Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Chapter 13: The City of Mirrorlings

Sven and Robert Nickel followed the pillowbeak down the narrow path leading to the City. Their guide seemed to be ignoring them, staring straight ahead, his bottom jaw jutting out slightly. Even though he was about half as tall as the two men and twice as wide, his limping gate moved him at a surprisingly fast pace, and the pair soon found themselves lagging behind.

“Man, for being a squat little fellow, he can sure move!” Nickel said, puffing his cheeks, his round face red with perspiration.

“I imagine that he has a somewhat flexible spine, judging from the looks of him. And if I had to guess, I’d say that his range of leg swing is somewhat larger than our own. Of course, he’d need a significantly powerful heart to pump all of that blood. I wonder if they even have blood like that of a mammal…” Sven trailed off, his eyebrows scrunched atop glinting eyes. Robert glanced over at him. He knew that look. It came across his colleague’s face every time he encountered a new puzzle for his mind to work over.

“Fascinating,” he muttered. Even if the pillowbeak did have a large heart and flexible body parts, he certainly did not. Some hospitality, he thought.

“Uh, Yo? Hey… Yo! Do you think we could turn the pace down a notch or two?” Robert huffed.
Their guide swung his head around, swivel-style, startling both of the men.

“Oh sure, I don’t mind taking all day. This whole trip is completely convenient for me,” Yo snapped back.

“You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that monkey is trying to sass us,” Robert said with a grin.

“I heard that!” Yo bared his teeth as he forged ahead. For scientists, those idiots sure needed to work on their nomenclature. Ah well, he thought, it won’t be long before I’m rid of that pestering one, at least.

The group made their way across the echoing floor of the cave. Sven had been surprised not to note any running water or murky pools, as one could expect to see in caves on Earth. In fact, the atmosphere around them was not moist at all. Just the opposite, it was dry, devoid of smell, heavy, and yet it gave his lungs a kind of hollow feeling. Equally as perplexing to him was the fact that despite a lack of water, the cave was not without its own flora and fauna. Gangly, moss-like growth clung the walls of the cave, crept onto the path, and even hung like stalactites from the ceiling. If he didn’t know any better, Sven would have said it was emitting the same lavender glow that he had observed in Dr. Octopi’s lab. Perhaps it’s phosphorescent, he thought. Here and there throughout the plants, he could spot insects crawling through the tangled fibers. Or were they insects? In truth, they resembled some sort of land-jellyfish, tentacles and all.

Sven had been so absorbed in trying to mentally classify the specimens around he barely noticed when they reached the outskirts of the City. The limestone walls seemed to melt seamlessly into the first arching building, which had a metallic quality to it that Sven had never seen before.
Robert, too, was transfixed by the metropolis that lay before them—now that Yo had slowed down enough for him to catch his breath. His eyes widened as he took in the stretch of buildings, the twisting streets and stairs that lead upwards to various levels of the structures. Above him, these walkways twisted and met at odd angles, reminding him of the intricate weavings of a spider’s web. Periodically, they’d pass elevator shafts, that would send metallic orbs zooming to upper decks. It was like something out of a dream he’d had when he was a boy—a fully running, operating, bustling, secret City. Except…

“Sven, you notice anything weird about this place?”

“Well, I would assume everything about this place is weird to us Robert, seeing as we’ve never quite encountered anything like this before. First experiences like this do tend to be unusual since it’s not exactly our norm.”

“Now, there’s no reason to be a smart-ass. What I meant to point out was the fact that there are no people here.”

Sven looked around. Now that he took his focus off of the metallic quality of the buildings, he became aware of the movement—the doors opening, windows slamming, all the general flurry that one could expect in a city—and yet, Robert was right. There were no people.

In front of them, Yo gave an exasperated snort. “Why, of course there are people here you moronic dolt. Do you think all of this is happening on its own? No, no. Look closer—if your substandard eyes can see what’s there, that is.”

Robert grunted. “Now hold it right there, you oversized coach cushion. Do you know who you’re calling a moron? If I had…”

“Robert, shut up.” Sven placed his outstretched hand on his colleague’s chest, staying him. His eyes scrunched and focused on the air. It was empty, it was nothing, it was… something moved in front of him. A glimmer, or a puff of smoke. He let his eyes relax and soon began to distinguish the outline before him. Incredible, Sven marveled as he discerned the shape of a human being. The smoke-human shimmered ahead of him, its form more distinct as it stopped moving. It shifted its hand—if that’s what it was—slowly towards Sven, almost as if to shake his. Sven, heart pounding with excitement, moved to grasp it. An uncomfortable sensation overcame him as he met the creature’s hand, like a sharp tug from behind his belly button and knee caps. He let go.

