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Greg’s Twitter Novel: Chapter Two

Yes, I’m writing a novel on Twitter. You can watch me write it in real time at twitter.com/gregsnovel. From time to time, I’ll post compiled chapters here, along with my notes for what’s working and what isn’t and what I might do in the next draft.
Click here to read Chapter One
Read on for Chapter Two, written on 01/11 and 01/12 (WARNING: Some violence and profanity.)
(Special thanks to the awesome Chad Bonin, who kindly compiled some of these tweets.)

CHAPTER TWO (01.11.2012)
Rima never saw the bird; she just saw its three foot metal talons shattering the windows and puncturing the roof of the subway car. And then the entire car lifted from the tracks. Sparks and fire erupted as the car broke away from the rest of the train, which careened off the elevated tracks and slammed into the line of apartments and shops below.


Rima’s car tilted. People screamed, sliding down the aisle. Chris hooked an arm and leg around a pole and held Rima close as bodies flew past them. They stared out the window as they flew over burning subway cars smashed through the second floor of a tenement.
Rima saw at least a dozen dead bodies, and a stunned, bleeding, burning woman staggering down the sidewalk. And the next instant they had swooped past. As the subway car turned in midair, the setting sun blazed through the windows, blinding Rima. She heard Chris gasp in surprise and pain, and then the subway car ripped in half and Chris was gone.
Great winds buffeted Rima. She clung to the pole, clawing blindly at the air, screaming Chris’s name. And then the car hit the ground.
Rima pitched forward, slamming into a hillock covered with high grass. She lay stunned, blinking as her eyesight returned. The scent of flowers nearly overwhelmed her. Somewhere a small animal trilled brightly. The sky overhead was blue and filled with twinkling stars.
Rima slowly sat up. None of this made sense. There are no grassy hillocks along Flushing’s elevated tracks. Stars do not twinkle in the daytime. And of course great metal birds do not–
Suddenly she remembered Chris. Tears of shame welled in her eyes as she stood, screaming his name. How could she forget him, even for an instant, in a moment like this? How could she–
And then her mind fell silent as she gazed over the landscape.
She stood at the edge of a great savanna of rolling hills and strange, twisted rock formations. Shadowy silhouettes of huge grazing animals of some kind moved through the high grass in the distance. Shooting stars streaked across the bright sky. Butterfly-like insects fluttered past, singing bright, inquisitive songs.
Rima took a deep breath, filling her lungs with the sharp, clean air. The scent of flowers was so strong and fine she felt she was taking a bite of the crispest, sweetest apple she had ever had with each breath.
This is where I’m supposed to ask if I’m dreaming, she thought. Or maybe I’ve died and gone to heaven.
But Rima felt the aches in her bruised body, the scrapes on her forehead and every sharp little scratch in her arms and legs. She knew she wasn’t dead. She hurt too much. But at the same time, every second she stood in this field, breathing this air, made her feel stronger, sharper, smarter. Better. She laughed out loud, surprising herself. Then wiped away the tears that suddenly sprang from her eyes.
“Goddammit,” she whispered. “This is where I belong.”
CHAPTER TWO (continued) (01.12.2012)
And then Rima turned around.
The twisted wreckage of half of a subway car lay in pieces behind her. Five mangled, unmoving bodies half-hidden in the grass. Some also in pieces. Rima’s training took over; she assessed the scene instantly, wrote off the dead or obviously dying, and moved towards the groaning sounds that emanated from the biggest chunk of wreckage. She poked her head through the door to see three people.
An older woman bleeding from the forehead. A young man with a lacerated hand and a wide-eyed cat in a soft traveling case. And an unscathed busker in a wheelchair holding an accordion.
“The lady,” said the busker, pointing to the bleeding woman.
“It’s all right,” said Rima. “I’m a doctor.”
Rima scanned the inside of the subway as she walked towards the old woman and smiled tightly as her eyes lit on a bag of someone’s clean laundry among the debris. She pulled out a few t-shirts and began to rip strips to use as bandages.
“What the hell just happened?” asked the old woman, her eyes calm and flat and stunned.
“I don’t know,” said Rima.
“There was there was there was there was a big fucking robot EAGLE or some shit,” said the young man.
