Saturday, June 1, 2013
Chapter 2 and 3 Excerpt (Second Draft/First Rewrite)
Excerpts from Chapters 2 and 3 of the first rewrite/second draft.
CHAPTER 2 (excerpt)
The cloaked man stood, looking briefly at Nicolae before getting off of the boat. Nicolae remained seated, watching as the figure began to walk up the beach. He turned his head to look back in the direction from which they had come. Red water stretching out into the darkness was all Nicolae could see. He considered jumping into the ocean and swimming back. Nicolae was a strong swimmer and they hadn’t seemed to have gone too far. He was a strong swimmer and it was very possible that he could make it back.
But make it back where? To that other island with the black forest? And then what?
Then the realization of being led to eternal damnation began to set in again. He did commit murder…
Nicolae turned his eyes to the black sky as though he were search for any sign of God. What I did was justified. Can’t you see that?!
Nicolae lowered his eyes, resigned to his fate. He turned back to see that the cloaked man stood on the beach, staring at Nicolae as he waited for the young man to get off the boat. Nicolae could see that his choices were limited at this point and reluctantly followed the cloaked figure into the forest of impaled humans. He could feel the eyes of those suffering upon him (just as his eyes were when you killed him) and kept his eyes forward to avoid seeing any of them. But Nicolae still caught site of a flock of crows perched on a wooden stake tearing away at the rotting flesh and muscle of a carcass. The corpse stared back at Nicolae with it’s face half eaten away. Chunks of muscle tissue still clung to the skull and one of it’s eyes hung out from the socket by a muscle fiber while the other still remained in tact. The skin and muscle around the mouth had been eaten, giving the corpse a permanent, hideous grin. Nicolae flinched when the mostly eaten carcass let out a strained moan. Crows, buzzards, and the reptilian birds perched on the stakes and the limbs of the other bodies.
I’m sure they never go hungry here, Nicolae thought.
The thought amused him slightly, but then he wondered if this was his eternal fate. Nicolae swallowed as he drew his gaze up to the birds that were still circling in the red light of the moon as they surveyed the banquet beneath them. He brought his gaze forward again as shame began to fill him.
Eloisa, Sebastian…forgive me… he thought blinking back tears.
Time seemed to drag.
Whatever you’re going to do to me, just get it over with.
They finally came to what looked to be a clearing at the edge of the forest. Dread filled Nicolae as he anticipated what may be waiting at the other side.
An abyss, a fiery pit filled with bloodthirsty demons ready to tear me apart…
Nicolae began to feel anger again at the unfairness of it all. How is he dead and going to Hell, leaving Sebastian all alone while Anton Alexanderescu is still alive and well? But what was in front of them wasn’t anything like what Nicolae was expecting. A beautiful, green field was stretched out in front of him and up above it was a blue sky decorated with puffy, white clouds. Further down the field was a small workshed and even further was what appeared to be a two floor farmhouse.
Nicolae looked up and could see a break in the sky, the separation between the black of the island and the blue daylight of the field. He slowly reached out and touched the tips of his fingers to a membrane that separated the field and the island. He felt it again. That magnetic surge.
“Where are we?” Nicolae asked. Then, hope began to fill him. Perhaps he wasn’t going to Hell after all. “Eloisa! Is she here? When can I see her? And can we please somehow go back and help Sebastian? Please, he’s only a boy.”
The cloaked man was silent before answering in a deep voice, “No. You can’t. And she isn’t here.”
Nicolae’s insides sank as his heart swelled with despair. “Well can you please at least tell me why the hell you’ve brought me here?! I can’t spend an eternity without Eloisa. I may as well just go to Hell.”
“Look in front of you,” the figure answered, unphased by Nicolae.
Nicolae looked back at the field. His anger cooled when he saw two little boys who looked to be about seven years of age playing, chasing and kicking around a ball. They both had heads of thick hair. One of the boys had sandy-colored hair and the other had very dark.
Nicolae watched them. He saw how happy and carefree they were. The two boys were experiencing the simple pleasures of being a child which was something Nicolae didn’t have much of in his own childhood. There was also a familiarity about the two little boys. Nicolae strained to get a better look at them, but the magnetic shield began to dissolve. The scene before them shifted from day to night and the two little boys disappeared. A cool breeze of a crisp, autumn night and the fragrance of fallen leaves enveloped Nicolae and it was a much welcomed change from the heat and stench of the island.
