Confession: I rarely read stories that aren’t complete. It’s not because I’m an elitist snob…it’s because I’m a wuss who can’t stand not to finish a story once I begin to read. So when I was asked to recommend a story for TLYDF that has fewer than fifty reviews per chapter, I realized I had to suck it up and read a fic that might make me wait (gasp) for an ending. I asked Twific readers to hit me with stories they felt deserved more attention, and so began my foray into incomplete fiction. Let me tell you, Quothme’s Awake in the Infinite Cold has so charmed me, I’m tempted to pick up other incomplete stories, endings be damned.
Quothme’s Edward Cullen is different. (She affectionately calls her Edward “Artward,” as in How to Be.) He’s not what we expect from our Edwards. Yet he’s innocent and endearing, and we fall in love with him anyway—for reasons entirely separate from what we, as Twific readers, are accustomed.
Bella is a graduate student who has just moved to Seattle, defying her stubborn and overprotective boyfriend by taking a prestigious research position in psychology. Right away, Quothme both sets up conflict and gives us insight into her characters, which she develops beautifully as the story progresses. We’re rooting for Bella because she’s taken an important step—she ran away from home to become an adult in a new city. Unfortunately for Bella, Seattle is not kind to her:
She'd never given much thought to how she would die, but this was not what she would choose. She was going to die on some nameless corner in an impersonal city surrounded by faceless strangers rather than her family, friends, and the dark, damp forests of home.
She could only close her eyes and fall.
But impact never came…”
Enter Edward Cullen. He saves Bella from getting squished by a bus. He disappears ala Cinderella, an old Velcro wallet his “glass slipper.” Contents of wallet: “two crumpled dollar bills, a bus pass, a Seattle public library card, a folded reference card, and a picture of a striking blonde woman.” Not a lot to help Bella hunt him down. But find him she does. Or rather, he finds her. Bella’s “guardian angel” ends up being a test subject in her professor’s clinical study. In fact, he’s the five-thousandth applicant in a long series of rejected applicants, many of whom are homeless or college students looking for quick cash. But Edward…according to Professor Jenks, he is the perfect candidate for his research.
"Come in…" Dr. Jenks paused to look down at his paperwork for the name. She'd noticed that he couldn't see very well without his glasses.
"Edward," Bella whispered.
The green eyes flicked to hers once, confirming that she did, indeed, have his correct name. But his eyes did not soften with recognition; he gave no sign that he had ever seen her before, much less that he had saved her from being pancaked by a bus.
He didn't remember her.
She had spent every hour of every day since the almost-accident—both waking and sleeping— wondering who he was, what those brilliant eyes were seeing, what those lips were saying, what emotion tinged his cheeks.
And yet her face had fled from his mind like dandelion fronds on the wind.
Enter conflict number two: will Bella stay “strictly professional” in her interaction with Edward, or will she bend to a man who needs her desperately? Thus begins a touching, confusing relationship that spans social and intellectual barriers.
In Quothme’s author notes, she writes that Awake in the Infinite Cold is “a mélange of Twilight, the movie How to Be, and a short story that for now shall remain nameless (so as not to give too much of the plot away for these first couple of chapters).” Apparently, when readers realize said short story is______, which their English teachers made them read and it’s powerful and sad ending still haunt them today, many run for the hills of fluff. But I’m going to bring this up right now: we don’t know how Awake in the Infinite Cold will end, period.
Quothme begins Chapter One with a warning from Genesis 2:17: “But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die.” Again, don’t go running for the hills because you believe this story my have a tearjerker ending. The truth is, we just don’t know. I even tried very skillfully (shamelessly) to ply that information from Quothme with the following tweet:
And @quoth_me tweeted back:
Or something like that.
Long story short, Quothme is staying strong and mum about the ending. Good for her. If readers flounce the fic because this Edward is not what they expect and/or there’s a chance they might cry a little, they are missing out on a beautifully crafted story. Using ________ short story as inspiration for Awake in the Infinite Cold is, well, inspired. My jaw dropped, I had a few heartrending flashbacks of middle school English, then I clapped and cheered when I realized what Quothme was doing.
Not only are Quothme’s characters engaging (Jasper fans will love him here) and her plot riveting, her prose had me giddy. This woman knows how to effectively use description and metaphor without it becoming cliché or purple.
But while it was the best of smiles, it was also the worst of smiles. The best—because his face when he smiled transformed from dull granite to polished bronze, all sun and grass and gleaming marble. The worst—because his eyes, while verdant, were like bay windows thrown open in welcome on a house that had been abandoned for years.”
Nothing tickles like a clever, well-placed description that has me nodding, “yes, I know exactly what the narrator means.” Quothme is a brave and savvy writer who delivers a moving story that isn’t about “moving” our girly bits. There is romance and there is passion, but it’s operating in a fashion quite unique to most Edward and Bella stories. It’s refreshing and eye-opening, yet still tugs at the heart like other stories we know and love.
It’s exciting to see writers take literary risks using plotlines and subject matters that may not always pull in the reviews, but certainly make for gorgeous reading— Feisty Y. Beden, Pastiche Pen, Minisinoo, Jandco & WTVOC, Thatwritr, JFly, and now Quothme, among others. They deserve many, many readers.
Gondolier looks for ways to stick it to the Man, whether it's blowing off corporate beaurocracy in favor of freelance creative writing from coffee shops or saving writers thousands in college tuition by spilling secrets in TLYDF's "Riting Skool." Her Twific Hydraulic Level 5 and it's spoily companion Skygod share her affinity for outdoorsy stuff, philanthropy, and mind games.