First point first: I skipped last Tuesday.
I realize this, and I apologize profusely. November was a rough month, as you can imagine hearing me ramble on about NaNo for all of it. Then, on the coattails of a week in which I had to give a presentation to my department, finish a scientific poster, and finish NaNo (and made myself sick doing so, see above), I was whisked off to San Antonio for a scientific conference for a week!
I spent most of the time that I wasn’t sitting in talks and eating Mexican food sleeping, and I did not get a blog posted. I have made an executive decision to maintain the schedule, so next Tuesday will be the conclusion of my Caster’s Court origin story!
In the meantime, I picked out the snippet from this year’s NaNo that I was proudest of! It comes as a fun little teaser for one of my characters . . . I’ll refrain from telling you which one. Hopefully, now that NaNo is over, I’ll have an update about an application submission to Radish soon! Details to come!
And now, please enjoy my snippet:
What about PTSD, Annie?
I suck in a gasp of freezing air. My shoulders flail violently, and I spin around. Why, I don’t know. I know he isn’t there. I. Know. He. Isn’t. There.
“Stop it,” I mutter to myself, as calmly as I can muster. I draw the headphones from my pocket.
Ah, come on. PTSD should be an easy one, right?
I’m fighting with the knots. Untangling them can never be easy, can it? It doesn’t help much that my fingers are trembling.
Or how about schizophrenia?
“I’m not schizophrenic.”
You’re literally talking to a voice in your head, dear. Anxiety? My, your heart is racing.
Tears are beading at the corners of my eyes. “Shut up.” I yank at the cords, but they won’t yield to my pulling.
Depression? Do you miss me, Annie?
I’ve stopped walking. The tears are blurring my vision. I can barely see the pink of the headphone cord.
Addiction? Do you miss what I can do to you?
The cords of the headphones turn suddenly to snakes in my hands. I cry out. The snakes tumble to the ground, and before I can stop myself, I’m stomping on them. I’m jumping up and down. Tears are streaming down my face. I choke back a sob. The snakes lie, bloody and mangled, on the concrete, quite dead.
Then I blink, and they’re my headphones again, the ear buds smashed to bits.
Within 3 seconds, the Uber app is open on my phone. Three more, and I’ve requested a pickup home. Three more, and a car is on its way. The driver is a woman, and that makes me feel a shred better. It’ll make it harder for him to pretend to be her.
It’s not me, love. You know that, don’t you?
I lean against a concrete doorway to a small independent drugstore. I close my eyes and grit my teeth. I can make it.
You’re doing this to yourself.
The Uber is close. Just a few more minutes.
You can’t run from your own mind.
I really don’t know how to cope with it when it’s so strong. He’s right. I can’t run. It won’t do me any good.
It’s your punishment. Do you remember all that stuff you did, Annie? Did they tell you how many things you destroyed?
I pull at my hair.
How many people you killed?
I shove the top of my scarf into my mouth and scream into it. He’s not real, but he’s right. I deserve this. So be it if I fail the test tomorrow, I shouldn’t even be taking it. I shouldn’t even be alive after what I did. If people knew I still was, they’d be outraged.
With a sudden burst of energy that I don’t really feel coming, I push myself away from the wall. My right hand makes a wide arc, almost a full circle behind me, then up over my shoulder. As it comes down, it slams a shield into the concrete. I do the same with my left. Right. Left. Over and over. Five in, it forms a little chip in the surface. Ten after that, the concrete cracks parallel to the gap between pieces. I grunt and keep going until my arms literally can’t anymore. They fall, limp, at my sides. I stand there, above my handiwork, my chest heaving, hair plastered to my forehead with sweat. He can make it as cold as he wants now—I can’t be susceptible to it anymore.
In the short number of seconds—likely less than a minute—that I’d been decimating the pavement, I had torn a crack down the length of the segment. It isn’t much, but tonight, it’s enough.