Further to my determination to squeeze out some writing or die trying, I thought I’d share the day’s efforts on Grace Awakening Myth (Book 3 of 4 in the Grace Awakening series). It’s a first draft, remember. To be honest, there are already some changes, but you’ll get the idea. This is 1230 words. My goal is about 1200 a day, (5 pages) or 6000 words (25 pages) a week. That was the pace for the first 2 books in the series.
As I sat down to write, the image in my head was of blackness. I wrote about that while wondering exactly why it was so black, and then Kharon walked in…
Truly, I just take dictation. The story is just floating out there, waiting for me to listen to it. Ben is narrating.
It’s a black night, Stygian black, as they say. That’s very black. The River Styx drifts, black as crude oil, roiling and burbling with the murmuring sibilance of thousands upon thousands of lost voices. Its thick waters seem to suck the light from the sky, and leave all around it in an inky grey wash. Kharon the boatman floats along on his ferry, pole in hand, pushing it away from the banks, gathering the departing souls and taking them safely to Hades, for the price of a coin, of course. He shows up at the stops to collect what Hermes has dropped off: the confused half-shadows, some still not quite aware that they are ghosts, reclaimed from new graves. The shades dazedly cough up their coin, and they load into the ferry as Hermes waves to them heartily and wishes them luck on the next part of their journey like some jolly tour guide. Hermes can be quite an ass. The vacuous faces hardly stir in response, though. Those without a coin are on their own to get across the Styx. If you’re on your own, you’re not going to make it across. Simple.
I shivered at the memory of that blackness and the descent into the sucking void of the underworld. This was earth though, and not the underworld. This was Grace, not Eurydice. It was a Stygian black night, though, and the oppressive gloom was creeping into my gut.
“Hey, there. Ben is it?” The low voice held a faint glimmer of amusement.
“Hello Kharon.” I nodded courteously, recognising him at once. Had my thoughts summoned him? Or was this dismal atmosphere a result of his presence? “What brings you here? You’re a little far from the river.”
“Not so far. A guy needs a bit of a break from water now and then, after all. The river flows where it needs to. It’s near enough that I can step ashore for a moment.” He looked around with interest. “I thought I’d come have a chat with you.”
“With me?” My heart stopped for a moment. “I’m honoured, of course,” I said with a polite incline of my head, “but…uh…why?”
He smiled. His long nose and slightly blue tinged skin made it a rather eerie expression. Though it was probably meant to be reassuring, it made him look a trifle morose. It didn’t lighten the mood, at any rate.
I waited while he stood ponderously thinking. His thoughts seemed to move like he was punting through them with the stick he used on the ferry. They moved slowly and methodically in one direction. Patiently was the only way to communicate with Kharon. He would not be rushed.
Finally he said, “It’s about the girl.”
I took a deep breath. “Which girl? Grace?”
He shook his head. “No. The other one.”
“From before. You know. The snake bit her, and you went to Hades to try to get her out? You snuck by the dog with some singing and got everyone down there all in a mush of sentimentality with your music, and they let you take her. But something happened and she had to stay, after all.”
“I looked back.” I whispered, suddenly cold.
“Ah.” Kharon nodded sagely. “Oh right. Looking back can cause a lot of problems for a person, can’t it?”
“Apparently.” I tried to bite back the sarcastic tone in response to his unintentional understatement.
“Yeah. Well. She was at the river bank the other day when I went by, and she asked me to give you a message.”
I swallowed. Then swallowed again. My mouth was the Sahara all of a sudden. I croaked, “She asked you…to give me a message.” She had never tried to communicate with me before. Why did she need to send a message now? What did she know?
He nodded in confirmation at my dazed expression, then after making sure that I was paying attention he looked up, as if trying to recall her exact words. He cleared his throat and intoned, “She said, ‘If you have a chance to see my love, when you’re above. Tell him that the song has many verses, some rich with hate and curses, but that he deserves whatever joy, that girl can give a boy.’”
“She rhymed it?”
He shrugged. “I think she thought it’d help me remember.”
“I think she misses you,” he added. “She looked sad.”
“She’s been in the underworld for a couple of thousand years. Of course she’s sad.”
Kharon shrugged again. “Not everyone is. They get used to it. Everyone has to be there eventually after all.”
“I suppose.” It hurt to think about Eurydice. It hurt to remember that my failure doomed her to that two thousand years in the underworld. She wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t been inept. My failure. Mine. It wasn’t Kharon’s fault. “Thanks for passing along the message.”
He nodded. “I think she was afraid Hermes wouldn’t deliver it and Iris doesn’t have reception there.”
“Oh yes. Of course not. I appreciate you taking the effort.”
He stood waiting for something, with a studied nonchalance.
“Oh, wait.” I rummaged in my pockets and studied the coins. “I don’t have anything ancient. Will a twonie do?”
He eyed the polar bear on the two dollar coin dubiously. “A little on the cheap side, but whatever. Next time we meet in the Other Realm, you can top it up.” His mouth twitched in something that might have been a good-humoured smirk, but might not.
I chose to interpret it positively. “Thank you, Kharon.”
He started to stroll off with that particular, unsteady gait of sailors walking on land, and then looked back over his shoulder, “You take good care of that new girl, you hear? Don’t let looking back blind you to the possibilities ahead of you. What you’ve done before doesn’t have to bind your future.”
His words hit me like an arrow and I reverberated for a moment from the impact. When I went to answer him, he’d disappeared. With him went to ominous atmosphere of blackness, and I was able to take a deep breath again. The fresh air oxygenated my lungs and cleared my head, but his message sat heavily on my heart.
I thought of Eurydice from time to time, of course. If I was being honest with myself, it was her that made me most anxious about Grace. Eurydice was my first and greatest failure. My first love, my first wife, symbolized such an essential lack in my character that any thought of her ensured my elemental humility, despite the loud accolades about my brilliant talent. Such bone deep awareness of inadequacy is not overcome. Ever.
It is also why I am afraid that I won’t be able to protect Grace this time.
I’ll tell you a secret. I’m pretty sure that it is also why they appointed me her guardian. They don’t expect me to succeed. They think that it will appear they’re giving her a guard, when I’m actually so useless that she is doomed.
I know it.
I know it, and despite being overwhelmed with the awareness of my own inadequacies I am so damned full of pride that I’ll risk it anyway, rather than let Mars or Alexandros have the job. What kind of fool’s paradox is that?
Wow, wow, wow!!!! Can you say awesome? I have to say that this caught me from the first sentence. I was sitting back in my chair when I started reading this and by the time I was done, I was literally at the edge of it enthralled with this story. It was so vivid and I could actually hear all the voices coming from the River Styx and the conversation between Kharon and Ben was almost audible. I’ve only enjoyed one other author so much, Charles Mashburn from Marbles in my Pocket. This story is one, that I would love to download to my kindle so I can carry it around with me. Oh very well done. Thanks so much for posting this and where can I find the previous stories? On here or elsewhere?
Thanks Elizena (very cool name, btw). Yes, I like Charles too. Glad you liked this little piece! Posting snippets of a novel in project is a way to keep motivated. Such kind response is very encouraging! The first novel in the series is available for Kindle etc at the intro price of just 99c, the link is here https://shawnbird.com/grace/purchase-here/ Hoping to have the second in the series out next month if the editor’s goal is met! Once you’ve read the book, you should find lots to explore here: http://www.shawnbird.com/grace Thanks for popping into my blog.
glad to see you share,