“Between” was the photo challenge a few weeks ago. I took a particular liking to these two images posted by Just Ramblin’, along with some great definitions about just what “between” is. (Also, how fun are those angles!)
They are incomplete projects, things that are between started and finished, that big long stretch of middle that’s the longest and hardest part of all.
I cannot count how many things I’ve started but never finished. Way, way, too many things to bother thinking about. It would surely depress me if I did. It’s not like I’m the only one, however. Whether it’s giving up, forgetting, or just outright failing, the important is getting up and trying again.
Besides–all the times I have stuck it out to the end, grabbing and fighting to keep myself going at whatever the task may be, it’s in the between part that the most interesting stuff happens. Between is where frustration surges up to replace motivation, writer’s block gobbles up inspiration like the Nothing, where you push, you shove, you argue, and despair over what the hell you’ll do next. This isn’t just about writing, either, it’s any task or project. The hardest part is the middle, that’s why so many people give up somewhere in there.
Once you hit the end once, though, you finally know how fantastic that feels. It’s good. It’s really good. It’s worth it. That’s why we keep going back for more.
And that’s what I keep reminding myself of when the between does it’s damnedest to shake me the hell off!
Going out of order with my photo challenge catch-ups, I know. 🙂 But it’s the holidays, and for me holidays means family, and one of my missed photo challenges over at DP was Family. At first I was browsing looking for your average family photo–not a posed one, because as nice as those can be, they aren’t the real everyday truth of a family. Those pictures are the unexpected ones, or the ones taken on any old weekday. But in my search, I found this photo by yi-ching lin tagged for the “Family” photo challenge and I kinda love it.(I’m unable to insert the image directly in this post, so I highly recommend you go there and check it out. Yi-Ching has a lot of great photos on his/her blog, in fact!)
It’s a more morose take on the idea, yes, but it instantly brought Ghostlight to mind. A big part of Bette’s life is that her brother is dead and she doesn’t know why, and her family has been falling apart ever since. I’ve been itching to write the next section, and after seeing this picture it struck me: this girl is seeing ghosts, new murders have striking similarities to Graham’s mysterious death, why hasn’t she gone to visit grave yet in this story exactly? Duh!
For added flavor, I’m throwing in some elements of this picture I mentioned a few weeks ago by three sticks of watusi.
Family & Hidden
Mist still hung heavy in the air; it hadn’t burned off with the morning, instead choosing to hang around for the whole day. But really, how much more fitting could it get? Halloween was a few days away, there were unsolved murders, I was seeing ghosts, and now I was standing in front of a cemetery gate. A chill mist that felt like it was sinking into my skin and weighing down my bones would’ve only been more appropriate if I were also in London.
I stepped closer, curling my fingers around the cold iron bars on the gate. I wanted to go in, to visit Graham’s grave…to answer the question I’d had in the back of my mind since this began. Would his ghost be there? I just wasn’t sure what answer I wanted. If he was there–and, presuming ghosts could also be seen in the daylight, another answer I didn’t yet have–it would mean getting the answers I’d wanted for three years. But if he wasn’t, then there was no telling what that meant. Maybe he was gone on to his afterlife. Or, more likely from how he’d died, his ghost, his soul, was somewhere else altogether.
Only one way to find out, Lauden. No more stalling.
Letting go of the iron gate, my last refuge, I stepped into the fog of the graveyard. The temperature dropped around me and I knew that even if ghosts weren’t visible, they were still here. The mist obscured what might be real, or imagined, or spectral at first, but a few feet further revealed the outlines of colorless people, lurking about their graves, watching my approach with sad confusion. I don’t think they knew I saw them, and that was fine with me. After trying to sort out so many ghosts at the tree the other night, the chill in the air as they clustered around me, I was happy to let these ones think I was just like any other mourner. But I did study them out of the corner of my eyes as I passed.
They were less clearly defined than the ghosts I’d seen at night, and most of them were sulking in a solitary fashion, even if they had neighbors. One set of graves, a trio of them in fact, provided a different tableau altogether. A husband, wife, and child, buried together and now haunting their plot together. The couple held hands while the child ghost talk excitedly to them about the other ghosts and people he’d seen visiting the cemetery.
