I’m getting ready for NaNoWriMo 2012.
Which means I won’t have a social life for a month. But that’s okay – anyone who knows me knows that I’m a boring old lady anyway
But seriously, this year I’ve decided to use NaNo as time to get the rewrites done on EarthWitch. I’ve been working on it anyway, but by dedicating 1500 words minimum every day to Da Novel, I should be able to get a large chunk of editing done. The goal is to get it editor-ready by the end of the year. Only taken me 7 years to get there but oh well – life has a habit of getting in the way.
I’ll be posting the book here. If you’ve read earlier versions of the novel, you’ll find that the new version has a lot that is quite different. Characters have changed, names and places are different, dialogue is actually interesting – that kind of stuff. So bear with me – I’ll try to make it a worthwhile read.
If you want to follow the book, you can either just visit the blog here (a good way of remaining one of my incognito readers, if that’s your style). Or you can “follow” with wordpress. Or you can subscribe with email. I’d kind of like people to let me know they’re reading, as feedback is always good – after all, the whole point of writing a book is to have it read!
Anyway, the first chapter will appear at this site on or around November 1. Subsequent chapters will appear daily. And if you want anything to read of mine in the meanwhile, you’ll find “Vortex”, which is last year’s NaNo novel, at this blog. It’s not particularly good, as it was written without any sort of a plan in mind – I was experimenting with “free flow novelisation” a.k.a. “making it up as you go along”. But it might float your goat, so have a look.
Having written “Vortex”, I realised I need to dedicate it to someone, or something.
After some consideration, I’ve decided to dedicate it as follows.
The front page will include the following text:
“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or living persons is entirely coincidental.”
And the dedication will read thus:
“This novel is dedicated to my husband, my rock and soul-mate, who supported me through everything. And to my children, who were incredibly patient when Mummy was busy typing.”
I’ll now be moving through the process of editing and correcting various issues with the novel, including sections that don’t really lead anywhere and a whole first chapter that I’m not really happy with. Once that’s done, I’ll publish it as an eBook.
Other books soon to be published includes my first NaNo, “EarthWitch”. In the meanwhile, you can read the first draft, published chapter by chapter, here at this blog.
If you’re coming in late, the novel starts here: EARTHWITCH CHAPTER 1: The house that wasn’t
**** **** **** ****
Justin and Agatha stepped cautiously over the threshhold, but there was no-one in sight. The street was empty. Too early for office workers, and much, much too early for the many children still on school holidays, there was no noise but the chirping of native birds in the nearby parklands, the steady and distant hum of traffic, and a quiet, almost background hush of the water in the creek.
They walked to the old metal bridge that spanned the water, and crossed to the other side of the creek. Still with no-one in sight, Justin turned to Agatha, pointing at the water rushing down below.
“The Mordred fear water. It has properties f purity which mean that cannot see across water. Any one of them could be standing only metres from us here, on the other side of the water, yet they would be unable to see us here, even though we could quite clearly see them. It is an advantage we have.”
“Is that why Grandma Rolie’s house is right next to the creek?” asked Agatha. “And before that, she lived near Merri creek, a few kilometres away.” Agatha’s brow furrowed. “Come to think of it, she has always lived near water.”
Justin nodded. Were she ever to be attacked, being close to water means there is an easy escape route. And many of the Door Ways are near, or over, water. As is the Door we are attempting to gain access to now.”
“What do you mean – attempting?” asked Agatha worriedly.
“There is every chance that we could be waylaid before we even reach the Door. It’s only an hours walk away, but the Mordred have a fair idea where the Door is. They do not *know*, but they can guess.”
“But they have access to the Ways, don’t they?”
“Yes – but only when they happen to stumble on the Doors, or the Ways that are well-known, such as the Ridgeway in England that my Mother guards. That Way has been well-known for nearly five millenia, and the track above it has been travelled by commoners for just as long. It wasn’t hard for the Mordred to discover the Door Way there.”
“But if your mother is in in England…?”
“That’s where we’re going now. What we explained last night might have been a bit confusing to you, so I’ll explain again now.” They walked along the bicycle path by the creek, as Justin talked.
“The Ways are shortcuts, in a simple way of speaking. So we enter a Door here, and within minutes we’ll be in England. Distance doesn’t matter. Because the Ways lie outside of the the Circle of the world, time and distance doesn’t matter to them. They’re outside the rules.”
“So where *are* the Ways? I understand what you’re telling me, but it doesn’t make sense. I do science in school, and it doesn’t fit in with what I know.”
“I wouldn’t expect it to. Science deals with this world. The Ways are, in every sense of the word another world. They’re connected to our in places, which are the Doors, but they’re not a part of it.”
“That still doesn’t make sense.”
“Magic often doesn’t. You’ll see when we get to the Door.”
