30 March 2008

A Fiction Teaser

There's a story I've been working on - on and off - for the past while. Okay, more off than on lately, but.... Anyway, below is the first page or so.

It began on a Monday.

I had awakened early, downloaded my mail and the day's weather forecast, as usual. The weather service said that strong thunderstorms were likely in the afternoon. My publisher, Dennis, was screaming for an outline, which I was supposed to have sent him a week ago. And still no reply from Janna. I fixed some breakfast and scanned the world headlines of the day. Only two terrorist bombings, one in Baghdad, at the occupation headquarters, and the other in Tokyo, at a bath house on the Ginza. Crude oil was lapping at the $125 mark again, and the stock market was on the downside of its manic depressive cycle.

All in all, the morning wasn't that unusual. Certainly, not with respect to the events that fate would unfold before me over the next... well, very long time.

Instead of working in the garden, which had been my nominal plan for the day, I decided to see if I couldn't fix the opening chapter of my new novel. I hadn't sent Dennis the outline because the story had veered sharply from where I had intended it, and the outline I had was no longer valid.

What started as political satire had somehow devolved into slapstick, and every time I tried to work on it, visions of Mel Brooks films would flash through my mind. Nevertheless, I sat down at the computer and got to work. I managed to snag a line of thought that I liked, and was soon engrossed in the story and oblivious to everything else around me. With much effort, I slowly steered the plot back onto the course I had intended.

Several hours later, I leaned back and stretched, and realized with surprise that there was rain falling on the roof of my cabin. I stood and walked to the front door, and was surprised to see how much rain had fallen while I was writing. Puddles of water stood in the small yard in front of the house, and even the leaves on the maples were plastered together, though only a soft shower was presently falling.

I stepped back inside and turned on the television to check the Weather Channel. After a story about skiing in Australia, two commercial breaks, and some strained banter between the co-anchors, the regional map of the Southeastern US came on the screen. The radar image showed several bands of heavy rain marching across the Appalachians, one of which was just about to reach the Toe River Valley of Western North Carolina, and my home.

I hurried back outside to double check that everything that needed to be was still covered, and got back on the porch just as the wind picked up and the rain began falling harder. Leaving the television tuned to the weather, I switched on the radio to see if any warnings had been issued. As I scanned the dial listening for weather statements, I began to hear thunder in the distance. Soon flashes of lightning began illuminating points across the valley, each one striking more quickly than the last. As a lover of electrical storms, I was out on the porch again, watching the lightning and the rain, driven almost horizontal by the wind, when a gust practically knocked me off my feet. At nearly the same instant, lightning struck two trees on opposite sides of the cabin. The hair on the back of my neck prickled as I felt the residual energies of the double strike. Then I remembered that the TV was on.

Cursing myself for an idiot, I ran inside and unplugged everything. Then I went back onto the porch and watched the rain fall.

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