Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Reveur

         Once a month, I risk my life for reveurite. It is the most pliable metal of the dreamscape, infinite in its uses but deadly to shape. Like an acid, it corrodes leather, clothing, skin. The only mine is on an island impossible to reach, unless you know the way. In a tower at its peak I wait for the moon’s apex, when reveurite falls from the stardusted ether. My hammer and tongs rest on the workspace, handles towards me where I can reach them. Moonlight comes in from a narrow port at the top of the tower.
         Three minutes to midnight, I begin my preparations. With a silver dagger, I slice my palm open and scatter my blood across the worktable as a baker does with flour. I pick up the hammer, weigh it in the palm of my hand, and give an experimental swing. The furnace on my left is swelteringly hot. Exactly three minutes later, the reveurite falls like a lead weight sent by the gods. It lands through the port onto the workspace in a viscous smear.
         I work rapidly, wrestling it into the shape I need, though it slips and slithers under the tongs. This is a battle of willpower more than anything else. I command the reveurite to shift form, to line the mould that I have prepared. Grasping the tongs with both hands, I shove it into the furnace where it screams. Before the night is over, I will shed more blood in an attempt to fix its shape. It must be perfect.
            An hour later, I put down my tongs and hammer. My hands are shaking, either from blood loss or fatigue, and I wipe them on my trousers. There are small craters in the workspace that will need to be filled and the wood that supplies the furnace must be restocked. But the work is done. A small box sits in front of me, whalebone in appearance only. Three engraved dragons cross each other at the centre of the lid, topaz eyes glinting in the darkness. Foxgloves dance along the sides. It doesn’t have to look this way – it can be wood, or glass, or even cardboard for all the difference it would make – but a craftsman always takes pride in their work, and furthermore, she will appreciate the effort. My orphan creation. With haste – because there is not much time left, not now – I open the lid and place the letter within. This is the only way to guarantee its arrival, no matter the circumstances, and it is imperative that it reaches the shores of the living. To her.

          If I could I would linger, but dawn is grasping at the horizon, so I take the box from the middle of the workspace and depart. For a few more minutes the island exists, hanging precariously on the edge between one life and another, until the moon fades and the ocean swallows it whole.

This story was made possible through the writing prompt at 

Revision Blues

I haven't written here in a while and I'm sorry, dutiful readers. I will endeavour to be more active, despite the dreaded last month of the semester. Portfolios need to be wrapped up, stories revised, and things handed in.

Claire Messud is visiting my college at the moment and we had a special masterclass with her on revising, using "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" by Raymond Carver. It was a fascinating exercise, but it brought up a lot of my own anxieties about revision. Here's the thing: I hate revisions, but I love rewriting. I love going back to a story and rewriting it from scratch, using nothing but the barest of outlines. It makes me feel like I'm both starting anew and making progress.

Revision, on the other hand, makes me feel like Theseus in the minotaur's labyrinth. There are a million paths that the story could go down, and although only one of them is right, I have to explore all of them before I know which one is true. Figuring out where the story starts, for example, ties me up in knots. It's paralysing, whether at the computer or on paper. Blank page round two.

How can I possibly make something so beautiful out of these words? How can I commit to what I've written?

I wish I had an answer for this.