Like Halloween But Not

There is really no way this is going to work. The keyboard is all over the place and the sound echoes oddly. And it’s bullshit steam of consciousness writing about the physicality of typing. Meta of meta.

Nanowrimo starts tomorrow and everyone who writes thinks about it tonight in one way or another or another. The pros I’m sure call bullshit amonst themselves, but publicly some bother to help us amateurs out with tips and thoughts and encouragement and mild but not emphatic endorsement of our efforts. I say our because I’m not a pro not because I’m participating.

I call bullshit too.

Do I write crap here and call it sufficient? Yes. Have I participated in Nano? Yes. Have I completed it–or God help me–won it? No. I can’t do it. I don’t have the organization or time or personal fortitude to do it. I can’t write 1667 words a day. Just plain can’t.

I’m unprepared. I don’t write quickly. I agonize over lines. I don’t know that I get caught up in what’s gone before as much as I stumble over what’s coming up, but both plague me.

When I know I’m writing trash, when I know that my time spent in front of the computer produces words which I will cut later, I stop. I ask myself why I would continue. I ask if I should turn around. If I should erase it all and start over. Many times I do start over because there is often no reason to let those words see the light of day. There is no reason because those words don’t represent me.

If I take the time to tap away at this keyboard I’d like the results to please me. When I find myself using passive voice or staggeringly poor comma placement I feel it. I fix it. (You know, when I notice I’m feeling it). That’s how I get better, by not letting myself accept crap writing (again, when I notice). Christ, if I detect a string of meager verbs or a chunky clunky sentence stumbling like a drunk in a ditch then God help the rest of you who read this crap.

Especially this this crap.

It’s Sunday, so I absolve myself for these weekly heavings and hope I got the commas right.

Maybe if I mention Nanowrimo again in the last paragraph it won’t be as obvious I drifted off my original point.

405 words on day 576

The NaNoWriMo Retool

I’ll not convince anyone that I’m not susceptible to distractions: big and small.  What I will say is that I’m yet to learn to properly navigate them or to better suppress the few I have control over.

The overwhelming reason I’m giving up on NaNoWriMo is that I’m not enjoying any aspect of the effort.  I don’t like the words.  I don’t like the pace.  I don’t like the guilt.  I’m not enjoying denying my family and self the pleasure of time well spent so that I can hack out shit words I’ll be happy to never see again.  I have other and sometimes better things to do with my time that write throw away.  I won’t be continuing in the traditional manner.

I’ll be returning to the prep work I began in anticipation of this month.  Preparation I liked.  Preparation I need to do more.  As part of that prep work I’ve plotted deeper into Redolent Microscopy than any writing I’ve done to date.  I’m going to finish plotting Redolent.  Once I’m satisfied I may smear a few words out across that frame and polish them in, but slick shiny words aren’t my goal.  Instead I’ll pounce another set of characters and construct their demise.

This space, this place of concocting, is where I need to be this month.  You can see it in my last two slabs of nanowrimo beef from Tuesday and Thursday.  I’m finding freedom and results in telling what my story will be more than telling my story.

How can I get this planning in front of eyeballs is a little of a wonder to me.  I’ve not so far tainted 1000 Days with meta-writing like whiteboards or note cards or the like.  I’ll figure something out.

Also, we got a puppy.

The Beach House at Haast

Karen had only used jumping gates to get from [her home town] to here [the sitting room].  She’d always been escorted never alone.  Unless you knew where you were going on your on, touching your escort was only way to get to the same place at the same time.

Karen paused at the gate-door Malachi had just traveled inhaling as much of his recently exhaled smoke as she could and stepped through the gate-door with no specific intentions but traveling.  “Karen, wait,” Margaret called out.

She felt her leading edge stretch to aching until her trailing edge passed the threshold and caught up with the rest of her body.  The traveling place was always described as black or dark or empty, but to her senses it simply lacked light, not held dark.  Immediately she sensed her mistake as the time she spent traveling held a [what happens next vibe].  She concentrated on the smoke in her lungs and Malachi but didn’t give any thought to where he might have gone.

She was rewarded with sensation of being squashed as her body came to a halt in a darkened room that smelled like salt.  Sunlight glowing at the edges of the draped windows helping her eyes adjust.  The drapes sucked to the cracked window suddenly and Karen’s heart tripped at the sound.  Oh, God let’s end that little scene…Karen turned the knob and stepped outside into the Pacific sun.

