Saturday, September 19, 2009

Writing a story from conception to completion: part three the conclusion.

As it worked out, not knowing the end when I started this story allowed imagination to dictate conclusion. In addition, for me, writing is about imagining people, places and things, so this worked out in the best way possible.

I think a story should build from an idea, a vision, a picture, or even overheard words. If I envision an ending when I begin writing, fine. I will try to reach that ending, but know along the way something might happen to alter it some, or even completely.

It's all about the story, period. Writing is a joy. Therefore, here is the complete first draft (thanks to my wife's suggestion that Stephanie wake up and find herself in a ship's hold) with but one read through. I'll tinker with this some later on, and try to do a story anatomy by breaking Convergence down to link its components together beginning with the title.


Convergence (2462 words)

Stephanie walked barefoot to the bedroom door. As she passed the bed, the partially opened drawer in her husband's nightstand made her pause. Since her husband was very secretive, she grew curious and attempted to peek inside. She felt a quick tingle of trepidation as she reached for the small brass knob.

A glance over her shoulder let her see that the bathroom door stood closed, yet she still felt the need for caution. She pulled her hand back.

As she turned away, trying to decide whether to look or leave the room, she saw her reflection in the mirror over her dark oak dresser. The frown pinching her thin blonde eyebrows into steep arches changed her mind.

Once she heard the shower running, she quickly slid open the drawer, lifted out a white sheet of hotel stationary and saw what she believed was a ring of lipstick halfway down its right edge.

Jealousy lanced her heart, brought a sob to her lips, but when she held the paper under the light, she realized that the red smear was blood. Hesitantly, she pressed her fingertip to the surface. The stain felt slightly sticky as if it had not dried completely. Stephanie looked at her finger, saw nothing on it, but wiped it against the edge of the drawer.

Across the middle of the page in unfamiliar masculine handwriting, she read: Friday, 8:00am rear parking lot 1111, 63rd Street.

Glancing up, she attempted to picture the address mentally but failed.

Abruptly, the shower shut off. Her heart skipped and she tossed the paper in the drawer, closed it completely and lay back on her side of the bed with her eyes closed while she wondered, where did the blood come from? And who is he meeting?

She opened her eyes enough to see him as dressed in shorts as he slipped under the sheet, and seconds later, she heard his steady breathing.

Waiting until she felt certain he would not waken, she left the bedroom, and dressed in the laundry room. With her shoes in her hand, she went outside, sat on the white wicker porch chair, and slipped them on. Five minutes later, Stephanie drove into town.

63rd Street wound through the central business district. Stephanie parked near the corner where Peterson Avenue bisected 63rd. She fed the parking meter, and glanced up at the street entrance of the building next to her.

"1001," she read under her breath, and walked to the next building, found it was 1013, and continued until she confronted an older brick three story that seemed dwarfed by its modern ten-story plus surroundings.

A narrow alley ran between 1111 and 1121. When she entered it, she discovered a well-worn uneven cobblestone path. The modern stone and steel wall to her left was lined with windows shaded by vertical blinds.

The brick wall on her right had three windows, two of which were bricked up. The last was at the rear corner, and behind it, she saw soiled curtains that obscured the interior.

Enough sunlight lit the alley that she felt confident that she might find some answers. As she reached the back corner of the building, the alley opened into a small fenced in courtyard.

Woven wooden fencing stood five feet tall and blocked access to the property. She approached it, lifted onto her toes, and peered over the top.

"Oh my God," she said louder than she wanted, when she spied what she believed was blood, gathered in a depression about fifteen feet away.

Determined to learn what her husband had gotten involved in she boldly looked for an entrance, saw one directly behind the brick building, and made for it as stealthily as possible.

She raised her hand to press the latch, and heard scuffing behind her, felt a hand grasp her upper arm tightly enough to force her to cry out.

"I'm sorry," she cried. "I just wanted to--"

"Nothing," a deep male voice demanded. "You will do nothing but turn around and leave here."

"Okay," she agreed and struggled to get free, glancing down at the fingers squeezing her arm and saw that his nails were raw and dirty, stained red.

"My husband is coming here soon." As soon as she said the words, she knew she'd made a serious mistake.

