We all know Utopian novels are based around the ‘perfect world’. However, it’s not all fluffy bunnies and blue skies. Perfection is as far from perfect as we could ever become. Or at least, your perfect doesn’t match my perfect. It’s this means that I’ve come to see the Utopia genre as an ideal, but never a reality. It seems it’s all about these perfect worlds that are as far from ideal as they could ever become.
Not at all easy to write either. Which brings me to this posting. Over the past month, myself and a few others have taken it upon ourselves to push, and challenge us as writers, by exploring different genre’s and trying to work a story around that genre. Sounds fairly easy, right? Wrong! While I thought I had a story covered with a sound base to fit the Utopian theme of January, I couldn’t have been more wrong. It soon became apparent that the idea, and the characters, were rebelling on me. Turning my ‘Utopian’ short story into something so non-utopian, that it didn’t even fall within a short story boundary any more. None the less, I continued on with the challenge, and the writing of the story that came about during the initial workings of the task at hand.
You’ll soon see why it would never have worked for the theme, or how it will not fit within the 5k limit placed upon the story. So much so, that I struggled to get anything started on it, but now it sits at a little over 2k. It’s unfinished. It’s messy. It’s drafted, and unedited – scandalous I know!
Hey! We aren’t all super human writing machines! Trying to work in your writing time with a full time job that can’t keep your hours as they should be, is rather difficult and draining. But let’s forget my woes and return to the whole story thing. I’m going to add my progress for this month to this post, then I’ll be tucking it away until I have more time to work on it. February however, will see the start of a new genre, and a new story in the making. More on that later.
I’ve held you back long enough. Here’s what I’ve been working on. I’m going to run away and hide while you read it over. IF you read it over that is. This is the part I truly dread. I’ve probably messed it up somewhere along the writing line, or mixed up the tenses, or the flow – but it’s a draft.
“You can’t be serious! You can’t go out there!” Seamus’ voice trembled and rose in shock, and what I’d call a little distaste. He paced back and forth, the heels of his boots scuffing across the stone floor. I kept my head low, focusing on my hands.
That’s the response I get every time I tell him of the thoughts that cross my mind. But he doesn’t understand. He can’t. He doesn’t bare the marks upon his skin of a time left forgotten. He doesn’t have flashes of a time that doesn’t exist. How can he understand my needs, or the calling I feel?
“Don’t shrug those shoulders as if this was nothing. Look at me when I’m talking to you.”
I’m reluctant to meet his eyes. To meet the hurt, and confusion, I’ll see within them. He mean’s well, but he’ll never know the pain I feel. No one can. I can see his expressions without looking at him. He’ll be standing there with his hands on his hips, all dominant and commanding. You’d think he was my father the way he acts, but he isn’t. He’s gone. I don’t remember him, what he looked like, or what his voice sounded like. Some say I was too young to remember him. Others say the trauma was enough to put a block on the memories. Who truly knows which version is right, because I don’t?
“Maya, look at me.” The rough calloused skin of his cold hand startles me. He catches my chin and tilts my head up. Lowering himself down, he hovers his knees so our eyes are level. “You don’t know what’s out there. Where you are now is safe. Out there, you’ll never have that safety. These walls that surround us were built to protect us, to protect you.”
“To protect us, or ensnare us? We’re all hemmed up with no place to go but up to the green rooms, or the narrow, bland streets. How is that any better than all that space out there?”
I hear him take a sharp breath. His voice fails him, or I just can’t hear him. His lips are moving but no sound comes out. I can’t hear anything now, bar the loud hissing in my ears. I know I’ve overstepped the mark and try desperately to apologise. But he’s no longer standing in front of me.
A flash of light in the corner of my eye draws my attention. My breathing slows, catching in the back of my throat. The scars on my arms come alive and burn with a vehement heat. The office I’m in fades in and out of focus. It’s fighting with an old room with crumbling walls. Even that flickers out of sight, swirling in a nauseating mass of confusion, and conflict.
