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Changeling - Chapter 1

by noddy 

Posted: 04 May 2003
Word Count: 948
Summary: Would appreciate comments. This is chapter 1 of novel (the prologue is archived under 'changeling').

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His throat was burning and his lungs were collapsing. It felt as if the breath was being forced out of his body, as if his upper torso was being pinched, squeezed, crushed between two giant, invisible fingers.
Nearly there now. Nearly there.
He was almost at the top of the hill, close to the cottage and close to the kitchen drawer where he had left his blue inhaler just three hours ago.
Got to make it. So close. Got to keep going.
There was nobody on the road this evening; nobody to see him suffering and nobody to help him. Few people made this journey at the best of times; only his neighbour and the postman ever had the need to struggle their way up the narrow, hedge-lined path to the pair of cottages at the summit. Besides, it was cold this evening; he could see thin tendrils of ice snaking through the muddy ditch between the hedge and the path, and white frost dusted the broken cobbles at the edge of the narrow road. Although the sky was clear, there were dark clouds moving in from the distance. Snow was on the way - and more than likely it would arrive before morning.
Stupid fool. Shouldnít have come out without the inhaler. Should have known better. Too much on your mind. Itís your own faultÖ your own stupid fault.
Only they were watching him. Always watching; the hundreds of wispy shadows there on the periphery of his vision. He could sense them straining to reach him, could feel their frustration tingling like electricity in the air.
Why donít you do something ? Why canít you help me ? Just this once. I know you can.
His face was freezing and his arms were heavy. It felt as though he was scaling a mountain; his energy was draining and every step was becoming a struggle. There was a metallic taste in his mouth. He felt himself gag and the smell of vomit suddenly overwhelmed his senses.
Is this what death tastes like ? Is this the way it happens ?
He could see his home now, one of a pair of small, fourteenth-century weaver's cottages standing alone on the brow of the hill. The curtains were open and the lights were on in the living room. They were his beacons, the only things left in the world upon which he could still focus.
Please donít let this be it. Not now. Not yet. Iíll be a better person. I promise. Iíll do anything. Please donít let me die. Not now. Not yet.
He struggled forwards, eyes straight ahead, lungs nearly empty. He was feeling faint, finding it difficult to move his legs. There were lights flashing before his eyes, tiny brown and silver speckles that distorted his vision and made his stomach lurch.
Youíre going to die. Here on the hill, just a few steps away from your home. Youíre going to die, Adams. Youíre going to die and itís your own stupid fault.
He reached the wrought iron front gate, pushed it open and collapsed onto the icy cold paving stones.
Nearly there now. Nearly there.
He thrust his hand into the pocket of his long, dark coat and fumbled for his keys.
Where are they ? For Godís sake, where are they ?
His fingers brushed over something smooth, round, familiar.
The stone.
He had kept it with him all of his life, one of the few possessions that he had chosen to retain from a distant and painful childhood. It had remained in a drawer in his bedroom for twelve years, covered in balls of fluff and dust until he had finally packed up his things to leave for University. He had found it then, and, fascinated by its perfect smoothness, had taken it to a Jewellers where they had linked it to a key-chain for him.
For some reason it felt warm beneath his fingers. He was still conscious enough to find that strange. He clasped his hand around it, feeling the heat rising up through his wrist and into his body. They must have felt it too, for he sensed them draw closer, like an audience leaning forwards for the final act.
It seemed to give him strength, to help him to find enough breath to pull himself up the door and fit the key into the lock. The door swung open and he collapsed into the room. The warmth flooded over him, into his chest and lungs and out through his body. His heart was pounding against the tiled floor.
Relax. Breathe. Got to keep going. Calm down. Nearly there now. Nearly near.
The front door opened directly into the living room and the fire was still burning low in the hearth. He could feel the heat on his face, his skin tingling as he crawled on his hands and knees across the room towards the archway that led to the kitchen.
Youíre home now. Keep going. You can do it. Breathe. Relax. Keep going.
The kitchen was dark. He reached up for the drawer, his hand fumbling across the surface of the pine cupboards until he found a handle. He pulled hard and the drawer clattered to the floor beside him, the ringing of the stainless steel cutlery resonating in his ears like a hundred off-key tuning forks. The inhaler landed just within reach of his fingers. He grasped it and pushed it into his mouth, then pumped and gulped in as much as he could. One puff, then a second.
He felt exhaustion washing over him, could focus no longer.
Forgive me. Please forgive me.

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Comments by other Members

Becca at 23:53 on 04 May 2003  Report this post
I definitely want to know what happens next. He's not going to die is he?!

noddy at 15:42 on 05 May 2003  Report this post
Not yet...

Thanks, Becca.

Glimity at 16:18 on 05 May 2003  Report this post
Hey Noddy

This is getting better! I'm still hooked. I wasn't swallowing and was just about breathing when I read this chapter.

I've got all these wonderful images in my head of how the story is going to develop but I can't wait to see where you plan on taking the story.

Keep it up.

Oh my God! I've just read your "not yet" answer to Becca's question. He's going to die??! Noooo!!! He can't!


Anna Reynolds at 13:24 on 09 May 2003  Report this post
I think the breathless- literally...- and doomed, oppressive quality of this is really well done. It's claustrophobic and intense, which means it''s a good thing it's not very long- hard to maintain this level for both reader and writer. Look forward to seeing how it develops- are we going to discover more about his character, the rest of his life?

noddy at 19:18 on 09 May 2003  Report this post
Hi Jennifer and Anna.

Many thanks for finding the time to comment on this piece. This is the first section of the first chapter... the second section introduces the main character in more detail. I was really interested in getting some feedback on the pace, style etc of this section, so I didn't upload the second part straight away (will do shortly).

Thanks again for the input.


Hilary Custance at 22:36 on 15 May 2003  Report this post
Hi Noddy, I wrote a comment on the prologue, but it seems to have got lost. I just wanted to say that i so nearly didn't start because I though it would be fantasy/scifi/horror and that I was very glad I did. It was so warm and human and immensely readable.
This chapter had the same effect on me. I completely forgot the here and now in the narrative. I felt totally inside the picture. I have Chapter 2 printed to take to bed with me. Cheers, Hilary

noddy at 23:21 on 16 May 2003  Report this post
Thanks, Hilary - I'm very grateful for your input and glad that you didn't give up on it ! Let me know how you feel about the next chapter... positive or negative comments equally appreciated !

Best Regards,

Nell at 21:34 on 27 June 2003  Report this post

This ended too soon for me, I was also gasping all the way through. Luckily I can now head off to read the next chapter.

The writing seemed to flow effortlessly too. Keep up the good work.

Best, Nell.

Swike at 00:09 on 03 July 2003  Report this post
How do Nod!
Just read your piece and spoilt it for meself, by reading the reply section.......
What I love about this is the way you asault the reader into feeling what your ch. feels. It's very claustraphobic..............

Hey, what do you mean, "Not yet!"

Is this a reincarnation thang

(Sorry about my lack of spelling ability - I know it's appauling!)

Keep it up dude

take care, Swike

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