Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Third Day

Another two chapters today. I seem to be a short-chapter kind of guy, but that's okay with me, I think. Still about 1,000 words behind but I'm not too worried about it. The writing felt easier and more fun today, so that's good.

Chapter 4

When he got home that evening, Seamus went into the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea before heading up the stairs. Matt, one of his housemates, was sitting at the kitchen table working on one of his myriad and never ending electronic projects. Arrays of small, colored lights flashed on and off in some pattern that probably made perfect sense to Matt, if no one else. Every available surface area was covered with wires, tools, or random gadgets that had been turned up in the hunt for a certain wires or tools. That wasn't too unusual though, as the majority of the downstairs floor was usually like this. Matt was not only a housemate but also the landlord, and he had been expressing his pack-rat tendencies for over 15 years now. The house had accumulated a terrifying amount of stuff during that time, and most of it was usually strewn about, turning the common areas of the house into Matt's giant workshop. The five other residents put up with it pretty good naturedly, with occasional forced cleaning sprees. For now, Seamus just pushed aside a few batteries to make a spot for his mug of tea.

"Oh, hi," Matt said, glancing up and noticing Seamus. "Check it out. I'm fixing up the stuff I took to Burning Man this year. I hooked together a few of the smaller units I had so they'll all run together and do this…."

He flipped a switch and blue lights at each end of a large panel in front of him started flashing and moving and moving in towards the center. As they moved in they gradually sped up, and when they met in the middle, they rebounded back towards the edges and changed to red at the same time. Still speeding up, they hit the edges, turned blue again, and went back to the middle. Faster and faster flew the lights and colors until Seamus decided to avert his eyes before they fried. They started slowing down on their own soon after that though, after they hit the peak of their cycle. Once they hit the other extreme, they would start speeding up again.

"Nice," he said. "What are you going to do with it?"

"Do? Oh, I'll probably just hang it there in the hallway, so you can see it when you come in the door."

"Well I'm sure it will keep the burglars out at least." Seamus tossed his teabag in the compost bin and headed up the stairs.

Seamus lived in the attic room, which was the smallest in the house but suited him well enough. It was easy for him to remove himself from the general house activity when he wanted to do so, which was most of the time. The stairway leading up to his room from the second floor was narrow, and bent around in a slightly crooked way, so it almost felt like he really lived in a separate house at times.

Inside, the room was very nearly as cluttered as the common areas of the house (or, as they might more accurately be called, "Matt's Workshop"). It was a different sort of clutter, though. It was the clutter of someone who really did want to have things neat and organized but just didn't quite have the space or organizational structure to do it. The majority of the things that struck the eye on first entering the room were, of course, books. The two bookcases weren't enough for them all, and the books covered most other available surfaces, aside from the twin bed in the corner. They were lined up on the dresser and on the windowsill, and they were stacked on the nightstand, the small table that served as a desk, and in various spots of free floor space, leaving a narrow path to each of the key items of furniture.

Seamus put his tea on one of the more stable stacks of books on his nightstand and dropped his backpack in a corner, then collapsed contentedly on the bed. He gazed up at the slanted attic ceiling above him, and the skylight in it that was beginning to catch a slight drizzle of rain on its glass. He always enjoyed the sound of rain falling above him.

For a few moments, he just relished the feeling of being horizontal. The current temp job had him doing a lot of fetching and carrying, and standing around at copy machines and printers. It was also close enough that he had biked to it, and then of course he had gone straight to the library for a few hours afterwards. It made for a bit of a long day. But now that he was home and comfortable, he found his mind being drawn back to the library.

Something about that basement storage room had struck him, but he couldn't put his finger on it. It seemed more mysterious than just a place to stash donated books until the annual sale. Was the dark hallway even darker near the door? Was the air a little colder? Did the silence sound slightly farther away? Seamus was sure that none of those qualities could actually have been measured. But there was an overall feeling to the place as if those things were all true nonetheless.

But what am I thinking? he asked himself. It's the basement of a library for goodness' sake. Hardly Tutankhamen's tomb. Are some ancient, undead dust-bunnies going to come out of there and destroy Menlo Park? No. It's just silly.

He sat up and took a sip of his tea, which had cooled more than he had expected while he was lost in his thoughts. From the top of the dresser he pulled Any Human Heart, by William Boyd, and picked up in the diaries where Logan Mountstuart was parachuting from a plane in World War II. Nothing like a mysterious library basement there. He read for a couple of hours, becoming happily immersed in Europe of the 1940's. Then lights out by 11:30. He had to be up early the next morning.

Chapter 5

In his dream, Seamus found himself in a Liberator bomber over Switzerland, wearing a suit and tie under zip-up overalls and a parachute, and carrying a case of forged documents. He had had dreams like this before, and they bothered him slightly. Mostly this was because his mother had always told him it was a sign that he was reading too much, and he didn't like to think it was even possible to read too much. But he did wonder sometimes if it was entirely normal.

Flight Sgt. Chew opened the hatch, and Seamus looked out at the dark Swiss night. Then there was a slap on his back and he stepped out into the air. Wind whistled past him and his parachute snapped open. Descending steadily towards the ground, he looked below and found that he could see surprisingly clearly, in spite of the darkness.

He saw the deserted field where he was about to land. He saw the Hôtel Cosmopolitan, and the mysterious Ludwig who would betray him. He saw the villa where he would be imprisoned.

But as he noticed all this, he realized that he was no longer looking down on them. Instead of landing properly on the ground, he was passing everything and heading still further down. He looked down and saw that he was falling down a corridor that seemed bound for the center of the earth. It was dark, but with an intensity that seemed to glow. And as he continued farther down, he began to make out something at the center of it all. A simple wooden door, with a small glass window in the upper part.

An empty suit of clothes and a case of papers landed next to the door, and the parachute collapsed on top of them in a shapeless mound.