Guess what month it is? NOVEMBER! And that means NANOWRIMO, woo-hoo!
I’m thrilled to announce my project, ON STARRY WINGS.
This will be the first of many (to be edited please don’t take them too seriously) excerpts, shared literally as I write them for the sake of accountability.
Here we go!
Alex was exposed to no more living people for many years, and this was probably good.
Then again, it might have been awful.
He grew used to people in perpetual state very quickly, as one does, and never had to grow out of it the way children do when grandparents or acquaintances die. Everyone around him was exactly the way they were, and would never change. Never sicken. Never die. Never age.
This did not, of course, delay the inevitable.
As Dis observed, he contained within him the abilities inherited from his mother, albeit slightly less potent than hers had been. As Dis also observed, the balance between these things and his human side was tentative, at best.
As a result, he spent most of his childhood sick.
This may have been one reason his father grew tired of him (which is a reason, not an excuse, as we hope the listener will understand). Even down here with literally all the world’s history of doctors and witches and natural healers, there was no small challenge in keeping the boy alive, for in spite of being exposed to precisely nothing that would make him ill, he was.
Just about all the time, he was.
His body attacked itself. His lungs rebelled, his sinuses rioted, his digestive system declared full-body war. Some days he spent coughing up blood and crying it, curled and huddled against Dis or Agatha or one of the many guardians who’d been assigned his care. Other days he lay in a feverish heat, flushed in a bad way and eyes glassy from boiling.
But the rest of the time, he was fine.
When well, he seemed utterly human, at least for a time. He played and went through a “Why?” phase, discovered and adored silly jokes from knock-knock to pun, and learned any games any dead children from any era could teach him.
Perhaps because he was never exposed to people who complained or acted as though eschewing education was good, he took for granted the hours the dead asked him to study. He was crap for anything magic, which simply didn’t work (or, sometimes, exploded) if he touched it or recited whatever ancient tongue, but for the rest, he was an apt pupil.
He accepted conflicting philosophies and apparently at-odds belief, functioned without fear of reprisal from teacher or terror, and deeply loved those special few who could be part of his daily life.
Indeed, the further he grew from the starved and bruised child he’d been when his father dropped him here, the more fanatically he grew to love his people.
And Dis – though she participated, was part of his life enough to be familiar – watched with growing concern.
It was true the imbalance grew no worse. However, it also grew no better, and puberty was fast on its way.
What would happen then was anybody’s guess, but she felt she had a good one.
He would reach puberty, and the first of the worst bodily changes would occur. When this happened, his emotions would grow unsteady; his desires – if any – would manifest; and whether or not he would lose his mind and destroy Death’s world would hopefully become clear before he did it.
Dis had no plans to die in the process of helping her poor, idiot, melted brother, but similarly, she had no plans to allow Alex to inadvertently (or intentionally, heaven forbid) ruin the incredibly important world of waystation Death had built.
Not everyone was ready to move on to whatever came after, when they die. Not even the healed ones. And if not for the land of mercy Death had created – one without limit of time or population, one with enough places for everyone and everyone in their place – they would have no choice but to do exactly that.
Whatever came next, Dis would never see. She was Old Blood, after all, and they did not, like so many denizens of the world, have a soul separate from their bodies; when she died, if she ever did, she would cease to exist.
But these poor mortal souls needed an in-between place to be. She understood this better than most.
“You’d better stay sane, little sun drop,” she told him so often that he took it as no more than ordinary hello or farewell or did you eat your vegetables, and she hoped that meant it would stick, perhaps deep and subconscious enough to hold him together when things hit the fan.
Because they certainly would soon. The year came that Alex turned eleven, and though they’d all kept living things from him with great success for years (living meant endangered meant poke his instincts until he pops), that was the year everything did indeed hit the fan.