To Bring You My Love (section 13)

Tired as he was, Sebastian did not sleep. His body, still unused to its recent limitations was pushed beyond exhaustion but Sebastian’s mind would not rest. He lay on the thin mattress of the sofa bed, staring up the flat dark ceiling of Frieda’s apartment. How often he had casually entered a building in his life as Inbetweener and not noticed the menacing limits of four walls and ceiling. The ceiling reminding him of everything he had given up. How we could no longer see or even feel the watchful eyes of his kindred family who surely remained up there, perhaps even now looking down, anxious to help, to intervene. But there would be no intervention, he knew. This was the path he had chosen and he would walk it through to its conclusion.

How, exactly, would this end? He would go to Lana in the morning, reveal himself to her and supplicate himself to her in hopes that she might accept him and relieve, just a little, the crushing weight of the curse he willing took on himself.

Or she would turn her face, avert her gaze. He had never considered the possibility that it might be so. But now, feeling forlorn and lost, so close to Lana on earth but still so impossibly far, he knew it might well be so. And this was the burning curse of the love lost. This burning ache of uncertainty and doubt. The troubles of the flesh were one thing. This weight of the spirit was almost more than he could bear.

Frieda’s apartment was clean but cluttered, small in the way that was not quite efficient. He listened as she snored softly in the other room. He was grateful for the kindness she had shown him. It was a type of miracle in itself, this gift the mortal kind called friendship. And he felt at once the unevenness in their friendship. And he wanted to do something, some kind gesture of reciprocated friendship to let Frieda know that she was now a part of what he understood it meant to be human.

Sebastian got out of bed.

**

Sebastian had watched the night gather up its shadows and now he watched the meagre, gray gruel of dawn seep back into the world. He had watched so many thousand days and nights from his high, holy perch of his former home that the act had become mundane, the humdrum traffic of orbs of dirt and gas spinning and spiraling like dancers in an impeccably choreographed waltz. And how incredibly earthbound he felt now, watching the sunrise from the confines of Freida’s efficiency apartment. The dull light spread across the dirty cityscape, illuminating buildings, their bones of brick, concrete and glass.

He was no longer the sort of creature that found the day. Now, the day found him.

When the sun had fully emerged and broke open the morning, Sebastian got out of bed. It still surprised him how sore and heavy his body felt. The wreck from yesterday was still punishing him. He stretched, wincing at the soreness of his tight, battered joints. It was a chore, getting out of bed but he had won this body at a hard price and he was determined to make it work for him rather than against him.

Frieda was still sleeping. It was no matter. He did not want to wake her. He would make this last part of his voyage on his own. It was time.

Sebastian foraged around for a piece of paper. Wrote a note that was short, sweet yet said everything it needed to say: Thank you. We will bless your name.

He pulled on the jacket, opened the door and crept out as quietly as he could. Destiny could no longer be delayed.


First Draft

Writer sits down to write the first draft. Leans in too close to the computer screen. Removes glasses to be sure everything remains blurry, always just a little bit out of focus.

It is time to escape the tyranny of ten thousand great novels with their confident, purposeful prose. Strong, clear narrative from the architecture of so many perfectly-placed words. And the characters who always seem to know what they are doing and say exactly the right thing for the maximum emotional effect. And they are beautiful, well-formed people with carefully considered flaws. And even their conflicts are beautiful. And though they seem to struggle mightily as they rise through the miserable complication, they always manage to smile and wave to you as they crest the crisis point and descend joyously down through the denouement.

But this is not yet that kind of story. This is the first draft. The people are hideous and half-made. They amble about in a state of constant delirium, saying useless, thoughtless things. They are not entirely purposeful nor intent on any specific course of action. At times, these poor unmade creatures seem drunk, slightly deranged. At other times, they appear and disappear with supernatural ease, constantly teleporting themselves without reason or explanation across space and time.

“Wasn’t she recently standing over there?” the writer asks himself. “Didn’t she tell him this thing three times already? Why are they eating breakfast when only a paragraph ago they were enjoying lunch?”

