The Last Page is still underway, and about seven chapters from completion. (Whew!) But I had another story idea come to me, and I've done the first little part of it up in a couple of different tones. I figure I could do it as a pulp/dramatic story, or as a couple of different tones. So here are three 'opening' snippets to the same story, and I'm curious which one grabs you the most.
They say that a city never sleeps; maybe that's true for some cities, but not this one. Here in Seattle, there's a moment between 1:30 and 2 in the morning when the city catches its breath, and everything holds still. I savor that moment, as my city closes her eyes for that instant, and relax in its silence; I like my solitude, when I can find it. They say that a city never sleeps, but they're wrong; I'm the one that never does. Me, and those like me. One hand rests on the blade I always carry, bringing the reassuring soft rattle of wood and metal to my ears. It is an imposing-looking ceremonial Indonesian knife, the hilt and sheath of carved wood in a pattern of horses and the blade rust-spattered with age. The sight of it alone has given would-be assailants second thoughts; there is something about facing a blade that strikes more fear into one than a gun does, even when spattered with rust as dark as spilled blood. Eons of racial memory, perhaps, or the deadly glitter of light reflected from metal. I caress the carved mane of the horse on the hilt with the tip of one finger. The dagger was nothing special when I found it at one of the small shops of esoterica scattered throughout the city, a curio buried in an umbrella bin. Now it burns with power beneath my touch, dangerous and beautiful in the still night, a warning every bit as deliberate as a policeman's holstered gun or a ganger's brandished knife. Not everything heeds a warning, though; those are the ones which concern me.
They say a city never sleeps. Actually, they say /the/ city never sleeps, as if there were only one; as typically conceited as most other human statements, and as typically wrong as well. There is a moment when every city sleeps, when she catches her breath, letting out a long sigh as she lets go of the day. Cities dream too, after all. Not like you or me; the city never dreams about missing her bus, or showing up at work only to realize she forgot her pants. The dreams of a city are strange and incomprehensible, the hopes and nightmares of everything living there. It might be the instant before dawn, or 2:38 in the morning, or five minutes after the last bus runs for the night; cities catch their sleep when they can, just like those who live in them. Most people, if they're awake, only ever notice this moment as a sudden hush. That eerie moment, when for just a single breath everything seems empty and alone. Things live in those moments, things that can escape from the city's dreams and move into the waking world. You'd think more people would notice, but most people can't even think about the world past the sound bites on the morning news. And so you need someone like me. Most cities have at least one, whether they were dreamed into existence, or called to the task. As far as I know, I'm the only one who chose it for myself. No one ever accused me of making /good/ choices. The wooden hilt of my knife, warmed by my own body heat, is a reassuring presence in my hand. It's a showy blade, more style than substance; something I found in a curio shop, all carved vines and ornate Indonesian loops. The blade itself is covered in rust, but I rarely need to draw it; the dagger looks like something from out of a low-budget horror flick, and most people with any common sense -- or fashion sense -- run at the sight of it. For those that don't, I've long since made the knife a power focus in its own right; it's still a potent weapon, even if it likely couldn't cut butter. I can feel the moment approaching as the city seems to slow around me; unseen things press against the barrier between the waking and dreaming cities, hoping tonight will be the night they can tear through.
They like to say that 'the city never sleeps,' as if this were some great truth. They're wrong, though; there's a moment when every city sleeps. Here in Seattle, it's somewhere between 1:30 and 2 in the morning, after the last late-night buses have just made their weary way to the bus barns. In that brief moment, as everything holds still, the city herself seems to catch her breath and let go of the cares of her day as she sleeps into dreams. And cities do dream. Not like the dreams of the people who live in them, of course; a city never dreams of going to a midterm without its pants. A city's dreams are as real as the city itself, a whole second city to be discovered. Most people never see it, because they aren't willing to look. But then most people try not to think of the world around them beyond the sound bites on the morning news. But even if they aren't aware of the Dream, the Dream is aware of them. Things live in the Dream, and envy the solidity of the waking world. They strain hungrily against the boundary between Dream and Waking, eager to get free. And in the moment when the city sleeps, when that boundary is the weakest, some slip through. That's where I come in. Every city has its Watchers; those who can see the Dream, and deal with its denizens. Watchers come in all forms and races; some Watchers are Dreamed into being, while others find themselves called by the city. As far as I know, I am the only one who chose this duty. No one ever accused me of making /good/ choices. I feel the reassuring weight of the knife in my hand, the carved wood of the hilt warm from my touch. It's an ugly blade, fashioned by Indonesian craftsmen to look as exotic and imposing as possible in hopes a gullible tourist will buy one; I found it in the bottom of an umbrella bin in a flea market. The blade is rust-stained and likely couldn't cut butter even if you heated the metal first. But it works well enough as a weapon; most people will run at the sight of a foot-long blade, whether or not it's particularly sharp. Something about the glitter of light on metal, or eons of imbued racial memory. For those who don't, I've long since imbued it with no small amount of power. Dull blade or not, it burns as bright as a flame to those who can see it, a warning to leave my city alone. Not everything out there pays attention to warnings, though; those are the things which concern me.
Which Snippet Was Best?
Please add comments on why you felt this way. No, I'm not writing any more of it until I finish TLP, but I really am curious, and trying to figure out which 'tone' works best for this, for after TLP.
Whoot. Sleep now.