04 May 2010

Today's Justin's Exercise

I've decided to see if I can keep up with doing Justin's Exercises at least a few times a week over on Forward Motion. Since I don't really have anywhere else to post such things except here, I'll be posting what I do here as well as on FM. Today's exercise involved a character cozy in their home hearing footsteps outside. The image that came to mind has nothing to do with Ferodoxis, but I wanted to write his bit anyway. Wordcount came out to 1530. Here it is:


Wade opened his eyes. Had that been a footstep? The sound came again. A distinct ploomp, a slosh, then another ploomp followed by another swish, just barely audible over the sounds of the wind whistling around the Cathedral. Someone paced outside his window.

He rose, leaving the pew's row, and padded to the Cathedral's door. The sound had come from the east side, so he went down the stairs, heading to the east. At the end, he levered himself over the railing, perched his toes and the balls of his feet on the curl of the bottom step around the one above, and leaned out past the corner of the Cathedral to look up the long side of the building.

Light scattered on the water. A hard wind blew, stirring the water up, creating waves which flickered in the colors the light through the stained glass windows threw on the surface. Wade shifted, rubbing a hand over his coarse hair in a gesture of frustration as the wind blew his loose garments about. Granted, it was pretty boring being stuck in this place whenever he slept in his own world, but the last thing he wanted right now was the frustration of mysterious noises outside his dreamland-home.

Then he saw it. A movement. A flicker of silhouette, a bit of face partially lit by the light coming through the open window. The stranger halted, facing the wall, and moved the shutter a little. If the hinges squealed, Wade couldn't hear it as far away as he was.

"Hey, you!" he called.

The stranger started and looked at him, taking a half-step in retreat. This brought the stranger completely into the light. Wade gestured, a come-hither motion.

"Who's there?" the stranger called.

Wade shifted, glancing down. Since nothing happened most nights, he'd chosen to appear in his blue pinstripe pajamas. Them, with his black skin, probably made him pretty nearly invisible in the darkness here. He sighed.

"I live here," he called back. "Well, sometimes. Come this way. I'll meet you just inside."

He turned, one foot slipping into the water. Wade didn't take any time to test whether his foot would sink in or not. It was irrelevant if it would; that his visitor could walk on the water was enough for him to know. It told him that the other was probably another visitor like he was.

Rain slammed down as he levered himself over the handrail. It soaked him in moments, but he ignored his wet clothes. He mounted the stairs and entered the Cathedral just far enough to get out of the rain. Thunder rumbled; a few moments later, lightning flashed.

He heard the sound of hard soles hitting the stones of the step just before the stranger entered. Wade watched the stranger enter, then shut the door and barred it before the wind could blow it open again.

"What is this place?" the stranger asked.

"I'm Wade," Wade said. "What's your name?"

"Valon," the stranger said, pushing a heap of wet blond hair out of his face.

"This is what's known as a Cathedral where I spend my waking hours," Wade said, indicating the room at large. He took a moment to shake himself, concentrating so that his clothes dropped all the rainwater at once. The water slapped the old wooden floor. "It's a kind of religious gathering place."

"You're not from here?" Valon asked.

"No," Wade said, turning. "Come with me. Hungry? I have some food."

"A little."

"I'm not from anywhere in this place," Wade went on. "I come here when I dream. Every single night, since I was a child. I imagine I came here when I was an infant as well. Here, for this place, this world, I am an Oracle. Where are you from?"

"Not here, either," Valon said. "How did you get dry?"

"A little bit of concentration. Try it, you'll dry out, too."

Valon's footsteps ceased for a moment, and Wade paused. It took Valon a while, but Wade eventually heard the slap of water hitting the floor again.

"What brought you here?" Wade asked.

"I don't know. This is the first time I've been to a place like this--or in a dream that feels this real. What's the name of this place?"

Wade glanced over his shoulder, then stopped to turn and take a closer look at Valon. The blond looked to be in his middle teens. He wore a simple tunic to mid-thigh and a pair of heavy hose that could have been wool, with a pair of ankle-high boots with hard heels.

"The name of this world is Mizariel," Wade said. "You are most likely another Oracle, Valon. Don't ask me how we come to be here when we sleep, or how we learn what we need to know for the people who ask questions of us. There is no way to know any of this."

"Why didn't you come across the water to me?" Valon asked.

Wade chuckled and continued walking, mounting the steps to the platform where the altar stood. He went to the altar and pulled his satchel close, digging into it.

"Because my mind is not as flexible as yours. I doubt that I can walk on water, and I don't want to test the theory that I can because I can't swim."

"But we can do anything in our dreams," Valon said, joining him.

Wade chuckled again, passing the youth a fruit. "Take the peel off that before you eat it," he said.

Valon accepted it. "What's it called?" he sniffed it then dug his thumb nail into the peel.

"It's an orange," Wade said. He watched Valon separate a length of peel from the orange and took it to put in his satchel; there were animals that liked such things. "And, usually, we can do anything in our dreams, but Mizariel is a world as real as our waking worlds, so I doubt my abilities."

"I just walked across the water from the shore," Valon said, gesturing with a bit of orange peel toward the door. "What am I supposed to do here?"

"Go someplace and hole up," Wade said. "I've always been here, but you may have to go to the woman herself for advice on where to go."

"The woman who?" Valon asked.

"Mizariel," Wade said. "I suspect you're probably to go to the other continent. The one on the other side of the world, I mean. I've heard things are nicer there than they are here. You don't want to stay here. Things are . . . unhappy."

Valon looked up at him. Wade took the last bit of peel from the youth's hand and put it in his satchel.

"Where is she?" Valon asked.

"In a cave on Northaff--the northern continent. If you concentrate, you'll go directly to her. Unfortunately, she's one of the few Landmarks you can use here, and none exist on the other continent--at least, none that I know of."

"Can I stay here for a while?" Valon asked, looking around.

Wade looked around as well. The storm's power had increased and now the wind almost continually howled around the building. Rain pounded on all the windows as the wind whipped it around, and frequent rolls of thunder joined the howling of the wind. Flashes of lightning, just as frequent as the rolls of thunder, lit the windows from the outside. He realized that he'd left the lower window open and went back to the pew where he'd been seated to close it.

"It's best to go where you need to be as soon as possible," Wade said as he returned to the altar. "How's the orange?"

"Unusual," Valon said between mouthfuls. "But good."

Wade smiled. "Well, when you're done that, I'll teach you how to go on to Mizariel so she can tell you where to go."

Valon looked around, biting into one of the last few sections of his orange. "What's this place called?"

"The Waterborne Cathedral," Wade said.

"Will I see you again?" Valon asked, looking at Wade again.

"Probably not," Wade said. "Once you get to your dream-home, you'll be tied there." He watched Valon eat and swallow the last orange section. "Ready to go on?"

Valon looked around again, frowning, then sighed, meeting Wade's gaze. "Not especially," he said. "But I don't have much choice, do I?"

"Not really," Wade said. "Now, close your eyes."

Valon did so.

"Okay, stretch yourself out until you feel a point of great power."

Valon inhaled a deep breath. He remained silent for several minutes.

"I feel it," he said. "Somwhere northwest of here."

"That's Mizariel. Focus on her like you did when you dried yourself off."

The youth didn't speak. Wade watched, nodding a little when he saw the power increase around Valon. A subtle glow surrounded the youth for a few minutes, then Valon faded, leaving only a silhouette of light in his shape before that, too, faded.

Wade sighed and dug into his satchel again, this time for an apple. He set it down, pulled himself to sit on the altar, retrieved the apple, and bit into the fruit.

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