Having written ‘Separate’ a dystopian short, during lockdown in 2020; I decided to re-write a full-length novel that had been cooking along the same lines of this world that was created in ‘Separate’. While the latter is on the surface a straightforward love story between two musicians – Theia and Jay – the presentation of their love in a post-societal collapse phase of human existence is what was captivating to write – unpacking the nature of such love, what its components could look like, what each party could be capable of bringing to the table sparked further train of thought. With no way of determining a future, their love’s urgency, anxiety and intensity was seemingly devoid of guarantee. The tenuous links which became lifelines for something bigger and potentially longer-term were cool to write. Unpacking how potential becomes a haunting force both in its uncertainty, in a world where nothing is dependable, and where getting through and affording a day is about the limits of your personal time horizon. ‘Separate’ answers bleakness with love.
However, this follow-on, my current work in progress, is not looking as optimistic. But we’ll see …
In this scene, we are introduced to Elisa, the little sis of Hector Triest – the main protagonist – children of hardworking Stan and Rebecca. Elisa is a girl who is about to fall prey to – let’s just say – ‘forces’ beyond her control. This is the moment of first acquaintance so to speak. Elisa is introduced to Keith, a man who has been covering the story of her mother’s archaeological dig. She has no clue however that this is a tipping point. That her existence, the very fabric of reality, is never going to be the same.
Sample: a dystopian work in progress:
‘The home was understated in a way that could signify two different angles. Either moneyed and hiding it – cause flaunting wealth these days was hazardous. The neon tag next to the door with more graffiti on the outside path pointed to the former. An attempt to cover-up complicit wealth, to obscure pre-rampage affiliations, to do what it takes to not stand-out.. also an attempt to wipe slates clean maybe by trying to slip under the radar.
– Come on in.
Stan repeated, watching Keith like a hawk, noticing his eyes scanning the joint. The shabby entrance with minimal lighting, a single bulb, the scuffed walls, cold grey flooring and dull corridor .. all of which could’ve been intentional. The neighbourhood had changed. This once was an exclusive address. These days, all a man could do to counter anti-social forces far bigger than himself was ..try.
Keith’s gaze trailed back centre and fell upon a beautiful young woman. She was about his height, with long straight ink-black hair falling to her waist.
She was dressed in white, sweatpants and a cropped top, the caramel slice of skin at her slender midriff exposing a diamond twinkling at her navel.
This must be Elisa. This girl’s eyes were familiar. The shattering resemblance to her mother, uncanny, shifting expressions like a chameleon. She wasn’t a replica of her mother, more like a striking younger relation.
Rebecca’s description of her daughter made his vision haze, his mental tripping back.
Elisa’s heated, burning at both ends, if you know what I mean … one end with the prospects of life, which currently seem endless and narrow at the same time. The other end risking it all, trashing worthwhile opportunities we can offer her … and for what? I mean, there are so many desperados out there all wanting a cut not even expecting to be one of the chosen to actually get to leave earth. Elisa has this spoiled attitude to life. Rebecca sighed, defeated. But I can’t get into it anymore with her. I’ve gotten riled one too many, if you know what I mean … mainly over her damn entitlement. Stan likes to say she’s as stubborn as her mother. Either way, it always ends in tears …
This girl’s eyes were familiar. The shattering resemblance to her mother, uncanny, shifting expressions like a chameleon. She wasn’t a replica of her mother, more like a striking younger relation.
Sucking in a breath, Keith’s hand drew tighter on the package in his hand as he stepped over the threshold and into the apartment, his gaze fixed on the young woman like a drowning man spying a log.
– I apologise, Keith. Elisa is right. This is our daughter by the way.
He said ‘our’ as if Rebecca was present at his side not ghosting some rocky hole.
Elisa sauntered forward, one arm casually lacing her father’s waist, the other stretching to greet Keith’s, her eyes welcoming, imbued with the same wonderous dazzle her mother’s gaze held, eyes capable of conjuring spells and gripping souls.
Her hand slipped to Keith’s and he felt momentarily sucked out of his body, barely able to register his battling urges and careful designs. He needed to stick to the facts, he remembered. The facts.
Elisa’s hand was slender, small, with only the pointy fake red nails not entirely swallowed by his large calloused grip.
– I overheard, you met mum? She said, releasing his hand.
Keith wanted to hold onto it. The moment over much too quickly, the memory already unforgiving in its intensity. He could feel this woman, from his fingertips to his throbbing muscle.
Her head tilted with interest, a look of innocence. He shifted his stance, straightening shoulders and deepening his breathing, willing the mad palpitations in his chest to calm. If only for an instant.
– Yeah, she was on the dig, y’know.
The facts felt routine, and irrelevant given what had actually transpired.
– And she sent something back?
Elisa’s eyebrow arched, her eyes dropping to the wrapped brown paper in Keith’s left hand. Keith’s gaze followed hers, feeling embarrassed by how hard he’d gripped the packaging, how poor the aesthetic now looked. Rebecca had been so happy wrapping the contents. A journal she’d made herself. Keith had watched in the tent under the haloed glow of her lamplight, enthralled.
She’d pulled odd elements together like a painter would a composition.
The brown ink-stained paper was a previous print out of the archaeological site, which had since changed significantly. The red string tie, half of a shoelace from a spare pair of tough-looking stomping boots, merged with a discarded ribbon he’d seen Rebecca wear to tie her hair one day on the dig. She’d laced some shells along the length of ribbon as decoration, before drawing on the outer paper, messages, doodles and hearts, then binding it in an ordinary leather cover. Becks was an odd one. A one of a kind.
– Yeah, umm. She wanted you to have this.
Keith cleared his throat, thrusting the book into Elisa’s free hand.
Stan watched the exchange making Keith self-conscious. He was sure Stan could perceive things Keith would’ve preferred went unnoticed.
Elisa smiled delightedly.
– Her diary? She told me she was going to send it. I think she feels badly about being away so long. Mum’s not the tekky type, if you know what I mean?
Elisa unwrapped it, tossing the paper on a side table, her focus only on the book.
Stan tilted to read the heading, then smirked.
– That’s your mother.
His words self-explanatory.
– So can I offer you a drink?”
Keith hadn’t planned to stay. He’d thought he would drop it and get the hell out of there. That was the plan. Except that was before Elisa Triest had put in an appearance and raised the stakes. The urge had returned and common sense was flying out the window so damn fast Keith was giving into the defeat of the moment, the binning of facts.
– Sure, I mean … if it’s no trouble.
Keith stammered, endeavouring to peel his eyes away. Everything her mother had said was true.
– No trouble at all.
Stan clapped him one on the back, which doubled as a shove towards the kitchen. Whether intended or not, Keith stumbled forward, forcing a smile.’ ©L.S. Bergman 2022