Bonus Material

Throughout the month of December I’ll be posting links back to Christmas short stories of the past beginning with the oldest from 2011. And on Christmas weekend I’ll be posting this year’s short story with the link back to last year’s. In at least a couple of the short stories they begged for a second part which finished the story and was posted later, and this first one is such. So on this first series of links we will have two. This first one is titled A Christmas story, followed by A Christmas Story, Part 2. https://windmillsmetaphor4writing.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/a-christmas-story/, https://windmillsmetaphor4writing.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/a-christmas-story-part-2/.

Beginning next week and for those who have been following the series of episodes from the manuscript or novel, Unexpected, Unplanned, and into the Unknown, there will  an additional episode. Also there have been a few other changes that will be revealed here in the proper order within the story. So as not to confuse the issue it I’ll begin with the end of the previous episode. After attempting to go with less words than what I normally write it appears to have been largely unsuccessful.

After four months of keeping the manuscript under “exclusive review”, the publisher has rejected the story. And as I stated in the past, rejections are part of this industry. So with the novel free it has allowed me to make changes to the story. I’d say that 95% is exactly as you have read it – that’s if you have been with me from the beginning of these series of episodes. Still when one went from the episode titled, A Time of Learning, Death, and Revenge, to the one titled, Reconciliation, it seemed like something was missing. And if I want to be honest there really was. Still, and at the time of writing, I needed to keep the word count down.

In this industry word count is everything. Word count leads to costs. If you do not have enough then you are rejected  because there must be a minimum or “we aren’t interested”. And it is the same on the other side. Too many words, especially if this would be considered a debut book or novel, resulting in the same – rejection. Here on the upper end the costs are in the printing. And if history shows anything within this industry, they lose on that first novel. So as a writer trying to get that “debut novel” out there one must find that sweet spot. That point in the word count where it draws the agents, publishers, and editors interest, but not too short or long so you will be overlooked.

Obviously the story, your characters, the world the story takes place, and all the other mundane details must be there otherwise it’s just words on a page. And in a sense this takes me back to elementary school when a friend and myself were passing time by writing a story. Our goal simply was to get as many words on those lined sheets of paper we could. And probably in the end it was no more than gibberish. And in many ways that is exactly what we can see in some of the writings of today leading one to wonder how they were ever published. So the story must be strong as the characters. And the characters must be living breathing three dimensional people.

These individuals who drive the story must have a life, a history, and a possible future. They must be believable, and even the antagonists must be someone who could exist. The characters must be real enough that readers would love to meet them if such were possible. Still if we do not have a world for these actors to live in then the story can still fail. These worlds do not have to be real in the sense of the physics of this universe. Fantasy comes to mind as it is the realm of magic and myth. The critical component is that the laws of these worlds must be consistent within themselves. And if not the stories will fail just as quickly. (An example of these types of worlds is Ann McCaffrey’s “Dragon Riders of Pern” series. When one first looks at the titles it would be assumed we would be in a world of fantasy. Yet, the books are science fiction. And they work because the laws of our universe are consistent, making the dragons part of this universe, and thusly believable.)

Back to the series of episodes that constitute my novel. So once I got the rejection I immediately began to write the new episode. It’s titled, The Hunt. And with the addition of this one it required changes to the one that preceded it. Instead of A Time of Learning Death and Revenge, it is now titled A Time of Learning Death and Thoughts of Revenge. By adding those two words we now change the whole tenure or direction of the episode. By adding this new episode it also required a rewrite of the ending of this one stated above.

So now we have a new ending to A Time of Learning Death and Thoughts of Revenge, which now flows better and leads one into the next episode, The Hunt. What this new episode does is fill in what would have transpired to our two protagonists before they attacked that raider encampment. Now we learn what led up to and how they were able to do this. This was then followed by a rewrite of the ending. Now there is an epilogue which makes the close of the novel work much better.

The cost? As there is always a cost to these things. Word count has climbed from 82,000 words to just over 98,000 words. Meaning that it barely fits into what would be considered a “debut novel”. And truthfully even here it is short of my normal length, but not by much. So it seems, for me, I need to come close to what I’ve written in the past as far as length. Otherwise the story suffers by not bringing out the experiences the characters must have, must live, so that in the end, after a reader has completed the story they can say it has been a great ride and adventure. And maybe wish that the novel hadn’t ended or hope that there are sequels.

The crazy thing about any novel is the fact that what the writer originally envisioned, and eventually publishes is not what it becomes. Since all of us are in our own personal worlds, what we see, what we read, is ours alone. And as such each time a novel is read, it gets a new vision. And many times it isn’t close to what the author saw.

So in the next few weeks you, once again, get a chance to read and make it your own, this upcoming episode – The Hunt, plus the portion that changed leading into this episode, and the new ending. And once again it gives you a window into the creative process of bringing a story to life. It is one of the things you rarely get a chance of experiencing, unless, of course, you are a writer. And one last thing; to bring any of these pages to you requires lots of work. First, obviously, is the writing. If I stopped there and posted what I originally wrote I doubt I’d have any followers at all, since what would be here would be rough to say the least. Each and every one of these posts are edited and revised a minimum of seven times and could easily go twice that high. As an example this post has fourteen revisions. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

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Published in: on December 5, 2015 at 7:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Deeps, Part 1

I’m finally at the point where I can begin the next short story. As you read this opening piece, place yourself in this person’s position (not that we don’t as readers) and think about how’d you react. This short story works out to be roughly 40 pages in length so it is a bit longer than the last one titled, And the Sun Will Rise. Whereas the last covered 7 weeks this one will be 8 weeks long. This story qualifies as a Post Apocalyptic story, as many of my stories do. So with this brief introduction, here is – The Deeps.

He looked around with depression lying heavily upon him. As far as he knew he was the last person, the last human, the last of his kind on earth. Ed had just finished the ceremony, and the placing of his father’s body into the crematorium. His father had died of old age, which meant that he wasn’t young either. He was now returning to his room so that he could grieve, and come to terms with the conclusions that lay heavily upon him. “Well Ed, it’s been a good run. We’ve ruled this planet for a long time.” He laughed a bitter laugh before continuing. “Yeah, but the dinosaurs lasted longer.”

This place he was living was simply known as “The Deeps” to all who lived here. It was known by that name because it was deep underground. Supposedly it was a last refuge for mankind. Instead it would become the final resting place, the final ending, and unlike the imagined glory at the end, they would die in a whimper. With his passing – there hadn’t been a female, a girl, a woman, to carry on their species – the candle’s flame would extinguish, marking the end. Would the world outside care? “Did it care when we replaced the dinosaurs?” He asked. He snorted by answering his own question, “Of course not.”

He wondered what if anything would replace them as the next in what would have been a long line of “top dogs”. Again it was all idle curiosity since he wouldn’t be around to find out. He walked the long empty hallways, past open doors that led to empty dormitories, past the family units, and on into the section where the elected leaders lived. It was a trek that took time. This facility, when built, had been meant to hold thousands of people, both single and married. It was to be the place from which mankind would start over. Again this brought a bitter smile to his face. Such thoughts, such plans, such hopes, such gall, and here I am the only one left, and from what I or we know or knew, nothing survived when the worst happened.

Yes, he hadn’t been around then, but it was written in the records, shown in the vids. All that took place, the passing of the act, the blueprints created, the location chosen, and the place constructed. It all happened in record time. It had too because all the earth, all of mankind knew what was coming, and the odds of being missed was too small to contemplate. He knew, again from the history, the records all that lived here were required to learn, they were just finishing up the storage of supplies, and beginning the preparation to bring in the first who had been selected to begin the overall functioning of the facility.

He, as a descendent, as well as the ones before him, had been part of the original crew, the team that was placing all the supplies into the storage areas, testing all the electronics, making sure the radios, computers, the communication systems functioned. They were supplying the libraries, the electronic sides of this. Almost all the books, entertainment – movies, and such – were in digital form. If hard copies were needed then the massive banks of printers would produce what was required. And then once used be recycled so that the materials could be used again.

Because no one had any idea to the severity of the damage to the planet this place had to be completely enclosed, completely self-sufficient – self-contained. The facility had great greenhouses, hydroponic gardens, and actual artificial parks that had much greenery to help with the recycling of the air. Again, because no one knew how much damage would be sustained, they had to plan for the worse, including the loss of atmosphere for an unknown time period. So, if necessary, this facility could be, would be sealed, with equipment located and protected on the surface so the conditions could be monitored.

And once the event had happened, then periodically, people in environmental suits would go through airlocks to sample the outside air, and see how this old world fared. Yes, things had come to fruition quickly, but in the end, yes in the end, it hadn’t mattered. It wasn’t soon enough.

Something had happened out in one of the belts where the asteroids lie. What the event was would probably have been eventually discovered, but whatever it was caused a chain reaction, caused chaos in one of the astroid belts, and like a shotgun blast sent hundreds, maybe thousands in towards the sun. In that chaos it had been nearly impossible for even the supercomputers to track. As the debris came towards the sun, and thusly the earth, there were collisions, changes of direction, influences from other planets and moons, and too many other things to be able to make even rough predictions. If luck held earth might be spared, but the data spoke of a more likely outcome. And it wasn’t pretty. The worst case scenario destroyed the earth, making it a barren rock circling the sun. Other predictions were from complete misses to everything in-between. Yes, it was obvious the gas giants of the solar system would absorb much of what was flying inward, but not near enough.

Unfortunately, with the delay that light added to the equations even an accurate timeline couldn’t be developed. Only the fact that was truly known was the event would happen . . .

While the crews and teams were running the supplies into the storage areas, there were technicians on site testing all that was installed. With the pressures of limited time chaos reigned supreme inside. With tempers flaring, and people in each other’s way all the time, adding to the friction, somehow they pressed on. But there was little that could be done about it. There was no time to run separate shifts, to allow separate areas to be free of workers. And as these many workers pushed to get what they were trying to complete, flaws were found, and work-a-rounds had to be created. It made sense, since nothing of this scale had ever been attempted, let alone built. So what appeared to work on paper, didn’t necessarily work in the real world.

Yet, even with all the pressure, the time limits, it really appeared that they were going to make it, to succeed, and soon the now empty facility would be teeming with life and the hope of humanity for a real future . . . A real future, right. Ed thought. I’m it, and that’s no future at all.

Yet, as the history continued to flow through his mind Ed was unable to stop it. He didn’t know why this was happening. Maybe it was because he had just placed his deceased father in the final place, but knew there would be no one to do the same for him. How many generations had lived here, ending with me? He had to admit that he really didn’t know. The only thing he did know was in the end, as it had been stated too many times back at the beginning, as well as in the lessons, the gene pool was too small, and somewhere along the line they would be doomed because of this. Nobody knew when it would happen, only that it would. Well, he was the end of the line, period. There would be no one to grieve for one Edward Carson.

Before he realized it he was back to his space. As a kid, and unfortunately there were no others, he had free reign of this place – this facility. But in the end, he felt that he had been everywhere, had discovered all the hidden areas, and was left with no mystery, and no adventures. He had read much of the stories that were available, and laughed inwardly are the sheer audacity of what was called Science Fiction, writers talking about what the human race would be doing in the future. Well, he was the future and it wasn’t anything like those stories.

