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In Which My Memory Goes Down The Tubes

Have you ever written a bit of fiction, a poem, or perhaps lyrics, and then set it aside for a while, only to come back and feel as if someone else wrote the words?  I’m working through rewrites and editing of book two of The Brassbright Chronicles, Down The Tubes, and I’ve stumbled across a passage I have absolutely no recollection of writing!  There should be a word for that, right? It’s like reverse deja vu for manuscripts. If you have a good name for this phenomenon, leave it in the comments. If there’s a suggestion I really like, I’ll use it in the books.

Just for fun (and of course to tease you into anticipation), I will share with you the passage I don’t recall writing. It’s still in raw form, and will be polished soon. Eventually you’ll see it in Down The Tubes, but for the moment, here’s how it flowed from my fingertips in Nanowrimo 2013.

~ * ~

Hannah was the only inventor in the city that focused on helper-mechanicals for the textile and fashion industries. Now no longer young, but a long way from old, Miss Vanbrugh was, for the most part, a well-respected inventor and with a good track record. Self-confident and genuinely excited about her inventions, Hannah had no trouble convincing factories to install her inventions.

However. In spite of her success, Hannah felt a bit isolated–and more than a little lonely. Inventors and scientists were plentiful in Brassbright City, but in all her years, she had never met one that shared her passion for creating the means to provide everyday people with well-made, inexpensive clothing. And just to make things worse, she’d recently had a public argument with a colleague, and now noticed that invitations to other social gatherings had stopped arriving.

Hannah thought about that incident again. She needed to stop dwelling on it, but it was difficult. Every time she replayed the situation in her mind, she became more and more convinced she was the one who had been wronged.

It was a gala gathering. Hannah had worn a stunning dress, which had been completely sewn by means of her mechanical devices. She had fashioned it herself from a deep red silk so as to truly show off the fact that every seam was perfect. You cannot hide mistakes easily on silk. The evening had begun so nicely, but ended a complete disaster.

“Hannah, Hannah, Hannah. Such a mind, and so wasted on trivialities,” Professor Dunkirk had muttered mournfully at the cocktail party following the Engineers and Inventors Symposium just last month. “If you turned your energies towards prosthetics for the limb-disadvantaged, I am sure we would soon have a world where everyone possessed two working arms and two mobile feet. Now that’s a worthy goal!

She’d sipped her drink and shook her head. She shouldn’t have said it, but it just couldn’t be helped. “Well, if you turned your own energies towards devising safer chemical storage containers, your products might be less likely to explode when uncorked. And that would keep a few more arms and legs in their original locations intended by nature.”

Professor Dunkirk had spluttered and harrumphed and diverted the blame towards scientists and their cavalier attitude towards the chemicals he supplied to so many research facilities across the country. “The warnings on each container are quite clear. Quite. Warnings must be read! Therein lies the responsibility!”

Hannah’s briefly contemplated her cocktail. It was delightfully sweet, the color of a warm sunset and much stronger than it tasted. Perhaps that is why she had to boldness to continue this lively discussion that was bordering on a flat-out argument. “Don’t you find it a bit ludicrous to issue instructions that basically come down to ‘Don’t pull this cork unless you’re a mile away’? Do you know how much time is being wasted as facilities struggle to construct safe-rooms? It’s not easy to build a thick lead wall and still maneuver mechanical arms through it to open your canisters, you know!” She tossed back the remainder of her drink and set the empty glass on the tray held by a passing Mechanical Butler.

Professor Dunkirk’s face had turned the color of her now-consumed cocktail. “Those are big words coming from the silliest inventor in the city. Why don’t you invent a perfectly safe container for my chemicals and I’ll invent an overblown machine that embroiders daisies onto top hats? I think I’ll be done long before you are!” and with that, the Professor stomped off towards a cluster of colleagues across the room.

Hannah had managed not to burst into tears of frustration until she’d left the gathering and fled for the stairwell that would grant her escape. She’d run down one flight of stairs, fueled by the energy of her anger. After clattering down the next flight, she stopped, cursed under her breath, and sat down on the bottoms step. Surrounded by a cloud of red silk, Hannah buried her face in her hands and sobbed tears of embarrassment and frustration.

Back in the present day, Hannah was startled to feel a hot tear slide down her cheek. She quickly rubbed it away and pushed the memory of that awful evening aside.

Sniffling a little, and blinking her eyes to clear her vision, Miss Hanna Vanbrugh–scientist, inventor, designer and certainly not the owner of a stray calico cat named Jim, even though he’d just leapt up to the tabletop and was rubbing his cheeks comfortingly across her own–wrote a letter to Miss Tillie Faucit inviting the till-now unknown inventor to join her for lunch and conversation on Tuesday next.