Over the next few days Mia couldn’t shake off the feeling that she was being followed. This feeling didn’t happen all the time as Mia traveled from forum to forum via WrimoRails (and that would be very creepy during those times when Mia was the only person on WrimoRails), but every now and then Mia felt her hairs on the back of her neck raise.
The first time this happened was the next day after Mia ran into the Church of NaNo folks. Mia was walking out of the All Ages Coffee House when she couldn’t shake off the feeling of being followed. Every time she turned around she wouldn’t see anyone, or she would see ordinary Wrimos who didn’t look like they were following her at all. Even if they were following her they didn’t look at all suspicious, so why did Mia’s hair raise at the back of her neck? It was all very strange to Mia, and she couldn’t shake this feeling off over the rest of the day as she walked around the rest of the forum and eventually found herself in what looked like the very same place she found herself in three years ago.
It was indeed a familiar place, but she didn’t see any of the familiar figures that she saw three years ago. She remembered that experience quite well. The introduction of Alaina the muse, the characters in her novel… all that stood out in her head like it was yesterday.
But after hearing everything in the church of NaNo, Mia found herself wondering whether this was a true garden or just the experience. Or were they one and the same? No one really knew, and that was part of the mystery. Mia continued exploring the garden while no one was there.
A rose bush grew to the side of Mia directly to the left as she looked around. It appeared as if by magic, as if Mia could look at something and wish it there. Mia looked to the right and saw another rose bush grow before her eyes, and she wondered whether this was something that was true only of the true garden. After all, nothing like this had ever happened in the inspiration garden (or was it an inspiration garden experience? she reminded herself. It could have been a fake experience, after all) when she was there three years before.
But Mia kept looking ahead and wondered whether she could actually will things into the garden. After all, she didn’t will those roses into the garden, even though she liked those roses quite a bit. So she started to think of things she could put in the garden.
I wish there were a gazebo in this garden, she thought to herself.
And suddenly, a gazebo appeared, as if by magic. Actually it probably was by magic, as everything in Wrimonia was magic in some form or another. Thinking this thought made Mia look up and spot the lack of halo on her head, and she noticed that no, she still hand’t picked up a halo to fund the magic of Wrimonia yet.
She walked toward the gazebo. It was a hexagonal gazebo, made of wood and metal with a cute little roof and benches inside. Eraser benches just like the rest of Wrimonia, and Mia wondered why the rest of Wrimonia didn’t have these cute little gazebos all over the place.
Mia continued looking around the inspiration garden, wondering what else she could will in there. If she could will a physical object into this garden, surely she could will something else in here. Surely she could will,…
She thought about her muse, visualizing Alaina in her mind’s eye, the red hair, the green eyes, the flowing dress Alaina was wearing last time they met. She remembered how Alaina didn’t like the fog of last year, but here in the garden and in the rest of Wrimonia,t here was no fog, only bright clear skies and a sun shining down on Wrimonia as if this was the only place in the world for the sun to shine.
And it worked. Alaina the muse materialized in the garden, right in the middle of the gazebo.
“Alaina!” Mia yelled, forgetting that she was in fact still in Wrimonia and that people probably could still hear her. “It’s you! It’s been so long. Where have you been all through last year and through the off season and everything else I could have used you for when I was struggling to make this story work.”
Alaina reached out and touched Mia’s hand. “Oh Mia,” Alaina said. “It’s been a long year, friend.”
“A long year?” Mia asked. “What about a long year for me?”
Alaina sighed. Mia didn’t understand.
“You have to understand,” Alaina said. “We muses are delicate. But in the end after everything we do, it’s you who does all the hard work. We muses can provide much inspiration, but as much poking and prodding as we do, well, that doesn’t make everything work out in the end. Eventually you have to take the reins and do some of the work. And I hate to say it, but I think you did forget some of that last year.”
