It’s that time again, friends.
It wasn’t enough that I spent the entire month of October working on a new nonfiction book (the aforementioned Story Structure project), but now it’s November, National Novel Writing Month, and I’m once again signed up to participate. The challenge is simple: compose a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Take a nap. Start editing in December. I’ve done this several times now, and while some of my efforts haven’t turned into something publishable, others have. (A Long November began as a NaNoNovel, as did next year’s Opening Night of the Dead.)
This year I’m doing it again with a new tale of Siegel City. Well… in the world of Siegel City. As you’ll see (if this story ever comes out) it actually begins outside the home of Josh Corwood and company, and while there is the possibility of cameo appearances by our old friends, the heroes in this novel are new characters and the situation is very different from the one faced by Copycat in Other People’s Heroes.
In order to make the 50K mark, I need to average 1667 words a day. On Day One, I hit 5105. This doesn’t mean I’m going to finish the whole thing in ten days, mind you. This is usually my pattern — I start off with a great word count in the beginning, I have days in-between where I struggle to make my minimum, I usually finish a little bit early. If that happens again, I’ll be fine with it.
The new novel doesn’t have a title yet, but it’s got a cast of characters I’m excited about and what I humbly consider a pretty strong beginning. So here, as a little treat, is the first scene of this year’s NaNoNovel…
In fairness, there probably are things in the world that are more disturbing than waking up in a metal drawer in a morgue. However, when it’s happening to you, it’s virtually impossible to think of any.
He knew, somehow, that’s where he was when he woke up. It was cold and dark, and he could tell immediately that he was both naked and covered with a sheet approximately as thick as a scoop of tissue paper. His mind immediately went to a morgue, mostly in a way that felt uncomfortably similar to resignation. Well… I suppose I always knew it would come down to this, didn’t I?
As he lay in the drawer, a tingling feeling beginning in his fingertips and toes, a slow realization began to dawn on him. If he could feel his fingers – if he could flex his fingers… if he could use one of those fingers to tap out “Shave and a Haircut,” maybe he wasn’t actually eligible to be in a refrigerated metal drawer, at least not yet.
“Um…” he said, voice cracking as though it hadn’t been used in a very long time. “Um… little help?”
There was no answer, and he wasn’t sure if he should be happy about that. There wasn’t much chance that anyone who wanted to chime in here would be the sort he wanted to talk to. But nonetheless, he was definitely starting to feel things. Hands. Feet. Panic, mostly, as it became more and more clear that yes, he was alive, and yes, he was in a drawer in a room full of corpses, and yes, if somebody didn’t get him the hell out of this thing in the next seventeen seconds he was going to lose it and they were going to have to hose out the inside of this drawer!
“Little help?” he shouted again, but he didn’t really expect an answer this time. He pushed the sheet off his body and reached up, arms banging against the drawer above him. He punched it, letting out a loud clanging noise, hoping the combination of his manual percussion and the terror in his voice would bring someone running to his aid.
“Hey! Is there anybody out there?”
“Because there’s someone in here!”
“Someone who isn’t entirely dead yet.”
He pounded a few more times, but there was no answer, and he started to realize this wasn’t getting him anywhere. What’s worse, his head was beginning to hurt, like he was trying to think through this situation in two different ways. On the one hand: morgue, death, terror, eek, panic, new underpants. On the other, he knew that freaking out wasn’t actually going to accomplish anything, and he had to at least try to think his way out of the drawer before he let his fear entirely take control.
“Okay, okay, calming down now,” he said out loud, voice echoing back at him from the metallic walls of the drawer.
Easy for you to say, a voice in his head answered back.
“It is easy. This is nothing. This is a drawer. You’ve been in much worse situations than this one.”
Have you, sport? Then why can’t you remember any of them?
His unconscious mind had somewhat avoided the topic up until now, but the answer in his brain made a good point – he couldn’t remember anything about those previous “worse situations” he’d just used to reassure himself. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t remember anything prior to waking up in this drawer at all. Although he seemed to be full of practical knowledge – he knew what a drawer and a morgue were, for example, and he knew that “bowels” was the word for what was going to evacuate itself if he didn’t get out of said drawer in very short order – but things like his name, his work, his family, his life all seemed to be completely blank.
“Let’s worry about that later though,” he said.
He flattened the palms of his hands against the bottom of the drawer above him, feeling it out. The metal was even colder up there, and he imagined his fingers sticking to it like that kid’s tongue in that movie.
You remember A Christmas Story, but you don’t remember your own name?
