This is the last in my teasers that focus on beginnings of novels. After this, I guess I’ll actually have to start writing again. Le sigh.
This is the intro to the novel that is my current WIP (work-in-progress, for those not in the know): KINGDOMS OF GOOD AND EVIL.
Now, it’s not the novel I’m currently working on – that would be GOD’S TEETH – but it’s my WIP because there’s no complete draft, whereas with GOD’S TEETH I’m in the midst of revision, fine-tuning, providing all the detail that got left out in my first (and second) mad dash through the plot.
The idea for KINGDOMS OF GOOD AND EVIL came through a relatively elaborate dream, though it now only has a half-sibling resemblance to the inspiration. The story is a fantasy that takes place in an alternate world that the main character is drawn into, but it’s also a murder mystery.
A murder mystery in theory, that is. As with most of my writing, I’m not really sure where I’m going. Strike that. I’m pretty sure what I’m going, just not how I’m going to get there or what’s going to happen along the way (some of which, naturally, may change the ultimate destination).
Every time I start writing something new, I like to challenge myself. With this novel, I wanted to try a first-person POV that also had a sense of distance. What I’ve ended up with so far is a voice like that of Corwin in Roger Zelazny’s Amber novels. There’s a story being told (or, in my case, written) and that future self comments on the past, but for the most part lets the past exist as the reader’s present. In part, I believe that’s because Corwin (and my character) are using the telling to better understand their own story, even as they explain it to another.
And on that note, here’s my opening explanation.
They loaded his body into the grave.
The grave took his body like a child swallowing a candy.
All around me women were crying and men wore their most convincing expression of sorrow, some even managing to eke out a few tears. The grave guards fed rope through their hands until the rope slackened and piled at their feet, the tightly-bound body now resting fully in the ground.
Through the open doors of the crypt dirty sunlight washed the floor. The clouds I’d noticed on the way to the Precinct of the Dead must be drifting away in the wind. Light that color was the promise of clear skies or rain, and no way to tell without going out and seeing for myself, but there was no chance of breaking away from this funeral. On either side of me were large men, body guards just as the corpse had grave guards – had, since he no longer needed them – and they were interested in protecting my body regardless of what the mind inside thought.
It had only been a few days since I, well, appeared here. I had no better way to describe it, and no one was in a mood to explain it, at the moment. A man had just died. An important man. A great man.
A man, they told me, who was me in every way, except that he was dead and I was alive.
Now, in the interim between appearing here, wherever here was, and appearing at this funeral, I had learned a few things. One, I looked nothing like that man they’d just lowered into the grave. Nothing at all. He was old, for one thing, and overweight, dark-haired, and utterly unattractive. Two, I had no idea where I was, but it certainly wasn’t the world I knew.
And that was it, the extent of what I’d learned. It’s not that I hadn’t been observant, because I had been. I took note of everything I came into contact with, every conversation, every view of the landscape. But I had been restricted to one area, daily visited by one terse woman, and the windows were placed so high on the walls I could only see the sky, leaving me with a beautiful blue view, but one that told me nothing.
My name is Alex. My full name is Aleksandr Dariusz Woznów. Why this matters at this moment, I’m not sure, because anyone who finds this is likely to know nothing of my world, and at least half of what they’ll find in these pages will be gibberish. Suffice it to say that I was familiar with not being familiar before I arrived here. My parents were Polish immigrants and I, well, I certainly wasn’t Polish, except according to my passport, but I wasn’t American either. I apologize if these names mean nothing to you. Imagine, instead, that I’m using Satrian and Appian. Can you imagine someone being both? I know you can’t, not yet, but try. That is the state I’m used to.
But enough history for now. This story starts with a burial, and the reason it starts with a burial is that, until that moment, I was no more real to those around me – those who had fed me, clothed me, watched me like a hawk – until that body was in that grave, and the stone lid was pushed into place above it.