Total Wordcount: 36,091
(includes the part written before SocNoc - 4143 words)
In excellent news, my BBC Madagascar DVD arrived today, so I shall be engaging in research. I've already watched the first 15 minutes or so. Madagascar is so beautiful that it makes me cry. Because I've been there, and the beauty is so fragile, so vulnerable, that it could all disappear in my lifetime.
When my alarm went off this morning my first thought was "dagnamit - why did I set my alarm for the middle of the night?" Because I have been setting it half an hour earlier* in order to give me some "writing time". This means that it currently goes off at 5.10 am. In winter. It is cold and it is dark and I wake up and jump in the shower, trying to get some life into my brain.
Some mornings I can't do it - it's too cold and my fingers don't seem to work and I make more typos than I should.
This morning was almost one of those mornings. I'm having short, sharp showers at present because of water issues and there was a nice, vicious frost. My fingers were cold, my brain was still half-addled by the dream I had been snatched from. I slipped on my finger-less gloves and started to type.
Managed 1,000 words before I had breakfast and headed into work. There was a nice, sharp aftershock (magnitue 5.0) at 6.20 to wake me up properly. What fun. But hey, I was already awake, so that's almost civilised (none between midnight and 5.40 am, yay for uninterrupted sleep).
So why do I do it?
The characters make me.
Today Aurelia revealed her story telling abilities (and her secret identity?):
"... I am not a maki,” Aurelia admitted. “I am in fact a special type of sifaka, a type so rare that none of you will ever have seen one, because I live in the sky, among the stars. But my parents were clumsy, and one day my mother dropped me.”
Gasps from her audience (of kits). “Oh no,” one said.
“That's why my fur is white – with the star sparkle and my eyes are blue because I have gazed so much upon the skies. Anyway, I huddled on the ground, lost and alone. I had no way of getting home, I could not leap that high. Karazana and Manjoretra found me. They had just lost a kit of their own, and to them I was a gift from the Lemures. They promised then that they would protect me to the ends of the earth and beyond. But that was a promise that was going to cost them dear.” She studied her audience, making sure that each and everyone had their attention focussed on her. Aurelia rather enjoyed being the centre of attention.
“Because there was another that also wanted me as her own. She had seen me fall from the sky – in a blaze of white light. And she had heard legends of fallen star-lemurs. Had heard that if she were to eat my eyes, she would be able to see in the dark If she ate my ears, she would be able to hear every whisper, every rumour ever ever uttered about her. And if she ate my heart she would live forever.
“She came hunting for me then. I was out foraging for food with a friend of mine when she found us. I had just bent over to pick up a fallen tamarind,” she snapped open a tamarind pod, “when I heard a sound. Clip-clip-clip. The sound of hooves on hard ground. I looked up and saw an enormous beast. It had a long, thin face and great horns rose from its head. On its back sat a dark-furred sifaka. Her eyes glowed red as she gazed upon me. She rose one finger and shouted 'attack'. A swarm of mongoose erupted from behind her, charging at us. My companion was very brave, he took up a stick and fought many of them off. But there were too many of them and they nipped and they bit. 'Run Fotsy,' he cried, 'run.' So I ran. I listened to him. I shouldn't have.”
She let her shoulders slump. “I never saw him again. His name was Matthieu and he was brave and strong and I miss him very much.” The distress in her voice was not feigned. The kits sighed and whimpered in sympathy.
“So I ran, and I leapt up a tree and then across into another, leaping and leaping further and further away. But one caught me. Its sharp teeth sliced into my side and the pain, oh the pain! It was terrible.” She untied the bandage, showing the neat stitches and the deep gasp they held together. “I would have bled to death had another not rescued me. A monkey. I know you've maybe heard bad things about the monkeys, and how the Queen wants them all gone, but this monkey was good and kind. He took me to the maki Ombiasy and she healed my wounds. But after that, I had no choice. If I stayed, the hunter would come after me and she might hurt more of my friends.”
Her audience were watching her with wide round eyes.
“My maki friends decided that we should go somewhere, far far away. And they'd heard of a place. Of a tree so tall that it reached into the skies. So tall that it reached the stars. And that is where we're going. To the very north, the tip of the island. From there I might be able to climb home.”
She glanced across at her rapt audience. Some of the younger ones gazed at her in awe. Others frowned in doubt.
“But as we were passing your shore, the wind saw me, and decided to snatch me away. It whipped the waves into a frenzy, trying to sweep us out of the reef and into the open ocean where we would be eaten by gigantic fish with huge teeth. But my maki guardians were strong and they fought the wind, so that we stayed within the reef. Finally the wind grew weary and retreated, meaning we could start towards shore. But we were exhausted. So it is very lucky that one of your Vezo found our craft and rescued us. And that,” she said, with a final wave of her hands, “brings us to the here and now.”
* On days when I start work at 8 am, that is to say - 3 days of the week