I have reached that point in NaNoWriMo where I’m tired, bogged down with school, and stressing over events I need to plan, essays I need to write, and quizzes I need to study for, all the while slugging through a slow portion of the story.
The synopsis of the story is this:
“There are rumours spread across the world, whispers about a secret society of assassins known as the Phantom Legion. Moving only in the deepest shadows and under the darkest nights, the Phantoms are the people’s living nightmare, the ghostly right hand of an oppressive government.
Lightning was born and raised a Phantom. Confined to a dark room and released only to do her masters’ bidding, it wasn’t until she saw daylight for the first time that her mind woke from its dark sleep and she began to realize that there was another world beyond concrete walls and moonless nights.
When a series of events leads the naive Lightning to join an underground rebel force, Lightning finds that she must face the demons of her past, learning to believe in a greater cause as she faces the many sides of her prism life.”
I’m finding, however, that I keep wanting to get technical. And you just can’t do that during NaNoWriMo. So while I sit here trying to figure out how to pick up the pace again (and slapping my hand so I don’t go back and edit what I’ve already written), I figured I’d share the first chapter with you.
Working title: “Prism World”
Rainbows danced back and forth against the walls as I squinted through heavy eyelids. I didn’t know what they were then, those tiny specks of bright color that twinkled in the first rays of a blinding light, but they were beautiful to behold.
I shifted positions, careful not to make a sound. I had to stay awake. There would be trouble if I was found here. My gun pressed carefully to my shoulder, I bent forward, peering out the closet door to the silent room beyond. Why didn’t he come? He had a routine, a pattern that he should have followed. That’s what the Fate I had been given said. The Fates, the spys’ reports, they were never wrong. So why now?
Struggling against the gnawing urge to fall asleep, I curled up further into the shadows and mentally ran through what I knew about my target. Business man, high class, leader of an underground rebel force, a traitor to the government. That was where I came in. I had to put a stop to him.
But it was hard to put a stop to him if he did not come to where I had been placed. I couldn’t leave until the job was done. I would not have known where to go if I had.
From my perch atop a stack of boxes, I cast my gaze down to the floor where a little sliver of light glimmered through the half-open closet door. I stared at it wonderingly. Light…daylight. I had never seen it before. I would not have known it existed at all if I had not heard the term used by my targets in the past.
I was not supposed to know about things such as daylight. My task had always been to eliminate the target as quickly as possible. I wasn’t supposed to sit and listen to them talk…but I did. And that was how I knew what that brilliant light shining through the window was. But the dancing colors? They were things I had never heard of before…things that I could not place.
I was the world’s greatest fear, a creature of the night that haunted the halls of those who opposed the government that had bred me. I was the most elite form of assassin, a member of the secret society known as the Phantom Legion.
It wasn’t the sort of society a person joined. No, the Phantom Legion was bred. Caged like animals, kept in dark rooms so we would have vision only for the night, our only purpose was to kill. We were the monsters parents told their children about at night. And we were only slightly aware that a world existed beyond concrete walls and moonless nights.
But now there I was, staring at a little patch of dazzling gold. I wondered if my masters would come find me or if they had left me for dead. I was afraid to leave the closet. I didn’t know what the light would do to me. I leaned my head back against the wall, my bangs falling across my forehead.
The masters, the ones who bred, trained, and maintained us, always made sure to keep our hair short so it wouldn’t get in the way of our work. It was about time for them to cut my hair again. My bangs had almost reached the tops of my eyebrows, and I could feel my hair tickling the back of my neck.
My masters had never allowed my hair to get that long before, but things had been strange lately. There was a lot more activity, a lot more assignments, a lot more general mayhem. My masters seemed to care less about my efficiency and more about my hit tally. I had heard whispers from my room. There was unrest stirring. Rebel forces seemed to be growing in number. The people were starting to fight back.
I didn’t understand it all, really. My masters told me I was being a good girl. I was killing bad people, people who were trying to tear down our good government. But right from wrong was a vague concept to me. I just did what I was told so my masters wouldn’t punish me.
I don’t know when it happened, but as I mulled over all of these things, I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew, I heard voices and a blinding light fell over my face. My sharply-honed reflexes snapped to action, and in a moment I bolted out of the closet, stumbling into the center of the room beyond, my gun ready to fire at a moment’s notice.
But the problem was, I couldn’t see. There was light coming through the windows. My guess is it must have been just before noon. My vision spun. I could see blinding gold and dancing colors, but shapes were hardly discernible. My head throbbed and my eyes burned. The light was painful.
Between glittering beams of light, I could make out the form of a man. He was poised, defensive, standing in front of the open closet where pleasant darkness still lingered. His arm was outstretched. I could tell he was holding a gun. I was severely at a disadvantage. My reaction times and judgements were limited by the fact that I could only barely see.
This must be my target, I thought to myself. Dangerous. That was what my masters had told me. And of course, they must have been right. This enemy had managed to get me completely out of my element.
I steadied my gun. I could still see his shadow. I had been taught to take out my target at any cost, even if it meant that I died with him. My finger pressed against the trigger, but just then I heard another door open. I spun toward the sound. Another enemy!
“No!” I heard the man, my target, shout. “Emma, shut the door! Get back!”