The pair walked for nearly an hour, along the long, winding bicyle path adjacent to the creek. There were no disturbances, and Agatha could almost believe she was out for one of her daily wanderings, if it weren’t for the fact that she was accompanied by this tall, mysterious stranger and not David, who had always been there with her.
Finally they reached a place where one of the suburban roads joined to the pike path, and here they left the water, walking for a short way down a main road until they reached a large park. Despite the fact that it was a regular working day, few people passed them by, and the roads seemed empty of traffic. Those that did pass them seemed not to see them.
“The Mordred have placed a shield over this area,” said Justin. “People will avoid these streets as a result. The Mordred simply sway the midset of the population to go elsewhere and take other paths. It makes us easier to find.”
“We still have a good chance. The Door is here. Look across the water.”
Agatha peered across the lake that took much of the center of the park. Ducks were nesting at the feet of trees that overhung the water, and all seemed peaceful on the surface, yet an ominous pressure seemed to hang in the air.
“There’s nothing there,” said Agatha.
“The Door is right in front of you.”
Agatha looked at the lake more intently. Nothing. She half-expected a wooden door frame to be hanging, suspended in midair over the rippling water, but all she could see was normal. The three islands stood in the lake, just north east of the three fountains that spurted water into the air in sequence. Everything was as it always had been.
“Count the islands,” said Justin.
Agatha’s gaze travelled from the first of the island in the lake, then the second, then a third, larger island behind the two she had counted. Then…
“There are four islands,” she said.
“Well done,” said Justin. “There should be a punt around here somewhere…ahhh…there it is, beneath those trees to our right.”
A small, steel punt lay beached beneath two gum trees, on the edge of the water.
“Now all we have to do is cross-”
“-next to the water. Typical.” said a voice right behind them.
Agatha and Justin both whirled. Close enough to touch them stood the boy with mismatched eyes. And…
“David!” exclaimed Agatha.
“Hi sis,” said David. There was a sneer on his face, and a cold tone in his voice that Agatha had never heard before. “Thought we might find you here.”
“But you’re okay,” said Agatha. She reached forward to embrace her brother, but Justin put his hand out to stop her.
“Wait, no!” he cried.
Agatha took a step back, uncertain. And David laughed – a harsh, cold laugh that was foreign to his usual, quiet voice. He put his hand up to push his hair out of his eyes, and that’s when Agatha saw it. His sixth finger. She shook, and reeled back in horror.
“What are you looking at, sis?” he said. “This?” He waggled his fingers at her. “It’s just something extra I’ve been given. A bonus, if you will.” He laughed again.
“Get away from us,” said Justin. David took a step back, and eyed Justin warily.
“I remember you,” said David. “You’re the one who ran for it. You’re the one who who too scared to stay and fight. You’re the one who took my sister from me.”
“No,” said Justin. “The Mordred took you from us.”
“I *am* the Mordred!” David cried. “I am more than I could ever have been as that weak, effeminate little by I started as. You have no understanding of what I am now. You – people of the Light. You’re a joke. You think you can stop us, but you never will. We’ll always be there, right beside you, following your steps as you try to fight that which cannot be conquered. You sicken me!”
“Go home, David,” said Agatha quietly, staring at her brother. There were tears in her eyes. “Just go home.”
Mismatched-eyes grinned in the background, and David moved back to join him. “You know what? I think I will. Grandma Rolie,” he spat the words out. “Will be very glad to see me.” he turned on his heel, and walked away with the boy whose eyes didn’t match.
“Now, Agatha,” said Justin softly and urgently. “Quick – while their backs are turned. Step into the water. There’s no time to get the punt.”
Justin stepped into the lake, and Agatha walked into the water after him. Just as she did so, David turned back to face where they had been standing, as if prepared to threaten them once more. “They’ve gone!” he exclaimed.
“Of course they’ve gone,” she heard Mismatched-eyes say. “They always disappear near water. There’s a Door here somewhere. They’re probably on the other side of the planet by now.”
Justin put his finger to his lips to signal silence, and waded out towards the fourth island. Agatha followed, and water weed clung to her legs, entangling her and slowing her movement. She could feel her shoes – her good hiking boots – sinking into the mud on the bottom of the lake, and knew that they would not benefit from the soaking.
The water became deeper, and was just past Agatha’s waist when she felt the start of the bank of the fourth island, and began to climb into the shallows, then clamber ashore, following Justin.
“We’re here,” said Justin. “We’re safe – for now.”
“What next?” Agatha looked around. It didn’t look like there was anything particularly magical about this place.
“Watch – and remember. Take my left hand.”
Justin unclasped the engraved Dragon necklace, and held it aloft in his right hand. He cried “*Ex Cael Libris!*” and a beam of bright green light shot out from the necklace to circle the two of them, spinning faster and faster, like a hurricane of light around them. Everything within the hurricane was calm and still, and bathed in a soft green glow, but everything without the hurricane grew dim and blurred.
And then the earth opened, and swallowed them.