Of course he fell into the world of movies for a while. It was a place to escape from what was the real world. And, he suspected, like all kids, he really liked the world of Star Wars. Still, according to what his age was at the time, he found others more to his liking. He knew that at the time of the building of this place there had been advances in 3D, but unlike the Holodeck in the Star Trek series, there had been no true immersion. It still required those ridiculous glasses to make it work, although he had to admit it was fun dealing with the illusions these early attempts created. And those rides that combined the 2 effects with motion made it feel even more real. Still by spending his life here in the deeps, he could only guess if that was how it truly felt. Then, of course, there were those recreation times where he was allowed to play video games. Still, even with the depth and amount that were available, he eventually ran out of the type he enjoyed playing – but all of this was part of the past. What the future held, other than death, he had to admit he hadn’t a clue.

* * *

Richard Matheson wrote a story, as other writers of science fiction, dealing with the last person on earth. Each write from their own perspective with Matheson’s becoming at least 3 different movies. One produced in the 50’s titled, The Last Man on Earth, with the Omega Man in 1971, and most recently I am Legend, which is the original title of the book, and this is my take on the subject. As this story is revealed we learn much about Ed’s world, and why it has all come down to only him. Normally next week I would continue the story, but I have a surgery during this upcoming week, and as such there is a great chance for posts to be delayed a couple of weeks. So have a great week – two weeks possibly, and please return with the next episode of “The Deeps”. God Bless. (fdbrant.com)

And It Came to Pass

The Christmas season is upon us with the new year just around the corner. Another year has bitten the dust. In life nothing is guaranteed, including seeing the next sunrise. Often times we plan, set goals for our lives, only to find all of this work is for naught. Many wonder if our individual futures are already written, and we are only discovering this planned future day by day. All of us are guilty of looking back and thinking, “if only I could have known, or maybe changed this or that, then what I’m experiencing now would be as I had seen my futue, instead of what is actually taking place.” Yet no one can go back, no one can change the past, let alone know what our real future holds.

And the protagonist of this story asks these same questions as he sees his life presently. He wonders if there is a way, even now, to change his direction. For those who haven’t read my Christmas stories, be aware that they do not follow the normal “feel good” story. I try to deal with different lives and directions, and look at situations that are outside of what we see and expect. It is such here. The season doesn’t hold joy and happiness for all. This might give you a chance to see life through different eyes and begin to understand. So please be prepared for a different experience as I present: And It Came to Pass.

Faron sat at the counter of the coffee shop dressed in a ragged suit that was much too large for him. It had been cast off by someone else and he had found it. The suit replaced the clothes he had been wearing, which were not much more than rags, with too many holes, including places that made it almost impossible to hide any part of his body. It had been much too long since his last bath, let alone having a roof over his head. It was cold outside and before entering the coffee shop he had been shivering from the winds that were blowing. And he had looked, with envy, on the brightly lit stores and restaurants, the decorations that proclaimed the holidays, and even the lights that lit the front of homes where families lived.

It was always difficult making these decisions as to whether he wanted to dig into his paltry reserves of money. Generally coins that he had found on the ground, or in the streets, or on the sidewalks – lost by someone, or because of the minor value of the coin, who didn’t feel the need to bend over and pick the coin up. For him it was like gold. But these coins were few and far between, and it took much too long to get enough of them to be of any use. So when misery, or the cold penetrated too deeply, he always had to weigh heavily the cost of doing exactly what he was doing now. Before him was a cup of coffee, heavily sugared and creamed, since it was all he could afford, and meals in such a place as this were well beyond anything he could afford, even though it was a simple coffee shop.

In rare incidences someone would buy him a meal, and he was always thankful for those times. But, for now, times were hard for most, and those times, those gifts had become even rarer, as others who had more than he, didn’t have enough to give or help. They had their own problems, their families, and even now on what would have been a day where this coffee shop would have normally been full of patrons, talking their small talk, speaking of their plans for the future, or even of today, and what had to be accomplished, were not here at all. In fact, other than him, there were only a couple more individuals. Looking up at the waitress behind the counter he could see a bored individual, since there really wasn’t much going on or much for her to do. At the same time he could hear a bit of laughter coming from the kitchen as the cooks idled away their time.

He wondered, for the millionth time, how’d he gotten here, and what did his future really hold? He had no answers, and the passing years hadn’t been kind, or would the future years – judging by his past – appear to offer anything that could help him out of his present dismal life. He could only count on now, and hoped that he could stay awhile, here inside where it was warm, continuing to drink the coffee, with a cost that had wiped out his small cache of coins. He knew tonight would be rough. He’d been kicked out of his last place that at least had kept the winds off of him. And as such was on the move once again. A bad time of year to do this, as fall was just about over, and winter arriving fast, with a chance of snow always on the horizon. In fact it was only the calendar that pointed to the change of seasons. The weather had disagreed and there had been snow on the ground for weeks.

He wondered, once again, why he ended up where he was. If there had been a way to head south, then what was transpiring at this very moment – the snows, the cold – wouldn’t have been an issue. But, for whatever the reason here he was, and most likely, here he would stay. Looking down he could see that his cup was almost empty and he looked over at the waitress signaling a refill. With no look of friendship she came over, grabbed the coffee carafe and refilled his cup. Once done, returned to her place of vigilance to watch for any entering. But it remained quiet, and when he glanced through the glass front, there were few out and about. It was another sign of the bad times.

Christmas was just around the corner, and if he was very lucky he would be able to get a hot meal at the homeless shelter. He wasn’t sure. He had tried to get some room there, to get out of the biting cold, only to find that it was filled to overflowing, with “no room at the inn”. He had been too late. So here he sat, not wanting to face what lay ahead of him, but knowing he had no choice.

* * *

He was back on the streets with the icy winds blowing the loose snow into small clouds of white that stung when it struck his bare skin. He shivered. The clothing was too little to keep his body warm, and the lack of anything that could be called food had left him with too little reserves to be warm. He needed to find shelter and it had to be now. Otherwise he would become another nameless victim of the cold unforgiving winter. Even though it’s not yet winter, he thought bitterly. Once again he looked around, with envy, at the cheerful lights and decorations, but it brought no joy to his heart. How could it? They spoke of hope, of survival, of warmth, of happiness, of family, and he knew none of these at this time in his life.

Eventually he found a place out of the winds – an old broken building that had once been a business. But fire had destroyed most of it, leaving a skeleton – a shell. And since it had never been rebuilt, or torn down, it was as forgotten as he. In one of the corners, this was close to another building, providing a partial wind block, he set up for the night. Faron shivered, and leaned against a shaky wall, and tried to get comfortable. It would be a long night, one with little sleep. Still, with the partially burned scrap that was here, he had built a small fire in a container, and reveled in the small bit of warmth it gave him. Fortunately his location and his fire were hidden so no one could come in to roust him or admonish him about his small fire. It would be the only reason he would survive the night.

He itched from being dirty, and his dirty beard showed heavy streaks of gray, giving away his age – showing that he wasn’t a young man. And he laughed a bitter laugh when he thought about his past and the fact that this was the very last place he thought he would ever end up. Yet, here he was, and that past seemed more a dream than reality. For now this reality dominated, and controlled his life, as miserable as it was. All he could do was shake his head and ask, why had it gone so bad, why had things changed for the worst, and why was he here? Again, questions he asked himself all the time, but he could never find the answers. And eventually, even though he had blamed others, he knew deep inside he was here because of his own actions.

Knowing didn’t mean that one could change the results, or go back and move in a different direction. If only there was a way to go back and correct those horrible mistakes, the angry retorts, the direction that all of this led, then, just maybe, he wouldn’t be here now. But, there really wasn’t a way to know, to find out. For all he knew what he lived now was what he was destined to live. As he put his bare hands to his small fire, it felt so good, all he could do was shake his head. He would have laughed back then at such a thought, such a thing as this small fire being the most important thing in his life, in the world. He had personally looked down on those homeless, those bums, those in that shabby underworld that was a different place, a different culture, a different way of life and of survival. He was on his way up, and these many forgotten people meant nothing to him at all.

How many years had he lived this life? How long had he been part of this culture? The very one he had turned his nose up and away from so many years in the past. Well, it didn’t matter now, he was part of the homeless, part of their world, and the other life was so far in the past it no longer mattered. He wondered, again for the “nth” time why, and if there was a way out. Again, he had no answers.

He knew that the change of direction had happened when he had been drafted, and had gone to war. Before this he was advancing quickly, with a bright future. He spent a couple of years in that war zone, learning about the fears, stress, and depression that was part of such a life. It was there he had begun to drink, and while he no longer did, the alcohol became a means to an end. He became, as so many others, an alcoholic, which led to a dishonorable discharge, and the loss of any chance of returning to his place of work. Soon after that his wife left with their one and only daughter, and he continued to blame everybody for his personal failures. But now, these so many years later, he truly knew where the blame lay. Was it too late to make a fresh start? Would any trust him? He had no answers, and nothing to offer. So at this moment he stared beyond his small fire into the ink black darkness where the only light that penetrated was the light from his small fire.

At least he had the hot coffee earlier so his stomach wasn’t complaining too much. Taking a deep breath he covered up with a couple of threadbare blankets that he had rescued from a dumpster. It had been close to where a family had been moving away to who knew where, and they were throwing away, as far as he was concerned, treasures. Yes most were well-worn, but when you had nothing, then you looked at such things differently. He remembered watching, hoping that others were not doing the same thing. And when night fell he rummaged through the dumpster recovering things he could either use or barter with to get something he really needed. Had that been a year ago? Yes, it had because it was coming on to winter at the time he picked this stuff up.

Shivering when the cold winds found a way into his makeshift shelter he fell into an uneasy sleep and hoped to see the morning.

* * *

He awoke with a start. It seemed strange, and considering the cold, it felt warm and comfortable. How could this be? He slowly opened his eyes to find that he was in a big bed, and he was on his side turned towards the wall with a curtained window. At this moment in the twilight between asleep and awake, it felt right. At this very moment thoughts came unbidden into his mind telling him no, this can’t be right. Wasn’t it last night that he lay shivering in an abandoned burned out building? Yet, at this moment he didn’t care what his mind told him. He looked at his hands and they were the same ones he had seen the night before. Not young, showing the years of labor, of being outdoors, not a life of offices.

It was at this moment that he heard someone turn over and sigh. He froze for a moment. There was a woman in this bed with him. How long had it been since such had been the case, let alone being in such a bed? He was afraid to turn over and see who it might be. Then he heard as well as felt her shifting in the bed and coming closer to him, snuggling up to him and putting her arms over him. She asked him a question, “So why is it that once a weekend comes around that we can’t sleep in?”

Sleep in? What’s she talking about? Weekend? He hadn’t considered days as any more than days for years. It was then he realized that the body that was up against him was naked, and that was another shock. Again, this was something that hadn’t happened, well, since he and his wife had divorced too many years in the past. Yes, there had been brief encounters over the years since that time, but none of them were in such settings.

Again she sighed, kissed the back of his neck, stretched and said, “Why don’t you go push the button on the coffee. I need to take a quick shower. Then we can talk a little before the day really begins and the kids show up with all their chaos and demands.” She hugged him and wrapped her legs around him in a teasing way slid away from him to her side of the bed and he could hear her get out of bed.

