Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dragon story redux

This is the actual first chapter of the dragon story. It's still only like half as long as a real chapter, but If I made them all actual chapter length then my story would be a depressingly short two and a half chapters, so I decided to delude myself into thinking it's longer by making them each about ten pages. Anyway, this is mostly stuff you've already read, but that was a long time ago and I've added descriptive passages and quite a bit of dialogue - all in all, fully a page of new material - and I also replaced several sections I didn't like or found akward. This comprises the first 6 or 7 old chapters.

Prologue

Where does a story begin? Aside from the creation narrative in the Bible, no story really starts where the narrative does - they tend to have at least a little background. Even if a story begins with the birth of the main character, there are still older characters whose early life and background will be alluded to, and thus an earlier part of the story remains untold. My story begins more than ten thousand years before I was born - but I'm a little sketchy on the details of that part. So I'm going to start at the earliest part where I can have some degree of accuracy, about a hundred and seventy years ago.
In 1856 in the town of Riverview, Indiana, population two hundred some, a stranger showed up. His name was Skyler Woods Brimmer. Skyler had no parents, and no family history to speak of - he said he was found by his mother on her doorstep when he was a baby. The woman who had raised him, he maintained, had lived alone, and she had just died, so he had come to Riverview to seek his fortune. Of course, none of this was true, but they had no reason to doubt it, so they all believed him. Hoosiers are simple folk, not used to deception, and ready to accept anyone who's willing to work hard and support themselves.
Skyler was well-liked by all of his neighbors, and set about making a life for himself. Four or five years later he got married. His wife was pregnant with his first son when the war broke out. Most of the men in the town signed up to fight on one side or the other, but Skyler had no desire to fight. Pressured by his friends, though, he eventually gave in. He fought with distinction but was put on the front lines at the battle of Shiloh. As his body was never recovered, he was proclaimed MIA, but his wife pretty much gave up hope when she heard the news. She named the boy Skyler Woods Brimmer Jr.
The second Skyler Woods Brimmer lived a fairly normal life, had two sons and three daughters, though what befell his daughters is information I've been unable to acquire. His second son died in a fire at the age of fourteen, His first son he named Skyler Woods Brimmer III, and the name has been passed down ever since. Interestingly enough, only one male heir from each generation has survived - any boys not named Skyler Woods tended to perish at an early age. In 1955, Skyler Woods Brimmer V gave birth to a daughter, Lisa Brimmer, my mother. Number five had the unfortunate distinction of being the first not to bear a son to carry on the name, though he did have three daughters. He was rather distraught about this fact most of his life, and it was his dying wish that Lisa name her son Skyler Woods Brimmer.
In 1983 Lisa married Wallace Tamsworth, a funeral parlor owner from Minnesota. When she married him, she insisted that their first son be named after her father, to honor his wishes. He found her obsession a little eccentric, but he was in love with her, so he agreed. They first gave birth to a daughter, my sister Katherine Tamsworth, and then 3 years later to me, Skyler Woods Brimmer VI. Three months later my mother disappeared. My father remarried a few years later, but it left me in the difficult position of being the only member of my family with my last name. Even more difficult when I learned the import of that name.
Skyler Woods Brimmer the first was no ordinary man. He passed on certain... talents to his descendants, and with them a name both famous and infamous in circles most people don't even know exist. I would discover all this eventually. But at the time, all it was was a long, cumbersome name, inherited from a woman I never got a chance to meet. I was an ordinary kid, with an ordinary life. But all that was about to change.