"Why would he come here?" The hand grasping her arm, twisted hard, forcing her to lean into it to avoid serious pain.

Nearly on her knees, looking up into his shadowed face, Stephanie gasped, "You're hurting me."

"Answer my question or you will know pain." He twisted again.

She felt her knees press into the stones yet he did not release her.

"I don't know why," she cried. "I found it written on a piece of paper and there was blo--" she stopped abruptly.

"There was what?" He leaned applying enough pressure to grind the bones in her elbow.

"Blood, there was blood on it!" Stephanie screamed.

He lifted her and then shoved her hard, releasing her arm at the same time.

She threw out her hands, but her head slammed into the pavement and she collapsed, blacked out.

Stephanie opened her eyes to pain and darkness. She thought she heard creaking wood flooring over her head. She reached out, touched the cool surface below, drew her fingers across it, and knew she felt wood.

Using her arms to lever her up, she sat and stared into the blackness, blinking when she thought she saw glittering lights like a mirage, or a distant city. The white-yellow pinpoints winked bright then went out.

She heard male voices shouting, but could not distinguish their words. The headache pounding behind her eyes worsened when she turned onto her hands and knees and struggled to her feet.

"Oh my God, where am I?" she whispered, hearing the flat sound of her voice as if she were in a small chamber with sound deadening walls.

Placing her hands against the nearest upright surface, she leaned to rest, and felt movement through her palms. She turned, pressed her back against the wall, and still felt the vibrations of movement.

Ignoring the headache, the soreness of her muscles, she sidled along the wall in the direction of where she believed she'd seen the lights.

Five minutes of slow progress brought her to a perpendicular wall. She stood in the corner. Directly in front of her, she saw a long split that appeared to be a separation between two hand-hewed timbers.

Forgetting her pain, Stephanie leaned close enough that she could see through the crack as if there was nothing before her. What she saw sucked the breath from her lungs.

"My God, I'm on a boat," she whispered. "But where is this place?"

She stared at the shoreline and realized that the lights she saw flickered because they were flames. Along the docks, and lining the streets leading into a small city of one- and two-story buildings, torches lit the way for the people she saw moving about.

"This doesn't make any sense," she said, shook her head, thinking, I must've gotten a concussion. I'm imagining this place. There is nowhere on earth like this.

She turned away, closed her eyes, took several long slow breaths, and turned back. Something had changed, but not what she wanted to see.

Drifting about fifty feet above the long ancient looking dock, a large red dragon, a least a hundred feet long she guessed, flew by with slow wing strokes. The beast opened its mouth as if to yawn, and spit out a thin spiral of flame that hissed into the water beneath its massive nearly translucent wings.

"Oh this isn't right. These creatures do not exist," she cried, covering her mouth with both hands. She felt her eyes open wider when the dragon acted as if it had sensed her presence, turned its gigantic head in her direction, and then lifted its wings high, their tips turning inward slightly, pushed down forcefully and flew right at her.

She felt a scream tearing at her throat, fought hard to swallow it. Don't let it know you're here, she warned. Please God, please don't let it see me.

The dragon flew nearer. Stephanie used both hands to stifle the scream she could not stop from escaping, and then when a second dragon, a black giant nearly twice the size of the red, dropped from above where she could see, her effort was lost.

Stephanie's scream sounded loud to her, as if it squeezed through the split in the wooden wall and echoed off the surrounding waters.

The black dragon fell onto the red dragon's back, driving them both into the sea. She saw wave boil up as if the two fought to keep each other below the surface.

Then, as one, they reappeared heads first, and like enormous arrows flew straight up and out of sight.

Stephanie felt her knees weaken as she sank to the floor. She crawled back to the place where she woke up, and stopped when her hand landed on something familiar, her Blackberry.

"Thank God," she said as she felt its surface with her forefinger, found the power button and pressed it on.

The screen lit, but displayed nothing more than one line of two words. "No service." There was one other thing she saw in the light from the screen. Blood. The tip of her finger glowed deep red.

I didn't wash after touching the paper Jacob had in his drawer, she realized, and then knew, He hadn't cut his finger, he didn't kill someone or even witness an accident. This is dragon blood.

