Hello! This October Podcast Month episode was originally for paid subscribers only, but as of June 24, 2022, it’s free for everyone.Listen to "October Podcast Month: A story excerpt!" on Spreaker.
I’ve been practicing all day for the live reading I am doing in just over an hour to promote the Kickstarter for Speculative Fiction For Dreamers.
My story is about twin sisters, Alma and Corazón. They’re about to turn fifteen, but when they were twelve, they became demon slayers and saved the world. Now Alma’s in a hospital, tormented by horrible visions, and both girls are convinced they need to save the world all over again.
This excerpt is just a bit of the beginning of the story, a bit less than a 5th of the whole thing.
Here’s the text of the excerpt in case you would prefer to read rather than listen:
The world was ending and the love was gone. Alma could see the signs, the shifting shadows of demons tearing at the thin wall between their dimension and hers. She needed to fight, to preserve the border, but they wouldn’t let her. In this place with its bland colors and fluorescent lights, they all thought she was crazy.
“You should rest,” the nurse said. “Here, take your pills.”
Alma turned her head, pushing away. “I have to tell Corazón. We have to fix it.”
The nurse caught her by the chin and forced the pills into her mouth, watching to make sure she swallowed. “Shh, it’s okay. There’s no need to get worked up.”
Alma was dizzy. The lights were too bright, and the clock on the wall above her bed kept ticking in that particular way, like waiting, like breathing. The clock was breathing. It contained all of the universe inside it and she needed to stay awake to watch it or everything would fly apart. All the demons would come through. All the world would come undone. She needed Corazón.
“Tell her,” Alma said, her voice already beginning to slur from the sedative. “Tell her we need to take up the silver sword again.”
When they were twelve, and the man had asked if they wanted to save the world, it had sounded like an adventure. Corazón didn't know--couldn't know--how the squelch of the sacred blade slicing demon flesh would stick in her ears for days, how the shrieks of the damned would haunt Alma's dreams, how incredibly gruesome a task saving the world would turn out to be.
Corazón faced it with fierce courage and pragmatic stoicism, but Alma had always been sensitive. She couldn't let go of the horror. At night, her dreams were full of monsters, and none so monstrous as herself. She screamed in her sleep. As time passed, the memories didn’t fade for her. They grew stronger until they took over everything, and she begged Corazón to help her fight things Corazón couldn’t see.
It had been a month since Alma went away. Corazón only visited once. The nurses escorted her through the series of locked wards into a room with no door, where everyone listened to their conversation.
"They don’t believe me. Tell them, Corazón. Tell them the truth."
Corazón held Alma's hand, touching palms, and matching scar to scar so they made a cross that no one could see, but both sisters could feel. She looked into Alma's eyes, knowing her sister would understand her soul, and the furious fire that burned in her heart. But she couldn’t say what Alma wanted to hear. Not in front of everyone here. She left without saying another word. She didn't come back.
Her parents made her see a counselor who asked her how she felt, and how she was doing in school, and if she believed in demons. Corazón lied because she was not going to that place.
"My sister is crazy," she said. "It sucks, yeah, but there's nothing I can do about it."
"Your sister is ill,” said the counselor. “Crazy is a derogative term. It's natural that you might be experiencing some anger. I can help you process it if you let me."
"I don't need a counselor," Corazón said. For three long sessions she sat on the soft beige sofa, impassive as stone.
In the end, the counselor told Mr. and Mrs. de León, that Corazón was strong, and unwilling to accept help. "She'll work through it on her own, I think. If she changes her mind, you know where to find me."
Corazón walked out of the office that day with fire in her chest that was part triumph, where before it had been all rage. She would guard her freedom with everything she had, because one of them should be free to help the other. This she promised herself.
Each night she prayed to God, asking Him to show her how to save her sister from the demons who still tormented her.
Some days Alma felt more at peace than others. On those days, the world around her felt a little clearer, more in focus. The demons weren’t as loud. She’d dreamt the angel last night, the terrible and beautiful man who had come to them three years ago. He was not soft, but he was gentle and strong. He’d told her Corazón would help. Alma knew that Corazón believed, even if she wouldn’t answer her phone.
Mamá picked up on the first ring. “Baby, it’s so good to hear from you. Are you okay?”
“I miss Corazón.”
“Corazón misses you, too.” Mamá’s voice was full of warmth and sadness. “She’s very busy getting ready for her Quinceañera right now. She wishes it could be yours, too. I’m sure she’ll talk to you soon.” Then she passed the phone to Papá, who said they’d come visit later in the week.
Alma wiped her sweaty palms on her pajama pants, and swallowed her disappointment when she hung up. Once upon a time she had dreamed of a big Quinceañera, of matching gowns, of dancing. Now that seemed so far away and childish. There were so many other more important things to do. The angel would find her sister and he’d show her the way.