Cassidy: Standing Strong #FourthWallFriday with Joseph Picard
We interrupt your Late Night TGIF festivities to bring you a better late than never Fourth-Wall Friday! As I mentioned yesterday my blog dropped acid New Years Eve and has been more than a bit out of sorts. My database admin tells me that they will be able to flush the flashback reactions and all the weird shit happening before the end of next week.
Till then all my daily stuff will be wonky, as I said… so if you see unicorns farting rainbows running across the screen, don’t PANIC! It’s not your flashback, it is the blogs current trip! My new projects will be a bit late getting blogged about but I am actually writing them daily and taking my photos for my 365Project-2014! Have a great weekend and let Joseph know how KICKASS this is!
I realized part way through writing my second book, Watching Yute, that I had named an important character after a friend who had killed herself nearly a decade before, and these themes bled into the book. It was bittersweet torture at times, but as a result, Watching Yute has remained my favorite among my books.
Cassidy is the protagonist in Watching Yute. It has some pretty sombre elements, and despite having it’s sprinkling of humor and fun, its core housed something of mourning.
When the previous book, Lifehack was done, I realized that I had granted the characters a lot of wishes. Watching Yute began as a challenge to myself to be less kind, and to suffer alongside characters I would grow to love.. and this was before I realized the subconscious link to my departed friend.
Watching Yute wasn’t about a hero overcoming hordes of nano-driven monsters. As such, it has a very different feel from the rest of the series. (Lifehack, and Echoes of Erebus) Watching Yute killed only a few people, but most of them mattered more, and were more personal than the colossal death-toll statistics in the other two books.
The following story takes place after the Watching Yute and Echoes of Erebus, as I break the fourth wall, and go see how the Yute crew is doing. Some spoilers for Watching Yute are heavily implied.
Cassidy: Standing Strong
My ride in the airlimb was under way. I’d created the airlimbs with my keyboard. They had a boxy body, were three lanes wide, and sprout four stubby wings holding jet engines. Inside the main bay was typical military décor; dark metal and utilitarian features.
When I rolled on board with my wheelchair, the crew was careful to listen to my suggestions on how to secure me and my chair for flight, and then before I could blink, they had me secured in with nearly a dozen ratchet straps. Through my spokes, over my lap, across my shins, constricting every other joint of the chair’s frame.
I asked if we’d be doing a lot of barrel rolls.
“No, Sir, don’t worry,” was the flat reply. Professional to a fault. I was worried I’d be bored until Captain Cipriana Ulrica Reichenbach boarded, and sat nearby. Cipriana wasn’t entertaining, as much as she was hypnotic. Beautiful? Sure. If you see beauty in things like trees, streams, or clouds drifting lazily by.
I had created ‘Cip’ to have unexplained, prefect gaydar. Now that I was in her world, I wondered if she had any other unexplained insightful powers. Did she know who I was? Did she know that I created her? Does she know it was me who was truly to blame for what she’d lost?
If she saw such things, she didn’t give any sign of it. She smiled in her demure way, and I felt that ‘aura of peace’ for the first time since high school, when a girl I knew could wield this power. Some of you may have been caught in such an aura, and know what I’m talking about.
“Captain,” I greeted with a small nod.
“Hello.” she said in a voice to match her aura. “This is your first time to the temple?”
I nodded. No need to complicate things. “I’ve heard of your little friend though. Is he doing well?”
Well, that dented her aura. She looked at me with surprise. “He… he’s quite fine, actually. Do you have business with him?”
I smiled and shook my head. “No, no, I just find him interesting. Tell him I wish him luck in his latest endeavor. Sounds like it has huge potential.”
Cip’s expression, as mild as it was, still showed a little bit of suspicious concern, but I disarmed it with a gentle smile, attempting to restore her aura. It seemed to work. When we landed at the Yute temple base, she undid my extensive restraints easily, in only a few fluid motions. She stood, and the ratchet straps laid about me as a soldier walked in to release me. He was surprised to see that I was already loose.
“Corporal,” Cipriana said, “I’ll leave the storing of the shipping restraints to you, after our guest and I have disembarked.” Rank has its privileges. The bay door was soon lowered in the ramp-like option for my sake, and I rolled out into the warmth of the Yute desert. Before me sprawled the ancient ruins of a city, and its faded yellow stone. Traces of building after building, some reduced to stone clearings, some with a wall or two still doing their best to resist time itself.
Cipriana stood at the bottom of the ramp, and rested her arms at her sides, closing her eyes for a moment. Old habits die hard. Part of her still expected a blessing of sand, blowing at her for ‘no reason’. Those little sand storms had been explained and stopped. Her moment of silence seemed now to be more of an embrace to her home.
A little to my left, southwest about ten blocks, stood the base. One of the better ruinous buildings had been given to the military by the Aguei aboriginals as part of a treaty. This treaty dictated that a national guard be established here to honour the ruins, and protect them. The modest base housed the assigned soldiers.
To my right, and a good distance north loomed the temple. It had survived the ages much, much better than any other building. Part pyramid, part giant block, the south stairs spread out in welcome. Although not to me.
