White Sands - Alpha Read
So, first things first, some clarification.
This is the first part (chapter, section, I'm not quite sure...) of the novel that I am writing. I've tried this once before, posting rough draft work, but this time I'm committing to posting the next piece of this story here every Friday. That's right, all 50,000+ words of it, or however long it turns out to be.
I'm currently just over 20,000 into it, and you can actually track my progress on the nifty status bar to the right (at the bottom of the page if you are reading this on mobile platforms).
While I will post the first two pieces into my blog, the remainder of it will be password protected. Don't worry, if you like the story and want to continue reading, I will give you the password. You have zero commitment to me, except that you enjoy the experience. Expect some sort of form or way to get the password when I start protecting them, for now you don't have to worry about anything except reading.
Why am I doing this, especially to a story that I haven't edited? Well, the best answer is that it's an experiment. I want to see how this affects my writing and if it will produce some stronger writing on my part.
In return, if you feel like providing feedback, here are acceptable items to comment on:
- What bores you
- What confuses you
- What don't you believe
- What's cool
Stream of consciousness stuff is good too, just don't go crazy critiquing the sentence level stuff. I will be editing this at some point, and all that stuff will be fixed. Just remember that this is a rough draft. It's like a stage rehearsal. What I'm really interested in is your thoughts on the story not necessarily the details.
So, without further exposition on my part, enjoy the story!
Victor woke, free from the cares and stress of life. He woke clothed in white and standing on pristine shores bordering a sea so clear he could have walked across it. The sun beat down gently from above, that familiar sun casting warmth and light onto the world before him. It was all so familiar, but at the same time, profoundly different.
Victor had been an old man, dying in a hospital bed, kissing his wife of seventy years for the billionth and last time. He took one weak rasping breath, then none, then another more full than he had ever remembered experiencing. It was full of life and sea and salt. It smelled of perfect sand, saline, earth. It smelled like the world should smell, free from pollution, from the touch of man.
Victor turned to acknowledge the voice, pealing his eyes from the sight if the ocean, the peaceful wash of waves on the sand. Behind him stood a woman, clothed as he was, arms open in welcome and a smile as wide as the ocean before her.
"We are so very glad to see you."
The woman stepped forward and embraced Victor, who had no choice but to return the gesture. Her black hair smelled of jasmine and lavender, and her dark skin was as soft and perfect as a baby.
"My name is Joanne," she said, pulling away from the embrace and offering a hand. Her smile remained, large as ever. Victor couldn't help but smile back. "How are you feeling?"
"I feel..." The words wouldn't come. They didn't exist. How could one describe ecstasy? What words in any language could ever express that perfect moment? "I feel perfect." He shook her hand.
They both laughed. It was joy, it was beautiful and perfect. Everything was as it should be. Joanne showed Victor to a large pavilion that had been decked out in party decorations, food, and packed full of people laughing and enjoying themselves.
"Who are all these people?" Victor asked.
"They're like you. New arrivals."
"All from today?" There must have been hundreds in that pavilion.
"Well," Joanne hesitated, "as you'll find out, time is a little tricky here. It's sufficient to say that they arrived when you did."
Victor didn't know how to respond to that statement, so be joined the party instead. He ate and drank his fill, then ate and drank some more, savoring the pure pleasure of the food. The company was wonderful, everything was wonderful, but there was something missing. There was a void somewhere inside Victor that needed to be filled.
"I would say go easy on the wine, but it looks like we can't get drunk."
Victor turned from the drink table where he had been refilling his glass to find a tall, blonde man standing behind him. His eyes were a brilliant shade of blue, and he was about the same age and build as he rest of the party.
"Yeah, I guess so," Victor said, "good thing too cause this stuff is excellent."
"You're telling me, I had a vineyard. I collected wine. This stuff is better than anything I've ever tasted or even heard of." The man walked up to the table and filled his own glass. "John Reynolds, nice to meet you Victor."
Victor was initially shocked that the man knew his name, but somehow he had known John's name as well, before he had introduced himself even.
"My pleasure," Victor said, nodding his head at John. "I'm sorry, I'm still trying to get my mind around..." He gestured about the pavilion and the world at large, "all this."
"Aren't we all," John said, throwing back another mouthful of red liquid. "You know, I didn't expect it to be like this."
"Oh?" Victor wasn't even sure if where they were, much less what he had expected.
"Yeah, I mean, I kind of expected clouds and angels and harps. You know, all that fluffy stuff. The pearly gates, great big book."
"Ah, I see now. Heaven."
"Exactly!" John punctuated the statement with another quaff of wine.
"You think, maybe we're not there yet?"
"Couldn't tell you, but that Joanne seems to know things. Maybe we should ask her."
Victor thought that was a good idea, so the two walked over to Joanne and waited for her to finish talking before pulling her aside.
"You have questions, I see," Joanne said once we were out of earshot of the others. "Unfortunately, I'm not cleared to provide the answers you want. All I can tell you is that everything will be made clear when we reach the city."
This response received blank looks from the two men.
"Seriously?" John asked. "Why can't you just tell us where we are?"
Joanne smiled, "Well sure, I can tell you that. This is what comes after life." She opened up her arms again and gestured at the world around them.
"No, no, that can't be right," John said, shaking his head. "This isn't what it's supposed to be like. It doesn't feel right."
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"Well, for one aren't we supposed to be with, you know, Him."
