(This should be a ROW80 check-in, but beyond my missing a day of writing yesterday, everything is pretty much the way it has been. Writing, reading, editing and social media… all about the same.)
There’s a saying along the lines of “There’s nothing new under the sun.”
For my Goodreads reading challenge, I finished reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I’d started it last year for a Classics reading challenge, but never got beyond the third chapter–this year I kicked myself into a higher gear and finished it this week.
What does this have to do with there being “nothing new under the sun”?
I finished a manuscript about ten years ago called Release, that I’ve tried to find a place for recently. From day one it’s been an emotional roller-coaster for me. When I first wrote it, I’d shown piece of it to my then boyfriend, and his told me “Wow! You should read this comic book. See? What you’ve done with your character is just like this story.”
I was devastated. Here I’d worked so very hard to create something new and special and here I find out that it had already been done–in a comic book no less. (I actually love comic books. My feelings came more from disappointment in myself. Over the next few years I scoured every comic book store and mall sale I found to gather the pieces of GrimJack; I’m still short two issues.)
Come rewrites and edits, and in reading of how John Gaunt’s story veered from Kieri Vestimorn’s, I found peace. Similarities existed, yes, but the stories were different. I had no reason to be upset. Should you panic if you wrote a story about someone who worked at a fast food restaurant and then read a story about someone who had a part-time job at… a fast food restaurant?
No? And neither should I have.
But I just read Great Expectations and… well, that Fickle Finger of Fate did it to me again.
Toward the end of Great Expectations Pip goes slightly mad/ill after the loss of Magwitch. He eventually wakes to find that his dear friend and “almost father” Joe Gargery had been taking care of him and is there by his bedside.
And wouldn’t you know… I have a scene where Kieri is taken ill by madness when his lover Pemilia kills herself, and his guardian, Chaz stays by his side trying to help him survive the loss of his LifeCalled.
There really is nothing new under the sun, or on the page…
The chapter in Great Expectations you can compare with this, the beginning of Chapter 22 of Release:
Time passed erratically between the accident and total consciousness. A lot happened during the interim, nothing that seemed real. The things that felt the most were things that couldn’t have been.
I eventually did come out of the sleep. That wasn’t what I wanted or hoped. Instead of waking from a bad dream, I found reality the nightmare. Instead of Pem, my eyes found my room at the Port, found Andy and Chaz’s grim faces. Instead of reassurance or comfort, I found a lecture on duty and responsibility. And all I wanted to do was die.
For a bit, I listened as Andy went on about how he needed me there to keep him sane, how since the nurse had left I was the only person who could help if someone got hurt–how dare I try to run out on my duty to my friends. Chaz never said a word. Andy ranted and raved like a spurned lover. He was crying, his body one tense, emotional shudder. Behind him, Chaz picked at a hangnail.
”Andrew Lirimyr, enough.”
Both Andy and I looked at the man in shock. Chaz’s stern, no-nonsense tone and use of Andy’s full name surprised me more than a little. Andy seemed shocked that our old buddy wasn’t backing him up. My lover blinked and began to protest.
”But nothing,” Chaz said. “I didn’t bring you in here to castrate him for being as fallible as the rest of us. I’d hoped you’d be able to help him through this. Losing a Call is pain enough for anyone.”
”Don’t tell me you believe those old wive’s tales, Chaz,” my longtime lover argued.
Chaz gave him one quick nod. “Yes, I do.”
”Maybe…” Our leader nodded to my bed. “Does that look like the work of affection to you?”
Andy’s green eyes covered me quickly. His expression softened. “No. But…”
”As I said, ‘But, nothing.’ Just be damned glad he is alive, son.” The man brushed back his hair and sighed. “Go ahead and tell the others that he’s woken. But don’t let them up here. He’s going to need some real rest now.”
After Andy left, Chaz eased my chair toward the door and sat down. I watched, trying not to think of how it bothered me hearing them talk like that in front of me–as if I were deaf. When Chaz settled in the chair, I looked at the ceiling, remembering times when Dar and I spent an hour or so here on our own, times when Dar’s special bedside manner made the patterns on the tiles do strange things as I lay there. Or the one time we’d managed to pool enough resources to buy Davianis to season a cigarette. We had sat curled together in the chair and watched the posters on the wall come to life.
The patterns weren’t doing anything now. The walls weren’t vibrating. The posters were just paper, and the ceiling was nothing more than a cracked stucco. I was alive. Pem was dead. We were Called–no, not anymore–Pem had died and taken my sense of wonder with her.
He didn’t look at me. I wondered if he’d heard. I had whispered. Then after a few moments and my clearing my throat to try again, he replied. “For what? Nearly letting you do yourself in?”
Something in his voice made me turn my attention back to him. He was staring at the wall, biting his lip–crying.
That shook me. Andy’s little display…now Chaz. In answer to all my doubts of whether I meant something to my friends here–my fears had no place. I turned back to staring at the ceiling, knowing why he’d stayed in the room now. “I won’t try to join her.”
”I won’t,” I said. “I promise.”
I sensed he was looking at me now and turned my head just enough to meet his gaze. “I believe you–but why?”
Something in his expression said he knew the answer and only wanted to hear me say it. Something else said that he really was as confused as he looked. I didn’t know what to trust and decided to answer. “Andy’s right. It would just be running away from my responsibilities.”
His gaze narrowed. “You think we can’t survive without you, kid? We’ve made it without Tam. He made it without Darnel, his father.” He sat up, straightening his back so that he could lean forward to face me better. “You aren’t a God, Kieri Vestimorn. Acaria would see tomorrow if Alanii Vestimiir died today, Drontar can survive without her Lieutenant-Major, and you’re a Hell of a lot less–”
”–important than they are,” I finished. “Some comfort you are.”
He looked at the floor. “Sorry. You don’t need me spewing crap at you right now.”
I managed a small chuckle and a smile when he glanced back up. “Actually, I do need that, Chaz. Remember back in the Mines when I mouthed off at you about how I could teach fighting better than you?”
He nodded. “Yes.”
”Well, you may not have realized it, but…” I pursed my lips, trying to express what was on my mind and have it make as much sense in words as it did in my jumbled thoughts. “But, well–it shook me when you said you didn’t need us.” My mentor nodded again, obviously waiting for me to continue. “And well, I, umm–I guess you can say I’d needed that. I needed to be reminded that other people had feelings besides myself.” I looked at him, hoping he understood. “I’ve been trying to remember.”
Something made him smile. He stifled a weak laugh. “Never worry about that, kiddo. You’d have heard about your attitude from me sooner than this if I thought you were that much of a problem.”