What follows is my second rewrite of the prologue. In my frenzy to try out new tech received for Christmas, I inadvertently lost it. (Cue much swearing and wailing and gnashing of teeth.) But I’ve resurrected part of it, and I think it is better for the accidental deletion. Whoda thunk it?
Rain again, in wretched February. Maggie supposed that the weather matched her mood as she stomped her way along the pavements. “What is that called?” she asked herself. “Pathetic fallacy?” But once again, she could not easily recall the definition that would verify her guess. “Pathetic,” she sneered at herself, and her mood got a little darker. She hunched her shoulders up against the heavy winter drizzle and pulled her coat tighter around herself, trying to keep out the worst of the wet and steel herself against her mental critic as it went mental.
She seethed over the day’s events, fixating on the terrible meeting with her supervisor. He berated her lack of methodology for her research, but wouldn’t explain what that ridiculous word meant when she asked. He had just given her a pitying look, and shook his head. Maggie suspected that he couldn’t explain it to her, because he didn’t know what it meant either. She despised him for not owning up to not knowing, instead opting to pretend that he knew more than she did and making her feel stupid.
Even more stupid, that is. She wanted this doctorate desperately – almost as much as she wanted her belated letter from Hogwarts to appear – and was willing to do almost anything to succeed. And so, ego stinging and eyes burning from unshed tears, she left her supervisor’s office and headed straight to the library. There, she shunted back and forth from catalogue to stacks to photocopier to desk and back again, finding and compiling a pile of reading for her to scour, all the while trying to untie the Gordian knot of her thesis.
Maggie preferred to work alone, either at home or in the university library, away from all the other grad students. She found them tedious and distracting; but she also suspected that they were far more intelligent than her. They never seemed to struggle with their research and writing, like she did; there were no questions or concerns over their methodologies or their basic skills, like there seemed to be with her. The resentment festered in her stomach, sending waves of roiling nausea through her whenever she thought of them.
Her boots struck the pavement with furious anger as she picked up the pace to get home. She knew that she needed to be away from all people – right now – before she lashed out, with words or fists. She crossed the street without looking, then forced her way through crowds of people and students on the pavements outside the Tesco Metro.
A few turns down different side-streets, and she was finally on the last snicket path towards home. The storm cloud surrounding her dissipated a little, and Maggie rolled her shoulders down, able to breathe a little more deeply at last. But still, she focused her gaze on the ground, staring at a spot just a few feet ahead of her – enough to see if anyone was approaching, but not enough to have to make eye-contact. She never looked around, but never believed that there was anything except rain to see.
It is because of her slightly above average intelligence that she feels constantly frustrated, as if she were missing out on something, or forgetting something else, but never being able to put her finger on it. If she were averagely intelligent, she wouldn’t be bothered by such thoughts, because she would be content to think the average thoughts and feel average feelings, and she would never feel out of place or discombobulated. If she were a genius, she would know what those of average intelligence are missing, and she would be able to remember something forgotten because she wouldn’t have forgotten it in the first place. Her slightly above average intelligence suggests that she should turn around; however, because of the slight delay in thinking the thought and acting on it, she fails to see those wondrous things that are currently hidden from her. When she does decide to look up, all she sees is a vapour trail, and the average part of her intelligence tells her that it is an airplane and nothing more. But, the slightly above average part manifests as a sense of disgruntlement, malcontent, and deepens the furrows of frustration between her brows. She can sense – but only on the outskirts, the very fringes of awareness – that the universe is hiding something from her, and she wants to know. She needs to know what is constantly hidden.
The rain abated a little, just as Maggie reached the front door of her flat, and she paused in her frustration to gaze with a mote of happiness at her little haven, her own peaceful Avalon in the midst of academic turmoil.
There were very few things in her life for which Maggie felt grateful, and having this cottage all to herself topped that list. It was a simple cottage, one up and one down, attached to the end of a row of cottages, made from a former stables. The small lean-to on the side of the building housed the tiny kitchen extension (a reverse TARDIS, for it looked bigger on the outside). The narrow wooden doors masked the tiniest porch before the glass door opened into the flat. Inside, it was a cosy and small sitting room/dining area/kitchen (even with the extension), with secondhand furniture and a threadbare sisal carpet and a 70s throw-back four bar fireplace.
Before she took off her coat, she swerved around the teal green sofa and knelt in front of the fire to light it. The hiss of the gas always made her panic, and she swiftly pressed the spark button (no one had ever told her what it was called ), wincing at the sharp thunking noises it made and willing it to light the gas before she died of carbon monoxide poisoning. With a whoosh, the fire was lit, and she stepped back from it carefully, ensuring that neither her long black coat or her uni scarf was likewise ignited. She moved across to the kitchen, and set the electric kettle going for a coffee. Only then did she remove her coat, draping it over one of the rickety wooden chairs next to the smallest dining table in the world, hoping to dry the worst of the rain from it. (She toyed with the idea of putting it in front of the fire, but remembered what had happened to her Doc Marten boots when she had tried that. With images of smoking leather rising in her mind’s eye, she shuddered and left the coat where it was.)
It’s all very frustrating, isn’t it? Watching this average woman, stuck in
an average life, with an average job, and an average relationship, who is
surrounded by wondrous beings and events. In fact, something about her
calls out to these creatures, drawing them to her, bringing them closer and
closer. They are there, beckoning on the edges of consciousness,
comprehension and understanding. But still, she does not heed.
I can feel her frustration; it is a tangible thing, now. All spikes and
prickles, smelling of oranges and acetone. It hurts me to touch it; how can
she possibly bear it? I can’t bear it any longer. I know I’m not supposed
to, but as her narrator, I can’t help it. I will wait until she sleeps, an
average sleep, with an average length of REM and an average recall of
dreams… Stop! I will prod her cerebellum just a little, nudging the
slightly above average to definitely above average. Then, I will tear the
metaphoric veil that covers her eyes, just a little, to help her vision to
clear and to focus so that she can see what has been missing from her life.