Digital Raven (digitalraven) wrote,
Digital Raven
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Tales of the Unknown - For catnik

And if this gets as few comments as Strange Haven I'm just going to pack the lot of it in. Bastards.

All that and the <pre> tags have fucked with the spacing and I haven't the motivation to fix it.

Tales of the Unknown
by Stewart Wilson

This is a story about stories. A metaphor about metaphors. Because that's what a story is, or at least what it's supposed to be. Not that stupid Mills and Boone romance crap or those Tom Clancy stupidities. They may be books, but they aren't stories.

Real stories are metaphor. the world bundled up in a weird situation and pinned to the page in words. Most people that read it don't notice that or if they do don't think about it. But some do, and that's why stories get written.

Jules is a writer. She's sat in a coffee shop, writing a description of her surroundings. Just a couple of hundred words, enough of a sketch that the reader can fill in the details on their own. Because she is not a luddite, she writes on the screen of her mobile phone, a useful gadget which doubles as an electronic notepad.

A few scattered tables dot the floor-space in no semblance of
order. People are lounging on some sofas the management put in 
to give the plae a homey feel since Starbucks opened it's doors 
down the street. Most of the people here are regulars. There's the 
hippy -- sorry, "modern occultist" in the corner, playing around with a 
deck of tarot cards atop his laptop, trying to convince it to work. A 
cluster of girls who come here to out-cool their Starbucks-hopping 
friends. Lenny behind the counter, with his dyed spikes that went 
out of fashion two years ago. And the writer-girl, perched at her table 
with her electronic notepad, scrawling a description between sips of 
her latte. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught the hippy pulling 
some trick with shiny coins, and rested her stylus to watch.


Jules set her stylus down, watching the hippy cast runes scratched over the faces of presidents past, shining in relief on one side of a handful of quarters. He smiled at her, not at all unfriendly. "The damn thing's refusing to boot. It's either magic or something really technical, and right now magic's both easier and fun."

Jules found her hand on her stylus, writing again even as she 
asked. "What kind of magic?"


"Trickery, presentation. Altering perceptions. All without drugs."

"I'll believe that when I see it."

"You may not have long to wait."

It's at this point that I should probably warn you that this story 
isn't a good, wholesome one. There may be drugs, sex, and 
violence. Of course, if our writer-girl goes back to ignoring the hippy, 
there won't be any of that.


"This I have to see."

The hippy slid the coins over the cover of his computer, mumbling something that didn't sound like any language. After a couple of minutes, he flipped each one into his hand, palmed them, and powered up the computer.

The screen glowed. Either he had faked the bad crash -- and 
his cries had been awfully convincing, not to mention the smell of 
smoke from the computer -- or he really had worked magic. She was 
amazed.


"I'm amazed."

"Most people are. But that's magic." He smiled and left without another word.

Fast forwards to that evening. We could dwell on Jules going to the park and sitting in the sun, engaging in her guilty pleasure of writing Mary Sue fanfiction, but frankly it doesn't add anything to her character. It'd be like cataloguing her underwear drawer for the fun of it, a sneak peek into a part of her life we don't need concern ourselves with.

The evening finds her typing at a bigger computer, emptying her mind of ideas to interweave in her self-narration. Every few lines, she would add a paragraph, describing what was happening in her head as much as what was happening to her.

Rain drumming at her window. Far in the distance, a flash of 
lightning. It's the weather for dark cars to prowl alogn streets, men in 
severe suits catching up to people who know or have seen too much. 
Why is it, she thought, that the agents always know where to find the 
person who has seen too much? Before she could ponder this more, 
her phone rang.


She stopped typing with a jolt as her phone rang. Pure chance, surely...

"Hello?"

"Jules? It's Max, from the coffee shop. Look, I think something's up, some kind of side effect from-"

The line went dead. By instinct, she updated the story of her life onto the handheld.

Right now it felt like her life was turning into a conspiracy story. 
Especially with the knock at the door.


Looking out of the window, she could see the black car. The figures in some kind of British huntsmen's uniforms making their way from it to join the figure at her door. She bolted for the back way. Fortunately, the door wasn't locked.

Max was trying to phone her. Then the phone got cut off. She knew where he lived, they'd got stoned together a few times before. His place was close enough, and she could get there without the costume-fetish weirdos getting to her. Her hands banged on his door.