“It is now safe to step over if you wish to do so,” the cloaked man said. He stepped forward onto the field and Nicolae followed, catching up to walk beside the man.
“You’re not going to Hell either,” the man added. “That is not why you’re here. But I’m afraid can’t tell you much more.”
Nicolae’s brow furrowed into a puzzeled frown. “Will I be taken back to my brother?”
“Soon,” the man answered.
As they walked out on the field, the island, the giant blood moon, the crows, the buzzards, the flying reptiles, and the forest of impaled human bodies disappeared behind them. In it’s place, a lush forest of trees appeared. A late harvest moon hung above them in the sky, casting a beam down and emphasizing the emblem on the clasp that fastened the man’s cloak. Nicolae recognized it as being the seal belonging to The Order of the Dragon.
How did I not notice that before? Nicolae thought.
The man slowly turned his head toward Nicolae who quickly turned away.
They continued across the field, passing by the shed, and coming to a stop when they were within a few feet from the house. A large oak tree stood at the side of the colonial farmhouse. Under the tree was a tall, sandy-haired young man with a lean, solid build embracing a rather petite dark-haired girl. Nicolae could feel the love that radiated off of the couple locked in a passionate kiss. It was a cruel reminder of what he had had with Eloisa. His stomach turned as gruesome details began to re-enter his mind. Details of the last time he had seen Eloisa alive. Nicolae forced the thoughts away as the two lovers parted their embrace and began to speak in English, a language to which Nicolae only knew a few words. He thought of how he had better start to somehow learn more of that language if he was going to be taking Sebastian to live in America.
Nicolae looked over at the cloaked man who also stood facing the young couple. Nicolae could sense sadness, as if the man had experienced a great loss in his life.
“It continues,” the man said suddenly.
“What?” Nicolae turned back to the man…
Nicolae stirred as he heard the familiar sound of the water rushing in a creek. He opened his eyes to see the blue, early morning light filling the familiar woods in Transylvania. Nicolae sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, thankful to be back. He noticed his bag next to him picking it up, making sure everything was still inside it, especially the box. Satisfied that everything was where it was, he turned to wake Sebastian and was stopped cold when he saw that his little brother was still missing. Nicolae stood up, frantically calling out to him when he noticed a movement in the shadow of the trees.
“What the hell do you want now?!” Nicolae exclaimed. “Where’s Sebastian?!”
The figure slowly stepped into the clearing. It was Sebastian. The younger Ganoush boy stared, frozen as his older brother ran toward him.
“Shit! Sebastian!” Nicolae yelled grabbing him by the shoulders. “What do you think you’re doing wandering away like that?!
“I’m sorry! I just had to take a leak!” Sebastian protested, confused and frightened by his older brother’s actions. He stared wide-eyed up at Nicolae. Have you gone completely mad?
Nicolae realized his behavior and how his outburst must look to Sebastian who knew nothing of what all had just happened. He collected himself and let go of his brother.
“I’m sorry,” Nicolae said. “I haven’t slept very well…”
Sebastian watched Nicolae take the bag over to the creek and sit down upon the bank. He knew that Nicolae hadn’t been sleeping well and that at least some of it had to do with Eloisa. The boy still had hope that maybe his brother would tell him what happened. Nicolae kept so much bottled up and it scared Sebastian.
Sebastian slowly approached Nicolae by the creek and sat down next to him. As usual, his brother looked as though he was lost in a thought that was weighing heavily on him.
“I did try to wake you to let you know where I was going,” Sebastian offered, “but you wouldn’t move. I actually thought you were dead until I heard you still breathing. I wasn’t going to be long and I thought I would be back before you woke. I didn’t mean to worry you.”
Nicolae looked at his brother, giving him a small half-smile. He reached over and playfully ruffled the eleven-year-old’s hair. Sebastian smiled, letting out a small giggle, happy that Nicolae wasn’t angry with him.
“Come,” Nicolae said as he stood from his seated position, “it’s nearly daybreak so we may as well get a start out.”
The two boys began walking along the bank of the creek, eventually crossing the border of Romania and Austria-Hungary. When they made their first rest stop for the day, Sebastian said, “Nicolae…will you ever tell me what happened? Why we left so soon?”
Sebastian watched as his brother appeared to give serious consideration to the question.
