For National Novel Writing Month I decided to write a collection of short stories, rewrites of the Greek Myths, but in a modern setting. Not really a novel, but I write novels all the time and wanted a challenge. With a sick cat, I am way behind words, but I have nearly finished the first of the story collection, my retelling of Orpheus and I thought I’d post the beginning.
ONE LAST SONG
“This isn’t what I expected,” I said, taking a seat in the over stuffed, floral sofa.
“Let me guess, Harry said, as he flopped down into the arm chair opposite me. “You were expecting black candles, skulls, cobwebs, perhaps a black cat, or two?”
“Something like that,” I said.
“Sorry to disappoint you, Oliver, but when you see all that, all the glitz, the . . . fur coat and no knickers, as it were, then you’re probably dealing with a fake, with someone who has to try hard to look the part. I don’t have to do that. I can do what I claim and I can help Ellie.”
Ellie. Just the mention of her name brought a lump to my throat. My wife, my childhood sweetheart, just twenty-four years old, and lying like a living corpse in a hospital bed after being hit by a car. A coma, they said, and they didn’t know if she would ever wake. I visited every day, pushing past the press that had gathered outside, all desperate to catch a shot of Oliver McKenzie, singer, in all his misery. And spent that day, morning until night, sitting beside Ellie’s bed, waiting, hoping, watching, as she grew thinner, paler, frailer. The woman she had been was fading in front of my eyes but I refused to let her go. I had consulted experts, the best that money could buy, and when they could tell me nothing new, I had turned elsewhere. Alternative therapists, new age healers, witches, whatever they wanted to call themselves, I had asked them all for help, and gotten no where, until one of them had mentioned Harry. A rather large ‘gift’ and a phone call later and here I was, sitting opposite a blond man who looked barely out of school, trying not to get my hopes up and failing.
“So, how does this work?” I asked at last.
“It’s fairly simple. I’ll make you up something to drink, it tastes like crap, I’m afraid, and it will put you under. Then you just have to find Ellie and bring her back.”
“Put me under?”
He nodded. “Ellie is in a coma, that means she’s stuck, neither here nor there, alive nor dead, in limbo. You have to go and bring her back, back to her body, back to life.”
“Right,” I said, a slow drawl of doubt and disbelief. “That sounds easy enough.”
“That’s the one thing that it isn’t,” Harry replied, his smile gone. “There are all sorts of nasty buggers in that place, Oliver. They will know that you’re not meant to be there and will be attracted to that. You have to be careful. If you see them, don’t acknowledge them, don’t look at them, don’t let them see you noticing them, because they will follow you back.”
Now I had to laugh. “These ‘creatures’ will follow me back? To what?”
“To whatever they can find, Oliver. Any vessel that is nearby, that they can access.”
“This is starting to sound like something from some sort of dodgy horror film, you do know that, don’t you?”
Harry grinned easily. “Oh yes. I know how it sounds. Just as I knew how it sounded when I said that I could see and speak to the dead and that some of my dreams came true. Doesn’t change the fact that it’s true.” He yawned. “So, that’s it, Oliver. You can give this a go or you can cling to what you believe you know is true of the world and hope that Ellie recovers on her own. What’s it to be?”
Put like that, the answer was simple. “I’ll take the chance,” I said.
Writing urban fantasy is actually a fair bit of fun, when you get into it, and stop worrying about how nuts it all sounds. You can make references to things that you know and love, use slang and modern terms, and the rules of the world already exist, for the most part, so no world building to worry about. For me, part of the challenge, and part of the fun, is sticking to the main elements of the myth. Some are certainly easier than others, Orpheus and Medea are easier than the Harpies and Lamia, but we shall see what we can make of them. The good thing about Greek Myths is there are plenty to chose from.