With all that had been happening he had been afraid to move, afraid that what he was feeling, what he was experiencing, it had to be a dream. But it felt too real. He slowly turned over and watched as she retreated from the bed, naked as a jay bird, as the saying went, and disappeared into the bathroom. He could feel his body reacting to the situation, and yet he was incredulous to all that he was feeling, witnessing. He looked around this room, and while it seemed strange, at the same time, not. Letting out a slow breath he slipped out of bed only to realize that he was naked also. So that meant they probably had made love the night before. Was this her house, her home?

He found his clothes beside the bed, on a chair, got dressed, headed out the door into a hallway that extended in both directions. He automatically turned right, which said to him that he knew this place, and sure enough he found himself at the top of a set of stairs, headed down through a living room into the kitchen, found the coffee pot, and pushed the button. Through the kitchen window he looked out on a different scene than he expected. When he had fallen asleep it was coming onto winter. Yet, looking out of this window spoke of spring. Why did this house, this home, feel right, feel comfortable? And why, for all things, did you know which way to go and where the kitchen was located? And what happened to winter? Time doesn’t shift like this.

The scene before him was a backyard. It had a grass lawn, with a few trees that moved in the wind. Towards one corner was a swing set, speaking of the children she had mentioned. He noticed and to his surprise, expected a door to be to the left, and it was there. He unlocked it and stepped out on to a deck, a beautiful morning, with the perfume of the flowering plants wafting through the air. It was a little cool, but there was a promise of heat in that coolness. Again, what he was seeing, what he was feeling, seemed right, seemed comfortable, appeared to be familiar. He heard the coffee maker finishing its job and turned to go back in and fill a couple of cups only to hear the woman say, “I’ve got it. I’ll join you in a moment.”

He heard the cupboard being opened, followed by the refrigerator, and then the cups being filled. He turned as she came out with her hands full and saw a beautiful young woman smiling at him and offering him one of the coffees. He didn’t understand. He had to be at least twice her age. Yet, there was a look of love, of closeness that only is there with strongly committed couples in a healthy, Godly relationship. He stared, not sure, only to see her shy look, looking down briefly and asking, “What?”

He smiled, and shrugged. “Oh it’s not you, it’s me. Must have had a nightmare last night, and I think I’m still living part of it.” He laughed when he saw her reaction, and he put out his arms in denial stating, “No, no not you, but what I’m remembering. And for some reason this seems out-of-place, out of time, and I feel that I’m still asleep and dreaming. Looking down at his cup he found that it was fixed just the way he liked it, which spoke volumes. So was he dreaming, or what he thought he had been living a dream, and this was the real world? At this moment he had no answers. Suddenly her name came to his mind, she’s Kate, and he would tease her, calling her Katie, knowing that she hated that name. How’d he know this?

It was at this point that he noticed that both of them were wearing wedding bands, and they were not new. Now he wondered if this reflected the two of them, or they were actually married to someone else, and were having an affair. Again, this didn’t fit. No, they were a couple, they were husband and wife – they were a family. But how was this possible? In that other life – he was calling it that now – it was the time of Christmas, which was only a few days away. He was quite alone, had been for years, was poor to the point of having literally nothing, and had fallen off the grid too many years in the past to even remember when it first happened. So which was real? The one he remembered vividly or this one that had a familiarity, but at the same time seemed out-of-place, and out of time.

Saying nothing, as she came up beside him, he found that he put his arm around her, and it seemed natural, felt right. Was this how it was supposed to be? It seemed as the breakup had gotten close that all the two of them – his ex-wife from his previous relationship and he – did was fight. And after all this time, he had to admit that he was probably the cause, and most likely the instigator of those fights. Is this how it is supposed to be, he wondered again. He only remembered the pain, the anger, the fear when she thought he was going to strike her. And then the time came when he returned home to find it empty – he was alone. This was followed by the divorce papers and the final spiral into the worthless life that led up until this very moment. Again which one was a dream and which one was real?

The two of them heard some stirring within the house and Kate sighed, shook her head and said, “I guess our quiet respite is over. Sounds like at least one of the kids is up, which means the rest will follow shortly.”

The rest? He only remembered the one daughter. He watched as she pulled away from him, and with a reluctance headed back into the house. He remained trying to understand. It was at this moment a stranger stood in front of him – where he came from or how he got here was an unknown. He felt no fear, and knew that whoever this was, there was no harm here. At first there was only silence – then the stranger spoke. “I’m your guardian angel who has followed you throughout your life. I was told that I could show you this. What you are seeing, what you are feeling, what you are experiencing, this is what God had planned for you. A loving companion throughout your life with a strong faith in God, raising Godly children, and while not an easy life, one that would help your love and faith grow. Instead the enemy found a way in and destroyed all that was there, all that was to be. Yet, through the years, you still mentored to others, talked of your faith, and unknowingly brought lost souls back to God and Christ.” He smiled once again, finally saying after a long silence, “It’s time to come home.”

* * *

The lights flashed on the police cruiser, and the loud speakers were spouting road conditions, and situations that the dispatcher sent out. The ambulance sat silent with the engine idling, but the lights were not flashing as there was no one to save. The two officers returned to the cruiser with one of them picking up the mic and contacting dispatch stating, “Looks like the weather has taken another one. No, I’d say he’s been dead for at least half the night. Stranger, no one has recognized him, and he has no ID of any kind. The ambulance will take the body to the morgue, and, oh yeah, Merry Christmas.”

Slowly the scene returned to normal, as the vacant burned out business became empty once again. The ambulance left to deliver the stranger to the morgue, and the police cruiser returned to its patrol. For the one who had come here to seek shelter – a shelter he would no longer need – has left, only to return home.

 

* * *

I hope you enjoyed this year’s Christmas story, and it touched you, immersed you, in this fictional world. Allowed you to see into places you’ve never been. If I succeeded, then I’ve done my job as a writer. If you would like to read others, again they are available in the sidebar under Short Stories. Next week we are heading into the new year – 2015. For a while I will be leaving short stories and heading into a 2 part series on relationships. I hope that 2014 has been a good year, and the new one will be better. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

And The Sun Will Rise – Part 7

This week we reach the conclusion of the short story. Again, because of the way it is written, the ending begs for more – just like those old serials. It concludes with mysteries unsolved, and possibly leading to further short stories in the future, or maybe even a full length book. That’s not to say that there’s no closure, or it’s left unfinished because that’s not the case. The neat thing I find when either I read or write a story is the empathy I feel for the actors in the story. They appear to be real, seem to be trying hard to deal with whatever issue they are facing. And this is no different from you or I, but, and here’s the real kicker, they are not real, never have been real, and will never be more than those words on a page.

Still, as readers, we find ourselves returning to those pages to read about one of our favorite characters. And I’m no different. I’ve read some books at least a half-dozen times, and even though I know the story intimately, I still return. What is it about these fictional worlds that makes us want to return? I guess for each of us the answer would be different. Yet, if that author, that writer hadn’t put those words down we would never have had the chance to meet these fictional characters living in their fictional worlds – places for us to go and escape our own reality for a while. And since I’m a writer I can hope that my fictional worlds and characters leave you wanting to return, wanting to read more. (Again if this is the first time to this story I suggest that you go to the sidebar on the right to, first November 2014, and then December 2014, or go to my webpage (fdbrant.com) to read the story from the beginning.) And with this introduction, here is the conclusion of: And The Sun Will Rise.

He reached for the other doorknob, and this time when he turned it he pulled the door towards him and like the other one it didn’t budge. What’s going on here? With a firm grasp he decided to push like he did on the first door, and this time it moved easily away from him. It dawned on him, at that very moment, that the doors were designed to swing away from a room. To his mind this was stupid. It meant if someone was on the other side they would get hit with it, so why? With only he here there was no one to ask, so he quietly moved into the next room. He looked back and on the wall next to the door was a sign that stated, STAFF ONLY.

Looking back into this newly discovered space he found a room that was unbelievable in its size. It was like one could put at least one if not two of the biggest houses from the village in here . . . and possibly more. He had to admit that he had never seen a single room this size. He saw what he assumed were chairs sitting in rows, and what looked like one long counter where one could stand, but for what purpose he didn’t know. And there appeared to be many places along this counter where there were small access points for people to do something. He noticed that most had small signs that stated, CLOSED NEXT WINDOW PLEASE. Closed? Next window please? What’s this all about? And why are these openings called windows? Behind, on the wall, there appeared to be a large sign that stated in bold letters, Welcome to Helm’s Deep. A valley in middle earth from the fantasy series by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. In this valley lay a fortress, a place of last refuge, built into the mountain and an appropriate name for this place where you are presently standing. Even though there was a brief description of this “Helm’s Deep”, he hadn’t a clue to what the sign was referring to, or who J. R. R. Tolkien, or what The Lord of the Rings was all about.

Looking down he noticed that the floor, which was similar to the one in the room that he had just left, seemed to be covered in a thick layer of dust. And there were no tracks, no marks, nothing, showing that there hadn’t been anybody here in a long time. Looking back he could plainly see his tracks in that same dust. “What is this place?” He whispered. “And why am I whispering?” He didn’t know why, only that it felt right. Quietly, so not to disturb anything, he moved across the area to one of those “windows”, as the signs said, and looked behind. He noticed that against the back wall there were places for people to sit and work. He hadn’t ever seen anything like them, but the ones who had made the trading runs had described what he was seeing. If he remembered right, he had been told these things were called desks. In his mind, in the past, he thought desks were more like tables but now knew he had been wrong.

Going further down the counter and away from the STAFF entrance he found a couple more doors – three actually. Two had strange symbols, one looked kind of like a male, and the other he assumed had to be a female, but it was a guess. Even though there was no one around, he decided that he would only be allowed through the door with the male symbol. But the door had no handle, only a rectangular piece of shiny metal. Shrugging, he pushed on it and found, with some effort that the door swung open, and as soon as he released the pressure the door closed. This was novel. What made it do this? None of the doors he had ever gone through would close themselves like this, unless closed by the wind. He pushed it a number of times, released the pressure, and watched it close. Who are the people who had created such a thing?

Before entering, he wondered if there was a way out, since this side didn’t have any knobs or handles. It was a good question because he didn’t want to get stranded behind a door he couldn’t open. So carefully he pushed it open far enough that he could see the other side, and to his surprise it did have a handle. He reached around and awkwardly grabbed it and found that it felt solid. So with some confidence he entered what seemed to be a darkened room, only to jump when the light suddenly came on. It startled him enough that he let the door close with him on the inside. This wasn’t quite his plan, but there was nothing he could do about it now. He stood very still for a short time, and the lights went out and he found himself in absolute darkness. This was almost worse than the surprise light. He turned around to grope for the door only to have the lights come on again. What the heck is going on?

Carefully he worked his way further into this area; past a wall that seemed to keep anyone from the outside seeing what was happening in this place. One of the first things he noticed was the walls were partially covered in some type of small, well stones came to mind, but wasn’t sure if that was accurate, and they were cold to the touch. Going around the wall he looked into a large room that looked similar to a privy, more or less. Although, he had to admit, he had never seen anything like what was here. On one wall there appeared to be basins with reflecting glass above them and the opposite a place where males could stand and relieve themselves, plus closed areas with many swinging doors that were partially open. Going to one of them he pushed the door all the way open and found, in gleaming white, something that could easily pass as a privy. He assumed that the other side or door was for girls, females, alone, as this one was for males. And from the size he figured it could handle his whole village, if such had been necessary – not all at the same time, of course, but it wouldn’t have taken long for everyone to use what was here.

