Writing Exercise: Seamus gets Fired

Seamus sat across from One Old, the man who had sat on the Council as One Young back during the Union Wars, who had basically handed over the Nobles and won the war for the common people. He was a hero, but Seamus couldn’t help but feel a complete lack of anything in his presence.

Seamus tried not to look in his eyes. It was too painful seeing that mix of sympathy and confusion on his face. And after living in East Marca and after seeing Sadie taken away in chains, it was hard to believe that any of his emotions were real.

“How often do you think young people actually fail their Passage?”

Seamus didn’t know. He figured not very often or else the Council would have a long line of 13-year-olds outside of their doors every day. He was pretty sure nobody wanted that.

One Old took off his spectacles and rubbed his eyes. “Your silence tells me that you are ashamed. That’s good. A little humility give us perspective. Seamus, do you want to go back to live in the Palace District again?”

The question caught him off guard. Wasn’t he here to talk about his life path?

“You’ve been caretaker for the old Grelio home. How would you like to do the same for the Council building?”

Seamus felt helpless, crushed.

“Sir, I hoped I would be able to… redo my proposal?” It sounded stupid now that he said it out loud.

“No, Seamus. You showed us ineptitude and we failed you. You can never join the University.” He folded his fingers on the desk. “I’m offering you an opportunity, Seamus. You can live in the luxury you were accustomed to. If you serve me for long enough, maybe someday I will recommend you to Council.”

“But the people vote for that.”

“And I could give you a nudge in right direction, Seamus. Connections mean something.”

“…can I think about it?”

“I need your answer now, Seamus. If you don’t agree to this, I’ll need to meet with the rest of the Council and find another place for you.”

Seamus closed his eyes and tried to imagine working at the Council Building, dusting the art and filing papers. It would be a little like what he did back at the museum. Only he’d be doing it for the rest of his life. But what other choice did he have?

“I guess that would be okay.”

“Wonderful. I’ll let the others know.”

Seamus sat and stared at One Old scribbling some notes down.

“You may go, Seamus.”

Seamus had to will his legs not to run out of the office. He closed the door softly behind him then half-walked, half-jogged down the hallway. Whatever would get him away fastest without drawing attention.

The hike back to East Marca took until almost sunset. He was tired and his feet hurt. But when he got to his door, he didn’t want to go inside. Mom would probably be more upset than him that he wasn’t able to follow his life path. And Dizzie would probably just make fun of him like usual.

More than anything, he wanted to talk with Sadie again. He never got answers for why she did what she did. Everything she had said ended up being true, about Quellamunga and its history. And the Council. So, why? Why would she join with such horrible people to burn down the museum?

“Hey, kid.”

Seamus hadn’t noticed the the young man sitting on his steps. He had a yellowing bruise below his eye.

“Why so glum?”

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Chapter 2 (draft 1-3)

“Why would they do that?”

“Because people are awful.”

“That was a long time ago… things are different now.”

“No, Seamus. You. Me. Everyone is awful. Me especially.” The girl’s head lolled to the side, looking past Seamus to Alabaster. “Do you think that creature had parents?”

Seamus shook his head. He didn’t understand what she was saying.

She looked at him, then, deep into her eyes. Her voice cracked so that at times it sounded human. And at times… not human. “Do you think they took that baby from its mother so that you could have a pet, Seamus Kready? Maybe if you got out of your mansion and talked to some real people, you’d know what the world was like. War, death, intolerance. It’s all around you. It just hasn’t arrived at your door yet. But it will.”

She stepped forward and Seamus found himself backing toward the door. It was as if she really was a spirit from the past. The Union Wars happened in his grandparents’ generation. There was peace now. People were happy.

“What are you…?” Seamus covered his eyes.

“Hey,” she said, a little raspy and tired. “Stop that. I’m trying to give you something.”

He uncovered his eyes. She was offering him the history book. “But I can’t just… we have shelves full of books.”

“I’m sure you do, but I’m loaning this to you. Every good citizen should know his country’s history.”

He grabbed it with trembling fingers. The book was heavy and old. Its binding shifted a little in his hands.

“Careful with that. It was my dad’s.”

For the first time, the intensity of her eyes softened somewhat. A smile curled on her dry, cracked lips. She smelled like dry leaves and moss. His heart leapt and he could feel all the little hairs on his arms.

“I will,” he said, feeling like the heroes in his books. “I’ll protect it with my life.”

She covered her mouth to stifle the snorting laughter. “Easy there, kid.” She wiped at the corner of her eye, still chuckling. “But yes. If you lose that book, I’ll see to it that you don’t live past your Passage.”

She stared him down, her eyes once again fierce and judging. He broke his gaze to look at the book cover. History and Lore of Quellamunga by Venyel Nosek.

