Tuesday, June 30, 2015

THE GIRL IN THE GLASS



Every hundred years, for one year, Seventy-six did the same thing every day. He woke with the gentle glow of the lamps. He bathed, dressed, swallowed his supplements and then made his rounds through the stone halls. He walked past the green eyes that never turned red (though he was prepared should they ever change), through the garden with its neatly arranged beds of fruits and vegetables, across the crystal stream and through the vast supply house filled with its towers of crates, spires of casks and dunes of bags. When he came to the workshop he worked diligently on the handful of projects that required tending: a piece of machinery that had given out, a crystal drained of power. Once he'd made his repairs he continuing on to check the gates and locks. After that came log entries and failure reports to write, protocols to review, exercise, weapon practice, dinner and a sliver of free time. He usually spent it reading

Then before the lights dimmed for the night cycle, he allowed himself to walk down the rows of crystal obelisks were the others slept.

There were ninety-nine of them, young like himself, scarcely more than kids. They were fair skinned, and dark, boys and girls. And they were asleep, waiting to take their turns as Guardians. He had given them names long before—though oddly he thought of himself only as Seventy-six. He greeted each in turn as he walked down the long spiraling hall counting each glass pillar as he went.

"Twenty-two—Hello, Thomas. Twenty-three—Evening, Eveline," he would say cheerily, continuing on until he reached Seventy-two. "Good to see you Arthur. Sleep well, I'm keeping the watch." 

His heart beat faster and his steps slowed. There, just three slots to the left of his own empty obelisk waited the Girl.

She was pale and golden, the bridge of her nose sprayed perfectly with freckles. Her hair was wavy and blonde save for one lock that was bright red. He had not named her. That seemed somehow too presumptuous with her. He often tried to imagine what her name might be. Once he had thought it something exotic, infinitely unique, and then for a season it had become a flower name, beautiful in its simplicity. Eventually though, she became simply the Girl.

He lingered before her glass tower, studying her carefree face and form. He loved the times just after he came on duty for the year, when he could see how she had changed during her time awake. Little things: her clothes, the position of her body, her expression. Once he had woken to find she had cut her hair very short which saddened him for a time, but her face was always the same. 

"Hello," he whispered. His hand grazed the crystal coffin. He didn't dare actually touch it. "How are you today?" 

She didn't answer.

She never did. Never would. She lay to the left of his glass obelisk in the seventy-three position and his key could only open the right-adjacent number seventy-seven pillar which held a girl called Meg.
Meg was nice enough. They spent three days every year together, between when she woke to replace him and when his pillar was prepared to receive him again. Seventy-six relished their brief time together but she was not the same as the Girl. 

The Girl… She was special he knew. And she would remain forever locked away from him. 

The Girl in the glass.

Liked this? Don't miss the other parts: PEN PALS and WAKING.

~SJA

The Graveyard Book - Review

I'm not a critic. I'm not paid to write reviews of books. I'm a writer. That means I need every contact I can find in the writing world so I do not have the leeway to post negative reviews. Unfortunately everything I've read in the past month is completely undeserving of anything but the harshest reviews. That is the reason I'll be reviewing a rather old book I read quite a while ago: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.


From the publisher: Bod is an unusual boy who inhabits an unusual place--he's the only living resident of a graveyard. Raised from infancy by the ghosts, werewolves, and other cemetery denizens, Bod has learned the antiquated customs of his guardians' time as well as their timely ghostly teachings--like the ability to Fade. Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead? And then there are things like ghouls that aren't really one thing or the other.

The Graveyard Book is unusual in almost every aspect. It can be considered a middle-grade book except there is so much a middle-grader wouldn't get. The main character goes from an infant to a young man over the arc of the story defying the arbitrary age restrictions assigned to reader levels. (Technically the book could span Children's Lit all the Way to New Adult). Each chapter is a short, contained adventure, connected to other chapters by the over-arching plot of the protagonist Nobody Owens. And it's masterfully done. The writing is beautiful in its phrasing while remaining elegantly simple. Gaiman creates a creepy, some times scary world, without being gory. Throughout are beautiful black and white illustrations and little tidbits of detail regarding various side-characters and sub-plots making the story infinitely more interesting than if he had simply spoon fed us all the details.


What to know: The over-arcing plot and some of the chapters might be a little too dark or scary for some young sensitive readers. For example, the story opens with the murder of Bod’s family. Although not graphic it is a grim subject, one which carries through much of the book. At other points various individuals try to kill and/or eat the Bod.

As I've already said, this is an amazing book and I can't recommend it enough. Gaiman writes with the beauty and creativity that I strive to pour into my own writing. I hope that none of you will be put off by the Middle Grade labeling of this beautifully crafted story and will give it a read.

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~SJA