There were more signs around Wrimonia now, and the countdowns that Mia passed on the way from forum to forum told her that less than twenty-four hours remained until the beginning of NaNoWriMo. She stopped for a moment on her way out of the Plot Doctoring forum and looked around
Wrimos of all sorts walked around, people without nametags following them. Mia wondered if they were also characters and muses of the individual Wrimos. After all, if Mia could have characters and muses follow her, then others could have the same experience. Right? The little robots sped around the square much faster than usual, making beeping noises and beeping the amount of time until NaNoWriMo began. This caused some Wrimos to rejoice and some Wrimos to panic, curling up in a ball and weeping. Yet other Wrimos were cuddling plot bunnies. “Plot, I tell you, give me plot!” Mia could hear one Wrimo nearby well. Another Wrimo across the square was getting attacked by plot bunnies, even to the point of having her characters attacked.
“Get away from me!” she yelled, and Mia could hear her even from across the square. “I’m trying to plan a story here!” One of this Wrimo’s characters had a foil for fencing and poked at the bunny: not hard, but gently enough to get the bunny away. It still didn’t work.
“Oh fine,” the Wrimo said. “Off to the plot bunny day care center, but if you breed in November, you’ll have me to answer to in December.” The Wrimo scooped up the bunnies, and she, the characters, and the bunnies walked across the square to one of the forums.
Meanwhile, Mia was standing by herself on the square. Alaina and the characters had chosen not to grace her with their presence that day apparently. Someone else did, however.
The figure resembled the grim reaper, except he carried a shovel instead of a scythe. He wore all black, and the cape he wore was tattered and torn as if someone had tried to fight him at some point. Mia figured that someone probably had and took this moment to inspect him before the figure could bop her over the head with the shovel. The shovel itself was bloody, a rare trait in such a shovel, and not dirty, as she would expect. Was it really being used to kill people? Mia wondered. She didn’t dare reach out to touch this person like she did to her characters. Somehow she knew that this person, despite the lack of name tag, was not one of her characters.
“Use me,” the figure croaked. The voice sounded raspy and full of… something. Mia didn’t know what.
“Who the hell are you?” Mia asked. “You’re not the grim reaper.”
“Oh, no, I’m not,” the figure replied. “And I’d be insulted if someone thought I were. Why, all the Wrimos past of people who thought I were… those foolish novelists. But you, YOU, you know who I really am.” The figure stooped over to look at Mia. “Don’t you?” It waved the shovel around.
“Careful!” Mia yelled. “You might bop me on the head with it.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” the figure replied. “So much more blood for the shovel. It’ll prepare it for the best murders to come.”
Mia stepped back. The best murders to come? What was this guy smoking? She took another step back until she was far enough away so the figure (she couldn’t stand to call it a person, as it certainly didn’t look like a person with the mask over its face, though you never could tell) couldn’t just hit her over the head with it. “Oh, no thanks,” Mia said. “I’d rather write a novel in a month than die by a shovel.”
“Oh, I don’t want to kill you,” the figure said mercilessly, now fingering the shovel with a bony finger. “I want to kill your characters.”
Mia now wrapped herself in a cocoon with her arms. “My characters?” she asked. “But I just met them! They mean a lot to me, and I don’t even know them as well as I could.”
“Yes,” the figure replied. “Your characters.” The voice became more raspy and creepier than ever, and Mia swayed on both feet.
“But why?” Mia asked.
“You see,” the figure replied, now standing perfectly still. “I am the son of the traveling shovel of death. The shovel has been passed down in my family for generations, and my father restored it to its current state: that of a murder weapon.”
“So you use shovels to kill people?” Mia asked. “Don’t they work better to bury people with? I hear you can dig great holes with them.”
“Oh yes,” the figure replied. “But it takes an awfully long time to dig a casket with a regular shovel. Why, in your world they often use machines to put people six feet under, and I can do it with just a shovel. Granted,” the figure said, now going a bit on a tangent, “I’m not actually doing the digging. I’m putting the people six feet under in an entirely different way.” He stopped short. “But that’s another story entirely.”
“So you want me to kill someone?” Mia asked.
The figure nodded, or at least Mia assumed the figure nodded under the cape. “Yes, you need to kill a character in your novel with my shovel. Should you choose you accept this mission, you will be a part of a grand tradition.”
“What kind of tradition is killing people with bloody shovels?” Mia asked. “Doesn’t sound like a tradition to me.” And indeed, the traditions she knew were much less bloody. Singing Christmas carols from door to door during the holidays, putting up the tree on the day after Thanksgiving, all those nice and hokey family traditions that she would now have to seek out (or at least visit her family for) to enjoy now that she no longer lived with them. Such was life.
“It’s a NaNoWriMo tradition,” the figure said, or rather as Mia started to call it, the Son. May as well call it by its proper name. “Kill someone in your novel, and you’ll be part of a wonderful group, bonded by this great object.” The Son handed her the shovel. “Will you take it?”
Mia looked at the shovel. To be perfectly honest, she really didn’t have much of a story, and it wasn’t like she knew what she was writing about beyond those people who showed up in her life one day thanks to Alaina. The plot bunnies running around Wrimonia weren’t helping matters much, even if they weren’t biting her on the foot.
“Oh heck,” Mia said, but before she reached out for the shovel, she paused. “Can I think about it first?”
“Think about it?” the Son asked. “Why would you need to think about it?”
“Well,” Mia said. “I don’t know if I’m going to kill anyone yet. I think that’s a pretty good reason, don’t you?”
“Who needs a good reason to kill someone in your novel?” the Son said. “Sure, you may need a good reason to kill someone outside of writing, but in the wonderful season of NaNoWriMo, you never need a good reason. Everything is explained away by NaNo magic. So take the shovel and let the NaNo magic explain it away.” The son dropped the shovel in Mia’s hands and walked away into the distance. She noticed that it entered the Reaching 50,000 forum. As it walked away, she also noticed that another shovel grew back into its hands.
Mia examined the shovel. It was very splintery, probably from age, and even though there was no rust on it (couldn’t be any rust on the handle, though there could be on the actual shovel), she felt that she could get tetanus or some equally awful disease just by looking at it. She turned the shovel over to the bloody end. It was definitely a shovel of death, she decided, as she looked at the dark red blood stains that colored the shovel. It was definitely a shovel for killing.
But would she use it? she wondered as she turned the shovel over again. And where would she put it? As she wondered this, she noticed that the bag she carried into Wrimonia expanded. Expanded, in fact, to the perfect size to carry such an object. She tucked it away into the bag and noticed that it was practically weightless before walking on to another forum.
I’ve been doing some traveling myself today–back to my parents’ house for Christmas. Fun fact about today’s excerpt: I read it at the second of two TGIO parties I attended this year. We haven’t gotten to the excerpt I read for the first one yet, but we will soon.
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