Muscles in my legs contort and spasm. A new war erupts. Pain and tears are the only victors. I drop to the floor as a shockwave shoots up my spine. I can’t take this. It’s unbearable. Slowly, the spinning eases and darkness falls. It brings welcomed relief, and repels the agony plaguing me. Normality returns, and the spasms ease.
I try to rise. His firm, cold hand stops me. “Maya, are you okay? You didn’t hurt yourself did you?”
“I-uh….” I frown, pinching my lower lip between my teeth. What did just happen? “I’m fine; I just…needed to lie down.”
“You just needed to lie down.” Seamus’ lips twitch forming a slight smile. A short laugh escapes him. “More like fall down, Maya. One moment you were sitting there,” he says, nodding to where I had been, “the next you seemed to just crumple up and hit the deck. Are you sure you didn’t hurt yourself? You landed pretty hard.”
I shake my head and brush away his hand. “I’m fine. There are no cuts, or bruises, no ever-lasting mark of trauma. Can I get up now?”
His fingers wrap around my wrist but he doesn’t help me up. His eyes narrow, his face fills with a look of consternation. “No, I’d rather you didn’t. Not just yet. I’d rather be safe than sorry.” He gestures towards the door and I hear it click open but I don’t pay attention. “What happened, Maya? What are you not telling me?” A quick look to his watch tells me we’re either short on time or he knows something I don’t.
“Nothing happened, and there’s nothing to tell,” I say, pulling back my wrist, but his grip doesn’t give. “Are you going to help me up? Or are you just going to stay there holding my wrist while looking like you desperately need to go to the bathroom?”
He loosens his grip and watches me carefully. “Don’t lie to me, Maya. It doesn’t become you. I –” His hand falls away, the sound of the door opening catches his attention. “Ah, finally,” he says, rising to his feet. “I’m glad you could come, Matt, and on such short notice, too.”
Matt runs his left hand through his dark, shaggy hair, sweeping it backwards. His azure blue eyes flit between myself and Seamus. My cheeks flush with embarrassment. I can feel the heat rising, and advert my gaze. “You know how it is, Seamus. When word comes my way that I’m needed, and I’m not busy, then I make that need my first port of call. So, what I can I do for you today?”
Seamus takes a step back and leans against his dark, wooden desk. It’s small in comparison to the room, and littered with scraps of paper. He had been ruffling through them before the room decided to spin. “I need you to keep an eye on Maya overnight. She took a tumble off the chair and I’m sure she’s hit her head pretty hard but denies it.”
“I did no such thing –” He holds his hand up to silence my protests. Arguing with him would be futile. Instead I cross my arms over my chest and glare at him. Not that he’s paying any attention to it.
“See what I mean? She needs checking over, and monitoring. Just to be on the safe side. You can either watch over her in her lodgings, or take her to the recovery rooms.” Seamus bowed his head and refused to look my way. But I could see the satisfied smirk forming on his lips.
“Might I ask the nature of what caused your fall, Maya?” Matt’s lilting voice catches me off guard. I turn to look at him only to find he’s already towering above me, holding out a hand to help me up. I refuse to take it and insist on standing when I’m ready.
Seamus chuckles briefly before crossing his arms in front of him. “Maya, you will comply with any and all questions Matt may ask you. You will surrender to any tests he feels is necessary and you will not leave his watch under any circumstances.” He pushes himself off the edge of his desk and turns to lift a piece of paper. He quickly scans its contents then holds it out towards Matt. “You will record any and all answers she gives you, and you will return the results to me. If she doesn’t talk, or give you any answers then you will note this also.”
Matt’s brow furrows as he takes the paper and looks down at it. “This isn’t standard protocol, Seamus. It isn’t even what we do as a last resort. Is there something going on here that I should know?” He lifts his head and studies Seamus’ now blank expression before turning his attention towards me. “Maya, what’s going on between you two?”
