Do you feel like this blog has gotten repetitive? I do. There are reasons for that. Good, valid, understandable reasons. Right now, however, I’m in the mindset where they just sound like excuses, so rather than get into those, I’m going to break with routine, ditch the checklist and instead, share exactly what I’ve been doing by … sharing exactly what I’ve been doing.
I’m currently focusing on Chapter 7 of my rewrite. For comparisons sake, here are two scenes as they were originally written back in November last year:
The night air was cold enough it burned Nate’s lungs as he inhaled. He breathed it out deliberately, his weight on the fire-escape rail. The vibrations of the DJ set could still be felt through the emergency door behind him, while the stairs creaked in the occasional wind.
Nothing had gone right all day. Gunn’s insinuations lingered unpleasantly, and made Aki’s usual dramatics unbearable. Nate had finally snapped at him with the result that Aki was not responding to any of the messages he’d sent, and Nate was on the fire escape on his break, trying to clear his head.
To top it off, all day long there’d been sirens. Even now he could hear the distant whine. The sound got straight under his skin and Nate’s fingers clenched around the metal railing. He could be back in Little River in hours. The bus depot was only a subway ride away, and there were always seats on the buses out of the city.
Nate ran his fingers over the wristband. A nice thought – but that was all it was. No way was Denise going to let him out of his contract. Not only were the wristbands a sizable investment, but Nate had taken out a loan against his future earnings. If they were going to keep the farm–
No. Nate straightened. He was seeing this through like Pa had taught them, and if any vampire or S.I.D officer thought they were going to stop him—
“They can bite me.”
Maybe not the best choice of words, but Nate felt better for it. After all, Aki couldn’t stay mad forever and Ben—
Ben wasn’t coming back.
New Camden’s nightglow obscured the stars, but Nate always looked, a habit unbroken by six months in the city. He lingered on the fire escape, not quite ready to return to cleaning.
A car horn blared.
Nate glanced towards the sound. The single figure crossing the street did not react to the car that swerved to avoid him. He continued down the pavement as unaware of the pedestrians as he was his own narrow escape. Nate found his newfound resolution replaced by a hollow feeling in his stomach as he took the emergency stairs two at a time.
What the hell was Ben doing?
“Ben!” Nate was out of breath by the time he caught up to the vampire two blocks later. “Did you even look before you crossed the road?” Ben didn’t even pause. Frustrated, Nate caught his arm. “It’s one thing to ignore me, but that’s the second car—“
The vampire made no reply. Instead he simply looked through Nate.
If he could have moved, the absence in Ben’s eyes would have forced Nate to step back. There was no recognition in his gaze, no hesitation as he glanced down to Nate’s hand. Ben did not seem to expend any energy, but the casual shove left Nate sprawled on the pavement.
The sting of the concrete was real. Nate drew a shaky breath. His hand was grazed where it had broken his fall, but the hurt shook off that strange feeling of unreality. Nate took a moment to steady himself and limped after Ben.
The night had the same feeling of wrong as a nightmare. It took Nate some time to pinpoint why, and then he felt even worse. Ben didn’t react to anything he passed. Drunks yelling raucously at him, cars slamming on their brakes, a guy actually getting in his face as Ben brushed by him. He moved as if he was the only one on the path.
“This is seriously creepy. Even for your – brood.” Ben didn’t slow his pace as they left the nightclub district, entered the quieter streets of the old town. “Please, man. Snap out of this. You’re freaking me out.“
Nate didn’t expect it to work. The way Ben was acting, it was like he was being controlled–
“Fuck.” How did you fight something powerful enough to work on a vampire? Holy water? Like hell he was getting Ben into a church. Nate was no lightweight, but Ben had knocked him to the curb like it was nothing–
Nate drew in a breath as Ben’s path led them towards an old stone bridge. Close enough.
The important thing was not to think. Nate was sure that he was going to regret tackling a vampire off of a bridge without making it worse by anticipating it.
He was right.
The coldness of the water was shock all on its own. Between that and the impact of their fall, Nate lost his hold on Ben. He collided blindly with the rock of the riverbed. Thoroughly disoriented, he breathed in water. There were a few frantic moments of struggle before he found the surface. Spluttering for breath, Nate staggered to his feet–
–and felt a fear colder than the river water.
Ben stood before him. The single streetlight reflected off the river water and illuminated his eyes. Nate saw the same feral quality he’d seen for an instant in Hunter’s eyes at the club. As Ben drew breath, the sharp edges of his fangs were clearly visible.
This was it, the instinct Todd had warned him about. So inevitable Nate did not think to run–
And then with obvious effort, Ben shook himself. “Nate.” His voice was tight and angry but still his. “What was that?”
“Oh thank god. You’re you.”
Ben wrung water out of his coat as they stood on the bank. “Blood magic. Worked expertly. I’m lucky you were here.”
Nate shrugged, his arms wrapped around himself against the bitter cold. “Had to do something.”
Ben frowned. “This is only a temporary reprieve. For me to be as unaware of my surroundings as you described indicates a strong link. They’ll know their control has been broken and they’ll try again.” Ben held out his coat. “Here.”
“Very.” There was the slight ironic smile that Nate remembered. “I can’t catch my death of cold.”
And here, for comparison is the version I am working on right now:
The cold night air burned Nate’s throat. It had an after-taste of smoke, a scummy stickiness like that of the fire-escape rail he rested on. The vibrations of the DJ set he’d come outside to avoid rattled the rusty stairs. At least the reinforced emergency door shut out the club’s sound, if not the street. Somewhere in the dark a woman laughed, and a man murmured in response, low and attentive.
Nate’s lip curled. I cannot win. Gunn’s insinuations lingered and he’d argued with Aki. Seriously argued, leading to Nate spending his break on the hated fire-escape, ignoring his phone.
