Haunted

by Diane Duane

So it’s dark and the power’s been off for hours, and I’m sitting downstairs reading fanfic by candlelight, and the wind is howling whooo, whooo outside, blowing leaves and twigs and stuff around so that sometimes they whack into the windows, and it’s all very atmospheric, and I think It’s a good thing I’m not of a Nervous Disposition – as the commercials used to have it – because a night like this could seriously freak you out if you were.

(Especially since there’s haunted ground just up the road. Or ground that’s supposed to be haunted. I’ve never had any problems with it, and I’ve walked past it all alone in the dead of night lots of times, and never had so much as a peep out of it. But we have neighbors who wouldn’t walk past that particular area after dark for any money.)

Anyway. So it’s dark and the candleflames are fluttering a bit (the house is prone to drafts in this weather, more so than usual when the wind is going by at 80kph or thereabouts) and there’s no telling when the power will come on again, and in the midst of reading I look away from the iPad for a moment, a bit bored, and a few seconds later a voice speaks to me and says:

CHARACTER: I want to be in the next book.

And I kind of rub my face and go “Oh great.” Because of all nights when I don’t feel like having one of these conversations, tonight probably tops the list. I had about fifteen things that needed doing on the big computer, and they’re all impossible with the power out, and as a result I am cranky.

(You must understand that the dialogue that follow plays itself out in-head over the course of no more than about fifteen seconds. Also that I can’t discuss the identity of the character in question right now. Or indeed later.)

DD: What?

CHARACTER: I’m not wild about where you left me in this last one.

DD: I think you were in a pretty good place, actually.

CHARACTER: I don’t. I think you need to put me in the next one. I could be useful.

DD: I don’t really see how that’s the case, because [REDACTED] and it’s not exactly in your specialty area.

CHARACTER: But if you put me in there you’ll figure something out.

DD: See, that’s not how it works. There’s this outline, and in it are all the things that’re going to happen, and you’re not really part of that through line. Partly because your skillset wouldn’t particularly contribute to the dynamic, which in terms of the cast of characters is very tight in book 11 because [REDACTED]. And partly because I don’t just put characters into a story on the off chance that they’ll contribute something somehow!

CHARACTER: In my case you should anyway.

DD (rubs eyes, which are playing her up somewhat due to the crap lighting): This is just one of those goofball ideas that hits you late at night and turns out to have no merit in the light of day.

CHARACTER: You’ll never know, though, if you don’t make a note of it so that you can examine it in the light of day.

DD: (goes looking for pen and paper, tries to make a note, can barely see to write, sighs in annoyed acquiescence and turns on the laptop to make a note there. Rather like this.) You’re a real pain in the ass, you know that?

CHARACTER: And whose fault is that? You created me.

DD: (annoyed, because to this argument there’s no easily available rejoinder: rubs forehead) Remind me again why I’m even in this business?

EXTREMELY LARGE CHORUS OF CHARACTERS, INCLUDING PEOPLE WITH FLAMING SWORDS AND SIMILAR WEAPONS, NUMEROUS DRAGONS, MANY ALIENS, VARIOUS WHALES, CATS AND TEENAGERS, ASSORTED FOLKS IN STARFLEET UNIFORM, A BUNCH OF CARTOON AND COMICS CHARACTERS, AND ENDLESS OTHERS: Because you’re too lazy to dig ditches and too chicken to rob banks.

DD: Yeah, thanks loads. And as for you – 

CHARACTER: Think about it.

DD: All right, all right, I’ll think about it.

(soft click as the lights come back on as if in reward for good behavior)

DD: (hides eyes) Oh, feck.

…and outside, the wind starts to die down…

DD: (EYEROLL)

(To the person who commented “They’ve got minds of their own sometimes, haven’t they?” …No, they’ve got minds of my own. Which is what makes it both so infuriating and so funny.) 🙂

(originally posted at Tumblr)

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