I shake my head. “I’m just as confused as you are, Matt. Honestly, I never hit my head, and I sure as hell don’t need watching –”
“On the contrary, you have a racing pulse, you crumpled up and hit the floor, and you refuse to tell me the truth.” Seamus spins around and steps towards me then hoists me up onto my feet so our eyes were level. “That, in my eyes, is more than enough evidence to say you aren’t as fine as you make out to be.”
I shrug away from him, and ball my hands into fists. “Don’t do this, Seamus. Not like this. Follow through and you’ll still know nothing.” Heat rises to my face and I turn my head from him, hiding the tears now welling in my eyes. A lump forms in my throat making it hard to swallow. Clearing it, I brush my eyes and face the only way out of this room. “You can’t just trust me, can you? After everything, you still have to keep pushing. I’m done with this, I’m out of here.” Moving towards the door I find my path blocked by Matt’s outstretched arm. I flash him an accusing glare and he responds with an apologetic shrug.
“I’m sorry, I can’t let you do that,” he says. “You know I’ve got to follow orders. I can’t let you leave my sight.” His eyes plead deeply with me, showing no signs of being false. I can’t fault him for only doing his job, but at the same time, I can’t agree with their reasoning.
The soft lighting turns his pupils into gold instead of hazel. His raven black hair only makes them more startling. I drop my gaze, taking my attention away from his breath-taking eyes. “Matt, please? There’s nothing wrong with me. Surely there’s a rule somewhere in this perfect little world that says I can object?” He wraps his free arm around me, preventing me from going anywhere.
He swallows hard, and I know I’m not going to like what he’s going to tell me. Muscles twitch in his neck before he shakes his head. “Technically, no, there’s nothing that gives you the right to refuse examination if the orders are placed by a Chancellor.” His head tilts slightly towards Seamus. Arching a brow he nods once. He casts me a weak smile, with a shrug, as if it’d make everything better. It doesn’t. “I really am sorry, Maya. If there was any other way, I’d help you. He’s given the command and I can’t deny it. I must follow it through.”
“No, there has to be something I can do?” I shake my head in denial and grip his arm, tugging at his sleeve. “There has to be!”
Seamus clears his throat and my body tenses. I’m already rejecting what he has to say before it’s been said. “Actually, there is one thing, Maya.” My stomach churns with the thought of what he’s about to say. The wait seems endless. No-one moves. I keep my eyes on the silver door handle and brush my foot across the floor in sweeping arcs. “You’re not going to ask what it is?” he says, and I shake my head. “I’m disappointed, Maya. I thought you’d be jumping at the bit at the slightest chance. It’s rather simple really; all I need is for you to tell me what you saw during the time of you falling from the chair until you landed on the floor.”
“Oh well, that’s easy, Seamus, truth is –”
“The truth is?”
I pinch my lips tight together, growing frustrated with his attitude, and his interrupting arrogance. “Truth is I didn’t see a thing. The room started spinning and that’s all I know. No can I go now? You can dismiss Matt now that you have the truth and I can retreat to my lodgings.” I pray he believes me, and reach out for the door, my hand outstretched. My fingers only just brush against the cold silver when Seamus starts up again.
“I’m not satisfied by your answer. We’ll reconvene this conversation another night. For now, I want to make sure you’re perfectly healthy.” I spin around quickly, almost losing my balance, only to see an amused grin spreading across his face. I move to speak but he raises his hand and cuts me off.
Throw your thoughts at me. Give me everything you have. I can handle it. I can take it. I will learn from it. Be as critically brutal as you need to be, and point out my weaknesses. I may cry. I may breakdown and say I’m never writing again, but I’ll brush it off – eventually – and I’ll get right back on the writing road.
Utopia: The bane of my existence, how you’ve tortured me so! You punished me, and pulverised me until I was weak and under pressure. You broke me down until there was nothing left but tears, and fire. Through that I fought on, and fought valiantly, but I still tumbled at the last stop. Be ye not be so harsh on me in the future. Perhaps upon our second outing we will be more friendly towards each other – maybe then I can work a story in your favour.
Now that you’ve read mine, why not go and take a look at my writing partner’s take on this theme.
Until next time, happy writing!