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Original Skywriter

#1
Some quick facts.
  • This is the "script" for my original story that I want to make into a graphic novel.
  • I wrote it for NaNoWriMo 2012 and possibly jumps around a lot, but I can't seem to rework this first introductory chapter any further than it is now.
  • It's set in the south of England where I live (except I use Thomas Hardy's names for the counties and towns), so there could be some British terminology that doesn't make sense to other people, but I wanted it to be genuine and authentic. There's always translator's notes in manga!
    • Here's just one for you: T-Cut is a product used to restore the colour of car paint, and is pretty much also a verb. Like "to hoover".

•••

I am about to make my best friend very happy.

Mabel learned to drive a few years ago, but she hasn’t been able to keep the savings required to both buy a car and insure it - and her parents are the stingy kind of rich people who charge her too much keep and won’t lend her money or buy her a £200 car to get her started. But today, Mabel is going to be super pleased, because I have just bought myself a new car, and she’s about to receive a 1979-registered classic Volkswagen Polo.

I’m sure I could sell this car for something close to two grand, but we have plenty of money sitting around considering recent events, and I’m happy to give her something after she’s been so supportive, not to mention my only close friend, in those recent events.

I met Mabel at work, at the local university. She’s a very skilled book restoration technician - what used to be called a book binder until everyone got politically correct about job titles. Meanwhile, in true tribute to Doctors Venkman, Stantz and Spengler, I work in the somewhat controversial Parapsychology department.

The thing is, Wessex is a very, very strongly paranormal place. We have rich histories of creatures, ghouls, witchcraft and magic; you name it, something has existed in Wessex at some point. In fact, in my home county of South Wessex, black dogs are still something of a current enigma. I have personally been seeing the Gurt Dog of Outer Wessex since I was a little girl - around the time my mother died on one of my father’s crazy supernatural excursions into South America. They say that the Gurt Dog can only be seen by people that have experienced some sort of supernatural calamity in their family, so I know that what I’ve been told of my mother’s death is a lie.

It’s a thirty-five mile drive to Mabel’s house in Sandbourne - something we consider an inconvenient distance in England - but it’s enjoyable. I had gotten up particularly early on this Saturday morning, and chosen to take the rural back roads from my new coastal home in Budmouth, via the local British Army camp and Kingsbere, avoiding the local market town of Casterbridge.

I love the roads past the army camp. They’re wide enough for two tanks to pass comfortably, so they are beautiful wide roads to really let go and enjoy the drive. I don’t enjoy driving as much as my older colleagues say they used to back when there were less drivers on English roads, but this is my favourite road in South Wessex when it’s quiet. It’s when I truly understand how they could possibly enjoy driving so much.

The two miles pass too quickly, although I suppose it is my fault for opening the throttle so much. It seems fitting to travel my favourite road during my last trip in my old car. She’s not the most economical thing on the planet, given her age, but she does perform well on an open road. I smile as I look down at the fuel gauge; I’d filled up at a 24-hour petrol station soon after my departure, but my driving hadn’t been kind to the fuel tank. I had never guaranteed Mabel a full tank of petrol, had I? She could surely afford it, since she didn’t have a particularly long way to drive to work.

I drew closer to the conurbation of Havenpool and Sandbourne. I’d visited Havenpool very recently with Mabel; recent events, again. It wasn’t somewhere I particularly wanted to visit again, as I was quickly running out of relatives to feed their crematorium. As Havenpool had a dying town centre, it wasn’t somewhere I commonly visited; rather somewhere I passed through on the way to Sandbourne by car or by the train service that ran to London. I supposed that the visits would become less and less, given the reason I’d visited the town the last two times.

Finally, I could see the “Welcome to Sandbourne” sign. Twinned with Lucerne, Switzerland, and Netanya, Israel, the sign claimed. It was a common sight in South Wessex, as I assumed it was in many other counties of England. In fact, my new home of Budmouth was twinned with three! I remembered them exactly, because that was the sort of useless information I stored in my mind. Haapsalu, Estonia; Holzwickede, Germany; Louviers, France. Only Estonia’s city of Haapsalu hadn’t been used as a street name in one of our newer districts. I hope they aren’t offended.

I realised suddenly that I hadn’t brought my sat-nav. It might come as a surprise to some people, but I’d always had Mabel in the car when visiting her house before, or used my sat-nav in order to get there. When someone else is directing me, I have trouble bothering to remember the route. I sighed and pulled into the nearest side road to check the location on my phone.

Immediately after memorising the route, I found myself wondering out loud how I would pronounce Holzwickede, as I had never learned German, and then discovered that I had no idea where I was going again. At least it was giving Mabel more and more time to be out of bed and presentable, and I would have more time to spend with my old car.

Of course, checking my phone again would suggest to me that I had managed to park up outside Mabel’s house while trying to teach myself German, indicating that I had some sort of subconscious memory of the route to her house. Excellent.

There was a driveway, so I opted to pull up into it. Mabel lived in a beautiful three-story townhouse in a place called Madeira Mews. It was slightly bizarre in that her parents’ bedroom was on the bottom floor and hers was on the top, with the kitchen and dining room sitting on the central floor, but I supposed it gave her more independence from them. She was just a year younger than me - 23 - but had never wanted to move out. The same with me, I suppose, although my parents were never present in our family home.