Chapter 1

Aside from a few isolated events that were lost on me at the time, the trouble really started when I was 16. The year was 2004, and anti-magic sentiment was sweeping the nation. The presidential election had been a close one, with magic–related issues at the forefront of both campaigns. The Magical Security and Protection Act, a conservative initiative that would allow the government to lock up suspected part-dragons and other semi-magical creatures, had just failed by a narrow margin in the Senate, but a provision had recently passed to cut off government funding to arcane research. On top off that, the supreme court had just upheld the decision of a Kansas schoolboard to remove any mention of the Arcane age from history classes. The officials claimed the so-called history was based on “rumor and speculation” – and contradicted biblical sources. They didn’t want their children exposed to it.
I personally didn't care much either way. As far as I knew I didn't know any part-humans, and there were so few left I thought the whole thing was blown way out of proportion. My older sister, however, had recently taken a fervent magical rights stand I didn’t completely understand. In fact, she had spent the past few months campaigning for a democratic Senator named Sean Walsh, who had eventually won reelection by a close margin. The presidential candidate she’d been supporting, however, had lost. I was a little upset, but it really didn’t matter all that much - I was just focusing on teenager things, trying to get through school and learn to drive.
My constant companions throughout high school were Jason Anderson and his little sister, Fay. Jason was my age, Fay was a year younger, and the three of us were inseperable. I probably spent as much if not more time at the Anderson home as I did at my own. The fourth member of our little quartet was Fay's best friend, Zhong Hua. Her parents had moved here from China before the first war, but she’d been very young then, and she was quite Americanized. I had acquaintances besides these three, but none were close friends, with one possible exception who I'll tell you about soon.
As close as they were, Jason and Fay were about as different as a brother and sister can be. Physically, they were both blonde and blue-eyed, but the resemblence ended there. Jason was a few inches taller than me and fairly well-built, but liked to make himself as small as possible. Fay, a diminutive 4'10", filled the room with her personality. She flirted incessantly with everyone, but had no desire for a boyfriend (or a girlfriend for that matter, though people did talk). Fay saw everything as a game, and dedicated her whole life to having as much fun as possible. This, combined with her inexhaustible energy, made her very attractive and a lot of fun to be around.
Jason, on the other hand, had until a few months ago had trouble even talking to anyone he didn't know. He seemed to have gotten over that and was now hopelessly trying to romance a very attractive young woman with whom he had no chance whatsoever. What was amusing was the zeal he put into it. It was as if instead of creeping out of his shell like most shy people do, he had done a complete one-eighty into being a vibrant, dynamic, and almost intimidating personality. He had lost all inhibitions and no longer cared what anyone thought about him. So far in his quest to win her heart had had tried everything from making her a new origami animal every day for a month to writing a song in four part harmony and mustering a quartet to sing outside her window. The girl, her name was Marissa, was either incredibly dense or just had a cruel sense of humor- she appeared to be totally oblivious to his advances. Jason, undeterred, continued to come up with new and increasingly absurd plans based on shaky or nonexistant logic. I watched this all unfold with a mix of bewilderment and pity.
The only other person I spent any amount of time with was a girl by the name of Mora Bridges. We met because we were seated in study hall together, the seating arrangments having been made alphabetically. Mora was an anomaly. She was fed up with the prevailing high-school culture, and as a result tried to get as far away from it as possible. Somewhere along the line, however, she discover these attempts had alligned her with a subculture, smaller but no less ‘fake’, as she put it, than regular culture. She was also openly gay, the one change from her counterculture days that had stuck. All these factors combined to create a very interesting person to be around. Her hair had been dyed so many times no one remembered its original color, but was currently black streaked with green. Her skin was pale and acne ridden, and her features severe. Her sharp nose was frequently ornamented with a small stud – she had given up on large rings, saying they were for ‘attention whores’. Her clothing was mostly black robes and cloaks from her ‘goth’ days combined with bright colors, tie-dye, and items she bought at vintage stores. She always wore layers, though, and flowing clothing which made her body type hard to determine. She was interested in various occult things – most of them on a purely scholarly level, although she had retained some pagan beliefs. Frequently, she would show me something from a book or website, and through her I learned a lot of seemingly useless trivia about the Arcane age. She had some very interesting theories about everything, and while I found them amusing, I seldom payed too much attention. Recently I wish I had.
