Director’s cut: MIRRORED HEAVENS opening

The Mirrored Heavens went through more opening sequences than most books have pages. The N minus one version is posted below: this was the first page of the draft that Jenny Rappaport accepted for representation, and that Juliet Ulman at Bantam bought—and then promptly suggested I cut. And she was quite correct to do so. There was a time I thought this was prose that moves the universe; now that I’m a little more objective, I can see that as good as it was, it was all guitar solo and no riffwork.  Still, in many ways, for many reasons, it remains the alpha and omega of everything I’ve ever written.  Cue Claire Haskell, in dream-state:

They said things to her then, and some of them she remembered.  They made promises, too, just like they always did, and even then she watched herself believe them.  She didn’t believe their faces, though—the old man, withered in spirit yet not in mind; the orbiting gazes of the handlers, even the reflections of herself:  all those simulacra, conjured up for the present purpose, and hinting in no way of the real purpose whose business they were about.

No.  She didn’t buy it for a moment.

Except . . . it was the old man.  It had to be.  Because she’s seen that face before.  Same one she sees now.  Its eyes are wide.  Its lips are parted.  They’re whispering to her the way they always do: of errands to accomplish and gauntlets to traverse.  Of barren shores and sprawling tundra.  Of teeming cities and discolored skies.  Of the room about her, and the chair beneath her: she feels that seat shift, but only later does she realize that that’s because it’s set upon the sea.  See, this is how it works.  Preserving the integrity of the inner enclaves means that their interface with those who carry out their orders must be judiciously configured.  Which is why all primary briefings of agents take place under the trance, get considered by those agents only in retrospect.  Such is the price of surety.  Yet nothing’s ever sure.  Was he really there?  Was it really him?  She wants it to be so badly.  She hates herself for wanting it.  Her mind babbles on and on and it’s all just background for this:

They said things to her then, and some of them she remembered.  They made promises, too, just like they always did, and even then she watched herself believe them.  They told her of long-ago obsidian and the eyes of cats aglow in moonlight.  They told her these things were true.  But she just turned away, forsook the faces that shimmered through that mist, embraced the greater darkness of the place from which she came—that dark where she could never see that smoke, that black where she might yet forget about that fire.

But now memory crashes down upon her.

A myriad flarings overhead.  Taking the place of stars.  Taking the place of space.  A myriad flames:  resolving into symbols.  Into signs.  Into letters:  of every alphabet, from the extinct to the extant to the not-yet-invented, shifting in the sky above her, burning through the far flung haze beyond—and yet in all those fiery patterns mocking her with what she’s known all along . . . that every last letter combined into all the words that ever were can never even begin to equal the merest fraction of all the things that they might, perhaps, have said.

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