The following is parts 1 & 2 of a novel I am currently working on entitled “There”. Told from three perspectives in two different dimensions with no chronological order, it’s a tale of two young people forced into an ancient magical conflict between the King and Queen of a magical realm. Pan’s Labyrinth meets any classic bildungsroman.
I fail to grasp the necessity of my continued existence. Tracing my own footsteps, following a shining light along the same path every year, ebbing and flowing between two separate people. My life has been perfectly dichotomized, and I smiled when I selected the blade that split me.
The snow hasn’t changed in this place in 20 some odd years. The pines standing tall, full of hubris, with snow cascading down. The wrinkled old apple tree’s, whose fruit stained my family’s lips for generations, look gothic and dead, adding a sense of morbidity always lacking during any other season. Winter has dragged his massive palm over this part of the world, and this orchard in particular.
Winter had dragged his massive palm the same way over this orchard for a long time.
We come every year, even years in the spring, odd in the winter.
I always dread winter.
Every odd year, when the leaves turn and gray clogs the atmosphere, I assume I’m going to die. And it will be at my own hand.
I grabbed his hand when he reached for the iron-wrought gate. I couldn’t say anything when he turned and stared into my eyes, but he understood my message, my hesitation. We don’t have to go. This could be the year, we could turn our back on them and let it all be over. We deserve something for all the pain, we deserve closure.
He rolls his wide-set eyes, and holds up his left hand and forearm. Before I slap him across the face and scream fuck you at him, before he steps towards me, steely blue eyes on fire, before I throw open the gate, grabbing the oak leaf-shaped handle, I notice how beautiful the dew is. Our footprints create a childish path, dark spots amongst the shimmer of sunlight breaking the surface tension. The grass of the Alphaeus family orchard was surprisingly reflective of the family that had tended it, trampled it, and claimed to own it. The grass bore our intrusive footprints like badges of honor, and although much of the orchard was like a woven blanket crafted by the delicate hands of amoral angels, isolated islands of little bluestem gave the landscape an uneven horizon. One of those patches of prairie grass I know represents Daniel. Just like one represented his uncle, his grandmother, just like each patch represented the parts of the Alphaeus’s family that made your everyday fellow shudder. People and grass, violently stubborn, constantly begging for definition and writhing in fury every time someone felt self-righteous enough to attempt to define them. Artists, murders, alcoholics, hermits and celebrities, about once ever two generations the Alphaeus family had crafted a new mutation to the human genome. People who simply couldn’t be contained, who destiny had chosen to knock multitudes of others off their own predestined paths, messy, expressive, giants of people.
Daniel Alphaeus is a whirlpool, a churning elemental thing that drags any vessel near him in a loving spiral to the depths. I had loved him when we were kids. I stopped loving him sometime around my sixteenth birthday. I wanted nothing to do with him by my eighteenth. Now I just pity the sorrow that laps against his eyes, rumbling like the pacific on a cloudy November day.
And then all those things happen. I know that he isn’t actually touching me, but I sense the tips of his shoes just centimeters from my bare feet. He vibrates with anger, hot air fires out of his nose and rolls down my shoulder. A single tear runs down his cheek, still auburn from where I slapped him, and struggles to push through his stubble.
And the queen’s voice calls from the slightly open gate.
And Daniel steps through.