The shrill wail of a siren filled the night. Nate’s fingers clenched around the rail. Just perfect. The sound got straight under his skin. They’d been going all day. Every police car in the city must have driven through downtown at least twice.
I take back everything I ever said about the frogs at night. Christ. Nate would choose the endlessly repeated marshy bellows, travelling across the smooth slope of the field all the way up to the porch where he sat with Ethan, over the mosquito-whine of the sirens a million times. He looked up, but instead of stars scattered like seed across the sky, Nate saw only the bland expanse of light pollution. The absence caught in his chest. Bus depot’s only one subway stop away. There’s always seats going out of the city – could be home in a matter of hours.
Nate smirked, imagining Ma’s surprise at seeing him, even as he toyed with the edge of the wristband. He wasn’t leaving. He knew that. The farm—
It all came back to the farm.
Nate straightened. Aki wouldn’t stay mad at him forever. Gunn paid him another friendly visit and Nate would refer him to Denise for daytime rates. And the vampire clan—
“Can bite me.”
–not the best choice of words, but Nate didn’t care. He was through with Hunter, and Ben—
He wasn’t going to see Ben again.
The screech of brakes was followed immediately by a blaring horn. Nate glanced towards the street. He saw a car lurch forward, engine revving in annoyance at the sudden start and stop. And in the gap left by its absence, he saw a familiar figure turn and walk calmly into the night crowd.
Nate was down the fire escape and on the street in seconds. “Ben!” He lost precious seconds waiting for a break in the traffic. By the time Nate reached the opposite footpath there was no sign of the vampire’s diminutive form. Nate jogged down the street in the direction he’d taken, scanning the crowd for Ben’s wispy hair. Goddamnit, where is he?
“Watch it — jerk!’”
Nate doubled back to duck down a side street towards the angry voice. He had a hunch.
He was right. Nate dodged the angry man getting to his feet, and wove through the bystanders who’d stopped to gawk.
“Young people these days. No manners—”
“See his face? No expression, nothing!”
An older woman shuddered, turning to her male companion confidingly. “If you ask me, drugs—”
Nate barely avoided a second collision. He put on an extra burst of speed to catch Ben up at the next corner. “Ben! The hell are you doing?”
Ben continued his unhurried pace.
“I’m serious here – did you even see the car?” Nate caught his arm.
Ben turned. His eyes, emotionless, slid over Nate without recognition. He didn’t seem to expend any energy, stretching out his arm almost as an afterthought, but Nate felt his casual shove as if it had been a punch.
The sting of the concrete as he collided with the pavement was a relief. It had the harsh shock of reality, and Nate anchored himself in the throbbing of his grazed palm. The night felt as unreal as a nightmare, but the pain made it real. Which meant that the danger—
Nate limped after him.
“I thought it was zombies that did the whole brain-dead thing. Vampires are supposed to be smart.”
Ben reacted to Nate’s commentary the same way he’d reacted to a last set of traffic lights, the righteously angry driver and the jeering pedestrian – not at all. It made Nate sick. The further they walked, the more deserted the streets became.
“Your point about vampires being creepy fucks is well and truly made. Seriously, snap out of this!” Nate didn’t expect it to work, but he was getting desperate. Ben was acting as if he was being controlled—
“That’s it, isn’t it? Someone is pulling your strings.”
Just like Brook. Knowing what had happened only made it worse. This was everything Ben was afraid of – and he’d been unable to prevent it. “Chances of you staying put while I grab some holy water?”
Ben kept walking. His steady pace was leading them directly towards the Old Town, where the evenly distributed and well laid-out streets of broader downtown reluctantly conceded to the winding stone paved roads of the original city.
Not that there’d be a church open this time of night. Nate started to jog as Ben reached a bridge. He couldn’t risk losing the vampire to the next dark turn—
Wait. Where there was a bridge there was usually water–
This doesn’t work, we’re screwed. Nate didn’t let himself think about it. Tackling a vampire off a bridge was bad enough without making it worse with anticipation.
The chill of the water was as much of a shock as the impact of the fall. Nate’s shoulder collided with the rock of the riverbed and he let go of Ben. Air forced its way out of his mouth and water rushed into replace it. He choked and struggled to find ‘up,’ so disorientated, it took the sound of his own spluttering breath for Nate to know he’d reached the surface. The sodden coveralls dragged him down as Nate staggered to his feet. He glanced up–
–and felt a fear colder than the river.
Ben stood on the bank. The streetlight illuminated clearly the feral light of inhuman eyes, the sharp edges of his fangs clearly visible as he bared his teeth.
This is it. The instinct Gunn had warned him about, the change the premonition had foretold. It was inevitable. So inevitable, Nate could not even make himself move.
Ben shook himself with obvious effort. “Nate.” His voice was tight and angry but his. “What was that?”
“Oh thank god. You’re you.”
Ben wrung water out of his coat as they stood on the bank. “Blood magic. Worked expertly.”
Nate wrapped his arms around himself. Somehow, it was even colder out of the river. “You’re welcome.”
Ben looked from the surrounding buildings back to Nate with a frown. “Welcome?”
Nate stared Ben down. “I saved your life.”
The flickering streetlight caught the startled expression that crossed Ben’s face. “You did.”
Does saving a life not count if the guy’s already dead? “What?”
Ben shook his head. “Nothing. I – wasn’t expecting it, that’s all. Not—” His mouth twisted wryly, “–after the way we parted last time.”
“You mean the way you vanished on me.” Nate took a deep breath. The adrenalin of the stream and their escape was still pounding in his veins, spoiling for a fight, but Ben wasn’t his enemy. “I’m not sorry for what I said to you the other night, but Gunn told me about de Silver.”