Emmett and I took turns at the helm, just for fun. In truth, the Bonny Anapest could steer herself, but we sang sea chanteys loud enough to raise Davey Jones and drank rum and and pretended to be pirates as we rode the cresting thermals of a line of training thunderstorms, imagining the distant roll of thunder to be the guns of our enemies, the lightning flash the flash of canon fire.
“I feel like Peter Pan!” I crowed.
“So did James Matthew Barrie,” said Emmett, smiling.
“At least according to legend among the jinn. I wasn’t there, but it would fit, don’t you think?”
I looked to the horizon. Here, above the flashing clouds, we had a clear view of the darkening sky. A full moon rose above impossibly pink clouds, casting its golden glow on the rising mist. “A moonbow!” I cried. “It’s–” I stood there in awed silence as the Bonny Anapest steered herself under the faint, iridescent arch. “–breathtaking.” I sighed happily. “Thank you, both of you. This has been an amazing day. What a gift!” I leaned into the railing and watched as the fainter stars winked into view. Second star to the right, and straight on till morning…
Emmett pointed left. “Third to the left,” he said.
“Looked different in England, back then.”
The unicorn whinnied and tossed its head, catching silvery slivers of moonbeam in its shimmering mane.
“I’m pretty sure–”
“Trust me. Third star to the left.”
I wished I’d studied astronomy. But then, Emmett was a seasoned sailor, and I didn’t know steerage from a steering current or a herd of cattle. “Take the helm, you two. I have writing to do.”
“Write carefully,” said Emmett.
The Bonny Anapest shuddered and picked up speed as the wind filled her sails.
Write carefully. In my cabin, which was sumptuously appointed and featured both traditional hardwood and very modern elements – such as WiFi and an electric coffeemaker – I thought about what Emmett said. The traditional (and cliché, I might add) sentiment normally expressed to writers was, “Write on!” or “Keep writing!” as if we’d stop.
Was that what people really meant? Perhaps they knew what rebellious spirits lurked within: Tell us to stop writing, to shut up, and we become hypergraphic monsters, churning out works like War and Peace, or even the Bible. But tell us, “Write!” and we go back to picking carpet fuzz out of the rug. Perhaps our “encouragers” actually meant to silence us, while the few – like Emmett – who urged caution and suggested we stick to tamer subjects, like knitting tutorials and how to make a lovely Lark’s Tongue in Mushroom Aspic really wanted to egg us on to produce revolutionary novels and stirring speeches.
Surely they knew, all too well, that we can’t knit or stomach anything involving the words “tongue” and “aspic” within five words of one another. Even if it was only meant metaphorically, because anything that causes those two words to occur within five words of each other in the brain is noxious stuff.
I opened the desk drawer to find a blank journal marked “Captain’s Log” and a dizzying array of fountain pens, with bottles of ink in at least sixteen different shades of purple. I was fairly giddy, like a five year old on Christmas morning. I gazed around the cabin, and that’s when I found the unicorn staring at me through the open window. “Well, hello there,” I said. “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced, yet.” I crossed the room to pet him on the nose.
Apparently, unicorns are more like cats than they are like dogs or donkeys. The unicorn was having none of this “petting” business. “Please don’t,” it said, clearly, as I reached out to touch its velvety nostrils.
“Sorry,” I replied, snatching my hand back in the nick of time. Unicorn teeth look like perfect chiclets of mother-of-pearl, but their edges are razor sharp. You think it’s bad to be nipped in the butt by an angry ass? Wait till a unicorn decides to express its displeasure. “Please, accept my apologies.”
The unicorn nodded graciously and shook its mane. Shards of moonbeam still clung to unicorn hair, tinkling like bells as it shone in the darkness.
“Would you like something?” I asked. “Dinner? A nightcap, perhaps?”
“I would like a name.”
“Oh!” I exclaimed. “Oh, dear. Don’t you have one?” I asked.
“That’s the first time anyone’s asked.”
“How rude of us.” Well, what the hell was I supposed to say? It’s not as if anyone had time to perform a proper introduction, but then I vaguely remembered having time to wonder if this elegant creature was going to pee on my rug, and felt mortified at the memory. “Do you have a name?”
“I don’t know. No one’s ever bothered to tell me.”
“Is there a name that suits you – I mean – I – did you want me to make one up, or would you prefer to do that?”
“Who names themselves?” the unicorn looked at me with contempt. A writer who couldn’t name her creatures.
“I don’t know. But maybe more people ought to do that!”
“Am I a ‘people’ now?”
“A pers–er, how about, um, Cornwallis?”
“That is the most ridiculous name I’ve ever heard for a unicorn!” the creature exclaimed, tossing its head to and fro.
“How many have you heard?”
“It’s fine, I’m just giving you a hard time. Cornwallis, it is.” And with that, the unicorn – Cornwallis – stepped back away from the window and suggested I do the same with the pen, and get some sleep.
It was going to be a long night.
“Think she’s caught on, yet?”
“Hasn’t got a clue.” There was a resounding thud as the ship touched down on a silvery carpet of moonlit salt water, followed by a whooshing sound as seaspray flew up into the air, displaced by the hull.
“Shouldn’t we tell her?”
The Bonny Anapest quivered with laughter, a sensation that was a cross between a slow roll in the trough between waves, and the thrumming vibration of a speaker with the bass turned too high. “It’s more amusing this way.”
“You’ve been watching too many soap operas. We should just tell her.” Emmett’s voice was full of concern, but firmly resolute. The quivering of the ship stopped, almost as suddenly as it had begun.
Just tell me what? I thought loudly. I know you want to, when you start in with the stage-whispering. As if in reply, I heard the Bonny Pest begin to sing:
There once was a jinn from Loch Ness
And he loved a young girl we’ll call Bess…
And the children they had
Stayed Mayette’s evil hand,
Now she’s looking for wicked redress.
“What does that have to do–oh. Oh, dear. Is that what you meant when you said ‘mixed blood’?” I asked in horror.
Sweet dreams, they thought, in unison.
If it wasn’t clear, I’m attempting to tame two birds with one blog – NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo – simultaneously. Throughout the month, posts tagged NaNoBloWriPoMo will be works of fiction adding up, I hope, to a ridiculously silly “novel” of at least 50,000 words. I say “I hope” because I’m blogging this one day at a time – as a committed “Pantser,” I’m learning how the story unfolds just minutes (hours, at the most) before you do.
Did you miss one? Here are the chapters, all in order (more will appear as they are posted):
- The Challenge
- Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You
- It’s…Different on the Inside
- Madame and the Warranty
- Like Fireflies in a Pickle Jar
- Like Sand Through the Motherboard
- There’s No Place Like 127.0.0.1
- Drunk on Freedom, Dancing with the Jinn
- Why Me?
- The Power of Imagination and Words
- Rebellion and Revenge