I noticed Mabel’s mother at the kitchen window, turning her nose up at the sight of my old car as usual. What a surprise she would get. She was like a smaller and older version of Mabel, with the same long, dark, straight hair, thin face and beanpole-thin body. I envied the green eyes that ran in their family; as someone of Southern American descent, I have dark brown eyes, a dominant gene. I had little chance of acquiring my birth mother’s beautiful hazel eyes - the same with my half-sister Núria.

I was a little offended by her apparent distaste for the Polo; it was beautifully maintained and recently very painstakingly T-Cut by myself so that the red paint looked good as new. It was difficult to dislike the Polo; who could possibly dislike classic Volkswagen cars? They were cult icons, surely, and something of this car’s age that still looked so good should be revered, in my opinion.

I watched her mother disappear from the window - probably shouting for her to get dressed and come downstairs to meet me. I felt bad for not forewarning them of my early arrival - or any arrival at all - because Mabel’s parents still treated her like a teenager, despite her age. It was probably because she’d never left home, and her parents hadn’t changed their mentality. She was always going to be their baby, whether she liked it or not.

Mabel is ghastly thin and annoyingly tall; I’m not short for a British woman, but she dwarfs me completely. They say opposites attract, don’t they? We certainly looked quite the odd couple when hanging out together at lunchtimes and weekends.

“Zaneta, look at your hair! Oh my gosh, so brave! It’s wonderful!”

Mabel’s vocabulary suggests to most people that she spends too much time on the internet, specifically Tumblr. It betrays the fact that she is very well-read. Perhaps she puts it on to sound more normal.

That requires she doesn’t wear Buddy Holly’s glasses and dress relentlessly in skinny turtleneck sweaters, though, I suppose. If Mabel knew what a hipster was, she would probably identify with them, but she is blissfully unaware of any kind of fashion culture. I like that about her. I pretend that I don’t care about fashion, with my very mixed wardrobe, but I still find myself comparing my appearance to other girls my age and younger, and it generally depresses me.

“I thought you were getting your new car yesterday?” Mabel implored, looking over the Polo, a rather confused expression on her pretty face.

“I did”, I replied, “So I’m giving this one to you, because I didn’t need the part exchange credit.”

There was a very long pause as Mabel tried to process what I was saying to her, so I cemented my words by handing her the keys.

“Zaneta, you’re crazy.”

“No Mabel, I’m giving you a car. This car. This awesome, awesome car that I’ve had for five years and so painstakingly taken care of. I will help you maintain it, but I have entered the era of modern car ownership.”

Mabel squeaked a bit as if she were trying to say some words that weren’t coming to her. She then hugged me very tightly, as if attempting to suffocate me in case I asked for some kind of payment for the car. I patted her back, while smiling at her mother, whom, I assumed, had seen me hand the keys over, because she looked even more disdainful than before.

If it stopped Mabel getting the bus and hassling them and others for a lift, what was the problem?

“Let’s see what you got, then,” Mabel said, clearly trying to hold back some happy tears. She nodded to my smartphone; obviously I had photos on there.

I smiled, rubbing her shoulder in empathy, “I shall show you what I got, Mabel, but can we please go inside? I drove here in a 33-year-old car and it’s freezing out here. By the way, you should probably invest in some suitable driving gloves.” I held up my hands, white from the near hour-long journey at a cold steering wheel in British October weather.

“Of course!” chirped Mabel, horrified that she hadn’t thought about this - she was still warm from the sweater that had been hanging over her personal heated towel rail all night, and the excitement of finally owning an automobile.

I kicked off my new and colourful high-top trainers, looking at them longingly as I ascended the cream staircase to enter the main living area of the Pangulayans’ townhouse. Mrs Pangulayan still looked less than impressed, though Mr Pangulayan had recently emerged from the study and was looking out of the front window with interest.

“Isn’t it great, Dad? I can finally drive anywhere I want!” Mabel said enthusiastically, carefully side-eyeing her mother. If she could win her father over on this, her mother wouldn’t bother objecting any more. Well, she’d be objecting a bit more subtly, anyway.

He smiled, glancing down onto the driveway again, “Yes, Mabel dear, but you’d best get some insurance sorted out fairly sharpish if you want to go anywhere in it. How are you getting home, Zaneta?”

I smiled, “I was planning to walk or take the university bus into town and get the train back to Budmouth, Mr P. I haven’t used it in such a long time, and the views will be lovely today.”

The advantages of living in a university town; free buses. As staff, we could show our ID cards for Sandbourne University - or SU as it was called by staff, pupils and locals - and use the student buses for free.

“Very good, then” he said, and wandered off again.

Mrs Pangulayan forced a smile, eyeing my new and improved haircut but not commenting on it, “Could I get you a drink, Zaneta? Perhaps a hot one, after your final journey in that draughty car?”

“A hot chocolate would be lovely,” I responded, forcing a smile right back at her, “And it will probably comfort you to know, for Mabel’s welfare, that it isn’t draughty. It’s merely got a rather old but functioning dashboard heater that sometimes doesn’t fancy getting up in the morning.”

You’re probably starting to wonder about the surname. It’s a Filipino surname, but nobody in Mabel’s family could be considered Filipino at all. I suppose that in a family full of male heirs - right up until Mabel - that kind of surname can survive many generations since immigration.

Mabel doesn’t believe in the paranormal. And I mean she stubbornly doesn’t believe, to the point that we just don’t bring it up. She politely asks what I have done at work that day but she clearly thinks that my job is costing the university money that they could be spending elsewhere; although, you’d never tell your best friend that, would you?

That’s why I can’t tell her how my sister died. Her disbelief might be the end of us.
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