“How do I give it back, though, when I’m done?”

“I know where you live, Seamus. But if you really want to go slumming and if your family will really allow you to walk freely after you begin your life path…”

“They will!” Of course he could. After Passage, after he was bound to his life path, he was allowed to go anywhere he pleased.

“…then you can find me in East Marca where all the little halfway houses are. Ask around for Sadie.”

She spun on her heel and disappeared slowly into the darkness, leaving the sound only cricket song and the sound of Seamus’s rapid heartbeat.

He opened the back entrance and quickly locked it behind him. A dumb grin tried to make its way onto his face, but he took a deep breath. It wasn’t every day one went toe to toe with a ghost story come to life.

“Sadie, huh? What do you think?” He turned the corner to the atrium…

“Alabaster?”

…but Alabaster was not there.

“Oh no.”

Seamus kicked off his shoes, hugged the heavy book to his chest, and sprinted down the hall.

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Chapter 2 (draft 1-2)

“Excuse me, uh, miss?” She looked a few years older than him. She was thin, pale, and sickly looking. The deep bags under her eyes made her look like a ghost. She’d heard that story from Dizzie, about the ghost Noble from the Union Wars who haunts the area. It was ridiculous, of course. Just a story to scare kids. But still…

“Are you hurt? Are you okay?”

She glanced up from her book, not seeming to notice him at all until now. Her dark hair parted from her face and her dark-rimmed eyes shot needles at him. Then, scowling, she looked him up and down and went back to reading.

“Excuse me. Uh, this is private property…”

She reached for a fallen leaf, set it in the book, and slammed the pages shut.

“What do you want, kid?”

Her voice was scratchy and hoarse. It sounded like it came from the throat of a snarling animal rather than a young woman’s mouth. Maybe she was the ghost girl in the stories, but she looked alive enough to him.

“Go back to bed,” she said, dusting off her pants. “Pretend you didn’t see me.”

“What are you reading?” Seamus asked.

“Nothing anymore.”

“No really. I want to know. I like reading too.”

“Good for you…” Her slightly bored eyes widened into a look of shock. “What is that thing behind you?”

Seamus turned around quickly. Alabaster was tapping on the window lightly with his trunk.

“Oh, that’s just Alabaster. He’s an elephant from Spider Islands in Nyame.”

“You new Nobles really have everything.”

Seamus’s attention snapped back to the girl. “Noble” was the worst slur you could call someone and she was saying it like it wasn’t even a big deal.

“You can’t call someone that!” he said, maybe a little too loud.

“Shush,” she croaked. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Just be quiet.”

“Why would you call me that?”

“Because…” she sighed and pulled at her hair. “Look, you want to know what I’m reading? It’s a history book about the Union Wars.”

She showed off the cover. Everyone had to read the abridged version in First School, but this was the full book. It was huge.

“Sounds boring.”

“Oh, most of it’s bunk, for sure. Like the Battle of Grelio’s mansion?” She pointed to Seamus’s home. “Do you see any signs that there was fighting there?”

“They cleaned it up.”

“Every other noble household was deemed unfit to be adapted into a mansion except this one. I’m sure they tidied it up, but why do you think it was so undamaged in the first place?”

“It was a short battle?”

“There was no battle. In the middle of the night, a group of assassins broke into the house and murdered everyone inside. Sir Grelio, his wife, his children. The guards and the gardener all.”

“Assassins? From where?”

“From here.”

“I don’t understand.”

“The people of Marca.”

“They were fighting for the country’s freedom.”

“I’m not arguing what they were or weren’t fighting for. All I’m saying is that they did some terrible things to get there.”

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Chapter 2, Draft 1

Thoughts ran through Seamus’s brain like a colony of ants. Though he had a full, duck feather bed courtesy of the Council, the room still felt oppressive.

Then again, it could have just been the elephant smell. Part of him loved Alabaster but another part resented him. The elephant, needing not much more than four or five hours of sleep himself, kept him consistently awake. Seamus’s room was specially padded, all of the museum antiques removed, but the elephant could still be annoying, pushing Seamus awake with his trunk or even trumpeting some mornings. But if he couldn’t take care of one pony-sized elephant, what kind of many would he grow up to be?

What kind of man would he be?

In his heart, he’d always known he wanted to be like the brave heroes in his books, like the giant warrior Balwa who traveled from town to town on his warhorse battling monsters and mediating disagreements. In the books, Balwa couldn’t stand when a man attacked another man, but he wouldn’t hesitate to raise his sword against a fire-breathing parrot or a pack of mountain wolves. But then how could he do something like be a brave traveling warrior? It was easier to feel what he wanted to be than it was to write it down on paper. And that’s exactly what he had to do. Write a proposal. But if he couldn’t tell the truth, what could he say that would be more realistic? What else could he say to get his life path accepted by the Council?