"Jules? What happened? Something's happened, right? Things 
have been getting crazy and I was worried that that display today 
might have got you dragged into it."



"There were people, dressed like freaks. Huntsmen. Riding helmets 
and everything. I had to run. This was the first place I could think of to 
come."


She fell forwards then, half-fainting. Max, the hippy, caught her. She looked up into his eyes.

[Wait, it didn't happen that early.] Max caught her, and helped 
her inside, listening to her recounting her story once more.


"So you came to me. But think for a minute."

"What?"

"What if they knew you'd come to me? What if I'm the one behind this? I give you a worried sounding phone call and get cut off. Weird people show up at your door. What if they were really there to warn you and I'm the psycho?"

"What?" Jules was panicking now, looking for something to grab.

"I'm just saying. I thought you were a writer, that you knew the 
cliches and the twists."



"You can't be right. I'm not writing a horror story."



"So what are you writing?"


"It's more a self-discovery thing."

"Do I have a part?" His grin was infectious, even if he had just scared the wits out of her.

"Maybe."

She was warming to him. The display earlier, his random 
tangent into cliche. She couldn't help it. She leaned forwards.


"Though as guide or something else, I can't quite tell."

[Wait, that came later. I'm getting this all wrong.] She was 
warming to him. The display earlier, his random tangent into cliche. 
But there was still an edge of uncertainty.


"That all depends on if you know what's going on."

"I know some of it. Conspiracy theories, mostly. That's the thing, though. The more conspiracy theories you hear and tell people, the more real they become. Sympathetic belief. And when they get enough, they go looking for people."

"Right. That's a story, nothing more. Maybe a metaphor for people buying into whatever the world presents them."

"You're a writer. You should know that it's possible to be both 
that and real."


She finished scrawling the reply before Max had a chance to speak.

"You're a writer. You should know that it's possible to be both that and real."

"Where do we go from here?"

"We stop living the story. We make our own metaphor." She was 
doing it again, writing his part before he said it, even though she 
didn't understand what he meant.


"We stop living the story. We make our own metaphor."

"What are you talking about?"

"We're living archetypes. The dropout stoner hippy who believes in magic. The writer who just can't stop. I'll bet you had a nervous breakdown a few years ago."

"I never told my fucking parents about that, how do you know?"

"All writers have a nervous breakdown at some point in their twenties."

He lit a cigarette and continued. "But ask yourself this. Did your 
breakdown have anything to do with you-as-a-person or was it just 
the part of you that wanted to be a writer that did it? Was it 
coincidence or were you adhering to an archetpe they put into your 
head in school?"


"What are you talking about?"

"Archety-" Max coughed a fit. "Where did I get this fucking thing? I don't smoke..." He ground the cigarette out. "Archetypes. Roles you're supposed to fill because that's what society has conditioned you to fill. Even rebelling against them just fits you into another pocket."

"So what are we supposed to do?"

"Break them. We're living like Scared Conspiracy Writers right now. Odds are we'll end up paranoid or dead by the end of the week. We need to change archetypes."

"Can't we just remove ourselves from the whole thing?" She 
asked, ideas already running around in her head.



"It's... possible. But why would you want to? Everyone's an archetype 
these days. It's possible to cut yourself off from the system, but 
there's no point to it."


"The point is that we can write our own stories again."

"Now you've lost me. I'm impressed."

"What if you wanted to be a private investogator for a week? If your archetypes are real, you get to be single, alcoholic and chronically poor. Shatter our archetypal ties and you get to be a PI just for as long as you want the story to run."

"You mean you believe me about the archetypes?

"Of course. And I already know you believe you, and you know a 
way off this ride."



"Yeah, I do."


By this point, Jules was almost expectant, waiting for his words to come.

"Yeah, I do."

"When can we start?"

I'm not going to write out what she did. Not because it's 
anything she wants hiding because she's ashamed of it, or anything I 
wouldn't want to write about . They didn't end up sleeping togehter or 
anything like that. It was simple, really. In the end.



But I can't tell her story like I could before. I can only do that for 
characters who don't decide they want to stop being characters. 
People who are still bit-parts in the story of the world, rather than 
becoming stars on their own.


Nor can I continue this story. Think about it. They broke out, they stopped being characters. If they were characters, and not just people. And if they were people to begin with and they really did work some kind of magic... what does that make me?
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