Tried doing something I don’t usually do today and made all five image-based quick-writes part of the same story. They’re not necessarily sequential in the sense that if I were writing with no time or length limits these might actually be in separate chapters, and there would be some pieces I develop more.
One of the things that doing something like this does is that it really forces you to focus on more distant associations to images. I didn’t have an idea for the concept of this story until about the second paragraph, but even then I didn’t figure out the central conceit of the thing until the third paragraph, basically writing as I went.
I think that’s one of the strengths of writing this way. I’ve been putting out about 1000 words a day (that’s a low estimate, but not nothing) of fiction, and I’ve been getting practice in more ways.
My background in studying symbolism and the psyche has been important here. I think that Jung has done more to make these stories possible than I have, since I often try to look for things that are going to be interesting, but I’ll talk more about that after the fiction to avoid spoiling things.
Image 1: A rock in foreground, nearly off the bottom of the frame. Blurry trees and sky in the background.
The foundation served as the basis for everything, and they both knew that. It didn’t matter that the place was in ruins; when they rebuilt it they would start from the same place they’d started the first time.
Of course, that wasn’t easy. The world bent and warped and rolled until there was almost no room to build upward. The shattered remains of their home had to be pulled away, and then the next step could begin.
Everything above the ceiling, as they took to calling it, got pushed back. It had been dramatic as it first came on, and they were fortunate to have been outside when the force first pummeled the house.
The sheer absence made them think of it as a ceiling as well. Distantly, the light diffracted until they could tell vaguely whether it was day or night, and that was enough for the plants to grow. There was no more rain to fall in droplets, or if there was it wasn’t happening here. The soil was perpetually moist, however, and the well in their backyard still worked.
It was an odd situation, but they felt confident they could rebuild.
Their neighbors looked at them, the couple living in the different world, and wondered what had gotten into their minds. Outside their world, the things were still normal, still tall. There were questions and whispers about what had happened to level the old house that had stood in place of the strange squat dwelling that had sprung up overnight, the tall oak in the front yard that had been driven into the ground, split in two as if struck by lightning.
Image 2: A few people assemble by a body of water. One is jumping in, arms above his head, while the others watch on.
It was the ripples, they’d decided. The ripples must have forced the ceiling to come down. Otherwise there was no explanation. But where had the ripples come from?
It was a classic problem of cosmology. The man found a book that had survived uncrushed, and opened it up. He pointed to the myths of the hero who holds up the earth, and said that somewhere the great hero must have died.
But they found themselves with a major problem; there was no food left after the world had been shortened. Not because food could not exist, but simply because there was none where they were.
So they decided that one of them must go to get food. The man’s old pick-up truck had been outside the garage when the flattening occurred, and had avoided any raining debris.
So it was decided that he’d drive over to the local store and see if it had survived.
One of the neighbors had worked up the nerve to talk to the woman while she was home alone, and ask her what nature of thing had happened.
The wife’s response was curt:
“Don’t you know that the world’s shorter now?”
The neighbor shook her head and nodded, but when she’d made it back to her own house she found that it too had flattened, the roof had come down to the ground, leaving underneath it a small pile of debris, drywall, and a very agitated lapdog, who was occupied with jumping through a portal left behind by the disintegration of a window.
Image 3: Trees along an open field. Buildings in the background. Mist.
The man, meanwhile, drove to the grocery in hopes of finding some food.
As he went along the road, he noticed that there were many fallen branches, and sometimes even whole trees, blocking the road, until finally he came to a point where the road was totally obstructed.
He sat in the truck for a moment. He supposed that it was the middle of the day on a weekend, and very few people were out. Besides, with the road already blocked, it wouldn’t do any harm to just leave the truck where it was while he walked the rest of the way to the grocery store.
So he left the truck and walked the rest of the way.
There were very few people around; most of them must have either gone on holiday–not a rare thing where they lived, close to the country as it was–or have been caught inside their homes as they flattened.
The magnitude of the tragedy struck him. They’d been very quick to adapt to their new life, but for a lot of people it wasn’t going to be a new life at all. He thought of airplanes, up in the sky. His theory was that the further things were above the ceiling, the more they were forced downward. He prided himself on his scientific ability, and the theory seemed quite sound to him.
So he imagined thousands of planes knocked out of the air, tens of thousands of houses flattened on top of their occupants.