None of this matters. This is the first draft. Let the people go where they will go, say what they will say, kiss whomever they please. Let them revel in the joyous anarchy of life without set narrative. Celebrate with them the chaos and incoherence while you can. But keep them moving. Always moving, talking and doing. There will be a point to all of it. There will be sense to be made. A story to be told. It won’t be the story you thought you were writing. It will be something better, if you allow it to find you. If you let the first draft be what it is, a swirling universe, rippling with potential.

Don’t just write. Unleash the first draft, and it will show you the way. And then, piece by piece, begin the other drafts. Build that stately house, that well-tended lawn, that exquisite garden. Give your characters the story they deserve, where no action is wasted, every word has consequence and everyone and everything belongs.


Downstairs

When it is time to write, I go downstairs. Down the steep, narrow staircase into the cool, dark basement. It is quiet down there. Things are still. They have their places. And there are places enough where no things belong. I sit at my desk and fill those not belonging places with imagined things. Impossible, beautiful things. I populate the basement with people who do not exist doing things they ought not do. I spill ideas onto the carpet, heedless of the mess. Sometimes the ideas flood out of me like buckets of bleach, caustic and bitter. Sometimes the ideas spill out like an ocean of ink, tainting everything they touch, rendering a new kind of darkness.

And sometimes I just sit down here and admire the words, how they stack so neatly from floor to ceiling and I am careful to lay them out in neat rows so I do not trap myself in like those poor, sad souls you sometimes see on television who were crushed under reams of unread newspaper. And, in those times I think, how like a hoarder, afraid to release or let go for fear of losing something precious.

And in those times, I can turn out the lights or dim them to the point of near blindness and feel myself digesting inside the belly of the world.


To Bring You My Love (section 12)

**

They found the apartment easily. The lights were on even though it was disastrously late in the evening. The light in the bedroom and bathroom were on. The bedroom curtains slightly parted. And the shape of a figure passing by, glimpsed but not fully seen.

“She’s there. She’s awake,” Sebastian said, reaching for the door handle.

Lana pulled him back. “Wait. Look.”

A second figure made for an unexpected silhouette.

Frieda felt awful for being there. Dirty and vile. Like a peeping pervert.

“We should go,” Frieda told him, turning her keys in the ignition.

Sebastian reached over and removed the keys. “No. Wait. I don’t understand.”

And looking into Sebastian’s open, naïve face, she realized he truly did not understand. How could he?

“She has company. She isn’t alone, sweetie. She has a friend over.”

The bathroom light went out. Then, after a long, excruciating moment, the bedroom light.

Sebastian held his face in his hands. “She doesn’t know I’m here,” he said at last. “She doesn’t realize I’m here.”

“No. I mean, how could she? And tonight’s not the time to let her know.” Frieda watched Sebastian for a long moment, weighing her options, already in much deeper than she had intended, knowing there were no alternatives. She would have to do the decent thing.

“Come on,” she said at last. “You can crash at my place. I’ve got a sofa bed. You can get some sleep. Think this over in the morning. This will make better sense in the morning.”

Sebastian doubted that last part very much, but the truth was truth. There was nothing to be gained by barging in tonight. He had waited so long already. He could wait one more night. He could wait until morning.


To Bring You My Love (section 11)

More words to keep things going. This scene doesn’t connect to the previous scene at all. I found the story in midstream and am pushing forward to bring this to a conclusion before jumping back to pick up the threads I missed. Did I mention that this is an experiment in persistence? First drafts don’t have to follow the logic of final drafts. If you are reading along, thank you. Hang in there.

Where’s the rest of this? Right here.

***

“That’s incredible. You gave up everything to be with Lana.”

“Yes.” Sebastian was smiling. “I gave up everything to be with Lana.”

“Incredible,” Frieda said again. And then she smacked him in the face. “Dumb ass. Don’t you realize she’s going to die someday. Lana is going to die. What then?”

The smile fell off Sebatian’s face. Then, numb shock.

“Of course. Of course,” he said. “I thought of that.” But his voice was small and uncertain. “When she dies, I will die as well.”