He wondered how it was that the area where he was would light up, and then when nothing moved, turn off. He was still in awe of the lights anyway. He couldn’t discern what was making the light. He was used to candles and lanterns and the smells associated with them. But there was no smell, there was no flame that he could see, there wasn’t anything he was familiar with at all. In fact it was more like bringing the sunlight inside. He exited this; well again since he wasn’t familiar with what it was called, he would call it a privy. He stood looking back across the room to where he had entered and saw that he had left that particular door open. He thought maybe it would be a great idea to close it, but shrugged instead. As far as he knew he was it. There was nobody else around, and besides, it would be an easy way to know that he had already been there.

So with a decision made he decided to explore this large room some more. As he looked around from his vantage point he could see other doors and at this point he remembered the third one, walked over to it and directly on the door was an attached sign stating, SUPERVISOR. So, what was a supervisor? He hadn’t a clue. He tried the doorknob and found that it didn’t budge. Trying harder it refused to give in to his attempts. Finally giving up he then saw another door on the other side of the room to his left. This one, like some of the others, had a lighted sign above the doorway stating, SECURITY. Again the word was unfamiliar but curiosity drove him on and he went to the door and was able to enter here. Once inside he found a smaller version of the counter here and on the other side of this counter was what appeared to be a partial glass wall. Between the wall and the counter were a number of desks like he saw behind the counter in the larger room.

Again, it appeared that he was the only one here. He noticed that the counter ran the full length of the room and there was no way around it. So he decided to jump over it instead. It wasn’t something that would be difficult. Heck, he’d scrambled up rocks there were more of a challenge than this. So vaulting over the counter he worked his way back towards the partial glass wall, which seemed to be frosted with something. Off to his right was an open doorway that held no door. Going through it he found he immediately entered a hallway that moved him to the left and then another open doorway that led him behind the frosted glass. Only on this side it wasn’t frosted and he could see clearly everything that was happening on the other side. How is this done? He asked himself. Of course there was no one here who could answer.

It was at this moment that something else caught his attention. Behind him was a wall of, little windows? He didn’t know what else to call them. Curious again, he moved closer to them and froze in his tracks. In each of those windows there appeared different scenes, which at first he assumed were paintings. But the images changed, and moved, and did impossible things. There were chairs here and he grabbed one only to find that it moved easily and rolled back on what he had to assume were wheels. Wheels on a chair, who’d have thought it? Not sure, he gingerly lowered himself into it and stared mesmerized by what he was seeing. It was then he realized that he was pivoting back and forth in this chair. Wow, he thought, I’ve never sat in anything like this! He didn’t know how much time had passed as he stared at the ever-changing scenes. Only that suddenly he heard his stomach growl and he felt hungry.

He had set his backpack on the floor next to the chair, grabbed and opened it, taking out another travel ration, and with his supply of water, ate and drank, not really paying much attention to his eating. He realized that one of the windows was showing the area outside in the desert where he had been earlier, with another showing where he had entered the cave. And the window next to this one was showing the very cave where he had spent the previous night. How is this done, he wondered. The rest of the windows showed different things including the large room he had exited to get here. Much of what the others showed was well beyond him, and where or what they might represent he didn’t know.

Suddenly movement grabbed his eye and he looked back at the window that showed the desert. In the distance it looked like someone might be approaching. Still he or she was too far away to do any more than say that it was an individual, yet there seemed to be a familiarity to whoever this was. Fascinated he stared, wondering how this was possible. He had to admit he hadn’t a clue. As the image got closer he realized that the individual was female, and she was without clothes. He immediately was shocked that it should be this way, and found his body reacting to this revelation. Even though he was alone it still embarrassed him, but there was nothing he could do about it other than stare. Even though this female, this girl was still in the distance, something continued to tug on his mind. It was like he knew her. It was something in the way she moved, in the way she walked.

It suddenly dawned on him that the person he was seeing, the girl who was approaching was his younger sister, which made him feel a little ashamed with the way his body was responding. But, once again, he couldn’t help it. Then he saw, as she became more visible, dirt and filth covering her body, as well as what appeared to be wounds, including a large bruise that stood out on her face. She seemed to be caked in blood, and he could see it covering her in a number of places. She was also barefooted. How had she made it this far, and in her condition? He watched, fascinated by what he was seeing – still not sure if what he was seeing was real or not. He saw her stumble and could tell from her ragged steps that she was barely standing and at the end of her strength. Not waiting any longer he retraced his steps back out through the doors, back into that cave, avoided the hidden hole, and headed back out into the desert.

Once back outside, he had to wait for his eyes to adjust to the daylight, and he adjust to the heat. It was cool inside of the cave and the building. Now he had to figure out how to work his way around the drop-off he had dropped down to find the entrance to the cave. First he headed further down the ravine and found a way around, headed back towards where he had last seen her in that window, and found nothing. Had he imagined the whole thing? Taking a deep breath he looked around desperately and could see where the sand had been disturbed, and began to search. Shortly he came upon her prone figure. Somewhere between the time where he had last seen her in that window to now, she had passed out. And if he wanted to be honest, probably close to death.

She looked like hell. It was obvious that she had been severely abused, and how she had escaped this abuse or her captors was an unknown. He had to add to this going this far into the desert in her condition and those visible wounds without anything to help and to have survived long enough to reach this point. Now he worried that she may have been followed. He quickly, but carefully, picked her up. He could feel her flinch, and moan in pain. All the exposed skin was reddened from sunburn, and there was a deep cut on her scalp. He needed to move quickly and get her inside of whatever it was that he had discovered. At least he had some extra clothes that she could wear until they could find something else. That’s, of course, if she survived, and there were no guarantees there.

With the extra burden it took him much longer to get back inside that large room. He propped her up in one of the chairs so that he could go get his backpack. And once back to where she was, laid out his sleep sack and placed her on it. She hadn’t moved and it was only the rising and fall of her breasts that let him know that she was still alive. He needed to clean her up and tend to her wounds, but didn’t know where he could get water unless he retreated back to the tank. Then he remembered the privy and immediately went inside. There were those basins there. Standing in front of one he could see that they were made to hold water but didn’t have a clue where the water was stored. There were no pitchers here, as they used back in the town, so how did the water get here?

Frustrated, he leaned on the basin, and ran his hands everywhere he could think. In one of his passes he ran his hand under the silver thing that extended out over the basin, jumped, when water came pouring out. After a brief time it quit. He did it again, and water was produced again. He’d never seen anything like it. Quickly soaking down a large rag he had brought with him he returned and began washing her down, carefully cleaning the wounds, and cleaning her up. It took a few trips back inside the privy to rinse, clean, and return to her to get the job done. It was an uncomfortable job, but it had to be done. Other than a brief attempt to keep him from touching her, and some moaning from pain, she never awoke. Eventually she almost looked like Elsa who was only a year and a half younger than he.

He carefully checked her over once again to be sure that none of the wounds were infected, opened up his sleep sack , placed her inside, and let her continue to sleep. Of course she had been unconscious, otherwise what he had to do would have awakened her. Now all he could do was wait. Knowing personally his condition when he found this place, he knew that shortly her need for water would be overwhelming. But until she awoke, he felt it better if she remained unconscious, or asleep.

* * *

It was five days later, and Elsa was better. She still seemed to be haunted by what had happened to her, and she remained abnormally quiet. He could see the fear in her eyes, and her pleading that he remain in her sight. Because of this, he hadn’t been able to do any more exploring, but right now her needs outweighed his curiosity. He returned to the security room a number of times to watch those windows, but no one showed. So, as far as he knew only the two of them had escaped. Although, his sister hadn’t escaped unscathed as he, and he knew that it would take time for her to overcome all that had happened to her. He knew the physical wounds would heal in time, but she was a long way away from her fun-loving self. She was withdrawn, and seemed to jump at any shadow. Time might be the only thing that could heal this. At least one could hope.

So he would put off his exploring, his discoveries for now. To bring back the sister he knew and loved was more important anyway. And once she was back, then they, together could learn more about this place, this mystery that he had discovered here in the middle of the desert. And maybe it was a place where they could start over, but that was an unknown, for the future. And for now, until she returned to whom he knew, this would be their private oasis from the rest of the world, and the horror that both of them faced and left behind.

* * *

And there you have it! Mysteries still to solve, but responsibilities are a priority, and must come first. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this and I promise that in the future there will be others – maybe something more within this fictional world (I’m actually working towards this end presently). For those who are new to this blog understand that in a sense this has been rare. Two months of short stories with no other commentary. And on that subject, next week will conclude December. On the 27th, next Saturday, 2 days after Christmas, will come my annual Christmas story. And on Christmas day I’ll be sending out a short post, kind of a Christmas card to all of you out there. Have a great time of family, of faith, and of friends. Merry Christmas, and I hope to see you here next week, next Saturday, for my annual Christmas story. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

And The Sun Will Rise – Part 6

Before we get into this week’s post I want to update all of you on the status of the E-book, A Taste of History Past (ISBN 9781483544052). After a number of delays it has been sent out for distribution and will be available in the epub and mobi formats at your favorite E-book retailer. Shortly I’ll be adding a page to my webpage for this book.

* * *

While the story isn’t necessarily heading in this direction, Jay learned the importance of staying on those trails and the value of knowing where the water sources lie. And if anything is obvious, he’s lost. He doesn’t have a clue whether if he went in circles, changed directions a number of times, backtracked towards his destroyed home, or anything. All he is aware of at this point is he found water, and it saved his life. What is it that his future holds? With his inexperience in life, will he survive? All good questions, and all valid. (If you are picking this up for the first time I suggest you go to the sidebar on the right to the subtitle November 2014, December 2014, or my webpage (fdbrant.com) and pick the story up from the beginning.)

If we go back to our youth (some of us anyway) and those old serials that were popular, we will remember that at the end of the weekly program was always some kind of cliff hanger where the hero was in over his or her head, and it appeared that the end was near. Of course, if we really wanted to be honest with ourselves, we knew that somehow the hero would survive – they always did. After all, if the hero died then the program would be done, the story at an end. But at the time, we never thought about such things, always wanting to come back to see how our hero fared, and survived, from those impossible circumstances. So, in the static world of books, like those serials, we know that until that last page is read there is a greater chance the protagonist will survive, otherwise the story would be at an end. In a sense this short story is a serial, and each segment bringing us closer to closure – although each segment didn’t necessarily end with a cliff hanger. Instead where the story ends each week is a natural place to stop, to break (mini chapters for a better word) before continuing. And here’s a lesson to all you new writers out there, and maybe to other writers who have been doing this awhile. If you want to make the reader mad at you, kill off your protagonist, unless, of course, your story is a tragedy. And after this rather long-winded introduction is: And The Sun Will Rise – Part 6.

He had never had anything that tasted as good as this water. He almost jumped in and let his parched body soak in as much as he could absorb, but thought better of it. Carefully he laid down and sucked up as much water as he could hold and immediately regretted it. He felt sick, and wondered if there was something wrong with the water and he had made a mistake. It was then he realized that it was him being greedy and drinking too much. So he carefully slid back and leaned against one of the walls, closed his eyes, and concentrated on his queasy stomach, and willed himself to keep it down. After what seemed too long he felt better and realized that he was still thirsty but refrained from drinking any more until some time had passed. Then he returned to the pool of cool water and drank sparingly.