A high railing blocked her fall into the ocean below her feet.  Noonday sun warmed her traveling chilled bare arms.  She grabbed the warm rail.  Let us change the voice up a bit so I can move forward some.

From her position her on the rail she only sees the Pacific ocean until she notices Malachi leaned on the same rail smoking and waiting.  He greets her with a good deal more pleasantness than when they departed the Library just a few moments ago.

He asks her how she found him.  Was it the tidal chart he referenced in the Library

I followed the smoke.

He’s impressed and quite astounded since he’d never considered that someone might gate-travel using someone else breath as a guide.  He doesn’t want to let on too much how proud he is of her.  Mostly because that not his way but also because he still needs to be angry she’s followed him at all.  It’s a little like a parent with a child.  Their relationship is complicated with a lot of the parent-kid stuff but in as little a creepy way as possible since he’s sleeping with her.

So he turns off the pride and lays into her.  Stuff that hurts for no other reason than to separate her from him.  He needs to do this alone because he doesn’t know how to do it with someone.  Because he’s afraid of what she might find out about his past that he’s not already revealed.  And that she’ll get too involved in his unexpected quest.

She gives it back pretty good till he hits some soft spot that neither of them expected he’d go to and she breaks down.  She probably forces herself not to cry—much.  He leaves her stranded on the porch of this beach house.

She’s not all that stranded, just has to swim-wade into the shore in her clothes.  But the result is that she’s fucking pissed once she gets to shore and he’s long gone.

She has no idea where she is.  There is a spread out fishing town to the south and a two-lane coastal road laid out in front of her.  After she decides what to do to find out where she is, but before she does find out where she is, she runs across a sign that reads, “Caution Penguins next 5 km”.

###

In an effort to reduce the bitching around here, I’ll be writing in the same voice I punted to this morning.

Malachi leaving her alone makes no sense at this point.  He knows where they are and how far from home she is.  He knows she knows nothing of how to get to where he’s going.  Which means that whatever fight they are going to have has to have happened back int he sitting room.  In front of everyone.  Which means that somewhere before that she needs to have become sympathetic to the reader and for sure she hasn’t—since she’s just sat around in a room.

Now they are in Haast, but he doesn’t tell her where they are.  I suspect that’s as annoying as we need to be.  Also turns out the place I had in mind is Jackson Bay southwest of Haast be maybe an hour.  Either way I can work out the details.  Ultimately the goal here is to find Steven Tattersall somewhere in a tree house nearby.  Lake Ellery sounds good.  Far enough off to put some conversation into Karen and Malachi.  Maybe even a hike if it feels good.

They finally get to Steven’s home/tree house and we find Steven isn’t there or some other form of conflicty inconvenience.  Eventually they find him/wait him out/whatever.  Steven is a little bit of a letch on the far side of charming.  Probably because he doesn’t get out much.  In any case he rubs Karen entirely the wrong way and is pissing tolerant Malachi off by the end too.

Unfortunately Steven tells the two that the brasswork spider is just that.  Nothing more nothing less.  In fact, if he hadn’t had the information Malachi gave him about it’s appearance he’d have deduced the thing was created quite recently.  Malachi is suspicious Steven is lying since he knows more about the spider than he lets on.  So he presses Steven for more extreme measures to extract the ‘truth’ form the spider.

I should note at this point I’m starting to wonder what the spider thinks about all this.  Is it a toaster or a robot with a soul?  Maybe the initial reading isn’t invasive while the next level is/can be destructive.  Maybe Karen intervenes or the spider self protects.

The Prof Searches for Magic Books – Cont

The professor drapes the red cloth over her outstretched hands covering both like a stage magician might drape a sheet over a levitating assistant.  Karen’s been around mages enough to know he’s preparing a spell and not just about to clean her hands.

“Malachi probably calls this getting the stink off,” the Professor says.

“He’s not taught me this.”

“No?  Well, he should have and it’s time.”

Bleh don’t like that last exchange at all.  …not just about to clean her hands.  He grasps her hands in his and begins to scrub through the cloth with his thumbs.  He starts at her fingers doing the group in a few swathes then focuses on individual fingers.  The cleansing isn’t symbolic or ritual it’s rough and abrasive.