“Bullshit,” she said. It was an accusation. “You haven’t really. Death is terrible. It is an awful thing to contemplate. You haven’t thought about this at all. You have no idea. Does Lana even know you are coming?”

“Of course she does. I told her I would come back for her. How could she not know this?”

Frieda snorted. “Do you have any kind of plan?”

“I will figure it out.”

“No plan. You don’t even know where she lives.”

“I will recognize the place when I see it.”

“There’s an easier way,” Frieda told him, pulling out her phone. “Its called Google.  What’s her last name?”

Sebastian started at Frieda blankly.

“Her family name, “ Frieda explained.

“Her family is called Riordan.”

“Great.” Frieda taped on the glass of her phone for a few seconds then turned it to show Sebastian. “Got it. Phone number and address.” She tapped a link.

“Is this her house?”

Since he had been here, his mind had felt so limited, so finite and confused. How strange that this small device could extend Frieda’s mind and give her perception of things Sebastian had only been able to see from above.

“That’s it,” he said, excited. “Please take me there.”

Frieda shook her head. “Slow it down, tiger. It’s two in the morning. You can’t just go up and knock on a girl’s door at two in the morning. This isn’t your run of the mill booty call.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m sure you don’t,” Frieda said. “You can’t just wake her up unexpected in the middle of the night and expect good things to happen. We need a plan.’’

“We?”

Frieda sighed. “I’m going to help you. I need to see this saintly creature for myself.”

Sebastian smiled, took her hand in his. “You are a good person, Frieda Andreason. You are my friend.”

Frieda shrugged. “I’m an idiot. But there’s no helping that. I start things, I got to finish them.”

“Can you take me there now? Not to see her. I just want to see the place where she is.”

Frieda agreed. “Okay. But we aren’t knocking on the door tonight. Just drop by for a look see. You will see her tomorrow.”

“Agreed,” Sebastian told her, but Frieda didn’t feel at all like it was a settled thing.


To Bring You My Love (section 10)

Still not the thing but a little bit closer. I can see Sebastian. I can’t see Lana. She is hiding from me. Why is she hiding from me?

**

Lana isn’t the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Remember I have spent hundreds of years studying the human kind in all its subtle variations. I have witnessed in my not so idle curiosity many, many beautiful beings, both female and male. I am well-studied in the subtle shapes, angles and postures that render a person beautiful. My love for Lana transcends the physical, though she is, I must tell you, a wonderful, generous sight.

Though she is beautiful. It was not her beauty that captured me at first. It was laughter. I might never have even noticed her if it were not for her laugh. How many times had I seen her, shared space with her in the sanctuary and never noticed? I could not say. But it was her laughter, strong, forceful, inappropriate that caught my attention.

She was alone in the sanctuary at midday, praying in a room full of short candles, her head bent in solitude. And the intent with which she held herself, the posture of one who is grieving or wrestling with some secret burden. The muttering phrases. The susurrations, soft and unceasing. And then, when one might expect a pang of grief, a wail of despair, there lifted the brash rupture of laughter. It tore the silence. Shattered the stillness. She started laughing and could not seem to stop.

I walked over to her. I could not help myself, my errand entirely forgotten. I was drawn to her in a place beneath thought.

“What’s funny?” I asked. She startled, not realizing that anyone had entered the room.

She looked up at me with eyes bright with tears and there was the mix of humor and sadness in her eyes. And I could not say in that moment if she was more happy or more sad. She was both and embodied both perfectly and I was, quite against my will or expectation, captivated by the elegant contradiction of this woman in this church on this day.

She looked around, surprised to find me standing there, wondering who else she might have disturbed.

“Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to bother anyone.”

And she kept watching me, recognizing without saying the strangeness that was in me. It is a thing that happens sometimes when I choose to show myself. The people who see me realize on some level that the figure they are seeing is not quite right. That something about me does not add up. And yet, to her credit, she lowered her gaze, apologized again. “I didn’t mean to disturb anyone.”

“You didn’t disturb me,” I told her. “I heard laughter. One doesn’t often hear laughter in here. I wanted to meet the person making such a wonderful sound.”


