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Saying Goodbye to the Death Test

The great thing about blogging is that it becomes, more or less, a historical document for the blogger.  If you keep at your craft, if you’re writing every day, talking about things that may feel important to you, then you can head back whenever the mood strikes and see how you were feeling, say, two years ago on a certain date.  Rereading your entry may trigger a memory of that time, be it good or bad, or you may just scratch your head and think, “What the hell was a yammering about?”

Or, as in the case of the past week, I can see the progress of something I’m writing, know when I began and when I finished.  Usually I’ll talk about a novel I’m working on or publishing–that last hasn’t happened in a while, I need to get cracking on that–but this week, starting last Monday, I’ve discussed a scene I’m working on for Act Two of my current novel–

I should say, “Was working on,” for last night I finished the sucker.  Another thousand words in the bucket, and i finally brought to an end the longest single scene I’ve written for my story.  I’ve had a few scenes creep over five thousand words, and the scene I wrote for my Flight School ran just over ten thousand words, but that one was broken into three individual segments, and the largest single scene in that group was fifty-eight hundred words.

No, I wanted to get this one down as a single, individual scene, and by the time I placed the last word on the last sentence, I was inching close to seven thousand, four hundred words, which meant I was scooting out of short story territory and getting ready to cross the border into Novelette Land.

'Tis but a little thing to write self-contained novelettes inside your novel.  Everyone should do it.

‘Tis but a little thing to write self-contained novelettes inside your novel. Everyone should do it.

Sunday through Friday, I cranked out the scene.  I know this because I’ve blogged about “The Death Test”–or as I labeled the scene, The Walking Tests–because . . . well, not sure.  I think I loved the progressing of what was happening with the scene, and it’s also sort of indicative of the kind of insanity that can pop up at my school in terms of a “lesson” or “test”.  Go ahead and levitate all the feathers you want–after a month in my joint you’ll be given a big stick and told to bash some zombies in the head.

"You think it's fun letting you smack me around with that bokken?  I mean, 'Snarl, arrg'."

“You think I enjoy you smacking me around with that bokken? I mean, ‘Snarl’.  Am I getting paid for this?”

What happened after the kids lost their lunch?  Why . . .

 

(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Annie didn’t want to see the students behind her. After all they’d done, after the battle Kerry and she had just fought, losing her breakfast in front of everyone took away her pride in their accomplishment. We successfully completed our test, and this is what everyone will remember . . .

“Hey.”

She felt a forehead gently rest upon hers, and an arm lightly wrapped around her shoulder. Annie looked up without raising her head and found Kerry’s gore-smeared face there, his lovely green eyes looking back at her through blood-flecked glasses. “We make a pretty good couple, don’t you think, Sweetie?”

Annie raised her head while keeping it pressed to Kerry’s. “We do, my love—we do.” She turned them so she could place her arm around his back, and in doing so they ended up, arm-around-body, head-to-head, facing their fellow level mates.

She scanned the faces turned towards them. Annie saw so many emotions: disgust and revulsion she understood given the tableau they set upon the mat. Some looks of awe, some of hate—she understood those as well: a few of their level mates would find what they did incredible, and a few would detest them for passing.

There were a few students, however, staring back them with unabashed fear, and Annie completely understood that emotion. These are Normal kids who are still getting the hang of magic—and Kerry and I used our magic in a way they’ve only seen in movies.

And it’s left them unsettled.

Kerry must have seen the same looks and felt the same unease. “I think we scared some of them.”

Annie turned her head just enough to make eye contact. “Good.”

 

As Helena will tell Annie much later, getting a reputation as someone not to trifle with usually keeps you out of trouble.  Blasting zombie homunculi with magic is usually one of those things that’ll keep the other kids from teasing you, because homunculi, human, who gives a shit, you both go down easy like lemonade on a hot summer day.

And nothing say love like hugging your sweetie in front of thirty other kids while you’re both covered in gore.  Did you ever do that, Glenn, huh?  No.  Move on . . .