“Turn them over, but stay under the cloth,” he repeats the method of scrubbing on the back of her hands.  He’s careful to not touch her hands with his or expose her to the reverse of the cloth.  He pulls his hands away, but leaves the cloth draped.  He catches her attention with his eye and demonstrates his hands coming together flat fingers horizontal and fingertips pointing to her chest.  He nods tosses a nod to her indicating she should do the same.  She does.  The Professor matches the corners to straighten out the fold then pinches the centerline of the bight and folds it the rest of the way into squares.  He tucks it away in his pocket.

“Tingly?” he asks.

“Raw.”  His chuckle is a mixture of apology and amusement.  “Aaaa, you’ll be fine.  This is delicate work.  Can’t have your touch clouded by the mundane.”

The Professor does something plausible to cast a spell over the books.  Maybe the glow, maybe they gleam a bit.  Maybe they shudder, I don’t know but in any case the result is something Karen can sense or see or hear.

“I’ve been perfecting this spell for many years.  It’s like a net or a filter.  Trace your fingers over the books and tell me what you find.”

Touching the first book, Karen’s eye’s widen.  She pulls her hand back brushing her thumb across her finger tips like she has cookie crumbs on them.  She looks at the Professor.  He smiles back.

“I’ve never read this book yet it feels as though I have.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s the story of…the main character has this…it takes place in…” Karen’s joy sours.

“You haven’t read it.  There’s no substitute to actual reading.  I’ve tried to find one, believe me.  No magic”

“I’m sure I could have told you all about it if only you hadn’t asked me to tell you.”

“Exactly the same for me.  And for all of the few others I’ve shown this to.  It still works for what we need it to work for.”  He sweeps his hand down the table and gestures to the remainder of the stall.  “Try the rest.”

Karen drags hand along the contour of the books,  Testing and tasting each in turn.  Each time her touch strikes a new book she feels the joy of adventure, or learning and enjoying something new.  In the brief moment after as her touch separates from the book she feels the disappointment there isn’t more to read and the story is over.  The sensation is of a complete reading but no memory of the content.  Equal parts satisfying and false.  She tastes one table of books right handed then heads down the next row with her left hand.

She’s headed down the penultimate rack of books when one zings her and she snatches her hand back.  “Shit.”

“Point to it for me.”  Karen indicates the book that stung like a bad key on a piano backing away while she does.  “No need to worry, Karen.  There’s nothing wrong with the book.  I’m getting old and I like the spell definitive to the touch.  Let’s see here.  Ah yes, there we go.”

“What is it?” she asks.

“Nothing really.  I embedded a copy of [Hornswaggle’s Guide to Unicorns] into this Netter Anatomy book.  Both are quite good actually.”

“This was a test?”

“Think on it more as training or just think on it as experience.  I wanted to share.”  She still looks a little hurt.  A little duped.  “I’m an old teacher.  I like my lesson plans to work.  Believe me this would not have been as useful if you’d found nothing at all.”

Blah blah blah.

She decides to finish up the stacks anyway and it turns out she finds a second book.  She assumes it’s been planted like the first.  Instead of calling it out to him she pockets it or ignores it to see what he’ll say.  Later after they’ve left and he’s said nothing she goes back to retrieve it and it’s gone or evil or taken by some other mage the seller can’t easily identify.  Either way it’s suddenly a plot point I hadn’t expected to write.  And may not actually need.  Gives me something to consider at least.

The Prof Searches for Magic Books

Carroll Palmer glides among the tables of books like a phonograph playing a record.  His fingers touching every book on every table.  He likes this stall at the flea market.  They display the books spine up in empty cardboard soda can pallets.  Each row book ended with a neatly stacked pile of books.  His eyes run along the rows glimpsing portions of titles just ahead of his more through touch.  He knows what he’s looking for but expects to find it only rarely.

This flea market meets Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.  He comes all three days if he can, but not every week.  In two years of attending he’s bought three sets of crew socks, an arrangement of silk flowers, and a swivel seated barstool rescued from a diner, but no books.  No, no he did buy that spine broken John Jakes novel; he’s a sucker for Historicals and a first edition, though book club edition, of Stranger in a Strange Land in pretty good shape.  All of this before his author died of shame.

###

Karen dabbed the last bite of her funnel cake in the powdered sugar still on her paper plate.  Professor Palmer was late.