"God, Yahweh, The Big Man. Where is he?"
Joanne began to smile, but her face fell instead, her gaze drawn past the two men towards the pavilion. "Oh no."
John and Victor turned back to the pavilion and witnessed the horror that had distracted Joanne. Several cloaked figures had entered the party and were tossing tables and forcing the various attendees to the ground, tying their hands behind their backs with short pieces of rope. The bright sun above seemed dimmed as they approached the three standing away from the party.
"Stand back," Joanne said as she pushed through Victor and John, shoving them off their feet and onto the ground. Victor rolled back up to his feet and took a few steps back. John followed suit, confusion more than apparent on his face.
One of the cloaked figures raised his arms in greeting. "Joanne, you are looking well. Though I think you could look better."
"Beltram, you've made a grave mistake."
Beltram, apparently the leader of the group by the insignia on his cloak and the general manner in which he carried himself, laughed. He gestured at the two other cloaked figures with him, and they all stopped moving, positioning themselves twenty yards from Joanne.
"No, my dear, the only one who has made a mistake here is you. You choose the wrong side."
Joanne's fists flexed as they stared at one another. Beltram's henchmen shifted uncomfortably in place, waiting for some kind of action. Victor couldn't see weapons on any of them, so he wondered what exactly they were trying to do. Maybe it was all gesturing and there was no real danger. Behind them, the pavilion was in a general state of panic, various people who had decided to run were being rounded up and dragged back to the pavilion. Those who were already tied up were being arrayed in a long line.
Run Victor. Run away. I'll distract these three. Get far away from here.
Victor shook his head. He could have sworn that Joanne was talking to him, but her voice was in his head.
Darkness descended like smoke from the two henchmen, resolving to form swords of black in their hands. Beltram didn't move, but the smile was unmistakable on his face.
Joanne took a fraction of a step back, away from her enemies. Victor could make out the faintest bit of light radiating from her hands.
The pavilion was on fire, the rest of the attendees had been rounded up and were all kneeling in a straight line just beyond the destruction of the picturesque pavilion. The other cloaked figures were either standing watch over the captured or searching the surrounding area for anyone that might have gotten away.
"Don't be a fool Beltram. You can still leave."
Beltram's smile was wide, the only glints of white on his entire body, contrasted with his tanned skin. "You've already lost, Joanne. And you are losing the larger battle. You can still join the winning side. This doesn't have to end in bloodshed."
"I will not turn."
"I know." Beltram nodded to the henchmen, who leaped forward, swords blazing now with fire and darkness.
Joanne took another full step backwards, her hands fully encompassed in blinding light. Victor heard her voice again, urging him to run, but he couldn't take his eyes off of what he was seeing. Joanne muttered something and stepped into the oncoming attack.
Swords flashed down upon her, they should have pierced through her delicate skin, but she lifted her hands up and caught both swords in the growing body of light before her. Streaks of lighting shot from the collision and the henchmen were tossed back towards their master, dark swords dissolving into thin air.
Joanne didn't stop there, she continued her forward momentum, her hands flashing to light yet again. This time she spun one hand a few times, then threw a bolt of light at one of the henchmen, catching him directly in the chest and sending him back to the ground with a scream. He writhed there, clutching at his chest, and Victor saw blood. He saw the blood that wasn't supposed to be shed here.
The second henchmen had taken advantage of the distraction brought about by his companion's death, producing another sword from his dark aura and jumping yet again at Joanne. This time she was not prepared for the strike, and could only sidestep the attack. The sword missed completely, but the henchmen followed through by driving his shoulder into Joanne and sending them both to the ground.
There was a brief struggle for the black sword, before the light from Joanne grew so intense that Victor had to turn away. It died down again, and Victor opened his eyes to see the henchmen had been tossed several yards away and into a nearby tree. He was draped lifeless over a large branch, blood dripping down from his open mouth.
"You've lost a step or two," Beltram said as Joanne picked herself up off the ground. "I have to say I'm disappointed."
"Still more than a match for your lackeys," she said, wiping a bit of her own blood from her mouth. The last attack had produced a small cut in her lip.
Beltram took one step forward and Joanne immediately sprung into action. Her hands blazed white as she ran toward the imposing figure before her. Her pleas for Victor to run continued to pound in his head, and were continually ignored for the spectacle before him.
The light around Joanne resolved into a sword of her own, bright and fiery as the sun. She was a at a full run when she reached Beltram, and brought her sword around in an overhand arc. But, then she stopped, her sword just inches shy of Beltram's neck. Victor noticed that Beltram's hand had caught Joanne's just before she made the killing strike.
Joanne cried out in pain, real pain, the pain that wasn't supposed to exist here. Beltram grabbed her with his other hand and lifted her up off the ground. The sword of light fell to the ground, bounced once, then dissipated into the growing shadow that seemed to be descending over them.
"I had such high hopes for you," Beltram said, just loud enough for Victor to hear.
Joanne mumbled something that Victor couldn't understand.
"You're a pig and you deserve no better."
"All right then," Beltram lifted her a bit higher into the air and her light aura was completely drowned out by darkness, then her entire body was covered with the viscous shadows. She screamed, then fell to the ground lifeless.
"Who's next?" Beltram asked, now facing Victor and John who were glued to where they stood.
Thanks for reading! Look forward to the continuation next week. This is a much longer form than I usually write in, and I'm really excited to share that with you.