Yesterday I finished off two more of my mythpunk short stories, so now I’ve a total of six short stories. I keep referring to them as my ‘mythpunk anthology’ even though I’ve no plan to make an anthology of them just yet. You may be asking right now, what is mythpunk?
To be honest, I’d never heard of the genre ‘mythpunk’ before reading Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge a month (or so) ago – though I have noticed a fondness out there for ‘punking’ eg/ steampunk and dieselpunk, both of which are awesome.
Mythpunk is apparently what I have been writing recently in my short stories, Groundskeeper, Charming, The Wyvern’s Sting and The Troll’s Toll. Mythpunk is a form of speculative fiction which takes elements of myths, fairy tales, and folk tales and mixes them with more modern ideas, like feminism and multiculturalism or twisting it in an unusual direction.
An illustration from Beauty and The Beast, artist Angela Barrett. This picture inspired a whole new tale and an unorthodox ending to another.
Sassy girl who tends a labyrinth designed to trap princess inside, check. A princess sold into captivity fighting for freedom and to gain back her throne instead of just sitting around and waiting for her prince, check. A broke prince rescuing princesses for the bounty money, check. Sounds like this is one of my new favourite genres.
Of course I’m not sure that my work has quite the edge that deserves a word like ‘punk’, but then again a lot of writers feel themselves inadequate in regards to certain aspects of their writing, so perhaps this is mine?
Regardless, I’m having a lot of fun toying with the mythpunk genre(another idea recently popped in my head to be a fun follow-up to Charming that would actually tie a few of the stories together) and don’t see myself abandoning it any time soon.
This time the random number generator gave me 10, 10, 1, which is ‘the moon’ for my motif, ‘mythpunk’ for my genre and ‘a train’ for my setting. Technically I got 4 for setting, which was a labyrinth, but I’ve recently written a labyrinth story, so wanted something different, so rolled the die on that on again (cheating, naughty naughty, though this time I did manage to stick to the 1,000 word limit).
Well, without further ado:
picture courtesy of the creative commons
Eyes On the Sky
I first saw him when I was forced to stay back at work, labouring over an Expression of Interest for a contract my company was desperate for. They were so desperate they actually paid me overtime, otherwise I would have left the office long before the moon rode in the sky.
He sat, elbow propped on the very thin sill beneath the train window, staring through the scratched-on graffiti up at the moon. She was fat and full in the sky and his eyes were full of her.
He was tall and slim – not an underfed slim, but that lean, muscular slim that hides more strength than you expect. His eyes, shimmering silver with the moon’s reflection, were blue under all that light and his blond beard was kept trimmed close to his face while his hair flared out in loose golden curls.
I wondered who he was, watching the sky with eyes full of melancholy. My heart ached and the next day all I could think about was him.
Desperate to see him again I worked late, this time unpaid, and left in time to catch the same train. I wasn’t sure he would be on the train, he had been dressed casually so may have been visiting a friend on a once-in-a-while trip. I walked the entire length of the train, checking every car. My heart skipped a beat when I found him in the front-most car, elbow on the sill, staring up at the moon.
I sat across from him, hands folded in my lap, and watched him.
He didn’t glance at me once, but that did not deter me.
The next day I didn’t care to stay back at work, so I sat at the train station reading as train after train clacked by.
When my train pulled up he was seated by the window directly in front of me. His eyes bored through the concrete roof of the station. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that his eyes were trained where the moon hung in the sky.
I sat across from him again, admiring the strong cut of his jaw and the beauty of his expression as he watched the moon. Again he didn’t notice my presence.
It was the weekend and I couldn’t get him out of my mind. I wanted the weekend to be over so I could go back to work, stay late and catch that train. My friends dragged me out to go dancing with them, and though I went I insisted on dancing by the window so I could look up at the moon – knowing he would be doing the same somewhere.
When Monday arrived I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. But something was gnawing at my stomach too. He never looked at me. He didn’t know I existed. Fine, tonight I would change that.
At the station I read my book, pulse thrumming, while I waited to finally talk to him. What would I say? What would he say? What would happen after that? I could barely focus on the story in my lap. Then something caught my eye in the tale.
Star-crossed lovers were the focus of this tragedy. The Sun and the Moon, Apollo and Artemis, in love, but never able to meet. During the night, when he could roam the earth she rode the sky, and during the day, when she was not trapped in the sky, he was instead.
The train screeched to a halt in front of me.
I boarded the train, my head hurting. It was a coincidence, wasn’t it? I just happened to read a story about a man in love with the moon. Right?
He wasn’t in the car I boarded, but he was in the next one along.
I sat myself beside him and stared at him. His golden hair ruffled out from his head. I swallowed as the thought crossed my mind that his hair was like the sun’s rays. I was being silly. Gods don’t walk the earth and myths are just stories.
His eyes shone, sad and silver and full of her. There was no mistaking his expression.
I swallowed hard and opened my mouth.
“Are you…” I trailed off; I couldn’t say it.
Slowly, reluctantly, he tore his eyes away from the moon. He looked at me, eyes a little wide, like he never expected there to be another person on the train.
“I’m sorry, did you say something?” He asked, his voice like a creaky old door from lack of use.
“I… er, I wanted to tell you…” I frowned and looked away. “Sorry, no, I wanted to ask you…” My eyes flicked down to the book in my lap.
His eyes followed mine and widened again.
“It’s tough being a celebrity.” He sighed.
I couldn’t talk for a few moments. He watched me, calm, waiting for me to collect my thoughts with the sort of patience only an immortal could possess.
“So you are? Apollo, I mean?”
“In a fashion. Apollo is just a name I’ve been given. I have thousands of them. But essentially, yes, I am the sun.”
My heart burst while my mind broke.
I don’t know why I didn’t doubt him, I just knew that he wasn’t lying. But that wasn’t what mattered, what mattered was that he was there, on the train, looking at the woman he loves and can never have.
The train pulled in to a stop.
I glanced at the sign and was shocked to see it was my stop. I apologised, dipping into a curtsey because that was all I could think of to do when departing the presence of a god, and I exited the train.
On the platform I watched as the train hissed back into motion, clutching the book to my chest with tears in my eyes.
Apollo looked up at Artemis and I watched as the memory of me faded from his eyes and filled with the sight of her.
I seem to be fond of a theme of obsession. Also, I think I kind of bludgeoned the reader to death with my motif. What do you think? I don’t love this one with quite the passion I have for Emily’s typewriter, but this was still fun and another chance to write a little out of my comfort zone.
Please, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your reactions.
Kirstie Olley is an award-winning speculative fiction author and the full-time wrangler of her children Xander and Harlequin.
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