“Karen,” Professor Palmer tapped her shoulder from behind.  She turned her surprised jump into a folding of the plate and a throwing of it away. (eesh)

He held up his arm to show off his digital watch.  It was a sports watch and it looked new except for the display which read out a splash of characters that looked Cyrillic or alien.  In one corner, the liquid crystal had popped, the ink expanded out.

“I have a charm I do that usually gives me three months before they die.  But I had this one running on [jarbly] time for a project I’m working on.”

“Guess they don’t mix?”

“I’ll have to tweak the charm next time.”  He opened his arms for a hug and to offer a further apology for being late.  Karen hugged him back warmly.

“Can you teach me?” she asked.

“The tweak? No, no.  I’d need to teach you the charm first.  That [jarbly] tweak wouldn’t make sense without it. Oh!  But that’s what you meant.  Sorry, sorry.  Having my watch lie to me about the time throws me all off.”

Karen smiles back at him and throws in an quick second hug.  “Why are we here?”

Professor Palmer claps his hands together and rubs his palms like he’s getting down to business.  He presses his clasped hands to his lips and draws a preparatory breath.  He let’s is out again. “What?  What did you ask me just now?”

“Why are we here?  Are we looking for something or have we found it already?”

“I love how your brain works.  You’re all figure-ground. Solid-void.  Then you reverse it like Rubin could: ground-figure; void-solid.”  The Professor’s head drifted to the right in other thoughts, “God, I miss Edgar.  Huff, oh well.  Why are we here today you asked.”

Karen licks a tantalizing bit of powdered sugar from the corner of her mouth.  It’s sweet but you can only take so much of it.

“We’ve found this flea market so the finding’s covered, but we’re also looking for something else so we’re at both ends here.  Books.”  He points a finger-gun over her shoulder past the concession stand.  He pops his lips.  “Allons-y.”

Karen stuffs her funnel cake trash in the Rubbermaid bin and follows after the old man.

###

The Professor moves quickly to their goal.  As he navigates the unordered strollers she’s certain he’s unconsciously casting charms to slide the human obstacles out of the way but she’s not seeing any gestures or hearing any invocations.  It’s one thing to know a person is a master it’s another to see it—or not see it—in use.  She keeps quiet the whole way down the lane past socks, luggage, and stuffed magenta monkeys.

Karen spies the stall just before they arrive.  He’s parted the crowd before getting there and pauses  a moment to look.  He clucks his teeth with his tongue like an owner would call a cat.  The few remaining patrons depart the book stall.  He looks back.

“I like it to myself,” he gives her a wink and a cluck.  They stroll under the tent’s arch and into the sun lit stall.

Books stand on their edges in cardboard soda pallets, spines up.  They have the energy of race horses clamoring in a gate waiting on a gun’s crack.  Boxes of National Geographics and TV Guides bookend each table.  The vibrancy of colors and scattered rhythm of sizes would be dizzying if the humid musk of wood pulp weren’t already intoxicating.  Large square hard bound picture books congregate with and blend into cookbooks of similar sizes.  Fat yellow dictionaries give way to brown clad Bibles.  On another table several class sets of Catcher in the Rye, Romeo and Juliet, and Animal Farm are arranged in replacement bundles.  Along the back of the U-shaped stall the near noon sun floods in warming the repeatedly sold paperbacks.  Index cards helpfully call out the alphabet to aid purchase.  The aroma of paper in this part of the stall is like the last sip of a cocktail: all liquor.

Karen realizes only the two of them are under the awning.  The seller has gone with the patrons.  “Shouldn’t we…”  The Professor waves a hand dismissively.

“…I’ll bring him back when we’re ready.  If we find anything.  This looks like the same stock from a month ago when I was here in the rain.”

“What’s the title of the book?”

“No idea.”

“OK.  What kind of book are we looking for?”

“Magic of course.”  She knows he’s playing with her.  He’s never not teaching.

“Is it big or small?”

“Today it’s not one answer for the right question, it’s the right questioning for the one answering.”

“You’ve been working on that line.  I don’t think it makes as much sense as you think it does.”

“It probably doesn’t.  I’ll have to fidget the wording a bit for next time.  Come here.”  Karen joins Professor Palmer by the big books near the entrance.  He’s holding a red chamois that looks suspiciously like it’s been borrowed from a filling station.  “Put you hands out.  Palms up.”

