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Through the Fourth-Wall & into Underground with K. Gorman & Mieshka

Underground - Fourth-Wall Friday*Splashing in rain puddles as I skip into Pioneer Square* Oh! Hi! Welcome to Fourth-Wall Friday everyone! Today I am broadcasting from Sunny Seattle because I could not get a visa so China so I could  hide in the shadows waiting for a breech into the Underground to follow K. Gorman and see where she goes today. I am hoping, however if I go on a Seattle Underground Tour today I may be able to hitchhike into someone elses “doorway”.

I was bent over a notebook, elbow-deep in various textbooks, papers, medications, small arms deals—everything that had accumulated on my desk over the past week. With strategically placed socks—clean socks—protecting my elbows and wrists from the hard desk, a heavy set of headphones dragging down my head, and a habit of accidentally swiping bits of debris—pen caps, highlighters, the occasional hairbrush—into the nearby garbage can, I wasn’t going anywhere.

The outside Kunming sun, which had previously been baking the washing-room tile floor, had been replaced by the drizzly grey light of cloud cover. My only reaction to the increasing gloom was to hunch further over the paper, looking less like a bird on prey and more like a chiropractic patient.

As an older Massive Attack melody pulled me from my dormitory room, the drawn-out rumble of thunder crackled lazily through the clouds. I stooped my head down, clicked more lead into my mechanical pencil, closed my eyes…

…and felt the walls open.

It was like waking up in a dream. Darkness crowded my vision, blotting a patch of India ink into the center of my vision. The cold came next, pulling the warmth of Kunming’s Spring away from my skin. I swayed, distracted by the mild vertigo that came with switching worlds.

The pencil and paper were gone. As was the desk and the clouds. The air tasted old, stale, and slow. Slowly, that black blotch in my vision bled out. I strained to see my surroundings, tensing against the continued chill.

Cracked and peeling linoleum slowly faded into view, along with a jagged line of dark and broken storefronts to the right. I glanced backwards to the light source.

More than 100 yards away to my left, a line of incandescent bulbs followed another line of storefronts away, its jerry-rigged wires naked and inconsistent. Between me and the lights, a grimy Pexiglas barrier protected me from a dark hole in the floor. The aluminum-pipe top of the railing gleamed with a dim yellow light in places.

Ding!

I knew where I was.

I was Underground. Not just underground, but Underground. The fictional city beneath my other fictional city. Although, as the cold pressed through my clothes, it was becoming less and less fictional.

Underground City

Original image source – Fotolia © Savu Razvan [ link ]

Buried ages ago, this place was like how London and Rome had their old counterparts below them; or how part of Seattle was raised up onto its second floor. The Underground had been buried and forgotten until Lyarne—the above city—began to reject the tens of thousands of refugees that poured in from a war it preferred to ignore.

The Underground wasn’t old, per se. It was like if someone had buried both the old and the new of modern Seattle. All of it. Then build a new city on top. Then the refugees had excavated a new life from its bones.

The buried shopping centre I was in could have been built in my world’s—our world’s—1980s. In fact, I’d modelled it after several Eaton Centres that I had visited. Averaging five storeys tall this place had the size of a megaplex. And it was mostly unused.

 It was one of my favourite places Underground.

By my position to the lights, I knew where I was. That line acted as a pedestrian highway between the residential area that ran along the mall’s north side and the downtown Core at the mall’s west exit. I was on the second floor. The shadowy gap beyond the guard rail went down to the first floor where shoppers on all levels of the mall could look down to the first floor’s seasonal promotions or exhibits.

I’d had Mieshka run around here once. Terrified. I hope I wasn’t about to repeat her experience. Why was I here?

I had my answer soon enough.

Light, quick and bright like a Valhallan strobe light, flashed ahead. As my head jerked toward it, I was blinded. I stumbled as a crackle of thunder ripped through the dead air.

The mall became dark again. Retinal burn dotted my vision as the echoes faded.

Did Kunming’s storm follow me to the Underground?

Somehow, I didn’t think so. There was another explanation—a better explanation—for this.

Ahead, someone laughed. I smiled.

The mall lit up again. This time, I knew what to look for. In the brief, stark picture, I saw the edge of another guard rail cut into silhouette about fifty feet away. The trailing  sound rumbled through my ribs. I started toward it.

I had an idea of who had caused it. After all, this was supposed to be my world, wasn’t it?

“Kitty?” My voice cracked. The light did not fade this time, but flickered in the next gap like it was Frankenstein day at the mall’s mad scientist exhibition. Shadows spiked on the walls around it. Broken glass glimmered on my floor.

