But, in the meantime, my brain is exploding from all the information that's been packed into it. So, I don't have a post on writing or anything for today. But, instead of skipping out, I thought I'd post a chapter of a story I was working on a while back.
And, I've got a series of posts in the works, so I promise we'll be back to more about writing soon.
But, for now, here is Chapter One of Rationality. It's a slightly futuristic/ alternate reality story about two young adults- Aidan and Judas- and their struggles in a world where imagination and fiction are shunned as enemies of rational thought.
Hope you enjoy :D
Chapter One: Aidan
It’s easy to believe their lies until the day they take my book away.
I didn’t care about the stuffed animals or the imagination games or even Santa Claus. And, Edmund and Cailin seem happy enough when I see them at meal times from across the dining room. Even not letting me get upset about Mom and Dad means I’m not allowed to think about the pain, which is good. Because if I think about it, I’ll cry. And, crying only gives me a headache. It doesn’t solve anything.
But taking my book is the last straw.
“Give it back!” I wail, trying to wriggle free of Mrs. Matron’s firm grasp about my waist. Her bony fingers dig into my middle but I ignore the pain. “You’ve no right to take it. Give it back.”
It was Mom’s when she was a child and I have many a memory from my own childhood of her reading passages aloud. If I concentrate really hard when I’m reading I can still hear her voice in my head, forming each word as I read.
I watch Mr. Matron’s receding figure, the worn volume clutched under his arm. He disappears around the corner and with him my last tie to the life I lived before coming to this cursed place. I struggle all the harder, crying out a stream of protests.
“Pull yourself together, girl,” Mrs. Matron says, her grip tightening. “Persons of rational thought have no need for such frivolity.”
The tears are moist and hot on my cheeks, my anger welling up inside of me until it’s one huge ball of hurt and fury. I should push it back, hold it in. I know that. Causing trouble is wrong. I should make peace, avoid conflict.
But they took my book.
“I don’t care,” I scream, interrupting right in the middle of Mrs. Matron’s “persons of rational thought” speech. “If rational people are the kind of people who take a person’s book, I don’t want anything to do with them.”
Mrs. Matron gasps and loosens her hold on me. I’ve shocked her by my words, by insulting the manifest this orphanage is run by. I’ve spoken against the ideals this place strives to live up to and announced I have no intention of being the person these people are devoting their lives to make me into.
And, that’s why she’s so shocked she lets me go.
But, it’s only for a second. I start to dart away, all the while trying to determine where I’ll go, where I can hide once I get away from her. Not that hiding will do much good since I’ll have to come out for food sometime and I’m sure to be caught them.
And then she grabs me again, catching my wrist, her spindly fingers boring into it so hard I cry out from the pain.
“You are an ungrateful little brat who needs very much to learn her place,” she spats out. I notice then that her greying hair is falling out of her bun and the wrinkles of stress around her eyes look deeper than usual. She’s usually so stern, so put together, so on top of things. But now she’s not. Because of me.
Which makes me laugh because it’s funny that an eight-year-old girl can do that to a grown woman. I laugh because she’s getting so old that a child can break her stern front so easily. Because if I don’t find it funny I’ll remember why we were fighting and that will make me cry again.
I laugh because I have to.
And, that’s why I’m standing in the corner in Mrs. Matron’s office an hour later. Standing right through the evening meal.
She thinks it’s a punishment, the standing. But, it isn’t. It’s the missing out on food that’s the punishment.
But the standing isn’t bad at all. She thinks it will make me a better person. As if staring into a corner for over an hour will make me suddenly realize just how wrong I am about everything. As if it will make me want to be the person she wants me to be.
She really knows nothing about corners.
Standing here, I don’t think about how wrong I was. I don’t think about changing my attitude or my actions or any of that. I think about how wrong she is. How wrong Mr. Matron and everyone else who lives here is. I think about the injustice of it all and how I want my book back more than anything.
