his mouth, and his shoulders ached dully. Every thought was slow and flighty as a breeze, and constantly interrupted by the notion that shutting his eyes would be very comfortable. Laying down would be pleasant as well, but not necessary. He could sleep just where he was. And yet, after drinking in too many dawns, one more was hard to turn down.
Answers served with a side of cotton candy
Kate Kearney searched: Thoughts on state fairs?
First of all, state fairs usually take place late in the summer, the time of year when all respectable Gwendolyn’s are hibernating in deep, cool holes to outlast the outrageous heat.
Second, they usually involve some sort of sunburn. It’s not actually a problem until twenty-four hours after the fair, when it’s hard to sleep because your skin is nearly neon, but scientists have assured me there’s a correlation.
Third, they have absolutely beautiful things in them. Paintings and photographs and baby sweaters that people near you have lovingly created. Pies that look too elaborate to eat, and too delicious to leave sitting on the table. Cotton candy whipped into tornadoes that small children can pull apart with their hands. Ferris wheels that spin slowly, and carousels that spin quickly.
It’s not hard to talk me into going.
It was nearly midnight before the musicians started laying down Lea’s favorite spell. The lamps had burned down to a flickering mimicry of yellow sunset, and the drums began to tap the air. They thudded and hummed, slow, steady, dragging out for a long moment while she began to grin and her heart seemed to steady itself against the beat. Then the guitars climbed on top, one high, one low, whirling like things freshly taught to fly, and she forgot how to keep her heels on the floor, or her hands at her sides, or her feet still.
The roof cats were fighting. Or dancing. Waking to the noise, hearing it dream-twisted before she opened her eyes and cleared her ears enough to sort out the pattern of it in the hush of early morning, it was hard to tell the difference.
It was mostly just enthusiastic thumping: heavy paws on a thin roof, with the occasional full body slam that made her blink and – she imagined – shook the ceiling. The accompanying yowls were light, swelling in time with the heaviest, thundering steps, but staying mostly lyrical. It was hard to imagine the lithe little predators making that much noise, but they seemed gleeful about it.
Happily, Zain put his hands in his pockets and pretended to scan the room. He turned on his heel, taking a breath that filled his chest and pushed his shoulders back, idle, even from a distance. Terius looked at the ground, to hide a smile.
Then, “This way,” Zain said, and he wandered toward the wall. He let himself glance over his shoulder to make sure Terius was still with him, turn all the way back and pause as if he had interrupted himself with the need to continue the conversation. When he didn’t actually say anything, Terius folded his hands in front of himself and glared at him lightly.
“Right,” Zain said. He turned around again and didn’t stop again until he hit the wall with its row of padded chairs.
“Are we sitting?” Terius asked.
“Oh, no,” Zain said. “We’re using the crowd for cover.” He began threading his way along the outside of the ballroom, slowly, and unevenly. The dancers continued their patterned whirl in the middle of the floor, and knots of people too tired or too bored formed and unformed around the walls. Zain moved when the people nearest him moved, stopped, started, and loitered as he pleased. Terius stayed close, watching him with a growing smile.
“I see now how no one is going to get angry,” he murmured after a few minutes.
The first step in Zain’s master plan for the evening was to open a window.
It was a large window, set just to the left of the musicians, and he knew there was no way to do it without gathering attention. He paused to talk to the girl on the violin in between songs, chatted until the moment she had to put bow to string again, then walked straight to the window as if he were doing her a favor. The hall was warm from the dancing, but not uncomfortably so, and the drifting breeze from the window cooled almost nothing. Still, she flashed him a smile after he swung the window open, probably just pleasantly surprised to realize he was still lingering nearby, but from a distance, he thought it might be mistaken for gratitude.
It didn’t stop one of the servers from narrowing his eyes as he passed, or Selwyn from going suddenly still at the other end of the hall.
Shoving his hands in his pocket, Zain smiled back at the violinist and wandered back into the center of the hall. Because, for once, step two was not climbing out the window.
Sadie entered the grocery store and stopped instantly on the threshold, glancing back and forth as if the wave of heat from inside had been firm enough to stop her like a wall. She looked at Dana, then at the shiny, white interior, and took a hesitant step forward. The wall, if it had been there at all, let her pass, so long as she went slowly. Dana went ahead, grabbing a basket from the wall, and a digging her list out of her pocket, and tried not to look back at her roommate. She was pretty sure that if she just moved, Sadie would find a way to keep up.
“It’s empty,” Sadie breathed behind her.
Dana unfolded her list, and scanned down it, head bent down. “Mmm-hmm,” she said.
Sadie’s shoes squeaked as she spun in a tight circle behind her. “There’s no one here.”
Emmany was sure that the edge of a dance floor was the stillest place on earth. The steadiest place on earth.
At the other side of the room, the fiddlers faced each other and swung their bows, side to side, wing beats between, never on the same side, to keep their balance. One of them stamped her foot. The other tapped his toes, and behind them a third just hummed on the strings to brighten their tune. In front of them, the dancers swung, stomped, stamped, clapped, hollered. They smiled wide, twisted fast, caught their partners by the hand to keep them from flying too far.
And the edge of the room stayed still. The music thrummed on the wall and didn’t move it. The dancing rumbled in the floor, and it didn’t sway. It remained steady, while everything else tapped its feet and juttered into the steps.
Emmany leaned her back to the wall, hands in her pockets, and set her heels tight to the floor. Steady.
Answers served with a parental look , a trophy, and a translation
Kate Kearney searched: Can good stories come from bad or ridiculous ideas?
I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad idea for a story.
There are ideas that are easier to make engaging than others, and there are ideas that you need the blessings of Prose and Poetry and Goshdarn Luck to make it into something readable. There are ideas that a specific writer or reader gravitates toward, and there are ideas that a specific writer or reader won’t touch with a ten foot pole. Still, the thing that makes the story good is how the idea is told, what characters run through it, what mood and setting it’s wrapped in.
Show me an idea, and I’ll show you an author who spun it well.
Kate Kearney searched: What are some horrible or ridiculous ideas for a story?
[Gives Kate the Parental-Were-You-Listening-To-Me?-Look]
I once had a guy tell me about the time he helped his best friend search the parking lot at work for his lucky paper clip. The story took almost an hour. I laughed so hard my face hurt.
Answers served with a lot of difficult decisions
Boomshadow searched: If you only had 1 week left to live, how would you spend it?
Cursing whoever told me that I was going to die in one week, because this is an absolutely impossible decision. [glares at Mr. Boomshadow]
In an ideal world, I would do something excellent for the people I was leaving behind.
In the real world, I would probably watch a lot of television and cry just from the panic of the ticking clock. Ticking clocks do terrible things for my nerves.
IncyWincySpeeder searched: If you had a warning label, what would it say?
Uniquely Numbered Human: Equipped with all features including (but not limited to) individual thoughts, feelings, ambitions, carelessnesses, likes, dislikes, and the ability to change her mind. She is equipped with the Run Before You Walk and Pedal to the Metal attitudes, but will do her best not to step on anyone’s toes as she goes about her business of living. You may sue her for damages. She may hire a very good lawyer.