11 April 2008

Friday Snippet - Mutagens

Welcome to my very first Friday Snippet! (*bites lower lip* nerves, nerves...)

This is from a story called 'Mutagens' that I started a few years ago after having to edit a paper on childhood cancer. I had to do a fair amount of background reading on teratogens and mutagens and oncogenes and such like. Naturally, my imagination chewed on the science-y stuff, twisted it up with a bunch of other stuff bouncing around in my mind at the time - terrorism, homesickness, being a mommy - and next thing I knew I had this story idea burning a hole in my brain.

This part is actually a bit that I cut when attempting to force the thing to be a short story, which it adamently refuses to be, so it will probably go back in in some form eventually. Anyways, here 'tiz:


She took James up onto the roof to play in the warm afternoon sun. So late in September the heat felt good, even though the light had taken on that glow that said in no uncertain terms that it was fall and that winter was going to find New England sooner rather than later, no matter what promises the temperature was making that summer would never end.

James gurgled and tried to stand up. It was hard for him since he didn’t have hands to steady himself with. She helped him when he got frustrated, holding him up by his chubby little torso as his downy wings flapped for balance. It wouldn’t be long before he could do it himself. He was a feisty kid.

He’d be a year old in a couple of months. She had enough food cached away, she hoped, to make it through the cold months. She had been smart – Einstein and his mate had taught her not to put everything in one spot. Many hiding places was best. She ran them through in her mind, like a mantra, a talisman against the hunger that had almost killed her and the unborn James after the poisoned water had taken Peter.

She had picked places people didn’t like to go – graveyards were good. She had three caches in the big graveyard by Little Harbour, two in an older one by the South Mill Pond, one in the park down the street from it. There were several in this building and a bunch down by the water.

James fussed and started mouthing her chest, so she picked him up and nursed him. His eyes closed slowly to the rhythmic suckling sounds.

A big black SUV drove slowly down Maplewood.

Its windows were tinted black, so she couldn’t see in. Even if they hadn’t been, she couldn’t have seen much – it was all the way across the vacant lot between her street and Maplewood.

She stayed perfectly still as she watched it go by. Probably, whoever was in the SUV wouldn’t notice her. Probably, from a distance she would just look like one of the old A/C units on the roof. Probably.

Wonder who that is. Someone with a lot of money, or whatever it's equivalent was these days. Drinkable water. Food. Firepower. That was about it. Whatever they had, they must have a lot of it to be able to get enough gasoline to drive that thing around.

The SUV crossed the end of her street and disappeared over the bridge as the wind kicked up bringing a tang of salt and chill off the ocean. It blew her hair out in ripples like a long black flag from her head. She had almost cut it all off when Peter died. Grief made you do strange things. She was glad she hadn't. It was warm.

Einstein soared overhead calling for his mate, who answered from their nest in the covered corner of the balcony below. The fledglings called too, their little voices shrill in the breeze. Instead of going to see them, though, Einstein flapped down onto the roof and waddled toward her.

'Amy!' he croaked in his familiar sing-song. 'Amy!'

"Corva," she corrected, gently. "It's Corva now, remember."

'Corva,' Einstein repeated sounding just as doubtful as a raven knew how.

"That's right, Corva," she crooned to him.

He croaked softly and shuffled his feet as if he couldn't get comfortable. He croaked again, then reached over to run the side of his beak over the crook of her arm next to the baby's head.

'Amy!' he said with a note of finality.

"You don’t listen very well. I must have misnamed you," she muttered sidelong at him.

Einstein cocked his head at her and then cawed loudly and took off to visit his family.


Sorry I can't figure out how to get the Friday Snippet code from Mr. Linky, but if you comment, please leave a link to your own snippet too!

EDIT: OK, I think I got the Mr. Linky thing figured out. We'll see if it works...

Hey, whadya know - I did it!!



Jen said...

Fascinating snippet! I look forward to more. :-)

I'm glad you dove into snippeting! No need to be nervous (says a gal who has to reread her snippets a few times before posting them). ;-)



Ann said...

Very cool story, glad you joined the group. :)

As to the linky thing: I think I know what the problem is, you got to the list of memes and couldn't find us listed? That's because Holly Lisle started the group as a private meme which anyone could join (thus the name doesn't come up on the drop down menu). Just pick one and then go into the html code once you've pasted it (I use the Thursday Thirteen- because I do that meme too) find the code part which says which meme it is (for the Thursday Thirteen, it's the TT close to the end of the code) and replace it with the number 42. Sorry it took me so long to explain, and let me know if you have any other problems. :)

Tim King said...

Hey, Bethanie. Welcome. I liked this snippet. Intriguing universe you seem to have created.

The Mr. Linky code: Yeah, what Ann said. Or you can go grab the code from my Friday Snippet, but change the "owner" to your owner ID.

Here's the link to my Friday Snippet (which I posted yesterday): http://blog.jtimothyking.com/2008/04/10/a-friday-snippet-on-thursday.


Joely Sue Burkhart said...

Yay, Bethanie is joining Friday Snippets! What a cool world you've got going here--I love the idea! Looking forward to more.

Bethanie said...

Thanks for the support, everybody!

And thanks very much to Ann and Tim for advice on the Mr. Linky code - I would never have figured it out without your help!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Hey, this is great! Seems your world is fully imagined, which is good because I've got a TON of questions about it. I can't wait to see more!

Gabriele C. said...

Interesting world that rises a lot of questions. Why doesn't she want to be seen, for example?

cherylp said...

Welcome to Friday snippets. I'm very intrigued by what you have so far.

Quick question:

"She helped him when he got frustrated, holding him up by his chubby little torso as his downy wings flapped for balance."

Is the downy wings a metaphor or literal? With SF, you never know, especially with a piece out of context like this.

Bethanie said...

Hi cherylp! Thanks for stopping by!

To answer your question, yes, the downy wings are quiet literal. I think that might have been clearer if I had started at the beginning of the story, but I wanted another week to work on it before snippeting that bit... stay tuned! :)