“Leif, what’s going on?”
I heard panic in both of the voices. It caught me off guard. I had killed hundreds of people since my first mission at the age of 12. I was now 23, almost to the retiring age for Phantoms. But I had never before given my targets the opportunity to see me. My work was quick, quiet, entirely unpredictable. But this tone…it sent shivers down my spine.
The door slammed closed and I aimed my gun back at my original target.
“A Phantom, huh?” the man said. His voice quavered. He was scared. And yet he spoke to me.
“Took the government long enough to find me,” he continued. “I’m surprised they didn’t send one of you sooner.”
I raised my free hand, trying to block out the light. But I could still see the dancing colors on the wall. They were distracting. Intriguing, but distracting.
“What?” my target questioned. “Your eyes haven’t adjusted to the light yet?”
I wanted to speak, but I had only ever used my voice a handful of times. I didn’t see much of the other Phantoms. My voice had only ever been used to communicate with my masters, to ask questions about assignments. And even those moments were few and far between.
“I’ve never…” I managed to get out. “Never seen it.”
The man’s body language changed. He shifted, almost relaxed.
“Never seen daylight?”
I shook my head.
There was a momentary pause, then he questioned, “Why don’t you shoot?”
It was a good question. Was it the light that paralyzed me, or was it something deeper…more abstract?
“I can’t,” I whispered.
“I…don’t know. Why do you not?”
“I really have no desire to kill you if you aren’t trying to kill me.”
I was confused. Fight. That’s what I had been taught. Kill or be killed. I turned, looking back toward the dancing colors on the wall.
“What are they?” I asked, lowering my gun. For a moment, I wasn’t afraid of what my masters would say. I wanted to learn. I wanted to learn about what was hidden beyond my dark room and the moonless nights I worked under.
“What do you mean?”
“The colors. What are they?”
“They’re rainbows. You’ve never seen…well, if you’ve never seen light I suppose you’ve never seen a rainbow before either.”
I stood up straight, gun hanging at my side, my free hand cupped around my eyes to shield them from the sunlight.
“How do you make them stay there?” I questioned.
“I don’t. They’re created by those prisms on the lamp. As long as the prisms stay in one place, so do the rainbows.”
The man cautiously lowered his gun and edged around to the desk under the window. I couldn’t bear to turn and see what he was doing. I heard a clinking sound, and then I felt a tugging at my gun. I tightened my grip and backed away as the man’s shadow fell over me.
“You can get another gun, can’t you?”
His voice was soft in my ear. I shivered. No one ever got that close. Not unless they were my masters, the ones who cut my hair or checked my wristbands.
I glanced down at my wrists, down at the metal clasps that seemed to have always been there. My wrists had only been bare a few times, and then only to put on bigger clasps. I looked at the runic markings that encircled the bands. I had traced them with my finger many times, wondering why they were there…why I had to wear the bands at all. My masters had told me that they would protect and strengthen me but…
The man tugged at my gun again.
“You know, you don’t have to kill anyone,” he said.
I could feel him trying to slip something between my hand and my gun.
“That is my purpose,” I argued, trying to look at him. But he wasn’t there now.
All of a sudden, the light vanished. Cautiously, I opened my eyes and looked around. It took a moment for my vision to return. The room was dark. The curtains had been pulled over the windows. Only a few stray beams glittered around the edges.
The man was standing next to the ropes that controlled the curtains. He turned back to look at me. He was young…tall, regal, confident. His dark, wavy hair fell just barely to his shoulders. I could not tell color in the darkness, but I knew his eyes were light.
I could still feel an object between my hand and my gun. I looked down to see a small, pale stone there. It nearly glowed against my pale white skin. I switched my gun to my right hand, holding the stone in my left. It was long, semi-clear, and cut so that it had multiple, smooth sides and a pointed tip.
“It’s called a prism,” the man said. “If you put it up to the light, it will create a little rainbow.”
“Rainbow,” I breathed, staring at the stone.
“You know, there’s a world beyond the dark one you’ve been living in,” the man continued, coming up beside me. “But you’d have to go there to use that prism.”
“I…can’t,” I replied. I heard a sound in my own voice that I had never heard before. It was a regretful sound…sad, longing.
“Of course you can,” the man corrected. “I don’t understand your world. No one really understands what goes on in the Phantom Legion. I’m not sure anyone has ever seen one of you and lived to tell of it. But I can tell you’ve only seen one side of this prism…one side of this conflict. You should learn to look at the other sides. You might find something you’ve never seen before.”
I looked up at him. I was confused. I didn’t understand what he was talking about. But there was one thing that I did understand. He was letting me go. I didn’t know why, but he was.
I clasped the prism firmly in my hand. What was it that my victims had always said when they were glad of something someone else had done for them?
“Thank…” I said. “Thank you.”
He looked at me wonderingly.
Maybe I hadn’t said the right thing, but…well, it didn’t really matter. Taking a deep breath, I slipped around the curtain, straining my eyes as I lifted the window. I bounded out and stumbled into a series of shadows off to the side. I would find my way back to my masters, but I still wondered about what I had just seen and heard. The wheels in my mind were beginning to turn. I was everybody’s worst nightmare…and I was about to turn my prism world upside down.