I released this on tumblr recently but like a dweeb didn’t share it here so I am now 🙂
I randomly felt like sharing an excerpt from the fantasy book I’m working on (Incarnations). This is a sort of f/f-ish scene.
A short explanation of Incarnations if you haven’t heard me mention it before: this is the first book in a fantasy series I’m writing; I first conceived of this book when I was 13/14 and wrote 150 pages in it before I stopped and started over and I’ve been doing that since while also expanding the world and characters; and this book starts with a murder mystery that seems to possibly involve a serial killer. Find more excerpts here.
The book/series contains a number of LGBTQIA elements, with lesbian, gay, pansexual, asexual, heterosexual characters, and one is neutrois.
The “she” in the beginning of the excerpt is Sloane, one of the (many) main characters. I realize this excerpt probably seems bizarrely mundane/cliche(?) for a fantasy story starting with a murder mystery, but that’s why I’m okay with sharing it; it has minimal spoilers and shows one aspect of two female friends nearly attached at the hip from the start of the book.
It always started this way.
The dreams themselves varied, but the beginning was always the same.
There was darkness, and then her eyes opened. She was herself but she wasn’t her, the way it went in dreams. She was watching through her eyes, first person, but somehow she also saw herself from outside, like she was viewing an illusion. Except she didn’t see herself as a person, she only understood she was there as a presence.
The way it went in dreams.
A ceiling was above her, this time. Other times it was the stars, or the trees, or a cavern, or more.
This time, a ceiling.
She blinked, repeatedly. The ceiling strobed in that view; pitch black then shadowed white then pitch black then shadowed white.
She was tired, and she pushed herself up, and it felt like it took all the effort of resisting an ocean’s current to manage that much and yet nothing was around her.
She was on a bed.
The room around her strobed again. Pitch black then shadowed white then pitch black then shadowed white.
The ocean-current-air was still too heavy for her to move. Each little shift took monumental effort. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and felt the weight of her feet touch the floor. She knew she had to get to the window but it was difficult. Something was trying to hold her in the bed.
The air itself felt oppressive. Like water, she could barely breathe. It was a wheeze, restricted air flow in and out, a keening rasp in the otherwise silence.
Save for the screams.
She couldn’t tell.
Black then white then black then white then black…
She tipped forward, and let the weight of her own body combat the weight of the atmosphere. It was a millennium and a half, but she finally was able to pitch forward, to convince her legs to lift her, to creak into a semblance of upright.
Black white black white screams white black
The first step forward was a marathon. Her toes scraped the wood floor along the way.
Black white screams white black cheers black white
Though the wall with its window was merely steps away, it took her eons to reach it. The air was thick around her; a fog that restricted her view, that tried to drag her down and down and down, but reaching that window was too important. She knew she had to get there. She knew it was imperative.
Black white laughter white black screams black cheers white
When she reached the window, she couldn’t see. It felt as a wall and not a window; the glass was burned, darkened with coal, too pitch to see. But it was also clear, unblemished, and through it she saw a beautiful summer day. White clouds and a village street and banners fluttering in the wind. A sun that warmed the packed earth.
There were people. A parade. Children, chasing each other, chasing the parade.
Laughing. Screaming. Cheering.
She stared down at the parade, at the yellow and green and blue banners and wondered why she had felt such worry. Why it had felt so important to see this scene.
There was nothing frightening down there. It was only a town alive, and there were people, and some of them had children, and that couple there cradled an infant, and next to the couple was someone cloaked by the fall of the building’s shadow, leaned forward letting the infant grasp their finger. Laughing.
It was normal, all so normal, why had she—
The scene outside flickered.
White blinding in a flash, and it was night now. Still the banners, still the people, but it was so much harder to see. She saw it mostly as scenes in a children’s book, as the individual illustrations on every other page telling a story with all the words and context and transitions cut out in between.
People running. Screaming. Scattering.
And from the deep and empty sky—lightning.
Striking the ground, razing the village, burning the villagers.
A strobe of light breaking up the shadows. Over and over and over again.
White black white black white screams white white white
A figure in the center of a street, hands held to the sky. The lightning struck them repeatedly, the skeleton inside their body glowing through the muscle and blood and skin with every hit, but they weren’t hurt.
Beckoning the lightning? Controlling it? Warding it off?
Somewhere, a voice shrieking, Stop, stop, please stop—!
Sloane gasped in air; a wretched, grating sound as her lungs filled and deflated and filled again. She scrambled at the bed, clutching at thin air, all around—trying to understand where she was, trying to understand what—
A warm hand caught her wrist, and radiant red eyes overtook her vision.
Crouched over her in bed. Gaze searching. Expression worried.
Sloane’s cascading heartbeat could not be tamed, but her breath she tried desperately to control. She let Fawkes hold her wrist, even reached out with her other hand and gripped Fawkes’ forearm, and she drank in the sight of Fawkes as a dying woman would water.
Fawkes. Fawkes meant safety.
Fawkes meant it had been another dream.
Fawkes meant it had only been a dream.
“Are you okay?” Fawkes released Sloane’s wrist to press her palm to Sloane’s forehead. “You’re sweating. You don’t have a fever. Was it another dream?”
“Yes,” Sloane managed through the constriction of her throat.
“It’s okay. It was just a dream. I’m here.”
Sloane dropped against the bed with a whump. “I know.”
Fawkes laid down behind Sloane and pulled her into a hug. They lay there for a few minutes, Sloane’s heartbeat slowly returning to its regular rhythm, with Fawkes a warm weight at her back. Sloane could feel the rise and fall of Fawkes’ chest pressing into her, the heavy comfort of her arms around Sloane’s stomach, the ticklish shift of Fawkes’ feet on an endless quest to find a better position.
Fawkes wore her usual loose sleeveless tunic dress to sleep, leaving her shoulders and the upper dip of her chest bare to the night air. Sloane wore a more fitted sleeveless shirt and shorts that felt too heavy with the sheen of sweat staining her skin. The fabric of their night clothes wrinkled and caught between them, giving rise to plateaus where Fawkes was all soft curves.
“What was it this time?” Fawkes asked, muffled against Sloane’s shoulder.
It always made Sloane feel an odd little thrill in her stomach when Fawkes’ breath touched her scarred shoulder. Maybe simply because it meant Fawkes didn’t mind it, and all that it meant.
“I’m not sure.”
Sloane grimaced and wiped the sweat from her eyes. As always, she woke in a panic but simple minutes later she already lost the understanding of why there had been such urgency. What had been normal in the dream and terrifying upon waking became a muddled memory and mere curiosity once Fawkes held Sloane in her arms. Yet, as always, she struggled to bring voice to the story, so Fawkes would understand.
“I think it may have had something to do with the weather?”
Sloane felt the soft huff of Fawkes’ laughter against her bare shoulder.
“I think so.”
“What an odd thing to dream about.”
Sloane smiled slightly and, with effort that was great for entirely different reasons than in the dreamworld, she flipped herself around so she was facing Fawkes instead. They were close now, with their foreheads tipped together in the heat of the night, and Fawkes’ arm still lazily draped over Sloane’s waist. Sloane’s smile widened, turned more fond, and she reached up to push some of Fawkes’ red hair off her shoulder.
In moments like this, she wanted to reach for Fawkes and pull her close and never let her leave. She wanted to ask Fawkes why she stayed around Sloane, why she remained her friend, but there was also a part of her that felt a depth of emotion that far exceeded anything else she had felt in her life. She didn’t fully understand it, but she knew it swelled when she saw the softness of Fawkes’ features cast in a warm glow in the shadows, and when she brushed her fingertips against Fawkes’ bare shoulder as her fingers tangled in her hair.
Moments like this made Sloane want to touch Fawkes, simply touch her hair or her skin, to remind herself she was here and she was alive and she would always be here when Sloane needed her.
Fawkes smiled in return, her red eyes deepening in warmth, seeming as though they saw nothing else in this world but Sloane. That tingling feeling from before heated Sloane’s stomach in a pleasant burn.
“I know,” Sloane said quietly. Belatedly.
“Do you suppose you’ll dream about something even more mundane next time?” Fawkes held her spread hand in the air and danced it slowly, lazily, back down toward Sloane’s form. “The dust drifting through the air, the fall of snowflakes from the trees, the rustle of grass against your legs—”
Sloane grabbed Fawkes’ hand, flickered a smirk at Fawkes’ startled glance, and firmly set Fawkes’ hand onto her hip. That was a comforting weight, too. Everything about Fawkes was a comforting weight, in all the best ways.
An anchor in a restless sea.
“Only one way to know,” Sloane whispered. She pulled Fawkes closer until their bodies were more aligned; until Fawkes’ much more ample breasts touched Sloane’s slightly at the rise of every breath.
Fawkes snorted quietly, but she smiled, and she tilted her head in a nod, and her eyelashes fluttered closed on her red eyes that seemed to glow in the dark.
“Goodnight, Sloane,” Fawkes murmured.
“Night, Fawkes,” Sloane replied, the barest of voice to her breath, and she closed heavy eyelids in the hopes of a much more restful sleep.