Looking down on the crowd on the floor was like flying low over the ocean during a storm. The booming thunder of the bass, the lightning of the camera flashes lighting up the surging waves of people--and in the dark the cool glow of cell phones was like phosphorescence churned up by the stormy sea. I spent nearly as much time watching this as I did watching the band, because I was so mesmerized. I couldn't shake the impression that I was hovering over the ocean.
That is, until they came out for their final encore and Bono said, "Take out your cellphones, guys. Let's turn this place into the Milky Way." And the sea became the sky. There was this moment of extreme vertigo where down became up and up down, and I felt as though I was going to fall into it. I had to grip the seat in front of me.
It was a feeling beyond description for me. To explain why, I'll give you an excerpt from THE IRON WOOD. Until now, Lark has lived her whole life inside a dome--she has never seen the sky. The wind, another unfamiliar phenomenon, has woken her in the night and she's come out of the ruins in which she was sleeping to source the sound.
The shadows writhed and swayed, and my skin prickled with the sense that my every movement was being observed. I looked around for the source of it, still fearful of an attack by the Facility's machines, but saw nothing that my eyes could track for more than a breath. Only the shadows cast by the strange silver light. Then I looked up.
And saw, for the first time, the sky.
The wind had blown the day’s thick cloud cover away, and above me gaped a bottomless maw. The color of spilled ink, coated with chalk dust, the stars mottling its depths like a disease. A sliver of moon cast the sickly, color-leaching hint of light across the city. There was no end to the sky, nothing holding me down on the ground. I felt it reach out to me, threaten to swallow me. I seemed to fall upward, and threw myself down to stop it. The force with which I hit the ground knocked the breath out of my lungs.
Digging my stubby fingernails against the dirt, I clung to it and clenched my eyes shut so tightly I saw spots, inverted echoes of the stars above. I struggled to draw breath into lungs that had temporarily shut down because of my fall. I pressed my forehead against the ground hard enough to make it throb. I prayed that if the Facility’s machines were watching me, they would come collect me quickly, and take me away from the horror overhead.
I could still feel it above me, waiting. The hideous gaping sky glittered with stars like glass shards, like rows of razor teeth. Somehow it was more horrifying than an army of carnivorous trees. Terror more complete than any I had felt since leaving the Facility crippled me. I clung to the ground, the realization hitting me like a jet of cold water that gravity could not possibly be enough to keep me from falling up into that pit of blackness.
I knew I wanted the sky to be frightening for Lark, and tried over and over to imagine the gut-wrenching vertigo she would feel upon seeing the night sky for the first time, but I've lived under the sky my whole life. How could I ever really feel that kind of vertiginous horror?
And true, last night's experience was more awe-inspiring than frightening, but it was the same intolerable lurch of my stomach as gravity reasserted itself in my mind. So thanks, U2.
Okay, end-of-week miscellany time. I have a couple of things to direct you toward!
The first is the Adventures in Children's Publishing website. I mentioned them before when I was participating in their fabulous query workshop and contest, but I feel they deserve another one. They do this fantastic weekly roundup of sites about writing, reading, books, publishing, craft, pretty much anything you need. I've never managed to go through the list without picking up more sites to follow. I always learn something. (Plus, you guys are on the list this week with your FANTASTIC discussion about dystopian fiction, woooo!)
The second one is C.A. Marshall's free edit contest! She's offering a free manuscript edit up to 100k words to celebrate the approaching end of the year, which is an absolutely amazing offer, guys. She'll even wait up to a month for you to finish your manuscript after the contest closes December 10th. Seriously, make sure to stop by and check it out.