I’ve been fleshing out the Orphans of Opry Tower concept, but the more I have the more I found it was transforming into a sad story that hit too close to home, instead of a fun fantasy. So my mind has wandered to my turn of the 23rd century concept, which is considerably more fantastical. Not to mention hotter and sexier, being a romance instead of a children’s story. It even has more dancing in it! What’s not to like?
Pleasure, Peril, and…Amnesia ?
Even better is a thought I’ve had over the weekend: the story as I had set it up was a bit dull, so why not spice it up with a bit more danger, making it into a dance of death, a ballroom of peril? In particular, I was brainstorming for some idea that could really make a film-noir-like femme fatale on the train be relevant to the story in a perilous way. And then it hit me: why not give the protagonist amnesia? Now, I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but the suppressed memory in this case will be used to make him unaware of the fiendish plot at work and unsure of himself, rather than the recovery of his past being the whole plot.
I’m thinking the amnesiac protagonist comes to on the train with the mysterious fatal woman, raven-haired of course, who claims to be his beloved, and they’re going to the ball (balls are the core of youths’ social life in this setting) to consummate their marriage. The reason he has amnesia, according to her, is because of the trauma of being tortured by pirates or some such.
He’s a scion of the Reinhardt family, so perhaps they wanted him to give them access to his share of the family fortune, and when they refused they reactor-dunked him, a barbarous form of punishment that left him with radiation poisoning on parts of his body (conveniently under his clothing). She tells him a convincing tale and shows him some artifacts, such as the heart-shaped lockets they both have with each other’s names engraved on them, pictures of each other, and each other’s locks of hair. They even have engagement rings, maybe even consisting of the Heart of Proxima diamond (the protagonist could easily be a descendant of Imogen of Thalassa, who was featured in “Dear Future Me”, “Letters from the Airy Deep”, and “Heart of Proxima”).
He doesn’t quite feel it or believe it, though he does sense a vague connection with her; she assures him that with time he will remember his life again.
A Dance with Death
They arrive at the ball, where it all looks very elegant and very convincing, the protagonist twirling with all the maidens on the candlelit dance floor, especially his one true love, or so it seems. But there’s an unease in the atmosphere, as he feels a lot of eyes watching him, not helped by how the ballroom is like a Gothic tomb with walls and ceiling laced with surrealistic mirrors. Suits of medieval armor with maces, axes, and so forth are ever-present and looming over everything (this is the Atlantic Coast of Europe; gotta have that atmosphere!).
Right before the ceremony for their marriage, an angelic blonde appears and says he’s in great danger and they’re all lying to him, that his “lover” and her cohorts are in fact the pirates who want his fortune! He backs out of the ceremony, and the femme fatale acts very betrayed but seems to accept it…only for a wide variety of dancers on the floor to try to kill him. Little daggers come out of the woodwork, as does poison wine.
And a redheaded girl who claims to be his true love the raven-haired girl is jealous of, though unlike the blonde she’s unaware of any plot to steal his fortune. His allegiances are swayed between the raven-haired girl, the redheaded girl, and the blonde girl over the course of the story, with key moments including the blonde practically force-ripping his “radiation burns” off, revealing they’re fake, the black-haired girl making a show of protecting him from assassins, and the blonde becoming desperate enough as a result to order a suit of armor (it’s basically a sci-fi robot under the hood) to whack him in the head, taking the chance it might help him to remember.
One after the other over the course of the story the characters reveal their lockets with his picture and a lock of his hair in them, and point out various locations on his outfit where lockets with their pictures and locks of their hair are located. He has lockets and hair for all these girls: the raven-haired, brown-haired, and red-haired girls!
His memories do come back, and he realizes the truth: the raven-haired girl was the first date who he intended to marry, hence the connection he felt between them, but he spurned her after he promised her marriage in favor of the red-haired girl. Why? Because he thought after dancing with thousands of girls over the years at the balls without falling for any of them that it wasn’t possible for him, so he settled for an elegant woman who was friendly toward him. Shortly before they were to be married, however, the red-haired girl showed up, and he did fall for her, for the first time in his life, compelling him to break the engagement with the first date.
That could very easily cause her to be insanely jealous and want to take the fortune for herself. She might be a pirate herself, or at least have connections to that scene. It might have been a deliberate plot to give him trauma in such a way he would suppress the memory of the events immediately prior, but more likely giving him amnesia was the hope and a more straightforward plot of revenge (theft or assassination) was the backup plan in case that didn’t work out. I’m still figuring that up.
Anyway, what of the blonde? He recalls her in his foggy memories, but he gets the distinct impression that she’s a sister or some such, considering the very close resemblance between her and himself. He also falls for her like no one else he had dated before, or even imagined, but thinking she was family and he was just confused inhibits his feelings, and after the villains’ plot is foiled he still fully intends to go through with the marriage with the redhead who he is attracted to and at least knows is not a sister.
The blonde, however, is absolutely smitten with him, and knows who he is, but believes he truly is more in love with redhead, so she stands down for the sake of her beloved’s happiness. The wedding ceremony, which takes place on the spot at the ball, gets as far as them exchanging rings, the same Heart of Proxima diamond ring raven-hair had which was intended for redhead in the first place, and the vows, which must be sealed with a kiss. The protagonist moves in for the kiss, but just can’t bring himself to do it.
As late as that point the blonde speaks up, and confesses she loves him, prompting him to object that she’s his sister, to which she replies she’s actually his cousin (perhaps as close as double first cousin, hence the sister-like resemblance, but I’m still working on it), sent by the family to rescue him (she just came of age, got a big luscious makeover, and this is her first ball, so she’d be less likely to be recognized or arouse suspicion). She loved him as a sister before, but she knows now they mean so much more to each other now. He has a revelation and realizes he truly loves her, and they marry on the spot, taking the train and a bicycle ride to the beachside castle with the big radio dish they use to communicate with the interstellar branches of the family, really impressing on the reader the vast universe beyond the little world of the ballroom. Needless to say they make love in the finale, and they live happily ever after.
I think it has potential to be a really fun story, and a meaty one too. Imagine the twists and turns that could be packed in there! Could be a nice change of pace…