I'm writing a novel. I've been frustrated in the past by not being able to think up people and events as interesting as in RL and not wanting to be sued or assassinated, but I think I've hit on a way by creating a parallel set of people and events.
Comments and criticism welcome. I've read enough amateur fiction to know it's usually terrible, so I'd like to avoid the worst. Warning: I may crap out at any time and you'll never find out whodunnit.
“Welcome to your wonderful new life.”
That must have made me hesitate because Mila poked me as she pushed past me to the registration desk and signed in. I was only there because she didn't want to be by herself at this weekend retreat. But it was too late for me to turn back – we were way out in the country and we'd come in her car. So I stepped forward and signed in too.
The young woman on the other side of the table smiled at me and said, “You won't be sorry you came.” Then she frowned and corrected her wording: “You'll be happy you came.”
“Okay,” I said.
She asked us to wait here just inside the site entrance for a few minutes until more people arrived and then a guide would take us to the dormitory. So we stood looking at the pamphlets on the registration table, which was one of those rectangular glass affairs for a patio, with a big umbrella rising from the centre and shading us all from the summer sun. The entrance was an impressive affair, constructed of raw new timber, with wrought-iron gates standing open. On the timber beam overhead strange symbols were carved, though I did recognize the astrological sign for Taurus, since that's my sign.
Now some people were straggling up the short incline from the parking lot, lugging their overnight bags or bent under backpacks. There was a middle-aged couple, both of them pudgy and with long grey hair. Then a weedy young man with wispy beard. And two solemn young women with flowing hair and flowing skirts.
We all gathered beside the registration table, exchanging hesitant hellos and checking the name-tags the young registrar was giving out. For the occasion apparently we were going by new names. Mine was Tulip and Mila was Violet. The men also got flower names – the tags seemed to be assigned randomly. The registrar explained that for the duration we were leaving our worldly identities behind and being just our essential natural selves. What better for a natural self than a name from nature? Her name, I noted, was Purslane.
Our guide arrived now, a woman in her late fifties, with a long grey braid, and wearing a slim, ankle-length green dress with a green corded belt. Her name-tag read “Willow”.
“Welcome,” she said, smiling.
She led us along a path through trees to a freshly made clearing, stumps and sawdust still all around, and to one of those half-cylinder buildings, usually used for farm machinery – steel hoops covered with a tan plastic 'canvas'. Actually it was two such structures, end-to-end. Designs and scenes were painted on the sides. Willow led us in the door at the end. Inside, light filtering through the tan plastic produced a golden twilight effect.
Yoga mats were lined up in rows on the cement floor. We'd been told just to bring a sleeping-bag, but I had packed a thin camping pad, for which I was now grateful. Some of the mats had sleeping-bags or bedding arranged on them and there were a few people sitting around chatting. Willow assigned us to various mats, breaking up the couple, and the pair of young women, and Mila and me. This was an interior, individual experience we would have, she told us, and we needed to do it without constant comparing of notes with people we knew because that would drag us back to our old familiar way of being.
I was a little distressed by this. I'd been looking forward to complaint session with Mila. I had a little list already. Well, maybe over dinner.
I was a little unhappy about the neat rows of mats. Just to be ornery, I guess, I moved my mat diagonally and unrolled my pad and sleeping-bag. Willow quickly came over and told me to get my mat back in line. “We must all sleep with our heads to the magnetic north,” she said, explaining that the dorm was oriented in that direction. “If you turn sideways, you interfere with the flow of energy – not only for yourself, but for everyone else.”
Energy shmenergy, but I obediently turned my mat around. I had a brief image of us all floating off to sleep in the dark, everyone with head to the north and feet trailing off to the south, like a school of fish.