Sunday, December 7, 2008

Miranda's First Diary Entry in This World We Live In

April 26

I’m shivering, and I can’t tell because something strange is going on or because of the dream I just had or just because I’m in the kitchen, away from the warmth of the woodstove. It’s 11:15 PM, the electricity is on, and I’m writing in my diary for the first time in weeks.

I dreamed about baby Rachel. I dream about her a lot, the half sister I’ve never met. Not that I even know if Lisa had a girl or a boy. We haven’t heard from Dad and Lisa since they stopped here on their way west, except for a couple of letters. Which is more than I got from anyone else who’s left.

Rachel was about five in my dream, but she changes age a lot when I’m sleeping, so that wasn’t disturbing. She was snuggled in bed and I was reading her a bedtime story. I remember thinking how lucky she was to have a real bedroom and not have to sleep in the sunroom with Mom and Matt and Jon, the way we have for months now.

Then in the dream the lights went out. Rachel wanted to know why.

“It’s because of the moon,” I said.

She giggled. A real little girl giggle. “Why would the moon make the lights go out?” she asked.

So I told her. I told her everything. I explained how in May an asteroid hit the moon and knocked it a little closer to earth, and how everything changed as a result. There were floods that washed away whole cities, and earthquakes that destroyed the highways, and volcanoes that threw ash into the sky, blocking out sunlight, causing famine and epidemics. All because the moon’s gravitational pull was just a little stronger than before.

“What’s sunlight?” she asked.

That was when the dream turned into a nightmare. I wanted to describe sunlight, only I couldn’t remember what it was like, or what the sky looked like before the ash blocked everything. I couldn’t remember blue sky or green grass or yellow dandelions. I remembered the words- green, yellow, blue- but you could have put a color chart in front of me, and I would have said red for blue and purple for yellow.

It’s been less than a year since everything changed, less than a year since hunger and darkness and death have become so commonplace, but I couldn’t remember what life, life the way I used to know it, had been like.

But there was baby Rachel, or little girl Rachel, in her little girl’s room, asking me about how things were, and I looked at her and she wasn’t baby Rachel anymore. She was me. Not me at five. Me the way I was a year ago, and I thought, that can’t be. I’m here, on the bed, telling my half sister a bedtime story. And I got up (I think this was all the same dream, but maybe it wasn’t, maybe it was two dreams and I’ve just combined them), and I walked past a mirror. So I looked to make sure I was really me, but I looked just like Mrs. Nesbitt had when I found her lying dead in her bed last fall. Only upright. But old and dead.

It probably was two dreams, since I don’t remember baby Rachel after the part where I got up. Not that it matters. Nothing matters really. What difference does it make if I can’t picture blue sky anymore. I’ll never see it again, or yellow dandelions or green grass. No one will. It’s not just me, or Pennsylvania or even the United States. It’s everywhere on earth. None of us, the ones of us who are still lucky enough to be alive, will ever feel sunlight again. The moon’s seen to that.

But horrible as the dream was, that wasn’t what woke me. It was a sound.

At first I couldn’t quite place it. I knew it was a sound I used to hear, but it sounded alien. Not scary, just different.

And then I figured out what the sound was. It was rain. Rain hitting the roof of the sunroom, hitting the skylights.

The temperature’s been warming lately, I guess because it’s spring. But I couldn’t believe it was rain, real rain, and not sleet. I tiptoed out of the sunroom and walked to the front door. All our windows are covered with plywood, except for one in the sunroom, but it’s nighttime and too dark to see anything anyway, unless you open the door.

It really is rain.

I don’t know what it means that it’s raining. There was a drought last summer and fall. We had a huge snowstorm in December and then another one later on, but it’s been too cold and dry for rain.

I probably should have woken everyone up. It may never rain again. But I have so few chances to be alone. The sunroom is the only place in the house with heat, thanks to the firewood Matt and Jon spent chopping all summer and fall. We’re in there together day and night.

I know I should be grateful that we have a warm place to live. I have a lot to be grateful for. We’ve been getting weekly food deliveries for a month now, and Mom’s been letting us eat two meals a day. I’m still hungry, but nothing like I used to be. Matt’s been getting stronger and I even think Jon’s grown a little bit. Mom’s gotten back to being Mom. She makes us tidy our mattresses every morning, and at least pretend to do some schoolwork. She listens to the radio every evening, so we have some sense of what’s happening other places. Places I’ll never get to see.

I haven’t written in my diary in a month. I used to write all the time. I stopped because I felt like things were as good as they were ever going to get, that nothing was going to change again.

Only now it’s raining.

Something’s changed.

And I’m writing again.

First B3 Report

I wrote 24 pages (two days worth of work; I want to write 12 pages a day, although I have to admit Wednesday, when I began, the 12 pages took longer than I'd thought they would), and then I realized that I needed to get the action going in the story faster. I can get lost in the beginnings of my books, establishing background and characters, but that doesn't mean readers want me to take my time. As one of my editors taught me a long time ago: Start the story as close to the center of the action as possible.

This is good advice, but particularly tricky for B3. On the one paw, it's a sequel to LAWKI. On another paw, it's a follow up to the dead and the gone. But on a third paw, it's a book some people who've read one but not both of those books might read. And on the fourth and final paw, it's a book some people who've never read either book, or who read and forgotten them, might read. I guess that's four and a half paws, which could give you pause.

Did you know that Anne Boleyn had six fingers on one hand? I saw A Man For All Seasons in NYC yesterday and Sir Thomas More never mentioned that once.

Back to B3. Having written 24 pages, I've cut 4, to get the action moving faster. Then yesterday, while waiting for the play to begin, I realized that I'd made a plot mistake. I have Matt not walking to town because he's still too weak from the flu, but I plan for Matt to walk to the Delaware River to go fishing for shad (Todd Strasser pointed out to me that shad run in the Delaware. Todd loves to fish. I thought shad looked like minnows, but I researched them and they look like full grown fish). I also decided, so that the action could move along faster, that Matt would meet and marry Syl while he and Jon are there fishing for shad. I figure there are a number of people there, all of whom presumably learned from Todd that shad run in the Delaware in the springtime.

I had Miranda and Jon walk to town so they could talk about all the deserted houses and how they should go through them to see what they could find. Originally Matt was going to find Syl in one of those deserted houses, but now that he's going to meet her at the Delaware, maybe I should dump all that stuff, which would certainly move the action along that much faster. Heh.