WIP Excerpt: The Chameleons’ Plea

** Excerpt from House of Mirrors — R. K. Hiller **

The floor was cool and slick under her bare feet. Hardly a joint or seam showed where floor became wall, and wall in turn became ceiling. It was all the same—one continuous, shadow-shrouded dream. There was a circle ahead of her, faintly luminous. Meira could feel the sweat already beginning to bead on her forehead, but refused to let her steps falter. The air was dead around her. Not just quiet, not even silent, but dead. Vacant and lifeless, she wondered if the air was capable of even carrying sound at all. She was almost to the circle now. Only a few steps more. One more step. She stepped onto the circle. Immediately, it began to glow brighter. The ground beneath her feet shuddered, and far off, a distant harmonic tone began humming.

“I have come.” She announced, her voice echoing back into her own ears. “I wish to speak with you.”

“So we see.” It was an odd voice, buzzing and humming as if it were part of the very air itself.

“Where are you?” She turned slowly, scrutinizing the shadows that pressed in on every side.

“We are here. And we are not. We are in your living memories, and we are the cobwebs in your furthest thoughts—we occupy the unclaimed land.

“I have come to reason with you—to plead our case. Will you hear me?”

“We hear you. Whether the noise of your mouth shall sway our position and course is doubtful.”

Meira drew a long deep breath, willing her voice to not tremble. “Long have you oppressed this land. Long have you held it in your power, bending its inhabitants to your will. You have wrought destruction—what once was is gone forever, and can never be regained. We would have you depart, vanish forever, and leave us in peace.”

Shrieking, pulsating harmonics ensued, which could only be translated as sadistic laughter. “Your world is under our control. Why would we simply abandon the greatest prize we have ever gained?”

“Because you’re destroying lives!” Meira shouted in frustration. “You don’t just control our people, you consume their very minds, leaving nothing but an empty and lifeless shell. Why?”

The voices hummed and buzzed among themselves, before lowering to a faint, vibrating whisper.

“So what is the reason?” Meira pressed. “You must have a purpose in this madness.”

One voice rose up, spiraling out of the darkness, circling her head and tickling her ears. “Because we were dying, human child. Our race was perishing.”

“So you would take the lives others in order to prolong your own existence?” She asked.

“Would you not do the same for your own young brothers and sisters? We are dying, human child.” The voice continued.

An older, more broken voice buzzed out in protest. “You will betray us! Do not speak of death and weakness, we know no weakness.”

“But we are weak. They know this. I only wish to explain to them why we have become so.” The younger voice near Meira’s head whined.

“Impudence. You think that in a thousand years you have learned all there is to learn, and that you know better than your elders.” The older voice scolded.

“Peace.” All the voices, or perhaps more accurately one great harmony, replied. “The small human knows that we are weak, perhaps by explaining our weakness we shall gain its sympathy.”

“Yes, yes! Its sympathy! That is their weakness. Hear us, small one. Hear our case.” The young, ringing voice near Meira’s head chimed in.

Meira paused for a moment, considering the sudden and unanticipated reversal of judge and prisoner. “Very well, I am listening. Speak.”

WIP Excerpt: Prologue

WIP excerpt  —  Prologue  (Raelea Hiller)  The coming of the Chameleons, the Great Exile, and the formation of the Protection. This is how it all began…

Is it best to remember or is it better to forget? There was once a time when our nation was one and whole—an age of light and knowledge. But that was long ago, before the invaders, the Chameleons, came. They are a silent people, and they seeped through the cracks of our cities like acidic water. At first a tiny trickle—we didn’t even notice. But then the walls began to erode; only it wasn’t the walls of our city but the walls of our minds. For that is their one power. There numbers may have been small, their technology child’s play next to our own advances and discoveries, but those paled in significance next to their one power. It wasn’t long before we had a name for them: Mind-Eaters. Their power overtook our people like a cancer, spreading with malignant might through every layer of our society. Those were the dark times. Our minds were overrun, shadowed, and brought into submission.

And yet, as rapid as it was, the invasion was not rapid enough—some of our people were able to sense what was happening, and these men and women acted. To rise up and fight would have been futile. How can you take up physical arms against an unseen and hidden foe? Instead, we fortified our minds. The first Network was established and, as primitive as it then was, it was sufficient to block the Mind-Eaters. We thought that would be enough—our one slim victory had made us proud. We believed that we could stay in our cities, protected by the Network, and begin the long task of reversing what the Mind-Eaters had done. Yet we still hadn’t seen their full power, and our feeble resistance enraged them.