Chapter 4 word count: 1593
Total word count so far: 6894 + 1593 = 8487.
If you’re coming in late, the novel starts here: EARTHWITCH CHAPTER 1: The house that wasn’t
**** **** **** ****
“What – he’s not here?” said Justin. Then: “God, no.”
Grandma Rolie beckoned them inside and closed the door. They moved into the kitchen and sat down at the table. Grandma Rolie and Justin were grim-faced.
“What?” asked Agatha tentatively. “Where is he? *Where is he!!!*”
“Agatha,” began Grandma Rolie, more quietly, more gently than Agatha had ever known her to speak. “There’s something you need to know.”
Agatha waited, refusing to meet her grandmother’s eye. She felt numb.
Justin cut in. “Those boys we met – the Mordred -”
“- I should have warned you about,” finished Grandma Rolie. “It’s my fault. I told you to be in before dark. I told you not to let anyone know where you lived. I told you not to invite anyone into this home. Now the seal to this house will be broken, and there will be nothing we can do. David will be Sundered by the time he gets home in the morning. It’s too late for him. It’s possibly too late for us.”
“What do you mean?” cried Agatha, rising to her feet. “What does that mean – ‘too late’?”
“I told you briefly about the Sundered Ones, the Mordred,” said Justin quietly. “I think we need to tell you the full story. We need to tell you the truth-”
“-About who I am and what I do,” said Grandma Rolie. “And about who you are, too.”
Grandma Rolie drew breath and began.
“I’m a Waykeeper – a keeper of the Ways. Here in Australia they are sometimes called Dream Lines. In China they are called Dragon Lines, and in Europe they’re called Ley Lines, which is the name by which most people know them best.
“There are many Waykeepers in the World, and we each watch over one of the doorways to these lines. The Ways have been marked as ancient pathways by which people in distant times walked the land, but that is only a surface understanding of what they really are and the power they hold.
“The Ways are shortcuts – paths of power by which any person who holds a Key may travel the globe without having to cover distance. In simple terms, the Ways are outside the normal circle of the world, and the normal rules of space and time do not apply to them.
“You can enter a Way, with the appropriate Key, and minutes later you can be on the other side of the world. There is no distance, and onl a short space of time that our minds create to help us understand and deal with the complexity and beauties of the Ways.
“As I said, the Ways are ancient. They are older than the Aboriginal Dramtime, although Elders have known of their existence for millenia. They are older than the sacred sites of the world that men have created – older than Stonehenge, Avebury, and Newgrange. They stretch to every continent, and link every race and colour of people together.
“Door Ways exist on every continent too, and near each Door there lives a family, chosen for their wilingness to protect the Ways and keep them safe for the powers of Good. Our family – *your family, Agatha* – is one of these Waykeeping families. Our family – the family of Roland – has been guarding out local Door for ten generations. Before that, we were part of the family watching over the Door at the Weyland Smiths, in the south of England.
“But ‘Roland’ is your Christian name,” interrupted Agatha. “Our family name is Bartholemew.”
“No,” replied Grandma Rolie. “‘Roland’ is my title, as the Matriarch of our family. My given name was Louise. It means ‘Warrior.’ I took the title of Roland when my mother died, when I was young, and I have been a Keeper of the Ways ever since I was seventeen.
“For many, many generations the Keepers of the Ways watched over the Ways, guarded the Doors, and helped travellers to pass to and fro across the lands. But when the Mordred rose in the Dark Ages, and claimed one of the Keys to the Ways, darkness fell and the Ways became disused. The first of the Mordred soon learned that they could not walk the Ways without pain, because their souls were diseased and tarnished, and their hearts were impure, so the purity of the Ways burned them. So they devised a way to Sunder humans of good heart and mind, splitting soul from body, and using their bodies as empty shells to pass within the Ways.
“Although they now can pass through the Ways without pain or loss, and they have claimed more than one of the Keys so many Mordred now have access, they cannot navigate through the Ways, and they often become lost within the maze of the Ways, and some never find their way out into the clear sky and the sunshine. So those who have the Knowledge and the right to travel the Ways can usually travel in peace, and are not often waylaid by Mordred who dwell within the paths.”
“But who were those boys who tried to bully us?” asked Agatha. “And what have they to do with this Mordred? I know the name – Mordred was the evil son of King Arthur. He killed the King, and I htink he seized the throne, but the stories became confused after the battle where he fought Arthur, and I can’t really remember what happened.”
“Mordred was the First to learn how to Sunder – how to split soul from body, and turn the body to evil purpose. He learned, through the arts of Dark Magic, how to create his own army of soulless, willing agents of Darkness, who would traverse the Ways, fight against the Light, and hopefully win the struggle between light and Dark. Mordred himself was vanquished, and his body died, but he learned how to keep his evil soul alive, and now the Mordred – those boys you saw and many more like them – are driven by a little of Mordred’s own evil soul, residing in each and every one of his servants.
