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A Better Place Than This

by on September 1, 2015

The storm surprised Merrick. It came up suddenly, a howling downpour that made the river crossing impossible. He sat by the boat and waited. Margaret sometimes told stories of how people could once tell the weather for days off. But that had been before. There was no telling now.

The rain subsided at last, and Merrick was able to get across the river. He slowly tied up the boat, wondering when he might use it again. This would be the last trading run south for a while. Davis had explained, in his usual languid way, that his camp was buttoning down for the winter. “Nothin’ else we can spare,” he said, apologetically, drawing “spare” out into two syllables. “The salt’s about the last we have extra. And we wouldn’t let it go at that, but the doc needed glasses. Broke his last a while back.”

Merrick had understood. Life worked in cycles now. Summers you spent trading, taking advantage of the good weather to travel. Winters you buttoned down. Spring you took cover from storms, and hoped to survive to the summer. The one constant was that you worked, every single day. Margaret had stories of other times, whole days where people didn’t work at all. Merrick wondered how they had gotten anything done.

He passed the faded yellow bow that marked the road to the camp. Margaret had said that people used to eat meals in the crumbling building beside the bow. The ruin was hardly worth eating in now. Merrick was about to walk past it, when he thought he saw a shadow moving inside. He immediately went for cover.

Someone from before would have called out, demanded to know who was there, but Merrick wasn’t an idiot. Drawing a stranger’s attention to yourself was not a good idea in these days, especially when you were carrying valuable supplies like salt. You could get killed for salt.

He heard shuffling sounds inside, a pause, then a low voice. Merrick couldn’t quite make it out. Something about a number ten, and a drink….something yellow. Recognition dawned, but still Merrick waited. There was another pause. Then out of the ruin emerged Margaret, brushing back her white hair and blinking in the sunset. Merrick rose slowly, not wanting to surprise her. She noticed him. “Merrick. You waited for me. How kind.”

“Ma’am,” Merrick said, “what were you doing in there?”

“Remembering,” Margaret said. “Old habits. But never mind. I wanted to speak to you. I am leaving the camp tomorrow.”

Merrick was startled. It was awfully near winter to think about traveling, and Margaret had never gone on the trading runs anyway. “Where-”

“Merrick,” she said, “This is all wrong.” She waved to the ruins around them, and towards the distant river, and the dead city beyond. “All of it. It should not have been.”

“Can’t change things,” he said, with a stolid shrug.

Margaret smiled. “I once knew people who could. One of them had an idea. He said something about other worlds. Other choices. You walk right, and that’s one world. But if you walk left, everything might change.”

Merrick never quite understood her when she grew philosophical. “You want to go left? There’s nothing that way but forest.”

“Yes. And beyond the forest, somewhere, I knew someone who could change things, make them better. And since I have nothing else to do, I am going to find him. You coming?”

Merrick had no reason to say yes. She wasn’t his mother, or his grandmother, no relation at all. It was too close to winter. He had his own place to button down, and the rest of the camp to look after.It was ridiculous for anyone to just set off by themselves. But Merrick remembered the stories. There had been a better world once. If they could get that back….

“Fine,” he said. “I’ll sort out supplies. As long as we’re back before the first snow.”

This month’s focus on fiction at yeah write involves the hero’s journey. I thought it’d be fun to explore that in my favorite story form: a serial. I hope to make each element properly self-contained, yet keeping up with the broader arc. Margaret’s past, for example, is explored in Between the Fire and the City. This story involves the Departure element. Next up: Initiation!  

From → 8. The Megverse

9 Comments
  1. Oh this looks good. Very very good. I feel like you’re gonna send me on another binge reading trip like you did with the story about Rain and the god of war and Hadley. I’m guessing time travel is going to be involved in this, or at least inter dimensional travel?

    Anyway, good job. Good to see you’re still kicking butt.

    • thanks! There’ll definitely be inter-dimensional travel, I should think. I had a serial earlier with superheroine Gaseous Girl involving inter-dimensional rifts and multiple Gaseous Girls; I might not have multiple Megs, as that would be repetitive, but you never know…. 😉

  2. Your dialogue is so strong here, Michael. Two stories in and you have a force to be reckoned with in Margaret.

    • Thanks. I hope her character develops as nicely during the next stories. And I did have fun with the dialogue this time, especially with Davis. I’d hoped to capture that sort of Southern twang….

  3. Love this. I also like reading and writing serials, but it can be hard to do well without good background information and a chronology, which is something I’m working on on my own blog before promoting it. I like these characters – their sense for adventure and truth-seeking outweighs their sense of self preservation, they think that discovery of answers is more important than staying put and riding out another winter. I agree, and would go with them. Look forward to next week’s installment!

    • I think I may sit down this weekend and work out an actual chronology of sorts, and I plan, before I go on, just to make sure of my continuity. I usually make it up as I go, but that can get one in difficulties. 🙂

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. And Lightning, With Its Rapid Wrath | Hypothetically Writing
  2. Aftermath of Fire | Hypothetically Writing
  3. A Different Place Than This | Hypothetically Writing

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