It was enough to make him feel an immense sadness.
But the rumbling in his belly brought him back to reality soon enough, and he kept walking. There wasn’t anything he could do about it either.
But what about canyons? So far he’d pretty much just been on flat ground. Maybe they were at the very uppermost elevation for the flattening, and in lower places it would all be fine. He thought of this as he very carefully climbed over the downed limbs of a tree, pressing his back against the ceiling and trying to squeeze through the gap.
They’d have to go find out, if they could get the truck to take them that far. He supposed most gas stations probably got crumbled as well, and cursed his luck.
Image 4: A palatial building, with an ornamental dome capped with a statue, and Old World stylings. Italy?
When he got to the old town center, the man was surprised to see the steeple of the church still standing high above the rubble.
He went to it, looking at how it lifted up past the ceiling, and went inside. There was nobody there, but somehow it still stood above the other buildings.
He wondered if there was some reason for this, or if the fact that the old town was lower than the modern construction of the suburbs contributed in some way.
But then he recalled that the other buildings had been leveled.
He also realized that there was no reason for the grocery store to be spared either.
He turned and went out again, feeling his footsteps pick up. His panic overcame his traditional laziness, and the man rounded corner after corner of rubble reaching to the ceiling.
For a moment, he feared that he was lost.
Then, a green, white, and red sign that had been dropped to the ground when the facade behind it crumbled caught his eye.
The grocery store had not been spared.
Defeated, wordless, he turned around to head back toward his truck.
There was little in the way of noise. The water in the air had been forced to the ground, and occasionally condensed in splashing puddles. No birds sang or flew overhead, though every once in a while he could see a raven turning its black-feathered head toward him. They must have been on the ground when the world got flattened.
Image 5: A number of hills rising out of a plane in the middle of a desert. The idea it evokes for me is Mars, even though it’s obviously from our world due to the colors.
They got in the truck and headed out of town, driving as far as they could on the tank of gas. She thought that perhaps the ground beneath them had been raised in some way, a counterpart to the flattening of the sky above.
He didn’t agree with her. It did seem like the road was perhaps not going down as much as it usually would in front of them as they headed north out of town, but he thought it was still going down. The distance to the ceiling didn’t look like it changed, but he was willing to regale his passenger with all sorts of reasons why such a nondescript thing could be hard to gauge the distance of.
“Well, then, let me out and I’ll climb up in the truck bed and see if I can touch it.”
They stopped and she could. Of course, he argued, it wasn’t really a scientific measurement, since they hadn’t had her touch it from the truckbed back near their home.
But, in the end, they knew each other well enough to know that they could keep talking about this forever if they didn’t just agree to move on, so she climbed back into the passenger seat and he pressed the pedal down, aiming for the optimal speed of sixty-five miles per hour that he had heard someone say once as the best speed for fuel milage.
Of course, he didn’t remember if it was sixty-five or fifty-five, or even if the person saying it had any idea what they were talking about. His truck was old enough that it might work differently than the other cars on the road, and it was a truck and not a car.
The big problem, he explained to his exasperated wife, was the ceiling itself. It certainly looked like there were hills ahead from the narrow angle they could see, but as they looked up to see the summits of those hills and mountains the ceiling blurred out the details.
She looked at him and sighed.
“You think I couldn’t figure that out?”
It was just easier to keep going if they kept talking, he said.
You can probably tell that I had a much better idea of the setting by the final pieces, but that I was also struggling to come up with words to fill. Some of that’s just the fact that I put off writing until later than I normally do, so I was somewhat short on focus.
However, I went in with nothing and basically ended with something. I tried a fairly different style here, one I’m not always fond of, but one which I think is more of a modern American style; entirely lacking in pretense, also perhaps lacking in craft. Part of this was the tired factor playing in to my ability to find words and construct sentences, and some of it was quasi-deliberate.
A couple writes in, I decided that the wife would be the only character with any quoted dialogue, and everything else would be done via attribution but not directly stated.
It’s also worth noting that the inspiration here, as I went into the second or third write, started to shift to an almost Nietzsche-inspired allegory, though I’m not quite sure what the message is yet. There’s something symbolic about the church surviving (old palace became place of value became church, in terms of the associations in my mind while trying to reconcile the image to the scene), and also something symbolic about it being empty.
Make of that what you will.