Unending Night: A new experiment in social media fiction

Hey folks—an idea struck me yesterday, and I’m going to try it out. It’s a kind of interactive fiction that will allow me to have some fun and take advantage of the gifts of the many clever, witty, and interesting people on my Facebook page. Or so I hope. Here’s how this works: 

  1. Every so often I will post a few paragraphs of a short story. Each section will end with the potential for input from a group of people—villagers, courtiers, soldiers, etc. The comments section will then be used for all of you to interject various in-character thoughts and, well, comments. As much as possible, I will use these comments to shape the story as it advances.
  2. Comments can also be submitted to the Tortile Taradiddles blog. All updates will be submitted there as well as Facebook so that you can track the ongoing story; comments regarded as “canon” will also be incorporated into the post, which is this post right here.
  3. You have the option of commenting as a recurring character (or multiple recurring characters). Just put the name of the recurring character before whatever it is she or he says. You don’t have to create a recurring character if you don’t want to. One-off comments are perfectly acceptable
  4. This is for entertainment only. Should at some point it turn into something more, I promise to confer with all contributors to make sure their material is treated in a way that satisfies them.

Any questions?

The posts begin here!

Post one

When the time of day came when the sun normally would have set, it marked the moment when things had been dark for twenty-two straight days.

Everyone had been quite worried at first, of course, talking of doom and apocalypse, but now that this had been going on for more than three weeks, people were of the opinion that if this truly was some sort of apocalypse, it was an oddly slow moving one. In the early days, conversation at the Moon and Grommet had centered on what kind of disaster had occurred to make the light go away, and how soon whatever it was would come to claim the entire village. But after weeks of waiting, certain doom now seemed less … certain. Conversation, generally speaking, had turned to pettier things, such as the nature and quality of the darkness. Verkor Sugwith, owner of the Moon and Grommet, firmly averred that the darkness now was exactly as it had been twenty-two days ago.

“You could light a lantern in it then. You can light a lantern now. It had a clammy feel then. It has a clammy feel now. Anything else is people’s imagination getting away from them.”

Essie Balinbrush, though, disagreed.

“I think we can all agree that, due to my work, no one in town is as familiar with the night as I am,” she said. “And this darkness has changed. It is more textured now, getting to a point where it is almost velvety. I worry that in another three weeks, it will be too thick for us to breathe.”

Balinbrush’s words were compelling, and would have been even more so if people could remember just what it was she did for a living. Regardless, the varying opinions sparked a lively debate that night, as everyone in town seemed to show up at the inn and offer their opinions on just what the darkness was.

Comments:

  • Nicholas Marsala That’s only because you are drunk again Essie!
  • Aaron Pavao We’ll know more once Emma and her brother come back from Drussetton.
  • Matt Heerdt “The darkness ain’t a thing, ‘course, but a no-thing,” said Nuskor, the old brewer. “No day, no light, no sun. Drink up boys, ’cause if there’s no sun, there’ll be no more hops, soon enough.”
  • Jason Hansa “But that must not be true,” said Ella, the young wench serving the ale. kicking out her hip and frowning as she collected empty mugs, she went on, “the birds still chirp when dawn should be, and the racoons come out by supper.”
  • Nicholas Marsala Nah, that’s just their rut. You still wake up when its dawn, and show up for work… As much as you use to at least
  • Aaron Pavao Then how do they know when to get up? Nobody’s sundial is working, and if I can’t afford a fancy clock then how do the animals know what time it is, eh?
Jason Hansa Ella pouted. “The Gods keep the animals on time.”

Post two

While the conversation didn’t come to any conclusions, it at least gave people something to do in the middle of the darkness, and that was this: Observe animals. Ella, for her part, made a point of staying up all night that night (at least she thought she did; with no sunrise to watch, it was difficult for her to know for sure). Sure enough, owl wings fluttered when it must have been very late indeed, then went to their hidden nests just as the roosters prepared to crow. Raccoons skulked for garbage, and in the distance coyotes howled at the unseen moon. It all seemed to prove her theory quite well.

It was quite a disappointment the next evening, then, when the denizens of the Moon and Grommet refused to be persuaded. Theories were exchanged, evidence was discussed, but none of that seemed to do anything besides convince people that what they had believed in the first place was absolutely correct.

It took an offhand comment from Verkor to set things on a new path. “What we could use is evidence from a traveler,” he said. “Someone from another town. At least we’d have evidence of something besides what’s happening in front of us.”

The inn was quiet for a time as the implication of Verkor’s words sunk in. For twenty-two days (almost twenty-three!) of darkness, panic and worry had kept everyone close to the village. No one had journeyed more than a few hundred yards beyond its borders. Which meant they didn’t really know how far the darkness extended.

That changed the conversation promptly. Making sure he was in hearing range of Essie when he spoke, Erthil the kitchen boy swore he would travel to the edge of the darkness, no matter how long it took. Then he asked who was with him.