“David has been captured,” said Justin softly, for Grandma Rolie was silent and looked away. “He will be Sundered, his soul split apart from his body, and he will become like those boys – a servant of the Evil One.”
“I don’t believe you!” screamed Agatha. Her throat was tight with a hurt and a fear that she couldn’t express. “I don’t believe that! He is late, that’s all. He’ll be back.”
“He will be back,” said Grandma Rolie slowly. “He will be back, but you will not know him. Once a person has gained access to this house, he cannot be turned away. He was welcomed into this house, and the moment that he crossed the threshhold he secured his welcome here. Now that he is Sundered, he is still welcomed by this house, and I can do nothing to stop him – and his fellow servants – from entering. I am so, so sorry.”
Agatha said nothing. Everything that had happened in the past hour seemed like a dream, a nightmare from which she would surely wake. It couldn’t be real. Tears slipped down her cheeks, and she tasted saltwater on her lips.
“It’s not true,” Agatha whispered. “Tell me it’s not true.”
“I’m sorry,” Grandma Rolie repeated. “There’s nothing we can do to save him. It’s too late.”
“No!” said Justin. “It’s not too late. There is a way we can save him – I am sure of it. I have heard of Sundering being reversed. The Gatekeeper may be able to help us.” He sat, deep in thought, for several minutes, and the silence echoed in the room like the diminished throb of a bell.whose tolling has ended.
“Rolie – can you do a binding?” asked Justin. Grandma Rolie suddenly sat up straight in her chair, eyes opened wide, then nodded. “Yes – you mean to bind him?”
“He will walk through the door. He will cross the threshhold on the first light of day. There’s nothing we can do to stop that,” said Justin. “But we *can* bind him here, and create sch a bind that he cannot leave at will-”
“-Nor will he be able to invite others in,” finished Grandma Rolie. ” I see what you are getting at.”
Agatha was suddenly made aware that somehow this Justin – this stranger who had saved her yet by his carelessness condemned her brother – was more powerful, and higher in some sort of rank or power, than her own Grandmother. Age didn’t seem to matter. Despite her fear, despite her despeair, her curiosity wakened, and she asked: “Who *are* you, Justin?”
Justin said nothing. It was Grandma Rolie who answered.
“Justin is the son of the Gatekeeper, the Woman highest in our order, whose task it s to assign the Keys and order attempts to retrieve Keys that have been stolen by the Mordred. As you can see, he wears a Key: the sign of the Dragon.”
Agatha’s gaze was drawn once more to the green stone necklace Justin wore, engraved with a Dragon.
“That’s a Key?” she asked.
“It is,” answered Grandma Rolie. She reached into the neck of her blouse and drew out a similar necklace, carved from bright blue opal, engraved with a Phoenix. “And this is the Key that I hold, that your mother would have held, and that you may one day hold as well.”
“Why wasn’t I told about any of this?” demanded Agatha. “Why was this all kept silent? I knew *nothing* of this. Nothing! And now you say my brother is worse than dead-”
“There is still hope, Agatha,” said Justin.
“You mentioned a Gatekeeper, and said she could help us. Is she your mother? That’s what it sounds like. Well – bring me to her and I’ll force her to help! It’s your carelessness that got my brother caught by those Mordred people. It’s your fault!”
“I know it is,” said Justin. “And if I could retrace my steps and turn back time to save him, I would do so. As it is, maybe my mother can help us. Whether she can or not, it is my duty to ask, and to try to bring your brother back. It is not your responsibility.”
“If you’re going to try to save David, then I’m going to help you. He’s my *brother*.”
“You’re too young-” Justin started, but Agatha cut him off.
“I’m not too young!” she said defiantly. “If I’m not too young to lose a brother, I’m not too young to try to save him if there’s any hope at all. I’m with you. I blame you, it’s your fault, but if you think I’m going to leave it to you to try to save david and possibly fail, you’re dead wrong. I’m going with you, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
“Agatha is right,” said Grandma Rolie suddenly. “She should go with you.”
“And what of David?” asked Justin. Can you bind him alone.”
“Oh yes,” said Grandma Rolie wearily. “It will not be a pleasant job, but I can do it.”
“Then I leave that to you,” said Justin. “Agatha and I will leave at daybreak for the Door Way at the Ponds, and you will wait until David returns and bind him fast. Keep him bound until we return, and summon any assistance you can to keep him within these walls.”
“I will do that,” said Grandma Rolie.
“And now, it’s time to sleep. If were starting at daybreak, we need to be refreshed. And you need all your strength in preparation for the binding.”
“It’s only 8 o’clock,” said Agatha petulantly.
“It’s time to sleep. We have a challenge before us, and it will not be easy.”
