Sometimes goop gets in the way. Working through my novel Borne, I’m exasperated by some of the exposition that feels inert even though it may not be—it may just need to be recontextualized, broken up, or made to do more work through half-scene. So, goop below. I keep coming up with new combinations, new entry points, to make this stuff work. And sometimes, you just have to throw almost all of it away. Even posting the stuff here is a way of getting a clearer view of it–different font, different location can equal a new way of seeing it.
(BTW–not all of my blog entries are posting to facebook, so don’t rely on facebook for updates.)
Have I told you where we were while we had this conversation? Not just on a balcony jutting from a cliff, overlooking a poison river, but the rest of it?
We lived in the remains of what I had dubbed the Balcony Cliffs apartment complex. The original name on the rusted placard in the half-collapsed lobby had been written in a language I didn’t know, using letters with which I was unfamiliar. Seen by gas lamps, then burning rags on poles, then Wick’s fireflies.
Back behind us, there were lines that I was intensely aware of, almost as if wires coming out of my head merged with the lines, the whole mass of corridors and tunnels at my back become attached to sensors in my head. Trip wires, too, because Wick had connected everything to everything, and all of that to the fluttering flounder-creature in a shallow pan that functioned as command-and-control in his suite of rooms. If I’d drawn the Balcony Cliffs on a map, it would have looked like a cut-away of the side of a massive mound of debris and garbage and broken girders and abandoned refrigerators, washers, dryers, burnt-out automobiles…all of it on top of or nestled within a dense ground cover of half-dirt, half-moss-and-loam that carried with it a springy, almost jaunty feel at odds with the devastation of the scene. A landscape shot through with the new growth of what some might call tall gnarled bushes and others might call short, stunted trees.
Under that weight, within that cross-section of the body that served as our home, the lines connected to the stick figure in the balcony chair would reach out to connect with corridors forged back through the mound, some of them dead-ends leading to places where the collective roof had fallen in or where supporting beams had decided they’d suffered enough neglect and could no longer support any weight. Corridors? Tunnels? The distinction had been lost, as I’d hollowed out, over time, the best of them, and left the rest of them to rot. One route led to Wick’s rooms and, a little closer to the middle, where the lines got confused on purpose: my apartment. From there, heading to the western edge of the mound, which faced, across the great divide of the city itself, the Company buildings, the confusion multiplied itself, resulting in a confusing maze for any unexpected visitors thinking about making it past Wick’s guard spiders and distorting pheromones…before simplifying again at the exit to three passageways, only one of which led anywhere safe, and before that the door, which was, from the outside, just another part of the mound, obliterated by the welter of moss and vines. A strong smell of carrion, one of Wick’s more inspired artificial masterpieces, grew stronger the closer you came to it. Sometimes, even I had trouble finding the secret entrance on that western flank.
And all of these lines came from me, my brain, the tripwires for traps, just because I had found the place early and the others living there had died first. There wasn’t actually much space to live in, and not many Wick had trusted to enter or share that space. With me he’d had no choice: I had lived there before he arrived, and I had invited him in after finding him trailing Mord suicidally, like a lost puppy not able to tell threat from sanctuary.
Less controllable: the “cliff” face itself, the eastern edge of the mound, overlooking that insane river of filth. Wick had created a kind of weird “mosquito netting” out of special spider webs, which disguised us from anyone who might stumble onto the other balconies jutting like stone chins, but still allowed us to see out. Sometimes, to our surprise, we would see people on those balconies, the nearest still far enough to the north that it wasn’t a security risk to the mound. They always looked, by dint of distance, like sightsee-ers, tourists come to look out over the cliff down and across at the scenic view. We knew they were more dangerous than that—probably the descendents of factory workers who still lived in the gutted remains to the north of the heavy industry that had failed the city and the world. But of an evening, sitting there, we could pretend for a few minutes that we did indeed live in the exclusive Balcony Cliffs, that swank apartment complex that in another time and age everyone probably had paid millions to live in, so they could have that sunrise, that breathtaking view. Then we’d come back to reality and calculate aloud what kind of effort it might take for our fellow balconeers to make the arduous climb across the cliff face to our location and kill us and pillage our treasure trove—our magic swimming pool, Wick’s telescope, the detritus you still found in certain corridors of past lives lived in this place under progressively worse circumstances. Piles of books. A cradle never meant to be broken or sentimental. A few dozen worn shoes. A writing desk. The mummified remains of a dog-like animal that had wandered in, gotten lost, and starved to death, huddled in a corner.
Sometimes, as I drifted off to sleep, I could feel the solid weight of all that earth and remains of the old world pressing down, and experienced a strange kind of comfort. Wick and I were the last inhabitants of the Balcony Cliffs. Over the past years, the foragers and scavengers that had lived in the outer areas of our stronghold had wandered off and disappeared, or been outright killed, and not replaced; more and more, Wick worked by remote control, sacrificing time in the Balcony Cliffs to go roaming out to his contacts after dark, feeling, the trade-off, I suppose, that he’d rather no one knew where he lived and he’d rather not have new employees go through my intense vetting process.
This, then, is where I’d brought Borne, into this cocoon, this “safe” haven that took immense amounts of time and resources to keep safe, that with every day took Wick closer to running out of raw materials for beetles and me closer to having to figure out what would happen after that.