The Promise of a Good Beginning

What’s the best way to start? For many writers this choice can be daunting. But using other novels as a guide, you can find a way that will suit your story. It may even garner you some attention, if from beginning to end the fictive dream is maintained. Now, consider the following openings by a few authors whose work I greatly admire. They are used here only for reference:

I was born on the night of Samhain, when the barrier between the worlds is whisper thin and when magic, old magic, sings its heady and sweet song to anyone who cares to hear it. (Once a Witch)

Rei Ellis whispers to me as the light goes dark.
“Anna, don’t go.” (Auracle)

Tana woke up lying in a bathtub. (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown)

According to Nancy Kress, in Beginnings, Middles and Ends, “Every story makes two promises to the reader.” One is emotional and the other intellectual, “since the function of stories is to make us both feel and think.” To do this however, the writer has to engage the reader. Grab them. Hook them into the story so that nothing else matters.

Can you do the same? The three openings above highlight ways in which three separate authors have tried to do just that. Sometimes a writer can open the story with a prologue and at other times, at chapter one. Whichever method you choose, remember that every story is different, so if you opt for a prologue, use it wisely, to dispense information that is pertinent to the tale; without which the story might not make sense. Or be weighty.

Truth be told, the first opening from Once a Witch is taken from a prologue which does a lot to enhance the story, which in and of itself is quite compact. In fact, you can think of it as a story that has two parts. The first part being somewhat like Harry Potter going off to Hogwarts. But unlike JK Rowling, this author (Carolyn MacCullough) has only a few pages to catch you up on her protagonist’s past before the spinning of the tale.  How she does it? You’ll have to read the tale and find out for yourself, but the first few sentences give you a glimpse of the protagonist and lets you know what sort of story you are about to encounter. I believe without it, the story would not seem complete or fully fleshed out.

Nevertheless do remember that every story is different. And the decision to use or not use a prologue, should be taken with care, because the information introduced in a prologue should be something pertinent, that will further the reader’s understanding of the story. Something without which the reader may be confused or hesitant about undertaking the journey. For some this might even be the why of the story. Clues that will only come to life after you have accepted the challenge and agreed to delve further in for example in Shaunta Grimes’ novel, Viral Nation.
So, using a prologue can help you to create a better story, if you give the reader vital information. Do the same with your story. But make sure that whatever it is that you are telling them is just enough for where they are in the story, and that it is not a sensory overload, of too much information being introduced into the story all at once.

For other writers though the first few words of chapter one heralds a new beginning. Think of Auracle (Gina Rosati), the two lines quoted above and the first line of Taken (Erin Bowman) given below. Both of them present you with the main character (and hint at the people that they hold dear).

Today is the last day I will see my brother. (Taken)

Whenever possible, start your story either with your main character or the opposing force. And if you cannot begin with the opposition, then use some other minor link to it, that shows the reader what’s at stake. If you can help it, don’t wait.

Because part of what will make you a good writer, is your ability to convey emotion to your reader. To get them interested in what is going to happen to your protagonist. But to do that you will have to make them care about who your protagonist is and then eventually what he is up against. Think of Guy Montag in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
Part 1.
It was a pleasure to burn.
It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flickered the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.

And then, another part of what it takes to be a good writer is to be a good reader. Use emotion but make sure that what you present is believable. Take your readers on an emotional journey and remember to make your opening words count, like Mr. Bradbury. Or even with the two pieces below:

An icy wind seeped through the floorboards and I shivered, pulling my gray wool sweater tighter around myself. (Blackberry Winter – Sarah Jio)

I felt it coming this time. I shoved my drawings into the hidden slit I’d made in the back of my mattress, then grabbed the metal bed frame to steady myself as my brain suddenly jolted back into connection with the Link. (Glitch – Heather Anastasiu)

Although I have focused mostly on first person point-of-view stories, such openings can work no matter which person or perspective you choose. Reel your reader in. Start strong and make every word count. A strong beginning sentence, paragraph, chapter or prologue if well done can be enough to entice your reader and get them to dive in. How? Let them see your main character doing something. Or familiarize them with the story world and your opponent. Take it one step at a time, if you are a beginner or still learning some of the techniques. But make sure every word counts and whatever is said, is meant.

