18 June 2008

A Chamber of One - a little preview

Okay, so the novel is back on the table - sort of. I realised that, after so much time, there's so much of my own story that I'm no longer sure of myself that jumping straight back into it was impossible without risking leaving some gigantic hole. Now, trying to edit 150 pages off a computers screen is too horrible to think of, and lugging around a ring-binder file everywhere I go so that I can grab a bit of editing here and there is ridiculously impractical (seriously - experience talking. Don't even try it.) I considered my predicament and thought that the best way to get the show on the road was to try and insert it into my routine, a greater portion of which is constantly being on the look-out for opportunities when I can bounce out of work for a little read by myself. I can put away a stranger's novel in a few days in this fashion, surely I can put a dent in my own? The only thing I was lacking was the necessary format... So guess what? I am now in the possession of a printed and bound copy of my own novel (part 1). It was a surprisingly cool sensation. I expected it would be a bit of a gas, but when the printer handed me a fully printed and bound copy of my own work, the strangest thing happened: I felt like a real author. Crazy, I know. It just looked so much like a book - like something you'd pick up off the selves at Exclusive Books or Fogarty's - that it was hard not to feel exceedingly chuffed. I couldn't wait for someone to ask me what I was reading, just so that I could flip them the cover and reply; "Oh, nothing really." Hasn't happened yet, but there's still time... So here's the cover and a little excerpt from the first half of my book; A Chamber of One. The text has been unedited so far, so there are probably a few spelling mistakes, and there's a good chance that some of the text might be changed before it's done (I haven't gotten this far into the editing yet) but hey, enough people have read it so far that I'm not overly concerned. Think of this as similar to when bands release rough, preview tracks online. The final result will be more streamlined and refined. But until then...
(An excerpt from Chapter 2 - Friday: Dreams and Monsters)

Rebecca shifted uncomfortably in her sleep. Back and forth she turned as she tried to escape a troubling dream that would soon be lost from her memory for ever. She was trapped in a world of shifting shadows and darkness where there really were monsters in your closet. It didn’t matter that you knew that the black shapes drifting just beyond the cracked open door were nothing more than hung clothes, strung up jackets and pants, because it wasn’t the clothes that you had to worry about. No, what you really had to worry about were the shapes themselves, the dark silhouettes of your wardrobe, because, in the dark, these shadows grew. They joined and blended, wrapped together and grew tooth and claw. And then, as you slept, the cupboard door would creek open and the dark would step into your room. A thing begot of the darkness of everything normal and safe in your world; monstrous and foreign in its entirety.

Rebecca heard the door creek. Her eyes and mouth sprang open as she sucked in a lungful of predawn darkness. The hair beside her ears and high up on her neck bristled as her skin contracted and her heart pounded in her skull. She nearly panicked when all that met her was a muddled blur of black and gray. Her eyes darted back and forth in search of something recognizable in the sleep addled mess around her, but slowly, as reality began to assert its self, her room began to swim into focus.

She tried to force herself to relax. She lay in her bed and concentrated on slowing her breathing. She hoped that she hadn’t cried out in her sleep and woken anyone.

What a dream, she thought even as the images faded from her memory. She blinked sleep out of her eyes and thought to herself how difficult it was going to be to nod off again after such a humdinger of a nightmare. She groaned silently to herself. Shit, she thought, it’s not even light out yet.

She rolled onto her side to reach for the glass of water beside her bed. Or she tried to. All that shifted towards the bedside table were her eyes. Panic once again began to well up in Rebecca’s breast. What’s happening? she cried inside her own head as she desperately tried to move her paralyzed arms and legs, but the duvet had her trapped. It wrapped around her legs and torso, had managed to slither around her arms, and even its cover had seemed to snake its way between her fingers. And, as she lay there, her body bound and nothing but her head sticking out from beneath the covers, Rebecca was sure that she could feel them pulling tighter.

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod, she whimpered to herself, but not a sound escaped her lips, Something is not right. Oh god, something is going terribly wrong. And as she stared at the room around her – as the covers pulled tighter and as the fabric pulled harder and harder against her throat, her breath beginning to come in short, sharp gasps – she began to see that something was indeed terribly wrong. This wasn’t her room. It looked like it, but it wasn’t. Everything was similar, but certain things just weren’t quite right. Her dresser looked too short, almost stumpy, as if it had been stunted somehow and her chest of drawers seemed constructed at impossible angels; its mere existence as a standing, solid object seeming to buck all natural laws. And everything was too gray. The ceiling, the walls, the stuffed animals on her shelves – all of which seemed turned in her direction, their small, black, plastic eyes staring at her deadly and their fur all matted and dirty as if they’d dug their way out from deep in the earth, paw-full by paw-full out of their graves – everything was tinged with the dull gray of the indescribable; the corpse.

