[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com (temporarily closed for update). Wipe your feet before entering.]
TASYIN OF THE WICKED WATCH
Hello All! Melanie here.
It’s been a couple weeks since we last heard from our heroes in Cradensburg, NH. Tryxy the demon was getting ready for his second semester at Miskatonic Online University and Writer X has been enjoying a suddenly productive writing streak. It seems that Tod Boadkins has recovered enough from Second Book Syndrome to start writing again.
However, they have an entirely new problem on their hands as a result.
Without further ado…
Subject: Last Will and Testamints
I’m writing you in case we don’t live to see morning.
There comes a time when every writer looks at their unfinished, nine-book, epic fantasy saga and wonders if the’ll live to write chapter fifty six of the first installment. Or instead, if they’ll be slain in cold blood by a muscly, scary man with a tattooed mouth before the world discovers they have lost the next big epic fantasy writer of all time before she ever became rich and famous.
Anyhoo, I’m sure you’re dying to know how my writing is going. As you know, I’ve written three AMAZING short stories—or at least I know that they’ll be amazing once I pull them out of your refrigerator.
But then THIS whole ordeal started and I began to ask if ANY of my characters were popping off the page!!!!! THEN, just when I finally get some ideas how to make my already perfect characters EVEN MORE PERFECT, I find out I’m going to be killed by this stupid archer mage launching ghostly arrows into our siding before I can even figure out what makes my character’s tick!!!!!!!
My writing and living-through-the-night woes all started two weeks ago when my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, was invited to contribute to a local Sword & Sorcery fantasy anthology. He began a novelette taking place in the same universe as his Broken Tides novel but he’s had some trouble with it and hasn’t been able to finish it.
“Something’s not right,” he said. “I can’t figure out an ending, and I think the problem has to do with the characters. But I can’t put my finger on it.”
I asked: “Did you make them sexy??? Did you give them purple eyes and white hair??? Did you make them an orphaned farm boy and/or Dursley nephew that ultimately is the creator or destroyer of all worlds????? Have you written an unnecessary brothel scene???” Of course, Gladys, I was giving him the BEST writing advice, but he’s a little hard-headed and so he just stared stupidly through the windshield like he hadn’t heard me as the rain drummed against the car.
We were sitting in the parking lot on Dead Mist Hill waiting to pick up Tryxy after his personal training session. Tryxy’s been complaining that he’s put on the infamous “freshman fifteen” and wanted to start off the fall semester with a gym regimen so that he stays “looking like a snack” as he calls it. In case you don’t know what the “freshman fifteen” is Galdsy, it’s the fifteen or so pounds a person puts on in their freshman year at college. Also known as the “freshman spread.”
With Tryxy burning all those calories in the gym, I felt safe opening up an econo bag of cheetos and eating to pass the time until I could figure out how to explain to my boyfriend that he needed to make his character’s eyes purple.
Just as I opened my mouth to say that violet eyes are a sign of an award winning story, a flash of lightning went off, lighting up the misted hill beside the gym parking lot. The fog was shot through with white light, revealing a muscled figure with a woolen hood and either a long, savage bow on their back or a pickle ball paddle, it was hard to say.
“Did you see that?” my boyfriend asked. He squinted at the hill, but everything was dark again. “Did that guy look weird to you?”
“He looks like your ordinary pickle ball player,” I said. “He’s probably just leaving the gym.”
Between you and me Gladys, I’ve had to do a lot of emotional labor lately for my chosen family. Tryxy’s been having a hard time. He’s grumpy because he’s calorie deprived. That, and they just came out with pumpkin spice lattes and his personal trainer says he can’t have them because they’re too loaded with sugar and YOU KNOW TRYXY LIVES FOR PUMPKIN SPICE LATTES. You can’t hold his grumpiness against him. He’s still the sweetest boy deep down. Demons don’t do well on diets!!!!
I’ve also had to keep an eye on my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins. He’s been working hard at that novelette and drinking too much coffee. Now he’s paranoid all the time. Just the other day, he thought our neighbor’s cute lil’ Pomeranian was a disguised Chimera who slips outside and rings our doorbell in the middle of the night.
When the doorbell went off at 1:27 a.m. last night, my boyfriend still hadn’t fallen asleep and so he sat straight up in bed and yelled, “It’s the Pomeranion Chimera again! Those neighbors need to keep their chimera inside!” and I yelled that it was the probably a glitch of the new security system we installed to protect my beloved collection of Faberge eggs.
As you can see, I’ve had my hands full Galdsy!!!!
Now what was I saying???
Right. The pickle ball player!!!!!