She held her hand up to eye level, blew on her finger and a moment later heard the bugling sounds of dragon cry. Not one or two dragons but many as if the scent of blood off her finger lifted onto air currents and as fast as time itself, alerted every dragon within a thousand miles of her presence.

"That's perfectly ridiculous," she said disgustedly.

"And why would you believe that?" a deep male voice asked.

"Who are you?" she cried still holding her finger up.

"You sit there with your finger in the air, calling dragons and you did not expect me?" A tall thin man walked to where she sat. He held a lit taper. The flame flickered as he walked to her, illuminated his long narrow face, golden eyes, and flat ears that ended in sharp peaks. Around his neck, she saw a gold chain. On the chain hung a twisted knot of ancient runes that surrounded a single emerald the size of her thumbnail.

She nodded and said as sarcastically as possible, "And you would be the dragon master of course."

"Clever girl," he said, lifted his feet, crossed his legs, and floated to the floor. "So truth be told, you have no idea who I am or what you are doing here."

Stephanie felt foolish. "Well, no actually I don't know either." She sighed and looked at her hands now resting on her lap.

"Your headache is better I assume?" He asked wisely.

"What? How could you know, oh of course. You're a magic elf and once you knew I was in pain, you waved your hands in the air and magic dust fluttered down onto my head and voila, my pain was gone."

"Well they did not tell me they planned to send us a cynic. That makes my task much more difficult."

"Since you obviously do not intend to answer my questions up until now, how about this one? Exactly what is your task?" She leaned forward enough that the illumination from the candle lit her features.

He pulled his head back slightly as if she was too close for comfort. His wide thin lips pinched together as if he needed a moment's contemplation and then he nodded solemnly.

"My task is to train you to replace me." As she opened her mouth to protest, he raised one hand to silence her. "I admit I was expecting a man, but women have been in my shoes in the past so there is no reason that you will not be able to fulfill your ambitions."

"My ambitions! My ambitions, did you say?"

"Well of course you are sitting here in the hold of the Silversmith's ship anchored outside the City of Silver Mountain, home of the world's last silver dragon, are you not?"

She frowned, narrowed her eyes as if she planned to burn him with her glare, and then she thought, Oh my God, this is all a joke of some kind. Jacob is getting even with me for snooping.

"Okay," she said. "You win, tell Jacob I'm sorry and that I will never look at his papers again, and--"

"Jacob? Who is he? Should I know him?"

His tone of voice was like a spike of ice that melted in her chest turning her blood cold.

"Can I touch you?" she asked sounding almost shy.

He shrugged and held out his hand.

Stephanie's fingers looked small resting on the back of his hand. Gingerly, she brushed his flesh. It felt leathery, yet soft and pliable. The hair on his hand was wiry, and moved as feathers might.

She glanced up at his face. "You're not human are you?"

"Did someone tell you to expect a human?" he sounded both annoyed and curious. "We all begin as such, but to fulfill our destiny, well, remaining human would be ludicrous at best, now wouldn't it?"

Then, he dropped the taper and grasped her wrist. Although she struggled to pull free, before she could, he lifted her hand to his mouth and bit the mound of muscle and flesh at the base of her thumb.

Stephanie yelped, "Ow damn it, you're hurting me," and then heard dragons trumpeting outside as if they knew it was time to rejoice.

When he dropped her hand, and picked up the taper, she examined the spot where his teeth penetrated her flesh. Seven small perfectly round holes drilled deep into her muscles, and as she watched they healed, weaving runes between them that matched the pendant she saw on the gold chain around the elf's neck.

When she looked up eyes filled with wonder, she discovered she sat alone. The taper remained standing as if it had been mounted into melted wax accumulated by hours of burning. On the ancient wooden floor, lay the chain and pendant, which she knew belonged to her.

Bravely, she lifted it and draped the gold chain around her neck, stood, waved her hand over the taper, extinguishing the flame, and with a nod and a blink, stood on the forecastle of the Silversmith's ship.

Around the ship and over the city where she now saw hundreds of torch-bearing people walking towards the docks, dozens of dragons filled the sky bellowing their pleasure as dawn rose over the mountains, and a new day of Silver was born.

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