He didn’t know how long he had remained there, but suddenly realized that it was becoming darker in this, well he wasn’t sure what he’d call it, maybe cave? But there were a number of cracks and openings that allowed light in, and he always thought a cave would be dark. Still, until he came up with a better word, cave would have to do. It meant that night must be approaching and he had been in here much longer than he thought. It also meant that at some point he had probably fallen asleep and was unaware of that fact. The candle he had lit had burned almost all the way down. At first he thought that he should head back outside, but changed his mind. There was enough room here to lay out his sleep sack, and as he looked around he found an old abandoned nest made by some desert rodent. And with all the small openings to the outside he could build a small fire, keep warm, and know that the smoke wouldn’t build up inside forcing him out. “Better get to it,” he said.

* * *

Waking up the next morning, cold and shivering a little, he grabbed some of the old nest material and quickly built a small fire. The wood was so dry and old that it hardly put out any smoke, but at the same time burned and turned to ash quickly. The supply was limited, so he decided to use it to get warm, and eat a travel ration instead of trying to cook something over the fire. He found that he was still thirsty and between bites of the travel ration, which seemed overly dry, he drank vast volumes of water. In fact his thirst was greater than his hunger, and he found that he had at least half of the travel ration left when he felt full.

Going back in the direction that he had originally came he took care of nature, although his bladder didn’t seem to hold much. No surprise there, with the lack of water he was sure that there wasn’t much to get rid of. He couldn’t tell the time of day only that it was daylight and some of the light was streaming in through the cracks. He remembered hearing running water, but this tank seemed to be filled by water dripping from above – at least that’s how it appeared. So where was the running water? He went back to this small tank and remembered to refill all of his containers. For now he was reluctant to return outside. Honestly he had no idea where he was, and through those days without water he was sure that he probably had been turned around a number of times.

Besides, if he wanted to be honest, there was enough mystery here to keep him busy. And again, if he wanted to admit it, there wasn’t any place he needed to be. His home was gone, his family was gone, and as far as he knew, everybody he had ever known was gone. So why not spend a few days and discover what was here? At least he still had plenty of food, and while the tank had dropped a bit in water level, it appeared to have already refilled. But, it didn’t appear to overfill and run off somewhere. How was this possible? And from what he could determine, while water was dripping into the tank, it wasn’t enough to refill it this quickly – another mystery. Standing there and trying to determine how it refilled he found he needed another drink of water. Was he ever going to quit being thirsty? Taking another drink from the tank, once again he found that he couldn’t get enough and felt his insides stretched just about as far as they could go. Shaking his head he thought, really?

Getting up he wondered if this cave ended here. It was something to think about. Initially it was all about the water, but now curious, he wondered how the water got here. Yet, in front of him was what appeared to be a solid wall, but he had to admit he hadn’t done any real exploring. So with care he skirted the pool of water and was rewarded when a portion of the wall curved out of sight. From where he had been the whole area was in deep shadow and revealed nothing. The curve became more of an “S” curve and when he completed the last portion of this curve he stopped and stared in awe. The walls glowed in a faint luminescent light making it easy to see. But what added to the surprise was the fact that there were stair steps carved into the floor leading one downward. And it appeared the walls had been worked and were not natural. “What is this place?” He asked himself.

There seemed to be a natural downward direction and after a while the tunnel twisted again. He suspected that it had been slightly curved anyway, but the curve was so subtle that it was almost unnoticeable. Yet this twist to the left was major and like the first turn into this tunnel there was a second turn in the opposite direction. Suddenly the tunnel ended. There appeared, of all things, to be a door. A door? Really? This seemed so out-of-place here. He ran his hands over it and it felt cold. It was then he realized that the door was metal and not wood as he expected it to be. Still why would a door be here at all, let alone a metal one? He reached out for the door knob and hesitated. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to face whatever was on the other side. Things, since finding his way into this cave, had been strange enough, and he wasn’t sure if he was ready to face whatever danger there might be. Standing there undecided, he felt his curiosity rising. So, once again he reached out and this time turned the knob.

To his surprise it turned easily, how could that be? As far as he knew he was the only one around here. He had seen no sign or tracks, no footprints, no fire pits, nothing to indicate that there was anybody around at all, so why did the doorknob turn so easily? With no answers he pushed the door only to find that it didn’t budge. This brought a nervous smile and a bit of frustration to him. Why didn’t the door open? He leaned harder into it and once again nothing happened. With his hand still on the knob he leaned back ready to put all of his weight into the door only to find that it swung outward easily. And because he wasn’t expecting it he lost his balance and fell hard, feeling it in his bruised tailbone. Really? He thought.

Rolling over, rotating around, and propping himself up on his elbows he looked into the space beyond the now open door. Why did it open outwards? All of our doors open to the inside. It made no sense to him at all – and there was light streaming through the doorway. Pushing himself up, he dusted himself off, took a deep breath, and with a growing nervousness carefully peered inside. He had to close his eyes from the bright light that seemed to be shining from inside of this room. The soft glow on the cave walls didn’t come close to this. In fact he couldn’t remember anything inside a home that was this bright. Only being outside in the bright sunlight came close.

In what he figured took much too long, his eyes finally adjusted to the light. He rubbed his eyes and wiped away the tears that had formed, blinked a couple of times and then looked around carefully. It appeared to be just a small rectangular room with nothing in it. No windows to let in light, although if he wanted to admit it, where would the light come from? After all, this room was inside a cave, so windows wouldn’t be something that would be necessary. As he continued to study the room, other than the bright light it seemed ordinary. Yet, he couldn’t find the source of that light other than it seemed to be coming from the ceiling.

Looking down at the floor he found that it was covered with something that was hard, almost like sheets of stone that some of the better homes had back in his village. At this point when he thought about the village it choked him up, as once again, he realized that it had been destroyed along with everyone that had ever lived there. It was then he saw another door with a sign above it, and while it was a word he was unfamiliar with, it was close enough to the one they used to understand what it meant. The lighted sign stated, ENTRANCE. Thinking about it he wondered where this could lead, and if he wanted to continue. Still, being young, and being curious it drove him onward . . .

* * *

Indeed! What’s the old phrase? “Curiosity killed the cat.” Yet when a mystery presents itself, do we stop, turn around and leave, only at a later time begin to wonder what we may have missed? Or do we see what’s on the other side of that closed door? The answer would be different for every individual. Some wouldn’t hesitate, while others would contemplate and “what if”, themselves to death. Still questions cannot be answered until you travel beyond that closed door. Knowledge won’t be gained, or the danger known until it is opened. Next week the story concludes, and we, as readers, discover the hidden mysteries along with Jay. Have a great week, and may you be here Saturday for the conclusion. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Published in: on December 13, 2014 at 7:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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And The Sun Will Rise – Part 5

Part 5? Really? Are you kidding me? Isn’t this writer ever going to finish this story? Yes, but we aren’t there yet. As it stands right now it will have 7 parts to complete the story. In truth, as I stated back at the beginning, this is one of those stories that has potential to become a book sometime in the future, or maybe another short story. In this first presentation it works out to be about 38 pages long if it was part of a book. If you are finding this for the first time, I suggest that you either go to the column on the right under the subheading of November 2014, or my webpage (fdbrant.com) and pick up this story from the beginning. That way what is happening to the protagonist of this story would make better sense, and bring you up to date as to what is transpiring in his world.

We left Jay, in part 4, preparing to make his first trip into the desert. He knows literally nothing about it, other than what he has been told. So this week his general knowledge becomes personal knowledge as he heads deep into this tortured land. And with this brief introduction is part 5 of the short story – And The Sun Will Rise.

Jay was on his third day in the desert and wasn’t sure at this point whether the decision to escape into the desert had been such a good idea. He’d been warned of the dangers, and the importance of remaining on the trails. But he felt that it was something that he couldn’t do with the raiders still in the area. Once daylight had arrived, on that first day, he could see the raiders working the desert’s edge and sending patrols deep into the surrounding areas. And he found that it was close to impossible to hide. There wasn’t anything here to block one’s view for vast distances. The only thing in his favor had been the fact that he had traveled all night to get as far away from the destroyed village as possible, and he felt it was the only reason he had escaped.

Now he wasn’t so sure. Yes, remaining off the trails had prevented him from being discovered by the raiders, and if captured, whatever they would have done to him. But now he was lost and the heat of the day was beginning to build. He thought he had brought plenty of water with him, but found with the heat being generated that he had gone through it twice as fast as he expected. There was just a bit sloshing in the bottom of his last portable water container and nothing visible giving him any idea of where he could replenish his depleted supply.

The heat waves were beginning to dance, distorting the surrounding landscape, causing mirages to form, tempting him to chase lakes of water that retreated as he approached – something he had been warned about. He had headed east towards the rising sun when he had left, of course it had been night, and with what water he had remaining he knew that there was no way to backtrack if he had wanted anyway. Besides, not that it wasn’t obvious, death awaited him back there also. So why not let the desert take him instead? He needed to find shade, but where? Everywhere he looked there was open barren land with those wicked plants that had those barbed thorns and needles that seemed to reach out and attack. He had learned early on and the hard way to keep his distance.

As the heat continued to build, he felt the sweat begin to drip down and into his eyes, burning them from the salt, he looked to his right and saw an old wash that might hold some promise of shade – even if it was simply a high bank that was high enough to cast a shadow. He had been heading generally east so this change of direction moved him in a southerly direction. The sun wasn’t to the zenith yet and was a couple of hours off, but it was almost too hot now. He headed down the wash, which deepened and became more of a ravine, narrowing and deepening significantly so that the sides were above his head. Here he found some deep shadows that for the moment were cooler than the surrounding land.

Taking a deep breath he sat down in the sand that covered the ground feeling the coolness that it provided. He knew that this was only temporary. Soon the sun would be overhead and this respite would disappear. At that point in time he didn’t know what he’d do. He’d been searching desperately to find some place to wait out the day, but had found nothing – once again, now what? As he leaned against the wall of the ravine his breathing eased and he drifted off into a troubled sleep reliving what he had found when he had returned to the village that fateful day so many days ago. It haunted not only his sleep, but many times, when awake, his tired mind would drift off, reliving what he had discovered. Could he ever get away from those horrible images and memories?

* * *

At least two more days . . . two days or more without water . . . trouble, deep trouble. He couldn’t think, his vision was blurring . . . His mind wouldn’t work . . . his mouth was so dry that it hurt. His steps were uncertain, and he truly had no idea where he was. He found himself lost inside a number of broken canyons that held the heat but no vegetation. He had, at one point, thought he could work his way back to one of the major trails . . . He’d been warned that it meant death if one left them in the desert. But somehow he had become turned around, and somehow had missed any and all that might have existed. He never realized that there were mountains and canyons existing in the desert. Shaking his head, as he tried to clear his clouded mind, he thought, Well stupid, what did you think? Did you think that it would just be a flat sand covered area where nothing grew? This drew a weary smile. Of course you did.