Mia pondered this. Maybe… She remembered the struggles she had last year, the fog and Alaina hiding in the depths of Wrimonia and the search for her and how Mia almost didn’t find Alaina at all. Was Alaina still subject to the fog? Was she still going to do something like hide from Mia in Mia’s own time of need?
“No,” Mia said aloud. “How are you doing?”
Mia didn’t realize that she had said this. Not to Alaina and how dare she badmouth her muse?
“I didn’t know how to take it,” Alaina said. “The fog, the struggle to find a plot, your personal lack of strength to see the story through… it’s enough to make a muse go crazy.”
Mia nodded. She hardly knew anything about this, but oh, she knew everything. She had lived this, remember.
“It wasn’t my fault!” Mia exclaimed. “The fog was thick! I didn’t know what to do! I hated my story, and that story was something you gave me. I thought it was going to be something I’d be good at writing, and you– you ruined it.”
Alaina’s jaw dropped. Bad at it? But she was just a muse!
“I did what I could,” Alaina said. “I already told you this. What’s a muse to do? All muses, well most of them anyway, are delicate creatures, and well, we don’t have any obligation to protect our writers.”
This was the part that set Mia off. “I can’t believe you,” Mia said. “I thought you’d protect me.”
“Don’t you remember your first year?” Alaina asked.
“When Writer’s Block captured you?” Mia asked. Alaina nodded. “Of course I do. Writer’s block kidnapped you for half the month and you tried to free yourself so you could help me with my book. I wanted to do anything to save you, and I Tried my best, but I couldn’t find you anywhere. There are strange places you muses hide, and you don’t make yourselves found easily.”
Alaina’s face fell. “What do you mean by that?” she asked.
“I mean that…” Mia said. “Actually, I’m not quite sure what I mean anymore. It’s hard to say, really. Everything’s a mess right now, and I don’t know what to make of it. Listen, I don’t have a plot, I don’t have characters, I don’t have anything resembling a story for November at all and you aren’t helping.” By this point Mia was walking in circles around Alaina, alternating with fast and slow circles.
“Give it time, Mia,” Alaina said. “A plot will come.”
Mia stopped. “Wait a minute. If I could wish you in here, can I wish a plot in here?”
Alaina shook her head, but Mia couldn’t help but notice a tinge of sandess on Alaina’s face. “No, I’m sorry,” Alaina said. “There are limitations to this place, you know.”
“Limitations?” Mia asked. “What kind?”
“Well, you can’t get this garden to do anything for you,” Alaina explained.
“But when I was here three years ago–”
“That was different,” Alaina interrupted. “Your story was already there; you just needed a guide to help it out of you. This year you have no story; you’ve already admitted as much. You can’t just wish any old plot in here; what if you get a story you hate and keep wishing new stories in here until you find one you like, or at least don’t hate? You might end up with a repeat of last year.”
“Please don’t talk about last year” Mia said. “I already feel bad enough about it as it is. I don’t need my freaking muse reminding me about it too”
“Yes, I know,” Alaina said. “But it needs to be said. That’s why you can’t just wish a plot in here.”
“So what else can’t I wish in here?”
“Maybe it’s better for me to tell you what you can wish in here,” Alaina explained. “You can wish anything in here besides your actual plot or anything that will write the book for you directly. So you can’t wish someone else to write the book for you and you can’t wish for a co-author, but you can wish for something to inspire you, a book to read that might spring ideas, anything else that might give you ideas. You can even wish for a way to provide you with a new way of experiencing these things so you don’t see them the way you usually do.”
“And what happens if I were to wish for a plot?”
Mia wished really hard deep in her heart for a plot to appear. In the distance she heard a boom. Mia jumped up.
“What was that?” Mia asked.
“Oh, that was the boom of laziness,” Alaina explained. “It happens when you know someone’s being lazy about their novel in an obvious way. They happen every now and then.”
“Then why haven’t I heard the booms of other people over the past three years?” Mia asked. Surely other Wrimos would have been lazy about this, and surely she would have heard all the accompanying booms.
