Fly or Perish (INSPIRED Days)

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This is it, gang: My final post for “INSPIRED Days” – an approximate month of awesomeness celebrating my J. Taylor Publishing novel which has lately passed its 6-month semi-anniversary of publication. Without further ado, enjoy this excerpt from INSPIRED, retold from Yves’s point of view!

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Where is he?

Even amidst all the noise outside – the crowds talking, laughing, cheering, jeering, the ceaseless music – his father’s voice cut through. The boy huddled in the dark, too petrified to shiver. Don’t find me. Don’t make me. Please, just this once…

But why should this time be any different? Nothing changed in this place. He was caught in the sickening loop of undiscovered backstory, a merry-go-round of day in, day out sameness which would never still until anchored by the narrative’s starting point.

He wished his author would begin his tale. He wished just as hard that she wouldn’t. For to begin was to invite an ending, and he knew this story too well to believe its ending would be a happy one.

The boy buried his head in the arms crossed over his drawn-up knees. That end might be days or years in coming. Or his author might leave him to languish where he was forever, never finding the time or motivation to find his story’s details. Such things, he knew, happened with terrifying frequency, in the world of words.

How did he know? He wasn’t sure. No one around him gave any hint that they, too, were aware their lives were an unwritten fiction. For reasons beyond the boy’s understanding, the others in his backstory were not like him. It was as if he were the dreamer, and all else nothing more real than part of his dream – his nightmare from which, if his author never wrote him, he would never wake…

The boy’s ears were a moment in telling him something was wrong, but there it was – or rather, there it wasn’t. The crowds had silenced.

He raised his head, disoriented. Not a murmur or rustle did he hear. Nothing but the music, suddenly eerie in the absence of all other sound. Uncertain, the boy rose to standing, crossed the shadowy space on silent feet, and looked out into the evening dim. Nobody there.

His lurching heart propelled him forward a step. Something vital had changed in his world, but was it for good or ill?

A prickle dancing up his spine caused the boy to cast a look behind him, and what he saw there stilled the breath in his throat. Wide as the horizon and high as the sky, a wall of blackness edged forward, devouring all in its path.

From his creation onward, the boy had known only fear, but it was nothing next to his terror now. He moved as he never had before, thoughts of grace and elegance thrown aside by the need for speed. Even so, there was no way to gauge how swiftly he moved, for his surroundings changed from stride to stride, the nightmare he knew shifting through dreams unexplored. The wall of oblivion remained the only constant, not yet managing to catch him, nor yet falling behind.

At length, too exhausted to race any further, the boy flung himself at the closest thing to an illusion of safety – a wheatstack in a pastel field full of such mounds – and burrowed inside. If it could provide no protection, at least it would prevent him having to see it when the wall overtook him.

Huddled in darkness again, lungs battling for breath, the boy realized of a sudden he recognized this place. Wheatstacks, he thought. End of Summer. He’d glimpsed its like in his author’s mind before. He was in a mental copy of Monet painting.

Wheatstacks, End of Summer

“Yes,” a voice rang from out in the open, clear as the music of a bell. “She was much taken with Monet.”

She. Did the voice speak of his author?

Peeking out through the wheat, the boy caught sight of the speaker – now speaking again – a tall, slender man, glowing like lamplight, hovering in the air in the midst of three others: One big, one medium, one crouched low on the ground and brandishing the black tail of a cat. “An angel?” he answered a question the boy had not heard. “No, Uri, not I. Yes,” – his ringing voice bore a trace of amusement – “I know who you are. I know who all of you are. And you must be made to know it, too, if you wish your survival.”

The boy did not know who all of the people were, but he could guess. They must have been like him – his author’s characters, from stories beyond his own. But not the glowing one, the boy sensed. He was something more.

Though the voices of the other characters did not carry as the bell voice did, the boy could see them startle as Lucianíel (for this was the name the glowing man gave) informed them of the situation. That his existence was fictional was, of course, not the news to the boy that it seemed to be to the others, but at the stated cause of the oblivion wall, he gasped.

Dead?, he thought, dizzy with dismay. His author was dead? His only chance to have his story written, dead? Had he been standing, the pain of the thought would have sent him to his knees. It was over. He was doomed. Finished before he had ever begun.

“You needn’t be,” Lucianíel’s voice chimed, once more seeming to address the three strangers and the boy’s thoughts, both at once. “To exist outside of the author’s mind, the character requires the belief of someone outside of their world. Such is the advantage of having one’s story scribed. So long as the book exists to be read, the character is immortal.”

And what good is immortality if you live forever in a nightmare?, the boy wondered. Was it any better than ceasing to exist at all? He watched, indecisive, as Lucianíel and the others prepared to go – go how or go where, he did not know. If he revealed himself, would they take him with them? Did he even want them to?

Of a sudden, one of the characters – the big one Lucianíel had called Wilbur – turned toward the boy’s general direction, looking all around. Searching for something. Or for someone. Surely not for me? The faintest hope fluttered in the boy’s breast.

Wilbur’s fevered search among the wheatstacks brought him closer. Closer. So close, the boy could have stretched out and touched him. Then, “Come, Wilbur,” Lucianíel called him back.

“But—” Wilbur began, voice choked with grief.

Come.”

No, the boy thought as Wilbur turned away. Fear sucked his mouth dry of words, but his mind strained forward. Don’t go. Don’t leave me. Please.

And Wilbur’s gaze turned back. Catching sight of the boy, he jerked to a stop. “Wait,” he said. “It’s a person.”

The bell rang sharply. “What?”

“A person. In the haystack!”

In the space of a heartbeat, Lucianíel appeared at Wilbur’s side, both men crouching down nearer to the boy’s level. “Ah, so it’s you,” said Lucianíel, relief evident in his incandescent face. “I’d wondered at your absence. The choice is yours, child. Fly or perish?”

Fly or perish. The choice of story’s end, faced far sooner than expected. Too soon. The boy was not ready.

“Please come,” Wilbur softly implored. “You’re strong enough to have lasted this long; don’t you disappear now.” He held out a hand in pleading invitation. “It’s all right,” he promised. “You’ll be all right, if you just stay with us. I’ll look after you.”

You can’t protect me from everything, the boy thought. But looking into the pairs of eyes before him, shining gold and warmest gray, he felt sure both of these caring strangers would try.

Gathering what little courage he had, the boy placed his hand in Wilbur’s, placing his trust there, as well, and in Lucianíel. His ill-fated end was coming, but not today. Not to oblivion. His voice a hoarse whisper, he said, “I will fly.”

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And that, my friends, is that. If you’d love to nab the novel featuring this dear lad’s full story, remember there’s a giveaway on Goodreads with three paperbacks for the winning. Meanwhile, for the e-reading crowd, the novel’s e-version is on sale all month for a crazy-low 99 cents via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. So for anyone who hasn’t gotten hold of a copy yet, the time is now!

Thanks to everyone who’s joined me for the fun of “INSPIRED Days”! Regular, miscellaneous Ever On Word blogging will resume on Thursday. ