The Snows of Saint James

Getting on late Friday night as I write this, because I’m judging a grade school science fair early Saturday morning, the third in as many years.  If there’s one thing I like to do, it go out and encourage young people to do something different, and if that means getting into science, then so be it.  At the same time, my daughter will participate in our regional Science Olympiad, so I hope I’m doing something good.

Tonight was not a writing night.  Still coughing like made, and after putting a few hundred records into a data base today, I felt pretty brain dead.  After I return from my science fair I’ll get my writing in, then maybe write a little more tomorrow night.  I know I can get three thousand words in this weekend, not a problem, and that should get me set up around forty-seven thousand words before I call it a Sunday night and head for bed.

I’m already thinking about what’s coming next, which is a bit of a fantasy thing:  not fantasy as in “I have a muse looking over my shoulder as I write,” more like, “Oh, I didn’t know you were into wearing PVC school girl uniforms.”  Something strange is happening, and I’m just the person to bring it, because if there is one thing I know, it’s strange.

Like the dream I had last night–oh, did you see what I did there?  I know you did.

I was talking to someone tonight about it, because it was a dream that really comes out of an idea I had for my character Kerry, he of the young child learning magic at a school in the middle of Maine.  He and his bestest flying buddy, Emma, are on a three-day survival flight that they undertake during their third year of Flight School, and since Emma and he are so damn good at what they do, the instructor gave them the hardest flight of all:  fourteen hundred miles from a point near Churchill, Manitoba, back to the school.  All of this happening in the middle of January, so you know it’s a party.

One of the main events that happens, however, is that as they are coming into Ontario–after making a mad dash across James Bay–they run head-on into a brutal blizzard.  Instead of flying for a few hours after sundown while navigating by the star, they are forced down in the forest south of the Eastman River, where they have to set up camp and get inside before they freeze.

In my idea for at story they spend the night in zipped-together sleeping bags, huddled for warmth, because their heater is very low on fuel.  During the night, close as their are, Kerry is asked if he’s scared.  He admits he is, because at thirteen, he’d never had to deal with conditions like this.  Emma says she’s worried, too, and wonders if they’ll make it back.  Kerry tells her not to worry; they’re going to get back to the school come tomorrow, if for no other reason, as Kerry says, “Annie’s waiting for me, and she’ll be upset if I don’t come home.”

My dream was inside the tent, late at night, with the wind hollowing outside, and the cold all around the two kids.  Emma asks Kerry if he’s worried, only I’m the only saying yeah, but don’t worry, we’re getting home tomorrow, and I’m going to see Annie.  Only when Emma looks up at me, it’s not her, it’s Annie, and she tells me she’s not worried–

Which is the point when I realize it’s not really Annie, but someone else I know.  Someone who tells me, “If anything were to happen, I’m right where I want to be–here with you.  But we’ll get home, because I need you back where you belong.”

Fade to black as the wind dies out in the darkness . . .

I haven’t had a dream like that in a while.  For a long time I was having some extremely vivid dreams, but my time at The Undisclosed Location put a serious kibosh on that for some reason.  I’ve been home a few months now, and it seems like the dreams are returning, they are starting to grow strong once more, and they’re telling me something.  Maybe something good, something bad, or something I haven’t heard in a while.  (I’m trying not to hear that in Phil Collin’s voice–I believe I succeeded.)

My story of the Polar Express was one that has kept me intrigued for some time, because it not only helped my character grow, but it gave me a chance to grow as well, and not just as a writer.  I learned something while imagining all those things happening, all the way back in December of 2011.  I’ve kept it close to my heart the whole time since, even when I was sinking into one of my darkest times last summer.

It’s still with me.  Maybe I’ll even see it tonight, when the wind picks up and the snow begins to fall.

And once more I hear Annie call my name, and she tells me the thing she tells me every day.