Happy November! Best wishes and pots of virtual Blue Mountain coffee to the Wrimo-ers, y’all are heroic out there and those of us still planning – or just finishing – or never writing – or arguing with publishers about – our novels, we’re cheering you on. And I know, I know, I haven’t been writing stories in too long, I’m getting there. Here beginneth the streak, I hope. I have an inspirational sword-ish hanging by my desk now, and a new teapot, so that should help.
This month’s prompt was the Orphans of Tumblr, and as I can’t find them all to put them back in… you go here for the prompts… and I’m writing this one:
So it was an overcast Saturday morning, and I was at home alone, just messing around practicing kata. And trying out a new look, because I wanted to look like the actual goddess of geek incarnate later that week, because reasons. Dark jeans. Handpainted Hush t-shirt. High-heeled boots. May or may not have had colored streaks in my hair, three earrings, and four different rings on. And the doorbell rang. Now, I don’t enjoy answering the door at home when I look like a normal human being. When I’ve got serious jewelry-and-makeup and blue lips, oh, I want to answer the door.
I wandered upstairs from my cozy little batcave, without putting my very sharp sword away, and checked through the window to see who it was. Usually the gas-man cometh and I get to freak him out, but on this occasion the brief glimpse I had was enough to set my heart pounding and make me race through unlocking the door.
“Jack!” The visitor was a tall, dark-haired man wearing an RAF greatcoat, and, when I wrenched open the door, he was looking down, apparently checking a watch on a thick brown leather strap on his left wrist. If he was who I thought he was, then… that thing was a lot more dangerous than a wristwatch.
“Captain Jack Harkness, yes.” He sounded surprised that I recognized him, and, reaching into his coat pocket, pulled out… a paperback book. “I’ve got the wrong address. You’re not her – I’m amazed even the house is here.”
“Have you ever seen this girl? Do you know who she is?” Jack demanded, thrusting the book at me. On the cover was a clearly computer-generated photograph of a teenaged girl with long honey-blond hair, staring seriously out of the frame from a seat carved into a rock. The title of the book was in some script I couldn’t read, but I recognized the photograph.
“Oh, yeah, that’s me, that was in Sydney, at the Domain, dunno where you got it.” I ducked back into the lounge and scooped up the framed original of the photo. “See? What’s all this about anyway?”
“Oh. I hadn’t imagined you’d change that much in seven years. I came across the Rift to find you – I guess you think this is real; it’s not, it’s a fictional universe. And this is a novel I’ve been reading since… well, a long time, and I came to find you because we need to change the ending, and we need to change it now.” Jack looked me over. “Keep the sword, you might need it.”
“I might sheath it,” I muttered. “What’s the ending we’re changing?”
“Your job? You work in a lab full of gas cylinders and high-powered magnets. Above another lab where they keep radioactive isotopes. And there’s a carbon-dating center in the basement, do you know all of what’s in that building? Enough radioactive material to contaminate the whole city when it blows, and open a permanent Rift between your city and the rest of the multiverse. And you don’t have a Torchwood Institute to look after you. We need to stop the explosion happening.”
“It’s a Saturday, nobody’s using gas on a Saturday.”
“Yes, explosions happen on Saturdays. This Saturday is when the gas main leaks and the fuse box blows at the same time; this Saturday is when the thing moving in the darkness decides your world is next and your lab is the weakest point. Come on, we need to go stop this.”
“Captain, I can’t get into the building on a Saturday, I’ve got no reason to be there.”
“May I?” Jack motioned to the jar of pencils on the dresser by the door, then flipped through the book and scribbled a note in the margin. “There. You left your datapad on your desk…” a flourish of the pencil “and that guy you like is working today, so you can text him on the way and ask him to let you in.”
I wasn’t sure how come Jack could change some things by writing in the book, but not the main thing he’d come for, but I wasn’t arguing – anything to spend more time with him. On the way to the lab he explained; little edits that the universe can pass off as headcanon on the story will slip through in the margins, but edits that change the course of the story have to be changed… in the story.
Although it was faintly disturbing to have Jack not only knowing who I liked but also reading my text over my shoulder in the car – rental Ford, not the Torchwood SUV – we got into the lab and concerned the socks off both ‘that guy’ and the girl who had the bench next to mine, mostly on account of me turning up with… well, with Jack Harkness. I fetched my datapad back, and we hurried down to the basement where the master shut-off for the entire complex was.
As soon as we got to the basement level I started worrying; the smell of gas was already too strong to be just some idiot forgetting to turn off their tap before wandering off for a coffee. I was choking before we were halfway down the corridor.
“Jack, we’re too late, can’t you smell it?”
“Of course I can smell it,” Jack snarled. “Come on, move, where’s the valve?”
“I thought you knew!” But that kind of detail doesn’t make it into novels, and I had to find the valve and shut it off myself. It was leaking, I told myself. You are not going to lose your job for shutting off the gas, because nobody was using it and it was leaking. “The fuse box is outside,” I told him.
“That doesn’t matter now, the gas leak’s out of the way, it’s safe. Call maintenance, it’s not an emergency anymore.”
And he took me home. And if this were a real story I’d say he kissed me on the doorstep and it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but this one’s real, and what really happened is that Jack just left. And for now – just for now – the world is safe from the thing moving in the darkness, and I’ll never see him again.
So that was what I decided to do with the prompt. I’m curious to see what y’all decide to do – once November’s over, of course.
FYI Mum: I am terminally single and pretty sure I don’t ‘like’ any of the guys who work in my building.
Yeah, the story’s kind of awful – I wrote it in a hurry and Torchwood fanfic is not my forte, but Jack, you were, as always, beautiful, impossible, incorrigible, and worlds of fun, so thanks for everything and someday I swear I will do you justice.
Next month’s topic, for which I will be writing on December 13th – let’s do something easy. Write some lists – ten things that are bothering you, and ten things you’re happy about, as they stand on the day you write the prompt. This is to make you write about the little things – running out of coffee, an annoying topic at college, a blue sky, a great cup of cocoa – as well as the big things – politics, religion, family.
Thanks for reading.