To Bring You My Love (section 9)

I made a promise that I would send each night’s words out as a way to keep accountability, to keep myself moving forward. And tonight you will see what happens when threads don’t line up. There is a hiccup as I try to meet Lana for the first time. I had not expected to meet her praying in a church during lunch break. I don’t know what she is doing there. But this is what it looks like when the story loses a thread. Searching. Contradiction. Searching.

**

She wasn’t much to look at. Thin face lined with anxiety. Big nervous eyes that moved constantly in search of things that could not be seen. She was a nervous person with arms and hands that never seemed to stop moving or be at rest.

She was not a particularly devout person, though she was praying in chapel during her lunch break. Alone except for the old women who came to restock the candles, trim the wicks, dust the railings, smooth the sacristy cloth.

Lana did not speak to these women, silently willing them to disappear so she could be completely alone with her difficulty. She did not belong here. She was raised Catholic but had fallen out of church while still in high school and had never managed to fall back in.

It was a man. It was always a man. That was the problem. From one miserable relationship to the next, each man more disappointing and diminishing than the one before. It was pathetic, really. The way her life moved from sequence to sequence without ever really seeming to stop and wonder at what she was doing. It was tiresome, tedious. Lana hated being here, prostrating herself every day at noon but she knew no other way. It was change she sought most fervently and afternoon prayer was the only avenue she knew to affect change.

The priest approached her once, to ask if he might help her in some way. He could see she was obviously distressed. He was young and meant well-enough, Lana could see but he was frail himself and could not easily help her carry the load she bent beneath.

What I mean to say is her father is sick and she loves her father more than anyone and is desperate for someone to find a cure, some doctor, some researcher, some priest. And so she has come seeking miracles. And the brief respite that comes from finding a silent corner in the world where people are busy all around you but they do not bother to notice or interfere and you can disappear easily into plain sight. And she is praying for deliverance though she is not specific in what she is asking. Sometimes she thinks she is asking for a cure, complete and full remission. No apologies. Just a full reversal of nature and the bitter course of sickness sewn in her father’s veins. And sometimes deliverance is the wish for his to be released and the prayers take the shape of death wish. There are no words but she wishes in such times for death to release them. Her heart prays for death to take him. And then, she prays for death to take her. And then she feels sorry about the whole thing and prays for forgiveness and tries to convince God, herself, that she is grateful. That she appreciates the extra time with her sick and dying father. But that part simply is not true. Her father is already gone. His body just hasn’t accepted the fact of it yet. And Lana is caught in the twilight, waiting for him to draw the last final heave. To kiss that cheek one last time. To say “I love you” and know that everything that needed to be said has been said. And yet he lingers and she keeps vigil, praying to a God she believes may be cold and wicked, praying for the deliverance no one is supposed to seek.


To Bring You My Love (Section 8)

More words on this weird little tale. Read from the start here.

**

They settled into a Waffle House, where Frieda watched Sebastian eat the tallest stack of pancakes she had ever seen. Followed by a plate of eggs, bacon and toast. Followed by a bowel of fruit, two bowls of oatmeal and a seemingly endless carafe of coffee.

“That’s amazing. How long has it been since you’ve eaten?’’

Sebastian tried to answer with this mouthful. Smiled. Chewed and swallowed. Took a long drink of coffee. Then a small burp.

“Long time,” he said at last. “I’ve never been this hungry before. Never really been hungry at all. We don’t eat where I come from. This is incredible. This sense of filling the body with tastes and energy.”

Frieda just nodded.

“I am sorry you were scared. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Frieda nodded again, watching Sebastian study the array of empty plates with obvious satisfaction.

“What are you?” she asked. Which was a related but very different question than Where are you from?

“I can tell you that, but its probably better that I tell you everything. That way you can understand.”

“Okay. Go ahead,” Frieda told him.

Sebastian motioned for the waitress to bring more coffee. He poured the last of the current carafe into his cup. Swallowed and savored. He opened his mouth to speak. Closed it. When he opened it again, his most incredible story spilled out.

