NaNo is on track, I’m posting this on the 20th and by my reckoning; I should have done about 34,000 words. I’ve actually managed to write over 45,000 so things are progressing much better than I had hoped. The story is coming along nicely. I will finish 50,000 words in the month, which was the object when I started.
Already, writing this has led me to some places I wasn’t expecting. The story has developed in ways that I couldn’t have predicted before I started. What set out to be a straightforward story has surprised me, as they often do; in the way it has unfolded as I have been writing it. And if you were wondering where it all comes from, see last week’s post.
I keep getting ideas to develop parts of the plot, to round out characters and situations, so I have to go back and modify what I have already written. That’s not how I normally work, I’m used to getting the whole thing down before I start to go back and make sense of it all. This time, it’s actually happening as I go, which makes me wish that there was an easier way to jump about in my text.
Perhaps it’s because this novel is a departure in style for me. Instead of my usual narrative, a story that progresses in a straight line, this one is actually two stories, with independent timelines, all mixed together. As I’ve written it, I realised that I need to depart from my usual method to do it justice.
Because of the way it jumps about, this one needs a little more structure than a linear single narrative. Things in both worlds, the real and the imagined, need to align. Maybe my approach is changing as I develop my craft.
Whatever, I feel confident that the start is now good enough for an airing.
So, here’s a peek at Chapter one, and the first part of Chapter two, as it is so far, it might be changed a bit as the later parts of the story develop. I think I’ve caught all the typo’s, if you find one, Oops!
To recap and get you up to speed with the idea, we’re on the planet Ecias, with Dan and Vanessa. We know (or we think that we know) that what’s happening is all a dream but Dan himself has no idea. As far as he’s concerned, it’s just another day in his life.
Life… and Other Dreams.
When Rick Wilson dreams, he’s Dan Walden. Six hundred years from now he’s exploring the planet Ecias with his wife Vanessa at his side.
When he’s awake he lives on Earth, today. He works in advertising, hates his job and has Cath to come home to.
But what if his life with Vanessa was more than a dream? Could it be a reality? Would it mean that his life with Cath was the dream?
Is it possible that one man could be in two places at once?
Suddenly, his idyllic life on Ecias turns sour. He’s accused of a murder that he didn’t commit.
Meanwhile, Cath thinks his dreams are hiding an affair, his life on Earth starts to fall apart.
He starts to wonder; if he had the choice; which one would he want to be real?
Chapter 1, Ecias.
“Vanessa, what are you trying to do? Slow down. What’s the rush?”
The words were torn out of my mouth as we raced over the bumpy road, the open top of the buggy meant that you had to shout to make yourself heard; you just had to shout louder when Vanessa was driving. She approached driving like she approached everything else, flat out and head on, daring it to get in her way or spoil her fun.
I gripped the armrests firmly and felt the harness dig into my shoulders every time we bounced. The suspension was doing its best, but at this speed it was fighting a losing battle with the rough surface. The road had been cut through the forest by a squad of army engineers; the uneven sections were filled in and levelled with a hard-packed mixture of earth and stones. It was all held in place by a lattice of tree-trunks and metal piling. It swerved around the bigger trees, in places it clung to the hillside over deep valleys. If you weren’t concentrating on staying alive, there were amazing views over the land and the ocean, it was the sort of journey that you could easily sell to adventure-seeking tourists.
You were supposed to sound your horn and slow down on the corners, in case there was someone coming the other way. Vanessa, predictably, didn’t bother. She kept the speed on and we shot around the corners, never knowing what would be in front of us. “You can see through the trees,” she had explained to me, “if you keep your eyes open and look in the right place.” Maybe that was right, I had to hope that it was.
If I had lent out of the buggy I could have touched the trees on my side. The strong, equatorial sunlight shining between them cast shadows over the road, exposing us to patches of light and dark as we headed into town. The air was warm and still, at least it would have been if we hadn’t been moving so fast that it felt like a full gale in our faces. Ecias was a paradise, with amazing scenery and beautiful wildlife. It was how Earth had probably been before we humans had got our despoiling hands on it. The trees had large flowers as well as their leaves, they were a magnet for bees, butterflies and multicoloured birds that looked like Earth’s hummingbirds. If you were quiet and slow you could get right up close to them. Like all the wildlife on Ecias, they had not yet learned to fear man or what he could do to a planet.
We raced towards a large warning sign. Fixed to a tree that was at least ten metres across, it informed us in large red letters that five-hundred metres ahead there was a sharper than usual curve. An arrow underneath the letters emphasised the point. The good news was that after we had got around it, the road straightened out and we could start our descent down the side of the hill into Richavon.
Despite the speed, we weren’t in any particular hurry. It was true that the supply ship was due, it would be here for at least a day. It wouldn’t be leaving again without the report that we carried. Vanessa just liked the exhilaration that speed and danger produced.
We had been alone in the forest, just us and our prefabricated trailer, for nearly a month, since the last supply ship had left. Not that I minded that; being alone with my wife, doing what we loved as a team was the best bit about my life.
