History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Works in progress, and then not

I’ve got a bunch of stories that should be in the works. I almost outlined one of them, for the Steampunk Shakespeare anthology. I say almost outlined, because I’m not a big outliner. Most of my stories just tend to flow in semi-random directions, and then get cleaned up later on. But this story needed to follow a certain formula, so I made sure I had all of the right elements in place with the outline.

I did write the final scene, which clocked in at 510 words. Now I would have up to 10,000 words to tell this story, but I wanted to aim more for the 3,500 range. Based on my outline of seven scenes, this only gave me 500 words per scene. While that was plenty for the final scene, it didn’t seem viable for the other scenes.

I tried to come up with ways to cut it down, to write less scenes. But more and more, I realized that it would be really hard to tell the story, even with only one POV character, in a short format. I also realized that I was chafing a bit at the notion of having to tell a story that needed to go in an already defined direction.

But I do like what I came up with for the final scene, so I post it here, for your reading pleasure. (And for the record, the anthology submission encouraged the use of Shakespeare’s dialogue, which is why the final lines might look awfully familiar.)


Juliet heard the whirring of the gears within the preservation capsule before she had the strength to open her eyes. The confines were more snug than she had anticipated, and overly warm, neither of which helped to rouse her. Her entire body felt heavy, as though compressed by an enormous weight.

As her eyes opened, her vision was hazy, but she was certain that Doctor Laurence was not standing in front of the capsule, as he had assured her he would be. Confused, she fumbled for the safety latch that would release her from the capsule. Her fingers, which felt like sausages, slipped on the smooth metal handle on her first two tries.

Before she could make a third attempt, she saw Romeo’s face appear in the window. Her face spread into a smile, but he did not seem to notice as he bent down in front of the capsule. The next thing she saw was Paris’s head, lolling toward one shoulder. The limp body obscured her view of Romeo, until he turned to one side and heaved the corpse forward.

“Romeo!” she gasped. In her panic, she forgot that no sound could escape the capsule, just as no outside noises could make their way in. She could see Romeo’s lips moving, but was not able to tell what he was saying.

Juliet reached for the handle to open the capsule, but could not find it. Her eyes chanced upon a clock at the far end of the room. A quick bit of addition revealed that she had awakened nearly two hours before Doctor Laurence was scheduled to arrive to revive her.

Again, Romeo’s face appeared at the window of her capsule. She screamed, trying to draw his attention. But his eyes were closed as he pressed his lips to the thin pane of glass that separated them. Without opening his eyes, he stepped back, raised a small vial as though presenting a toast, and then moved it to his lips.

At that same instant, Juliet’s fingers grasped the handle. She threw open the door, the name of her beloved husband finally escaping within the range of his hearing. His eyes fluttered upwards as he collapsed on the cold marble floor of the Capulet crypt.

Doctor Laurence echoed Romeo’s name as he rushed into the room. His eyes, filled with despair, locked on Juliet’s. He made his way to Romeo’s side and lifted the vial, which had rolled a few feet away. Bringing it toward his face, he grimaced. “Juliet, away with you. A greater power than we can contradict has thwarted our intents. The watch is coming. I dare no longer stay.”

“Go, then, for I will not away,” she said, kneeling by Romeo’s side.

Doctor Laurence hesitated only for a moment. He nodded and ran from the room. Juliet looked down at her husband. “None left for me?” She bent to kiss his still warm lips. “Then your dagger. This is its sheath.” She plunged the blade into her chest and gasped, “There rust, and let me die.”

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