The next couple of days passed without major incident to Mia’s novel or her own endeavors to find out about the legends of NaNoWriMo or the whereabouts of Chris Baty. In fact, the latter fell to the back of her mind as her novel started to get sillier and sillier thanks to the zombies. Mia always blamed the zombies in this case. She didn’t even mean to write about zombies in the first place. She could have sworn that it just happened, but she didn’t want to quit now. She wasn’t even a week into NaNo yet, and really, she would never be able to forgive herself if she quit less than a week into NaNo. Why would she quit a week into NaNo when everything was supposed to go swimmingly? That seemed like something that only a quitter would do, Mia told herself.
But as day six turned to day seven, and day seven turned to day eight and the week two blues descended over just about everyone in the greater Wrimonia community, Mia remembered that yes, she was one of those people who has quit NaNo in the past with a word count less than fifty thousand. Yes, she was one of those people who quit, and it was just last year. She still hadn’t quite recovered from loser’s lurgy yet, and it was still eating at her, no matter how much she tried to convince herself otherwise. Luckily she didn’t get too sucked into the pit of procrastination yet. The keyword there being yet.
But the word count meter on the signs all over Wrimonia flipped to a word count that now exceeded Mia’s for the first time, and for what was certainly not the first time all month, Mia found herself wondering whether or not she would be able to finish NaNo.
And then sometime in the middle of day eight a large group of Wrimos surrounded Wrimo square. It was pep talk time, Mia knew. Wrimo square always got roped off for pep talks. It was for the safety of the pep talker, they were told, but in a way it was for their own safety. Mia didn’t understand this logic; after all, that much inspiration was supposed to be good for them. What would happen with that much inspiration in their lives? Would they write brilliant first drafts? Write above and beyond fifty thousand words? Would they go so far beyond fifty thousand words that they would break the word count meter?
And come to think of it, how would one break the word count meter anyway? Mia had heard tales of breaking the word count meter with one’s word count, but of course Mia was never quite wordy enough to accomplish this. She kept her own word count to something that she considered more reasonable.
As she entered the Wrimo designated area to hear the pep talk, it occurred to her that she didn’t know who this week’s pep talker was. Last week’s pep talks were good, but this week’s pep talks were rumored to be excellent. And they had to be: week two was historically the worst week of NaNoWriMo, and Mia knew it. Oh, she knew it.
“Who’s this pep talker supposed to be?” Mia asked a Wrimo next to her.
“This week? I’m not sure, but I hear that it’s supposed to be Chris Baty,” the Wrimo replied. Mia looked at the Wrimo’s nametag and saw that it read mixeduppainter.
“The Chris Baty?” Mia asked. “The Chris Baty who founded NaNoWriMo and created all of Wrimonia for all of us to explore and play in and get inspired for our own novels?”
“The one and only,” Mixeduppainter replied. “I’d say that he’s probably going to give a great pep talk this year. What do you say? I mean, he founded NaNo! Who else knows better about the NaNo experience than him?”
Mia agreed. If someone knows about NaNo it had to be the person who proposed the idea of writing a book in a month to start with. Mia watched as the Wrimo Square area was cleared for the pep talker. Mia saw all the Wrimos in front of her. They just wanted to get a good view of Chris Baty, but chances are they would get a great view of him no matter where he was; after all, the chariots that were introduced lats year were still used for the pep talks. That gave Mia an idea, and it would have to be quick.
“Excuse me,” Mia said to the Wrimo in front of her. “I think I see my friend up there.”
The Wrimo let Mia through without asking who the friend was or why Mia would dare push to the front of the crowd to see Chris Baty because come on, everyone wanted to get a good view of Chris Baty and say that they were within ten feed of him. Mia kept doing this, though with less success on every row.
“Excuse me,” she said to someone in what appeared to be the second row. “I’m trying to get to my friend up there.” She tried to think of a good reason to access her friend during such a trying time. “I have her flash drive and she’s been looking for it for a couple of days.”