*** *** ***
Agatha didn’t sleep well that night. She kept seeing the events of the evening in her mind’s eye, and kept leaving her bed to wander into David’s empty room. It seemed preposterous to think that he might not ever return to it as the brother she knew and loved, yet she knew that she would fight for him to the end of her strength to bring him back safe and whole. Everything she had learned in the past few hours – the Ways, Gatekeepers, Waykeepers, Dragon lines, Mordred, the Sundered – it all seemed impossible.
The night seemed to stretch endlessly, yet eventually the eastern sky began to turn to dusty pink and soft yellow as the sun began to rise. After hours of watching the luminous hands of her bedside clock, Agatha decided it was time to rise and threw on a dressing gown before walking into the kitchen rubbing her eyes. Justin was still there, still sitting in the same chair as if he hadn’t moved all night. but there was an empty cereal bowl before him and a half drunk mug of cold coffee by it side.
“Sleep well?” he asked.
Agatha shook her head.
“I didn’t expect so,” he said wth a wry grin. “But we’ll be leaving soon anyway.”
“No sign of david?” asked Agatha hopefully. It was the question she had been bursting to ask for hour after hour through the long night.
Justin looked at her. “No. Which is good – we don’t want to be caught here by the Mordred. A Sundering takes many hours, and we have a little time left before it will be complete enough for the Sundered David to move into the open and lay claim to this house. Even if the Sundering is complete by now – which is unlikely – he will still be weak. Too weak to cross the threshhold of this house for a few hours yet. In the meanwhile, we move.
“Now have breakfast, then get dressed quickly. Pack lightly, but you will need some warm clothing and sturdy shoes. We may have a little time up our sleeve, or we may be caught and cornered if I am wrong. I hope I am not wrong.”
Agatha prepared a bowl of cereal and a glass of juice, and ate quickly before going back to her room and dressing. It was less than thirty minutes later that reappeared in the kitchen, ready to go.
She looked around. “Where’s Grandma Rolie?” she asked.
“In the back room, preparing the binding. She has been up all night, but the task will be completed soon.”
“David – won’t be hurt by this ‘binding’ thing, will he?” Agatha began tentatively. The thought had been on her mind all night.
“No,” said Justin. “It’s jus a spell to keep him in the once place, in the one room. He’ll be able to talk, to move about the room, to eat and drink – although the David that is to be bound s not the David you know and love. A binding will simply keep hs body safe and healthy while we search for a way to reverse the Sundering.”
“Can it really be done? The reversal, I mean? Grandma Rolie didn’t seem too convinced.”
“I’m not sure. Rolie is a talented woman. If anyone can do it, she can. Plus she is related to that which she will bind, so blood magic will be working on her side too. We can only try.”
“And this Gatekeeper? She *is* your mother, isn’t she? If anyone can help us, she can? Is that right?”
“That’s right. Now – are you ready? Go quickly into the back room, and say goodbye to Grandma Rolie. Then we will be on our way.”
*** *** ***
Chapter 3 word count: 2587
Total word count so far: 4307 + 2587 = 6894.
I started this blog for my 2011 NaNo novel. It’s done and dusted.
Go me. I deserve much chocolatey goodness.
2011 wasn’t the first time I’d done NaNo, or the first time I’d written a book. I wrote my first full-length novel when I was in year 10 (I think it was year 10 – it’s hard to remember). It was titled “The Lion Club” and was truly awful.
Back in those days I didn’t have access to a computer. Sure, we had one, but it was my brother’s, and All Hell Broke Loose if I were to touch it, because (you know) computers are for men and boys, not for women and girls. It was bought for him, was used by him, and I had to Keep Away.
So I hand-wrote the thing in exercise books, neatly, just in case anyone should ever happen to want to read it.
Ironically, had I typed “The Lion Club” on computer, it would probably be lost now, because those were the days before the internet. I’d have probably saved it on floppy, and it would probably have degraded over time, and have likely be thrown out eventually.
Instead, I treasured my first efforts, and “The Lion Club” is still with me today, sitting in a box under the house. Slightly moth-eaten and very dusty, but quite readable.
Get to the point, dammit!
So…why am I talking about this?
Because I’m going to go down under the house, find that blasted “Lion Club” book, and typeset it, and publish it here on the NaNo blog. Who knows – maybe it won’t be as truly, gut-wrenchingly awful as I suspect it is. We might even get a good laugh. IT’s worth find out anyway!
Before I do that, though, there’s another effort of mine, already typeset, that I’m going to publish here. It’s my original 2005 NaNo – the first one I ever did. It’s titled “EarthWitch” and is actually quite good – much better than “Vortex” (hmmm…I seem to have a thing about single-word titles happening here…).
EarthWitch is a fantasy “quest” style novel for young adults, with a whole stack of myth and magic thrown in for good measure. If you like that sort of thing, it’ll probably be right up your alley.
I’ll post up EarthWitch chapter by chapter, in its original, unedited form, so you can have a read. The first two chapters are already up, and you can start reading today, if you have a will to. You’ll be able to navigate the novel via the Earthwitch Navigation tab at the top of the blog. Or you can subscribe, and get chapters sent to you in your inbox.