And until next time, keep reading, writing and blogging!

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What’s in A Name?

Naming Characters

“O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” Now, imagine if Shakespeare had misspoken, and instead named our fair compatriot Julius. Or Anthony. How would Juliet have made out? “O Julius, Julius! wherefore art thou Julius?” No. Okay, “O Anthony, Anthony! wherefore art thou Anthony?” You get the picture. Anyway, for us writers, names are very important and serve many purposes. Namely, they clue your reader in, to who your protagonist is, (and by extension, the rest of your cast of characters). Clues for example about their profession: Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple.

Make your characters memorable. I remember meeting Cormoran Strike for the first time in the Cuckoo’s Calling and being bowled away. Thinking, here is the name of a man who stands out. Who against all odds, seems different. I am certain you can remember some of the names that have stood out for you in the past. Frodo Baggins, Darth Vader. Lord Voldemort, etc. Think of reasons why these names continue to stick out. Do something similar for your characters.

One way to do this might be, to get your hands on a copy of the Character Naming Sourcebook, which someone else might have also been blogged about here. Trust me, I copied a few chapters a few weeks ago just to get started. In her 2005 book, Sherrilyn Kenyon provides 10 hints of how a writer should go about naming their characters. Choosing names from a wide range of origins, e.g. English, Dutch and Gaelic. And in case you need a little more help, she has also included advice from among a host of other well-known, published authors.

Here, though, I will mention three of them just to get you started. Rule number one, make sure that whatever name you use, captures the persona of that character. Or in other words, make sure that it means something. Does Cormoran Strike seem to you like a private investigator who gets his man? You can believe that he does. Or Hercule Poirot. Is he a man who is always using as he always says, those little grey cells (to outwit the villain). What about your character? Can you give him or her a name that says something about who they are? Brandi Daniels for example was supposed to be a kid, who like her namesake, Brandi Carlile, could be counted on to be inventive, an eventual initiator, someone who might even steal the spotlight. (Does she seem that way to you?)

Rule number eight, use genre appropriate names. Hence, Cormoran Strike and V.I Warshawski make great private investigators. But if you cat them in a romance novel, would the name still fit? Would he make a great Rhett Butler. Or could she be a Stella? Or consider Zoel Q-24, who appears in a sci-fi YA novel, called Glitch. If she was to make a crossover debut in a western alongside Longmire and Shane, would she seem appropriate. Does her name have enough heft?

And finally, the last rule. Avoid populating your fiction with the names other authors have already made famous. Say for example, Anita Blake and Harry Potter. As an aside, I should mention that after falling in love with the name Lucien in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, I used it for my messenger in The Way of the Seer. Granted he wasn’t the main character, but then again, we all have to be careful. So I pinky promise…to never do it again. Well, now that I am aware of the rule that is.

What Poetry Can Teach Us About Naming Things

For anyone who has ever read, written or discussed poetry, it should come as no surprise that it can provide you with a rare insight into how to name things. What I am referring to here, may be seen as the appropriateness of a title. Consider Rita Dove’s American Smooth, W.S. Merwin’s Yesterday or even Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. To some extent, poets have a keen sense of time and place; and nowhere else is that insight more valuable, than to the writer of fiction, poetry and playwriting. Consider, the pieces included in Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard.

It was there, that I first realized the extent to which a good name can focus your reader. Force them to see the world through your eyes. Below, I will present a few examples. Hopefully, they will serve as a guide and be as relevant to you as they were to me. The first poem is called, At Dusk.