“What are these organisms?” he asked, turning to look at Yo.

“Organisms, what organisms? Sven, have you lost it? I still don’t see what you’re talking about,” Robert said, glaring as he looked back and forth between him and the pillowbeak.

Yo rolled his eyes and ignored Robert’s inquiry. “The common name for them is ‘mirrorling.’ They are much like humans, or at least… in form. In substance, they’re made of a type of anti-matter that Dr. Octopi discovered.”

“Anti-matter!” Robert said, startled. “Well are they safe to be in contact with, I mean surely…”

“They’re perfectly harmless you laughable excuse for a scientist,” Yo interrupted nonchalantly. “In fact, I think you’ll find their home much to your liking. It contains many of the luxuries that you humans enjoy in your own world. Theaters, restaurants, lounges… something you call a disco…”

Robert chuckled. “Disco? Oh man, that brings me back. You need to update yourself on pop culture, shorty.”

“It’s Yo, you idiot. Shawty is my brother.”

Sven began to move past the bickering pair. Looking around, he was starting to notice all of the smoky mirrorlings. The street was full of them. And all of them seemed to be migrating towards one building—the largest of them all by far. It stretched the length of ten blocks, and the revolving doors at its front continuously moved. He stepped closer in the direction of the structure, almost as if he were being drawn to it. All of the sudden, his vision went fuzzy, and as he threw out his hand for balance, he heard Violet’s voice, as clear as if she was in his own head.

“Sven… Sven! Hear me! Hear me! Please hear me, before it’s too late!”

“Hey! Where do you think we’re going?” Sven shook his head, hands on each temple. He turned around to see Yo glowering at him.

“I… I thought I’d take a look this way. Seems like that’s a popular area,” he said, nodding his aching head in the direction of the towering building.

“What? That building? Just a public service headquarters, nothing interesting,” Yo replied. He began to march ahead again, and Robert and Sven had to double their pace to remain in step. As they passed the building, Sven peered up to look at the structure. He noticed that while there was quite a bit of traffic entering the building, the flow outwards was tremendous—the shiny mirrolings pouring out in a stream almost. Sven’s stomach gave a jerk as a group of them passed him. He glanced up at the building’s face again. There was something written on it. The language looked familiar and yet… backwards to him. He shook his aching head as Robert muttered something about uppity primates beside him. He tried to focus his eyes once more on the engraving.

Sven sucked in a soft breath of understanding as he recognized the characters. It was English, but not in the form he was used to. The words looked as if they were written… in a mirror. Everything was completely backwards. Sven tried to decipher the letters as Yo picked up the pace in front of them.

The Kryptos.

Sven shuddered involuntarily. Violet’s words echoed inside his head. “Hear me before it’s too late.” How many times had he ignored his sister before, playing off her words as silly banter? Now he had the overwhelming feeling that her words were exactly what he needed to hear. And yet he had no idea how. But whatever she would tell him, he knew it would have something to do with whatever the City was hiding—whatever was in that building. He needed to get in there somehow.

Yo shot a look at him from up ahead, as if he could read Sven’s thoughts.

First thing’s first, he thought. We’ve got to ditch the monkey. Robert will be thrilled.


  1. Hey everyone!

    Ok so my goal for this chapter was to go back to Robert and Sven and answer some questions about the City and Dr. O's plan. I liked Trent's idea about having some sense of foreboding in this chapter, so I tried to instill that using a psychic connection between Violet and Sven. I also really wanted to develop the setting some more and give us a better idea of the City (hopefully it's a little bit eery... that's what I was going for). I also wanted to address the people living in the City, and I came up with something that hopefully you all will like. My basic thought was that the mirrorlings are mirrors (go figure) or exact opposites of humans. Dr. O has created them. I was trying to go along with the idea of mirror images that's been started in the previous chapter and run with it in this alternate dimension...

