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A slow awakening

by PBF 

Posted: 02 October 2009
Word Count: 3621
Summary: The possible opening pages of my first effort at book lengh fiction

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It was a slow awakening. I remember it now, but it seemed so hard then. I lay still, trying to hold on to something I did not quite understand. My thoughts fluttered and shimmered, a white sheet hanging, an old magic lantern playing a broken childhood memory. Images were at once solid, brilliant and sharp, yet runny, slipping, sliding and folding unto themselves. Appear and dissolve, a reluctant reveal, an almost presence.
I thought I glimpsed a truth; it seemed solid and real as if it knew what it was and what it was doing there. For a moment it stood before me like an open door, inviting, but if a door, what lay behind remained unseen and as much as I tried I seemed unable to reach through to grasp what lay beyond. It both intrigued and repelled.
I lay curled and silent for what seemed an age. I felt I must have grown old and twisted while I slept. If that is what I had been doing. It was like I had just been formed out of the earth, which I realised had become my unruly bed. I could smell it everywhere; it was warm, moist and strangely comforting. I did not ask what I was doing in such a resting place. Whom could I ask? I did not know nor did I seem capable of an answer. So I lay unable, unmoving and mute. Although not blind, I felt unwilling to see. I thought I would lay awhile.
As I lay I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, it brought with it a sweet scent an after thought of new mown grass and peat. I was invigorated, my senses pricked, the hairs on my arms stood straight up, like new shoots hungry for life. I was bathed in the first dawn of a germinating past, washed by a rolling sun filtered through the broken glass of my father’s old green house, with its tomato plants bursting like triffids overflowing, tumbling from the rich earth, nurtured from frequently refreshed cans, filled with devotion.
I was lost in a past I had long thought gone, strangled and overgrown, yet here in this place, lying on this broken wildflower bed, my father’s hopes seemed to bloom once more, the air was thick, heavy and honeyed. As I breathed in I could almost taste pollen as it filtered through the fine hairs of my nose like the plankton of the ocean, weeds of the sea. I had thought not to glimpse my childhood playground again, so long had it been and yet I felt for just one brief moment it was there fully formed, even better than before, warmer than warm, fresher than fresh, within my reach. I caressed this thought and it burst out from deep within me like fruit ready to eat, ripe with promise. If only I could move.
The greenhouse disappeared, suddenly, as if a switch had been pulled. My inside was plunged into darkness, nothing remained I seemed to float. Neither here nor there. Somewhere or nowhere. A sort of un-here, un-there nowhere man. Without music.
Without words.