Tryxy came out of the gym and threw himself in the backseat of the car. When I asked him how his training session went, he growled, “Everything hurts! I can’t even have pumpkin spice and I’m turning into a puddle!”
Then, he turned into a puddle for the rest of the drive home.
We hadn’t seen the last of the pickle ball player!!!! I saw him standing on the side of the road facing us as we drove through the covered bridge. He had black marks around his mouth as though someone had sewn his lips shut.
“It’s the pickle ball player!!!” I yelled.
My boyfriend jumped, “Where?”
I licked the cheetos sludge from my fingers and adjusted the rearview mirror so that my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins could see him.
My boyfriend’s face blanched when he saw the person in the rearview mirror. “Sh*t,” he hissed. “That’s not a pickle ball player.”
“Who is it?” I asked.
“That’s Tasyin of the Wicked Watch.”
I’m not sure you know this, Gladsy, but objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are. Tasyin of the Wicked Watch took two deadly strides and leapt onto the hood of our car. Even in the rain we heard his deep, resounding voice invoking horrific arcane words. Turns out his mouth wasn’t sewn shut.
“Sh**********************t!” my boyfriend wailed, getting louder as he approached the end of the swear word. It’s like his foot and his vocal chords were fused. The louder he got, the harder he slammed on the accelerator, swerving this way and that, trying to throw the pickle ball player off the roof but he was stuck on there good, Gladys!!!!!!1 “He’s summoning the Wicked Watch!”
“How do you know this guy and what does he want from you???” I asked.
“He’s my character!”
We fishtailed over the bridge and up Farm Hill Road trying to lose the pickle ball player. That’s when the enormity of the situation hit me, Gladys. I clung to my cheetos. The pickle ball player sent an icy arrow through the roof. The spectral arrow head stopped just short of my favorite pink sombrero.
“Award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkin,” I cried. “Why aren’t MY characters coming to life and trying to kill us?????”
But my boyfriend was too preoccupied with trying to escape before the Wicked Watch arrived. He drove straight for Bender Rd because it’s unpaved and is the most pitted dirt road in all of Cradensburg. We bumped and lurched over that road so hard my teeth kept clacking. My cheetos were shaking all over the place, on the dash, on the floor, on Tryxy’s puddle (I think it lightened his mood a little.)
The roar of the rain turned into a lamenting, hissing wail. It sounded almost exactly when you and I were surrounded by banshees back in ninth grade.
“Sh*******t!” my boyfriend screamed. “The Wicked Watch is arriving. We’re dead. We’re worse than dead.”
Fortunately for us, however, my boyfriend lost control of the car and drove through someone’s picket fence and barbwire orchard. The barbwire orchard caught the woolen hood of the pickle ball player just as he unleashed another spectral arrow through the roof of the car. We were able to get away and drive home where we could lock ourselves in, activate the security system, and regroup.
Tryxy, of course, gave up being a puddle and stomped downstairs into his basement abyss where he turned on an episode of Golden Girls and crunched angrily on a celery stick.
“Do you think we lost him???” I asked my boyfriend after checking on my Faberge eggs.
My boyfriend was a deathly shade of gray. “I don’t think so. X, I think he’s going to kill us and add our souls to the Wicked Watch.”
I thought this was preposterous. “This is preposterous,” I said. “It’s your character. What’s his weakness?? If anybody knows his weakness, it’s you!!! All we have to do is hit him where it hurts and we can get Tryxy and go watch a movie or something.”
“First of all, Tryxy’s in no mood to watch a movie.” My boyfriend’s face became lined with something like remorse. “Secondly, I designed this character to have no weaknesses. You know how he clung to the car in the rain while we swerved over a bridge? That’s because he he trained with fighting monks in the mountains of Telekrahm.”
He began to tell me of the characters many perfections: he was immortal, he was both strong and agile, he was an adept mage who had seized the horn of Evernaught when he was just seven years old, he was humble, even animals loved him.
“What about those lines on his mouth that make it look sewn shut???”
“Magical tattoos. He can only use his voice for invocation. Every other time, it’s as though his mouth is sewn shut so he doesn’t give away the king’s secrets.”
“What about his love life???? Can’t we write a letter to his sweetheart and tell them to come and get him like when you came and got me from that horse party???”
“No sweetheart. He doesn’t love. He doesn’t need love.”
And the conversation pretty much went on like this until I said. “Why don’t we just ask Tryxy to help us???” Then my boyfriend gave me a flat look like I should already know the answer and I said, “Pretend I didn’t say that.”
I may have looked cool and calm and wise and fashionable and powerful, Gladys, but deep down inside I was shaken. Here I was with my boyfriend’s characters jumping out of his stories, BUT WHAT ABOUT MINE????