We were content in each other’s company but the journey into town from wherever we had been in the last month was always anticipated. It was the chance to stock up on supplies, get a meal cooked by someone else and catch up on news from home. As we flashed past the sign we were approaching the scariest bit of the journey.
The sign had been put up on the orders of the company’s local manager, our boss. He was fed up with scraping wrecked vehicles and people from the river bed at the bottom of the hill. Mainly, it was those who hadn’t been here that long and hadn’t got used to the road. Speed was just as much a killer here as it was on any other planet. Sometimes, I cynically wondered if the real reason wasn’t that while newcomers paid their own way to get here, their vehicles were expensive to replace.
The outside of the curve, at the edge of a sheer drop, had been fenced with a wall of tree trunks. I had helped to fell the trees and pile them between two lines of metal piles which we had screwed deep into the rocky ground. The logs were painted with black and white chevrons indicating that a turn to the right would be a good idea. We bounced over another dip in the surface and I saw them ahead.
“Slow down Vanessa,” I pleaded again, she was a good driver, but the road was wet from recent rain, despite the heavy-duty tyres we had already skidded a couple of times in some of the muddier sections. Not that Vanessa would ever have admitted to having lost control, it would have been a perfectly executed slide as far as she was concerned.
She turned to me, brown eyes sparkling and the wind frothing her long hair. “What’s the matter Dan?” she asked holding both my gaze and her speed. “don’t you trust me?”
There were one hundred metres to go, then eighty, still she held my gaze. I didn’t want to, but I started to shrink back into the seat. She laughed, a full-on explosion of mirth.
“If you’re with me, you must have the whole package,” she said as she hauled on the wheel, dabbing at the brake pedal with a plimsolled foot.
Her left hand went to the traction control lever and she flicked it casually. Instantly the revs dropped and the engines note changed from a whine to a growl. We started to turn, then slide. The buggy leant over as gravity and momentum fought the wheels for control and I saw the logs at about forty metres away. I closed my eyes; perhaps that would make things better. If I couldn’t see them, then we were safe. It didn’t work.
Vanessa must have noticed, she took one hand from the wheel and nudged me, “Pay attention,” she shouted. The logs were now only twenty metres away. Stones flew from under the wheels as the heavy tread started to grip. She thrust her right foot down on the pedal, flicked the switch again and the engine roared.
We were broadside on to the logs and our sideways motion was slowing as we started to move forward. As she spun the wheel, I saw that we were lined up for the next section of the road; she had timed it to perfection. The logs were less than a metre away as we flashed past them. She changed gear and we took off like a rocket.
Two minutes later we arrived at the crest of the hill. I realised that I had been holding my breath and exhaled gratefully as Vanessa pulled over into a clearing and stopped. We disturbed a flock of large birds. The biologists called them Anseres Harabus, after the first settler to describe them, Denise Harabus. I just thought of them as Geese. They were large and multi-coloured, abundant in the forests and good eating. We both got out of the buggy, stood side by side. Vanessa was as tall as me, thinner but as strong. Arm in arm we gazed out over the deep indigo sea. Far below us, nestling in the curve of the coast was Richavon. Looking past the town and the farm compound, we could see that the ship had arrived, or at least was in the atmosphere. There was a red-plumed dot just above the horizon, in front of Claudius, the largest of this planet’s moons. The ship would land just outside of town before we got there. Like I said, it was a regular link with home. It had been late last month; the beer had run out and the atmosphere in town had been terrible. When you had been away from your home planet for over a year, things like that were important.
“I told you not to worry,” she said, her eyes sparkling, “you should learn to trust me.”
“That was…, interesting,” I tried to sound casual. My heart was racing, it would never do to show Vanessa fear though, that would only encourage her to do it again.
“You almost lost it,” she remarked. Moving to stand behind me, she put her arms around my waist, pulling me close. “I knew what I was doing, anyway if you were that worried, you could always have reached over and turned the auto on.”
“And that would have made me popular,” I said, more in relief than anything else. I had let her drive, I had chosen to trust her ability. In auto, the buggy could have done the trip on its own. Maybe not at that speed but…
She laughed again, “it’s so easy to get you going,” she said between chuckles, “isn’t that why you love me?”
In answer, I tried to grab her and we ended up wrestling on the damp grass. She threw me easily and landed on top. Once we were both horizontal, one thing led to another. Vanessa was good at that as well.
I loved my life out here; Ecias was the nearest thing to heaven that I’d found so far. With Vanessa by my side, it was just about perfect.
Chapter 2, Earth
“Rick,” Cath’s voice in my ear woke me, “Rick, what are you doing?”
I struggled into wakefulness and looked around me; the bedroom was lit by a low energy lamp on Cath’s bedside table. It was about as bright as the scrap of daylight trying to creep around the blind on that October morning. Even in its meagre offering, I could see that the quilt and several pillows were in a heap on the floor. Cath raised herself up on one elbow and looked at me; the blue eyes were filled with worry under the mop of short, dark hair which was sticking out at crazy angles.
“You were thrashing about and muttering in your sleep, are you alright love?”
What do you think of it so far? Let me know in the comments.