NANOWRIMO CHALLENGE: A SNIPPET OF YOUR WORK – The Cicada’s Drone

*Walks around the blog, kicks the tires. Wipes away a thick layer of dust.*
Hey everyone, sorry for neglecting the blog so much in the past few weeks, but I’ve been super focused on writing. Since I’m NaNoWriMo-ing, and the challenge at terrible minds was to post 1k of your best stuff, it’s a pretty easy. Except for the fact this is pure rough draft, and I’m putting it out in the world without any polish. That’s a little scary. But yeah, here’s a glimpse at what I’ve been working on. Enjoy!

 

“Jesus Christ, Roy. Do you have a death wish?”

Conroy laughed. He hadn’t actually eaten anything substantial for most of the day, just a few candy bars and a sandwich, just enough to keep his brain from shorting out. This about balanced it out.

“Life’s too short for carrot sticks, Azure.”

They sat in silence while he slowly devoured the grease bomb. The buffalo sauce was relatively weak, but still enough to provide a bit of a tingle in the back of his throat and his nostrils. For a few minutes, everything was forgotten. The gruesome visions always on his mind, the certainty that he was letting so many people down by doing this, by being a private detective, mostly because it sounded cool. The shame of being an embarrassment, a terrible friend, all of it faded as each grease soaked bit vanished from the plate. He sat back with a satisfied smile on his face.

“Now, Azure, cut the shit. What did you want to talk about?”

She smiled, really smiled, for the first time that night. “Welcome back, Roy.”

She pulled a couple of photos from her pocket. “I found these paintings in the victim’s bedroom. They look like something you might have run into back in the day.”

Conroy looked them over. More detailed version of some of the things from the sketchbook. Finished works. “Yeah, they look familiar.”

“Feel up to consulting again?”

He smiled. “Sure. My fee’s gone up a bit.”

She glared.

“I’m sure I can cut you a deal though, for old times sake.”

#

When Sergeant Benson dropped Conroy off at his office, he didn’t notice anything wrong at first. Oh, sure, the shadows danced and pulsed menacingly, but that happened almost every night. He climbed the stairs, ignoring the low growls coming from the office below his.

He ran his fingers along the steel railing. Near the top the warm metal became damp, sticky. He brought his fingers to his nose, fearing the coppery smell of blood. Sweet, sharp, but rich. Something else. Some other viscus fluid then. Something strange. He wiped his hand on the wall. There was enough here that he’d be able to gather more if it proved the least bit interesting.

The door stood open, cracked an inch. Conroy muttered a curse. He locked it. He remembered locking it. Could he have forgotten? No. Someone was here. Someone had broken in. He reached for the small gun that nestled in the small of his back.

He pressed his hand against the door. Warm. Smooth. He looked at the doorjamb, at the lock. He expected to see some sign of a break in, a busted lock plate or maybe scratches at keyhole. Nothing. Pristine. Just like he’d walked out and forgotten it. Whoever did this was good.

Conroy pushed the door open. Inside it was dark, deep, a pit that he could fall in forever. He navigated by memory, stepping around furniture as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. A window, shades drawn back, let a little bit of light into the room.

“Well met by moonlight.” he whispered.

Through the reception area, into his office proper. A glow, blinding him. He raised his gun, finger on the trigger, ready to fire.

“Wait!”

That voice. Familiar. Didn’t belong here. Not now. Wrong. Conroy shook his head. He lowered the gun, confused. Standing by his desk, clad in a diaphanous gown, was a face familiar and foreign.

“Maureen?”

The woman nodded. Conroy held his hand up to his face, trying to block some of the glare. He realized that the glow wasn’t coming from anything in his office manager’s hand, but from the dress itself.

“The fuck, Maureen? I thought you were in the Rockies with Danny.”

She nodded. “I had to come here, to warn you.”

“About what?”

“Just take the money and walk away. There’s things at work here, forces that you cannot begin to comprehend. You cannot hope to survive this. It’s been a good run. It’s time to let it be.”

“Sorry you wasted a trip, but don’t worry, I’ve got this.”

“Let it go.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know how to explain it. I owe the kid. I took his money. I need to solve his case.”

“You’re not that good a person, Conny.”

Conroy bristled at the nickname. Maureen was the only one who could get away with calling him that name to his face.

“Fine, you’re right. It’s the mystery of the thing. This is too weird. I’ve got to know what’s going on.”

Maureen tousled his hair with her hand. “Curiosity killed the cat.”

“And satisfaction brought him back.” Conroy replied.

Maureen smiled the ghost of a smile. “We miss you, Conny.”

“Back at ya, kid.”

“We’ll see you soon.”

“You bet. Just come back safe when your vacation’s over.”

Maureen turned and took three steps towards the door before exploding into a cloud of silver moths, each one glowing as brightly as her dress. The swarm circled the room twice, buffeting papers and posters before flying out through the closed window, up towards the moon.

Conroy woke with a start. He lay facedown on his desk, a line of drool dried to the side of his face. In one hand he held the bottle of codeine pills. A quick rattle showed it was emptier than it should be. In his other hand he held his picture of Maureen and Danny, on their wedding day. In the photo, Conroy had his arms around the happy couple. Everyone was smiling and laughing. It seemed a world away. Conroy reached up to brush away the tears streaming down his face.

With shaking hands he put the bottle back into his desk drawer, and the picture back on his desk, next to his laptop stand. The office was just as dark as in his dream. He flicked on the light, blinking rapidly as the bright light caused his already damp eyes to water.

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3 thoughts on “NANOWRIMO CHALLENGE: A SNIPPET OF YOUR WORK – The Cicada’s Drone

  1. Pretty tight for a first draft. I’m intrigued by Maureen. Seems to me you’re crafting a supernatural thriller – but then the moth thing could be just what happened in the dream. Anyway, it’s got a John Connoly vibe to it that appeals. Got a working title yet?

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    • Thanks, I think the flash fiction exercises over the last year have really helped smooth out my rough drafts. This definitely is a supernatural thriller, though the main character’s painkiller addiction, anxiety, and propensity for visual hallucinations make it hard for him to sort out reality from imagination.

      I used this scene because the moth bit is my favorite visual in the piece so far.

      This takes place in the same universe as Cornbread and Cognac, in fact, the main character of this story is the detective that the narrator of that piece is pretending to be. So I guess the genre is Southern Gothic Noir Supernatural Thriller, but mostly because I’m placing it in a slightly worse parallel universe to the city I grew up in.

      The working title is “The Cicada’s Drone”. It’ll probably change once I get the full draft out, but it’s the best one I’ve come up with so far.

      In case you aren’t familiar with the bugs, these are all over the South of the US, and here’s what one sounds like. https://youtu.be/mah26og11ms?t=16s

      In Texas, during the summer, there will just be a constant chorus of hundreds of these things every where you go. It’s one of my favorite worst sounds.

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      • Hey, that’s a cool title for the book. I’ve experienced these little critters on holidays to Greece and Spain – noisy muthas! I like the concept of Southern noir too – I’m not sure if anyone’s done that before. If you need a beta-reader once you’ve finished then give me a shout.

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