    The Kryptos was my idea for where Dr. O is manufacturing these mirrorlings (maybe they could be precursors to dopplegangers?) and also where he keeps all of his records for his plans to destroy earth. My thought was that while Sven was still in the city, he could sneak in there and discover his name as part of this plan... giving him some serious doubts on his participation.

    That's a very brief, vague overview, I know. Please feel free to adjust the ideas from here. I hope everyone likes the setting I set for the City and the sense of foreboding I tried to add!

  2. Lauren, this is great! You definitely accomplished the suspense you were aiming for. This type of scene (an eerily empty city or landscape) isn't unfamiliar to us, but you executed it very, very well. It felt fresh.

    I like the idea of the mirrorlings. It definitely fits with what I started in the previous chapter. I think all of the sensory details for them are spot-on...in fact, all of your sensory details are superb. You really are great at description. Another well-executed scene (as far as description) is the cave, with its odd plant life.

    A line that stuck out to me was when Yo told the scientists that Shawty was his brother. I know this was written for comedic effect, but I interpreted the delivery as almost cryptic. And I like it! It really made me question the loyalties of both of those characters. I'm anxious to see where the next few authors take Yo and Shawty. (By the way...what's up with those names? Haha. Has Dr. Octopi been jamming to Lil Wayne?)

    Overall, I'm really happy with where this is going. You definitely started building some suspense!

  3. This was great, Lauren! You did a wonderful job of creating the city and giving it it's own unique touch. The mirrorlings were a wonderful idea., and the conversations between Yo and Robert were funny. I like the idea of the Kryptos and that it is hiding a secret that Sven must uncover. It definitely sets up the eerie mood. I like your idea of having Sven contemplate his involvement after seeing his name. This will be something firm and exciting for the next writers to work on.

  4. I really enjoyed your chapter, Lauren. I think you did a great job, as the others said, of describing the world and building the city. I also loved the banter between Robert and Yo.
    Great execution of the creepy feel. I definitely thought it was eerie, and I think it gives a good feel to the situations that will have to develop in the rest of the book.

    I was also wondering, are we going to have Violet use her Jui-Jitsu? I feel like it's a "gun on the mantel" at this point, so I just thought we could consider using it soon, maybe in the climax chapters.

  5. Awesome chapter Lauren!
    The city was fantastic. The creepy feel was definitely there, and the fact that it wasn't at all what I was expecting made it all that much better. The idea someone brought up as the mirrorlings as bases for the creation of dopplegangers was great too.

    I also loved Yo. I'm almost thinking all pillowbeaks should be sarcastic lol, or that it's their cover as spies (or double-agents, I suppose time will tell).

    Looking forward to how Sven will break inside.

  6. Oh, and The Kryptos was a nice name choice. Very bizarre. Still creepy:)

    "Now hold it right there, you oversized coach cushion."

  7. This was an incredibly written chapter- soooo creative and from a whole different world (literally) I loved the humor in this as well, shawty being Yo's brother haha! hilarious. The idea of mirrorlings is really spectacular. I sort of wish you could keep writing because I really enjoy reading your chapters. Nice job! Extremely fascinating

  8. Whoa. The descriptions of the world and city were great here!

    Awesome idea with the mirrorlings.

    You really brought out some funny dialogue in this chapter, which I liked.

    Thanks for the great chapter!

  9. “You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that monkey is trying to sass us,”

    “They’re perfectly harmless you laughable excuse for a scientist,"

    Haha! Very funny dialogue. I'm excited to see our heroes striking out on their own missions soon.

    What if the last part of the story involves the 'polarity' being reversed and creatures from this world escaping to Earth?

    Also, we should see Billy soon!

  10. AMAZING!

    The setting had some beautiful descriptions and the city was eery in the best way! Making Yo and Shawty related is a nice touch all sorts of development could go there, but it doesn't seem like too much of a "gun on the mantel" if we don't have time.

    "Now hold it right there, you oversized coach cushion! "
    I'm so excited!

  11. You wrote a fantastic chapter! I'm very impressed. I love all your ideas and dialogue. I also like your ideas for the future chapters. In addition, I like that you started giving Robert a unique personality too!

  12. This was great! The mirrorlings were a good idea. The sensations were identifiable and actually reminded me of the horcruxes in Harry potter. In a good way. The dialogue was funny in many spots. I like the suspense you set up for the following chapters.