As I came to the edge of the rail, I spotted Mieshka first. She stood to my right, about a hundred feet away and down on the first floor, hunched and breathing hard. Her skin looked blanched in the lighting, her orange hair washed out into a dirty blue-white blond. She had her usual hoodie—a newer, light-blue version since her dark one had acquired a bullet hole in the last book—and jeans she’d likely scooped off her bedroom floor after she’d hit the snooze button a few times.

I knew that scheme well.

Her eyes were dark as she frowned up to where I stood. Dark-brown, I knew. I had avoided blue or green eyes with her. The whole ‘red-headed fire girl’ cliché had to stop somewhere.

Flames flirted at her fingertips, crawling white-hot up her sleeve as I watched.

What the hell had I interrupted?

“Kelly!” Directly below, Kitty—personal Vaan de Graaf generator—had tilted her head back and looked straight up at me. Her white grin contrasted the dark skin of her face. Quicker than thought, arcs and snaps of lightning fizzled through the floor debris around her, casting her in an odd light. She had her usual rebel-punk look, complete with skinny, tattered jeans and a Jolly Roger bandanna tied around her wrist.

Her dark, mischievous eyes held the real storm.

“What’s up?”  I could guess what they were up to. Mieshka was a newbie elemental learning how to use her magic. As her friend and an older elemental, Kitty could oblige. Made it less awkward than learning from Roger, whose—

“They’re fighting,” said a voice behind me.

I didn’t jump. I didn’t.

Really.

Instead I turned. Slowly. While holding my breath.

Being creepy was not Roger’s job, but it was a job requirement. He acted as the main enforcer for the Underground’s mafia-esque policing force and, as a Water elemental, he was the Water Mage’s right-hand man. He was one of those extremely observant people that made you feel very self-conscious. He was not creepy enough to say things like ‘Your heart rate and respiration have increased.’ or ‘Your hand is shaking.’, but he was damn near close enough that those things didn’t need to be said.

Silence was his tool.

He stood roughly fifteen feet away with the dark side of an escalator behind him, his black clothes and small smile blending in with the shopping center’s shadows. It did not matter that he was hard to see. I’d written him enough to know about the arsenal of knives hidden on his right arm and the special concoction inside the thermos that gleamed at his hip. I supposed most water elementals liked having some water to fight with. Roger, however, mixed his water with acid.

He kept a respectful distance between us, for which I’m glad. However, I still had an urge to be farther away. Possibly running.

“Who’s she?” Mieshka’s voice quivered in the silence.

“Yes. Who is she?” Roger asked. “I haven’t seen you down here before.”

70,000 people lived in the Underground. Of those, Roger made a point to know the power players. I supposed my association with Kitty raised his curiosity.

“She’s God,” Kitty said.

I resisted the urge to groan.

“I am not God.”

Okay. Kitty and I may have a history of breaking the Fourth Wall. She knew me pretty well by now. Usually it was fine for her to call me out—most thought she was crazy. Except for Roger. He knew Kitty well enough to see beyond her crazy. If she said I was God, he knew there was some truth in it.

“Goddess?”

No.”

“God?” Roger asked, joining me at the railing. He had a habit of moving when you weren’t looking. I shivered. From the cold, not from Roger. Really. Remember, I was still in springtime Kunming wear. He managed not to comment on my Beer Laos shirt or my pajama bottoms, but I knew he noticed. The man noticed everything.

“Yeah,” Kitty said. “She makes things happen.”

“Is that a new power?” he said.

Roger, I’d always assumed, was Atheist. Sure, he’d seen a lot of weird stuff happen—but he knew there was always an explanation, magic or otherwise, for everything. By his tone, I could tell that he was quietly figuring me out, measuring my reactions and Kitty’s clues against all that he’d seen and learned from working for the Water Mage. He had this way of observing something without actually looking at it so that, when his gaze finally flicked to me, I felt the weight behind it. The calculation.

That calculation had an edge to it. An edge that reminded me of the sharp ones hidden up his sleeve. Maybe he was running through the definitions of ‘God’ and wondering if I was up for an attempted deicide today. Not because he had anything against me. Just to see what the limits of ‘God’ were.

Like I said. I wanted my sprinting shoes.

“Not new,” Kitty said, “she’s been dreaming us all along. Are you dreaming now?”

“No, I’m not dreaming.” At least I didn’t think so. Maybe I fell asleep on the notebook.

“So why are you here?”

Because there’s a blog post with my name on it. But I’m not about to say that. Kitty could probably take that in stride. The others might start looking up existentialism.

“Fun?”

Roger noticed my hesitation. His eyes slanted up to hold mine. Kitty’s electric light flickered on them, but their darkness did not change.

“Riiight,” said Kitty. “Well, I want a motorcycle and a jet plane.”

“Can’t you just borrow Roderick’s?” I was glad to change the topic, breaking eye contact with Roger to look down at Kitty. Roderick, the Electric Mage, was her Keeper. As much as anybody could ‘keep’ Kitty. He had a spaceship-plane.

