I'm trying to set up a few book signings and have been working on publicity. I'm also talking to a few bookstores, so things have been really busy.
I am working on a sequel to the book, but I have a few short stories in the works that I want to get back to soon. Here's the first chapter of something I was working on before getting so sidetracked. Thoughts?
The Fallow Side of the Bright Red Sun
Mari walked from the farmhouse toward the old truck tire that stood standing sentry, suspended from a heavily frayed rope. It was a strangely still day, and except for the occasional flick of a ragged cow’s tail to chase off a nagging horsefly, the animals were quiet. The air could be seen rising like watery ripples from the ground, but of course, there was no water, there hadn’t been any for weeks and there was none forecast.
She headed toward the tire swing, sat atop it, hung her knees over the worn rubber treads and flipped her body upside down. Her hair fell forward off her neck, cooling her for a moment. Mari stared past her feet looking towards the
sky for some minutes. Finding nothing of interest, she focused inward. Yesterday she was a misplaced princess, rescued from this most wretched place. She was whisked away on horseback to govern a small country that was surrounded by deep blue oceans and brightly colored people. She wore gowns of pure silk while holding an impossibly overstuffed Persian cat and ate juicy pineapples and warmed figs. Wyoming
Mari was prone to fantasy.
Other times she had visions of her mother, running, arms outstretched ready to embrace her. The soft rosewood fragrance that was so much a part of Vidonia would drift through Mari’s senses. She would rest her head against her mothers’ breast, look into her eyes and for a moment, right before Vidonia went to a glittering red shimmer, Mari would remember that she once was loved.
Today she was a dark native huntress in a faraway rainforest. Lush wide leaves hung heavy from tall trees straining to gain a foothold of light in the dense undergrowth. She was stalking a leopard that was terrorizing local villagers- it had already killed three men. Mari ran sleekly, her leather clad feet navigating thick roots, her body twisting and turning, keeping pace with the man eater, finally gaining as he was beginning to tire. He met his match in Mari, his nostrils were flaring and she caught the scent of his fear, harsher, saltier, more vivid set against the damp and earthy smells that were the jungle.
She was pushing to defeat him when she was distracted. It was a mere second, just a glimpse caught from the corner of an eye, but enough to bring her to a halt for it was alien in this world she had created. Her mind stopped running - the bright green and browns of the jungle faded, the calls of toucans and orangutans in the trees quieted and she was transported back to her familiar bleak and crackled landscape. She sucked in the dry air while transitioning back to reality and saw the shoe that had distracted her. A wing tip? She thought it might be, although she had only read of them in books. It was attached to a body. Still upside down, she took note of the grey wool pants that were neatly cuffed and creased and her first thought was not fear, but astonishment that anyone would wear such heavy clothing in this stifling heat. She pulled herself up and slid off the tire swing.
“Oh!” she said as she took in the extraordinary height of the man standing before her. “Can I help you?”
The man tipped his hat to her and said “Allow me to introduce myself.” He had light orange hair and pale skin, but it was his eyes that held her captive. Green, amber and purple, the colors were moving, swirling about one another in a mesmerizing dance. She did not break free of the gaze until he spoke again, “Your mother is calling.”
Mari startled. “I’m sorry, but my mother can’t be calling. She disappeared.”
The man smiled a thin wide smile that displayed two uneven rows of impossibly white teeth. Mari noted that his hair was perfectly combed and he did not seem to be uncomfortable at all in the heat which was incongruous as he was wearing a wool jacket to match the pants. The ensemble was completed by a striped ascot. “Aren’t you hot?” asked the girl.
“No, not hot. Not cold either. Just right I would say, but that is not of consequence. Your mother is calling.”
“I told you…she can’t, she disappeared”
The stranger reached with his hand to cup his ear and leaned on one leg far to the right, listening intently. Mari watched him carefully, expecting him to fall at such an angle while she also strained hard for the sound of anything other than the drone of a passing horsefly.
“No, only misplaced.” He continued, “If she was really gone she couldn’t be calling you!”
Frustrated, Mari fell back into her native Portuguese. “Onde esta entao?” Where is she then?
“Maybe through the hedge”, he said pointing east. Mari turned and looked. She took in the fence, at the far side of the clearing. Rough hewn posts in the ground and three rows of rusty wire served as a place holder for the few miserable animals that were kept here. Beyond that there was nothing but miles of brown grass and dirt. She looked back to where he had been, but he was gone.
Mari began walking to where he had pointed and carefully negotiated her body through the uneven wire strands. She saw nothing. Irritated, she sat down on the hard packed dirt. Where had he come from she wondered? And where had he gone?
She pushed at the ground with her fingers, loosening up some of the dirt and created a little dry pile of dust while she considered her strange visitor. Had she been having one of her “daydreams? Mari had never mistaken fantasy for reality before and the thought concerned her. She loved her little escapes, but she knew intuitively that she couldn’t confuse them. Her fingers slowly picked out a small trench, hard granules of dirt pushing under her nails. Grey, everything here was grey and dreary.
She spit on her hands and rubbed them together in an attempt to clean off.
She couldn’t spew enough moisture to do much except make a small smear on her palms. It was hot, her body was effectively using what liquid it had to keep her cool and hydrated. She spit again while employing a small stick she found nearby to remove the dirt under her nails but wasn’t very successful. She stood up, wiped her hands on her pants began to walk back to the farmhouse.
His tall form was leaning against the worn railing of the fence. His orange hair was mobbing side to side and an audible “tsk tsk” came from him.
“What!” she snapped, irritated, not understanding. “What do you want me to do? I don’t see her, I don’t know where she is.”
His fingers were tall, knobby, pointed. They reached like pincers, daddy long leg style into his top pocket and pulled out a deck of cards. Red diamondbacks. He shuffled them with one hand, over and over, absentmindedly while he spoke. “Me? I don’t want anything. What do you want Mari? Do you want to see your mother? Do you want to go home?
He looked at her, the swirl in his eyes slowing, waiting.
Fanning the cards out in front of him he said, “Sometimes all you can do is play the hand you’re dealt.” He shuffled and let go of the cards. They hung suspended in the air, began to shimmer and then disappeared.
He raised his hand above his head and with a circular motion, brought it down to chest level. In his hand were seven cards, one wedged between each finger. He turned the first one over so she could see it.
“What do I do with this?” Mari asked, torn between looking at the card and counting his fingers as she spoke. “How do I proceed?”
Smiling, he took his right thumb and forefinger and plucked his hair up. He twisted and pulled at it, and as he did he grew taller and thinner, beginning to glow with a silver edged transparency. His voice become a high pitched tremolo as he laughed, a bizarre insane asylum sound that pierced Mari’s head. She began to panic as pain zigzagged behind her eyes, through her temples. She pressed her hands over her ears. He yanked again on his hair this time pulling it so hard it came out in one fuzzy orange handful. With that, his body snapped, rolling onto itself much as a window shade would. He disappeared with a crackling, the tail end of a lightening bolt sound and his hair vanished in little sparkly bursts before hitting the dirt. The cards hung suspended in the air until one twisted and turned, falling and landing face up, at Mari’s feet. The other six did the same until she had seven cards face up in a perfect pile. The first card the stranger had shown her was on the top.
It was only then that she realized they hadn’t been properly introduced