You came to me; I glimpsed you, though my eyes remained stubbornly closed. How or when I had become so accomplished in the practice of this minor miracle I did not know. Why? I also knew not. Were you within me, as a part of some exotic lucid dream, a wish fulfilled, or was I somehow drifting, separated and recklessly unattached, worryingly unencumbered by my still, limp earthly body? I stopped thinking. I waited, watched.
You hesitated for only a moment, brushing at loose strands of fiery hair drifting across your face, plucking at your skin like hungry red flames. Flushed with effort, wet with perspiration you seemed to glow. Although now slowly crawling over the last few feet of crushed undergrowth, through grasping bramble, rasping nettles, broken blue bells, that were never destined to ring or sing their song of summer, you were breathless as if from running. I could count every wondrous freckle. I had never seen anything so perfect.
You slid down into the ditch, coming to rest with your body pressed close to mine, an unintentional presence. I felt your softness, warm and electrifying, my body tingled, an involuntary spasm. I was unsure whether it was pleasure or pain. My body jerked and I felt a tug pulling me gently up, as I looked back just for a moment there was stillness. The scene below resembled a crazy Victorian tableau and I imagined the photographer under his hood clicking his fingers, counting the seconds.
Then you readied yourself, only the very wildness of your hair brushing my cheek and I seemed to jerk downward a little. Once again you tugged your unruliness behind delicate ears, as the unintended intimacy of this innocent accident registered and you eased away, a momentary separation. You tugged at my wrist checking my pulse, seeking out life, feeling my warmth, as I felt yours.
I could feel a surge through my non-body, as the pounding gathered pace and then just as suddenly slowed. I began to feel somewhat less, the rip-tide became no-more than a gentle reminder of once breaking waves and I began to feel frightened. I did not want to leave, not yet, not before knowing you.
My thoughts struggled to coalesce, slowly forming themselves, winding, exploring. I had a sense of your concern for me. It was in the shallowness of your breathing and the way you bit down chewing the inside of your cheek. Your hands ran across the length of my stillness, pausing momentarily, kneading and rubbing gently. You did not even blink, enormous green orbs, blinding in their brilliance, reflecting the light of the world, older than time, wiser than any words of man.
I watched as you worked, straightening my limbs, easing my distressed body. Your movements were sure, your touch gentle and as I drifted in somnambulant separation I could feel the pulse of life flowing out through your delicate fingers. I willed myself to return.
My nothing shivered and my nowhere ached as the world began to dim. The distance between us began to grow and my attachment to the world stretched out like an old guitar string, I became the bluesy growl, the artists cry, Robert Johnson at the crossroads. In my silent world I began to wail. You seemed to pause, tilting your head to one side, a slight frown passed briefly across your face and you reached quickly into the small brown leather bag hanging over your shoulder.
My visual acuity seemed to grow less and as the space between my non-body and you became dense and treacly thick, I felt the pain of a scream. It grew out of the earth around my lifeless form, shrieking, a tormented banshee, I could feel its hatred, and it wanted me gone. Engulfed by a formless lessening I willed myself to reach out and my non-fingers raked your skin, flinching you clasped your free hand to your shoulder and my non-hand was held, I felt your fear and a singular struggle to act decisively, with bold purpose.
Then, in your hand, a glimpse of silver burned a hole through the gathering gloom and as the world became the retching dog end of a howl you tilted a small silver phial to my lips. Three taps of your index finger and two lazy dewy drops tumbled almost reluctantly down and danced a jellyroll from top to bottom lip before slipping with what sounded not unlike an orchestral sigh, into my frozen mouth.
Suddenly I was bouncing around like a battered, threadbare straw dog, dragged along on the end of a ragged lead in the dirty fist of a thoughtless skipping child.
Then at the edge of sight a lurking malevolence swallowed and lunged hungrily in a desperate effort to devour my essence and the nameless howl became a rushing roaring wind.
My world, or what was left of my hold on it turned inside out as the tail end of a thrashing serpent intent on murder tried to constrict the last of me into bite sized chunks, tasty morsels, freshly squeezed. As this fragmented thought was tossed violently from side to side the pain of the hoary wind competed with the insistent pressure encircling my non-body. I could smell fetid breath and sensed the baleful deaths head stare of an ancient evil. I did not want to dance a jive with this particular devil and I felt my need for life grow.
I was buffeted, jerked back and forth; up into what I knew was a venomous maw of stinking death, then back down toward a life still to be fulfilled yet to be lived. My helplessness angered me, caught so easily, entwined in a ghostly embrace as a violent struggle, a medieval tug of war waged above my prone body, with me as the victor’s spoils.
I wanted it all to end. I prayed for release, I begged to be allowed to slip back down onto my still warm wilting flower bed. I felt a shift and gradually, inch by freshly lubricated inch I was sliding out, the tighter the restricting coil the more I slipped free. I plunged down and in the last dying gust of the devils wind I heard a hiss of pure hate and knew my heart would be forever scarred by the force of this poisonous emission.