**

Your people have many different names for what I am. Angel. Seraphim. Courier. All of these have a kind of truth in them. My people have a specific name for what I am, but this tongue cannot pronounce it. My kind were created, just like your kind, to serve. Though who or what we were made to Serve I cannot say. I have never seen Him. He does not show Himself to such as I, though my mother tells me I must be patient, that we each were made to serve Him and each will see Him in due time. This from my mother, who is millennia old. Any my father, two millennia and a half. And my grandparents, five millennia each if they are a year.

And I am still young. Only six hundred years in the way you measure time. I am just a child in the way my people account time. But I remember looking down at the age of Great Churches. I remember the Plagues, the Bonfires, the Age of Mighty Ships.

I have been watching with such interest and enthusiasm. I have made myself a scholar. I have made your people my study. And I have watched with such keen attention. Such interest. My family worried that I might eventually fall into disgrace. They were right to worry. It was inevitable, I think now. My fall was destined to happen. I had become infected with an ailment uncommon among my people. An incurable sickness that robs the immortal of their joy and their certainty. I had become curious.

I am what you might call an Inbetweener. I was created to travel between the worlds, your world and mine, carrying important messages and the occasional sacred relic back and forth. I had been between so many times before, each time delivering my message, depositing my relic in some secret place, and each time bringing back with me some trivial little token, some small trophy back from your world to mine. I made these objects my study. I kept my mind bent on them, obsessively poring over each in what few private moments I could steal for myself. I made these objects my textbook. They were my learning. And they made me desperate to know and understand the people who had made them.

And it was on such a trip that I made my fatal mistake. I fell in love with Lana.

I was coming down to retrieve a sacred relic. A minor statue the priest had left locked in the vestibule closet. It had served the people well, having been prayed over for a hundred years. It had brought good luck, peaceful lives and bountiful crops to those who held it. It was an insult we could not bear to have it gathering dust in some forgotten church closet. And so, I was coming to retrieve it. To carry it home where it could serve its true purpose and derive power from the presence of those beyond faith.

And that’s when I saw her, praying at the altar. So intent. So fervent.

Lana.

I saw her and knew, right away, I had to be right beside her.


To Bring You My Love (section 7)

More words. Want to read from the start? Here’s a Google doc with the entire story (so far).

***

And now Frieda is standing in a daze, looking from Sebastian to her phone and back to Sebastian as she presses numbers with clumsy thumbs. Her hands shaking so badly she can’t dial the simple three digits without messing up.

She cursed. Cursed again.

“Why did you get out of the fucking car?” she yelled. “I was just trying to help. You should have let me help.”

Sebastian reached up to steady her hands. “I am grateful,” he said, a small smile forming. “You have been most kind. Most generous.”

“You need an ambulance. You could be hurt. That car flipped you really hard. You should dead.”

“I’m not,” he told her. “I can’t.” Though strictly speaking that last claim was uncertain. The times before Sebastian had known himself to be invulnerable while traveling in this realm, this body and mind unbreakable. And yet, this was all new experience. He was no longer traveling through this realm. Now he belonged here. Certainly, his body had limits. He had no idea what they might be.

“I’m not hurt,” he said again, although that was not strictly true. His entire body pulsed head to toe as if licked from inside by an angry flame. The pain was dull, pervasive. “I’ve had worse.” And that also was true. His body still wrecked from his punishing fall.

“I’m calling an ambulance,” she said again, opening her phone.

“Don’t,” he said, taking the phone from her. “You were right before. I’m not from here.”

“Undocumented? They still have to look at you. They have to fix you.”

“No. I’m not from here.” Sebastian tried to stand but his legs collapsed under his weight. Frieda caught him, eased him back onto the pavement. Realizing they were still standing in the middle of the road in the dead of night on the edge of town, she looked around for other cars. A few passed here and there along the interstate but the side loads and ramp were empty.

“Come over here.” She guided him to thin patch of gravel and grass on the road shoulder. “I shouldn’t be moving you. If you have internal bleeding, moving is very bad.”