What kept all of them here? Had they been murdered like the ghosts at the tree, and that was why they lingered? Was there some other family member they were waiting for? Or did they even know? Hell, there were enough things I’d done without really knowing the reasons, especially in the last few days. I hadn’t yet seen much reason why death should be any different; if anything, the ghosts I’d met were even more out of it than the living.
That thought brought me to a halt. What if Graham’s ghost was here–and what if he was as lost as the Lantern Man’s victims? Graham had been sharp in life, very intelligent and even craftier than any of us knew. I’d prepared myself for the thought of his ghost existing here, but not for the idea that if he was, he may be very different from the brother I had known. Three years is a long time, and what kind of company did ghosts make? Shreds and shadows of the living, cut off from what they knew, unable to move on. Unable to move at all past a certain point, depending on what anchored them here. What’s his mind, his memory, his fire–whatever you might call it for a ghost–was as much a shadow as the rest of him?
I didn’t try to peer through the mists at the ghosts around me as I turned and hurried out of the cemetery. Some answers I really wasn’t ready for.
I’ve been away too long and my writing feels rusty for it. So, let’s play catch-up on weekly photo challenges!
A few weeks ago the inspiration was Windows, and I found Radical Amazement’s picture of the Rose Window (2nd one down) in Chartres Cathedral to be quite lovely. Even more interesting was the link and a mention given to this picture of the labyrinth on the floor of the cathedral. This sent me googling information about the labyrinth, leading to an informative page about it. In the end, the picture I’m specifically using is a larger version of the on that page, but thank you to Radical Amazement for a lovely photo that spawned the search! The window will still get a mention even if the labyrinth takes over as I suspect it will.
Windows (or, Labyrinth)
“How’s Barker?” Tisa asked as she and Joseph walked back to the nave.
“Not that good, but no worse.” Their third companion had a broken leg from two days earlier–rotted boards on a wooden bridge gave out under him. They’d been transporting him on a litter so far, which Tisa did not find practical in the least.
“We need to talk about that,” she began. “We can’t afford to have someone with us who can’t walk. It’s no good for us or him.”
“We cannot simply abandon him,” Joseph replied.”We’re indoors now, I can take a better look at the leg. Maybe use some of the wood from the pews to make a splint.”
“And if you can’t?”
“I am not leaving him defenseless and along,” Joseph said firmly, looking at her. “If you want to leave, you’ll do it on your own.”
Tisa pressed her lips together, dissatisfied with this. She should leave. Joseph’s intelligence and education were handy, yes, but he was no fighter. His life would be short in this world, without someone like her. She should go, there was no practical reason to stay just to have two more people to have to defend…
But she’d been alone before. For too long, and she didn’t want to go back to that. Too much time alone was…bad, for her. I’ve grown too used to his prattling, she told herself. “See to it he gets splinted and a crutch so he can at least be upright,” she ordered gruffly as they entered the nave.
To both their surprise, Barker had pulled himself off the litter all on his own in their absence, and was looking at the floor in the center of the church, on his stomach and rubbing at the profane symbols with his sleeve. Joseph hurried to him. “Barker! What are you doing?”
“The devil, the devil’s in this, blocks the maze, blocks the way out!” Barker babbled.
Tisa exhaled through her nose. Even without the broken leg, Barker wasn’t fully sane. She was certain by now that his name was a nickname earned by the virtue of being “barking mad.” This was a new level even for him, however–the devil? A maze?
Joseph tried to pull his hands away. “There’s no devil in here or anyone else, Barker. Get back on the litter so I can look at your leg.”
“Need to find the center!” Barker struggled. Joseph cast a pleading look Tisa’s way.
“I’ll find it, Barker, just listen to Joseph,” she said, walking over. That seemed to calm him enough to allow the scholar to get to work. He kept staring at her, though, eyes wide and twitching, so she looked down at the floor to see what he’d been going on about.
Huh. There really was a maze, now that she looked more closely. The floor of the nave had a weird, winding circular path on it that kept doubling back and curving on itself. She walked around to get a better idea of it–it was a large circle, that had only one path to get from the outer edge to the center, one that had the walker taking the longest possible way to wind their way inwards. What was the sense in that?
Moonlight illuminated large chunks of it, with colored images dimly lighting others. Looking over her shoulder, she saw that the remains of the shattered stained glass once provided on overlay to the maze when the light shone through it. She walked to the middle and stood looking at the window, but whatever was meant to be seen from there was gone now, nothing but shards of glass on the floor and the ground outside the building. Searching the ground again, brushing leaves aside with her foot, the center of the maze was also the center of the profaned circle that defiled the place of worship.