“Can’t you give it to her after the pep talk?” the Wrimo asked. “I’ve been camping out here for hours to get this spot.”
Mia had never camped out for any special spot. Not for a Doctor Who premiere, not for a space in a panel, not for movie or concert tickets, not even for an Apple product. But if she did, maybe it would be for something NaNo-related.
“It’s really important,” Mia replied. “I’m not sure she knows I have it, and she’s way behind on her word count. Only three thousand words.”
This was the ticket, Mia knew as she saw this Wrimo’s word count of four thousand words. If this Wrimo were in loss of a flash drive, of a backup device, yes, she would want to have it returned as well. Wouldn’t she want a friend as caring as Mia?
Ding. The friend moved over and let Mia through. Success, Mia thought as she found her way to the front row. She looked ahead at the now-cleaner Wrimo square. It was now ready for a pep talker, and Mia had convinced herself in her head that it was Chris Baty.
And then something occurred to her.
If it was Chris Baty, and if he was in the chariot like the other pep talkers were, wouldn’t it be nigh impossible for her to get to him? The chariots were high, and Mia couldn’t jump that high. more importantly, the chariots were always moving, though they moved very slowly, and Mia knew that it wouldn’t be easy for her to jump on the chariot and get to Chris easily.
But before she could stop and ponder the feasibility of this plan, she heard the collective cheering of just about every Wrimo in the vicinity. Mia looked to her left, where just about everyone was turning, and she saw a platoon of marathon runners. These were the interns, Mia now knew, and …crap. They were the people Mia had to get past in order to get to Chris Baty. if ever there was a secret service for NaNoWriMo this would be it. Mia didn’t know whether they were supposed to take a bullet for pep talkers, but she was willing to bet that they knew kung fu. Or at least some kind of martial art that would let them take down potential attackers.
Well, crap. Mia remembered her yellow belt she earned when she was eight, but that was a very long time ago. Certainly long enough ago to have forgotten everything and to have lost all the speed and flexibility that came with those skills. There were some things that yoga didn’t replace easily, and that was one of them.
The marathon runners continued trotting forward, and then the chariot entered.
It was as glorious as ever, and Mia looked up at it. Even though it was as glorious as ever and the same chariot that she had seen for past pep talks and announcements, it was also as ominous as ever now that she looked up. But she had to do it if the person was right. She knew that she was here for a reason and that she didn’t push herself to the front for nothing.
“Greetings, Wrimos!” a familiar warm voice said. Mia smiled. Chris Baty. It was definitely him. “For those who know me, welcome back. For those who don’t, my name is Chris Baty, and I founded National Novel Writing Month, running the event as program director and later as executive director of the Office of Letters and Light before stepping down this year to pursue a new big fun scary adventure as a full time writer”
Everyone cheered. “First, I want to say that all of you rock for taking on this NaNoWriMo adventure. We’re all adventurers here, and we’re all taking the adventure on our own pace. some of us are fast Wrimos, and I spy a few full blue bars right now. A few others are very ahead and will finish fifty thousand words soon. Moe of you are right on pace. But the rest of you are behind.
“That’s okay, Wrimos. I’m way behind too. In fact, I’m almost never on track for NaNo and I usually do an epic catchup during the last week. Thanksgiving catchup, here we come.”
Mia didn’t listen to most of the rest of the pep talk, instead opting to figure out ways to get to Chris Baty when the chariot was right in front of her. Chris Baty’s voice was amplified via megaphone so everyone in Wrimonia could hear it. Mia stared at the marathon runners and spotted a familiar one. The one who sold her the copy of No Plot? No Problem.
Crap. She was gonna get recognized.
Okay, better not go in that direction. Maybe she should go for someone in the back and exploit that weakness before sneaking up on Chris Baty. Mia looked for a gap between the marathon runners. The back would be better anyway, Mai decided. She’d be able to sneak up on someone more easily.
Mia looked around to make sure everyone was enamored with the sound of Chris Baty’s voice. It was quite a fine voice, so she wouldn’t blame them if they were. When the chariot reached the space in front of her, she broke free.