“I’m not from here,” he said again, lifting his shirt. “I have suffered much worse.” He turned to show Frieda his bare back. “See.”

Even in the dim sodium light, Frieda could see the raw, jagged scars of flesh where Sebastian’s wings had recently been. The scars rose from Sebastian’s back like cold, purple mountains.

Frieda leaned in closer to get a better look.

“What are you?” she asked.

“I’m not from here,” he said again.

“Where exactly are you from?”

“Much farther than Europe.” He smiled and then actually laughed. Laughter was a feeling he had forgotten in his previous home. That high, cold ceiling was not a place of laughter. It was a place of serene thought and reverent reflection. It felt good to laugh. Once Sebastian started, he did not know how to stop.

Frieda was staring, her eyes wide, mouth open, as Sebastian gained control of himself.

“I don’t understand,” she told him.

“I can explain,” he said.

Frieda looked down at the place where Sebastian had recently lain. There was glass and a bit of shattered plastic from the car that hit him. There was no blood. There was no sign of injury.

“Okay. Explain.”

Sebastian smiled again. Strangely enough, he looked to Frieda as if he might actually be happy.

“I will. But not here. Further up the road.”

Frieda nodded.

Sebastian moved toward her car, but the first steps were unsteady and he nearly pitched over. Once again, Frieda caught him.

“Does it hurt?” she asked.

Sebastian shook his help. “No. Not pain. Balance. It takes a lot of concentration here to stand or walk. I lose focus.”

Frieda nodded, not understanding.

“Help me to the car,” he said.

“Of course.”


To Bring You My Love (section 6)

A work in progress. You can find the rest here: Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4 | Section 5

**

Frieda edged the car down the exit ramp and along the edge, slowing gradually, unsure where or how to stop. They were into the city limits now, the concrete and orange sodium lights stretching up like spires. The crisp, hard glare of billboard light. And the garish neon of pawn shops, bail bonds men, beer joints and laudromats where no person ever went expecting to get there clothes clean.

“Here? You sure?”

“Here. It isn’t far,” Sebastian said searching for any landmark to help orient. Everything was so strange and savage from here.

“Look. You’re plenty weird, and I’m not sure you’ve got any clue what you’re doing but I think you’re harmless. And I hope you find your girl and that she is glad to see you and everybody lives happily ever after. But I really don’t feel good about leaving you right here. People get mugged. People get stabbed. Let me take you a further bit up the road. Buy you some dinner. Give you time to make a plan.”

Sebastian opened his door. “You are very kind. When I tell Lana of the kindness you have shown me, she will join me in blessing your name. But I must be going now.” He stepped out of the car. “Thank you.”

“Okay. Whatever,” Frieda told him. Watching Sebastian take to his feet, unsteady, blinking as if completely dazed and dazzled by the confused spectacle of light and color. Sebastian shook his head as if to clear it. Rolled his eyes, as if he might pass out. “Take care,” she told him and pushed the car into gear. Frieda drove further down the ramp, watching Sebastian in her rear view mirror, staggering the wrong way across the road. And a car coming too fast in the opposite lane and those cockeyed headlights sweeping the shadow and the sickening moment she saw shape and shadow connect and Sebastian’s body fly over the hood of the speeding car.

She stopped. Jumped out of her car, left idling. Sebastian lying in a crumpled mass in the middle of the road. And the stillness of the other car as the driver checked every mirror. The door opened, closed, opened again, closed. And then the brake lights glare, dim, as the car pulls away, slowly at first and then with sudden gust of speed. And Frieda is cursing and hyperventilating and trying to catch the letters and numbers of the license plate but everything is happening much too fast and she can’t stop looking at the heap that is Sebastian’s body on the pavement. And she is cursing the driver of the car and she is cursing Sebastian and she is cursing herself for being unable to just mind her own business and she is calling Sebastian’s name as she is fumbling with the cover of her flip phone and she leans down, expecting Sebastian’s face to be crushed and bloody but he is laying there looking up at her, exasperated, astonished. “Perhaps I should accept your kind offer. A little further up the road,” he groaned. “Dinner would be a very good idea.”


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