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NaNoWriMo progress update: An excerpt from my novel, The Fabric.

November 11, 2010

I knew I would eventually get behind on my writing because the first few weeks of November are the last few weeks of classes. This week, I’ve spent more time on homework and studying than I have in a long, long time. I’m about 6,000 words behind, but I hope to take today to get caught up. To push me forward, I’m going to do something I told myself I wouldn’t do and post an excerpt. It’s the first few pages, so please keep in mind a few things:

1. This is a first draft. It’s kind of sucky, and some of the sentence structure is choppy. I know this and I plan to fix it later.

2. Although there are similarities to my life, I promise you all characters are fictional and not remotely based off of myself or anyone I know.

3. Please feel free to critique it at will, although I would appreciate if you make your criticism constructive and respectful and not insulting.

Here we go!

The Fabric

Prologue

I was the bad guy.

“I can’t do this, Mother. I won’t do it.” Kneeling, Mother’s light shone around me.

You will, said Mother into me.

“But why?” I had started whimpering.

It is the way.

“It is not!” I was throwing a childlike tantrum. I had never been a child, so I could only imagine that this is what children do.

In response, Mother showed me my path, emphasizing the tragedy I was about to face. I wept.

My emotional responses were the result of chemical and electrical functions built into my synthetic brain. My heart was still, figuratively, broken. I looked up, directly into Mother’s light. “You will not win this.”

There is no winning. There is no loss. There is only what must be, and we must only intervene when the path is compromised.

I dropped my head into my hands, biting back my tears, replaying over and over again my mission, for the greatest good, Mother said, and that inevitable moment which would happen sooner than I realized.

Chapter 1

I was the bad guy.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Williams, but based on our policy, I can’t refund your overdraft fees at this time.”

The reactions were the worst part. I could take an angry customer. I could respond by blaming them for being negligent with their accounts, for being rude. I could look down on them. I hated the sad customers. I could see their hearts break, their minds turn as they tried to figure out what to sacrifice in their budgets. A loved one’s birthday gift. The electric bill. Maybe even food.

Mr. Williams was one of those people. After a moment, he sighed and said, “Well, thank you for trying, young man. I appreciate your help.” He got up in a dignified manner. He would not have a snotty banker pity him.

Mr. Williams accepted a small Social Security check every month. He withdrew his grocery money every Friday and always tried to give a dollar to the tellers so they could buy a bottle of pop. He was a good man, and this was an evil place. Keeping your money here was like handing it over to the devil himself for safekeeping.

I couldn’t handle this today.

“Just one moment, Mr. Williams. Let me look at one more thing.”

Mr. Williams turned around and sat back down. I looked at his account on my computer where the couple hundred dollars worth of overdraft fees had posted because Mr. Williams thought his check went through on Friday, not Monday. Next to each one was a drop down box which said, “Reason for fee reversal.” I chose the option, “Management Discretion” and knew that I would be hearing about my “excessive fee waivers” next week at the managers’ meeting.

“I went ahead and took care of those for you, Mr. Williams. They’ll be refunded to your account by tomorrow morning.”

The way his face lit up made my day. The joy he felt flashed only for a moment, replaced immediately by the dignified manner he usually employed. We both stood, and he shook my hand, thanked me for my generosity and assured me he would keep better track of his funds from now on. I thanked him for his patronage at The Evil Bank, Cleveland, Ohio branch, and wished him a good day.

Just two more hours until five o’clock.

Maybe I wasn’t so bad. I was just bad at my job, which required me to be a heartless, corporate robot. I was a good boss, though, or so I liked to believe.

I went past the teller line to grab another soda and noticed that Emma looked bored. Although she was very intently bending up a paper clip, the act itself told me that she had nothing better to do. Tuesday afternoons were the pits around here.

I walked up to the station and noticed that her red hair was down today. Normally, she wore it in a big, messy bun at the back of her head, but today it was long and flowing and wavy and shiny. Mesmerizing, really.