That was when the killing began. The minds of our people, those outside of the Network, those who we were struggling to save, were tortured and turned to madness. Have you ever seen a crazed dog devour itself? Those under the control of the Mind-Eaters, the Devoured, turned inward and battled each other—men, women, and children alike. The Devoured searched for us, seeking to destroy us. Within days the Old Nation, once a proud beacon of light and knowledge, was decimated. None now dwell among us who hold those events in living memory. The oldest have all passed on, leaving only the memory of their memories, but these memories have been retained, and given to each generation as an inheritance. The bodies of thousands, tens of thousands, some even say hundreds of thousands, littered the streets, crumpled up and cast away like refuse. Our city stood, but the life inside had perished. A fraction of the Devoured still remained, haunting the dark places and hunting for us, the Survivors. There was nothing left for us in our cities, only carnage and the horror of memories. It was then that we made our grave mistake. We underestimated the Mind-Eaters again. We fled.

Years have passed and still our people argue about what we should have done. Some say that, even with the diminished numbers of the Devoured, it would have been futile. They say we would have been overcome, that the Network would have eventually failed, and that the Survivors would have become Devourers in the end. Others disagree, saying that by overcoming the Devourer remnant, we could have eradicated the power of the Mind-Eaters once and for all, forever crushing them and ending the vicious bloodshed. But we didn’t overcome the Devoured and we didn’t become Devourers ourselves. The weight of the memories and the sight of the bodies were too much for the Survivors. We fled. The Survivors became the Exiled ones. We gathered up our belongings and what remained of our families, and we emptied our library databases. Power supplies were rationed, and insufficient amounts remained to power any air vehicles. Instead, the wains rolled out, creaking beneath the weight of our civilization. As much of it as could be reasonably carried, the Exiles took. We left our fertile lands in the east and journeyed west, crossing the great desert, until we came to the mountains, which were too steep and proved uncrossable by the laden wagons. So we turned south instead, and the air grew ever warmer. One day, the taste of salt was on our lips. We came to the edge of the sea and could again go no further, so there we stayed. It was a safe place, so we called it our home. We rebuilt. With stone quarried from our neighboring mountains, we built a city like the ones we had left behind. Yet while the stone in the east had been bright and white, the rock of the mountains was tinged with gray. Coarse gray moors sloped into gray, shrub covered hills, and at the feet of the cliffs, the gray sea lapped tirelessly. We built our gray city among the gray hills, at the base of the gray mountains, within sight of the gray ocean. Even the forests were strange, darker and denser than the ones we had left behind. It was different and foreign, yet the sky above was the same. The same dome of blue, the same swirling clouds, and the same sun that had always shone on us. But at night, we were reminded again how far we had journeyed. The stars were not the same. Yet made them our stars; we named them names from our memories, names of old that we wished to not forget. Centuries passed, and the Exiles were no longer exiled. We had found our home at last.

Then the rumors began. Some said that perhaps the Devours had died, and that our own cities might once more be habitable. Some said that the Devourers had made their own nation, built on terror and madness. There was unrest in our new land, our people were anxious and did not know why. Scouts were sent out, back across the desert and back to the lands of the east. The report they brought back troubled us. They said that the Mind-Eaters were gone, and that no trace of them remained. They told our people that the Devourers were Devourers no longer; they had carved their own civilization out of the rubble of the bodies of the slain. The Devourers had become the Protection. Arguments rose again: some said the Mind-Eaters were gone forever and would not return, and others said the Mind-Eaters were only hiding and controlling the Protection from the shadows. It would be decades before we learned that the latter was true—the Mind-Eaters were the Mind-Eaters no more, they had become Chameleons.

So I ask you again, is it best to remember or is it better to forget? Should we continue to remember the horrors that we may never repeat them, or should eliminate the memory of them entirely and begin anew? That is the final question, and it is the question that has divided our people to this day.

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Many thanks to Abby Jones for inviting me to join the Writing Process Blog Tour! My blog is rapidly approaching its first birthday, and this is the first blog tour I have partaken in.

Abby is no stranger to the mysterious world of urban fantasy,  though she is currently working on a steampunk-esque YA fairytale. And believe me, it is captivating–she let me read the first few pages during during a writing session, and it was with great reluctance that I returned her WIP. Her blog covers a variety of topics, from religion/theology and slice of life, to wondrous tales for her nieces and nephews, and general writing encouragement and advice. Her work is always well thought out, witty, and enjoyable–no matter the subject at hand. You should take a look!

My happy place.

My happy place.

But let’s cut to the chase…

What am I working on?