“Put the cat down and apply direct pressure to that wound,” said Rima to the young man. “Hold your hand over your head. I’ll be with you in a minute.”
The young man set the cat down. The cat let out a low, plaintive meow.
“Didn’t you see it?” asked the young man, holding his hand over his head. “Big fucking robot bird.”
“Watch your language,” said the old woman.
The young man stared at her. The man in the wheelchair let out a short laugh.
“Give me your hand,” said Rima, turning from the old woman and walking towards the young man. The cat growled at her as she passed it.
The young man peered out the window as Rima bandaged his hand. His eyes widened with fear and wonder. “This is this is this is…” he said.
“I know,” said Rima. “I know I know I know.”
But she didn’t mean it.
The young man was terrified. Rima was just pretending to share his reaction, because terror was the completely expected emotion any normally socialized human being might be expected to have under the circumstances. But Rima wasn’t scared; she was thrilled. She was working quietly and professionally with these accident victims because she’d spent years of her life training herself to react with calm precision under emergency situations. But as she worked, she stepped outside of herself, used that calm rationality to puzzle out what was really going on in her heart. And she realized all she wanted to do was tear off her clothes and run roaring through the savanna. Maybe run down one of those shadowy herbivores. Sink her teeth into its neck.
“This isn’t Flushing,” murmured the man in the wheelchair, gazing through window. His eyes angled upwards. “This isn’t even… Earth.”
“What the fuck?” said the young man. But the old woman peered up through the window at the sky and pointed. “He’s right,” she said. “Those aren’t our constellations.”
“How do you know that?” asked the young man.
“Astrology,” said the old woman.
“And those aren’t seagulls,” said the man in the wheelchair.
Everyone craned their necks to peer up as a few bird-like creatures flew overhead. They were white, about the same size as seagulls, but the shape and angle of their wings was off, and instead of beaks, they had long, skinny, pointed proboscises. The birds descended, settled down among the corpses in the debris, and began to feed.
Rima stared, fascinated. The birds weren’t tearing or chewing. Instead they inserted their proboscises into the corpses and, after a moment, began to suck. Rima thought of spiders injecting venom that liquified the insides of their victims. But that process took hours; this was happening in seconds.
When Rima was fifteen, she had a chemistry teacher whose favorite pet peeve was movies in which villains dissolved in vats of acid. “There is no such acid,” Mr. Chavez would say. And then he’d briefly dip his hand into a beaker of hydrochloric acid to make his point. So Rima knew. There is no chemical on Earth that can liquefy a human body instantaneously. And yet–
The old woman yelled, the cat hissed, and the young man screamed simultaneously. Two of the birds were poking their heads into the door of the subway car, staring at them with sharp interest, and making little chirps that sounded like a two year old’s happy chuckles. Rima and the man in the wheelchair locked eyes. She felt the hair on the back of her neck rise. He saw right into her. And he gave her a mournful smile.
“Go ahead,” he said. “You’re the only one of us who stands a chance.”
“Run.”
NOTES TO SELF
1. The writing-on-Twitter experiment continues to work in terms of getting me to actually write. I’m conditioned to tweet quickly without over-thinking things. Not a bad reflex to harness for hammering out a first draft of a novel.
2. Not too pleased with my failure to name any of the other characters just yet. I won’t lie — it’s a stalling technique. I’m still figuring out just who these characters are and am just delaying making the choices until I have a chance to play with ’em a bit. Will need to get more specific earlier when I revise — leaving them nameless marks them as types rather than real people, which isn’t good.
3. I’m having fun with slowing down time and exploring Rima’s intellectual and emotional reactions in the middle of big action sequences. That’s something I haven’t done much in comics or film — novel writing really lends itself to it. Will have to check to see how the pacing is working when I revise, but for the moment, it’s fun to flex some different muscles.
4. Having fun learning more about Rima — here she says she’s a doctor. Might need to define that earlier when I revise. Or it might be a fun thing for us all to discover at this point in the story.

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