Okay so I have been procrastinating a little bit and I might not make it by deadline but I am bound and determined to give it my best shot even if I have to call in sick on the 29th and 30th. I posted a widget on the sidebar so if you are so inclined you can check back once in a while and see just how far behind I get!!
So for those of you who asked, here is the first little introduction/preface/prologue to my developing novel. I hope you enjoy.
The thunder never seemed to stop but he couldn’t be sure since he was drifting in and out of consciousness. Jack’s dreams were filled with images of ice and rock, the knocking of a small wooden boat against salty whitecaps, clenched fists, and shouts threatening him with death. Bodies blackened around him, the stench of scurvy rotted teeth and shit nauseated even his memory. His father’s stubborn crazy voice haunted him. He wasn’t sure anyone else had survived but was too weak to mourn their loss. Secretly he prayed he was the lone survivor.
The first time he opened his eyes it was dark. A rock seemed to burn next to the bed. A strange smelling smoke filled his nostrils and burned inside of his skull. It wasn’t a smell he recognized. Jack was covered with the fur skin of something that used to be alive and by the smell of it whatever hadn’t been dead too long. His tongue felt like it didn’t fit in his mouth and his head pounded. He turned toward a figure kneeling beside him, it nodded and grunted for him to drink from a stone saucer. The liquid was bitter and oily. He tried not to choke on it as it slid down his throat. A chunk of something fatty was placed between his lips and the figure nodded again to encourage him to eat. It was disgusting but his stomach ached. Delirium and months on a ship made him feel as if he was perpetually falling.
He dreamed between short periods of lucidness. Sometimes Jack couldn’t tell if he was awake or asleep or floating someplace on a raft between the two worlds. He dreamed of swimming under sky blue ice, eating fish and sliding along snow on his belly. The howling and yipping of wolves was inside his head but as the pack brushed past his legs while he ran he was sure he was hallucinating. There were lights that danced across the dark purple sky, tinkling flaming green ribbons; a kind of magic only the Vikings might have known. He tasted blood from the moon, and sat around the carcass of a great wide horned beast feasting on wet flesh with a giant white bear and a mermaid. The bear had hair so soft and fine and so white he could have sworn it was made of stars. The mermaid was brown and fatand wrinkled like a walrus with huge heavy breasts that hung over her spotted green torso and when she laughed the whole earth seemed to shake. The strange dreams carried on and underneath it all was a quiet vibration like the feet of a thousand soldiers.
He guessed that the figure caring for him was a woman her soft hands washed his face and fed him. He could hear her singing and sometimes humming while she sewed something from what looked a bit like leather. She brought him solid food and he ate what he guessed was fish wrapped in a thick wet leaf. It tasted not too bad and finally he had enough strength to prop himself up and hold a wooden cup of hot tea-like liquid. He looked at her as she held some sort of dried meat for him and she smiled.
Two more days passed before he was strong enough to be guided out of the dark room by his nurse, she was stronger than he imagined. When his eyes adjusted to the light the land was like nothing he had ever seen in his young life. The land stretched as far as he could see with no buildings or signs of civilization. The earth undulated in ripples and parts of it seemed to be alive with a palpable motion. The thrumming sound was there, the same endless thunder in his dreams only quieter, as if the vibration was coming from beneath his feet.
The air smelled of nothing but the brine scent of the sea drifting on the cold breeze. His skin erupted in goose flesh and a shiver ran through his body. Again, he felt as if his bones had been frozen and were just now warminginside his body. He felt the woman grip him tighter to keep him from falling. In the bright light of the sun he realized that this was not a woman at all bit a sturdy little man with a very pretty face. The nurse wasn't much taller than himself. Jack tried to speak but his voice was a ragged whisper. And his giant tongue was heavy and dry. The stranger shook his head and mumbled something pointing at the horizon. Jack scanned the valley and blinked a few times as the dark rippling form he thought was a hill came into focus as a giant swarm of animals. He couldn’t make out individuals as the mass of tiny bodies writhed across the ground all headed in the same direction with single-minded determination. The man beside him made a noise in his throat and began speaking in a language Jack had never heard. Jack’s body was weak and ravaged from the ocean crossing. His fingers and toes had been bitten by frost over the winter as he watched his father slowly go mad. In the spring when the ice separated and freed the ship everyone wanted to return home including Jack. Only a few men were willing to follow Henry further into the new world but his son was not one of them. The crew threw them all off the ship, turned east, and headed toward home leaving the group stranded in a foreign land with a lunatic at the helm.