So that’s what my life was like when all this started. One day, I came into the lunch room and sat down with Jason and Fay. Jason was looking, as always, across the table to where Marissa was sitting talking to her friends.
"How's it going?" I asked him
He sighed plaintively.
"Nothing's working," he said eventually, "I've tried gifts, singing, quoting the Bard... even baking cookies. No luck,"
"Everything short of, you know, asking her out," answered his sister sarcastically.
"Not my style," he answered, "I mean, eventually, of course, but first I have to win her over. She'd never say yes now,"
"How do you know if you haven't tried?" I asked.
"If I try and she says no," he explained, "I'll have to try again later, and asking for a second date after you've been rejected is just pathetic,"
"And following her down the hallway reading sonnets isn't?" asked Fay.
"I should go on a quest for her," said Jason suddenly, ignoring his sister, "Too bad there's no more dragons to slay,"
"Half-Dragons?" I suggested jokingly.
"Look," Fay cut in, "Jason, here's your problem. Well, one of many problems,” she snickered. “Every attempt you've made has been anywhere from a few decades to a few centuries out of date. If you want a quest that will impress her, you need something modern,"
"That's it!" cried Jason suddenly, as if an idea had coming flying from the sky like a meteor and hit him in the back of the head, "I'm going to steal Harvey!"
Ok, perhaps I should explain about Harvey. Jason and Fay's grandparents, Samuel and Samantha Anderson (people called them Sam & Sammy), were a little bit crazy. When they were in their late sixties, about eleven years ago, Sam found out he had a brain tumor and was going to die in a few months. So he decided, since he had nothing to lose, he would go on a motorcycle trip zig-zagging across the entire U.S., visiting every state along the way. Sammy decided she would go with him - it would be like a second honey moon. So they went off for their last hurrah. Along the way they sent fifty post cards to their grandkids - Fay keeps them all in a little box. I've read them. They're very funny. Sam was quite the character. In them he refers to the motorcycle as "Harvey" - Harvey the Harley.
He died two days after he got home. About two years ago, Sammy died. In her will she left "Harvey" to Jason and Fay. They were thrilled to hear this - their parents were less enthusiastic. They said the thing was a death trap, and neither of their children was getting on it. After months of convincing, they finally conceded to let Jason take classes and get a motorcycle license. For a while he drove Harvey around and he was happy. Then one day he very nearly got in a fatal accident. His parents locked up Harvey and forbid him to ride it again until he was eighteen.
Jason had talked about stealing Harvey many times since then, but he had never worked up the guts to actually do it. I figured this time would be the same.
“Like you haven’t said that before,” said Fay.
“I’m serious this time,” answered her brother. “I mean think about it. What could be more romantic than riding up to her on a motorcycle and asking if she wanted a ride?”
I could think of quite a few things, but I didn’t see much point in bringing them up. One thing I’d learned about Jason was that once he’d made up his mind, it was hard to argue with him. So instead I just said, “I suppose I’ll end up being involved in this,”
“’Course,” answered Jason, “I mean, if you want to,”
“Why not?” I said. I’d been in on enough of Jason and Fay’s schemes to know it was better just to go with it. “We should get together somewhere to plan how we’re gonna do it though,”
“Well, our house is out,” said Fay.
“Ya think?” answered Jason sarcastically. “How about your house, Sky?”
“There’s never any good food at Skyler’s house,” protested Faye.
This was true. My stepmom was something of a health nut, and junk food was severely regulated. Scheming was no fun without root beer and cheese puffs.
“Yeah,” replied Jason, “Good point. How about Zhong’s place?”
“Oooh, Asian junk food,” said Fay, “I could go for that.,”