“I failed his driving test.”

Hah. I could imagine that. I could also imagine her on a motorcycle.

“Crotch-rocket or Harley?”

“Rocket. With streamers and a vanity plate.”

And likely stolen. Somehow I didn’t picture her in line at the DMV.

“You take requests?” Under Roger’s gaze I felt like a corrupt game master. I had a feeling any requests from him would be less of a request and may involve some of those threat tactics he practised.

Once again, I was very aware at just how close he was.

“Sometimes,” I mumbled. “If it fits.” But I was not God. Gods were all-powerful. All-knowing.

The most I could play at is ‘omnipresent’. Hell, I didn’t even go to church.

Kitty snickered.

Good grief.

On the first floor, Mieshka’s fire has gone out. I can see she’d lost track of this conversation.

“So, you guys are training?” I asked.

“Yup. Meese needs a shield.”

That she does, I thought. It made sense, considering the events of the next book, that Kitty would be here, Underground, to teach her.

“How’s that coming?” I said.

“Well…”

Not so great, I guess.

“There have been some complications.” Roger said, drawing my attention back to him.

Shields, I remembered, were every bit complicated. Although they drew from an elemental’s base power, their form was distinctly different from using the raw energy. Mieshka’s brand of magic was special enough that it should have been easier for her to achieve it, but Mieshka had only just acquired her fire magic. To go from using basic power to shielding was like going from using simple words like ‘BURN’ and ‘STOP BURNING’ to writing a Wall Street opinion piece.

So, yes. Complicated.

“Perhaps I should leave you to it, then.” I said.

“You’re leaving?” Asked Roger. No doubt he was curious to see how I’d leave. I was not even sure how I had arrived. Did I magically poof into the Underground? Had he seen me arrive? He was on the right level, after all.

I leaned my forearms against the railing, looking past both of them to Mieshka. Across the distance, our eyes locked. She tensed.

“Don’t worry. You’ll get it eventually.” I said.

“‘Eventually’?” Echoed Kitty. “That doesn’t sound good.”

I dropped my gaze to the one-woman-Tesla-coil. After a moment, I winked. “Spoilers.”

Roger shifted beside me, but I was already on my way out.

Wham!

My dormitory door slammed closed with the wind. My roommate was back. I, a bit dazed, looked up to see a dark sky outside, lit up brown by Kunming’s light pollution. At some point I’d turned my desk light on, though I don’t remember doing so. I looked down at my finished scene. It felt like I’d been gone two hours instead of ten minutes. I guess there was a time lag between writing and what’s been written.

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Some neat links about Underground cities

http://www.undergroundtour.com/about/history.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cities_of_the_Underworld

http://sarenafuller.hubpages.com/hub/Secret-Underground-Cities

 

Books

Into the Fire (Kindle exclusive until June 19th)

Cat and Meese (short story)

Twelve Worlds (Short story, The Star-Eater, in there. Royalties go to Reading is Fundamental)

AMAZON(free)SMASHWORDS

Upcoming titles: The Dancer of the Wind (big short story/short novella, set in the same world as Into the Fire. Expected to come May/June), The Puzzle Box (short story, expect it to also come May/June).

K. Gorman

kgormansitting2resizeA Canadian university student currently studying abroad in South-West China, K. Gorman has been a voracious consumer of Sci-fi and Fantasy from a very young age. She first practised writing in high school whilst ignoring classwork, focusing on forum-based role-play games. Later, she calculated just how much time she spent writing and decided that it might be a good career move.

When not writing or studying, she moonlights as a horse-drawn carriage driver, combining her other long-time passion of working with horses with her passion for history.

Fourth-Wall Friday

Ever wonder what happens if you were to break into your world build and sit down and have a beer with your main characters? I think I would love to have tea with Jane Eyre, or discuss the best way to take care of vampires with Jane Yellowstone…maybe having Susie Shotgun take me out for some Angels Tears…

Interested in being part of Cabin Goddess’ Fourth-Wall Friday? I will soon be opening up my schedule from July through Christmas and have a few limited reserved Friday’s for special Fourth-Wall Friday spots (Sign ups for July – December 2013), such as book releases and tours. Contact me at [email protected] for more info. I hope everyone (authors and readers alike) takes time peruse the archives and find out just what other authors have done and enjoy a lot of amazing world builds!

Fourth-Wall FridayAllow yourself as an author to open up a new avenue of sharing your AUTHOR PERSONA & WORLD BUILD in a unique and creative fashion.. Just take a chance, write fluidly and from within that “place” you hangout at with your muse. Or perhaps walk in the door, tuck into a corner & watch your characters get into trouble before you take a chance and talk to them…

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for having me! This was very fun to write–and I love all of the graphics!

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