Sidetime and How it Works - Murti Schofield

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SIDETIME
AND HOW IT WORKS
“Do not trust anyone who offers themselves up as a definitive authority on any subject. They will be charlatans or at best self-deluding. In all such matters, it is best to question everything.” From Cullie Brown’s commentary on “A Glimpse Behind the Shadows.”

 
 
In the Shadow Histories novels, most chapters are prefaced with a quote or an extract from an article on a relevant subject such as the Microlite Salvager teams, transport in the post-Event world, or the origins and outbreak of Bloom. They will often be articles, poems, or quotes from the writings of authors, historians, and commentators of the period. This is intended to provide extra background on Cody Conmar’s world and inform the reader of details that would be cumbersome if placed as exposition in the mouth of a character.
 
Sometimes the chapter with be proceeded by an entry called Sidetime. These are usually one or two pages of narrative action that might appear random or unconnected with the central account of young Cody’s adventures, but however out of place these episodes may appear, they have a direct bearing on all the events in Cody’s current life in Clayton Bar.

Sidetime can be thought of as a time-stream running parallel with the timeline we are following in Cody Conmar’s life journey. Everything is interwoven throughout the Shadow Histories chronicles and so Sidetime episodes can be from any period in the decades pre-Event or post-Event covered in the novels.

They may be from Cody’s past, which has been totally erased from her present consciousness, or from someone else’s past – or they may be happening in current time in another part of the world entirely.
 
“Aeo ver I muahen – Question Everything.”


***

The following is an example of Sidetime as written in The Shadow Histories novels.


SIDETIME – A DISMANTLING

A young girl stands in bright sunlight at the centre of a three-sided courtyard. She is facing an ancient barn with shuttered windows and a sagging door. The girl’s slim figure throws an inky shadow at her feet. She is motionless. There is no sound in the baking heat, no wind, no crickets, no birdsong. Everything is hushed. Expectant. Waiting. With a slight turn of the head, she glances towards a small figure sat cross legged in the shadows furthest from the barn. A boy, no more than six years old. His eyes are closed. His breathing is quiet, and his hands are held palms up in his lap. The girl turns back to face the barn. Her arms hang relaxed by her side, palms open towards the sagging door. Stones can be heard ticking in the fierce heat.

From the rear of the building suddenly comes a shriek and the sound of smashing timbers. The girl closes her eyes but does not move. The sounds increase, growing closer from within the depths of the barn. Neither the girl nor the boy show any sign of having heard.

With a terrifying abruptness a monstrosity erupts from the darkness of the barn’s doorway, smashing the door to splinters and staggering to a halt, blinded by the sunlight. About the size of an adult ape, it is twitching uncontrollably.  Blisters are forming on its pallid skin as it stands blinking. The girl’s eyes open to reveal an icy blueness that is shocking in so young a face. Neither tremor nor sound shows what she might be feeling. She stares intensely at the quivering thing before her, her palms still facing forward. The monstrosity’s body is erupting in pale, fleshy tendrils that thrash and swell and burst open, scattering drops of pink-flecked fluid onto the dusty courtyard. It screams then lurches towards the unprotected girl. Its savage-edged mouth drools venom. It staggers, collapses in the dust, lashing out with grotesque limbs, trying to reach her.

But the thing is dying in the sunlight. Even as its frenzy increases, and its screams become more liquid, it covers half the distance to the girl. The tears in its flesh are spurting more quickly now; its body is collapsing, rupturing, withering. Orange dust from the ground coats the thrashing limbs. The thing has crawled to within twelve feet of the abnormally calm girl, but it will not get any closer. The fierce sun in roasting it, baking it, killing it where it lies. With a blood-strangled cough the thing stops, quivers, sags in on itself. Blackened blisters pop open. Soon even their oily trickle stops. The thing is shrinking, collapsing at an impossible rate, leaving only a dried-out husk like a giant toad killed on the highway, an obscene leather thing withering in the sun, angles of bone protruding through the skin. Time slows. Silence and heat settle over the scene.

The girl turns with simple grace and walks over to where the boy has fallen onto his side as if asleep. She sits besides him and lifts his head onto her lap where he continues to breathe quietly. She strokes his hair.

“That’s it. You did well little one. Rest now. All done. All done.”

The small figure stirs, his face serene. Gently she strokes his hair.

Without a sound, a third figure steps from around the open end of the courtyard and gestures to them. The boy opens his eyes and looks round smiling. He and the girl rise together, walk hand in hand towards the figure where light shimmers in the heat. They all leave in silence. Only the husk of tattered brown leather is left in the courtyard. It is already devolving, turning to dust and shreds, scattering before hot gusts of wind. Soon, there will be only dust. And silence. And the burning light.
Copyright (c) 2021 Murti Schofield.
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