Hi guys! If you are new to reading my stuff, welcome. If you have been following me for a while, you're probably surprised to see me back, and I owe you an explanation for my absence. I have been sick the past three months. This week I finally started taking the right vitamins and antibiotics, and I have found that when I am not infected and anemic and collapsing all over the place, I have a great deal more energy and a more productive mood. So expect to see a lot more of me.
Now, about the story. It's difficult to put a genre to this. I suppose it is fantasy, if only because of the Bird aspect. It could also be considered science fiction, although there are no spaceships or aliens or anything of that sort. Most of the things that happen in this story are possible. It takes place on a world similar to but not Earth, in the country of Narilia. The rest of the story will be a lot more clear than this prologue. If some characters and plot points seem familiar, it is because I am trying to incorporate some features I liked in my old story, Deathlift.
It follows the life of a teenage pop star named Anna, who finds her comfortable existence changing drastically when her father is accused of the murder of her stepmother. Meanwhile, government squads are hunting down a group of people known as Birds, who possess the ability to take on powerful, birdlike forms. Narilia also happens to be involved in a war which no one seems to know much about. When Anna befriends a group of rebels, and falls for a Bird, her life is put at stake. Not to mention the real killer is still out there...
Warnings: violence, maybe some language. Possible slash and/or femmeslash, although the main relationship is het.
Please review! Positive feedback and constructive criticism are both greatly appreciated, and I will return the favour.
- - -
The girl feels small as she enters the round room. It is dark here – she can barely see her feet as she ascends the stairs to the stage. The hard heels of her shoes click against polished wood.
She has been here before, but this time it is different. This time they called her, wanted her. She struggles to control her breathing. Her heart feels like it will fly out of her throat.
Anytime you're ready.
It's time. A few more deep, even breaths. Thoughts of how her voice will sound, feel, when she lets it out.
Go. Sound rushes from her, swells to fill the room. She can't see their faces, her dad and the other man. This makes it easier.
Nairilia, Nairilia, your name is a name of hope
The plane crash was three weeks ago.
I sing to you, Narilia, my one and only home
Someone killed the pilot and took control of the plane. He knew the flight routes and schedules and he made the plane hit another plane. They collided over downtown. There was fire and black clouds. Everything was closed for a long time. Almost eight thousand people died.
Proudly I am Nairilian and my loyalty is true
Count to eight thousand. One two three four five six seven. That would take hours. And each second is a life. Crazy.
You have made me all I am, I live my life for you
How many faces would eight thousand be? As many as behind the glass of all the cars they passed when her dad drove her here? He didn't want to drive here. She could tell. His knuckles were white as he gripped the steering wheel and he didn't talk. Even though he used to work in this area.
With the beating of my heart your name echoes through my veins
He'll work here again when they rebuild it.
I give my love and life for you have saved me from my shame
It was because of the plane crash that she got called. In times like this the world needs a star, her dad said before they came here. He said it more to himself than to her. She wasn't sure if she was supposed to hear it. Sometimes he says things to himself, like the words are just thoughts that slipped out as he exhaled, and when this happens the thing to do is pretend she didn't hear them. Like they are an embarrassing accident.
Narilia, Narilia, your name has set me free
The plane crash was on t.v. for a long time. It was played looped on all the stations. There was a delayed sound of buildings hitting the ground. You couldn't hear voices over the dull noise, and she wasn't sure if this made it better or worse. If you looked closely people were jumping burning from the windows and some were trapped under bits of building. If she was dying she would want someone to hear her last sound, even just a stranger through the t.v.
And so I give you all I have, true love, true loyalty.
She holds the last note, allows it to gradually die. Too long; it's strained at the end. It's hard to get her breath back. In, out – in, out. Deep deep breathing. Her palms are very sweaty. She's forgotten her form, had her hands clenched into fists at her side for who knows how long. That's not ladylike. In, out – in, out. It's like her lungs are shivering. The stage lights are hot on her skin and as they shoot through her hair the blond looks fiery white. It hurts her eyes to look at. She blinks rapidly. Everything in her head is spinning. When you die you exhale one last time because inhaling takes effort and exhaling doesn't. Inhaling is inspiration and exhaling is expiration.
Well, says the man. A little rough on the ending, but we can work on that. I think you have what we're looking for.
The floor disappears and her legs stop working and she forgets how to stand. She can't tell if her eyes are open or closed.
She's fainted! someone calls. It is her dad or the other man. He is very far away.
You did it. You passed the audition. You're going to be on t.v. You're going to sing!
Her father's words wash over her as the two of them walk the grey streets. He is talking loudly, she knows this, but he still sounds far away. Like white noise, almost, like the sounds in the wind, none of it more important than any of the rest. Dry leaves rustling through the gutters and against the walls of buildings, a few birds in the few trees. A low rumble that might be coming from the heavy sky (it looks like a piece of grey plastic. Like a lid).
There are not many people out. The ones they see are mostly homeless, and she knows she isn't supposed to look at them. With the war going on and the Birds in hiding, it is more important than ever. Not to talk to strangers. Not to see them.
We should celebrate, her father is saying. His voice, even though it seems far away, also sounds too loud amongst so much quite. It is somehow embarrassing, even though no one is around to hear it. There are puddles in the street, oil sliding around the top layer, twirling pinwheels of greasy colour. The same black-rainbow of crows' feathers (there is nothing wrong with thinking this. Crows are fine. There are natural, birds without the capital. Thinking about them still feels illegal.).
Where would you like to go? To celebrate. Right. (It does not feel right to celebrate anything with the world like this.) How about McDonald's?
Outside the restaurant a man is shouting about the end of the world. He has long hair and a long beard, and his baggy clothes are the same grey-brown as the day. She notices something is wrong, like a picture with one thing changed, a riddle. The man has only one arm.
Her father grabs her arm and yanks her through the automatic doors. Too late. She has made eye contact. She won't forget him now. His eyes like an exclamation in a language she can't understand.
That night the girl's father will consider making a phone call. He will even pick up the receiver, the cold plastic in his suddenly-cold hand, and a number will run through his mind and cause his fingertips to itch.
Hi, he wants to say. I know we haven't spoken in a while, but it's me. How are you? How's Nicole? I am all right, though it's such a shock what happened. I feel like I'm not allowed to be happy. I feel like I should be doing something, but there's nothing to do but the usual routine, and that feels so small and useless. I'm scared, and I can't put a face to my fear.
Anyway. It was about Anna that I called. She had an audition, and they want her back. It's thanks to you for signing her up for those singing lessons. You're the one who saw her talent. She's thrilled. You'd be so proud of her.
Of course he'd never say these things. He sets the phone down, lets it click into its usual position. He knows he would never have called her. But it seems like he should at least consider it. Tell himself he made a serious attempt at it, then thought better of the whole thing.
Meanwhile, the woman on the other end of the unmade phone call is lying in bed. She isn't sleeping. She is alone, her curtains closed to hide the outdoors, but she is always aware of what's out there. Every night, under a sky like a concrete dome of darkness she lies on her back arms board flat to her sides while she hallucinates shocks and bombs and injections and collapsing ceilings and she whispers to the war.
Her name is Ann. She is twenty-seven years old and already she feels mostly dead. She sees the war as a gaping injury, spilling corrosive blood across the surface of the globe, leveling cities. Pain breeds pain: a circular promise of blood.
She knows she wasn't set free, and she hasn't escaped either. She is like a rat in a maze, allowed a moment to rest before being forced through more tests. But if they look, they'll find her in moments. Capture her like a hand reaching down from the sky.
She feels invaded.