Well, it was no good lying down when you couldn’t sleep. Mom had said he had to do something to get himself tired. He slapped his cheeks, stirring Alabaster from his slumber. Alabaster’s trunk uncurled from his chest and he stretched out his legs.

Seamus touches Alabaster’s trunk before opening the door. “We’re going to the kitchen,” he explains. The elephant follows.

To get to the kitchen, Seamus has to go through the glass hallway with its giant windows. During the day, there’s a beautiful view of the museum gardens and the hills that border Marca. At night, there are a few torches lit by the night guards. Not much else to see except for a long-haired girl bent over next to a tree. Seamus stopped and stared. That wasn’t a very normal sight, to be honest. Was she sick? Or injured?

If he were an adult, he’d be allowed to go outside. But there was a curfew for anyone who hadn’t completed their Passage. But then, it was right outside his door, right? No problem if he just opened the back door a bit and asked her if she needed help. Besides, what kind of hero would he be if he didn’t help someone in trouble right outside his window?

“Stay here, Alabaster,” Seamus whispered.

But Alabaster wanted to follow, stepping down the few steps to get into the atrium.

“No. Stay here.” Seamus slips out the door and closes it behind him so Alabaster doesn’t get any ideas. The elephant’s nose is stronger than Seamus’s arms put together and giving him a chance to slip out wasn’t an option. Seamus would be in huge trouble for sure. Maybe they wouldn’t even let him join Passage this month.

The girl sat curled over a book. She seemed okay, if a little pale and tired. But since he was already outside, he might as well see if she needed any help.

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The Awesome Pie Collection is on sale now!

APC cover

Here it is!

  • 55 short stories
  • Over 200 pages
  • All for 99 CENTS!

Available now on Kindle and Nook.

I’ve had some people ask me, but if you don’t have an e-reader device, you can (a) download a Kindle reader (for free) and read it on your computer. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can (b) install the “kindle for iphone” or “kindle for ipad” app (also free) on your device. Just make sure when you purchase the book, you select to send it wirelessly to your device.

In addition, I’ve lowered the price slightly of North of Armageddon, my first book. It’s a short novella about the zombie apocalypse. It’s also available to read on both Kindle and Nook platforms.

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The Clint Pereira Master List

North of Armageddon

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/North-of-Armageddon-ebook/dp/B00BO47K6I

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/north-of-armageddon-clint-pereira/1114581806?ean=2940016255484

 

Tumblr

Where I post writing resources and occasionally some articles or chapter drafts I’ve written

http://dryspaghetti.tumblr.com/

 

Deviantart

Where I post chapter drafts and my Umbagog work

http://cpereira.deviantart.com/

 

WordPress

Old blog where I may post chapter drafts and short stories

https://awesomepie.wordpress.com/

 

Linkedin

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/clint-pereira/32/187/332

 

Youtube

Where all my Google+ “Write at 9” videos go

http://www.youtube.com/user/ClintEPereira

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Closure (revision)

“Let’s just go get some coffee and talk about it.”

Aiko sighs, as if to say, “Yes, let’s go but I still hate you.” Yeah, well the feeling’s mutual.

The Starbucks is too crowded. The line goes to the door and the seats are all taken up. “Man, I hate lines.”

“Well, you wanted to go here.”

“Yeah, this was a mistake.”

“You think?”

“Everything was a mistake,” I mumbled.

“What?”

“Nothin’.”

“No, I discretely heard you say…” The word is “distinctively.” Get it right. “What?”

“What do you mean ‘what’?”

“It looked like you were about to say something. You get that look on your face.”

“No. I wasn’t going to say anything.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Whatever!” I sigh, throwing my hands into the air.

Aiko’s face gets fireball red. “Don’t do that. Don’t you do that!”

Someone pokes me in the back. “Hey! You’re next in line. They’ve been calling for you.”

I take a deep breath. “Oh. Sorry.” Everyone around is looking at us. Let’s just get this over with.

Aiko nudges me out of the way. “Grande Chai tea with soy, no water. Five pumps. On his bill.” She jerks a thumb back in my direction.

“Um, I’ll have a… pumpkin latte. The cold version.”

“Iced pumpkin latte?”

“…yeah.” I hand her the card.

“Size?”

“I’ll take the small.”

“Tall?”

“Yeah, the small one. Tall.”

I hold out my card. “Uh, debit.”

“Here or to go?”

“Here. I mean, to go.”

She glares at me and changes something on the register. “Name?”

“Huh?” I’m waiting for her to take the card.