Like “Vortex”, the novel is just over 50,000 words long.
Here’s a link to the first chapter. Happy reading!
It is kind of cute though
I’ll be revising “Vortex” and editing it, then releasing it for sale as an e-book.
I might even make $20. Who knows?
It’s been fun. Thanks for reading – especially all those “quiet” readers here in Dunedin who I’ve been tracking with my blog and feed counter. An audience is always appreciated – even a quiet, anonymous one!
Next I’ll now be posting my other NaNo novel, “EarthWitch”, which I wrote in 2005. I hope you enjoy reading it.
If you’re coming in late, the novel starts here: CHAPTER 1: Some bugger steals my sushi
**** **** **** ****
We stood at the pier, surrounded by a fierce, grey whirlwind of power, that twisted the air around us, spinning counter-clockwise and filling the sky with bolts of electricity that shot outwards and downwards, connecting with the surface of the sea.
The whirling cone of wind pinned us as neatly in one place as if we’d been tied down. None of us could move against it. It was if I’d been glued down, my feet stuck to the concrete pier and fixed permanently.
But it didn’t hold Mike. He walked straight through the vortex as if it a light spring breeze. He was unbent, his hair untouched and his shirt unmoved by the maelstrom that was engulfing us. He walked as if he were a man hypnotized to the flight of concrete steps that led down to the waters edge.
The twister surrounding us slowed, losing energy a little. Not enough for us to move, but enough for us to see through it, and to watch Mike as he took step after step down the slippery, wet concrete steps, slowly, into the sea.
I’d never seen him move so slowly – if was as if time had caught him and was controlling him, his movements off-balance then righted again, as his legs moved forward and his knees bent with the drop. Perhaps he was moving in a different time bubble to our own – I didn’t know then and I still don’t know now, when I think back on it. At the time that I watched, all I could think were how odd his movements were, and how misaligned and out of character they seemed. He moved like a puppet on a string, with someone or something else controlling his actions.
And as he moved, barely perceptible at first, he began to glow and transform, his body growing in size, just a little at first then more and more, his outline shifting in colour and hue, growing to be dazzling bright, surrounded with a golden aura. It didn’t happen quickly or smoothly, but in fits and starts over many minutes, pulsing and increasing with each step downwards to the water he took.
It was like watching sunrise on a cool summer morning: you didn’t notice it at first, then a few minutes later you wondered why and when it had become so bright.
And I began to understand that he was transforming completely, moving away from normal humanity, as he got closer to the water. Something inside him was making him grow and and slow down and become something else to what he had been, something and someone different from the Mike that I’d known for so long, and the person I’d even loved for a while.
I didn’t know whether to be afraid. With every step that he took I sensed within myself that Mike was becoming someone new, less of the person that I’d know, and more a new person or creature, someone of something completely different to anything I’d known before.
I looked to Athena, hoping she might be able to explain it, but she simply shook her head, and said: “Watch. Wait.”
Mike reached the water and stepped onto it, the heat from his body sending masses of steam curling up around him. The moment he touched the water, her grew even more in size, and the water surrounded him, like a bubble, cushioning him and moving with him as he walked, creating a wave that propelled him across the sea and away from us.
Within moments, he was over a hundred metres out from the shore, glowing with light and power, dazzling like the sun. I’d never seen anything like it, and I was afraid for him.
Back at the pier, around us and quickly as it had come, the whirlwind imprisoning us collapsed and ceased, and the air became quiet and still. We could move again. Athena cried out, “Come on! now!”, and jumped up and ran along the pier to the small fleet of boats moored a little way away. Daniel and I looked at each other, not knowing what to think, and then raced after her.
“Did you know what was going to happen to Mike?” I yelled, running after Athena.
“No,” she said, running and throwing her pack away, throwing it against the footpath carelessly for extra speed. “But I want to follow him. I want to find out. We need transportation!” Folllowing her example, we did likewise, tossing our bags aside onto the pier.
Athena ran along the wooden jetty to the very end, where a small, light electric speedboat was tied up. She ran down the slippery wooden rampway and leaped in, jumping skillfully across the gap between the ramp and the boat, rocking the vessel so violently with her movement that it almost tipped over.
She settled herself at the rear, next to the outboard, and motioned for us to get in, while she struggled with the motor to get it going. I set myself at the bow of the boat, balancing our weight out automatically, while Daniel stepped in carefully and sat down awkwardly in the middle on a bench seat that straddled the width of the speedboat, holding on tightly to the gunwales on either side and looking pretty nervous.
Seconds later, we were reversing out of the bay, then turning around and heading out after Mike, who was a bright speck in the distance, lighting the sea surface like a beacon.