I could feel the blood flowing in my veins, the weight of corporeal flesh and the pleasing lightness of my wholeness. I was warm reassuringly free from pain and for a precious moment I felt pure and peaceful resting in the comfort of your tenderness.
With a start my eyes blinked open and your face floated above me, a vision of everything I had ever found beautiful and unreachable, a perfect representation of my need for something other than the constant aching aloneness. I felt the birth of a new excitement in what seemed to be the early promise of a longed for lover’s touch.
Everything formed at once in an explosion of images and screaming questions, a sparkling fountain, a firework jumble of incoherent thoughts. Who were you? Where was this place? It seemed like the end of a journey I had always thought to make. A prize I always believed would evade my unworthy grasp, a hidden gift of a place where serenity and peace were more than just an unfulfilled youthful dream? My heartbeat grew stronger in my chest and I gulped a great lungful of hope.
‘So you are awake.’
Even the sound of your voice stirred in me a memory of warm summer nights and the smell of fresh spun cotton candy. You stroked my forehead and brushed the hair from in front of my eyes, a soft, barely formed melt even the hardest heart smile, moved across your face. It was all I could do to stop myself from reaching up and pulling you gently down, I could taste your sweetness, it surged through me, it brought me back to life. Reaching down you replaced the phial inside your shoulder bag.
‘What happened? Who are you? How did I get here? Was I dead?’ my questions overflowed, flooding out, uncontainable.
‘Gosh! Steady, all in good time. How do you feel?’ Your eyes sparkled and danced and even without words I believed I was safe, you hushed my lips with a playful tap of a finger, ‘I was worried you were too broken when I first saw you. I didn’t think I could bring you back’
In a strange way I understood everything but bring me back from where? However I didn’t need to ask that question as the memory of my fear and the image of your actions with the silver phial suggested a magical intervention, a miracle of healing, confirmation I had somehow succeeded in surviving a confrontation with what I would, in time come to know as the stealer of hearts.
You told me how early that morning before the sun had stirred from its nightly slumber and a hundred thousand silver sugar ball stars were scattered across a shimmering rolling sky, you saddled up your horse. I glanced over at him and a more ancient mount I had never seen. By the sad look of him it was a wonder he could ever have been ridden. I could not comprehend how you came by such a ragged looking specimen. He leaned against a tree, almost as if the weight of his poor old body was too much for his tired spindly bowed legs. His coat once white now dull grey and patchy, knotted in loose clumps with bare broken inflamed skin, a sad old charger, waiting at the gates of doom, a queue of one for the knackers’ yard.
I laughed when you told me his name was ‘Lightning’ and he turned his gnarled head painfully and looked right at me, his gloomy black eyes filled not with malice, but with intense interest and not a little pity. An image of the horse once young came to me then, a shining white glistening body rippling with muscle filled with health and strength, great feathered wings beating in unison a soaring gallop a spectacular sight.
The cynical laugh stilled in my dry throat.
‘Huh! If you think that’s something dude I would still look like that if the lady with the bloody lamp over there had given me the last two Wolf-dragon tears instead of pouring them into your mealy mouth’
My mouth fell open, ‘you c-c-can talk?’ I spluttered.
Lightning snorted dismissively, ‘You silly young humans. With your pompous belief that you are the special ones and everything begins and ends with you, all because of the singular power of God’s gift of speech oh! Yes and opposable thumbs. Well pretty boy, talking’s the easy gig and you are not the only ones with that particular gift, but you try to fly, go on, and try to flap those weedy little arms. No, oh well, that is because flying really is special man and no prizes for guessing who can’t do that. Oh yeh man and don’t talk about me being too heavy to fly either. Just think bee’s dude ’
With that he made a strange clucking sound I took to be a chuckle and wearily bent his head to chew on a springy clump of grass, ‘Ouch!. Oh shit dude!’ he cried and spat a bloody rotten tooth onto the ground in front of me. It crumbled, turned to ash and quickly disappeared blown into nothing by a careless gust of wind.
I was dumbfounded all of my questions were squashed back down. They waited piled up one on top of another. I was stuffed. I asked myself what all this could mean. Who were you? How could all this be happening? I struggled to lift myself and you helped me up into a sitting position, checking the back of my head looking for any further signs of damage. I felt stiff and the back of my head was a little tender, it ached like the after hours of a heavy night of wayward revelling, but otherwise I was in one piece and fresh enough to go. You nodded seemingly satisfied.
‘I think there are things we need to put right now. What do you think?’
I didn’t know what to think, but I felt sure you would tell me and I waited whilst you gave Lightning a drink from a small stone cask you took from the shoulder bag. You rubbed his snout lovingly and began to inspect the crumbling stumps of broken teeth that still remained hanging on, soon to be windfall.
The sound of your voice, combined with the straight forward simplicity of your words eased their way into my cluttered thoughts and massaged the dull ache between my eyes and I began to feel more whole. My body seemed to be re-connecting with my brain’s capacity to control its higher functions. Nerve impulses were re-engaging with neural pathways and my movements were gradually becoming more coordinated.
However, I was left with two unanswered questions that pushed back and refused to be brushed away, ‘Where am I and just who in heaven’s name are you?’
The ‘where am I’ question bothered me more than just a little. Although I thought I might have been in some sort of accident I could not remember anything from before I woke up on my rustic bed of flowers, feeling out of place and out of time. I thought maybe I would soon recover enough rhythm to walk. The more I looked at you and breathed in the same air, listened to the same insects clicking and buzzing, songbirds singing their songs of summer and love I was almost ready to believe I could dance the blues. I hoped we might dance together sometime, whether I knew your name or not.
‘My name is Cora, but then you should know that. Oh! and you are where you need to be.’
‘I should know! How? And you are where you need to be! What is all that supposed to mean?’
It seemed the more I asked a question, the more confusing were the answers.
‘Don’t worry. These are just details and in time you will come to understand, right now we need to think about how you are going to put things right in this world’
Lightning who had seemed half asleep, shifted and scratched his side lazily against the tree, clumps of shaggy hair drifted in the wind, ‘Hey dude that means finding my mojo and taking all this hurt you put on me, away.’

