That Awkward Moment When Your Stolen Magic Vial Actually Works

Last week, I posted a short excerpt from Stars Fall Out in which my main character runs like hell after stealing a magic vial from her sister’s professor. All she knows about the vial is that it’s supposed to allow travel from place to place if one uses it to consume water from a natural body. She doesn’t know the finer points of how this works or how to choose the place you go to.

She also doesn’t know that it’s going to be uncomfortable as hell.

Darkness.

Darkness rushed around me, and water burned wrongly in my nose. I flipped, but stayed perfectly still. Or the world flipped, and gravity—

The rushing-water-darkness thrashed me up and away from it. Gravity and ash hit me at the same time.

Ash. I couldn’t see it, but the sensation of it had come to me immediately, plugging my nose. And my forearms were buried in it. My legs floated uselessly behind me, while my arms and upper body were buried in the cold, crumbling remains of a campfire. My fingers crawled around, breaking pieces of old wood as I dragged myself fully onto the shore and collapsed on my belly directly over the pile of coals. Pale hints of light came from somewhere, and my eyes tracked to them automatically.

I blew my nose onto my sleeve, messy and childlike, and wondered, stupidly, if anyone had seen. Still on my belly with my hands and elbows in the burned out fire, I gave myself to the count of twelve, and then rolled onto my back.

This was not my home.


It’s been two or three years since I last did the Index-Card-a-Day challenge, but since I’ve been meaning to do more watercolor sketching, I decided to try it this year with time limits on how long I spend per card.

I’m not a car person, so I can only describe what passed by me on my walk in my rural New England town as a retro-future, cyberpunk Indy 500 car with strips of neon green lights blinking along its edges.

It was blasting not the synthy industrial action music that is its birthright by genre, but one of the more emotional Goo Goo Dolls songs.

There’s a saying about dressing for the job you want, not the job you have. It sounds suspiciously like the kind of thing a high-end suit manufacturer might have come up with.

Anyway, I’ve accumulated quite a few outfits that make me look like a sci-fi character, so I’ve been following that dubious piece of advice either way.

That Awkward Moment When Someone Catches You Stealing a Magic Vial From Your Sister’s Professor

It’s tough to find a good first draft excerpt. Something that isn’t too clunky, too spoilery, or too rife with notes-to-self and bracketed terms I need to research. After starting to post excerpts at the halfway point of Stars Fall Out, I went back and found a few from earlier in the book. That took care of the “spoilery” bit of the problem.

I’m still self-conscious about most of the excerpts I’ve posted. There’s a lot that’s lost by taking words out of the context of the scene, and since they’re rough draft, that clunkiness is still there.

Anyway. I think we can all relate to the feeling of sneaking into a lab at the top of a tower with an almost infinite number of stairs to steal a magic vial from your sister’s professor. So here’s more about that:

The light came near me again, and I dove to a crouch, stumbling at the edge of the archway, and again losing momentum as I tried to pivot and rise to my feet out of view. In that third moment of stillness, my legs shook with fear. They would fail me the next time I tried them.

I wouldn’t make it to the stairs, let alone down.

But they worked on their own, somehow, somehow, thank the gods, thank the spirits, thank reflex and terror, and I dashed down the stairs, skipping them two and three at a time, stumbling around corners and knocking into walls.

I didn’t hear my pursuer, or even know for sure if they were indeed pursuing me. I lost track of how many flights I had gone down, and so there was no halfway point to acknowledge, but again, stairs, landing, fireglass.

Stairs, landing, fireglass.

Stairs, landing, fireglass.

Door.

I pushed it open with all my strength in opposition to a powerful winter wind blowing it shut.

And then I burst out onto the university campus, and onto the streets of Nirsuathu.


Research rabbit holes: I had to look up the name of a mapmaking tool for a character who is an amateur cartographer, and now I, too, am an amateur cartographer.