Even at full speed, skimming lightly across the choppy surface of the harbour, we were struggling to catch up. We passed Port Chalmers on our left, then Portobello on our right, its huge loading cranes toppled over and knocked sideways into the water by the recent earthquake, half-submerged metal twisted and torn like some crazed giant had taken the cranes into his hands and stretched and bent them as easily as a a child might bend a strip of liquorice.
As I gazed up onto the hillside above the port, I could see where landslides had occurred, and houses had slid down in the mud, shattering and smashing against huge pine trees. I closed my mind to the thought that anybody might have been in their homes at the time of the quake: I didn’t see how anyone could have survived in the mess.
We were catching up now, and Mike was only a few hundred metres away. I could see him clearly, see his face clearly, but he no longer resembled my friend. What I saw was more like a golden statue, shining with blinding light coming from within. I couldn’t actually see how he was moving across the water, but I sensed that somehow the sea itself was propelling him forward, shifting him with a new, strong current that was visible to us as a pathway of light beneath the waves, and could clearly be seen even from our vantage point.
He rounded the heads, and past the long narrow outcrop that I knew was the main beachfront at Aramoana, sticking out like a huge spit into the sea. Then we lost him from sight, and the glistening trail in the water disppeared for a few seconds, then returned again, pulsing with a brighter light than ever before.
I wished I could see Mike; see what was happening; help him or support him somehow, but all we could do was follow, and hopefully be there if he needed us.
We came around the corner of the spit, and the length of Aramoana beach opened out in front of us, stretched out in all its lonely, sandy beauty. And in the middle of its length, I saw Mike – or what had been Mike – leave the water, and walk up on the shore to the crisp white sand. The beach was empty apart from him – even without him glowing we could have seen him clearly against the sand.
We beached the speedboat at the end of the spit at the rocks. Athena turned the engine off, and threw the mooring rope out, tying it to an old iron spike that had stood up in the rock wall so long that it was rusted and covered with barnacles near its base. Then we climbed out of the boat and scrambled over the rock wall, slipping on the wet rocks and scuffing our hands, as we made our way over the rocks and onto the beach.
Mike’s solitary figure, twice his ordinary height now, seemed to glow brighter and brighter as we approached, pulsing with energy and light. As we approached, I could physically feel the heat and dry electricity crackling off him, like he was the eye of a massive storm.
Yet he was calm. He made no sign that he was aware of our approach, not until we were standing only a few metres from him, gazing on him nervously, wondering what had happened to him and if it had hurt him. Then he turned, gazed at us with those lightning eyes, and he smiled at us.
At once, the glowing light diminished to nothing and receded to within him, and he seemed to reduce in size a little. Yet, if anything, I sensed that he was building more power, more energy, and that this was just a brief respite, and we were right at the cusp of a turning point, awaiting some massive explosion – right at the calm before the mushroom cloud and the blast that would rip our flesh from our bones.
“You’re here,” he said simply. “I thought you’d come.” But the voice wasn’t just Mike’s. It was the sound of dozens, maybe hundreds of voices, layered together, over and over and over, one upon the next upon the next, all channelling through a single entity, a person we’d known and had thought we’d understood. Mike’s voice was prominent, yet all I could hear and recognise and pay attention to was everything that wasn’t him.
The person that stood here now, although it looked like Mike, wasn’t him anymore. Like his voice, it was layers of otherness. It was folds and levels and layers of humanity and – something else – that I understood and that felt familiar in my deepest self, but that I couldn’t quite place or identify.
“I’m glad you’re here,” said that voice, those voices. “We’re glad you’re here. Here at the twist of time. Here at the center of the Vortex. When everything will change. When everything must change!”
And he raised his hands upwards in a single, quick motion, palms upwards and outwards to the sky, faster than my eyes could follow, and the world was transformed, and all matter dissolved and shook, and collapsed and renewed itself.
At that moment, without warning, the air was sucked out of my lungs, and I was blinded and drowned and suffocated all at once. The sky collapsed down upon us, sun and moon and stars and clouds, and the sandy beach shot skywards, spinning silicon in waves and gusts that tore at my eyes and my face and my skin. I was thrown to the beach, and gravity disappeared, and everything was flying weightless around me, my stomach churning and rising with the sensation of it all.
I closed my eyes against the rush and the fear and nausea. Then there came a blinding light that burned images so ghostly bright even through my closed eyelids, so hot that even closing my eyes was no defence – I would see, and I would experience, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
The world was cast into sharp relief behind my eyes of a strange and alien shadow-play, and bizarre creatures danced and sang across my field of vision, chanting with cries of glee with the sheer joy of new life as they were born into existence, as the earth awoke and her consciousness created and recreated and changed and tore apart and created yet again, breathing life into every spark that had ever been thought or imagined or dreamed in the whole of human existence.
Visions cast from dreamscapes became real, as did fantasy artworks sketched by children. Life was breathed into nightmares and bliss-filled dreams alike. As each creation awoke it cried out, then was cast aside, then was reformed again.
