Flatland 12

Flatland - an unfinished String City manuscript

Being the twelfth in a series charting the writing of a new fantasy detective story.

Decent session today. 7,900 words in the bank. I did meander down a blind alley along the way though, ah, the perils of the novelist who tries to write short stories. What happened was I got sidetracked during a scene where my PI eliminates Edwin the janitor as a suspect. A necessary part of the story but it became far too long and convoluted. So I cut 800 words of lovingly-crafted prose down to a single line of dialogue. Thank you and goodnight.

And if you’re sick of all my dancing around the story and not showing you enough of what I’m actually writing, here’s a longish extract from today’s session. First draft, unedited, chosen more or less at random …

Trekking across the flattened city was like crossing a frozen lake. The snowshoes helped spread the load, but we still slipped like crazy.

Under our feet, the animated mosaic jostled. I imagined everything – and everyone –down there compressed and thrashing around, struggling to breathe. If we didn’t let them out soon they’d suffocate.

Neither of us looked up at the sky.

On the plus side, nothing stopped us making straight for our destination. From my office door, we rounded the building and struck out due south, plodding over the bustling planes of the Triple Towers and into the high-rent district abutting the nearby meander of the Styx. We trod our way over luxury villas squashed down to mere architectural plans, pine thickets like wide green carpets, multi-lane highways printed out like sleek graphic designs. At the same time everything was in motion. It was like walking over a projection screen playing a thousand different movies all at once.

Halfway across the river, I realised we were walking on water.

‘So what are you?’ said Edwin. ‘Don’t give me that “good with dimensions” baloney. I want to know.’

I thought about it. ‘I guess there’s a name for it. But it’s not one I use.’

‘Evasive bugger, ain’tcha?’

I stared at the place we were heading to. Pheme was there, I could feel it, like magnetism. The urge to run was almost unbearable. ‘What can I tell you? I’m a part of this city. You could say I’m a citizen.’

‘Ain’t we all?’

‘Not in the way I am. Edwin, do you even know what this city is?’

‘Why would I? I wasn’t born here, y’know.’

‘Isn’t there anything about this place that strikes you as strange?’

‘I’m Sidhe. I’ve seen strange like you wouldn’t believe.’

Beneath my snowshoes, the waters of the Styx writhed like cells under a microscope. ‘Think of the cosmos. Think of it like an ice rink. All the things that move through it, they leave scratches behind. And in those scratches, other things collect.’

‘Still not making much sense, fella.’

‘Stick with it. There’s some places where the scratches are packed so tight – like when a skater does one of those fancy spins – that all the things that gather there get kind of bunched up, piled on top of each other. Things get … complicated.’

‘Kinda tangled up, you mean?’

‘Exactly right. This city – String City – well, this is one of those places. Things that shouldn’t co-exist do.’

‘Like hamadryad hookers picking up vampire clients.’

‘And the zombie cops who pull them up for it.’

‘Sidhe caretakers too, I guess.’

‘Folk just spin here from everywhere else. What can I say? It’s a melting pot.’

‘So, where d’you fit in?’


Read the complete Flatland diaries:

15 thoughts on “Flatland 12

  1. >Hi Tom – story number seven actually. The sixth story's called The Dame Don't Whimper but as yet it's unpublished. I think I'll need to write a few more before a collection's forthcoming, but it's a great idea. Thanks for reading (and counting).

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