Did this mean that he was a better writer than me???? I kept seeing all of my characters dancing through my head with dunce caps on their heads!!!! I threw open my laptop and pulled open the pages of my still unfinished epic fantasy saga and scanned them to see if Fenchin was as cool as I remembered her. In the meanwhile, my boyfriend did his best to make sure all the windows were locked and secure any weaknesses in our state of the art security system including the titanium reinforced siding.
Tasyin the Pickle Ball Player arrived. He stood in our driveway and glared up at me through our bedroom window, fingering his bow and slowly notching a spectral arrow. His chiseled face reminded me of a swimsuit model except for the black lines that ran from his nose to his chin, looking all the world like they were blackened and bloody sinews and not only magical tattoos.
That’s when I had a brilliant idea!!!!!
“Honey,” I cried. “That’s it!!!!! Your character is too perfect!!!! That’s why you can’t write an ending. You have to write some kind of weakness into him!!!! And also save us.”
I’m a genius, Gladys, but you knew that.
“What, like an Achilles heel?”
“More like an Achilles Inferiority Complex!!!! Quick!!! Get your story!!!!”
Tasyin the Pickle Ball Player launched spectral arrows into the titanium shielding of our siding. My boyfriend dug out his iPad and pulled open his novelette. His gaze zigzagged the screen as he searched for places to write weaknesses into his character—anything that would give us a chance of destroying him or sending him back to the pages of the book where he belonged.
“Have to do it before he summons the Wicked Watch again!” he said.
It was already too late. The pickle ball player began his deadly chanting. The wind began to howl.
And our neighbor’s Pomeranian began to bark incessantly!!!!
My boyfriend desperately wrote weaknesses into the character: he gave him a short temper, made him clutzy, made him susceptible to speaking pig latin rather than spells, gave him a bum right knee due to a tricycle incident (my boyfriend took this from his own life, one time this kid on a tricycle ran into my boyfriend while he was in the spice aisle at Costco and he’s never been the same.) None of it worked. The character had so many magical perfections, he threw off the revisions with a shudder of incantations and made the word processor crash!!!!!
The wind wailed. The walls of the house began to shimmer, waver, and crack. It was a deafening sound. That’s when I knew we were totally screwed and that I need to write you right away!!!!!!
I thinking I’ve got you pretty much caught up on things now except for the fact that a giant spectral hand has reached through our bedroom wall and grabbed my boyfriend, award nominated fantasy writer Tod Boadkins, and is currently draining him of his soul.
Hang on, Gladys, he’s screaming a lot and it’s making it very hard to type!!!!!
Okay, I got him to quiet down a bit.
First things first, I bequeath to you what’s left of this bag of cheetos.
The world is about to lose the next big epic fantasy writer of all time and while it would be MUCH better if I finished my own epic fantasy sagas, I’ve no choice but to pull a Robert Jordan and call you my Brandon Sanderson—although if there’s one of us who is the Brandon Sanderson, it’s ME, I’M THE NEXT BRANDON SANDERSON, but anyhoo, I’m relying on you, Gladys!!!!! I need you to find a publisher to publish my unfinished work. Also you need to make Fenchin a more balanced character and, I dunno, give her a hobby or something, but MORE IMPORTANTLY, I am bequeathing you my collection of Faberge Eggs. My one request is that you come and pick them up now before Slingy McSlinglord demolishes the rest of the house. I also need to talk to you about the refrigerator I’ve borrowed from you, it’s got a weird
AAAAcCKKKKK!!!! Gladys!!! He’s got me!!!! The spectral hand has got me!!!!! WHY DON’T MY CHARACTERS HAVE SPECTRAL HANDS????? Oh, that hurts. He’s digging around my belly trying to find my soul but I think it was claimed by a debt collection agency a while ago. Acccck!!!! It still hurts!!!!! It’s killing me Galdsy!!!! Good bye cruel
Oh wait. That’s better.
Nevermind, Gladys!!!!! It turns out the absolutely perfect archer mage is no match for a cranky high level demon from the Void of Asheput on a diet!!!!! Tryxy heard me screaming for my life, came stomping up out of the basement, snapped his fingers, and wiped Tasyin the Pickle Ball Player and the whole Wicked Watch right out of this world.
It turns out Tryxy’s moods were considerably brightened by incinerating an arch mage and now we’re all going out to see the Barbie movie.
Anyhoo, this goes to show why you should ALWAYS GIVE YOUR CHARACTERS FLAWS!!!!! You never know when one of them will show up and try to kill you.
Pages next week, Gladys!!!!
P.S. Did you just ring my doorbell or was that the Pomeranian????