For the next four weeks, I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. The following is an excerpt from my project, The Thrilling Adventures of Clara Delaney; or, the Misfortunes of Isaac Rowe.
I feel I should mention that I don’t have as many quotes in the rest of the book, but I really like this scene.
Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.
Clara stared at the first line of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide for close to twenty minutes, wishing like hell it would somehow morph into the book it got its title from. She was twenty-four, she’d grown up in the Internet Age: the idea of having a small handheld guide to life was not unfamiliar. In fact, the idea of not having one in her pocket at all times was a little terrifying, and her phone’s battery had finally died out an hour ago.
Not that it had been much use. She didn’t exactly have signal. But the text messages had been there, and the photographs, and all the little ties to her life back home that she’d spent all last night memorizing and crying over. And now they were gone, and it would take some serious jimmying to bring them back, and she wasn’t exactly an engineer. So fuck.
Clara flipped through the book, just a little numb. Her room had been designed by someone who clearly enjoyed the great majesty of space travel: she had a huge, luxurious picture window that had no use being on a utilitarian vessel like this one, and her bed was right next to it. The bed was small and comfortable, but she’d woken up this morning with her butt pressed against the whole of outer space and that was just a little terrifying. The rest of the room all seemed to be built around that window, too: the small reading nook (at least, she was calling it a reading nook: she hadn’t seen a book on this ship that she hadn’t brought with her) was oriented toward it, and even the tiny bathroom (which she had yet to gather the courage to brave) had a view.
So here she was. Reading The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide on an intergalactic space ship, trying not to panic, and she really really had to pee.
The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V…
Clara doubted she’d be seeing a beach any time soon. Zork had mentioned stopping for fuel and supplies sometime soon, but who knew where or when that would be, or if they’d even be able to get off the ship. She doubted most planets were accustomed to having humans around, considering Earth had barely made it to its own moon, much less established contact…
She wondered if Isaac’s room had a huge picture window like this. If it freaked her out, it was bound to terrify him.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc.
Clara nearly felt mocked. She currently had in her possession two credit cards, her driver’s license, her car keys, a tube of her favorite lipstick, about twenty bucks, a library card, and two tampons. Out of all of these, the lipstick and the tampons were the only things she could actually use, and god forbid she needed the tampons.
What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
…She had nothing. That hit her like a ton of bricks. She was stranded very, very far from home, and all she had were a bunch of people who seemed to have put her in charge for whatever reason, lipstick, two tampons, and this pessimist that she worked with. This wasn’t even her copy. This was the store’s copy, pristine and clean-cut. Her own copy was well-loved: the pages were soft from years of thumbing the corners, she had notes scribbled in the margins, favorite lines marked. It had been dropped in oceans and sand and bathtubs, there were grease stains and chocolate stains and wine stains on the pages. She loved it. She loved it dearly.
And it was gone.
And she did not know where her towel was.
Clara closed the stupid, perfect, new book and threw it across the room. It hit the wall with a bong, which wasn’t even the right noise. Everything was so fucking wrong here. Clara took a deep breath and fell face-first on her bed.
Someone knocked on the door.