|The nature of fiction
||[Jun. 28th, 2007|10:52 am]
For Our Friend Alys
Title: The Nature of Fiction
Fandom: Dizzyland/Pattern Recognition/Good Omens crossover madness!
So, er. I'm afraid this is a tad bit melancholy, but I hope you enjoy it all the same. It's sort of a prequel to a longer fic that's been in the works for ... well, a while now, and which will hopefully see the light of day before too long. In the meanwhile -- here's Cayce, and some ideas she's been kicking around in her head.
Cayce Pollard walks around the perimeter of the lake in St James' Park, her Rickson jacket zipped up against the cold. It is March, grey, damp, English; the kind of day that makes the tourists re-assess their plans and decide that they'll go to the British Museum or the Tate rather than the Tower.
Cayce is here on business. It's been four months since the episode in Kyoto; Peter wanted her to take some more time off, but she couldn't stand the inactivity.
Mostly, she couldn't stand to watch another moment of television and see someone else she'd gotten drunk with.
Last night she went out to dinner with Magda and Voytek and listened to them argue about art; and Magda ranted at length about le parkour, the substance of her latest briefing and assignment -- "by what yardstick do they measure 'new', these people?" -- and Cayce said very little, nodding in agreement and laughing when she should. It was a pleasant contrast to the last dinner party she'd been to in New York.
Somehow she'd ended up sitting next to a writer, a woman whose name never quite stuck in her head -- Carrie or Carol or something -- dark-haired, bespectacled, quiet, serious. She admitted to being a writer with a kind of grim reluctance, explaining that most of the time, when you tell people you're a writer, they usually start talking about the novel they've always wanted to write. That or they ask where they can get your books, which, Carrie or Carol added, was really embarrassing when you had to explain that your first book wasn't even out yet. She was still correcting the galley proofs. Something about her tone of voice said she'd rather be correcting galleys than at the dinner party.
"Can I ask you something? About writing?" Cayce asked.
"Sure. I'll even try to be nice when I answer."
"Where do your characters come from?"
Carrie or Carol looked like she was about to fire off some kind of glib answer, but something in Cayce's expression seemed to stop her. "They ... they just happen," she said. "I'll wake up and there'll be an idea there, a concept, so I start writing it down, and the person starts to take shape. And then other people start to accrue around them, because you have to have other people for a story, right?"
"Do you feel like they exist?"
A puzzled frown. "What do you mean?"
"I mean ..." Cayce struggled. "Do you ever feel like you're, I don't know, this sounds ridiculous -- receiving transmissions or something? Do you have a sense that they actually exist somewhere and you're just writing them down, or do you feel like you're inventing them as you go?"
The writer blinked. "I -- well, you always hear about, like, writers who suddenly learn things about their characters, or who find that their characters are doing things they didn't expect, or they 'take on a life of their own' or whatever. Do I think they actually exist somewhere?" She shook her head slowly. "Not really, no."
"So you don't feel bad when terrible things happen to them?" Cayce persisted.
"No. Well, okay, maybe a little, but ...they're not real, are they?"
"But what if, on some level, they are? What if fiction is just a way of tapping into some other level of reality? What happens to characters when the story ends, is what I want to know."
Carol or Carrie laughed nervously. "Well, isn't that what fanfiction is for?"
Later, on the way back to Cayce's apartment, Peter asked her if she was feeling okay. "That writer girl next to you looked like you'd threatened to eat her firstborn or something," he said. "What'd you say?"
"We were talking about books. I just ... got a bit vehement, is all."
"You've been acting totally bizarre since the Kyoto incident. Is there something you want to talk about?"
For an instant, she considered telling him. About the dream-that-wasn't-a-dream, about the park and the people and the characters she'd always thought of as fictional, how the three days she'd been out had been months for her ...
And then a bus passed by. There was a Veronica Mars ad on it. Cayce shook her head. She heard Peter sigh.
A duck quacks and dives underwater. Cayce doesn't really pay much attention to it.
"...really, my dear." Voice carrying over water, as voices sometimes do on these cold days.
She looks up and notices, on the other side of the lake, two men. One plump and tweedy, one in a sleek black suit. Sunglasses. The sardonic smile.
"Crowley?" she almost says. And then some stupid jogger, absorbed in his iPod, crashes into her, knocking her to the ground.
When she stands up again, the men are gone. Cayce pulls up the collar of her jacket and walks on.