“Orphans of Opry Tower” was becoming a sad story that hit a bit too close to home, but I’ve had an inspiration: to spice it up, why not lean into it and go full goth? After all, orphans wandering into a creepy island full of cultists hankering after immortality has Gothic written all over it, as does the very setting of the places they go, full of derechos, typhoons, and the midnight sun.
I’ve touched on the essential points of the story before on here. I’m keeping those, but I’m thinking that early in the story, perhaps at the beginning, the orphans will be in their mother’s tomb, deep underneath the Opry (which is right downtown in this universe) or perhaps the Ryman Auditorium. This tomb will answer to the description of the Catacombs of Music City concept I’ve had. It’ll be something like a mausoleum, with inscriptions detailing the mother’s name, essential information, life, et cetera, along with statues and shrines to her and her musical works, complete with costumes and mannequins, perhaps even an amphitheater for memorial performances, which will have great acoustics the orphans might take advantage of when nobody is there.
The tomb will be one of their favorite places, the inner sanctum being a rather private arena for the triplets, the site of their most fun and emotional moments where they can still be with their mother. Well, most of her; they have locks of her hair on them at all times (inside lockets and fashioned into bracelets that serve as smartwatch bands), as well as art made out of her (and their) hair on display at their penthouse. Sound creepy? It might be. But consider that Mary Shelley learned to read by tracing the letters on her mother’s tombstone, and she lost her virginity on top of her mother’s grave. When she was 16, to a man who was already married and expecting a baby. Oh, and by the way, she kept said man’s calcified heart in her desk after he died. She truly was the original goth girl…
Anyway, I’m thinking the orphans go from this tomb to the party, where they’ll meet Decca, her husband, his children (who I’ve decided to make fraternal twins named Fintan and Fia), and all the rest of them. The twins are a bit too intimate and close to each other for our world’s sensibilities, but I was thinking it wouldn’t be considered weird or incestuous in their world; on the other hand, I could play up the creepy twin angle if I wanted it to be a more gothic story. Still undecided on that.
I might still keep the Russian girlfriend of Fintan’s who inspires the kids on to Kamchatka, but there will in any case be another angle: their mother was a single mother by choice, and the sperm donor she used was that of a hotshot romantic poet whose work focused on immortality, eternal life, and so forth. What she didn’t know was that he took all of that seriously enough to establish an entire secret society focused on attaining biological immortality and the conquest of aging, with their headquarters being on an island off the coast of Kamchatka.
He left behind a message, in the form of a letter, instructing that the children should go to those coordinates someday, but they’ve put off that moment…until now, when after the derecho the next day in the creepy kudzu house outside of town they finally decide to go.
They meet some characters on the way, and eventually arrive at a spa in Kamchatka. The whole way they’re guided not only by the message their donor-father sent them, but also another artifact he left behind: a compass-like object, which points them in the correct direction.
Journey to the Kuril Islands
Through a series of events after their spa day they sneak down to a library-like space under the spa and see black-cloaked figures (who eventually turn out to be robots) studying and going about their business, which they find interesting, and which the compass points them to. They follow them out in the moonlight, straight to their sailboat, and they stow themselves away as a typhoon approaches. The seas are rough but not so rough they can’t get to the island, so they follow the black-cloaked figures straight onto the island, where they’re not perceived as a threat but must navigate unfamiliar terrain, full of skeletons and mummies of those who didn’t make it, in rapidly-worsening weather.
They get right to the inner sanctum and take the artifacts containing their father’s secrets, but what they don’t know is that the artificial intelligence and robotics system in control of the island has fallen into disrepair; the security system against ingress has rotted away, but the security against egress is still functioning. As they reach the shore and see the ocean in full-scale typhoon mode they think they’ll stay for a while…until they see robots resembling insectoid or cephalopod skeletons coming after them, which necessitates boarding the now-vacant sailboat and braving the stormy waters to escape. They’re pursued by the creepy-crawly robots piloting their own sailboat, and they do battle in the midst of a typhoon off the Kuril Islands.
In the heat of battle they have to figure out how to unlock the artifacts, and at the last moment, when defeat seems certain, they figure it out and decrypt the artifact, which informs the artificial intelligence running it all that they are authorized, and the robots all stand down.
Sailboats can be built tough enough to withstand a hurricane, and a skilled sailor can navigate through such a storm in the open ocean, albeit at some risk, but to do that, especially in childhood (!), the triplets will need to be skilled and experienced sailors. Luckily, a point in the backstory is that they have plenty of money to begin with, so they may well have pursued sailing for years as a passion. A bit odd for Nashville denizens, but they are staying there out of respect for their mother anyway, and because they like it there, so it all fits.
A doomed Quest for Youth
This all might sound like a rough way for a father to treat his own children, even if they are donor kids, but it wasn’t really intentional. The secret society he ran was dedicated to the conquest of aging, and I’m thinking they performed horrific experiments (on willing volunteers, but still!) which killed scores of subjects, but finally they thought they achieved a breakthrough gene therapy, perhaps based on research into the immortal jellyfish (a veneration of them would explain why their robots resemble sea creatures…), because the subjects seemed stable and healthy. All the members of the society took the gene therapy, but it turned out after some time it killed all of them on the spot, hence the skeletons scattered all over the island. Well, not all the skeletons were members or subjects; some were intruders who didn’t escape the robotic guardians.
For eternal life, they paid the ultimate sacrifice. The triplets read everything they can of the newly decrypted archives that are their paternal inheritance, and at the end they are impressed by their father’s view (informed by the cosmists) that death is the true enemy, the only enemy of us all, and one of the children says that if they weren’t so musically talented, they should want to cheat death, hinting that the transgressive enterprise might continue someday.
I like my idea; it makes for a more cohesive story that’s a lot more adventuresome. More Gothic. And also more Pirates of the Caribbean; compasses and sailboats doing swashbuckling battle in a maelstrom should ring a bell, hehe. It also owes a bit to “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”; it’s not a coincidence that the climactic setting is so similar to Totenkopf’s Island.
So, with a bit of tweaking, it would seem “Orphans of Opry Tower” is back on the menu of “stories to write up soon-ish”. 😀