He didn’t know when it happened but somewhere along this time he awakened and it was night. He must have passed out. The cool night air was a relief from the heat of the day. But he had learned that it was also a curse, because once the sun was gone from this tortured land it became unbearably cold. And because he assumed, yeah assumed, that the desert was hot he hadn’t added any real items to keep him warm at night – not that it would have been easy to do so. Soon it wouldn’t matter anyway. He was close to death and knew it. He wondered how it felt to die and knew honestly that he didn’t want to. Did he have a choice? And once again those words from his now dead uncle entered unbidden into his mind, “And the sun will rise”, probably true, but would it rise for him, or would the previous day be his last sunrise?

As these thoughts were going through his mind it was then that he realized that he smelled water. It was subtle and seemed to appear and disappear with the soft down canyon breezes. At this point he realized that he was sprawled in an awkward position and his arm was aching from being under him. He rolled over on his back, barely conscious, and stared into the clear night sky. Again those stars were so bright and the night so clear, it was like he could reach up and touch them. It seemed that he couldn’t focus for very long on anything and thought that it was probably from the lack of water. But that smell said it was close. Still, with the coolness of the sands under his body, he felt that it was impossible to move. Just let the sands and the desert take me, he thought.

He must have drifted off once again because the next time he became conscious the moon was full and overhead adding its light, creating an eerie landscape bathed in shadow and soft light. Again, that subtle smell of water – tempting, out of reach, where was it coming from? He slowly pushed himself up off the sand, stood up and immediately fell back down. He began to laugh hysterically, and found that once again he was lying on his back staring up at the moon and stars. Have to be more careful – didn’t think about being dizzy.

More careful this time, he stood back up and leaned against an embankment that was close by, waiting for his head to clear and to get his balance back. Once this was accomplished he began a slow methodical search for the source of the smell. But it eluded him as it continued to drift on the night breezes. A few times he thought he had to be close only to lose the scent once again. He could feel anger rising in him and the unfairness of the water to remain out of his reach, and then realized that the anger wasn’t helping. With his clouded mind he was having difficulty remaining on task, but knew if he didn’t it would be over, done, and like his village, he would be no more.

After what seemed to be half the night he had finally narrowed his search area down but had yet to locate the water. The smell was tantalizingly strong but still remained out of reach. Eventually he could hear what he thought was running water, but immediately doubted it. After all, this is a desert; there shouldn’t be running water here, right? Honestly he knew next to nothing about deserts so he really had no idea if water ran in the desert. In the uncertain light of the full moon he tripped over a large rock that was hidden in the shadows, fell hard, hit his head, and was unconscious once again.

When he climbed back into consciousness dawn was breaking, and before him at eye level was a raised portion of a rock layer. It sat above the sands and was probably only a couple of inches wide. It was here that he could both hear the running water, and smell it. Turning his head and trying to peer into the space he found it too dark to do so. Looking at the layer of rock he could see that it was slowly rising in height as it turned around a corner and went out of sight. He also noticed that the ravine that he was presently in began to run downhill and continued, like that rock layer, out of sight.

Crawling and following the ever-widening crack around the corner – it remained much too small to be able to climb into – he felt his frustration grow. Then the ravine suddenly dropped off. He slid up to the edge, looked over and down and saw that it was a little further straight down than his own height. Carefully he lowered himself over the edge, hanging by his fingertips, finally letting go, had a rock roll under his foot, and as he slid further down the ravine he began losing some skin off his arms and hands in the process, which burned. This was followed by his sitting down hard with a feeling that he had just bruised his tailbone. With the rattling of falling sand and stone he ducked and protected his head but none of the debris hit him. Well, if it had, not hard anyway.

Looking to his right, with the sun just about to rise, providing plenty of light to see, he noticed a large crack running parallel to the drop off that he had just descended, and it appeared to be wide enough that he could squeeze through. Although he had no idea if it ran very far into the hillside, was a dead-end, or whether it was just another false direction. He found the floor of the wash or ravine at this point was solid rock with loose debris making it a slippery dangerous surface. He had to be extra careful. Leaning against the rock wall he turned sideways and pushed into the crack, found himself wedged for a moment, let out his breath, making himself thinner, and pushed into the darkness and stopped.

He crouched down and pulled in the pack that he had removed before attempting to slip into the crack. When he crouched down it let in more light, and as his eyes adjusted, he opened the pack, grabbed a candle out of one of the emergency packs, lit it, and looked around. One of the first things that made itself known was the fact that right in front of him appeared to be a large drop off. How far it went down, or how dangerous it was he didn’t know. Had he continued he would have found out the hard way. Taking a deep breath he noticed that it was cold. So much so that he involuntarily shivered. He saw that there was what appeared to be a slight trail that went back in the direction where he first smelled the water.

He was finding that his strength and reserves were gone and felt if he sat down now he would never get back up. Carefully and using his will alone he worked his way back, now inside the mountain, or hill, or whatever. The sound of the running water was becoming stronger as was the smell. It pushed him onward. Then rounding another corner, and in the shadows, there before him was a large pool of water. He couldn’t believe his eyes. After all the mirages and illusions he wasn’t sure it this was real or not. So with care he approached the small tank, felt the air cooling further, leaned down and touched the surface of the liquid and was rewarded with the feeling of wetness and seeing ripples run across the surface – it’s real!

* * *

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the desert, it is a place of stark beauty, and a land that is unforgiving. Make a mistake here and it could easily mean your life is forfeit. As large an area as deserts normally encompass, it is the location of water that determines one’s way through. And thusly it changes the size. We in our modern world drive along our freeways and roadways never thinking about the dangers that are truly there. But even now people still perish here. Next week we move on to part 6 of the story. May it be a great week, and I hope to see you here next Saturday when, And The Will Rise, will continue.  God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Published in: on December 6, 2014 at 7:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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And the Sun Will Rise – Part 4

Thanksgiving week, and I hope that all who have participated in the holiday enjoyed their time together with friends and family. We traveled to our daughter’s home and enjoyed a great day of fellowship and family. Of course, as always, had too much food, and dessert, which led to a food coma. We always vow that we will eat less the following year, but somehow the temptations are too great. And at the end of the day we left to return home, warmed by the home, the food, the companionship, and family. It is a small respite from the daily grind, and the storms of life.

This week is part 4 of the short story – And the Sun Will Rise, and we’ve left Jay with his discovery, and the realization of what he faces. Now what? Everything he has ever known is gone. Nothing in his life has prepared him for this discovery. Yet, he can either give in to what has been found, or survive. Many of us face natural disasters that take lives and destroy property. At the time leading up to the event we never thought it could happen, or if it did happen then we would have some kind of control over the situation. Yet when it does happen, we find it not so. It is during these times that we learn who we are and what we are made of. It can be humbling as we realize how little influence we truly have over the events that are taking place around us. While what has transpired with Jay is greater, still those of us who have survived nature at her fury can understand. If you are picking up this short story for the first time, I suggest that you go to the sidebar under November 2014 or to my webpage (fdbrant.com) where you can click on the links, and read the story from the beginning. And here for your reading pleasure is: And the Sun Will Rise – Part 4.

He remembered the storage place where a large number of emergency packs were stored, and he wasn’t far from where they were stashed. If he was lucky the cache hadn’t been discovered and looted, and he could resupply from there. He felt that he would need to take as much as he could pack, since he hadn’t a clue how long it would be before he would have a chance to resupply, or hunt, or whatever. So he went down the wall from the entrance – just a few steps really – since these emergency kits had to be reached quickly, if they were needed, and felt relief when the supplies, or at least the hidden entrance to the supplies, seemed untouched.

He pushed back the vegetation that covered the entrance, pulled open the large door, and climbed down the ladder into the cellar that lay beneath the wall that surrounded the village. It wasn’t a large space, and he knew that there was a similar one on the other side of the town. But as far as the location of that one he was unfamiliar. He had assisted in supplying this one and inspecting the kits to be sure that they were in good condition. In fact it had only been in the recent past that he finished one of those inspections so he knew what was here.

It was dark inside, yet with his intimate knowledge of the layout of this place, and where everything was located, he felt he didn’t need a light. Besides, the space wasn’t very large, and it would be easy to grab and go. With some speed he stuffed his pack as full as he could and began to leave when he remembered that there were a few weapons stored here also. He turned to the opposite corner and felt around until he located a bow, a quiver of arrows, replacement strings, and a few more of the knives. He really didn’t know what he needed since he had never been a warrior. Still everybody had at least had some basic training in the uses since they needed to hunt to supplement their food supplies.

Once he emerged from the hidden cellar he carefully closed it back up and re-covered it with the vegetation hoping that it would be overlooked, if the raiders returned to continue to strip the remains of the village. If it remained hidden then sometime in the future he possibly could return and grab some additional kits. The next thing he noticed was the sun was beginning to set. Where had the time gone? It couldn’t have taken that long to do what he had done? Yet the sun didn’t lie. It moved across the sky in its leisurely fashion each and every day, setting at the end of the day, and rising at the beginning of the next. Yeah, he thought, and the sun will rise. Well, if he didn’t get moving it might not rise for him.

He immediately headed out of the broken gate and retraced part of his route that he had taken the day before. Had it only been a couple of days ago, he thought, when I headed out this same gate to begin my big adventure? For him, with all that had transpired, it felt more like a lifetime. In that short time he went from a member of a family to being an orphan and none of it was his doing. He knew of a hidden area that wasn’t too far away – a place where he had played as a child. Yeah, as one, this place seemed magical and hidden, but now as a youngling and about to become a ‘dult, he knew better. Still it provided some protection, was out of the way, and was a place where one wouldn’t generally search for someone.

And before he knew it he was there. Slipping through the vegetation that blocked the small trail he worked his way among the boulders, and then inside. Sometime in the past the water had undermined these large rocks creating voids that as a child he and others had considered caves. It was here, when time was allowed for play, that they would have great adventures. Thinking of this brought a smile to him, although it was a sad one. He knew that none of the other children, no other younglings from his village would ever have adventures here again. Most likely he would be the last to spend time here in these hidden places. If one didn’t know they were here, and because of where they were located, no one would even be curious enough to see what could be here. So for now it was his refuge.

He could feel the emotions begin to overwhelm him again, and at first he fought it, but eventually, in misery, gave into them, and once again cried deep body wrenching sobs that further exhausted him. Despair rode high and he had no plans, no ideas as to what to do, where to go, or how to really survive. He had only faced the normal everyday problems someone his age always faced. Nothing had prepared him for what he was now facing. So once his crying subsided he sat there in one of those hollows not moving, feeling drained – spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Even though he didn’t feel that it was possible somewhere during this time he fell into a deep troubled sleep having nightmares and bad dreams from which he could not wake. He was chased, in those dreams, all night long, by unseen demons, and armies of horrible creatures. And however it happened, he somehow had been able to stay just out of their reach. Finally it was the chill of the dawn that brought him out of these dreams and back into the waking world. He found that he was still sitting upright, propped between a couple of those boulders. He found his clothes soaked in sweat, and he felt that he hadn’t slept at all. It was then, as he remained in the twilight between waking and sleeping that he thought he heard voices.

Oh if only everything I’ve experienced could be a bad dream. If it was, then he had to be in his camp near the top of the mountains. But if he was hearing voices, he couldn’t be there, and everything he saw, everything he remembered truly had happened. In the semi-darkness he reached for his pack and found it stuffed with the emergency kits and knew that it all had transpired, and everybody he had ever known was probably dead. So where were those voices coming from? And if there were voices that meant someone was in the area. And from the sound it sounded like many which could only mean the raiders were back. Had he stayed in the village another night instead of retreating to where he was, then he would have been discovered, and he suspected after that nothing else would have mattered. Now what?

