Sunday, March 3, 2013

Thursday's Children: A Stranger in a Strange World — Part I

Welcome to the Thursday's Children Blog Hop, where you can share your sources of inspiration during your writing journey. Make sure to check out the other bloggers via the Linky List at the bottom of this post, and if you want to join in, just sign up and go!

Inspired by strangers.


What would it be like to invite a stranger into your world? To see the sights, meet the locals, and *gasp* report on their findings? What if their host and their guide was your main character?

All of these questions rattled around inside my head while I waited for that inter-dimensional reporter I mentioned earlier to arrive for her interview prep. I stared at her invitation, bit my lip, and mulled it over, word by word:

Hi! I'm Petre Pan, an alternate-universe "twin" of the famous boy who never grows up. One of the fringe benefits of eternal girl-hood is travelling across the multiverse asking cool people cool questions.

Hmmm. What kind of questions? Should I really send her to the Underground of Ilium? How would she deal with the cold? What would she think of Neas? Wait... what would Neas think of her?

More questions.

A voice inside me said, Just do it. Heck, maybe it'll even be inspiring, inviting this stranger into my world, to meet, and maybe even become friends with, Neas. How cool would it be to read about her experiences, in her own words? And to see how Neas would react to his... err, guest? It might even help me, the author, see things in a different light.

From a stranger's point of view.



I think I'm on time; at any rate, I think it's illegal for me to be late. Laws of fiction, space, and time, and all that. Not that law matters much where I am now. The Underground of Ilium, full of scaled gangsters, lost urchins, and flat, corrupt policemen--it's where rejects from the Colonies live.

I'm here for one reject in particular, and I find him leaning against a column by the side of the littered, winding street. He sees me and dashes behind the column; I smile a bit and wait, shivering in the dark, rancid mist. Ships whir overhead, but I pretend not to notice them--probably couldn't see them anyway in this smog if I tried. I'd no idea it'd be this bad.

My host peeks out at me with steel-grey eyes. Clumps of dust pepper his curls, and I can just see the edge of a blue tunic that looks like it's seen better days.

A centipede scuttles out of a crack by my foot. I step away--the kid snickers. At last he inches out from behind the column, cracks a smile, and strolls over to me.

"Hey! You, um… you the... porter?" he says. "Like… from outside of Ilium or somethin'? That your deal? Hmm. Never seen no one dressed like that before. Guess you're legit. Name's Neas. Neas of the Lost Boys. Nice to… you know… meet ya."

I nod, and he invites me to sit next to him on the curb. Awkward silence falls, and it's entirely my fault--but it's hard to prepare for a cross-dimensional interview. He prods a bundle of wires with his boot. He seems antsy, nervous, even, and I want to say something, but I'm suddenly wondering if I'll sound funny to him. Porter? I--well, I--

A little light in the background saves me from saying something stupid. A compact cylinder rises from behind some unrecognizable junk and flicks a spotlight at Neas. "Sir…" it says.

"Cool it, Vergil! I told you to stay hidden, buddy!"

"My apologies, Sir, but…"

"Don't scare me like that. What's so itchin'?"

"I believe she has a question for you, Sir," Vergil says. Thank-you, well-informed Ilium drone, I'm thinking. I need myself one of these: it remembered the questions I sent ahead of time.

"Hmm?" Neas asks.

"About your preferred form of… sustenance, Sir."

"Sustance? What're you goin' on 'bout? Oh… you mean food!"

"Indeed, Sir."

"Hmm. Hey porter. You, um… don't know much 'bout the Underground, do you? We ain't got much 'food' down here… 'least not the kind you'd be used to, you get me? You're lookin' like you'd be better off in a Colony. Yep. Hear they got big farms… with every kinda food you can imagine! Even got these bogeys called cooks… all they do is make food! Um… not that I give a goose or anythin'…"

Which of course, makes me think maybe he does 'give a goose,' at least enough to feel jealous of the Colonists, but Vergil interrupts him again. "Sir..."


"Her question, Sir."

"Oh yeah. Well, down here, there ain't exactly table service. Me and the Lost Boys — you heard of us, right? Right?"

"Of course." I have. It's a bit tragic, but I don't tell him that.

"Well, we usually end up choosin' between the green thing, the rotten thing, or the thing that's kinda… still alive, you get me? Can't say I've gotten the hang of it myself. Say… you wanna try some?"

"Sir… I do not believe that is an optimal decision." 

"Goose-it, Vergil! Hold your beef! Where was I?"

Vergil's got me cracking up inside. I'm not gonna argue with him--that's not professional--but I gotta admit Neas has me gastronomically curious. Green thing?

