Walk on The Edge of Space [Short Story]

By Corissa Haury

looking out to space
drawn by Corissa Haury

The gilded edges of the trophy felt cold and clean in Rayna’s hands. She clutched it close to her while she walked, unable to believe that she had just won it. Something about her own self-doubt usually held her back, but this time she had an object to prove her accomplishment.

“Where should we put that?” Jaren asked, at her side. They were walking back to the apartment together after the competition. The hall was clean, with a slate grey floor smooth as newly poured concrete and coated with a high gloss. The walls around them had a white, sterile clarity. It almost hurt the eyes to look around the fluorescent hall, but there was also art, posters, graffiti, and screens that flashed news headlines or ran an old comedy show.

Rayna shrugged. “Probably with all my other junk on my junk shelf.”

Jaren grinned. “Of course you will.” They both heard the sound of an old sitcom as the two of them passed. Someone had just made a joke; a laugh track played in their ears, and faded away as they continued. “You shouldn’t call it a junk shelf, it’s your souvenir shelf.” She gestured towards the end of the hallway. “Look, it’s the Moon side of the station. Let’s stop for a second.”

The women approached the end of the bright corridor, which emptied into a seemingly endless area. To the left, there were shops, apartments, escalators, people, screens of all sizes, and a large open place where hundreds of people mingled and sat around tables or on couches. Ahead, the two of them could see where the tunnel pointing towards home, continued.

“All right, but I want to get this thing back soon.” Rayna agreed. “And then I want to get some food.”

To their right, giant curved glass wrapped around the belly of the station like a belt. It stood a hundred feet high from floor to ceiling, disappearing into both. The huge panels of glass were cut off at the top and bottom by the beginning of other decks above and below.

“Wow.” Said Jaren. “It gets me every time.”

Rayna laughed. “Really? I’m so used to it by now.”

“Spoiled brat.” Jaren grinned. “It’s too bad you’ve never been to Earth. You should see some of the places there. It’s truly amazing.”

“I can’t fathom a horizon that ends.” Rayna shuddered. “I’d feel so trapped.”

“Space ends, somewhere out there.”

Rayna made a face and stuck her tongue out in disgust. “Blech, I’d hate to see that.”

They fell into silence as they approached a set of empty lounge chairs on the edge of the windows. The two of them had paused at the edge of the giant window-belt, and looked out at the moon, a few miles away in space. It was a planet unto itself.

“You can almost see the skyscrapers.” Rayna said.

“Ironic that they call them skyscrapers still.” Jaren looked out to space, to the void of sparkling stars and twinkling places they’d never been. “They should call them space-scrapers.”

“That doesn’t make any sense, Scrapers are another thing.”

“Well, that’s different.” Jaren sighed. “I do really miss Earth sometimes.”

“Don’t you have to go back for Christmas?”

“Maybe. I don’t know yet.” They fell silent again. Rayna could sense that Jaren wasn’t telling her something, but she knew better than to prod and poke. Being nosy was one of her less useful traits. She examined Jaren’s face, looking up into it and realizing that she didn’t want her to go away for Christmas.

“Well, I won’t be mad if you stayed.” Rayna smiled up at Jaren, trying to see if she could elicit a response, to distract her.

“You’re never mad when I stay.” Jaren broke out of the long stare at the Moon. “Come here.”

Rayna drew close, and the two young women wrapped their arms around one another. Rayna held the trophy in one hand and leaned her head on Jaren’s shoulder.

“Don’t go away for Christmas.” Rayna said. “Screw your parents, they’re just going to tell you how you should stay on Earth and you shouldn’t be in love with a woman.” She looked out at space and wondered how humanity could still be so self-obsessed in the face of such a beautiful, empty void.

“They just don’t know better.” Said Jaren. “They’ve never been to The ORB, or even left the Earth’s atmosphere. They refuse to leave because they’re comfortable where they are.”

They looked into each other’s faces, both people searching for meaning in the lines of their skin, in the patterns of wrinkles they both knew around their eyes, in the softness of their facial hair, in the glitter of light in their pupils.

“Well, I’m comfortable where I am.” Rayna broke the quiet and squeezed Jaren close, trying not to tear up at the idea of being apart from her for the holiday. “Please don’t go.” She looked away, back to the Moon. She knew Jaren would see pain if she continued their stare.