A maze, a window, and a church, so apparently important that they inspired both hate and madness. Tisa quickly stepped away from the center. That wasn’t something she wanted any part of.
First up, two Fridays ago the Photo Challenge was “Opportunity.” Two pictures jumped out at me. First up, I very much enjoy this picture by whatwecallearth.
In high school, I was something of a journal addict. I loved buying little book-style journals like this, which I’d then start filling with journal entries or stories and so forth. Some I liked so much I wanted to save them for something special, but of course I’d never find something I considered special enough for how pretty the journal was. So between my things and old boxes at my parents house, I have several books like this that are either partially filled, barely filled, or empty entirely. But seriously, for high school and even college me, slap a good quote about dreams on a nice picture and bind it and I was sold!
But it’s this picture by omelchronicles that’s inspiring me to write. Anyone who writes is always thinking much further ahead in their story in some aspects than is practical–admit it, we all wonder about what the sequel(s) to our unpublished works will be! Being no exception and quite guilty of this myself, this image put me in mind not just of a sequel to Ghostlight, but the book that would follow that one! Bette’s heading off to college somewhere–I’ve not yet determined if the things that happen to her in the intervening time would compel her to enroll somewhere close by or as far away as she can get–and faces the daunting day that is freshman move-in day.
Stretching out like the dubious opening shot of a movie, monotonous in its repetition of doors and flourescent ceiling lights, the uniform hallway was only broken up by a water fountain and an exit sign pointing to a stairway. I had a fleeting impulse to use it.
But no, room 212 was my destination. I adjusted my grip on the box under one arm, and dragged my rolling suitcase behind me as I headed down the hallway, checking the numbers on each door until I came to it. Our Resident Advisor had gone with an 80’s movies theme for the nametags on the doors. My name was photoshopped into the starring role on a poster for The Breakfast Club, and my new roommate Callie Thornton was getting top billing for Ghostbusters. I snorted at that, amused at my near miss for the more fitting movie. At least it wasn’t Ghost. …was that from the 80’s?
Unlocking the door revealed a room that was still empty, as expected. Callie and I had emailed a few times over the summer, and I knew she wasn’t due on campus until that afternoon. Which gave me plenty of time to set up my half of the room however I liked. First things first, getting my dad’s help in de-bunking those beds once he finished parking the car.
So for now, it was time to put my things down and get used to the furniture and walls that would be here everyday until May. My new home. A new start.
And, I could only hope, significantly less death and fewer ghosts. There would always be the one, of course, my constant companion, but that was and would always have to be an exception. There was nothing to be done there–nothing I could bring myself to do, that is.
I had hopes for it being a calmer existence here. No small town with a long history, no haunted tree at the heart of it, no trails of where my brother had tread before me, in life or death. A city campus, days full of classes, probably finding a spot for myself on their school paper, this was what I wanted and what I needed: the opportunity for my life to be normal once again.
Possibility. I like this challenge topic–it’s open-ended, non-literal (I was about to say non-linear, which it may also be, but I’m not entirely sure of that), and I can’t wait to see what else people come up with.
But I write these shorts based on what the images inspire in me, not necessarily what the theme inspires in me. Two images put Ghostlight back in my mind, no doubt because they both have forests in them. One was the image in the DP post:
This started me off thinking about Bette’s story (and that I’ve been neglecting it, but there are reasons for that)–the thick forest, the green and natural beauty, and the secrets and dangers it’s hiding.
The second is this image by Northern Narratives. Rainbows are always pretty, but with a story of ghosts and murder on my mind, this one jumped in as a juxtaposition to horror instead of a symbol of hope. Or maybe it is a symbol, and Bette just doesn’t know it yet.
This scene would happen at the end of Ghostlight, and I’ve intentionally left what just happened very vague. So if you’re confused, well, you should be! Spoilers!
Rain and fog still hung in the air when dawn began to break. As I finally pulled myself away from the grisly scene, leaving behind the bodies, the sword, and some piece of myself, I didn’t need help finding my way out of the woods. Whose knowledge was that?