At this point, I alternate between composing poetry and tackling the larger and somewhat gnarlier task of novel writing. But poetry is what began it all–I started seriously working with poetry when I was about 15 years old, and have several battered and well scribbled journals to prove it. Several years later, when Abby discovered that I wrote poetry and enjoyed writing in general, she urged me to begin blogging a way to gain exposure and feedback–a decision that I will never regret. The gnarly mess, my beloved WIP, is a more recent development. The idea of the story has been in the back of my mind for about two years; the main plot slowly emerging. My family assisted greatly in the early brainstorming stages–an Air Force focused brother provided a military perspective, the physicist sister tied my brain up in knots with all kinds of theories, while my engineer father explored logical plot continuity and devices. Bullet pointed lists, timelines, and character outlines mounted… but with no actual drafting. It was then that Abby bestowed great wisdom: she told me the story was there, but that I needed to plant my rear in the chair and just write. Needless to say, I followed her advice and my word count continues to mount.

 

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Survival Essentials

Such a short and seemingly simple question… my desire is for the words that I write to be an outpouring of who and what I am. My own work differs from that of the normal sci-fi/fantasy genre in that my goal is to present a uniquely Christian perspective and worldview. My goal is not to simply write Christian science fiction or fantasy, but rather to infuse the stories I tell, body and soul, with what Christianity truly means . We’ve all heard the age-old writer advice: show don’t tell. That is my goal–through imperfect characters, hardship, struggles, sacrifice, justice, unconditional love, unmerited grace, undeserved mercy… the list runs on and on. I wish to present my readers with a set of glasses. They aren’t rosy tinted, but I pray they may offer clarity.

 

Introverted Poet

Why do I write what I do?

Poetry? I write it because I must. I write because there is a story on my heart, and I have to tell it. Every human being (and I mean, every single human being) has a story to tell. These stories are expressed in many ways. You don’t have to be a writer. Maybe you’re an artist, a gardener, a woodworker, or a fair cook. But whatever it is, you have it: that one thing that seems to almost perfectly express your heart, and that one thing that communicates you to the world. Mine? It just happens to be jumbled words in rhyming lines. I write poetry to reason with myself, to encourage my fellow Christians, and as an attempt to inspire thoughtfulness.

An unapologetic lover of both fantasy and science fiction, the heftier side of my story writing naturally combines elements of both. I have the highest respect and admiration for the works of both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and a soft spot for Robert E. Heinlein–all three authors have steered me into the genre which I now pursue.

 

How does your writing process work? 

I’m a panster with outliner tendencies. Inspiration strikes as a simple emotion, act, or occurrence that in turn spawns a character, scene, or even plot arc. But once I get a good grasp of the idea, I make a rough outline–whether it’s character traits and plot arcs for a story, or just paragraphs for a blog post. However, I’ve learned that the best way to develop a story is to let it grow, to unfold, naturally. Don’t stifle it with over-outlining. Be open to random, spontaneous ideas. One of the key villains in my current WIP forced his way into the limelight when I allowed his character (initially only minor and secondary) space to develop. As far as the time of day… poetry is almost always a reflection on the day, and as such, is penned at the end of the day. But where stories are concerned, I write best in the early morning. Complete quiet, the sunrise peaking out over the horizon’s edge, and a fresh cup of coffee seem to be the perfect combination to inspire creativity.

 

Now…

Here are two other bloggers/writers that I enjoy who have agreed to talk about their own writing process:

JimJames is a fellow blogger, and ardent Tolkien enthusiast. His blog A Tolkienist’s Perspective is geared toward both beginner Tolkienites and gurus alike, and covers a wide range of Tolkien-related topics and discussions. From the the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, to the Silmarillion and Beowulf, to the movie adaptations, there is something here for every Tolkien fan. In fact, if you have been searching for the ultimate Tolkien blog on WordPress, you may now stop searching. You have it at your fingertips, my friend!

Emily

Emily is a dear friend and a natural storyteller, seeking to maintain a Christian perspective in her writing. Her blog Living In Heavens Shadow reflects this, as she covers everything from movie and book reviews, to quotes, to theology, to contemplations on art and writing. She is a master of vernacular and wizard of imagery–I hope you enjoy her blog as much as I have!

WIP Excerpt

WIP excerpt time! Over the last week, I’ve been doing a lot of timelining (yes, that is officially now a word) and outlining. My hope is that a strong foundation and history will cause the story to unfold more naturally. But for now, allow me to introduce the Chameleons:

He threw back his head and laughed. “You expect us to know who the Chameleons are and where they came from? This only we know for sure: they are a people obsessed with the mind, and eaten alive by their own memories. Whatever their past, whatever their origin, it was awful enough for them to have one desire—to forget. They manipulate memories; the minds of the living are their playgrounds. Only they know what has befallen them, but they have chosen to forget. Even if there were one of their own to speak up, to tell the tale, and to unveil the mystery… how could we know for sure whether it be true or false? It could just as easily be a falsified memory. They have collapsed so far inward that they no longer trust each other, or even themselves. That is why they use The Protection—why they resort to those they would deem as “lesser” in their quest to decipher the old technologies. Their great power has become their undoing—they fear themselves, and what they have created.”