Jaren pulled Rayna closer, too, and squeezed back. “Don’t worry, my love.” Said Jaren. “I won’t go anywhere without you, ever again.”

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

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A quiet morning [ short story ]

By Corissa Haury

Winter was on its way, but it was not yet present. It still felt like it could have been late autumn, when the cold doesn’t fall below 40 degrees and there is a damp stillness to the foggy air. One still put the seat warmer on when one got in the car, but it wouldn’t be the case if it weren’t for the fact that we are all spoiled by convenience. The atmosphere hung low, engulfing most of the road before any driver’s eyes. All of the sharp silhouettes of the evergreens looked pointy and mystic in the fog. Darkness had fallen on the North.

In a few weeks the snow would come. She could feel it in the colder mornings, when the temperature that had dropped twenty-five degrees the night before began to warm. She rose during the frostier parts of the early morning, leaving her partner’s warm slumbering body. He was a fulfillment of warmth underneath the bedcovers. It was hard to get up and leave him sleeping there. She envied his ability to do it so peacefully. Her own mind was an array of anxieties, images from technology, and uncertain dreams that turned out to be deja vu later.

She crept from the warm bed to the cold air, wondering if the promise of winter that had kissed her rosy cheeks aflame would stay, or whether they would have a mild cold season. The oceanside climate was unpredictable in the North. No one ever knew these days, with the way of the Earth and its turning tides and unhappy hurricanes, what the winters would be like. They could be full of snow, and ice, more than twenty feet of it. They could be mild as a spring day on the coast, 50 degrees and sunny. She looked in the mirror, thinking of how winter made people hardier. It made them skinnier, it made them have to try more. It made them have to survive.

Everyone has to survive. A little piece of her mind told her. Even these days. Another piece of her knew this was bullshit, and that she loved the knowledge that those in the city didn’t really survive so much as they sustained the life they already had. A winter in the city didn’t mean shit. She had learned that. It was a winter in the mountains that mattered. Perhaps the definition of true “survival” was well beyond her knowledge. She let the thought go at that. She had been working lately on her lifelong tendency towards arrogance.

After she went to bathroom and made herself fresh enough to stare at, she found her way into the kitchen and washed the dishes. She played a documentary on a small tablet video screen, resting precariously upon containers of lemonade powder and beans. It was not a long one, and very possibly inaccurate, but a fascinating exploration of the potential archaeological evidence of a mythological object. Of course most of the “documentary” was conjecture, so she did not enjoy it as much as she would have liked. She learned enough during the time she washed the dishes to satisfy the surface of her curiosity.

The kettle whistled, and she flicked off the stove’s flame and grabbed the handle of the kettle with a cloth. It was not long before she was pouring the boiling water into the french press. The rich, earthy aroma of her favorite coffee rose to the top of the press with the water. The coffee and water mixed, and she put the lid on it to let it sit. The kettle was returned to the top of the stove, and the cream brought out of the fridge for its sole purpose in this household.

The dishes were done soon, and with a warm mug in hand, cream and coffee swirling into a tide pool of creamy liquid, she sat on the couch and looked around the tiny living room. Having the time to herself in the morning was a routine she often appreciated. Grateful for her day and hoping the rest of it turned out as well as her coffee, she sipped on the dark, rich liquid with closed eyes.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

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7 Major Takeaways from National Novel Writing Month

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner
National Novel Writing Month Winner’s Banner
By Corissa Haury

Writing a novel is not easy. Whether you put pen to paper, type on a typewriter, or use a tablet with a keyboard like me, you still have to do something hard. You have to write.

You have to write a lot, too. 50,000 words in one month is no joke. The daily minimum to reach 50k is 1667 words, or about 3 double spaced pages. Multiply that by the 30 days writers are given to finish the task, and that’s a minimum of 90 pages for the month-long project. An average published novel is between 100,000 and 175,000 words, so starting with 50,000 is a solid half a manuscript. You learn a lot about yourself, writing, and how to be a better writer. Here are the 7 major takeaways I learned this year while finishing my 79,000 word manuscript.

