Prologue


If anyone remembers my NaNoWriMo post, I was participating in it to try and write a novel. That novel breathes yet, and is beginning to develop some semblance of a story.

It’s tentatively titled “Kid and the Archipelago”. Here is the first draft of the prologue. Remember, that writing is rewriting, so try not to judge me too harshly… actually, please do. I need all the feedback I can get.

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Prologue: Oracle

The smoke was born, of a pair of old, barky lips. It splashed into the dark air, the joy of freedom carrying it just under the ceiling, where it paused to get its bearings. A slight draft sent it ambling through the room, moving through the darkness with a purpose reminiscent of a man in a crowd.

It coiled around a standing lamp, taking a second to bask in its warm, cozy light, then filtered through a doily before settling in the eye sockets of an old skull, taking care not to split itself on its horns.

There it wafted gently in retirement, and died slowly, as if comforted by the pair of ancient eyes keeping it company from across the room. Eyes that had seen the death of wills, the death of dreams, the death of loves, the death of history, the death of confidences and the death of secrets, sometimes all on the same day.

Eyes to whom the brief half-life of smoke should have meant little, but which flattered it with attention none the less.

The Oracle’s lips parted and fresh smoke billowed forth with new life. She was not thinking of death. What she was thinking would fill several tomes and quite probably a lifelong magazine subscription, and not the kind which served as coffee table ornament but the kind which one leafed through carefully, and then dismissed as fiction with an inexplicable shudder and a furtive glance at the shadows to make sure they were still the same shape they were before.

The woman gazed, eyes glazed, hair hazy with smoke, into the quietly flickering flame of her fireplace, and navigated the maze of her mind. She was possessed of the sort of peace that spoke not of one stress-less but one who had, over the course of long years, constructed a waiting room for her problems, where they were forced to sit in gray chairs watching the news, and would come in one by one, and only by appointment.

She did this often. Sitting in a den of doilies and chimes and Native American blankets, in a rocking chair by the fire – more for the atmosphere than warmth at this time of year – thinking. Sometimes she shook her head sadly, sometimes she made a mocking noise, halfway between a laugh and a cough.

Tonight, the Oracle’s thoughts weighed down more than any previous night. She could be accused of knowing more than most. Tired of thinking, she waited for the fire to dim and when it did, she picked up her gnarled walking stick and made her way across her darkened living room. Her walls were hung with ornaments and paintings, now made invisible by the dark. The Oracle moved with the speed and unstoppability of a glacier, until she reached the open sliding door, and came out onto a prim back deck and into a warm night.

Dark, halogen suburbia framed her home and stretched to the left and right. A rolling plain of neatly-trimmed lawn sloped away from the back of her house and into the darksome horizon of woods that separated earth and sky not a great distance away.

She said hi to the moon, silently thankful for a clear sky, and made her way among dully gleaming patio furniture to an aged construction of wood and interwoven twine, trailing beads and feathers, that hung by a thread at the edge of the deck.

It was her nightly routine; better than TV and certainly better than sitting by the fire chewing regurgitated thoughts.

The Oracle blew gently at the creaking dreamcatcher and appraised it like one does a musical instrument. She leaned forward and tightened a string here or there gingerly, and, with a slight grunt of satisfaction, she drifted back from it until the moon fit in the centermost ring in the twine spiderweb.

She cursed quietly when she realized she’d left her pipe inside. The glacier melted into a river as the old woman scrambled inside to find it. A quick glance at a clock reinforced her fears. It would start soon.

She grabbed the pipe and heard a noise like a fly hitting a spiderweb. In a flurry of white hair and patterned blanket she was outside, and took her seat, glancing at the dreamcatcher while simultaneously trying to refill her pipe. Her hands stopped, riveted by what she saw.

It is said dreams travel. It is said quietly, in dark rooms, by candlelight, so that those not smart enough to figure it out are left to their own devices until they do. Dreams are infectious, the most powerful ones outliving their dreamers, sometimes by centuries. They often leak all around the place, draining through other unsuspecting minds like rainwater. Sometimes, they are even caught in a wind or stuck against someone’s hat and traveling millions of miles before alighting and nesting in a stranger.

One can observe them with a proper dreamcatcher. The ones in gift shops and trendy stores are to a real dreamcatcher what a stuffed teddy bear is to a grizzly. But find a real one, and if you know how to tune it, and tune in to it, it lives up to its name.

The Oracle shook herself and filled her pipe, lighting it with a spark and breathing deep, releasing a cloud of silvery smoke that caught the moonlight and flowed through it to the dreamcatcher like water. As it filtered through, tiny wisplights flickered into being, buzzing tinny against the twine, making the feathers shake slightly.

Most of the wisplights were local – familiar to the old woman now tugging shakily at her pipe – she recognized the shapes of the minds that bore them like a farmer recognizes his horses. One, however, was new.

Creaking, the Oracle stood up and approached the dreamcatcher, picking it off the web, and tilted her head back with a crackle of bones. She placed the dream stiffly on her forehead and closed her eyes, gently drifting back into her chair. It began to run down her forehead like water, and the light guttered, dimmed, and died as it melted into her skull.

She slept.

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