Okay, there’s two blogfests that I’m participating in today. First off, the Origins blogfest, where I’m supposed to talk a bit about my origin story as a writer and storyteller.
The first story idea I ever remember coming up with, I was probably six years or so, and it involved – I kid you not, the adventures of a native Canadian boy, living near the site of Sydney, Nova Scotia, before Europeans came to Canada, and an iron mine and blacksmithy. My mother did try to tell me that she didn’t think the Native Canadians mined for iron or worked with it in that time, but I just didn’t care.
There isn’t much more to the story for several years. Coming through my ‘middle grade’ years, I remember being very convinced that I could write science fiction and fantasy if I worked at it, and managed to finish a few short stories on our family computer, a PC-XT clone. One of them involved a murder mystery at a school for wizards, (Pre-Harry-Potter, but I was probably influenced by the Roke School in Tales from Earthsea,) where all the main characters had miniature dragons as pets in brilliant gemstone colors. (So there’s a bit of influence from ‘Dragonsinger’ as well.) And I actually submitted a science fiction tale to a magazine, that was more than a little bit like ‘Wesley Crusher gets a peer group’ – a handful of bright, precocious teenagers all working as unofficial pre-cadets on a starship, and signing up for a space warfare tactics competition as a team.
Okay, that’s enough origin story I think, moving on to Blogfest 2. The Hook Line and Sinker blogfest calls for a 500-1000 word hook, and I’ve got to go with the opening to my new novel idea, ‘The Scroll:’
Will heard something, and looked out beyond the loading dock before realizing that the sound hadn’t been what he was expecting – not a van entering the parking area, but running shoes against the asphalt. For a second he panicked, wondering if the entire plan had gone wrong, if this was somebody from the University sent to intercept the package before he could secure it. But then he spotted the person running around the corner of the building, recognized her, and a smile broke out on his face. He left the museum, went down the stairs and stretched out his arms for a hug. Mandy took a moment to catch her breath before nestling in against one of his shoulders, her auburn ponytail brushing the side of his face.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Will asked. “I thought that you were just going to call me from the campus library.”
“Yeah, but I couldn’t concentrate, so I headed for the subway,” she said. “Don’t worry – I’m not going to hang around all night, while you study your new masterpiece.”
“Well, it’s great to see you.” Will smiled. “Especially tonight.”
“I was hoping to slip in the usual way, but you must have already locked it.” Mandy said as they walked towards the loading steps with arms around each other.
“Yeah, there’s only one open way in or out of the museum.” Will pointed up to the door above them. “And it looks like the delivery is more or less on time.”
The driver of the unmarked olive van didn’t bother backing up to the loading dock – he just parked six feet away from Will and Mandy and jumped down out of the cab. “Mister Peterman!” He held out a protective tube, two feet long and three inches in diameter, and Will took the package before any mischance might strike.
“Thank you, Keith,” he said. “For not coming tonight.”
“You’re welcome for nothing.” Keith nodded and got back into his vehicle to drive away.
“And so simply, in the dead of night, the course of history changed,” Mandy said. “As Will Peterman was handed the oldest surviving human writings yet discovered…”
“We don’t know that they’re that old, yet.” But Will couldn’t help the grin on his face. “Okay, do you want to come inside with me?”
Mandy smiled, shook her head, and took a look at the screen of her cell phone. “Any idea how long you’re going to be?”
Will leaned over to consult the clock reading on the phone. “After the subway stops running.”
“I’ll wake up and ask you how it went when you crawl into bed.”
Will chuckled, bent down to kiss her one more time, and watched as she ran off in the direction of Bloor Street. Mandy turned when she was nearly out of sight, saw him still standing in the parking lot, and called just loudly enough that he could make out the words, “Get that thing locked up! Angry palaeographers from U of T could be here any minute!”
He waved an agreement and headed back up across the loading dock and into the museum, locking the door behind him. He’d been the one to find out about this Iranian Scroll, and gone to Doctor Lyon in the U of T history department for her help in putting together a bid to get to study it together. A week later he found that U of T was proceeding alone and locking the museum out. That left Will with a choice – to put his ambitions on hold, or skirt the rules.
Once inside, Will filled out the paperwork that would process this scroll into the Ancient Writings research collection at the museum, which would stop the University from transferring it back to themselves with a routine inquiry. Once those formalities were complete, he spread the delicate material and started to examine the writing.
The alphabet looked like Phoenician, so that Will could start to sound out the words. But there was something weird. There were two different kinds of passages in the length of scroll that Will had spread out – each passage a sentence or a few sentences long. The longer passages didn’t have any vowel indicators at all, just like classical Phoenician tended to avoid them. The words weren’t in Phoenician, maybe Old Persian, but he didn’t really know that much about Old Persian. He could start researching it tonight – or ask McCauley in the morning; McCauley was an expert on Old Persian manuscripts using the Persian alphabet.
But the shorter passages, a sentence here, two there – they were using a lot of letters that he’d never seen used with the Phoenician alphabet before, and from their placement in the words Will thought that they were indicating vowel sounds – there were at least twelve different vowel letters, and the words that they spelled out didn’t look like Old Persian.
Will grinned. This was the kind of challenge that he’d been looking forward to, and it was all his. He fetched a shiny ballpoint pen and a large pad of note-paper, and started to break down the pattern, checking his computer for details on the known Phoenician markings for vowels to use as a starting point.
After half an hour, Will had nearly finished a pronunciation guide for the mystery language. He was sounding out possible pronunciations of one long sentence, and reached out to make a note on which marking meant a long ‘ee’ sound, but the pen wasn’t where he’d left it on the table. Frustrated, he checked on the floor first, to see if it had somehow fallen off.
The floor turned up pen-less, so he looked around the rest of his cubicle, and was astonished when he finally spotted the little silvery cylinder, because it was hovering in mid-air, a foot and a half above the pad of note-paper.
So, are you hooked? 🙂