He had to get away from here. Yes he probably could stay where he was for a while, but it wasn’t safe, and it wasn’t a place where one would want to stay. It was to be temporary while he figured out what he wanted to do. Well, with the return of the raiders, if that’s who they were, he’d have to leave and get as far away as he could. But he knew that he couldn’t leave in the daylight. He wasn’t the best at moving quietly, or flowing through the wilderness, and remain unseen. He would have to wait out this new day, and again those words from his uncle came unbidden into his mind, “and the sun will rise”, and it meant he had a full day to wait them out.

He knew that it would be an uncomfortable one, since where he was never was meant for someone his size. When small one could scamper through the small voids with ease, but now it had been a tight squeeze just to get inside. He hoped that whoever he heard wouldn’t go out of their way looking for survivors. He hadn’t fully thought about it when he made his way here, and because of his mindset he hadn’t considered the tracks that he would leave, and didn’t know if he had left any. In a way, the direction he came went along a well-traveled route, which had both gravel and hard packed soil. So there was a good chance that he left no sign of his passing, but could he be sure? The simple answer was no, but he couldn’t leave now and correct this error. All he could do was hope that he hadn’t left a trail.

He waited out an uncomfortable day hearing, many times, voices getting stronger as the raiders moved up and down the trail outside the wall. Fortunately none of them seemed interested in looking in his direction, and at no point could he discern how many, but it seemed to him to be a large group. He could hear the cursing when someone burned themselves on something that was still hot, and the laughter from others as they would rub it in. Eventually, and he didn’t know how or why, he dozed and awoke with a start a several times. During the times when he wasn’t frozen with fear, when the voices were near, or when he dozed, he wondered where they had come from. It was his guess, since they hadn’t come by him from the mountain side that they must have come out of the desert. But that seemed impossible. There was nothing out there to support anything. Well, that was the belief anyway.

With those thoughts he guessed that most likely, they only swung into the desert to locate hidden villages that would be using the desert as protection. And from the desert it would be easy for the raiders to locate these villages, which would stand out against the backdrop of the mountains. And once located determine the best time to attack and do what they wanted. With them running around the area of his village he felt that once it became dark he would have to retreat into that desert himself – that very dangerous desert where the rumors said that no one survived. It truly was his only chance for escape. And by doing this by night he felt that he would have a greater chance to survive. But, if he wanted to be honest, he really knew nothing about living in the desert at all.

After a long day, and with the night approaching, he made his decision. Soon he would work his way away around the village and head out into the desert and to his destiny . . .

And the short story continues on into December. In truth it does qualify as a short story since its length isn’t great enough to qualify as a novela. December, the last month of the year, and a sign that 2014 is coming to an end. For me the years move much too fast, and the end reached much too quickly. And it is the month that marks the beginning of winter, not that we haven’t been feeling the results of what seems to be winter already. Still it is a time that we look forward, nostalgicly, to the traditional celebration of the birth of Christ. A time where God answered his promises. Have a great week, and I hope to see you here Saturday for part 5 of, And the Sun Will Rise. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Published in: on November 29, 2014 at 7:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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And the Sun Will Rise – Part 3

The short story continues this week as Jay has awakened from a less than restful night. For all of us, unless we are the very lucky few, sleeping in other than our own beds makes for bad nights until we get used to the different sounds, the firmness of that bed, the feel of the room, and the differences that seem to creep into our subconscious warning us that something isn’t right. Still it becomes worse when we find ourselves sleeping on the ground. No matter how hard we try there always seems to be that one rock or pebble we missed which continues to dig into our ribs throughout the night. So how do you feel the next morning? Maybe like it would be nice to go back to bed?

So, when it speaks of a less than restful night we all can picture it. And I guess in a way that’s where the writer who is good at the craft will present, in the fewest words possible, the scene in such a way that we can personally relate, feel empathy for the character, and maybe understand who they are a little more. Still, in the stories that we read we are generally looking for more than just the ordinary, unless there is something special hidden there. We face the ordinary every day, and generally do not look for reminders in the fictional stories that we enjoy. Parts 1 and 2 can be found under the subheading in the right column under November 2014. And for your personal enjoyment is the next installment of: And the Sun Will Rise – Part 3.

Suddenly a heavy black cloud of smoke rolled in on him smelling the same as that day from the deep past. With that his mind was made up. The peak could wait. Something bad was happening and he needed to be there to head back. Quickly he packed, took out some of his travel rations and chewed on it as he carefully started his return trek. With the uncertain light he had to be sure of his footing, and because of this it was slow going causing impatience, worry, and dread to drive him.

Eventually he reached a point, as the skies lightened enough to see easily, and he, from his position, could overlook the valley where the town was hidden. It didn’t bring relief as it appeared that the whole town was burning, pouring out great clouds of that black smoke, which was climbing high into the sky in a dark column that was easily visible against the blue sky and the desert sands. Something horrible had happened and he wasn’t there to help. Why now?

Looking at the distance he still had to go he knew that there was no way that he could do much to help with what he was seeing. But maybe he could get back soon enough to do something – anything. And because that smoke was so heavy and visible he found that he was having difficulty concentrating on the trail. And as he continued to watch, he was feeling helpless at not being there, but stuck up here on the mountains. And it had taken him all day yesterday to reach the point where he had camped. At least going back down it should be faster. Still how much faster was the question for which he had no answer. It would be too easy to become careless, and if he injured himself, he would be useless to the village in its apparent time of greatest need. So he pushed as fast as he dared and watched as the rising of the sun continued to climb higher in the sky, the never-ending column of black smoke, and the trail, cursing the distance that still lay before him.

Eventually as the sun started to dip behind those peaks he was back on familiar ground and picked up his pace even though his muscles ached and his lungs burned from the exertion. As he came around that final corner to where he could see the guarded gate he stopped in his tracks with his mouth open. Before him was the gated entrance, only the gate was broken and barely hanging on its hinges. As he stared he saw something lying on the ground and as he cautiously approached saw it was the same guard that had passed him through this same gate the day before. When he looked closely he could see that his eyes were open staring sightless into the sky. At that moment he realized that this man was dead. It caused him to jump back for a moment. He had never seen a dead person before.

At this point with the shock of seeing this dead person he began to hear the roaring of the fire – the sounds of crackling and popping, and the overwhelming smells of burning buildings. He was almost afraid to go through the broken gate, beyond that wall, to witness what was on the other side. Yet, he couldn’t remain here either. The sun had set behind the mountain peaks and in the fading light the raging fire within those walls was becoming the dominant light.

Mentally preparing himself he tried to be ready for the worst that his mind said had to be there. And because he was young, his imagination was no match for what he found when he finally entered. Immediately he could see that most of the town was burning. A good portion no longer had the intensity of some of the other fires, speaking of having burned up what fuels was available. There were weird dancing shadows everywhere created by the raging conflagration that he saw before him. And everywhere he looked he saw bodies. Panicked now he ran towards his home, but found his way blocked by the intensity of the fires. Taking his time he worked his way around trying hard not to look at the dead.

Every once in a while, as he tried to find an alternate way to his home, the smoke would overwhelm him forcing him to his knees leaving him barely able to breathe. He found that he was choking and coughing heavily, with his eyes closed against the burning ash and smoke, causing his eyes to tear heavily as they tried to clear out the grit, and acrid smoke. And finally coming in from the opposite direction he found his home – well what was left of it anyway. It, as well as most of the homes that were close, were down to hot smoking coals and ashes. And where the front door would have been he saw his uncle lying dead face down. He sat down heavily not knowing what to do. Even though he didn’t want to admit it to himself, he knew that everyone he ever knew, all of his family, all of his friends, all of the townsfolk, and all of his plans, hopes, and dreams, were dead.

Tears were running down his face, and it wasn’t because of the wicked smoke. Normally he would have been ashamed of crying, but now he didn’t care. His body was wracked by the deep and heavy sobs that escaped his lips and he didn’t know how long he had remained in that position feeling the deep misery, the self-defeating blame, he put upon himself. Again, if he wanted to be honest, he knew that there would have been nothing he could have done to prevent this, or to survive this if he had been here. But his mind, his thoughts, continued to accuse him.

Where the night had gone he didn’t honestly know. But it was the heat of the day that brought him back to reality and when he looked up he could see that the sun was well on its way to the high point. He could remember Jon, the uncle that lie in death right here in front of him, always saying, “Bad things happen, and many times there is nothing anyone can do to prevent them or change the outcome. But the one thing one can always count on is, the sun will rise. And if that is so then one will find a way to go on.” He had to admit that the sun had risen on this day and his discovery of death and tragedy hadn’t changed this fact and presently this new day was almost half over. Although, if he wanted to admit it personally he really hadn’t noticed any of the passing time being so lost in his personal misery and what lay around him.

So much death . . . so much destruction – everything that he ever knew . . . gone, with no way to ever get it back – ever. Then panic set in when he suddenly realized that the ones who did this could return at any moment. And that brought other thoughts of why were they not still here? He stood up quickly and looked around in every direction. But with the heat waves created by the still burning fires, and the heavy black smoke it was impossible to see very far in any direction. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to do anything for the dead, and as far as he knew he was the only one who lived, but what to do? One thing for sure, he couldn’t remain here. So retracing his steps he returned to the broken gate that he had gone through two days before to begin his adventure.

Once there he hesitated. He had no plan, no idea where to go, had never been on one of the merchant runs, as they were called, had no idea how far away, or whether it was safe to make that trek, so he stopped frozen with indecision. One thing for sure his meager supplies that he had for his adventure wouldn’t last. He would need to prepare, and do it quickly, since the raiders could show up at any moment. And in his mind, he felt that it had to have been raiders. Still, the way he felt right now, maybe it would be for the better if he could join his family, his village, in death and be done with it. But if he did that there would be nobody to remember, nobody to seek revenge, nobody to speak for the dead, and he felt that somebody had to. And at this moment, as far as he knew, it could only be he himself. But what could one person do? Where did one go to find help, let alone seek revenge against the size of force that must have attacked this place? He had no answers, but if he remained here, then, in the end, it probably wouldn’t matter.

* * *

It seemed like yesterday and we were beginning this month of November. Yet, this short story started with that first Saturday, and this is the 3rd installment meaning that this month is moving along rapidly. We are only a couple of weeks away from the celebration of Thanksgiving, a holiday for giving thanks for what we’ve experienced over the past year, and knowing that the year is rapidly heading to its closing chapters. It happens much too fast. With the release of book 3 in the Survival series in the near future, I’ll be taking a break from this short story and posting an excerpt next week. It means that this short story will continue into December. Have a great week and I hope to see you here next Saturday. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

 

Published in: on November 15, 2014 at 8:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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And the Sun Will Rise – Part 2

It has been a busy week overall. The book, A Time of History Past is close to release. With all the editing complete it is now time to put all the small parts together so that it can be submitted, converted to the eBook format, and distributed. Yet there are many steps, after all the work on the manuscript is complete, before it is available. If all goes well, it will be out this month. I will announce the release date here in this blog, and of course, on my website. Add to this a major recovery of my wife’s computer. Her system ended up with a really nasty virus. It was an all day job bringing the system back. Keeping up-to-date backups are so critical. This was followed by my system being infected on Friday and the resulting work to clean it.