“Yes,” Nicolae said finally, “perhaps sometime soon.”
Sebsatian looked again at his brother. He could see that whatever Nicolae was keeping to himself caused him much torment, despite his granite exterior.
Sebastian moved closer to his older brother. “I love you, Nicolae.”
He watched as Nicolae turned to him, the words catching the older boy by surprise. Sebastian could see a sad, far off expression in Nicolae’s eyes. He knew that Nicolae and Eloisa said ‘I love you’ to each other a lot. Sebastian was worried that maybe he made Nicolae sad by telling him that. But he did love his older brother and wanted him to feel better.
“I love you too, Sebastian,” Nicolae said, his voice choked.
The two brothers walked on through the woods in Austria-Hungary. They had left Romania and everything in it behind: Alexanderescu Castle, their slave village and everyone they knew there, the area in the woods where Nicolae would take Eloisa, the shed…
Nicolae thought of how the mattress he shared with Eloisa was still in that toolshed and how he would never lay with her on it again. He would never get to hold her again or hear her voice or her laugh. Sebastian was all he had left and all both of them had was eachother.
CHAPTER 3 (excerpt)
Teresa was five years old and Alea a year old when the two girls had lost their parents. While the women in the village all contributed to raising them, Gabriella—who was now in her mid forties-- had been their primary caregiver. Gabriella was widowed shortly before the disappearance of Teresa and Alea’s parents. Gabriella and her late husband had been unable to have children and she was happy to take on raising Teresa and Alea. Like most inhabitants of their village, the two girls were descended from the Romani of Spain and France.
Teresa’s natural sense of curiosity often led to her questioning and imagining possible scenarios of what might have happened to her parents. But anytime she would try to ask for answers, she would walk away discouraged. Teresa knew that her father’s name was Ferdinand and her mother’s name was Dominique. Teresa had memory of waking up and one morning to find baby Alea crying in her cradle and their parents nowhere to be found. She had learned a little of the rather gruesome history of the Rom in Spain and France and that she and Alea were all that remained of her bloodline. There was one night in particular that Teresa remembered. She was eleven years old and had asked Gabriella again for information about her parents.
“Please tell me!” Teresa cried, on the verge of frustrated tears, “why won’t you tell me?!”
Gabriella paused, taking in a breath and turning away from her adopted daughter. Teresa could see the wheels in the older woman’s head turning. The little girl waited with anticipation, hoping Gabriella could finally tell her something.
“You ask too many questions, Teresa,” Gabriella simply stated, keeping her eyes forward. “Sometimes knowing too much is worse than not knowing anything at all.”
Gabriella turned back to Teresa. Her eyes were flashing as she said, “Some things are just better off untold. Sometimes it’s best to just leave well enough alone.”
“What do you mean?” Teresa asked.
“Your mother, Dominique, was a free spirit. Maybe too much of a free spirit. I can see a lot of her in you,” Gabriella said with a small sigh.
Teresa frowned and began to question Gabriella further, but Gabriella cut her off saying, “Our race has been through enough pain and suffering. We are just now beginning to live peacefully among the outsiders. Please keep it that way. And Teresa, please. Work at learning when to leave well enough alone. Trust me on that one.”
Teresa stood, wondering what Gabriella’s final words had to do with her mother and father…
Teresa had gone over that conversation many times in her mind over the passed few years. That night was the first and last time anything was ever discussed. She had also tried conjuring up memories of her parents. The memories were vague, but Teresa was able to recall the carefree personality of her mother and the strong, serious nature of her father. She also remembered them being rather secretive with some of the activities they participated in. The stories about the previous generations were scary and Teresa could only imagine what they had gone through. She could see the weariness on the elders and most of the elderly folk in her village, their faces were careworn from the centuries of persecution and nomadic lives.
There were times when Teresa wished she could be more like Alea. Alea had no recollection of their parents and she was the type to just accept things as they were. Alea would sleep well at night as Teresa lie awake consumed by scattered, broken memories and the desolate void that lingered over her. Meeting Luiz had jarred something in Teresa. She thought of his words when he mentioned he had planned to head to a seaport. The more Teresa thought about it, the more the idea of the seaport (and going with Luiz) appealed to her. Fantasies of her and Luiz sailing away together filled her mind, washing away Gabriella’s warning until it was a small echo in the far region of her conscious mind.
“Learn when to leave well enough alone. Trust me on that one.”