1. Say No to Yourself

One of the hardest things in the whole world is to not look back. There is even an “I told you so” myth about that very thing. This is great advice the folks over at NaNoWriMo.org already recommend at the start of the program, but it is hard to follow. The temptation to read what you wrote from the beginning, to see if it is the epic tale you had hoped for, will start on day one and follow you to day 30. Say no to yourself. Don’t look back. Keep writing.

2. Gestate Your Ideas Beforehand

Are you the writer that plans ahead? I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. When it comes to character development, plot, and chapters, I am often hopeless. That changed this year during the last two weeks of October. I grabbed a notebook and wrote down character ideas and names, created locations, did beginning research, and drew maps for reference.

Not only was it fun, it was a novel lifeline halfway through the month when I could not quite remember what part of the story I was supposed to write next. Lo and behold, I have notes I can reference. To help yourself, write a rough chapter outline before your next book. Prepare your ideas in a notebook, and you’ll have something to look at when you continue to plod onward. Er, plot onward…

3. Be Willing to Scrap Your Plot Completely

There will be times when your plot becomes convoluted, your characters get strange, and the whole story surpises you and flips itself on its head. You can learn something about yourself and about your characters by allowing this to happen. Let the story morph. Rewrite your plot. Outline chapters a dozen times if you have to. (I did.) Whatever feels right, do it. Don’t inhibit yourself with the idea that you must keep the first plot or that a messy story is bad. Messes are what make things interesting in your favorite books.

40kwords
40,000 words towards the middle of the month.

4. Finish Your Story

This may seem obvious, but I will put it here anyway because I needed to learn it. Getting to 50,000 words is an accomplishment, but if the story is not finished than neither are you. 50,000 words is a minimum goal. Do not allow yourself to get to the minimum and stop. I know I fall into that trap, with homework and writing. Do not stop writing if the story is not at its end. You will not feel like you have won, because you left a lot hanging. You can do it. You can finish your novel.

5. Every Month is Your NaNoWriMo

Something my husband said to me this month is important. “Every month is NaNoWriMo.” He said. “I don’t want you to stop writing.”

Writing is hard. It is tedious. It is frustrating. It is a discipline, a chore, a task that you must continue if you want to be a writer. Stephen King has a great essay (#23) in his book On Writing. He talks about how when he was a young writer in the 60s, most folks believed that writing was a nebulous, divine vision that came to the writer. There was no expectation of discipline or definition. King and his wife, Tabby, who were dating at the time, did not feel the same. They both laboriously crafted their stories with care, and for Stephen, a sense of fun.

Keep writing. Do not stop because National Novel Writing Month is over. If you have a retail job that is 40+ hours per week like me, and you still finished a novel this month, don’t let the end of November stop you from the continuation of your craft. You are worth it. You can keep writing.

6. Kill Your Inner Editor

National Novel Writing Month is not about making a book. It is about getting a story onto paper that you can mold into a book later. Whatever it takes, silence your inner editor. That bitch doesn’t need our encouragement or our credence while we are writing the first draft. We will need her in later months when we come back to critique our manuscript with an eagle eye, but for now, she can go away.

What does it take for you to kill your inner editor while you write your first draft? Sometimes a stiff drink does it for me. Sometimes being out in the world and writing at a cafe helps. Sometimes you just need to find the right soundtrack for the feeling you are trying to produce with your words. There are multiple methods to make sure that critical voice in your head doesn’t get heard until December. Find your method.

7. Acknowledge Your Accomplishments

77k Words

If you are not a published author, you read often, and you have a decent sense of literary quality, then it is probably hard for you to feel accomplished when you write something. You know what a great book is, but you may not know what it took to craft it. The first draft should never be the final draft. What’s that quote by William Faulkner from The Sound & The Fury?

“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

If you learned anything about your own writing while finishing a novel, you have more than accomplished what you set out to do at the outset. NaNoWriMo is about one thing: writing. Don’t expect your novel to be Sirens of Titan yet. This is just the beginning. After editing, rewriting, and several more drafts you’ll have something you can submit to a publisher or work to self-publish. You did better than yourself this month. Take a moment to appreciate your own accomplishments.

This is just the beginning. You have a manuscript to mold. You have a novel to make stronger, and more purposeful. Congratulations!

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

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