We left Jay leaving the village, heading out the gate, anticipating his planned adventure. So this week in part 2 we will follow him as he makes a few discoveries, ones that he didn’t expect but were welcome. If this story was published in a book of short stories it would be over 30 pages long. And again, if you are catching this short story for the first time I suggest you go to the sidebar on the right and read part 1 under the subtitle of November 2014. And now here is the next portion of, And the Sun Will Rise – Part 2.

Hours later, taking a break, he wiped the sweat off his brow, and looked out over the panorama that lay before him. What a view. It was as if he could see forever. He was partially surprised that there seemed to be a light haze hanging over the desert. Not only there, but from here the town lay within that haze making it virtually invisible – not that it would have been visible anyway. There were hills and such between him and his home now. Thinking about it he thought that it had to be mid-morning, and while he felt that he made good progress – he had stayed on the trails as he had been admonished, after all – looking up it seemed that those peaks were still far away. Although, in truth, he knew that it was an illusion. Well, I guess I’d better continue. Otherwise I’ll never make it to the top and really look out over this place. He honestly had never seen what the other side of these mountains looked like.

He found that the silence of this place was overwhelming. Even though he had considered the town a quiet place, there was always something going on, some noise, or some conversation. So, to be here where only the rustling of the brush, the sound of the wind through the trees, and nothing else, was a new experience. Heck, he could almost hear himself thinking. This brought out a laugh since he had been accused, much too often, of not thinking something through. And, if he really wanted to admit it, there was truth to that statement. But like so many of his age he would vehemently deny it, but know within himself that it was the truth.

* * *

The shadows were lengthening as the sun began to disappear behind those peaks he was trying to conquer. He really wasn’t too far from his goal, but the chill in the air, and those shadows were warning him that he had better find some shelter for the night. It really would be stupid to try to find a campsite in the dark. With reluctance he looked up at the distance he still had to go feeling the urge to just push through. But that was the foolishness of youth telling him to do so. And here there could be none of that foolishness, so with a sigh he began to search for a good campsite. After what seemed too long a time he found a rock face that provided a wall that he could use as a reflector for his small fire. The area was surrounded by numerous boulders partially hiding his camp from the rest of the world. And he had been told too many times that this was not only critical, but could mean the difference of him surviving the night.

The night crept in slowly and suddenly he realized that for the first time in his life he was alone. There was no one, just him and his small fire. With this realization he felt a brief chill, as the sensation ran up and down his spine, causing him to shrug his shoulders to shake it off. He could feel the goose bumps run up his neck and down his arms before disappearing. He hoped that he had enough wood for the night, but with his inexperience he had no way of knowing – truthfully this was the first time for any of this. Still the fire was comforting as well as warming. Picking a place between the fire and the rock wall he put down his sleep sack trying to remember to clear the area of all the rocks and small pebbles. Again he had been warned that without the standard bedding that each and every rock would be poking him throughout the night, and even with the padding that he had brought for that purpose it wouldn’t matter.

Again with it being so quiet he began to hear things creeping through the bushes, and when the winds came up, chilling him, and hiding those sounds, he felt his imagination running away with him. With his imagination doing this he began imagining all sorts of creatures and such that had to be watching him and his fire, waiting patiently for a time that they could come in and attack him. Even though he knew that all of this was just his imaginings, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t keep his mind from doing it. So he grabbed his long knife and small axe and kept them next to him as he ate his night meal he had cooked over his fire. Why did it seem, he thought, that the food cooked over an open fire appeared to taste so much better? Well, he had no answers.

While eating he stared out beyond the trees and saw a sky full of bright stars. So bright that he felt that he could almost reach out and touch them. In awe he stared at the raw beauty that surrounded him. Until this very moment he hadn’t realized that the lights, dim as they were, of the town didn’t allow one to see the stars as he did now. He wondered what other things he had missed because he lived in that village. Then one streaked across the sky disappearing somewhere in the distance. Wow, a falling star! He had forgotten about them. So he watched the skies more carefully trying to see more of them. But each time one would show he would catch it from his side vision, he always seemed to be looking away at the time it would arrive. Suddenly he awakened. He somehow had fallen asleep and looking around he could see his fire had burned down to ashes. Carefully he stood up, stretched, and added wood to his fire, placing a large log on it in such a way that it should last most of the night. He watched as the smaller sticks caught fire, and he guessed that it should remain burning most of the night. With that he climbed into his sleep sack feeling the comfort of the heat on his back from his fire and drifted off to sleep.

* * *

Jay awoke in the gray of dawn after a less than a restful night. He realized as he came out of a deep sleep that he smelled smoke. Through the fog of his mind he first panicked, which brought him fully awake. Then he smiled rather sheepishly, as he remembered that he had a campfire right next to where he was sleeping. So, of course he should be smelling smoke. It was then he realized that the odor wasn’t of wood burning from a campfire. He only remembered smelling this once before and he had been so much younger then. It was when the fire alarm had been rung in the square of their town. When this happened everyone was required to report and help suppress the fire. Being a child he hadn’t been let close, but remembered the house burning with flames coming out of the windows and huge clouds of black smoke rolling high into the sky.

As he wiped the sleep from his eyes, in his mind he re-lived that moment from his past. First, even with the distance that he was from that fire, he could feel the heat and it was unbelievably hot. Then the wind shifted blowing some of that evil smoke his way and as he breathed it in he began coughing immediately as it took his breath away. It smelled awful. It was nothing like the sweet smell of the smoke off the cooking fire, or those fires in the winter that heated the house. He realized that it burned his lungs leaving a rawness in his throat, and a raspiness to his voice. It had forced him to back away even further.

Now worried he stood up and looked down towards his town, the village, but knew that he really couldn’t see it. It was the only place that the smell could be coming from. In his hike to this point he had passed nothing that had been built. All that surrounded him was the natural world, so his conclusion was that something in the village was burning. Still, how did the smell get up here, he wondered. He was a long way away, and usually during the night the winds were going downhill not up. It would have had to been something pretty large to overcome the natural way of things. This pushed impatience upon him, and left him in a quandary. Should he head back and lose his only chance in the foreseeable future to climb this peak, or should he head back now?

* * *

So what is it that Jay is smelling? Is it really something bad, or could it be something else? For all of us, even if we are the type to go to a fortune-teller, the real future is unknown to us. And all of us have experienced those days where they have started out well, and have ended not so well. And until that bad showed up there wasn’t anything to indicate that the day would turn in the direction it did. Still, when the imagination runs wild, most times what is revealed, in the end, usually doesn’t happen.  Next week is part 3, and there we will see what kind of day Jay will be facing. Will it be okay, or will it be the opposite? Have a great week, and I hope to see you here next Saturday. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Published in: on November 8, 2014 at 8:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Nothing is Genre Specific

To continue from where I left off last week – I’m sure that there are unbelievers out there. Especially those critics who never considered Science Fiction literature.  To me this is pure snobbishness. We all have our favorites, and as authors we had better be writing within the genres of our personal favorites. So what do I mean when I say, Nothing is Genre Specific? It is simply that prose, the story, those words written on the page are just that. And whether we are looking at The Death World Trilogy by Harry Harrison, or The Great Gatsby, we need to look at what the story is about, and not necessarily the genre it is written in.

First off, most are on the human condition, whether it is covering an individual, or a civilization, or anything and everything in-between. And as I stated in an earlier post, if we were to take any story out there, any one whether it is a tragedy or a comedy, or all that lie between, it comes down to one word that describes it. This one word can be the descriptor period, and no others are needed or necessary. And this word is Survival. Why this word? Because when you really look at any story the protagonist or even the antagonist is trying to survive – period.

Before I create an example of where I’m going with this opinion, suggestion or idea, I want to qualify this by stating that when an action scene is created it should be at least 3 pages long. With the page length averaging 320 words per page means that we are looking at a minimum of 1000 words. So this paragraph, which ties to no story that I’ve written, but has happened in many stories, belongs nowhere. And because it is a fragment in time and space it can only give part of what actually could be happening. No back story, no direction or future from here after the event described below. I use this example and will demonstrate changes in genres by simply changing the window dressing, or certain words. So, you critics out there take this to heart, leave your pride behind you, and do what you are supposed to do. Look at the story and leave it at that.

He had been trailing the party, well not party, since he was the most recent recruit, joining this rag-tag army. And as such had been ordered to remain in the rear. He’d been riding his (steed, scooter, cycle, air speeder) and had some trouble which had caused him to fall further behind. Maybe it was providence that such had happened. They were high in the (mountains, lunar hills, Martian mountains, steppes) when the overwhelming surprise attack came without warning – their (armor, shields, flak vests, combat environmental suits) was (were) inadequate. He watched from hiding as the attackers used their (laser pistols, swords, bows, throwing sticks, small arms) to immediately overwhelm the small patrol. There was nothing he could have done other than die like the rest, and in a panic headed back down the (mountain trails, dirt road, pavement) trying to get away from that scene of death and destruction. With fear riding high he had no idea where he was going, and with thoughts of his loved ones flashing through his mind he wondered if he would ever see them again.

Not bad for an early or first draft. But as any writer will tell you it needs work. But that’s not the point, or what this is all about. And as you look at the enclosed words, and I’m sure that there are other places within this short paragraph where others could be added, each different word actually changes the era of the story. Not only that but location, conditions that surround the protagonist, and what may have been used in the ambush. The point is, simply stated, we end up with a number of different genres by simply changing a few words. This would have worked as a historical novel, one that dealt with the underground during the major wars, would have worked in medieval times, and definitely would be a candidate for science fiction.

Again, what has been pointed out to me as a writer, is conflict – it is what drives a story, the characters, the world. It is the engine that makes the story move. And no it doesn’t necessarily have to be physical as in the above example, since conflict deals with those mental arguments that all of us have with ourselves. The genres are the window dressing that creates the backdrop to those actions. Drop or change that window dressing and we change the genre – not the story. The story remains the same, the actors may be wearing different clothes or costumes but that doesn’t change the conflict, the clashes, the dilemmas that are presented throughout the narrative. Only the way of looking at the overall presentation changes the feel, the world, the system within that world. Changing those few words will and does change the genre.

Each genre adds its special color, flavor, or as I have been calling it, the window dressing to the story to make it its own. The atmosphere, the societies, the movement, and even the way the story flows are the differences. Yet, if you boil it down to the bare elements it is the written word inside of that window dressing that sucks us in, makes us want to keep turning those pages. And since all of us are drawn to particular genres because of who we are, there will always be such, and there is nothing wrong with that. It shows the differences between all of us, and at the same time similarities. Because once the story is stripped of that window dressing, it becomes universal lying across all genres and one to all.

* * *

And this is my view, my thoughts, my opinion on this subject. If I’ve explained it well enough then you as the reader should be able to see it too. So as you read your favorite author, your favorite genre, and are deeply immersed in the story, take a moment and consider that it is that well written prose that draws you ever deeper in and not necessarily that favorite genre. We’ve all picked up books and stories that we have anticipated as a good read only to be disappointed. Is the genre at fault or the author? Again I leave you to decide, since the answer is personal anyway. Have a great week and I hope to see you here next Saturday. (fdbrant.com)

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