Retribution: Anna begins

I’m going to try something new.

Something that scares the shit out of me.

I’m going to share with you a bit of the first chapter of my WIP.

Why?

Because it’s time to take another step outside my comfort zone.

Be kind.

Or don’t.

Here goes.

(Egads!  Hope I didn’t miss any typos…)

Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

Anna Malkin sat atop a dune of bleached sand on North Carolina’s outer bank, the wind whipping her fiery red hair around her head like a torrent of flames licking the night sky. She stared out across the wide expanse of the Atlantic clad only in a sleeveless gown of gauzy cotton, her feet bare. Goose bumps prickled her skin, but her senses had long since numbed to the bitter bite of the ocean air.

Dawn was breaking, the sun just beginning its slow ascent. It kissed the surface of the glistening water, casting a star burst glow along the horizon. It was a peaceful scene, serene in its simplicity. It was a sight that used to warm her heart and calm her soul. Now, as the blackness of night retreated into the light of day, the beauty and serenity were lost to Anna. All she knew, all she’d known for one hundred and two days , was the sound of the earthly hell brewing within the confines of her own mind.

Louder and louder it grew until it was all she heard, all she saw, all she felt.

One hundred and two days.

At times it seemed like a lifetime had passed, but on days like this when her fear bubbled and festered, and madness enveloped her mind, she felt as raw and desperate as the day she’d stumbled out of the desert, hanging to life by the thinnest of threads.

Anna had come to the North Carolina coast to find silence and solitude, to heal. Her body had, the swelling was gone, the bruises hardly noticeable. She walked without a limp now, and it was only a matter of time before she could grip a glass without it slipping through her fingers. Her mind proved harder to mend, the scars permanent. Images of the hell she endured at the hands of unmitigated evil were etched deep in her brain, they flashed in constant repetition before her eyes. The sound of her own screams echoed in her ears. It had begun as a soft whisper, an icy breath on the back of her neck but with each passing day, it grew. Now it encapsulated her, held her by the throat and threatened to swallow her whole.

Her family had gathered in a show of support, crowding into her mother’s sprawling Ocracoke Island beach house as if it were a joyous reunion. Her director had called with a message from the President. Even her old mentor had shown his war-weary face for a day or two. There was nothing they could do or say to ease Anna’s pain, her suffering going beyond their comprehension. They tried, she would give them that, but all they had to offer was food she refused to eat, and conversations she had no desire to engage. She felt their commiseration. It clouded their eyes and dripped from their tongues. They pitied her failing mind, her broken spirit, her shattered soul. She hated them for that.

Anna knew life as it had once been was over. She understood there was no going back, yet she couldn’t bear the thought of another day trapped inside her mental prison. There was only one way out, and she accepted her fate with open arms.

She rose to her feet and stumbled through the powdery sand propelled by an unseen force toward the rising sun. It beckoned to her, the promise of blessed release and absolution drifting in on the cold sweet wind. It held her transfixed, as alluring as the intoxicating song of a siren.

Anna waded into the frothy surf, the buzz in her head growing with every step. Violent waves broke over her as she fought through the swirling current. At the place where shallow sand dropped into the endless abyss, she paused, staring directly into the blinding light of the sun.

And she surrendered.

The water took her, engulfing her, dragging her down into the dark depths, and for the first time in one hundred and two days she experienced unfettered freedom. Peace. Anna lifted her face up, and watched the reflection of the sun dance across the surface overhead. Overwhelming reverence surged through her, and she felt closer to God than she had even been.

She blew the last of the air from her lung, and water filled her mouth, its weight crushing her chest. Within seconds her vision blurred and the infernal noise that had plagued her for weeks and weeks receded into the background and slowly faded into silence. She closed her eyes and welcomed the blackness.

It was over.

She was finally free.

Her neck jerked back then, shattering her new-found peace. Something had her by the hair, hauling her up with a speed and agility she was powerless to resist. Her head broke the surface. She gasped as water and air fought a battle within her lungs. Anna tried to twist around, tried to see who or what had taken hold of her. The grip on her hair loosened, but just enough for a strong arm to encircle her neck and drag her back to shore. It wasn’t until she lay in a heap on the sand shivering and coughing the last of the water from her lungs did she look into the clear green eyes of the man who had ruined her only chance for freedom.

A man she knew she could never forgive.

© 2013 Peggy Isaacs.  All rights reserved.

