This post is largely for my parents. I am currently in the throes of National Novel Writing Month, topping today with 32,000 words, and for their sake, I put up a little bit of my novel - rough and unedited - so they can see what I'm up to. The picture is a crudely paint-made illustration of the planet.
They called it the coffin room, although the boxes in the room weren’t, per se, coffins. The boxes looked like coffins, they were lined with silk, and they even had people in them, but the people weren’t dead. They were sleeping.
The room was long, and Hawking’s cane clanged loudly, echoing among the boxes with each step he took. Towards the end of the room, lay one coffin, separated from the rest. A wheel stuck out from the end. He slowly hobbled over to it and leaned his cane against the side. Grasping the old metal wheel with both hands, he began to turn it slowly. He glanced down the room again.
Rows and rows of people sleeping. Hawkings typically tried not to think about it, as thoughts of coffins filled with people that could wake up did not usually suit for pleasant dreams. The room was weird, and he had never heard anyone voice a different opinion than that. The wheel turned. The coffin’s lid began to open.
It looked even weirder from inside the coffin, Holland thought, as the cover to her box opened slowly and squeakily. It sounded like the gears of an old, giant clock.
Her limbs felt like ice. One leg tingled a bit, the other felt like a dead log; she twitched her fingers and rolled her eyes around in her head. Her ears were regaining feeling, which was weird because she had always imagined that her nose would be first and then the feeling would spread like warm water pouring down her skin. It didn’t feel like that it all. It felt like her son was driving his toy train up her leg while her ex-husband stabbed her in the back. And here came the emotions. She hated those.
Hawking’s head appeared over the side of her coffin.
She coughed and gasped.
“By god, Hawkings,” she croaked. “You look like you’re eight hundred years old!”
“Seven-hundred and ninety-three,” he replied, as a broad smile broke into his wizened eyes. His face was partially hidden by a monstrous, pitch black beard and mustache. “You look as young and beautiful as the day we put you under.”
“Has it really been six hundred years?” she asked.
“Yep. Minus two weeks. I had to wake you up because Old Man Jacobs died last night so the crew was down to just me and Squeak.”
“Jacobs is dead? Does that mean that Captain Abrams and Lady Mastin are dead too?”
“Yes, ma’am. Although, we won’t have much opportunity to miss Lady Mastin. She spent the last two years of her life carefully recording her voice into the computer system.”
Holland raised her arm. “Ow!” she exclaimed as blood rushed backwards into her body.
“Careful,” said Hawkings. “I need you healthy and strong to help me wake up the rest of these bastards that spent the last six hundred years sleeping. You know the rules, wake up from stasis – then you’ve got to sleep for twenty-four hours. Let’s just hope I don’t croak before you get back up.”
“No, wait,” she said. “My son…”
“You can watch the briefing vids when you wake back up, sweetheart. But you need to sleep. Or you’ll die. Literally.” Hawkings hobbled over to her med-station. He turned a knob and a yellow liquid seeped into the tubes that fed into her box. “You won’t feel anything. It’s just sleeping medication.”
“I don’t want to go… back… to…” Holland took a deep breath and fell silent.
“Sweet dreams,” he whispered, leaning to kiss her forehead. “Please, wake up soon. So I don’t die alone.”
The rain weaseled its way out of the clouds and through the air, landing cautiously on the ground and slinking into every corner and hole it could find. The street lamps hadn’t bothered to turn on, so the light that lay casually across the sidewalk primarily came from the windows of an old Victorian-style house. The sign that swung in the light wind read “Mr. Gwyn Oliphant, Therapist.”
Although it was rather late, Mr. Oliphant had a patient.
“I’m a villain,” said Maxwell Dippings, leaning back in his chair.
“That’s very interesting,” said his therapist. “What makes you think that?”
“I have an evil plan,” Maxwell replied in a quite straightforward manner.
“And what would that be?” Gwyn Oliphant, XXXV, scribbled rapidly in his legal notepad – a carryover from his days as an intern with Jeffery Oliphant, Attorney at Law.
“Oh, I can’t tell you.” Maxwell braided his fingers together. “I can only tell my arch rival, and then only right before my plan is about to succeed.”
“And who is your arch rival?”
“His name is John.” Maxwell smirked. “And boy is he going to regret that.”
“Regret what?” asked Mr. Oliphant.
“Being named John.”
“This is all quite fascinating,” Mr. Oliphant replied. “What is it about his name that he will regret?”
“Yes, but why?” Mr. Oliphant looked over the top of his half-moon glasses.
“Oh, I can’t tell you that. But just pay attention to the news.” Maxwell took a deep breath. “The news tells all.”
“Well then, would you care to let me know when your plan is going to go into effect?”
“Right this very instant,” said Maxwell. He stood and leaped through the window.
The sound of shattering glass barreled into Mr. Oliphant’s ears as he jumped from his seat and watched Maxwell Dippings sprint down the street.
“Thanks for all your help, Mr. Oliphant,” he yelled over his shoulder. “You won’t regret it.”
Mr. Oliphant shook his head. “I should probably call the police on that one.” He looked at his watch. “But after dinner, I think.”
Maxwell Dippings did not run home, assuming that eventually Mr. Oliphant would, in fact, call the police. Instead, he headed to the old playground which was overrun with weeds and pricker bushes. He leaped over the rotting, three foot, wooden fence that had once completely surrounded the miniature park, and made his way through the weeds to the main structure. It had a slide, a six foot platform with some holes and a fake steering wheel, and a couple of rope ladders.
Ducking underneath the slide, Maxwell entered his secret lair. He had dug out the ground underneath the playground and added slats of wood to make walls. Encouraging the weeds go grow up and around the slats as camouflage had proved harder than he had expected, because, while they were quite a voracious species, they didn't really grow up as much as out. An old rug that smelled a bit like wet possum covered the ground, and a few pillows and a feather blanket made the tiny room a bit more comfortable – well, it would have been comfortable if the rain hadn't made everything damp.
Pictures of Maxwell’s arch rival were tacked onto the makeshift wooden walls. A large map of the planet graced one wall, and tacks with strings covered it – although, the tacks didn't seem to mark particular locations or create any sort of pattern, but just looked a bit random, as if purely for show.
“Now,” he said, “I only have to wait. Wait and it will be mine. All mine. Just mine. Not his, but mine.”
He pulled a small box out from under the rug and opened it slowly. Inside the box was a pencil – a yellow, wooden pencil, with a graphite lead.
“It will be mine,” he whispered again, and curled up in his damp pillows to wait.