“Shall we?” Cipriana gestured towards the base.
“No.” I looked in the direction of the temple.
Cipriana lowered her head. “There’s… there’s no ramp. But if you want to see the Beast, I’ll volunteer some people from base to carry-”
I held my hand out. “No, no, no. No.” Being in a wheelchair and being carried up stairs is not fun. “Thank you, but no. I’m not going quite that far. I’m going to see her.”
Cipriana stared at me with sad eyes for a bit before forcing a tiny smile, and nodding, before heading off to base. I aimed myself at the ancient road that led to the temple, and started out. The time-hardened dirt was almost as easy to wheel on as cement. About half way to the temple, I saw the path on the left that led to an unofficial exercise yard, frequented by only two people.
The long-flattened building left a stone patch about ten by ten metres. In the middle, Lieutenant Cassidy Stanton wielded a wooden spear, with a wide, blunt, wooden head. She moved with slow, deliberate motion. Her lean musculature showed self-imposed strain. She wasn’t ‘ripped’, nor was she overly ‘wiry’. Her muscles were efficient and toned to military spec.
Her routine of motions was arguably a meditative one, but her expression was one of conflict. The fact that her spear was a wooden sparring toy, and not the savage looking beast’s spear, didn’t impact the… well, if Cipriana had an aura of peace, this was an aura of war.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. I didn’t expect her to hear me, but she turned with an improvised flourish, bringing the spear down in my direction.
“Yes?” she said, apparently not having heard what I said. “Can I help you?”
I attempted a small Cipriana styled smile in attempts to disarm her. Figuratively, of course. “I thought you might be here. I’m happy to see you, of course, but I guess I’m really here to see Cheryl.”
Disarm: failed. Cassidy looked at me with quiet anger, which streamed from her eyes, under the brim of her favourite hat, and right at me. “She isn’t here,” she seethed.
I lowered my head. Cassidy’s wound was not fresh, but it didn’t seem to have healed much. “I think maybe she is,” I said, “with you, and the camp.”
She scoffed. “That camp is long gone.”
“The tent is gone, the gear is gone, but the place still exists. I’d wager you sneak over there pretty often, don’t you? Can you lead me to it?”
She glared at me silently for a moment. “Why the fuck should I take you there?” she spat.
I bit my lip, and pulled my necklace out for her to see. A simple little silver cylinder. She walked forward, and grabbed it to look closer, pulling me forward a little unintentionally.
“Are you shitting me?” she said, pulling her own identical necklace out.
I offered a sad smile. “It’s… it’s like yours, but it isn’t. It’s hard to explain.”
Cassidy rolled her eyes. “This isn’t some nanite bullshit is it? If it is, I’ll…” she looked at the wooden spear in her hand. “I’ll give you such a splinter!”
I chuckled, and headed toward the direction of the camp.
“I thought you needed me to take you there!” Cassidy said.
“I kind of lied. I just wanted your sparkling personality along for company.”
She scoffed and adjusted her hat. “Who are you?” she asked. She followed, but likely only to keep an eye on me.
“I had a Cheryl. Not in the way that you had a Cheryl, but she was special enough to me. Enough that I’m never going to forget.” It didn’t answer anything, but she didn’t press the matter. Her Cheryl was named after my Cheryl. An odd tribute, as they weren’t a whole lot alike. One was caucasian, one was asian. One was a soldier, one was a student. One had enthusiasm for life, the other…
We made it to the camp. Much of the trip was across shallow sand, which was difficult for my wheelchair. I was just lucky it was a fairly thin layer atop stone, and not plain open desert. I’d be sunk then.
I knew the camp instantly, just from the layout of the wall fragments. One secluded piece to my right was just an ordinary piece of wall, like a thousand others in the ruins.
Another one closer than that was the same, except for one little hole.
The last one, to my left, was the one that hit me. Cheryl’s unfinished mural of painted doodles. A tree, hearts, birds, a rainbow, and on, and on. It looked like it was inspired by the doodles in the notebook of a school girl. Carefree, loving, and loved.
I faced it and stared at it. Cassidy did the same. She was gripping her necklace, and scraped it softly against her rings. I couldn’t look at it anymore, and lowered my head. I denied myself tears. That wasn’t entirely true, but I didn’t let them fall.
“Tell me about your Cheryl.” Cassidy said.
“An idealist.” I said immediately. It was my gut reaction. “Idealist in her own way.” I brought my hands to my face, and looked back at the mural. “She wanted the perfect… she wanted to… to be rescued.”
“Loneliness, mostly. She had a plan, but plans…”
Cassidy’s face twisted with repressed pain. She gasped softly, her breathing deepened. “Plans are for chumps, huh? I guess she couldn’t take it.”
Damn it, why did I come here? To grind salt into Cassidy’s wounds, or my own? I turned my head away from her in case my tears fell as I reached out and took her hand. She squeezed my hand, and yelled “She was stupid!”