Then you and lightning started the story of how things had come to be as they were.

Many cycles ago before the full memory of men a senseless war raged between light and dark. The sky was filled with the cries of ancient Gods, exulting in their power to reign over the world’s lesser mortals, the marshalling of men and animals. They rode upon magical beasts like Lightning and many others ,some of whom were his brothers and sisters. They soared and swooped, with their godly masters slashing and raking, striving to drive their enemies beyond destruction, into extinction.
Before strife, the law of the world had been set and the powers of light filled the sky with life affirming warmth. Gods of light fed the growth of plants and carried the weight of the sun on their backs in a never ending arc that since before the birth of time had pushed back against the onrush of a cold pulsating darkness. These brilliant ancient beings and their leader Sunra, the youngest and some say favoured son of the Supreme giver of all life, believed that night was planning to steal their day.
The story has come to be that the light were tricked into thinking the balance of all life was to be disturbed by the deepest of the dark, the lord’s oldest son, the taker of souls, the stealer of hearts, the cleverest of all tricksters, Anan. He had fallen out with his Supreme father whom he believed had never fully loved him. Anan believed his father thought him misshapen even hideous and had banished him to the furthest reaches of the dark, the deepest recesses of the night so he would not have to gaze upon him. Like everybody before and since, he could never understand the immensity of God’s project, his plan for this world. Anan did not realise, he was just as loved as his brother as God could have no favourites, we were all involved in this unfolding, unto completion and only He new the wherefores of journey’s end.
The Father knew that Anan’s beauty was only marred by the blind hatred he had for his brother. Anan’s desire was, to rob his father of his favoured son and he hoped that lost in grief the Lord of all would falter in his role as the great keeper of balance and this would allow Anan to seize power, to overthrow his father and complete his dark redemption as the supreme ruler of all things.
Anan began to shun all that light had to offer and as his hatred grew so did his ugliness. He began to hide in shadows creeping through the cracks between night and day, a snake in the grass, a changeling who disguised himself, shedding skin after skin to bring the fear of dark into the light.
Wherever the weakness of man was strongest that was where Anan dwelt, sometimes he forsook the shadows and appeared in the midst of men. He toyed with their petty jealousies and hatreds, using greed and envy to bring chaos to the world.
Anan turned father against son, husband against wife, grew strength from the downfall of the pious, the outing of the hypocrite and rushed to sharpen his jagged fangs for the bursting of a pompous mortals overblown balloon.
However, no matter how hard he tried or how many hearts he stole, each morning the sun rose high in the sky, the rivers ran, clean and pure, the grass grew lush and the store houses of man were filled to overflowing, so Anan turned his mind to one final act of treachery. He wanted to hurt his brother so badly Sunra in his distraction would be unable to resist the onrushing hordes of darkness and that would mark the moment for Anan to seize his opportunity and day would turn into perpetual night.

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Comments by other Members

NMott at 19:22 on 03 October 2009  Report this post
Hi, PBF, and welcome to WriteWords

A powerful piece and well written.
I felt it realy got into it's stride in the second section where the narrator feels someone over him, and that image stayed with me for sometime.
Although there is nothing technically wrong with the opening section where the narrator is coming back to conciousness, I think you could afford to lose it since such sequences are so common in opening chapters of unpublished manuscripts they have practically become a cliche.
The later scenes made me feel this was more suited to a short story than to an opening chapter, because, to a certain extent, the literary prose got in the way of what promised to be a cracking good plot.

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PBF at 14:01 on 09 October 2009  Report this post
Thanks very much for the constructive comments. I did not know haw to access these initially and it was my daughter who directed me to them. I always knew what the narrative was to be. However it had to have an opening and that was the one that came out. Now that I have written 55,000 words it is not something I am welded to and in fact I think a natural beginning would occur in the next section when it reads 'You came to me.. Additionally the second section is only for giving context to the story and I had been thinking about using this as a prologue. The 'plot' would then carry through as this is not really an essential part of the storyline.What do you think?

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