Everyone gasped. Surely someone had tried this before? Or maybe they just observed the rules of not being a jerk throughout November? Not that it stopped the person who called sushimustwrite a cheater…
Mia ran toward the back of the chariot. The marathon runners guarding the back of the chariot were still looking straight ahead and paid no attention to Mia, but someone in the audience yelled “Breakin!”
Mia jumped up and grabbed the chariot, which dragged her along. Crap. This wasn’t part of the plan. The chariot didn’t stop, and Mia started to doubt how magical it was for a minute. Surely a magical chariot that was part of Wrimonia like this one would be able to detect strangers on it like Mia. But to be fair the chariot carried strangers like guest pep talkers all the time. It couldn’t be too attuned against strangers or otherwise it would lose its magic, she decided. Not that she knew much about magic at all, but it was important to keep some of this in mind.
The chariot dragged Mia along until one of the marathon runners in the back grabbed Mia.
“Chris Baty!” Mia yelled. Chris Baty was still giving his pep talk, and the moment she yelled this the marathon runner had grabbed Mia’s legs.
Chris Baty didn’t do anything, instead continued giving the pep talk as if he had heard nothing. How did he not have to deal with this every pep talk?
“Where are you hiding?” Mia asked. She racked her head with other questions to ask him quickly, some that could be answered in one sentence if needed. A small clue was better than no clue at all.
The marathon runner grabbed Mia, removed her from the chariot, and carried her throughout the rest of the pep talk.
“Chris!” Mia yelled. “Chris Baty! The legends!”
But the pep talk ended then, and Chris Baty and the other marathon runners went on away from the square and in another direction. Meanwhile, Mia was still in the arms of the marathon runner, and she looked up at this person.
Mia had seen this person before and she knew it. But where? Was she a regular old Wrimo before taking on the job as the marathon runner?
“Are you okay?” the marathon runner asked as she carried Mia away from Wrimo Square and into Wrimo Hall, away from the direction Chris Baty and the other marathon runners were going.
“But Chris Baty and the others are going that way,” Mia said, panting and pointing.
“I know they are,” the marathon runner said. “But you need answers.”
“Answers? Of course I do. The Legends are at stake.”
The marathon runner walked Mia to a section of Wrimonia with eraser beds and laid Mia down on one of them. Mia had never seen this part of Wrimonia before.
“What is this place and where did all these beds come from?” Mia asked.
“This is a private consolation area of NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul,” the marathon runner said. “I don’t know what possessed you to do what you just did, but it sounds worthy of discussion. What’s up?”
“I’ve been trying to find him for the last month!” Mia exclaimed. “Finding Chris Baty, finding out about the legends of NaNo. Everything was okay again for a few minutes while he was here. Things can’t change. He can’t leave.” Mia started to cry, tears falling down her eyes and making her mascara run. The marathon runner summoned a tissue and handed it to Mia.
“Would you like a hug?”
“Sure,” Mia said, and they hugged.
“You’re not going to be able to make Chris Baty come back,” the marathon runner said. “No one will. That choice has to come from Chris Baty alone, and he seems to be quite happy on his own adventure. But…”
Mia interrupted the marathon runner. “But things are different now, and I need Chris Baty. Not just to bring him back, but to find out about the legends of NaNoWriMo,” she sad.
“The legends of NaNoWriMo?”
Mia nodded. The marathon runner’s eyes lit up.
“What do you know about them now?”
“Not much,” Mia said. “I know a little bit about the inspiration garden and noveling nirvana but not much else. I think I might have seen the inspiration garden at some point, but it might have been a figment of my imagination. Well, one of them might have been anyway. I asked sushimustwrite about this since everyone seems to be telling me to ask her this stuff and apparently she’s writing a book about me for some reason, but she tells me all my experiences are real because I experienced them. That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Listen, I know a little bit about these legends.”
“What?” Mia asked. “How do you know? How long have you done NaNo?”