  • Michael Zabkar There’s no moon. I can’t change. Not being able to change and embrace the baser side of one’s self makes one… persnickety. The air has no scent. It’s too quiet.
  • Ando Muneno “I don’t suppose you have… what you would call a plan would ya Erthil? And what do ya suppose you’ll do once you find the sunshine once more? I mean, don’t get me wrong, would love to know if the sun still rises somewhere but have you even decided which way you’d march?”
    “Course if you do go, I’d imagine I could size you for a fine pair of boots. Can’t say I’m much for adventuring but shoes, that I know.”
  • Matt Heerdt Boots are nice and all, but let’s give him a good lantern. And a sword. Boy’s good with kitchen knives, but if we can’t be bothered ourselves, let’s send him out as a man.
  • Kathleen Hardy Ikatera had been battling her own private darkness for months. She had just begun to climb out of its depths when the entire world (as far as they knew) plunged into darkness for unknown reasons. “I’ll go.”
  • William Murray As Father Liam of St. Bartholomew Abby road along the road he saw the lights on in an inn. He had been travelling now for days in darkness hoping to find some sort of reason for this disaster that had blotted out the sun but every town he had pass had refused him entrance fearing him. He was in desperate need of supplies hopefully he could find what he needed here. He reigned in his horse, tied him to the post and entered the Inn.
  • William Murray Looking around the Inn – he see the stunned and wary faces of it patrons and realizes no one expected visitors at this time. Obviously he will have to take things into his own hands so he bellows: Inn Keep! Do you have rooms and food available for a hungry traveller?
  • Ando Muneno *Quirks his one good eye at the person talking about swords.* 
    “Hard to be a sword man when your feet are bloody from walking a couple days straight, don’t you think? What are we going to be protecting him from anyways? Is he going to attack the darkness with it?”
  • Matt Heerdt “May not matter any more, looks like we’ve got a holy man!”
    Erthil, tired of the back-and-forth and mindful of his regular duties, went into the kitchen to find something hot for the new arrival.
  • Ando Muneno The Cordwainer, being burdened by no duties at the moment snorts dismissively at the mention of a “holy man.” He does however turn and raise his mug in greeting to the new arrival before turning once more, this time towards Ikatera, regarding her shoes, as he does everyones, with a discerning eye. 
    “Ah, and what about you Ika? Will you be needing a new of boots to carry you on your journey? Or will the ones I gave you last season do you just fine?”
  • Joe Mckinley No one noticed a shadow to the far left of the room. It seemed that everyone was too focused on conversation or others to even begin to notice such a subtile change. After a moment passed the shadow seemed to withdraw but not as to leave but rather to hide more effectively. The banter continued with the group unabated as no one had any answers to the lingering dark but plenty of ideas.
  • William Murray Liam looked around the Inn seeing its many patrons and head towards an empty table in the far right corner. Pulling out a chair he settled into the chair and ordered an ale and dinner from the young girl who was waiting tables.
Jason Hansa Hankon, the insfferably proud and fit son of the mayor, saw the glance of admiration Essie threw Erthil. He hated the young blacksmith’s apprenctice almost as much as he wanted Essie, the shared object of their affections. He was scared of the dark, but he rose from his seat and said, “I’ll go too. We’ll head North- once we get to the top of dead-giant hill, we’ll be able to see what’s what.”

Post three

Being a churchman isn’t an easy occupation in the best of circumstances. Being the representative of a church viewed as disreputable by some, downright corrupt by others, is even more of a challenge.

Father Liam ignored the looks he received when he entered the Moon and Grommet, as he was used to being glared at by strangers. Since all he wanted was some food and a rest from his long, cold journey, he could afford to live with the stares. Besides, in his experience, the unpleasant looks only lasted for a few moments before everyone went about their normal business. All he had to do was not respond.

Looking around once he took his seat, though, made Liam quickly realize this was not a normal circumstance. He seemed to have the eyes of everyone in the room.

Well, almost everyone. Off in one corner, a boy in an apron was nervously approaching a black-clad woman who seemed to be a foot taller than him. The dark woman, for her part, was looking warily at a merchant who seemed to be working some sort of an angle. Liam could see the mercenary glint in his eye, even from across the room

But then the innkeeper was in front of Liam, and since innkeepers are traditionally the gateway to food, the man immediately had Liam’s full attention.

“Welcome, Father,” the craggy-faced man said. “Let me say two things right off, just to clear the air. First, I want to let you know that unlike some people in these parts, I don’t hold the Open Grave Massacre against everyone in your order—just the ones that were directly involved. If you weren’t there, then you and I are square, far as I’m concerned.

“Second, you look hungry, and I’ve got plenty of good food available. I’m even willing to give some of it to you without charging you a single coin. All you have to do is answer a few questions that me and my friends have for you.” He said this with a sweeping gesture that took in the whole room. “Whaddya say?”

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