Just Write: When ideas strike

Every Thursday my writing group meets at our favorite coffee shop.  We crowd around little round tables, in wooden, straight back chairs and shoot the stink eye at the losers taking up space in the comfy chairs – our comfy chairs.

Okay, maybe that last bit is just me.  Damn you knitters and internet daters!

We sip our poison of choice, nibble on something that is not at all diet-friendly, and commiserate.  We complain about our process or lack thereof, offer encouragement to those feeling disparaged, and argue over such things as alternating points of view and plot twists.  Thursdays are my favorite day of the week.

A few weeks ago, one of our members mentioned that the piece she brought for critique was inspired by a dream.  This sparked a lively conversation about how dreams influence a writer’s work and the best way to capture these little fragments of inspiration, in the dead of night.  I sat quietly as the group debated the benefits of a bedside notebook versus a mini voice recorder.  This is a conversation I’ve heard before.  Indeed, the first time was in Patricia Burroughs’ Basic Novel Writing class five years ago.   As I did in class, I listened with a sense of wonder, a lot of confusion, and a dash of self-doubt.

I have never been influenced creatively by a dream.  Ever.

I rarely remember my dreams and when I do it’s usually because I’ve done some mentally exhausting activity right before bed and my mind is unable to let it go.  When I was in the homestretch of a hellish four semester math marathon, I frequently found myself solving quadratic equations or finding an inverse in my sleep.  Last semester, I had a night of fitful sleep after I made the mistake of studying the Reformation and the Renaissance together, right before bed.  It was a weird, yet interesting dream, but not worthy of an earth shattering storyline – well unless I was working as a consultant on the new Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure movie.

Eek.  I shudder at the thought.

The conversation at the coffee shop started the gears in my brain turning and once again I began to question my ability.  Is there something wrong with me?  Is this something I need to be worried about; something I need to work on?  Then, Agatha Christie whispered in my ear:

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”

Vindication!

I don’t plan a book, or a scene, or a blog entry while doing the dishes.  It’s not my chore anymore, but I do find that I am the most creative in two places:  the shower and the gym.  When an idea strikes, I am either soaking wet and naked or in the middle of a workout without my trusty notebook close at hand.  Unfortunately, my memory is shit, and even more so if I am having one of those over-stimulated days.  I’ve lost some pretty brilliant stuff that way.

Get your mind out of the gutter – not that kind of over-stimulated.

I’ve been chugging away on my novel.  I’ve set a weekly goal for myself, and so far so good.  Because of this, my story is on my mind a lot.  I’ve been slowly working through some early plot problems and character development.  Things are taking shape, but I’m not all that far into it.  Maybe a little more than one-third is down on paper.

So, Monday afternoon, I was trucking along on the elliptical, sweating like a pig, silently seething because not a single television in my direct line of sight was tuned to anything worth a damn.  I guess I could have gone to the perky little girl behind the desk but…oh wait…what was I talking about…squirrel.

I was plugged into my digital music library, listening to one of my favorite live albums by The Police – only the greatest band ever.  Don’t judge me.  The song King of Pain began to play.  It’s one of my favorites, especially when performed live, and it never fails to effect me emotionally.  So, I suppose it’s not too surprising that it was during this song that the little idea troll in my brain decided it was the right time to reach out and give me a good slap to the back of the head (Gibbs style for all you NCIS fans).

Bam! I had a vision.  It was as clear as if the scene was unfolding right in front of me, between the row of elliptical machines and the recumbent stationary bikes.  A catalyst scene – a point in the story where one character does irreparable harm to another – and one I’ve not spared one thought beyond a few scribbles in the margin of my rough outline.  But suddenly there it was, a vivid picture in my mind’s eye, the echo of their dialogue reverberating through me, their tension palpable.  All of it just begging to be written, to be cast out of my head, and down onto paper.

Who am I to argue with such clarity?

I spent a good half an hour hunched on a bench, in the gym locker room, surrounded by women with no sense of modesty, scribbling away in my notebook.  I couldn’t chance it getting away.  It was too powerful.  Too real.

Of course, I spent the better part of my evening trying to decipher my chicken scratch so that I could incorporate this new, pivotal scene into the work in progress.

I suppose the point of my nonsensical rambling is that there is nothing wrong with me.  At least, not where this is concerned.  Everyone is inspired and struck by ideas in different ways, be it in a dream during the dead of night, or in a vision at the gym while listen to The Police.  We are merely slaves to its creation.

Yeah, I still don’t see the correlation between King of Pain and my scene, but again, who am I to argue.