Not thinking of anything more clever, and not wanting to sound flirtatious, I said, “Your hair is down today.”

Startled, she dropped the paperclip and came out of her trance. She looked at me with her sharp blue eyes and smiled sheepishly. “Oh, I got it trimmed a little yesterday so I thought I would see how long I could leave it down without getting annoyed at it.”

“I like it a lot.” Poetic.

“Aw, thanks, Artin.” That adorable sheepish grin again. Did I detect a blush at my comment? Why didn’t I compliment her more often? Oh yeah, I’m her boss, and I need to keep a professional relationship. Anything more and it would complicate things horribly, not to mention all the paperwork pursuing a relationship with an employee would create.

Did that mean I wanted to pursue a relationship with Emma? I shook off the thought. I needed to get a hold of myself and my naughty, unprofessional desires.

When the silence between us started to become awkward, a customer walked in and Emma popped up from her seat to help Ms. Watson. I walked back to my desk and picked up a paperclip to busy my hands.

Emma and I were only a few years apart. She just turned 21, was still in school and would be leaving the bank soon to pursue much bigger things. I was 27, trapped here for all eternity because I was stupid enough to get a degree in finance. My salary was already capped and the only way I could get more was by going back to school, but who has time for that? Not someone who barely has the motivation to wake up in the morning, who spends his evenings playing video games and watching a shameful amount of pornography.

So it is likely that I would be here, at this desk in this little city until I could retire or until I died. With the economy today, the latter would likely happen first. All these thoughts made me feel suffocated and depressed.

Despite my best efforts, I decided to let myself think a little about Emma so I could cheer up enough to continue my day in a moderately productive manner.

Emma started here a year ago. I didn’t hire her, and I don’t think I would have, either. I would have gone for someone with more experience, but Bernie, the operational leader, liked her enthusiasm. A year later, that enthusiasm was still there. She brought a light into this office that kept customers driving extra miles just to have her do their deposits. She was quirky and charismatic and… well, beautiful. I hated to admit how attracted to her I’d become over the time I’d known her.

Emma was not the kind of girl you would see in commercials. She was not any kind of anything at all. She seemed bubbly and perky on the outside. One is led to believe she’s a bit off but having a conversation with her for just five minutes could change that impression. You could quickly tell how vastly intelligent she was, quick-witted, funny, intense but relaxing to be around.

She was kind of perfect.

But she wasn’t perfect for me, and I knew that. It didn’t stop me from longing for her, though.

My trance was disrupted by Dolores, the head teller, who had yet another customer asking to have fees refunded. My last two hours went by very quickly after that.

The evening was no different than any other. I got into my apartment, turned on the light, took off my shoes and tie, and went to the kitchen to pour myself a drink. After an evening of drinking more than usual and gaming, I decided to go to bed a bit early.

I got out of my computer chair and stumbled into the bathroom. I looked in the mirror while I took a piss. Supposedly when people are drunk, they find themselves more attractive. Such was not the case this night. I looked tired, and really drunk, but most of all, sad. I was not in a state to evaluate whether or not I felt sad, but I figured I would find out later.

Most of the time, I wasn’t a bad-looking guy. I worked out at least four times a week. I was wiry and thin, but muscular. I put my fingers through my short brown hair. It was unkempt from where my headphones had been. Despite my naturally olive complexion, I looked especially pale. Maybe I was going to puke. My high cheekbones and structured jaw looked sallow. My teeth were grimy. I needed to shave. I was really gross and wondered if this was why I couldn’t get a date.

That’s not true, I told myself. I can’t get a date because of my head. My impulsiveness. My “vibes.” It was stupid, but I couldn’t help it.

Throughout my life, these random pangs of feeling would interrupt my normal trains of thought. It was like a voice guiding me, and I couldn’t go against it no matter how much I tried. When the voice spoke, I obeyed. That makes me sound insane, and I didn’t think that was really the case. The vibes were seldom and inconsistent, which is why I didn’t rely on having them for everything, and which is why I had to truly listen to them to make sure what I was feeling wasn’t just a desire.