And all of it – every being and dream and night-creature and horror and memory and hope – gave energy and mass and form to the building maelstrom that was spinning around us, directed by Mike as he twisted his hands to and fro, guiding and creating and directing, and changing and destroying, shattering and re-making and re-forming and rebuilding.
Every creature, every image on that beach was born of the sand and the dirt and the salt and the water, and Mike’s vision gave them energy and being and thrust and focus. And amidst the storm, in the middle of the chaos, I tried desperately to cling on to something, but there was nothing – only whirling particles of sand that flew outwards and re-arranged themselves into new forms, new shapes, new creatures that breathed and lived and died again around me against the howl of the wind. I couldn’t find Athena or Daniel, and was totally alone in the chaos – if they were there then they, too, were separated from our own, old reality by this new, insane creation that was building and growing and changing around us.
Then, after a time, the visions began to change. Behind the veil of my closed eyelids, the shadows began to calm and settle on more concrete forms. I saw extinct creatures, animals long gone, taking shape and flying into the darkness. Full-formed and real, full of movement and breath: I saw whales, tigers, polar bears – all the animals I’d dreamed of in my childhood, but that had been long gone from the earth, even before I’d been born.
And as they rose, I believed I could hear a distant song rising from the earth itself – a song of joy, and bliss, and harmony, and peace, and absolute pleasure that these things might be returning to how they should be once more. And in the middle of this dry, crazed chaos full of lightning and fear, I felt real, salt tears of hope drip down from my eyes and melt into the sand.
And there were small creatures too: insects that I’d never known or named – brightly coloured with gossamer wings, shadows against the light. And for the first time in the firestorm I dared to open my eyes.
The beach was a garden.
Around me were jewel-like insects, larger than my fingers, zig-zagging through the air, buffeted by the electrical storm yet appartently unharmed by it. At my feet there were tendrils of some small, flowering plant with bright ruby-red flowers, weaving its way upwards, its buds opening like lips to kiss the sky.
Here and there, furher back from the beach, a jungle was forming – native forest renewing and reclaiming the land once more, plants that had been gone from this place for hundreds of years, sparked by a distant memory and sprouting like a long-lost dream, shooting upwards and out, entwining, caressing one another, growing haphazardly, crazily, with no thought for human sensibilities of neatness or control.
This was the heart of nature, uncontrolled, vibrant, alive, real, true to itself and to nothing else. In the branches of those trees, birds appeared, and along the ground I sensed the rustle of movement as small animals grew and lived and were re-created, and sprang forth and made noises to themselves that echoed the heartsong of bliss.
And in all of this stood Mike. And for the first time in everything we’d been through, I really understood what it meant for him to be a Host. Because the song and the movement and the life re-created and re-born didn’t come from him – it came through him. He was a channel through which the earth was awakening, and through whom it was learning to love itself once more in the acts of creating life and being alive and knowing the joys that came from life in all its forms.
The song grew stronger, not just a distant harmony but rich full sound, welling all around us. Everywhere birds sang in the air and in the trees, insects chittered among the leaves, earthworms dug deep and their quiet movement gave warmth to the song, and in the sea the splash of fish and dolphins, and the waves upon the shore was a melody that I now knew I’d waited all my life to hear, yet I’d never heard before.
These acts of creation went on and on, changing and growing and dividing, breathing life and energy and music from dust and sand and water and salt and air, but after a long while – I don’t know how long – they were slowing down and settling, relaxing.
Yet in my mind, for the first time, I could feel the animals around me, sense the trees and the flowers, taste the salt water in which the fishes danced. And I realised that not only whad new life been created, but all the old life – us, and millions like us – had become connected to one another and aware of one another in a way that we never had been before.
And the meaning of the words “the earth is alive” was truly brought home to me. And my heart rose, so filled with joy that I felt it might burst. Around me I gazed upon my new home, my new place, my new brothers and sisters – all alive, all dancing, all breathing, all being.
Mike stopped, the sand settled, and he looked at me through golden eyes. And I realised that Athena and Daniel had been near me the whole time, only metres away, almost close enough to touch. We all rose to our feet slowly from the beach where we’d fallen in the chaos.
“The earth is awake now,” said Mike quietly and powerfully, in that layered, many-coloured voice. “But the power to wake her must be shared. It is time to find others to pass on the light. The earth is awake, and healed. My work is done.”
And he threw his arms wide again, and paths of energy burst outwards, flashing green and purple and gold, like the southern lights at the pole at equinox: to the sky, to the sea, and down through the center of the earth, creating channels of light and power and energy that criss-crossed the sky and sea, pulsing with life.
They glowed briefly, powerfully, brighter than the sun at midsummer. Then the energy tailed away, drifted and spun away, cooled and softened away to a background whisper of light, and Mike shrank down to his old self, his golden aura gone, and his eyes returned to their old green that I thought I had forgotten.
He was back, returned to us, and the world was awake and renewed.