“You hear the booms in direct proportion to how much they affect you,” Alaina said. “Most of them don’t affect you at all. Why would you care about someone else’s laziness?”
So Mia sat there and thought about her plot for awhile, wandering the garden, wishing different things into existence as a chance to figure out something about her plot. Maybe something would come and maybe something would come quickly, but at any rate, something better come before November first. It was something that needed to come if she was going write something that didn’t begin “It was a dark and stormy night” because that was Mia’s least favorite line ever. Well, after “Once upon a time”.
While Mia was wishing things into the garden (which really would have been inspirational if Mia weren’t facing so much pressure to figure out a plot, now that she thought of it), Mia noticed that the feeling that someone was following her was completely gone. Apparently whoever was following her around the forum wasn’t in the garden. Unless…
“You weren’t the person who was following me around, were you?” Mia asked.
Alaina looked at Mia. “What are you talking about?”
“I’ve been feeling like someone’s been following me around, and yes I mean that in a creepy way,” Mia replied. “I’m not sure how to describe it, but every now and then I feel like the eyes in the back of my head, or maybe the metaphorical ones, are watching something that’s watching me and I don’t know what to make of it. Then I turn around and whatever it is, well, it’s suddenly gone. It wasn’t you, was it?”
Alaina still looked confused, so Mia dismissed this idea. This didn’t help her at all, but whatever (or whoever) was following her must still be around if it wasn’t Alaina…
And whoever it was would probably still be following her once she returned to the main forums… They were still around somewhere. But where would they be?
Mia looked around the inspiration garden, wondering where such a source of inspiration for a plot would be. It would be wonderful if this garden actually inspired such a plot, so nice, so clean, so innately beautiful…
How could this garden stay so pretty, anyway? Mia wondered. Surely the folks who ran Wrimonia had to maintain the garden and keep it beautiful, making sure everything could appear by magic from year to year. Yet Mia never saw any bugs about it in the tech help forum…
And yet if that were the case, surely the staff would know more about such a place, and they never showed any indication of knowing about it…
Mia remembered her first experience in this garden three years ago, where she met the characters of her first novel. Why couldn’t Alaina just usher her into the plot this time?
Mia stayed in the inspiration garden all day, Alaina by her side. She fell asleep at some point, and when she did, a bed much like the one she had at home with a large comfy quilt appeared to cover her. And as Mia dreamed she found herself traveling into the future.
The year was 2018. Mia wasn’t sure how she knew this, but for some reason she just knew. People always knew these things in dreams, she decided, and in her dream it was 2018. Six years from now. What would she be doing in six years. Would she be doing NaNo in six years? Mia didn’t know why these things popped up in dreams but shrugged it off as something that just popped up in dreams.
The world was definitely not like the one she lived in now. Children born out of wedlock were sent to be raised in orphanages. Progress on social issues had gone backwards instead of forwards.
And then… there were zombies. Mia ran from one as it stumbled down the sidewalk. The zombie went faster and faster until Mia couldn’t keep up any longer and the zombie was lunging for her neck. She drew a pistol from her belt (where did that come from?) and shot the zombie. gggggggggg, the zombie groaned as it fell to the ground.
Mia looked at the zombie, now full of… unlife? Yes, unlife. That was the term. If there was one zombie here, there had to be another one.
Mia awoke with a start. Why wasn’t she standing in the middle of an abandoned city with a pistol in her hand? She was just there. She could have sworn that she was just there. She was just out there shooting a zombie and saving her own life.
And then Mia remembered the world she was living in. She looked across the garden to Alaina, who was picking a rose from the rosebush. Alaina walked across the garden and handed the rose to Mia.
“For you,” Alaina said.
Mia walked over to the nearest rosebush, picked another rose, and handed it to Alaina. “For you.”
Braaaaaaains. The plot Mia found is essentially one of quixotic_hope’s plots but with zombies. It would have been the third book written had I finished this one within a reasonable November time frame.
Share, don’t be a jerk, donate to NaNo if you’re so inclined.