That fucking did it, my waterworks were now on. I tried to claim my hand back, so I could have both hands to cover my face, but Cassidy wasn’t letting go. So I squeezed harder. I could hear her quiet sobs.
“Pain makes you stupid,” I struggled to say. “I don’t blame her. I can’t.”
As we both regained our composure, mostly, our hands released. She sniffled, and looked over to the temple. “My Cheryl didn’t kill herself.” she said quietly.
I nodded. “I know. I’m sorry anyway.” She didn’t know that in essence, I was the one that truly killed her. When that decision was made, her Cheryl already had that name. I didn’t clue in until later that my ‘random’ choice of name was my subconscious making a very deliberate move. When I realized it, I couldn’t bring myself to change the name. It was now Cheryl’s book. It was for her.
One of the desert’s few animals crawled along the edge of the mural. An Aeki lizard. Harmless, cute for a lizard, and nimble- able to stick to most surfaces. The ones here had never known humans to be a threat, and approached unafraid.
I managed a smile as I wiped a couple stray tears. “Your spirit guide, Cassie?”
She threw me a smirk and a glare for calling her Cassie. “You must be an American,” she said, tapping the end of her spear in the ground. “The Aguei don’t do the spirit guide thing.” The spear was based on a traditional Aguei weapon, and Cassidy was an honorary Aguei.
“No spirit guides, I know. Also, I’m Canadian.”
Cassidy smirked without the glare this time. “Fuck! A Canadian in the Yute desert! So far from your igloo! You must be melting!”
“Yes, and I miss my herd of penguins, too! Eh, hoser?”
Cassidy smiled, and glanced over to where the tent once was. She looked back to the temple. “If I had to name an animal spirit guide…”
“No, fuck that thing. But there’s a butterfly lives there now that I can kind of stand these days. Hey, wanna go back to base? I’m guessing there’s fresh cookies...”
I laughed. “You people and your damned cookies. No, no thank you, I’m going to be heading back out pretty soon. I think I have an date with the butterfly’s buddy.” I turned my attention to the wall with the little hole. I wheeled over, and Cassidy’s smile faded. I stuck my finger in the hole and felt around. A small bit of mangled metal wiggled inside.
“Cassidy.” I said flatly. She said nothing, so I continued. “Any stupid thoughts lately?”
I didn’t turn to face her, and she was silent for a while. “Cassidy.” I repeated. There was a little more silence.
“All the damned time.” she murmured. I was about to turn to her, only to find she’d stepped much closer.
I took her hand again.
“You met that Regan Grier gal once, right?” I asked, knowing full well. I wasn’t sure if Cassidy remembered. Regan was pretty famous, but Cassidy had other things on her mind at the time.
“Yeah,” she said. “Seemed nice. A bit of a dork, but nice.”
I nodded. “When her brother died, she found a recording from him. His final message to her told her to stand strong.”
Cassidy smirked a little, and looked at my wheelchair. “Figuratively, I suppose,” she said.
I smirked back, and let it fade. I looked into her eyes for moment, not able to look for too long. I held her hand with both of mine. “Cassidy. You are loved by many-”
She nodded. “I know. I know, I’ve heard this speech.” she said softly.
“Do me a favour, Cassie.” I looked into her eyes, fighting tears again. “Stand strong.”
In the years after Lifehack, the world settles into relative quiet under strict nanite bans.
Book 2 of 3 in the Lifehack Series.
An ideal post opened up for Lieutenant Cassidy Stanton when she wanted a fresh start. She expected a measure of peace, guarding a historic temple in the middle of the desert.
She didn’t expect to find a new girlfriend- maybe even a soul mate.
She didn’t expect to be in the crossfire of a terrorist, a cowardly scientist, and a fleet of microscopic invaders.
She didn’t expect to lose.
(Although Watching Yute is a complete tale, the world it is set in is preceded by the book Lifehack, and followed by Echoes of Erebus.)
Born in 1976, he has lived all over Canada, but has called the Meadow-Ridge area of BC his home since 1992. While cycling to his job as a computer technician, he got into a fight with a car in 2001. The car won, and Joseph became a T5/6 paraplegic. This has not hampered his chances at winning the superbowl, as he’s been a self-declared nerd for as long as he can remember.
Since his injury, he has focused on his writing and a little on his art, much of which is related to his fiction and can be found at www.ozero.ca. In May, 2007 he became proud father of Caitlin, followed in 2011 a son, Lachlan.
He awaits the day that stemcells or super awesome telekinetic flight powers will allow him to unfurl his black trenchcoats yet again
Check out his author pages at SMASHWORDS & AMAZON
Fourth-Wall Friday – January – June 2014 Signups now open
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 Goddesses Fourth-Wall Friday? Sign up for a limited amount of spots open today. (Sign ups for January-June 2014). The 3rd Friday of each month is open for special events, such as book releases and tours. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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! Or check out the PINTEREST board with every Fourth-Wall Friday pinned!
Allow 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…
Lifehack the series, ya probably should add.. there are zombies……………… but there also is a dragon.. WHAT you say?? Oh go BUY the damn book and read it!