The lunch bell rang. There was a bustle of activity as everyone scrambled to get there things and say goodbye to each other.
“I’ll ask her next period,” I said, picking up my backpack. “Call you tonight,”
My next period was study hall with Mora. Zhong was confined to the other side of the cafeteria by evil Nazi woman, but occasionally managed to wander over on false pretenses. Today Mora was pouring over a rather large document she'd printed off the internet.
"What's that?" I asked, with the sort of half interest I reserved for my dealings with Mora.
"My friend hacked these from the FBI site," she answered. She was probably lying, but I thought I'd indulge her. "They're records of all the known Draconics and part-dragons with ties to the twin cities area," She looked at it for a minute. "A through I," she added.
"Cool," I said.
"Yeah, theres a lot more than you'd think. Let's see..." she started reading, "Name: Thadius Hawkins. Status: Missing, presumed dead. Last seen October 23rd, 2002. Classification: Blue. You know how these work?"
"How what work?"
"Classifications. See, there are a bunch of different kinds of Draconics, each with different powers and skills. It's all super classified but I've figured out some stuff. Black is the least dangerous. The most dangerous is either gold or silver, I think. You generally don't want to cross any that are metallic sounding, though,"
"What's the difference?" I asked. I was actually somewhat interested at this point.
"Oh, you know," she answered. "Size, power, if they can fly, if they can breath fire or anything, that kinda stuff. Some types also tend to folow weird codes,"
"Like what?" I asked.
"Well, the Asian ones follow some kinda code of honor, and the European ones don't have anything like that. They think of themselves like Samurai or something. I don't know much about it,"
"Samurai are Japanese," I said. "Dragons are Chinese,"
"Whatever," she answered, then went back to reading.
She read in silence for a while, then looked up.
"Hey," she said, "Brimmer. Any relation?"
She held up the picture. The last time I'd seen that face in person I was three months old, but I'd memorized the picture. The text confirmed it. Name: Lisa Brimmer. Status: Captured, January 13th, 1989.
My initial reaction was just sort of a numb shock. I didn't say anything. I just kind of stared at the picture, wishing it wasn't there. At first it was just the shock of discovering that my Mother was a criminal. Then I realized it also meant she was probably alive. It hadn't yet sunk in that if my mother had dragon blood, I, by extension, also had it. I was taking it one step at a time.
"You ok?" asked Mora.
"Fine," I said, "I'm fine," I didn't want it to get out that my mother was in prison, or that she was a Draconic - they weren't exactly loved by the public right now, what with everything that was going on in the political arena. Still, I wanted a closer look.
"Can I have a copy of this?" I asked.
"Sure," she answered, "I can get another. I saved it all on to a disc. Why do you want one?"
I am terrible at impromptu lying. I tried to think of a convincing reason, but my imagination failed me. So I told a modified version of the truth.
"She looks familiar," I said, "We might be related, I'd like to find out,"
"If you're related, that'd make you part dragon, wouldn't it?" Mora said, "That'd be sweet!"
That's when it hit me. I was part dragon. If this got out, it could ruin me. Being a white male, I didn't have much experience being discriminated against, and I wasn't eager for that to change. People don't like Draconics. Can you blame them? With all the stories about Draconics burning down buildings and things – I could understand why they weren’t well liked. Still, whether I went Draconic or not, this would be bad for me. It could keep me out of colleges, work places, any government job, especially if these new laws were passed. To me it was a terrifying prospect, and Mora’s making light of it made me irrationally upset.
"What do you mean sweet?" I asked. "People hating you, not letting you do things because of something you have no control over, why would that be cool?!"
"Because," answered Mora, "You'd be able to shape change and burn people's houses down if they mistreated you,”
"Only if I actually go Draconic!" I answered.
"And why wouldn't you?" she asked, "Look, I know a thing or two about discrimination, and I can tell you, it sucks. But if people find out, they’ll discriminate against you just as much whether you use your powers or not. I mean, if you were gonna get the bad part anyway, why not get the benefit's too?"
"Because they put you in Jail!" I answered, "Yes, being a part-dragon sucks, but all they can do is discriminate against you in small places, you know, like keeping you out of jobs and things. If you go Draconic, you don't even need to commit a crime – once they pass this “Magical Security and Protection” law, anyway. You have no rights,"