At first I think she is calling a child,
my neighbor, leaning through her doorway
at dusk, street lamps just starting to hum…

So here, of course, the title keys us into the setting. Sometimes, the name of the novel can be about a place. e.g. Viral Nation. Sometimes it might not be apparent to you at the start of the piece, but looking back, after mulling over it, you can find a title that best serves your purpose. Something that tells the reader about the work.

The second example is called Myth. Myth like with Greek Myths.

I was asleep while you were dying.
It’s as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow
I made between slumber and my walking,…

Some of the poems from Native Guard, deal with the death of the poet’s mother. Others are about things she has learned. Myth gives you that feeling of being asleep. Being in a type of dream, like she is creating a type of myth in the way that she orchestrates the poem. In the novel, Glitch (by Heather Anastasiu), that I mentioned before, Zoel, talks about how she is changing, glitching and what would happen if anyone else found out. Is there something significant about your main character that could serve as a title? Eg. Jenny Downham’s novel, Before I Die, which like the title says is the story about a young girl who is about to die. Of course the novel, has been renamed to Now is Good; and was made into a movie that starred Dakota Fanning, but honestly I prefer the old name (even though it may seem a little bleak). It gave you a sense of what you were up against. Consider the following, the Abomination, the War of Art and 88 Killer.

The third poem is called, What the Body Can Say

Even in stone the gesture is unmistakable–
the man upright, though on his knees, spine

arched, head flung back, and covering his eyes,
his fingers spread across his face. I think

grief…

Taken in its entirety, I am sure you would be able to get the full picture of what this poem offers. Here though, I can only give you a snippet of the piece, with its gestures.  Things we cannot help seeing. Feeling. Something also expressed in the following poem, which might be a bit graphic, (content wise) because of the way it presents the image of people. But please keep an open mind, and consider the piece being located at the center of the page. With the title like the overhanging roof of a house or building.

Suji Kwock Kim’s, Occupation (taken from Notes from the Divided Country).

The soldiers
are hard at work
building a house.
They hammer
bodies into the earth
like nails,…

Kim here is making reference to the Korean War, in which her grandparents and father perished. Here though, she is only mentioning things that the people would have seen and felt. I admire the haunting nature of the things she presents. Here though, it is that sense of inhabiting a space. And what it means to be occupied. In the same way, you will have to think about what will be presented in your novel. And the type of experience you want your reader to gain. What do do you want them to see? Hear? Consider: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Lean In and Married Love.

What is your novel, poem, play about, at its core? What clues are you going to provide for your reader? Here, consider the appropriateness of the title. And if you have time, check out some of the blogs I follow. Eye-Dancers has a piece on Names called: The (Name’s) the Thing (Or, what Should I Call It?). While these four bloggers have poetry posts: FracturedGalaxies, Legends of Windemere, mysuccessisyoursuccess and Write, Write, Write, Sleep, Write. Some of them have more than others but do check them out. See how the titles of the pieces work for you, and the piece that is being presented. Then apply what you have learned to your own work, all the while, making sure that you have given subtle clues to your readers.

But above all, choose wisely. Make sure that the name says something about your character, or highlights something about your novel. So, until next time, keep reading, writing and posting. And good luck with all of your endeavours. Oh, and check back next Friday, for a post on novel beginnings.

So Far, What Did I Learn?

Above all, that writing is a process and you should always try to follow that process.

Beside that, you should follow a routine. So if you say you’re going to upload at x time on x day, do it. Or the readers will come knocking. Trust me. I’ve gotten the you’re uploading too slow and then, you’re going too fast. Either way, get a routine and stick to it. Granted, I am guessing  that this takes time, energy and effort. (My current aim is at least two a week) although I have other things lagging, and greatly admire those of you who can manage doing at least three post a week.

Anyhow, I realize that this is how you get better incrementally. If you allow yourself to follow the process. I have a habit of sometimes shifting from one thing to another, but when it comes time to focus I try to buckle down and do the work.

