Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One year ago today (or close enough)

I'm not sure if is yesterday or tomorrow, or today, (I didn't think to remember it at the time) but this is approximately the one year anniversary of when I started my novel. Within about 15 days I had nearly 50,000 words written. Within a month and a half, about 130 thousand, and I wasn't even half done yet! That's when I started reading it to Jenn and she convinced me to finish it and publish it. I took most of April and early May off, but when none of my summer courses filled up, I had plenty of free time so I threw myself back into it. I finished by mid-July, but the editing was nearly as big a chore as the writing. By October though, it was up on Kindle. And even more amazingly, so far, everyone seems to like it. Heck...they LOVE it and no one is more surprised than me. It's been a heckuva an adventure and I can't wait to start the next part of the journey. I have no idea if it will ever become a success, I sure hope so, but it's been a lot of fun to come this far.

I'm already nearly 85,000 words into the sequel, but I can still remember which words I wrote first that night a year ago when I started writing just after midnight, the words that started it all. They come from near the end of Chapter Two where I introduce the person, or...THING...that would become the breakout character of the novel...Hiero, the imp.

Here it is, I hope you enjoy it and thanks to everyone for all the support.

From deep inside the house behind him came a hoarse, bleating, honking sound, followed by wheezing and a punctuated “Ka-chunk,” as something metal bit into the ground. He listened to the thing making the sound as it slowly got louder and scraped its way across stone floor until it was nearly right behind him. It was silent for a while and then the thing hooted out a short, impatient blast.
Nephys sighed and ignored it for a moment. Then the whooshing, honking, bleating sound became even more indignant. Nephys didn’t need to turn around to know what it was, but he did so anyway, just to keep it quiet.
It was Hiero.
Hiero was a devil, an imp to be precise, from one of the Pits of Punishment. There were many horrifying residents in the lower hells, but the majority of them inspired neither fear nor terror, but rather disgust and even a little pity. Most were, in fact, rather pathetic: misshapen abominations, cobbled together from odd parts and pieces, both inorganic and organic: sting rays with raccoon heads or dogs with the heads of finches with broken table legs for limbs. They were forged from the pure psychic trauma of the damned and lived to torment the souls that had begotten them. Hiero was one of these.
Every once in a while an imp staggered up to Limbo from the depths. There was no one to stop them. Once upon a time, there had been horrible, implacable guards and sentinels with lidless eyes at every ring and crossroad of Hades preventing the residents from mixing, but over time most of those had wandered off or faded away when they had discovered that they weren’t needed. Rarely did anyone ever leave his assigned place. The afterlife, it seemed, was dominated by inertia, and few looked beyond the horizon anymore. You don’t need guards for creatures that have lost all hope.
Still, every now and then, some unknown cataclysm deeper down belched up a few imps and lesser devils who staggered aimlessly across the Plains of Asphodel. Most got bored when they couldn’t get a rise out of the impassive inhabitants of Limbo, and returned to the depths looking for someone new to torment. An imp without a soul to torment was like a squirrel without a nut…desperate and lonely. Hiero was one of the few that had stayed and made himself somewhat useful. He occupied a position here in the houses of the dead somewhere between an indifferent messenger and a cantankerous pet. Perhaps he had lost interest in tormenting souls down below, or maybe he was so pathetic now no one down there was scared of him anymore. That was hard to believe because he was an unholy mess to look at, and even amongst abominations he was noteworthy.
His left arm was a tiny, piglet arm, fleshy pink, hoofed and entirely useless. The right one was long, thin and spidery, with three sharp fingers stained shiny black to the elbow. In this hand he carried a large, ragged butcher knife nearly as big as the whole imp himself. It was so heavy, the imp struggled to lift it at all, but his grip must have been strong because those three spindly, black fingers never let go of it. The right leg was also a short and stubby piglet leg, but that was the only part on the monster that matched another. The left foot was a webbed goose foot – a stiff and arthritic one at that. These two feet were worse than worthless, so much so that Hiero had to use the tip of the butcher knife as a kind of gruesome crutch and walking staff, which probably explained why he gripped it so tightly. With these three limbs he would half shuffle, half pull his body along. He’d stab the knife down and drag the rest of his misshapen carcass forward while his stunted, mismatched legs waddled desperately to keep up. Stab-drag, stab-drag he made his way everywhere he went.
