Usual disclaimer: If you’ve been following, you’ll know, but if not: Couch to 80k is an 8 week writers bootcamp, requiring about 20 minutes per day (10 minutes of writing) by Tim Clare. I decided to do it to build some writing muscle and I blog my experience of doing it here.
Let’s talk Week 2 day 2
I’ll be honest, I thought “ugh, another freeform exercise”. I suppose most writing is free form exercises, and I should make my peace with that as soon as possible. I like restrictions, though. I’m very aware of the physical limits imposed by drawing comics – the shape of the page, the limits imposed by how many words you can fit within a single panel. Where a big image will have impact on the page, where the position of a character on the page will inform the reader of the character’s mood (usually bottom right).
Writing is more … limit free? I guess. Or maybe, I’m just less aware of where the scaffolding in writing is. When it comes to drawing, I have Neo’s beneath the matrix view of how it works, with writing, I’m still very much Neo wandering round the limited room with the duplicate people. There is no spoon.
Anyway, Tim started his little chat walking through a graveyard, with the sound of the wind blowing. And I started writing. And it’s weird how much of the location obviously shaped what I wrote. I’ve included the entire thing (bar a little bit at the end where I ran out of steam and still had a minute so what followed was just gibberish).
Just a reminder, in theory I shouldn’t be showing any of this stuff – that’s not the point of the work, the point is to write as though no-one is watching (and so there are contradictions, typos, stupid names and more). On the other hand, I’ve always had a weird relationship with blogging, it mostly feels like no-one is reading, so it becomes a safe confessional of sorts (that’s not to say you should ignore it, as with most things I hold in my head entirely contradictory positions).
Anyway, see if you can spot where the theme of a windy graveyard translated in to this super short story:
The winds of Alpha Centuri 4 blew hard across the sails of the ship.
Captain Yorgmaister Feld was in charge. He’d sailed before, of course. But today was special.
Today was the day that he would die. And it was a day that he’d been looking forward to for over a thousand years.
Immortality was a curse for his people. The population grew, people aged, of course, but only up until they hit their begin-life, when life truly opened up for them. At that point their cells stopped the growth process and moved towards simply renewing.
This was untenable for multiple reasons. The planet could only sustain a certain size of population and life gets dull after a while.
Once you’ve joined with another, had children, and had a relationship eventually decay away, and repeated the cycle several times, sometimes the perfect memory and the time you have alive combine to become the curse.
At that point you can apply for death.
The application, of course, was hard. Even a being who’d lived for several thousand years doesn’t want to rush in to the finality. There are forms to fill, a cooling off period (depending on how long you’ve been alive, that period can be anything from a thousand years to the possibly-too-rapid one hundred years). And, finally, an interview process.
Once you’ve been accepted, you are then offered a final day. A day that, depending on what you’ve achieved in life, be almost anything you want. For Yorgmaister, it was land-sailing.
He could feel the breeze whip past his face tendrils, his upper arms grabbing the mizzen sale, and his lower arms holding tight to the steering column. Across the vast flat plans, he could see, in the distance, the mile high peak of Yugmantha, the mountain god. It’s mouth a roiling chasm of fire and death, and the ceremonial pit in which Yorgmaister would throw himself, thus completing his life cycle.
Several generations of children will of, course, miss him, but they were ninth-generation and had so many cousins, grandparents, great grandparents, etc, that losing one isn’t a loss of a progenitor so much as it is gaining a day when you don’t have another birthday present to buy.
There were things Yorgmaister regretted, but this wouldn’t be one.