Gather honest feedback. Likes are good, sometimes I try to figure out if one of the pieces is better written than another because it has gotten more views. And although I cannot always tell, I’ve learned from (one of the 10 Advice for Writers by) Neil Gaiman to listen to people (key: more than one) when they tell you that something’s wrong. But don’t believe them when they tell you what that thing is (because they will most likely be wrong).

Sometimes the work surprises you. I have this habit of trying to think things through beforehand, but like I mentioned earlier, the more other things changed in the start, the more that I know my other ending would hold up – so I had to let the piece take me where it was going. A better way might have been knowing your ending and letting the other things strengthen that. Or to unify what I had already done before. But either way, surprises can sometimes be good, leading you somewhere you didn’t expect to go.

Looking back, I can see that I’ve managed to pick up a couple of things, like some of those that I’ve posted about here. Aim for clarity, using action, description and dialogue to get more substance into your fiction and finally not burying your lead.

So until Friday! Happy Posting, Reading and Writing! Keep your eyes and ears peeled for new sights and sounds.

Chapter 30: The End is Another Beginning

     Then the gong dinged.

     Brandi was no longer at the beach. Or on the shore, watching the crabs move. Instead, she was inside the beach house; viewing the projector with the Nameless One. Images flashed across the screen. Parents rushing to collect their fallen children. Trying to keep them safe.

As she stood there, she could still see Roger. Dwight leaning over the boy’s body, a hand pressed comfortingly on his arm. As if he was waiting for some motion that would never come. While Teresa’s mother nudged Brandi’s father outside the door.

A little way off, the Nameless One turned to appraise the girl. Her figure uncontrollably still, as another woman rushed through the still open door. A woman who if Brandi looked closely enough, she could almost swear, resembled her mother.

The girl blinked. Shut her eyes against the sight of undulating bodies. The sound of unruly chatter and the final stillness as the woman fell to the floor, beside Brandi’s bag. On the screen, something beeped and that sound carried her further away into the past. On another journey to uncle Ken’s hospital bed, where her mother had kept a two day vigil. Until Avery and Aunty Pam had walked in.

That had been the last time that she had seen her mother cry as she had screeched to one of the nurses that something was blocking his feeding tube. Killing him….She looked away now, feeling something well up within her throat. Feeling as though she couldn’t go on and had no reason to live, when the Nameless One walked up towards her and put an arm around her neck.

And with a voice almost as measured and controlled as uncle Ken’s she said, “This too shall pass.” The girl nodded, wiping away the stray tear, that threatened to overpower her. Dark and heavy like a flood. Sniffling, she turned her head back to the screen, forced herself to look.

At the hysterical woman who was leaning heavily against Nicholas’s arm, as though she had just received some bad news. Brandi suspected, news that concerned her own disappearance, and she bowed her head, feeling something tug at her chest. As her mother raised a hand to clamp it down over her own lips. The strands of hair that Brandi had always thought possessed a type of military precision were now flying as though, everything had been thrown to the wind. She watched her mother, hug the bag and back up into a wall, taking on the entire scene. Uncertain about what they would all call it in the end. Uncertain, about who had been brave and who would seem guilty.

She nodded towards Nicholas, thinking that he was an even better life raft than her father had been. That somehow like Roger, she knew that he would keep her mother safe. Brandi untangled herself and walked towards the screen. Stopping a few feet away, wanting to touch it, but then being unsure, afraid that like Quasi, maybe, she too would be shocked.

“Go ahead,” the Nameless One said, her voice gentle. Knowing that the girl would soon have to face her own demons and do what was necessary, for them to round up the two fugitives. As Brandi leaned forward as if considering her loss of power. The pendant glittering in Dwight’s pocket, in that other place that now seemed like something beyond.

“Everything you need is right here,” the woman said, pressing a hand to her chest. “Inside of you.”

Brandi paused as if considering the journey that she had just taken, the boy she had loved and then lost. Biting down on her bottom lip, she thought about how Roger had told her that some people could not be saved. And she remembered her uncle. Grandma Rose and Roger. He was right, she thought with a jerky movement as she looked around the room. Nicholas would see to her mother and like she’d done with Teresa, she would do whatever it was that was necessary to take care of her father. She made a step towards the Nameless One and held out her hand, “What would you have me do?”