That thought brings the tears on again and I push them away. I need to stay angry. I need to keep hold of that and not focus on the pain.
Speaking of pain, my wrist burns from Mrs. Matron dragging me here. There’s sure to be a bruise; a deep one, if the throbbing is any indication.
I can hear her at her desk, shuffling papers, going about whatever it is orphanage runners do at their desks. She must have finished eating. Her sister brought in a tray a bit ago and the acrid smell of bacon still hangs in the air. One thing I’m grateful about this place is that they consider that accursed meat a luxury and never serve it to us kids.
She mutters something I can’t make out and I wonder if she remembers I’m here. Perhaps she’s forgotten and I’ll have to stand here all night. Which wouldn’t necessarily be bad, as it gives me more time to dwell on everything that happened today and plot how I plan to deal with it.
Even though that’s wrong. I should forgive her, make her life easier because that would be the right thing to do. It’s wrong to make trouble for people.
But, she took my book and bruised my wrist and is trying to take away even the memory of my family and the past life we had. And, I can’t let her get away with that.
A timid knock of the door. I shift to look and Mrs. Matron’s voice comes, “Eyes front, girl.”
I don’t even have a name anymore; none of us do. We’re either “boy” or “girl” depending on our gender. We are without individualism, without identity. All the same, I shift once more and return fully to my corner. Only then does she call, “Enter.”
The door creaks open and I hear the timid voice of Mr. Matron’s spinster sister. “Sister, Mr. Hawthorne would like to speak with you.”
Mrs. Matron sighs and I wonder about this Mr. Hawthorne and why the mere mention of his name causes such annoyance. I like him already. “Has he finished the tour?”
Only rich people the Matrons want money from get tours. So, this Mr. Hawthorne must be a donor, one of the people who funds this place. I don’t think I like him after all.
“And, has he said anything about…?” Mrs. Matron doesn’t finish the question but her sister must know what she’s talking about because she replies.
“Nothing. He’s been rather tightlipped the whole time.”
Another sigh. “Send him in.”
The door clicks shut and all is silent for a moment. Then is opens again and the heavy footsteps are masked by the carpet below our feet. The door shuts again. The sound of a chair scraping against the rug as Mrs. Matron presumably stands. “Mr. Hawthorne, how good of you to take the time to visit us. I trust you’re satisfied with things?”
This is the part where Mr. Hawthorne is supposed to answer the question, to tell her if things are up to his standard or not. But, the reply never comes. Instead there’s a moment of silence and then Mrs. Matron says, “Ah, don’t let her bother you. She’s learning a much needed lesson, but won’t be any trouble to our interview.”
He must have motioned to me, wanting to know. I feel my face grow hot. I am not learning a lesson here. I am plotting revenge, thank you very much.
I sense more than hear him take the few steps required to come and stand behind me. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up and a shiver runs down my spine. Why can’t he just leave me alone?
“What did she do?” His voice is deep but smooth with more of a curious air than anything else.
“Oh, really, it’s nothing,” Mrs. Matron flusters. Which we all know is a lie because if it were nothing I wouldn’t be standing here. “Please, don’t let her bother you.”
Mr. Hawthorne doesn’t respond to her. Instead he says, “Turn around” and I assume he’s talking to me.
I freeze, my heart pounding. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. This could be some sort of a test where I’m supposed to stay where I am. Or, I could make Mrs. Matron mad, if I turn. But, if I stay the way I am and ignore him, I could make him mad. And, he might be a donor who’s going to give this place lots of money. If I make him mad, he might change his mind. And that would make Mrs. Matron mad.
Why can’t he just leave me alone?
“Do as you’re told, girl.”
Oh. There. I should do like Mrs. Matron says. I turn.
Mr. Hawthorne’s eye meet mine as I do and I can’t help noticing that they’re the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. They seem too bright and lively for a man with such gray hair. But, they’re a bit stern too, like maybe I’ve annoyed him. So, I drop my gaze to the floor and study my shoes instead.
