NaNoWriMo is an international project involving thousands of writers, or would be writers, who commit to writing an entire novel within the month of November. (I hear that you can finish a work already started, but you have to produce 50K words during the month for the novel to count). Since I’ve written a novel within a month once before, I figure I can do it again, only this time, better. Why will it be better? Because I can take my time, since I have a WHOLE MONTH to do it in. (I only had a few days to finish the last one.)
This post is a modified version of my novel’s page at the NaNoWriMo site, which apparently can’t be public.
This is H.P. Lovecraft’s story, set in more recent times, without the racism and sexism, and the story is kinda different too. Disclaimer: The Synopsis and Excerpt provided below may or may not survive the writing process.
A timelessly ancient presence lurks deep beneath a cold northern lake, sleeping and dreaming. It has been doing so since eons before the lake itself ever existed, passing time as glaciers came and went, scraping the surface of the planet closer and closer, and ever changing in its appearance.
But the Old One it does not always dream alone. For the Old One, dreaming is sustenance, and those creatures that happen to be about, that happen to have evolved by chance or design of nature to exist at that moment in long and deep time, are recruited to be the chosen with whom the old one dreams. And generally, they are not aware that they are being fed upon.
Thousands of years after the Old One first took to resting on this quiet blue planet, one of the more clever denizens, the humans, happened by chance upon a feast in progress, and became curious. That same species had an expression: “Curiosity killed the cat.” The Old One knew nothing of cats, but felt very uncomfortable with human curiosity.
And so begins the story of Gean and Lacy, two humans not delectable in the usual way, and thus untouched, undemented, by the reaching mind of the ancient sleeper, who would entirely by chance discover at least part of the unthinkable truth, and ultimately step unsafely close to the unearthly creature busily consuming its meal.
This monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, with an octopus-like head and face covered with a mass of tentacles, a scaly, rubbery body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, vestigial wings, and large enough to displace all the waters of a sizable Walleye honey hole, would be the least of Gean and Lacy’s problems. They should really have avoided enraging the Masters of the Universe who ran one of the country’s largest corporations, raising the suspicions of the investigators in charge of a secret bureau of the Department of Homeland Security, or disturbing the troubled harmony of the academic world of anthropologists and other scoundrels.
It turns out that sometimes, when you dream a certain thing, you die.
Had this happened once, it would never have been noticed. Twice, it would have been attributed to coincidence. But it happened three times, and in this case, three times is not a charm. Over 10,000 people had been sleeping while attached to a SleepMeter 2000 during the course of up to four and a half years, nearly 80 million hours of data from their sleep cycles uploaded to the central server. Four of them happened to die during their sleep. One was not dreaming at the time and the cause of death was a heart attack. That’s a coincidence. The other three had died of a brain hemorrhage, and the data from the SleepMeter 2000 indicated not only that they were dreaming at the time, but they were dreaming oddly. The signals picked up by the sensors built into the Sleep Cap that comes with the SleepMeter 2000 clearly indicated dreaming, but along with the dreaming came an additional electronic signature utterly unique compared to all of the other signals stored over the years on the SleepMeter servers.
Also, all three died at the same exact moment in time.
This is what Lacy Edwards, my roommate and nerd-in-chief at SleepMeter Inc, was telling me. Lacy sat across the kitchen table, telling me the story while she typed rapidly on the keyboard of her ubiquitous laptop and I munched on a piece of toast leftover from breakfast. Her long semi-curly red hair was jiggling slightly against her shoulders as she tapped away at the keys. Her pale but very pretty face, punctuated by a sideways colon of sharp green eyes, fragile em-dash nose and, with her intense focus on her keyboard, open-bracket frown tilted down, not looking at me, but only at the screen. Ok, maybe it isn’t fair for me to always think of Lacy as an emoticon, but she seemed to spend her life inside computers so it felt right.
“There were nine other instances of that strange signal coming from people’s heads while they slept,” she said. “Eight in the ones who died, at various times over the previous weeks. One had been picked up from the brain of another individual who seems to be both still alive and still a customer using the SleepMeter 2000 service. But the bosses at work have been totally cagey with me. ‘This is just an anomaly, and has nothing to do with our device,’ they said. They told me to lay off. Hell, they are probably right. The 2000 is safe. It doesn’t DO anything, just reads signals. That’s not the problem.”
“We don’t need to look into safety, I told them. We need to look into these people. I think we might have discovered a new disease or something. And the thing is, we saw it coming in all the cases where they died, and one guy is still alive. For now.”
“And if you really did discover a new disease,” I mentioned through my toast, “you also have the diagnostic tool for it.”
She looked up from her laptop for the first and only time and, giving me a wink (colon to semi-colon and back) said, “… and of course, I thought of that. That’s when I realized the reason they did not want me looking into this.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I was the inventor of most of the technology that went into making the SleepMeter 2000 work. Therefore, I am the inventor of this possible technology to identify a medical condition that can lead to death from brain hemorrhage. And of course, they want to patent that themselves!”
“Oh. Right.” I poured more milk into my coffee. The coffee was too cool to be considered hot coffee, but maybe with a little more milk it would kinda be ice coffee. “So what are you going to do about that?” I asked, fairly confident that she could not do much about it.
“Well, I’m not going to do nuthin’” Lacy said, saying each of those syllables with grand exaggeration and timing them with hard one-fingered hammering, hand raised dramatically with each strike on her keyboard, in a gesture of over dramatic finality. “Because I just finished doing it. Let’ go eat something, I’m starved.”
“What did you do?” I asked as she slapped the cover of the laptop shut.
“I’ll tell you at dinner. From now on I assume our apartment is bugged,” she said with another semi-colon wink and a closed parenthesis, er, grin, clearly joking about the bugging, but I was pretty sure not about dinner.