I am close to beginning a new short story. As I approach the point where I feel compelled to begin writing (yeah, it becomes a compulsion, and I have to write), I thought I would post a blog about how the idea has taken shape in my mind.
The core snippet of the idea came into being when I revised The Arch of Peresephalon sometime in 2012. In it, I wrote: At least he had decent boots. For the moment, anyway—he didn’t look too long for this world, and they’d surely disappear as quickly as his need for them. This was an off-the-cuff bit of writing, intending for humor. But it sparked something. I didn’t know what, exactly; all I knew, somehow, was there was an idea here for another story.
I let the snippet settle at the back of my mind, where I promptly forgot about it. Until in a moment of distraction (I might have been folding clothes or cooking or some other mindless task) the idea returned with a bit more shape: What if the boots made it back to the old man? At first it was the old man himself who reclaimed the boots. In a field. I saw corn stalks all around him, green and vibrant. He stepped into a clearing, and there on a tree stump were the boots, looking clean and fresh themselves. No real context, just an image that popped into my mind out of the blue.
So I now let the idea brew in my consciousness. It wasn’t there all the time, but in odd moments I would find myself dwelling on it. Where was he? How did the boots essentially go back in time—he knows they are his somehow. I didn’t have the answers but I really liked the core idea of him getting his own boots back. I needed to let the idea simmer a lot more…
And time passed. I wrote a couple of novellas, a book, then another novella. Then I dusted off The Arch of Peresephalon again intending to put it through another rewrite. The motivation for the main character just wasn’t up to snuff. I read through it, made changes, read through it again, did more tweaking. It was on yet another read-through that another snippet from the prose lodged in my mind: The god keeps her on. To have his way with her as he chooses. She’s the only human a god’ll ever trust. This is the old man himself speaking, talking about the women gods chose to bear them. For some reason, this idea also jumped out at me with strong appeal. It, too, offered the core of an idea.
And then it fell into place in one huge rush (which is typical for my story ideas, to be honest). The mother of a god will deliver the boots to the old man. Only he won’t be too old. And to go through time, she’ll walk through the shadow fields of Peresephalon. The shadow fields is the shadow of a tremendous tree with a sprawl of branches and leaves that covers square miles. The tree stands on an alien world—a world of the gods—its shadow cast by an alien sun. The roots might lie across the Chasm, the great crack in the earth spanned by the Arch of Peresephalon. The leaves spread over the Tower of Peresephalon, or perhaps not. But the Tower is dangerously close.
Like the Arch, people can venture in the shadow fields to find treasure, or become sacrifice. All those who go into the shadows do not necessarily return. And of those that do, while they do emerge with a prize, a small percentage also emerge changed somehow. There is a cost to entering the shadows.
The power of the shadows waxes and wanes with the movement of the sun. It’s never all the way quite night, but never all the way full noon, either. And sometimes, clouds can alter the shadows’ strength as they cross before this unseen alien sun on the world where the tree has rooted. So one can enter the fields at a safe time, only to be trapped when the unseen clouds shift. Plenty of risk, but plenty of reward—entire kingdoms can be won and lost within the shadow fields.
And the person who goes into these shadow fields, carrying the boots of the old man to give them back to him within the fields, is the Grub God’s mother. That was the initial title: The Grub God’s Mother.
The plot looked essentially like this: The GG’s mother wakes to her child calling to her. It has grown too helpless and weak to make to back to the Tower and needs her help. She immediately goes to rescue it. On the way out, she hears the cries of pain from the mother of the god Stomp. When it was born, Stomp crushed its mother’s knee. Utterly flattened it. The leg above and below the shattered joint remains alive and well. But she remains in pain. Then, outside a service entrance to the Tower complex, she meets the old man breathing his last breaths. (As mentioned in The Arch of Peresephalon, when he delivers the next mother to the next god, he is finally allowed to die.) She takes his boots and the waiting donkey and heads into the shadow fields.
The GG gives another cry for help, as Stomp is on the prowl. Stomp intends to smash the Grub God, whether it is in the ground still, near the surface waiting to be rescued, or in its mother. In eating through the dirt, the Grub God has accumulated knowledge about the shadow fields. Stomp is jealous and wants the knowledge destroyed, and a god can kill a god.
Weaving through the fields, the mother comes across the small clearing where she is to leave the boots. Along the way she has been cleaning them. Before she can leave, she meets the old man. This is not the first time they have met, as the Grub God has called for his mother’s help five times before now. She and the old man have a conversation about choices. He leaves with the boots and she moves off with the donkey still. At random spots, she stops and digs down into the soil, and stuffs small handfuls of dirt into her vagina. Her child will need it for its own safety, and to take root within her again.
Finally, after dodging Stomp, she comes to the place where her child waits. She stuff it and more dirt into herself. With cramps beginning to pulse in her low belly, she begins the dangerous trek back to the Tower. Before, this has all been simple enough. But now, Stomp is searching for the Grub God. In her flight, she takes a different route back than before, and stumbles upon herself as a younger woman before she’s given birth to the Grub God. She and her husband are in the shadow fields looking for their prizes. They have decide to risk everything. And for the first time, the older mother faces a choice: she can warn herself about her fate, all the pain and suffering she’ll endure; that she needs to re-consider her prize. She might earn a greater prize by simply walking away. But she knows her own answer: her life with her husband is not what she desires, and it is tearing her apart. She cannot bear the thought of having child, toiling in trudgery like her parents and those of her village. That life would be a much worse fate. So, watching from behind tall plants, she keeps silent as her old self and her husband (who disappears in the shadow fields) move off, searching for what they think is their prize. (It is during this search the Grub God calls to her and she packs soil into her vagina for the first time.) She makes her choice.
She sacrifices the donkey to Stomp as she rushes back to the Tower, the different batches of soil in her vagina throwing Stomp off in his pursuit. It’s close, but she reaches the Tower; the entrance she uses lies just outside a section of the shadow fields. Enraged, Stomp enters the Tower. As she returns to her room, where the Grub God will feed off the soil within her and grow thick and fat, about the size of her forearm, before compelling her to go outside, where it will wriggle out and back into the ground, she hears the terrible cries of Stomp’s mother. In passing, she sees that her other knee has been crushed to pulp, along with one of her elbows. Her anguish pursues the Grub God’s mother down the hall and into her room, where she cowers beneath the sheets of her bed, wondering about her choice to not warn herself in the shadow fields, afraid she won’t get another such chance, but knowing she’d make the same decision.
So there’s the story in a nutshell. The main character will face the consequences of her choices, and will stand at a crossroad: knowing what she now does, does she warn her younger self off? Or is the life she’s chosen the only one she could live? And once accepted, can she keep living it?
I’ll fill in a lot of the small details once I finally sit down to write it. I don’t see it being all that large, maybe six to eight thousand words—a typical size for a short story. (It might border on novelette land, but I’m not going to worry about it right now.) Once I am done, I intend to return to The Arch of Peresephalon and change it accordingly, particularly the landscape around the Tower, including the roads people travel to avoid the shadow fields. And I may change the title. The Grub God’s Mother doesn’t connect this to The Arch of Peresephalon by title and I would like it to. I’m leaning toward The Shadow Fields of Peresephalon, but as I write the story, I might jot down a different word, and it might inspire me. Or I might just bundle the two into a Peresephalon container. We’ll see.
For now, I’m just letting the idea finish cooking. Then one night at work I’ll probably crack open WordPerfect (the word processor for people who process words) and begin writing. I’ll keep you posted.