“Why don’t you answer the question,” he requests. “What did you do?”
I mumble a reply about disobeying the rules and being ungrateful to the Matrons for what they’re trying to teach me. Mr. Hawthorne must not like this because he makes a sound of clear annoyance. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you to look someone in the eye when you’re addressing them?”
Not since I’ve been here, no. I’ve been told to keep my head down, to follow without question. Eye contact is a sign of defiance and should be kept at a minimum, if used at all. But, if that’s what he wants, that’s what he’ll get.
I raise my gaze and meet his eyes once more. I’m going to pay for this, but I don’t care. “I’m here because the rules are unfair and I refuse to be ruled by tyrants, sir.”
Mrs. Matron gasps sharply from the other side of the room and I know instantly that I am a fool. I should have done the right thing. I should have given the answer she wanted to hear and made peace. But that would have been a lie and Mom always taught me never to lie. Ever.
I expect Mr. Hawthorne to get mad too, since this is the kind of place he wants to put money into and here I am insulting it. Only, while his jaw works something fierce, as if he’s biting something back, and his eyes flash, all he says is, “And what rules are those?”
I could probably take it all back now, if I put on a show of remorse and begged forgiveness; Mrs. Matron would probably like to see me beg. But they’ve taken too much of my mother from me already and I won’t let them take the sense of morality she tried to instill in me as well. I have to be honest.
“They took my book away. It was Mom’s favorite and all I have left to remember her by.”
It’s stupid, really. I have Edmund and Cailin, after all. They remind me of her. But, I only get to see them at meals and even then from across the room; Cailin sits with the babies since she’s only three and Edmund has to sit with the boys.
But instead of getting angry, Mr. Hawthorne turns to Mrs. Matron and says, “She’s right, that is unfair.”
Mrs. Matron sputters, her mouth opening and closing several times. I know how she feels; I very much want to do the same. “Books are discouraged, Mr. Hawthorne, because they’re the enemy of rational thought. They encourage imagination.”
She says it like it’s a bad thing. Until I came here, I didn’t even know what rational thought was. Now I can’t go a day without hearing the phrase a dozen times or more.
The man snorts. “Rational thought be hanged.”
I guess that means he isn’t going to give the Matrons lots of money and they’re probably going to blame it on me. And, take it out on me too, no doubt.
He turns back to me, his eyes less frightening now. “What’s your name?”
No adult has bothered to ask that for a very long time. Even the other kids- the ones who have been here for a long time, anyway- don’t ask. It’s been too long since someone cared enough to ask. “Aidan Allein, sir.”
He nods once, like he approves or something. “Well, Aidan, how would you like to leave here?”
I know what he’s thinking- that there’s no real question, that it’s a simple things to answer. And, it is, but not in the way he thinks. “Thank you, sir, but I’d rather stay.”
His eyes narrow and he studies me for a very long moment. Silence reigns, as even Mrs. Matron doesn’t dare to break the spell. And then finally the question comes, “And why’s that?”
I swallow, wishing once more that I could take back what I just said and ask him to please get me out of this place. But, that would be selfish and I’d never be happy like that. It was better to stay and face whatever the Matrons decided my fate to be. “I have a brother and a sister, sir. And, I can’t leave them alone.”
Mom would never forgive me. She always said it was my lot in life to look after my siblings, that I couldn’t seem to help it. And, it’s true; I’m always seeming to worry about them, always watching to make sure they’re happy and well. I can’t do that if they’re here and I’m somewhere else.
He nods, thoughtful, not angry at all that I just turned down such a wonderful offer. “And, if they were to come with you, would you leave?”
Is he really asking me this? My heart skips a beat. “Yes, sir.”
He nods once, like that settles everything. His next words come out almost bored, like he’s talking about something simple and not the lives of three children. Turning to Mrs. Matron he says, “I’ll take them.”
And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed. If you want to get more of a feel for the story, check out my Pinterest board for them. And, be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below :D