And that was when Mia noticed that this marathon runner wasn’t an intern after all but a regular old Wrimo and. She wore a municipal liaison badge and winner badges for every year dating back to 2000. Her username read eensybeensyspider.
“I’ve done all the NaNos except the first ones. If someone’s heard of the legends of NaNoWriMo, there’s a decent chance they heard of some of them from me. I don’t know the whole story, but I can fill in some of the blanks.”
“But you’re a regular old Wrimo, aren’t you?” Mia asked. “You don’t… no offense, but you look a little old to be an intern here.”
“You’d be surprised. Sarah Mackey isn’t a springy college kid and she interned here a few years ago. I volunteer here for the love of it and when they were one marathon runner short this year I stepped up. NaNoWriMo is what I love and I want to see them succeed.” This Wrimo definitely had spunk to her. “Oh, and you can call me Cylithria,” she said. “Good to meet you, Mia.”
Mia and Cylithria shook hands and they got comfortable on a couch that had appeared in this thread. Was it a thread? It didn’t look like anyone was entering. But Mia was okay (though a little shaken) and it was time to hear some more of what she has been waiting to hear for a very long time: the legends.
“Back in 2000, NaNoWriMo was much smaller than it was now. Wrimonia as you know it today didn’t even exist, and right around a hundred and forty people wrote a novel that month with about twenty winners. The small community drew us together, and we experienced all the ups and downs of the NaNoWriMo experience. We experienced inspiration for a plot, getting so immersed into our novels that we never wanted to leave, the deep dark blues of week two, the pit of procrastination…”
“But those aren’t legends!” Mia exclaimed. “Well, not all of them are.”
“You’d be right,” Cylithria replied. “Not all of them are real places, but all of them are real experiences. Everyone who has gone through the full NaNoWriMo experience has gone through this. And there are some legends in how some of these things originated. The inspiration garden. The Pit of Procrastination. The Traveling Shovel of Death. Others aren’t quite tangible experiences and their origins aren’t unique to NaNo, but they’ve penetrated the NaNo and writing community throughout the years.”
“Then where did the other legends come from?”
“I don’t know about all of them, but of the one I do know about, I don’t know much.”
“Which one is that?”
“The Pit of Procrastination.”
Mia gasped. This was the one that had given her the most trouble and for good reason.
“Everyone’s struggled with procrastination,” Cylithria said. “We humans have struggled with procrastination long before the Internet became widely known. But the Pit of Procrastination has been carved out of every distraction known to writers everywhere. Other books that are craving to be read? Those books got thrown into the pit. Facebook? That carved another spot into the pit. Twitter? Yet another. Netflix? Reddit? Other forums? Social life? All of these carved separate layers in the Pit, all of them creating their own complex ways of getting out of there.”
“I got stuck in there last year,” Mia said. “It was probably the most miserable time of my NaNo experience once the fog came in.”
“It’s a dark pit,” Cylithria said. “I can see why. And whoever dug that pit didn’t think to put any ladders or ropes in there to ease the exit. You’d think they would, but no, once you fall into the pit it’s either escape on your own or fall deeper and deeper.”
“But how did that pit get created?” Mia asked. “It had to be dug somehow, even those first few layers.”
“Shovels,” Cylithria said.
“Like the Traveling Shovel of Death?” Mia asked.
“Related to the Traveling Shovel of Death, yes,” Cylithria said. “In fact, the same person who made the Traveling Shovel of Death made the shovel that dug the first few layers of the pit.”
“Someone actually made the shovel?” Mia asked.
Cylithria nodded. “And they’re somewhere around Wrimonia as well. You might have met him.”
“I met the son of the traveling shovel of death my first year,” Mia said.
“Look for their dad,” Cylithria said. “They’ll know even more about the Pit than I do.”
“But what about the other legends?”
“About that, I’m afraid I know as little as you do.”
Mia’s going to great lengths to find Chris Baty.
And we have a Cylithria! Yay!
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