Her hands are clean—sugar brushed off on here pants—so she doesn’t expect the severe scouring the get under his strong hands.  Just when she wants to complain and pull them back he folds the chamois carefully and purposefully wraps it in another thing of some kind that would make sense and I wouldn’t have to rewrite if I were allowed to take the time to write it right in the first place.  Basically this action will come back in the end, but I don’t know how or why.

Summoning the Clockwork Spider

These NaNoWriMo entries will not be in chronological order.  You are not guaranteed a coherent plot, consistent characterization, nor understandability.  I’m certainly striving for quality within the scope of each post, but at a 1000 plus words a day I’m not holding me feet to the fire over it.

Karen stroked the worn green velvet of the of the Victorian settee. The green was almost black. The worn spots contoured the ridge line where one might rest an arm. They were so sever imagining them as desert continents on a wide ocean came to mind. Out of habit she reversed her perception to make them a string of lakes in an expanse of dark grass.

She waited alone—as she was instructed—for the first hour listening to the ebb and flow of the conversation in the library. First it was polite greetings and invitations to have a drink or a seat. Which naturally evolved into reminiscences and occasional genuine but quiet laughter. The eleven people in the library Karen could not enter knew each other as well as family and as poorly as strangers.

She thought she and Malachi arrived last, so was surprised when a mage entered the sitting room and passed through to the library with only a curt nod; all she could recall of him was that he had dark hair. After his arrival the genial conversation went silent briefly then became aggravated muttering. Karen startled a second time when another mage, a woman who immediately brought to mind a donut maker, passed through the sitting room.

“Hi Karen, Sweetie.” Karen acknowledged the woman with a limp wave and a doubtful smile. She had never seen this woman. Whether it was a glamour of the library or her unreadiness, Karen never saw into the library with either’s entrance.

The conversation recycled after the doughy woman’s entrance but at the extremes: louder and swifter than before. Finally it turned to business. She heard the first lines of a concealment spell being spoken then absolute silence. Easily another hour would pass before she would know what happened inside if she ever did.

Across the room a floor lamp with a poorly made Tiffany shade gave off more light than it should have in this Grandma’s-house of a sitting room. Two chairs flanked the lamp. Both were out of place in this place and they did not match. One was a Southwestern thing with actual cowhide and leather pillows. Its wooden legs were punctuated with brass tacks the showroom salesman no doubt jokingly referred to as Texas-sized. “You know. Like the toast. Ha ha.” The other was a bar stool stolen from a diner in the 50s. Its seat was slick and sparkling and red; its chrome plated legs shone mirror-bright. Karen discovered forty-five minutes ago it swiveled.

Karen fished her pocket watch out to check the time almost exactly an hour had passed in silence. The door to the library irrupted into the sitting room. Karen looked up like an expectant child waiting at the doctor’s office or an assistant babysitting a conference room full of management. Instead of a polite stream of bodies exiting the room a single crashed backward into the room and onto the floor. His head concussed the floor so hard it shook his toupee loose.

A brass-geared clockwork spider the size of a Chihuahua leapt out of the library from about halfway up the door, plopped on the floor between the man’s legs, scuttled up his torso, and bounded to the other door trying to get out. Before Karen could register this oddity, Malachi strode from the library. His manner a veteran surgeon who didn’t expect the surgery to go bad, but is nonetheless prepared when it does. After stepping over the man he fearlessly reached in between the brasswork’s eight legs and turned it off or killed it. Immediately the well-oiled whir of gears wound down to nothing. A click. The opisthosoma tucked under the soma and the legs pinched closed evenly around it. It became and egg-shaped cage protecting the engine and rocked over like a child’s toy.

“Your bag!” Karen had the same idea and was already reaching for her amethyst daypack trying to recall if there was anything in it she didn’t need. She popped the clips, unzipped it, and dumped the contents onto the settee. She had time to think “Tampons, great.” before thrusting the daypack into Malachi’s outstretched hand. With less haste than she expected, he picked up the spider and tucked it into her bag. He seemed more intent on hiding the thing than securing it.

###

All but a few of the mages had departed. Some said good-bye to the group; some just left. Though Karen knew each of them by name, some rather well, none acknowledged her as they exited. The last mage, the donut maker, attended Jim Creason, the man who had fallen out of the library, on the soft cow chair. He was injured enough to not feel embarrassed yet. Barrett Smith, the dark-haired fellow, and Malachi chatted in the threshold between the library and the sitting room. Her daypack hung from Malachi’s tattooed hand like a titanium briefcase filled with launch codes.