THE END

Tune in On Monday 19th May, 2014 for the last chapter

Tune in on Monday 19th, May 2014 for the upload of the final chapter of The Way of the Seer, after which (later in the week, say Wednesday and Friday) I will present two articles on novel writing. One will be a sort of wrap up of my experience of uploading chapters and rewriting the novel over the time period that I was posting, and the next will be about naming things/names (be it character names/novel names/place names). So until next week, have a restful Sunday and a very productive week.

Chapter 29: The Thing About Reality

Her friend had tried to warn her. But there was no scathing predicament. No tumultuous outcome that could have prepared her for this. Nothing that the Nameless One hadn’t told her about half a dozen times before. To become a Seer. There are rules. Rules you must follow.

Brandi heard those last few words now and everything passed through her. Even the image of the man at the door. She shook her head. Sad that her mistake had come at such a high price. And so instead of going to the man, she rushed over to Roger, because this price was too steep. Something she couldn’t pay. Wouldn’t.

The man followed her with his head as if waiting for her to say something. Do something, as she picked up the boy’s body and brought it closer to her chest. Even as she wiped away the tears that were trying to force themselves out through her closed lids. She put her lips to her arm, trying to strangle an already muffled cry. As she kissed Roger, hoping to bring him back to life.

“It’s going to be okay,” she said, rocking him as though he were a baby. Then, her eyes went to Teresa. If it wasn’t for Teresa, she was almost certain, everything would be alright. Her eyes opened. Closed. Opened. She tilted her head down, focusing on the silver charm bracelet and bit her bottom lip. Tasted, the metallic tinge that she suspected was blood. And needing to be vindicated. She swore. The way she had heard Teresa do it over the phone, that first time, when they had been discussing Roger.

“Like a vine that grows in the deep, dark forest, may you be turned into something that no one can fix.” She held up a hand, dropping the boy as Teresa raised her head. Stricken, her eyes darting around the room, as she looked for some way to explain her actions. Brandi took a step forward. Continued. “May you forever suffer like you’ve made me suffer. May you see the world through another’s eyes.”

Teresa lifted her hands in the air. “This isn’t what it looks like.” The girl let go of the spray can. “My mother…”

Brandi raised a hand to her lips as though she had already heard too much when Stephanie rushed into the room. Her eyes focusing on the fallen boy.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid youth,” she said, her eyes going towards Brandi, who appeared too dazed to even see her.

But even as the young woman stopped to look at the brazen girl, another type of transformation had already begun as Teresa fell to the ground and groaned. It sounded as if she had been cursed.

Bringing her hands to her lips, Brandi watched the girl grow. Like vines, her hands reached out to touch the pendant, and when they connected, there was a spark. The hand drew back. Brandi smiled at the aborted attack and licked her lips as her friend’s bracelet dropped from her wrist. At her side, Stephanie changed shape, transforming into an older version of Teresa. Brandi watched her sudden appearance and realized for a second that her face seemed familiar. She took a deep breath, her mind finally making the link between this woman and the person in her parent’s wedding photograph.

Brandi felt something in her gut shift. Wrench free. As the woman took a step towards the man purporting to be her father. Like a reunited couple, they joined hands. Clasped wrists.

There would be no saving herself, she thought, watching Quasimodo assume her un-natural shape. Near the door, Lucien appeared and Brandi steeled herself as he took a step towards Roger, knelt, and placed a ball within his closed fist.

Doggedly, she gazed at them. Her face consumed with rage. It took a few minutes, but eventually she stilled herself. Yanking off the pendant, she threw it at the messenger, telling him that she had had enough of his games. When he removed the red baseball cap, everything within her shifted as she realized that she was staring into the face of Dwight. The boy she had once told that he was connected to Roger.