But this was not the most disturbing thing about Hiero. No, the most disturbing thing about Hiero was his body, which wasn’t a body at all. Nephys had seen some revolting amalgamations in his time. He had seen a fish-headed cat with bricks for feet and a parrot-bodied imp with porcupine quills with anteater tongues where its eyes should have been. He had even seen a salamander-bodied imp with the head of a cabbage. But Hiero took the biscuit. His body was a set of bagpipes. The bulbous air bag made up his body. It was made from a sheep’s stomach, all veiny and sickly white. It expanded and deflated with every labored, hooting, honking breath, and if a bright light shone behind Hiero you could see that he was literally gutless. Inside he was all air. What need did an imp in the afterlife have for guts or eating anyway?
The neck, canter and blowpipe of the bagpipes made up his head and shoulders. On his head he wore a black cowl, like a medieval monk. Out of the back of his head, and the long pointed tail of the hood, came the blowpipe complete with a mouthpiece. This functioned something like a blowhole on a beached whale. Disgusting phlegm and spittle wheezed out of the pipe with every struggling, bleating breath. Up front, underneath the dark hood you could see two glassy, fish-like eyes and between them, like the long bill of some bizarre crane, was the flute-like canter, complete with finger holes. Out of the trumpet end of this beak, there flicked a tiny, bloody, red tongue covered in sharp barbs. Hiero had no teeth, lips or jaws to speak of, so it was a good thing he had no stomach. He couldn’t talk or speak either, except in shrill, discordant hoots and honks, but he never seemed to have any trouble making himself understood.
Jutting out of his back, like the bones of a bat wing that had been stripped of their membrane, were the other pipes and drones, blackened and skeletal. They rose and fell with each difficult breath, guttering out discordant tones and shrieks more unsettling than a pack of howling wolves. And when he got angry they stood upright, like the spines on a spiky fish, hollering like a demonic steam organ. The pipes on his back were also tangled up in black, stringy cords, like spider webs or ripped sinews, and from these hung an odd assortment of ghastly flotsam. There was a broken inkpot and an old, bloody whetstone, bits of parchment covered in vile glyphs only known or spoken in the deeper hells and small dead rodents, hairless and eyeless from a lifetime in the depths. And hanging from the largest pipe dangling from the far end on a scarlet silken cord was a severed human foot. Whether these were Hiero’s treasured possessions, or just junk that had gotten stuck there, Nephys didn’t know, and even if he asked, Hiero couldn’t exactly tell him.
Whether Hiero was a damned soul who hated bagpipes so much that he had somehow fused with the instrument of his torture, or whether he was a set of bagpipes whose tone was so awful it had sprung to life as an imp, no one could say. Imps were neither created nor born. Instead, the monstrosities just seemed to pop up from their vulgar surroundings whenever a damned soul arrived. They were all pain, frustration, shame and humiliation personified. Unlike the residents of Limbo, who drifted about in endless stoic repose and resignation, Hiero was always in a foul mood, and frequently flew into psychotic rages. Nephys liked that. It broke the monotony.
In all the houses of the dead, Hiero was the closest thing that Nephys had to a friend. There wasn’t much to like about Hiero. He was a vile abomination: a shrieking, stumbling, near-homicidal bagpipe – but a honking, hollering imp can never sneak up on you, and Hiero seemed to prefer Nephys’ company to any of the other souls here. Maybe he just liked to torment Nephys. Maybe he found Nephys a challenge and secretly wished for nothing more than his pain and degradation, but strangely, in this grey and twilight place where any motivation, even a sinister one, was rare, that was enough.
Nephys turned to face Hiero. The second Nephys made eye contact, Hiero’s impatient hooting ceased, replaced with a low droning breath. Hiero turned and began stabbing and dragging itself away. Nephys knew right away that Hiero wanted him to follow. Out of all the listless occupants of Limbo, there was an interest that only the two of them seemed to share – a morbid fascination with new arrivals that had entered the realm abruptly.
Hiero had obviously just found one.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, yes; nothing like a demonic bagpipe to set the stage for a story~
    (and did a right nice job of it, apparently! XD)

    Wow - I knew you were prolific with words, but not that much! That is crazy awesome - and in such a short time-span! D8

    Well, good luck with the continued writings~ :)