Barrett dipped his head looking for agreement from the other two. Malachi nodded back as if the unspoken question need not have been asked. The dark-haired mage agreed thoughtfully like he’d already moved on to other matters.

Barrett and the other man disappeared deeper into the place through the library. Malachi lit a cigarette practiced negligence and tipped a booklet from one of the shelves. He checked his watch then thumbed through the booklet. He checked his watch again and shelved the booklet. Karen walked up to him in the library.

Malachi blew smoke out the corner of his mouth; he was being polite. That smoke, the smoke that had been steeping his lungs and tainting his blood just moments before, drifted to her left. She turned her head to avoid it but a crisp tendril directly from the Lucky Strike seared her nostrils anyway. As much as she would have preferred to call him father, she was glad he was her lover.

“Karen.” He called her Karen when he didn’t want argument. “I must go. This is not what we were after. Get your things. Margaret will take you back.” Malachi’s voice always pitched higher than she expected and soft like a leather Bible not coarse like bootlegger tires on gravel.

“I’m going with you.”

“You don’t know where I’m going or why. You don’t need to be there and I don’t want you along.” He brushed passed her into the sitting room. “Margaret?”

“Yes. Yes, of course, Mal.” the donut maker agreed without looking up from Jim Creason or even knowing Malachi’s question. “I’ll look after Dorothy and get her back to Kansas and all.”

“Thanks.” He shouldered Karen’s daypack and headed toward the exit.

“Mal? Wait a damn minute would you?” Malachi paused at the door, took a deep drag, and exhaled as he left the place.

“Son of a bitch.”

More NaNoWriMo Prep

Discovering some things about Karen by doing a one-minute interview.  I’m hoping to discover where she met Malachi.  Why she’s attracted to him, what she’s looking for in the world of magic, how she got into magic, what she was doing before, how old she is, etc…

Karen met Malachi in a bar somewhere.  She was either a waitress or a bartender.

Let’s use real world places I’ve been to as the setting for each of their adventures within the real world: OKC, New Zealand, Colorado, New Mexico.  Anywhere else I might be able to come up with?

Back to Karen, she was working int he bar to put herself through college.  She was training to be an engineer but never could get into it despite her good grades.  Somehow this is a link for her to the structure of magic.

She’s mainly trying to get certified as an apprentice magician.  Her main tie tot he world is Malachi, but she’s met others in the cabal she recognizes may be able to help her more than he.  So to some degree she’s staying with him out of habit.

Namely she’s met his mentor ‘the doc’ and and the corporate dude who turns out to be the bad guy.  She’ gravitating to the corp guy because his methods seem cleaning and more precise than Malachi’s.

Magic’s ‘quality’ has something to do with it’s intentions.  Each work has a ghost of the workers’ intention.  So good magic with bad intentions will ultimately do bad things even if it does good things first.

The intention is not an overwhelming things just a characteristic.  Int his way each workers’ personality and mood are imprinted into an action.  Some people can read this signatures better than others.

That’s where Malachi is headed with the spider; to a reader.

So how old are you Karen?  I think by now she’s got to be kinda far along to not make the thing with Malachi too icky.  I don’t mind a little icky, but not too icky.

Speaking of icky, who’s going to illuminate that for me?  Karen’s non-mage friends or other in the cabal or both.  I suspect I may need a little of both.  One group to give Malachi shit and the other to give it to Karen.  Hmmm.  Or maybe one group is decidedly cool with it.

Or doesn’t know.

Regarding the plot, what’s Karen want out of it?  She insists the spider is good based on some very rudimentary principal she’s been taught.  One a veteran mage might know but have neglected or modified over the years.

Essentially she’s trying to convince Malachi of the pure intention of the spider but he’s not seeing it.  SO something must cloud his perception of it.  Either actively or just through his own bias toward the spider.

I’ve already put some scope on what clouds him, but what convinces her?  Just an instinct?  Or an innocence? Or has she had some other knowledge that might inform her in some subtle way.

I like the idea of some other knowledge informing her.  But I don’t know where she’d get that without it being too obvious.  At least too coincidental to the reader.  A book.  Reading.  The Doc. The Corp?