The feelings came in handy for simple things in life. Where most people would toil over a decision about which piece of furniture to purchase, if I had a vibe about a piece of furniture, I would buy it. There was something in me that said, “Perfect, yes!” or “Absolutely not!” I would shrug and get out my credit card. It was stupid things that made my vibes come out. It made me seem impulsive.

I would call off work some days because I just had to. There was something forcing me to stay home I couldn’t fight, and I didn’t question it because I couldn’t. My vibes wouldn’t let me question them. I just knew when some things were true and false, right and wrong.

Without being aware of it, sometimes I would predict people’s futures. A teller at work broke her leg once while she was at a party. When she went on short-term leave, despite it being paid, I told Bernie, “I think she’s going to quit soon to go to another job.” Bernie had replied, “That would be stupid, we’re paying her sick leave for six weeks.” I shrugged, and two days later, the teller called to say she had gotten offered a different job that paid more and she wouldn’t be coming back to work.

My vibes helped with simple things most of the time, but they also helped my love life. I suppose “helped” is the wrong word. “Ruined” would be a better word.

When I was fifteen, I met a girl named Tina. It was love at first sight. Had we met later in life, I think we would have gotten married right away. The second I laid eyes on her, I knew we were going to be in love for a very, very long time, and we were either going to live happily ever after or break up explosively, leaving us both broken for as many years as we were together.

I took a chance, hoped for the former, but the latter happened shortly after our four year anniversary. She fell in love with someone else, a man who was older, who had direction in life, who was probably short and stocky, who probably liked dogs. Essentially, she was driven to be with the very opposite of me.

I don’t really know what happened, but I blamed myself and she blamed me too. Thinking about it burdened my heart, made it feel heavy in my chest. We had cheated on each other on the same night without knowing what the other was doing. We had drifted apart and found other people. The woman I found was a fling. The man she found was her true soulmate, or so she said.

I hadn’t spoken to Tina in six years, and I doubted I would ever hear from her again. After much thought, I realized that was okay with me. I had moved on. My existence was pathetic, but I was an independent, moderately functioning member of society. That was really all I aimed for in life.

My point about Tina is that even though I’m led to believe I have will power in my life, I am at the mercy of these vibes of mine. When I first laid eyes on Tina one cloudy day in September, I was in love. There was no falling in love. With me, it is in love or out. I am totally devoted or I am nothing. This is why I hadn’t put more effort into wooing Emma. I wasn’t in love with her and I knew I never would be. She was perfect, but someone else’s heart belonged to hers and she had yet to find out who that was.

Because of my cursed impulsivity, I never tried to find love because I knew if I were patient enough, it would eventually find me. And if it didn’t, then I had to learn to be okay with video games and porn.

I brushed my teeth and went to bed, dreading the next day, and the next, and the next.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Brandon permalink
    November 11, 2010 6:49 pm

    Sigh. I fail, because I have nothing really useful to say. No real complaints. I very much appreciate the sturdy pacing and nice character development, and the well-planted seeds for intriguing plot developments later in the story. I will say I got a mostly feminine vibe from this male lead, though I’m not sure if it’s because I have yet to get far enough into the story to separate you from the character, knowing you as well as I do and having the story be told in the first person. Nor is a feminine vibe at all a bad thing, of course, especially since it plays with gender expectations – which may be a goal of yours – but I mostly picture a woman until he says something that highlights his actual gender. Again, this may be my own (tired) thought process fucking with me…

  2. Emiliah permalink
    December 27, 2010 12:26 am

    I want to read the rest of it =)
    That’s about the best compliment I can give, since I usually put books down if the beginning doesn’t intrigue me. Prologue is a little off-putting — seems like it wouldn’t even be from the same book – but it makes me anxious to read it. I want to connect the exciting, foreign beginning to the mundane manager.
    Moar plz
    =)

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