The eight of them sailed around the bay for days, his father intent on mapping the entire thing. The madness was clear to the others when Henry insisted they could make it through the passage and back to England in time to watch the mutineers hang. Jack was pretty certain William and Thomas had died of despair and frustration. Philip and Edward, who had abandoned ship with only their loyalty to a madman to feed them, perished before the storm even hit. Francisco, Herman and his father were likely drown in the bay, their bodies probably washed up on a rocky shore and feasted upon by scavengers. How Jack had survived the cold water and made it to shore when he’d never learned to swim he could only accept as a miracle of God.
The dreams still came to him in the dark and even sometimes in the middle of the day. Fish with horns, hairless dogs, black foxes, giants, a thousand talking black birds and a giant flying eyeball swirled around in his head. He wanted to draw. He somehow conveyed to the little man what he wanted and with a crude quill on a long piece of skin he made pictures of his dreams from animal blood. Jack almost never thought of his father and was simultaneously relieved and terrified to find himself alone in a barren wilderness. The pictures on the skin grew more elaborate as he tried to recreate the dreams as accurately as his limited artistic skills would allow.
His companion in the darkness sang quietly while he sewed and women came and went giggling at Jack's curly hair and blue eyes. They brought food that was foreign to his tongue as the language to his ears. His companion took him on longer and longer walks every day and he felt the urgency in the little man’s voice as the wind got colder. Jack realized there was another journey for him on the horizon; soon they would be following the animals’ path.
It was only hours later after a long nap that the little man set the boots down in front of Jack and urged him to put them on. The pathches of paper thin red scar tissue on his feet had just recently formed and his toes were still tender but the boots made him feel like he had brand new feet. The little man pulled a heavy skin jacket over Jacks head and took his hand. He looked around the little room for a moment as if making sure there was nothing he was forgetting and they headed out into the sunset toward the sound of the thunder. They walked for what seemed like hours but since the sun never seemed to set it was hard for Jack to tell how long they had been walking. He was pleasantly surprised at his endurance and although he was still tired his body seemed to move without him even thinking and the rhythm of the vibration kept him moving.
His mind found its own way into the dreamland as if the resonance of the thunder were a key to unlocking a door between worlds. Jack seemed to be able to see things he could not explain but these images were so different from his dreams. As the thunder got louder the images became clearer. He saw another little man with a belt made of skin and covered in blood. Through the star speckled darkness he could see cold, figures falling out of the sky and writhing out of the sea. There were buildings built of secrets, more boats, shiny coins, barking dogs, a plague, yellow rocks, hundreds of men with tools and machines, holes dug deep into the earth, dizziness, sadness, and a boy….
Jack nearly crashed into the back of his companion unsure if he had been sleep walking. The little man pointed to a bump on the horizon and made a noise. Jack looked at him and smiled. He had no idea what else to do. The little man smiled back and Jack was struck with a sorrow so profound he could not understand it. The images flooded back and this little man was in all of them somehow. He couldn’t explain it but knew in that moment that he was there for some reason and he wanted to find out what that reason was. Why had he survived and no one else? How had this man found him when there didn’t seem to be anyone else around at all? Jack had no idea where they were headed or what would be there when they arrived. He just let his feet carry him across the earth following the little man humming quietly to a song he had heard over and over in his dreams.