She looked at him glumly as if sad for the way things had turned out. While he pocketed the pendant and buried his face in his hands.

It was then that the other man, her father, stepped forward. Touching her arm as Brandi sniffled, his hands reaching around to embrace her neck. “In the end, I’m glad you did what you did,” he said, kissing her cheek. His face solemn.

She looked at him, perplexed as he too appeared more familiar. Younger. She let go of him, moving backwards to put some space between them. As she caught sight of something forming on his wrist. A string of rosary beads and a familiar pendant.

“Did you cause this?” she asked, her eyes going briefly to the other woman. The broken window. The dying fire and then at Roger.

He shook his head, touching her chest. “No. You were the one who wanted to come here.” He nodded. “The one who thought that having a mysterious object would make you great.”

She stiffened, realizing that it had all been a mistake. Because he had never been who she had wanted him to be. A mirage. She shook her head. Part of her imagination. She looked at Dwight comforting his fallen son. Roger. The boy who had tried to save her. How her mother and Nicholas had also been trying to make her do the right thing. To see beyond everything that was there. She bit her lips, knowing that she would miss them. But there was no other way. No other choice.

“You’re wrong,” she said, going over to her bag and unzipping it. She removed the document she had signed earlier that morning and waved it in the air, as if it were a peace treaty. Cease fire. Or truce. “Unlike you, I choose to forget. To move past my fantasies and step into the future.”

And she closed her eyes and imagined herself back on the beach. Certain that she would have to pay for what she had done to Teresa but almost sure that her mother at least would be safe.

Chapter 28: Putting Up a Fight

At first nothing happened, and then Brandi looked across at Teresa, wondering if the girl had some sort of protection spell, because, somehow her ex-friend always seemed to know what to do. Where she was going. Brandi glanced down. Noticing for the first time, the open bottle of water beside Teresa’s desk, and the soil, strewn haphazardly across the floor.

No, it can’t be, she thought, holding her head. She gazed through the open window and felt breeze. A shiver ran down her spine as a flash of recognition flit across Teresa’s face. There was something in her eyes. Brandi peered closer, hearing a rugged breath. The girl was up to something, she was almost certain, as the overhead light fluttered briefly and then died. Brandi kicked her school bag, up, bringing it closer to her chest, as the hissing sound paused and then she saw a flash of light and then smelt smoke.

Her eyes travelled around the room, until she caught sight of the metal receptacle and made the connection with the flames. Near the door, she could think of no way out without first getting past Teresa. She extended an arm, reaching out to capture her, but there was nothing there. Only air, smoke and shadow. She grunted aloud, her fist connecting with the wall, before she took a few deep breaths and tried to think. She thought of Roger. Tried to focus.

Then she picked up the sound of the chant beginning again.

“Darkest of night and brightest of day, help me to see with sight beyond sight.” She stiffened, trying to get a reading on Teresa’s location when a hand clapped down over her mouth. She eased her elbow back with a sharp force and heard a deep grunt, forgetting the slightly musky fragrance of the sea and the overbearing force of the chant.

“Roger. Is that you?” she asked, the bent figure.

He straightened, holding his stomach. “No. It’s your evil twin.” He motioned towards the door, turning back to her seeming cross. “Remind me never to try any covert moves when we’re dating.”

Her face slackened into a smile, before he turned her to see Teresa. Once again, standing in front of the door, the girl had her arms stretched out like a martyr, as the flames lapped around them, seeming to engulf the room.

Their classmates screamed. The teacher barked inaudible orders. And Roger yanked her arm. “Follow me.”

And then, something exploded.

The windows shattered, and she yelled for them to get down. Already forgetting about the explosion when she brought her hands to her lips, wiped and saw blood. Beside her, Roger sat up dazedly, and pulled back her hair. “I’m going to get you out of this.” He promised, his lips brushing against her cheek as he pulled her closer.

