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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Prologue



Rays of sun are gliding over my skin in waves of heat. Every few seconds a drift of wind breezes through my bangs and my skin cools.
The backyard is pretty and tranquil, extending to the horizon with plowed lines of soybean fields in the distance. A small subdivision sits in front of my house, but those are the only houses for a few miles.
I pop out my earphones and unhook my bikini top while carefully holding it over my chest as I lie back down on the lounge chair. I reach for the ear buds.
Acoustic guitars strum the sound of summer, and the hum of a sharp tenor voice and a dull feminine voice rise and swell in waves. They sing:
We are lying in the sun, when we’re done find a towel
Now we’re thinking of where we’re gonna eat.
Back corner table, order lobsters and Black Label
Raise your glasses, here’s to living out our dreams.
I can’t help but smile, and my cheek presses against the pink and orange polka-dotted towel. I close my eyes and drift away into a warm world of dark, damp comfort.
I imagine being pampered. Cucumber slices over my eyes, lavender scented moisturizer being smoothed over my tense muscles into an unending state of relaxation. I briefly wonder whether my father will walk out onto the back porch and sigh in discomfort at my bare back.
Suddenly, my body shakes back and forth, and a heavy noise slams into my eardrums. The enormous impact shoves me from my lounge chair, throwing me into a panicking stumble as I fall to the ground. It rips the acoustic strums out of my ears and disconnects me from my world of warmth.
Panic.
Before I know what to think or say or do, a piercing sound rises up from my stomach, hurls through my chest, gathers speed in my throat, and makes contact with the smoking air.
My bikini needs retied.
I don’t have time, I don’t have time, I don’t have time.
I fumble the hooks behind my back in panic.
The horizon that used to display a canvas of pillow-like clouds on a bright blue day is filled with eruption. Orange blazes of fire dot the tips of billowing black clouds that puff up higher and bigger with every pounding millisecond.  Not more than a quarter of a mile away at most, the black smoke shades the sun and casts an eerie shadow on the world. The fire is extending fast, the orange glow moving along the grassy earth with a relentless indifference.
It’s moving toward me.
I can’t see the source of the fire. In an empty field of grass and dirt, the only thing I can imagine is a plane of some kind. Maybe a meteor? An asteroid? Is this the end of the world?
I hear my scream, high and murderous. I scan the seemingly empty world around me, and my vision fills with delayed screenshots of heavy black clouds and pieces of greenness from trees and the grass around me, but I can’t stop to focus.
Only a few seconds have passed.
Reaching for my phone. Dialing 9-1-1. Fingers trembling to keep the phone against my ear. Running back toward my house as the phone rings and rings and rings. Jumping over all four of the porch steps. Looking over my shoulder at the billowing clouds that continue to heave and contract and expand as I open the sliding glass door.
Making my way into the kitchen. Phone still ringing. A cloud of dust puffs up around me. What? I look down. A scattered pile of the dust entangled in a pile of my father’s clothing, the dust evaporating into the air. Phone still ringing. Where is my wallet? My savings bonds? Running through the living room. Still ringing. Turning to the stairs, two steps at a time, gaining momentum—three steps at a time—reach the top. Turning my head towards my brother’s room, his bed unmade. Running to my room. Open my desk drawer. Grabbing the savings bonds, the two dollar bills that might mean something in the future, my iPod, what else what else what else. Turn around, turn right, sister’s room, bed made, white sheets stained with gray dust, the striking silvery-glitter laptop open. Ringing ringing ringing. Grab the dusty laptop, run down the stairs. Stumbling with my hands full of precious papers and a laptop under my arm and my phone crunched between my shoulder and my ear and ringing ringing ringing ringing ringing.
I maneuver the ringing phone into my hand and hang up. And I scream.
For one fleeting moment, I actually think about where my family went and if they’re okay.
The glittery laptop sparkles onto the ceiling as it slips from under my arm and falls to the ground.

1 comment:

  1. Prologue

    -- "...hum of a sharp tenor and a dull feminine voice..." Delete the double use of the word voice.
    -- "...my cheek presses against the pink and orange polka-dotted towel." Great detail. I was unsure where she laid face down or not, but this made it clear.
    -- "The horizon the used to *display*..." And "filled with *eruption*." Word choice? Maybe just "The horizon that had been a canvas of pillow-like clouds on a bright blue day mere seconds ago is now filled with an eruption of orange blazes of fire that dot the tips of of billowing black clouds that puff up higher and bigger with every pounding millisecond."
    -- "...quarter of a mile..." Just "quarter-mile"
    -- " I hear my scream..." At this point we have only received descriptions of the scene without any subjective monologue. I'm surprised to hear her scream. Is she surprised as well? Maybe a brief moment of inner dialogue would clarify before she hears her own scream. Unless it catches her by surprise too.
    -- "Where is my wallet? My savings bonds?..." This is her first concern? Grabbing items that might be of use in the desolate future? "For one fleeting moment, I actually think about where my family went and if they're okay." I'm finding this unrealistic. Unless the narrator is a cold person who really doesn't care about her family and relies on herself in a crisis. Maybe she is. But most people would be scrambling to find their loved ones first. Unless she knew this was coming, the apocalypse or whatever it is. If there was a warning and she was mentally prepared to grab all her valuables at the last second, we need to know that. A simple: "They said this would happen, those tin-foil hat wearers. Those doomsday soothsayers warned us."
    -- Love Love love the flow of the action. "Running to my room. Open the desk drawer. Grabbing the savings bonds..." The use of present tense and short declarative sentences speed up the action and intensify the feeling of panic and the urgency of the moment. And the refrain of the ringing phone is perfect.
    -- The editor in me is always skeptical of prologues (although as a writer I tend to gravitate toward them). Usually prologues are completely unnecessary -- used as a device to draw the readers in, to place them en media res and then remove them from it. I love that we start with this action scene, wondering what the heck is going on. I definitely want to keep reading and I'm curious where you'll go with it. Back to when things were normal, I'm guessing?

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