But Neas comes up with something else. "Oh yeah…Speakin' of beef, it's not all bad down here, you know," he says. "There're some places… kinda like clubs… deep in the Underground, where they got the good stuff. Steak… taters… even beer! Um, not that I've ever tried it, of course. You can even watch the goosers on stage while you're at it. Called performers or somethin'. My favorite's the sword swallower! Guy's got…"

"Sir, it seems you have forgotten about…"

"Oh yeah. Well, they ain't exactly welcomin' places, you get me? They're run by mobsters, you know. This one bogey… think his name's Gore or somethin'… he's a real piece of work. Got a head like a melon, eyes like grapes, and the nastiest scar this side of the Wall. Bogey'll never catch me, though. I'm kinda like a… a thief, you know? Anyways, you can actually find the best stuff on the surface… above the club. In the dumpsters, you get me? Hey… hey Vergil?"

"How may I be of service?"

"Remind me to stop by Gore's on the way home, yeah?" A little alarm rings in my head; I silence it.

"It would be my pleasure, Sir."

"Yeah, so... How long's this innerview gonna take? I'm hungry!"

"Eh, half an hour, an hour, however short you want," I shrug. I love Neas' attitude, and I'm tickled he's this willing to talk to a stranger like me--with all his chatter already, I almost wonder if he isn't a bit lonely. I continue, "But I don't like interviewing on an empty stomach--so I'll follow you to the dumpster, if you don't mind, and we can talk and eat. Is that--doable?"

"Hmm… you sure 'bout that, porter?" He smirks. I pause. Suddenly I doubt we'll be in a position to chat while stealing out of the dumpster.

"You know," I say. "We could just talk on the way, do the dumpster thing, and then talk after if we get a chance. I got a few questions--just while we walk or however we're getting there."

He shrugs. "Um, yeah. Guess we can walk…" He stands, and I follow him, brushing some kind of gunk off my khakis.

"Just be ready to bolt," he says. "Jukes own this road, you know. The last thing you want is to get caught by those bogeys, you get me? Hear they got a taste for porters..."

"Sir, I do not believe it is appropriate for you to--"

"Cool it, Vergil! I'm innerviewin'!"

"Indeed, Sir."

"Okay, okay. I'm ready."

Right, interview. I smile, and start off easy. "'Kay. First, tell me how old you are."

"Hmm… gettin' kinda personal, ain't you, porter?"

Shoot. I don't think so, although--I hope I didn't break any of this world's social taboos by asking age. But he continues.

"Okay, well… I kinda just turned seventeen. Not too long ago, you know."

"Just yesterday, Sir."

"Um, yeah. What Vergil said. Mentor tells me it's supposed to be a special day or somethin'… you know, turnin' seventeen. Don't know what that old goose's goin' on 'bout, but he and the other Lost Boys're plannin' somethin'. Told me to goose-it for a few days while they do their preparin'. Get some fresh air, you get me? So yeah. Don't know what they're plannin'… or why things're any different now. Hey, um… you ain't gonna tell anyone 'bout this innerview, are ya? They'll kill me if they found out I was talkin' to you…"

"I believe she is planning to publish it, Sir."

"Dang it. It never ends…"

Kill him? Hold up! I hope he means that figuratively, but in Ilium you never know--I throw up my hands to interrupt. "Whoa, whoa, back up, no one in Ilium can see this thing. I'm publishing it so far away you'd never read it even if you travelled for a thousand years."

Neas raises an eyebrow, but he doesn't protest, so I go on: "Next question--what's the funnest thing that's ever happened to you? Or you can tell me the worst, instead, if you like."

"Funnest? Hmm. Okay… once, Acamas took me to a slider match. You got slider where you come from, porter? Well, it's the most pigeon you'll ever have in one place, you get me? Got this fireball that bolts 'round an oval like nothin' else. And one gooser on each side, tryin' to, you know, juice it. So everyone's screamin' and Acamas is yellin' at the bookie, tryin' to place his bet, when the slider smokes through the wall and juices some gooser in the front row. And I'm like: 'Woah!' Then we hear sirens, which means the spooks're 'bout to come flyin' in to bust everyone, and so Acamas and me get the heck outta there!"

"You have never told me about this story, Sir."

"Um… yeah. Keep this between us, okay buddy? So anyways, Acamas stops me just before we head home, and tells me to tell Mentor that we were tradin' or somethin'. The old man doesn't want me near slider, you get me? But one day, I'm gonna play. Just me, the slider, and all those bogeys cheerin' for me…"

"I do not like the sound of this, Sir."

"Whatever, Vergil…"

They stop talking as he kicks a rock in his path. I jump in: "Then I'd like to know your favorite sound."

But Neas shoves me and jumps to the side. "Goose-it! Get behind that column, pronto!"


And finally, an inter-dimensional message from your favourite inter-dimensional reporter, Petre Pan:

I'd love to help your book get more 'chatter' around the internet by interviewing one of your characters. E-mail me - petrepan(at)gmail(dot)com - with the "place" your character wants to meet me, and I'll send you a few questions to answer in your character's voice. This fun collaboration gives you writing practice, and hopefully generates you a little extra readership. For unpublished authors, this is also a great way to deepen your character!

Don't forget to check out the Blog Hop, and join in, too!

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