July 10, 2012


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

F Trope: divination (especially water (how Stephen King got his start)

While not “current”, it’s interesting to note that horror writer, Stephen King became a writer because of water dowsing (also called, “divination”): “explains his childhood fixation with the imagery of terror and horror, making an interesting comparison of his uncle successfully dowsing for water using the bough of an apple branch with the sudden realization of what he wanted to do for a living. While browsing through an attic with his elder brother, King uncovered a paperback version of the H.P. Lovecraft collection The Lurker in the Shadows, which had belonged to his long-since-departed father. The cover art—an illustration of a monster hiding within the recesses of a hell-like cavern beneath a tombstone—was, he writes, the moment in his life which ‘that interior dowsing rod responded to.’”

Sui Fun Fong Eu and her boyfriend Chang-Lin Chiao are New York natives, two generations separated from their Chinese heritage – neither one speaks Chinese, likes Chinese food or has any desire to be anything except another invisible New York, high school seniors. They aren’t brilliant, both have older brothers and sisters who are lawyers, doctors, physicists and a pro-basketball player; so no one expects anything for either of them.

Both of them plan on “going to college”. Neither one knows what they want to major in except, “business”. They are comfortable with their lives and they are comfortable with their relationship – sexy, but not crazy (a pregnancy outside of marriage would STILL be a “bad” thing for them).  They are simply, COMFORTABLE and happy to be that way.

That is, until they’re walking through Central Park one afternoon and see someone with a white stick – a slender single end splitting half-way up and the elderly man holding the two ends in his hands, intently studying the ground.

“What’s he doing?” Fong asked.

Chiao shrugged and went back to scarfing his McDonald’s fries. He finally glanced at the old guy and stopped walking, squinted and said, “I think he’s looking for water.”

“In Central Park?”

Chiao shrugged again. “None of my business. Just another crazy New Yorker.” He kept walking, but Fong stopped to stare. He reached out and tugged her sleeve. “Don’t do that. He might be a mugger.”

“I don’t think some old geezer can hurt me from, like, the middle of the park,” she said, laughing.

Suddenly the old man looked up. The dowsing rod plunged to the ground like he’d caught a hundred pound tuna. He shouted angrily then the ground fountained up into the air, throwing him back. Something large, dark and insubstantial – like oil smoke – spewed from the ground. A limb of the smoke speared the old man in the chest. He spasmed once, then lay still. The cloud slid across the grass and before it reached them; before they could move or even scream, Fong could see that the grass beneath it curled into brown deadness.

Chiao said, “I think we should get...”

The oily smoke...

1 comment:

Paul said...

I like it! The question I'd try to answer is: Was the guy dowsing for water when he found something unexpected, or was the deadly smoke what he was looking for in the first place?

This reminds me of what China MiƩville did with golems in IRON COUNCIL, the second sequel to PERDIDO STREET STATION, in that his "rabbi," Judah Low (his name is straight from Jewish folklore), makes golems with non-traditional material, like time.