And then something moved.

Rebecca’s eyes shot to the door, her breath short and rasping. What was that? A slight, gray aura of light shone around the door, turning it into a dark silhouette; a pitch-black portal, a door in a door. The light that slanted out struck the toys on her shelf, bringing them to monstrous life. Wicked eyes danced in an evil light and fur writhed over moulding stuffing. As the light moved the shadow grew and with it grew teeth and talons. Small stitched mouths began to widen and split and furry lips squirmed as needle fangs grew from stuffing gums. Rebecca could swear that she heard the soft pop, fwip, pop, fwip of threads breaking and unthreading in the dark and oh god the faces were moving; crawling over newly formed bone and stretching and pulling the eyes wider until she could see pink. Oh god almighty she could see pink around those tiny black orbs and they were moist; wet and gungy and dancing in the moving light and why was the light moving?

Rebecca’s eyes flew back to the door. She couldn’t help it. They were as much under her control by now as the rest of her petrified body. Sweat ran down her face and back, burning her eyes and soaking the creeping blankets so that they clung to her like a second, malformed skin. Her neck felt raw as the fabric rubbed against it and her chest burned from her sharp, desperate breaths. Tears rolled down her cheeks and her nose had begun to run and as the mucus slid down her throat she felt the need to cough, to cough and scream, but she could do neither. She heard the door creak again.

There’s no one there. The door hasn’t moved. It’s still closed. There’s no one here to open it. I know there isn’t. There can’t be! Oh god let it be closed!

But it wasn’t. It stood wide. Oh so very wide. And into its light stepped a figure so immense that it blocked out the dull luminescence of what ever was beyond the frame. For a moment it paused and then it raised one giant foot and stepped into the room. Slowly it moved towards the foot of her bed and with every step a sickening, rasping noise could be heard, like a blade cutting through thick carpet. And as it moved forward, one arm held behind it, the darkness behind it grew thicker. A skittering sound could be heard from inside of it. Shapes moved, and Rebecca knew that the creatures were climbing off their shelves and skittering down the walls – her toys, her presents, her tormentors – and hiding just beyond the light.

This can’t be happening, she thought as the monstrous silhouette came to a stand by her feet. This is not real and I am dreaming. I’m dreaming and I have to wake up! The thing’s arm came around from behind it and gripped in its hand was a shape long and flat and with an edge at its end that glistened sharply in the light. You have to wake up. You have to wake up now. Please let me open my eyes. Please let this all vanish. Sweat covered her face and ran into her mouth, its salty taste sitting like blood on a tongue that had gone dry. Every muscle in her body was pulled taught. Her neck was as stiff as a tree trunk. Her jaws were clenched with her lips pulled back in a sneer and she knew that she was going to die. The figure lifted its other hand to grip the handle of its weapon. She had stopped breathing entirely. Wake up! she said, Wake up, wake up, wake up! Her eyes bulged as they desperately tried to open. Everything told them that they already were but still they tried. They burned as Rebecca frantically pushed to see through the horror that was happening before her.

“Rebecca,” said the monster. And then she woke up.

It wasn’t as though anything changed, really. Everything still seemed to be in the same place. But everything seemed back to normal. And she could breathe again. Her toys were back on the self and her furniture looked the way that it always did. Even the light seemed better – more real and vital, with a volume that had been missing in that dark place, even though it shone in from the passage, dulled by the half open door. She didn’t even think that she had opened her eyes, but rather that they had been open the whole time with her unable to see through them. When the change had come, it was as though reality had simply drifted into the dream, erasing everything that shouldn’t have been there – everything but one, and for that she was no less terrified.

The figure still loomed above her, both arms still twisted and taught up above its right shoulder.

“Rebecca,” it said again, and this time she recognised what was held in its hands high up above its head, its sharpened edge almost touching the ceiling. It was the garden spade; the great, black Lasher spade that hung in the shed out back in the garden and that her dad had sharpened weekly until he had hired someone else to do it for him.

“Coleman?” she replied with her first breath. Her lips quivered out of her control, making his name bounce with staccatoed hiccups. She sucked in with her nose and whimpered, confused and terrified. But I woke up…

“You’ve been dreaming, little Rebecca,” said the giant gardener, “You’ve been dreaming for a very long time.” Rebecca heard the squeaking sound of skin on wood as Coleman tightened his grip on the handle. “But you’ve dreamed enough now and you need to wake up. You thought you were, but you weren’t. And now you must. You must wake up.” The giant flat of the spade inched higher until the point of its edge touched the ceiling.

“This isn’t real,” said Rebecca.

“Wake up, Rebecca,” said the giant.

The blade fell. Rebecca screamed. And the window beside her bed exploded inwards as a part of the night leapt into her room.

( © All work is the exclusive work of the author and subject to copywrite laws.)

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