Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.
Because today, 17 July, is the 104th anniversary of the execution of Russia’s last Imperial Family, I’m taking a brief detour and sharing something from my alternative history And Aleksey Lived. The book was released four years ago today, on the 100th anniversary.
Chapter 15, “A Sad Anniversary,” concludes Part I. In the middle of the night, 14-year-old Aleksey wakes up and sees from his alarm clock that it’s exactly the time he was awoken by his would-be murderers one year ago. He tries to calm his fears and drive away the nightmarish images by turning on all the lights in his room and lighting a few candles, but he’s still tortured by these feelings and memories.
Aleksey clomped over to the easel and uncapped a container of black paint, not caring which particular type of paint it were. Paint was paint, even if his new art tutor was trying to teach him the differences between each medium. He then found the largest brush in the tin can stuffed full of brushes, plunged it into the paint, and frantically moved it around the canvas. After filling about half the canvas with black swirls and streaks, he opened a canister of dark grey paint, found a new brush, and added that slightly different color to the painting. A little bit of space was still left, so he found the darkest red possible and maniacally jabbed the brush into the white spaces. As he shoved the dripping brush all along the bottom of the canvas, his throat tightened and he began hyperventilating.
Hoping to open the windows for fresh air, he went to stand up, but was paralyzed in place. He could feel his legs, but couldn’t compel them to move. His hands shook as he rolled up his pajama pant legs and fumbled for the buckles on the right caliper. This wasn’t successful either, as his fingers were shaking too badly to perform any fine motor operation.
The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.
“What’s happening in here?” Mikhail asked. “Why are there so many lights on in the middle of the night? I heard odd noises and went to investigate, thinking there might be a rodent.”
Aleksey opened his mouth to respond, but his throat was too dry to speak, and his tongue was just as paralyzed as his legs. He struggled to raise his arm and point at the calendar.
Mikhail’s eyes softened. “It’s been a year since you lost your parents, hasn’t it?”
Aleksey could only nod.
“What are you painting? That’s a lot darker and more abstract than anything I’ve ever seen you draw.” Mikhail looked down and saw his nephew’s rolled-up pant legs. “Were you trying to remove your calipers? You’ve made too much progress to suddenly reverse it all now.”
“It’s the cellar.” He barely managed to utter these words. “If I put it on paper, it might leave my mind forever.”
Mikhail strode over to his nephew, knelt by him, and enfolded him in his arms. “Those memories will live as long as you do. You can’t compel them out of your brain by painting them, drawing them, sculpting them, or writing about them. If I could, I’d put all your bad memories in a sealed iron box and throw it into the bottom of the ocean, but memory doesn’t work like that. We have to live with all our memories, both good and bad, our entire lives. We can’t just remember the happy times. Ugly memories are part of who we are, and shape us into the people we become.”