“This really isn’t the time for that,” he replied to himself. He pushed on the drawer, and felt the metal bend a little. He wasn’t sure what it was made of – probably not steel if it gave like this… aluminum, perhaps – but it felt like something he could possibly break through, if he could get a little leverage. Leverage, however, seemed to be pretty difficult to come by from inside a metal box.
“I’ve got to get out. I need to… I need to just…”
He dropped his arms to the sides of the drawer, flattening his hands against the side and giving an experimental nudge. The metal bed he lay on rocked slightly towards his head, but it seemed to catch on a latch, preventing forward motion. But it was just a latch, he thought. Just a little tab of metal. Surely, a little tab of metal couldn’t beat him, could it?
Of course it can, it’s METAL. That’s the whole reason they MAKE things out of metal.
“Am I always this negative?”
Beats me. I don’t remember any more than you do.
He shoved against the sides again, feeling them give just a little. This time, the bed moved a little more and he heard a creaking sound near his head. Despite what Mr. Negativity in there seemed to think, it didn’t sound that strong. If he gave it a hard enough shove…
“Okay, on three, ready? One… two…”
On “three,” he thrust his arms out and down at the same time, launching the rolling bed in the direction of his head. There was a screaming sound of metal tearing and the drawer rolled out into air even colder than that of his aluminum (at least, that’s what he was assuming) tomb. There wasn’t much light in the room, but he did see a single fluorescent bulb flickering above his head for a few seconds before there was another sound – metal buckling at his feet – and his draw ripped itself from the wall and he crashed into the floor.
Ow! Ow, ow, OW!
“Would you shut up? I’m not hurt,” he mumbled. As surprised too say it as he was that it was true. Granted, it hadn’t been much of a fall, but he would have thought he’d at least get cut or bruised up at the point of collision. Instead, he didn’t seem to have suffered any ill effects at all.
Holy crap… did I do that?
“Do what?” he asked, just before he saw what he was asking himself about. The drawer he presumably just yanked himself from was a mess. The edges of the shelving unit were bulged and protruding all around, and the sliders at the bottom were torn in two, as though they’d been ripped through as easy as he would have snapped a breadstick. The small amount of light that shone inside the drawer showed the sides, where he’d placed his hands, were buckled outward, and the deep impressions of his fingers remained.
“How did I do that?” he asked.
Maybe if I can figure out who the hell I am, that might make sense.
Of course, he needed ID. He was naked, something he’d try to feel self-conscious about later when the proper moment presented itself, but whatever clothes he was wearing when he got here had to be somewhere. He must have had a wallet, a driver’s license, an ID tag of some…
He wasn’t wearing clothes, but he wasn’t completely free of accessories. He leaned over towards his right foot, where a white tag dangled from a toe that – like the rest of his visible skin – looked extremely pink and raw. He plucked the tag from his toe and held it under the light so he could read it.
Great. Either nobody knows who I am or I have the two least imaginative parents in the world.
He stood up, trying to get his bearings. “Okay, what do I know?”
Well… we woke up in a morgue.
“Which means someone thinks I’m dead. And assuming the forensics guy isn’t a complete moron, I probably put up a pretty convincing argument for that. So why did he think I’m dead?”
And where am I?
“And is anybody looking for me?”
And where are my pants?
“And is this happening to anybody else?”
And why don’t I have any hair… anywhere?
He hadn’t really looked, but Mr. Negative was right about that too – his skin was smooth and hairless, and a quick tug and a few slaps confirmed that was the case all over his body: scalp, chin, underarms, other. Not so much as a stray follicle. “No wonder I’m freezing.”
That and the naked thing.
He picked up the sheet from his drawer and wrapped it around his waist for the sake of Mr. N, whose misplaced modesty was starting to irritate him. He was about to start digging around for something to wear when he thought he heard something.
What was that?
“Shh.” He held up a finger, telling himself to be quiet, wondered who exactly he was holding the finger up for, and put it back down. Instead, he just listened. There had been a bang, some sort of pound, he was sure of it.
There it was again.
What do I do?
“Shut up,” he hissed at himself. Mr. Negative was getting scared again, he could feel it. Part of him wanted to turn, to flee, to run to the gym and hide under the bleachers until the jerks who were after his backpack ran past and thought he got away. The rest of him, the sensible part, tensed his muscles, clutched his fists, and prepared to fight.
“Who’s out there?” said a voice – a muffled, metallic voice.
“What was that?”
“Can anybody hear me?” The voice was scared, of that much he was certain, but he wasn’t certain exactly where the voice was coming from.
Until one of the drawers rattled.
“Little help?” the voice said.
To be continued…