But how did things get to this point?  What sort of sick, crazy instructor does this sort of stuff?  Well . . .

 

Professor Chai stepped forward. “I agree. Let me clean your glasses, Kerry.” He handed them over without question, and she began working a spell upon them will speaking to the children. “You both did wonderfully. And I was pleased to see you take my advice about playing to your strengths—”

Annie wanted to know more. “What were they, Professor?”

“For one, you—” She nodded towards Annie. “As a Legacy you have an intimate knowledge of magic, and what it can do. You may not know all the spells, or how they work, but you’re aware of the many concepts that bind them together—and you used that to help you both when it was needed.

“And Kerry: you’re learning how to build upon Annie’s knowledge, and you used that to both you’re advantages as well. Plus—” She handed the glasses back to Kerry. “Knowing your opponents and their weaknesses certainly helped your efforts to disable them.”

Now Kerry’s curiosity was peaking. “Professor . . . did you know I knew about those things? Did someone tell you something?”

Professor Chai seemed bemused by the question. “If you’re asking, ‘Did I deliberately modify today’s test to help you due to the advice of a certain seer?’, the answer is no. If, however, the question is, ‘Did I deliberately modify the test based upon something I overheard during last Friday’s Midnight Madness, and thought it could make up for a your lack of coven mates?’, the answer is perhaps.” She laced her fingers together and set her hands before her. “How’s that?”

Kerry was trying hard to remember what she may have overheard, and nearly pushed the thought aside when . . . “Oh. You heard that?”

Annie turned in her chair towards Kerry. “What did she hear?”

Kerry slowly turn in his chair towards Annie. “Last Friday, Emma stopped by and was asking if I had any ideas for costumes for Halloween. I told her I had a couple, and one of the ones I mentioned was from the comic—”

“I don’t remember her stopping by.”

Kerry tilted his head to one side. “She came over when you were in the bathroom—”

Annie’s eyes narrowed just enough to make Kerry a bit nervous. “Oh. I see.”

 

A girl came over to see you, Kerry, while your soul mate was in the bathroom, and you suddenly remember that happening a week later.  You’re lucky you mentioned this after she saved your butt from being eaten by the fake undead.  Don’t worry:  Annie usually doesn’t continue thinking about things like that for long–

Usually.

With everything over, it remains for Geek Boy to put the coda on results of their test:

 

“Thank you, Professor.” Annie pushed her messy hair back from her face as Thebe took hold of her right wrist.

Kerry stood and sheepishly grinned. “I’ll see you in a bit.”

Annie’s radiant smile shone through the drying gore. “Yes, you will.” She vanished with a pop as the nurse teleported them both to the hospital.

Professor Chai tapped Kerry on the shoulder. “You can go shower. You clothes should be here by the time you’re finished.”

“Okay, Professor.” He watched the diminutive instructor saunter on to the mat and begin clearing it of the mess Annie and he made. He glanced over at the remaining students in the room, some of whom were still looking in his direction. He turned back to the spot where Annie had stood less than a minute before—

If only I could tell someone outside school that my girlfriend and I survived a mini zombie apocalypse. He shook his head and grinned. And it was kind of fun . . .

 

It’s a hell of a lot better than a video game, that’s for sure.

The next scene awaits, and I’m certain that Thirty Days Hath September is gonna be shorter than The Walking Tests.  Though, who knows?  The Martian Chronicles was actually a collection of short stories with a similar theme that were bound together and turned into a short novel.

If it worked for Bradbury, maybe it’ll work for this act as well.

7 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to the Death Test

  1. Great way to round things out.

    I tend towards thinking that a scene takes as long as it takes. And, there are some things that you just can’t rush, otherwise they lose their impact on the readers. 🙂

    • I’ve always said the same thing, too: a story lasts as long as it should. I did trim off something from how I thought the scene might end, but only did so because it really wasn’t necessary. A bit of self-editing there.

  2. Pingback: Pretty Little Kill Machines | Wide Awake But Dreaming

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