Silently, she nodded, leaning into him, knowing that they would also have to tend to the others.  Little by little, as the smoke began to clear, she could make out some of the injured students who were lying on the floor. Looking into a few faces, she saw their confusion. Fright. Remembered what it had felt like when she had been trapped in the diner and was trying to escape. How Nicholas had been the one to tell her what to do. When to move.

Beside the door, she saw the height of the flames growing taller and somehow she knew that if they waited any longer her friend’s power would become too great. She squeezed Roger hand. Stood up. This time, she told herself, she would not cower. She would not run.

By her side, Roger got to his feet, as she pointed to the desks, that were barring them from going through the windows. Roger looked at her, following her gaze. Prepared to move towards the back. “Okay,” he said, nodding at her. “This time, we’ll do it your way.” Brandi smiled, watching him go as she turned towards the door to go after her old friend. Trying her best to figure out what was going on inside her head, when she looked up through the narrow opening and caught sight of another figure, who was only a few feet shy of the door.

The small fire had spread beyond the front desk and she gave Roger a thumbs up signal, indicating that she was ready to move. He motioned to a few boys, got them to help move the injured students off to the side before they tackled the windows.

Brandi touched the pendant for luck. Breathing life back into it, as the room began to spin. She swallowed down the doubt that was rising in her throat, as Teresa took one giant step towards her. Now or never, she thought, thinking about her mother. Now or never.

Teresa dropped the book of spells. Closing her fists, she went for Brandi, swinging furiously until she ducked. Teresa grunted, stooping forward and shoving her into one of the desks. Brandi screamed, feeling a sharp pain where the edge collide with her hip. Then she groaned, staggered backwards. Her eyes never leaving Teresa’s. There was an almost satisfied smile on her lips and for a few seconds Brandi tried to catch her breath as Teresa lunged forward.

Brandi stood there waiting for it. Dropping her head a few inches, so that she could deliver her own crushing blow, as she head butted Teresa into a wall. Blood ran down her chin and Brandi felt the heat in the room rising.

“Get them out of here now!” she shouted at Roger, no longer sure that she could contain the other girl’s fury.

A few heads turned their way and someone jeered.

As Teresa reached for the can of hairspray. Brandi kicked it away under the desk, trying to placate her with a joke. She touched her own hair playfully, holding her other hand up as if it were a mirror and shook her head. “Honestly if I had known that you needed to be hooked up, I would have taken you somewhere. I mean, my mother knows somebody, who knows somebody…”

Teresa growled, her eyes turning towards Roger before she dove under the desk. Brandi looked across at the almost empty room, and let out a sigh, wondering why she still felt afraid, when there was nothing for her to be afraid of.

She heard the sound of a chain. Or something being pulled and her eyes went to the door again. “Is there someone out there?” she asked, as Teresa’s head rose from beneath the desk. Brandi frowned, concerned about the girl’s somewhat ashen pallor, as the hiss of flames began again.

Brandi fell to her knees, coughing. Closing her eyes against the acrid scent as Roger turned back to get her. Instinctively, she brought a hand up. Told him to stop, but he only shook his head, waited as Teresa raised her palm and jingled the charms on her wrist.

Roger gave her friend a disdainful look, pointing towards the door. “You’re not supposed to be here.” Teresa straightened up as if somehow knowing what she was supposed to do, her hand reaching out for the canister as she spoke a few words. Aiming directly for his chest.

Unaware, Brandi turned back, confused. “What about Teresa?”

His eyes flared open as he shrieked, catapulting himself into the girl. Brandi watched the exchange, holding her breath. Clawing at the pendant, she wondered why she couldn’t see anything. As Roger shook his head, uttering his final words, “Some of us cannot be saved.”

Brandi staggered backward, her fingers cutting through the glass, as another image appeared. Her body aching to get back to Roger as he crumpled to the floor.

Teresa looked down elated, opening the door, where an old man with a stick, had appeared, dressed all in black. His image seemed to mock Brandi as he extended a hand for her to shake.

“They tell me you’re my daughter.”