This wasn’t right. I was leaving alone, leaving alive, and both of those things surprised me. There was no dread this time that something or someone was after me, chasing me and trying to make sure I never left. There was no one left to chase me; not that I could ever truly be free of what had happened. But when the tree line came clear before me, when I heard the sounds of early morning cars and trucks on the highway, I knew exactly where I was. This is where Graham tried to escape. Pulling himself on the ground by his hands, with some fatal wound, until someone stole everything that remained and left him there, dead. Who had killed my brother, I still didn’t know, even after all this, but I knew without a doubt that he had been killed, and how, and why. Someone took his life because of what he could, and however long it took me, I was going to find out who had done it and make them pay. I had no choice. He was my brother, and now that I was a ghostlighter, too, I might be next.
But today, I wasn’t Graham, and my life wasn’t going to end here. Step by bloody step, on my feet, walking away from the dark of the forest and the circle of ghosts, I stepped out of the trees and squinted into the early morning light. A rainbow was arcing across the sky above them. After what had happened, what I’d seen, what I’d done and what I’d failed to do, I was the only one to walk away with my life and be greeted by a goddamn rainbow.
I fell to the ground in tears until a passing car finally noticed the rain-soaked, blood-covered girl on the side of the road and stopped to call 911.
Last week’s photo challenge theme: sunset. I was hoping that while persuing the photos posted, I might come across one with a different interpretation of the theme, but sunset is fairly straightforward, and let’s be honest, they’re so pretty! Who doesn’t love a good sunset?
Then I found a simply wonderful photo by celoteh. The third photo down is fantastic (the others are also lovely, but this is the one that caught my eye). I love it–the hand outstretched, the sun just sitting above the palm…wonderful composition. So that’s my inspirational photo for this week.
I’m not entirely satisfied with the blurb–I vaguely revisited some ideas from years ago for a character in a scifi story, and the eyes thing is problematic at best–but I’m less concerned with the wonky details than with conveying Shira’s emotions here.
Wrapped in a fur coat, Shira perched on a grey stone and watched the sun’s descent behind the mountains. Waylen quietly came and joined her, crouching next to the woman with copper eyes . Silence settled in for a time, a few minutes while the orb continued to drop and the sky steadily dimmed.
“Why do you do this?” Waylen finally asked her.
The corner of her mouth pulled into a smirk. “How long have you been waiting to ask?”
“Since you came here and I saw you watching the sunset every night.”
“That’s a whole…what, two months? I’m impressed,” she replied.
“Nine weeks,” Waylen said. “So, why?”
Shira nodded, as though agreeing with herself that he could know. “I don’t see things like everyone else. The copper filaments my father gave me saved me from being blind, but they also meant I would never see like other people. My world is dim tones of green and grey and black and white. I see more color from heat signatures than anything else. So when the sun goes down like this…it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” She stretched out one arm, turning her hand like she might cup something in it. “This little distant ball, burning so brilliantly, and streaking the sky with heat…it gives the world a new sort of color. It gives it color period. When I was a kid, I’d try to grab it out of the sky so I could bring it with me, use it to look at the rest of the world with color, real color, or as real as it gets for me.” She closed her hand over nothing, and let it drop back to her side.
First things first: title cards/sequences are very important. They need to be interesting, speak to the content and character of the show, and do something to hook you. The trend of the last five years or so has gone from credits sequence to title cards. Though it started prior to LOST, I believe LOST is what made this so very popular. Among the shows that do this well: LOST, Supernatural, and Gossip Girl. Each very different (heck, Supernatural’s changes each year, and that’s one of the best things about it), but simple, to the point, and you get a pretty good idea what the show is about.
On the flipside, check out the nine seconds of suck that Terra Nova has come up with. Okay, I know you guys put most of your money into your dino CGI (and definitely not into actors, writers, directors, cinematography, etc), but this is embarrassing. This isn’t much better than what someone could’ve come up with in the mid-90’s. I actually burst out laughing when I saw this! And it’s not the family walking shot–that’s fine, if not terribly inspired. The CGI of Pangaea reforming is obviously a graphic you tossed off to some student intern to complete, and then forgot to have someone else make it look good before you threw it up on screen.