“Your name?” She could probably look at the card and get my name. “It’s Kouta. What’s your name?”

“…Tara.”

“Pretty name. I feel like we go through the same conversation every time, Tara.” I expect Aiko to get jealous but she’s already hitting on some graybeard in a suit.

Tara flashes me a polite but impatient smile. “Your coffee will be ready in a minute. Next please!” Women are so fake.

I bring back the drinks. Tara has managed to procure the old guy’s table and slip him her number. She thinks she’s sly, like she’s a little ninja. She has money, sure, but she never bothered to learn the trade.

“Here,” I throw the drink to her side. “So, when can I pick up my shit from your dad’s? It’s kind of embarrassing that it’s still there.”

“You left it there when you took off, didn’t you? I’ll have my people drop your stuff off. Just give me your address.”

I take a sip. It scalds my tongue. I try to swallow it fast, which was just as bad an idea for my throat. “You can understand if I’d rather you not know where I live,” I say hoarsely.

“Hmph. Well, good luck getting your stuff back.”

I run my hand through my hair. “Just set a place and time. That’s all.”

She sits back, probably thinking about how best to take my balls away from me.

“Well… maybe—”

A shuriken chops into the table.

“Ninjas? You really hate me that much?”

“No, it wasn’t me. I—”

Ninjas leap out from the ceiling. Only two. Good. I can take two as long as there aren’t more waiting to ambush me. I thumb my belt knife, hidden beneath my t-shirt.

As the first leaps down, he chops the table in half. I kick the chair into his face, but he chops that in half. Stomping his sword on the downswing, I uppercut his jaw. Another sword swishes toward my ears, close enough to shave hairs. I kick back but ninja #2’s already gone.

#1 and #2 work in unison, but I am a lightning eel, twisting around their blades. Intuition reads makes up for what the eyes can’t see.

I hang low under one swing, kick my legs out to dodge another, but now I’m on the ground. I grab the remaining half of the coffee table, smashing #2 in the shin. Retreating over the counter, a third ninja lunges out from his hiding place.

“Surprise!” I scream, delivering a coffee house table to his face. He lets go of his wakizashi after I’ve crushed his hand.

I push the coffee machine at the other two, followed by the register. They chop out with their swords to push forward. #2 is able to block the sword heading for his neck but not the knife headed for his liver. #1 throws his own projectile, a shuriken aimed at my head. I duck behind the counter and #3 is in the corner of my eye, shuriken in his hand. I raise my arm to defend and the weapon lodges in my arm. I pull it out and throw it back at his head.

Expecting an attack from #1, I raise my sword. The sound of a body hitting the ground leads me to raise my head from cover. Aiko stands on the other side of the counter, blade dripping with blood. #1’s body lies at her feet, his throat slit.

“You really make such a scene,” she smiles. “It’s no wonder Dad thought you were too weak to be my husband.”

The blood trickles down, making my palm wet with blood. I drop the wakizashi to the floor.

“Hyaa!”

My body seizing up as a blade tears through my back and I crumple to the ground.

“Aiko?”

“Father!”

Dooshite, Aiko-chan? I thought you hated this man.” He kicks me over with his foot. I slash out at his leg, but he slides back and literally cuts the knife out of my hand. I don’t think he cut to the bone, but there’s blood everywhere. “Why do you kill my men so needlessly, child?” He continues speaking to his daughter, ignoring me like I’m trash. I can feel the blood pooling up in my shirt and all over my hands.

“I… I don’t… I…”

“Hmph. You still love him.” He frowns in disgust, looking like he wants to kill me right then.

I breathe heavily, clenching my teeth now that my adrenaline is dying down.

“Look, I’m just here for my stuff. Aiko and I are through.”

“And why should I believe you? You meet my daughter in private and think I won’t know? You insult me!”

He kicks and I can hear a rib crack.

“You think I’m a fool? Men like you and I don’t give up. We take what we want.”

“Father! Stop it!”

“Hmph.” His eyes are the eyes of a killer. This is a guy who would sooner slit your throat than have you breathe on him.

How can you love this man?” Aiko’s father grabs my by the t-shirt and dumps me on the counter to present me to her. She averts her eyes from my mangled, bloodied state. “He’s so… weak.”

“I… don’t… I pity him.” She can’t meet my eyes.

“Pity?” Laughter bursts from his chest. “Oh, Aiko. You’re just like your mother. It must be something about women.”

A sharp jab pushes me off the counter. This time, I scream in pain and surprise.

“Take him. Bring him to the hospital. Whatever you’d like. But if I ever see him again, I will kill him.”

Aiko bows her head. I cough, gag, and throw up. Aiko calls for an ambulance on her cell phone and waits for the sirens. I never see her again.

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