"You don't think being able to fly and breathe fire is worth the extra persecution?" She asked.
"Not really," I answered truthfully.
"Well I would,” she answered, “Not going draconic seems kind of cowardy to me, actually,”
“How so?” I asked.
“I dunno,” she said. “Like trying to be something you’re not,”
"It doesn't matter," I lied, trying to get off the subject. "We're probably not related anyway,"
"Too bad," she answered.
I went back to looking at he paper. There wasn't a huge amount of information on my mother. Her classification was listed as silver. Height: 5' 8 (human); 6'6 (draconic), Weight: 140.
Member of the influential Brimmer family. Married, two children. Suspected leader of the Northern regional cell of the MFA. Has been involved in at least two robberies and one assasination. Currently being held at the Camelot facility.
I desperately wanted to be able to click on that link. My mother, a cell leader for the MFA? Why had this been kept from me? I wanted to find out. I thought about asking my father, but I didn't know how he'd react. There was really only one person I could trust with this, and I decided to try and get in touch with her when I got home.
Just then Zhong approached us, having somehow escaped her side of the cafeteria. That was good. I needed a distraction.
"Zhong!" I called. She looked startled, then saw me and wandered over.
"We need to use your house for plotting," I said, "Is that cool?"
"Tonight?" she asked, "No. My parents are entertaining guests. Some of my dad's investors, very important. Tomorrow good?"
"It'll do," I answered.
"Is that your mother?" asked Zhong, pointing to the papers.
Zhong had been to my house enough times to have seen the pictures, and she had a notoriously photographic memory. So much for keeping this secret. I had to try though.
"No,” I said, trying to appear cool, “The resemblance is striking, though, isn't it?"
"Yes," answered Zhong sarcastically, taking the paper, "And with the same name, too. How unlikely is that?"
"Wait a minute," said Mora, "Your mother? So we weren't talking hypotheticals a minute ago! You're actually a -"
"Shut up!" I said. I lowered my voice, "Guys, seriously, we have to keep this low profile. If it get's out, it could ruin my chances of getting into a good college or getting a good job. I could end up in prison. This isn't a joke,"
"Your secret's safe with me," said Mora, "But I would so start trying to develop your powers,"
"No," I said.
"What a waste," she answered.
"Is this what we're plotting about?" asked Zhong, suddenly very serious.
"No. That's just something silly. But I'd prefer you not tell anyone about this - even Jason and Fay. Is that alright?" I asked hopefully.
"Don't worry," said Zhong, "I'm good at keeping secrets. I've been holding on to some for years now,"
"Good," I answered, "I need time to figure this out. It might not even be real,"
"Ok," answered Zhong. "I'll see you tomorrow then, no?"
"Yeah," I answered, "See you then."
The bell rang, and we got up to leave. All the way home I went over all this in my head - what I'd do when they came for me, why they hadn't already - I mean they had have my name in a book somewhere, didn't they? I wonderted if I could really trust Mora. And I wondered if my mother really was still alive in some cell somewhere. I didn't know where the answers to these questions were, but I knew where I was going to start looking. I decided to put it out of my head for a while and think about stealing a motorcycle.

4 comments:

Jonah said...

I actually miss Mora's comment about being a lesbian being like being a Draconic except that she can't breath fire. (or something like that). In general I like the changes, but I think combining into one chapter purely for the sake of length is silly. Your divisions are still there, only now they're unmarked making them awkward. And the fact that it's all one chapter actually negatively effects the pacing, making the story seem to move too fast. If you really want longer chapters (and I don't understand why you do) you need to expand them, not just combine them.

Nathaniel Cornstalk said...

I thought the gay metaphor should be an undertone, rather than hitting people over the head with it. I think expanding each one page chapter into twenty pages or so would seriously bog down the story, but I am trying to expand wherever possible.

Erin said...

I still love the creativity of this story. When you say "the war" in the prologue, you might want to specify that you're talking about the Civil War, and the conversation with Mora still seems a little heavy with exposition, but otherwise excellent re-beginning.

Grace said...

oh bugger, now I feel vaguely like a terrible person for, um, kinda getting red pen all over this. jonah's right, and I forgot to mention, you can 'see' the divisions. not too badly, though.