Moving on, we get into the story. Remember how I got irritated at the overused call-out to Chaos Theory and stepping on a
In Episode 2, we appropriately have two big ones! First up, birds aren’t scary! I admit I’ve never seen Hitchcock’s The Birds, but I have no doubt it managed to make birds terrifying in ways this episode did not. Birds, on their own, just aren’t scary. Visually-speaking, that is. If a real eagle or hawk or owl was diving for my face, yeah, I’d be scared as hell. But the things we’re shown here just aren’t hitting that note, and here’s why: they are poorly-implemented CGI. Good CGI implementation means you can’t even tell that’s what it is, because they make the interaction of CGI and humans intricate and hands-on. These birds just dive bomb at people and those people fall over. Uh…seriously? This one guy flips ass over tea kettle in a crowd scene from a bird diving at him. It’s far too ridiculous to be realistic, and I never bought into the premise that these birds killed three armed guards in the opener.
Second, the eventual fix for this situation is stolen from a number of sci-fi movies, but among them is Mega-shark vs. Giant Octopus.
Great schlock for a drinking game, but something you want to draw parralels to on your prime time network show? Nope! The trope is this, that they can lead these millions of breeding birds away by reproducing their pheromones, spraying it and getting them to follow Pied Piper-style to a new breeding ground (because Terra Nova was built on their previous breeding ground). And it freaking works. Man, I sure hope THAT spot isn’t one they decide they want to settle on later.
The pheromone science storyline is…aggravating. Whatever movie or TV show dreamed it up first may have done it well, but it’s become a laughing stock of a trope at this point, and it’s use, especially this early on, does not reassure me that this show will improve.
One of the other two biggest issues with this episode is that all of the really interesting scenes take place off-camera. Cop Dad needs to go hunt down some samples of the supposedly-killer birds so they can be studied, so he and the Colonel head on out in the rainy night and…well, I guess that went just fine, ’cause they’re back and they’ve got some birds. Okay, uh, sure. Well, back to the humdrum of the market scene with Teen Boy and Every Girl and oh noes! The birds are attacking en masse, flipping over soldiers with nary a dive bomb! Every one ducks under cover while this happen, and we cut to commercial on people huddling for safety. When we come back, there’s…oh. There are no birds of the dozens who filled the air before in sight, crisis averted, and though there were some scraps and awesome prat falls, no one is dead. Guess they found a way to clear them out pretty easily after all.
Well, now Jim & the Colonel need to start spraying the pheromones, driving off into the brush and leading a flock of instantly horny-for-this-ATV bird reptiles with them. But will it work? Where will they lead them? How will they get back, surround by such deadly avians? This is going to be some tense driving…oh. Uh, nevermind. They’re back now, I guess that was no problem at all.
Terra Nova, I don’t know if you know this, but…you’re a show about people trying to live in a world of dinosaurs. HAVE SOME ACTION SCENES ON CAMERA.
And finally, the pseudo-science continues to be full of crap. Terra Nova was intentionally settled on a spot where they found thousands upon thousands of egg shell fragments in the dirt, because it made the soil fertile. They assumed that whatever laid these thousands of eggs had moved on. I’m no scientist, and you seem to have a few supposedly smart ones on your staff, so if even I think that’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard all episode (prior to the pheromone plan, of course), you’ve been duped by a resume full of lies, my friend. Additionally, no one’s come up with a better tire that’s more resistant to plot-contrived flats by 2149? And it bears repeating, three armed men can’t stop these bird-reptiles from plucking out their eyes and killing them?
You know, here’s the real problem with Terra Nova so far. It’s plot twists are completely unoriginal. We need a flat tire to be what strands our pre-credits victims in the forest? Why not have one of the birds fly at the vehicle and bring it to a halt? Why not have a Sixer attack leave them bereft of transportation, and thereby forward two plots? Actually, make that one plot, because the A-plot of this episode has no signs of bearing any thing to come in the future, except that World’s Worst Scientist wants to steal away Doctor Wife from Cop Dad, which was the B-plot at best and in no way thematically reflected in the A-plot. Interrupted sexy times for Cop Dad and Doctor Wife lead to discovering the reptile birds…and not, y’know, science or anything.
But hey, maybe they wanted to take it easy in the first couple of episodes. Not get too plot-arc heavy because it’s a prime time show on Fox, and shows that display intelligence early on die quickly on this network. Maybe come Episode 3, we can finally sink our teeth into something new and interesting and…
“While investigating radio silence at a nearby outpost, Elisabeth, Jim, Malcolm and Taylor discover an outbreak of a mysterious and fatal virus that causes memory loss.”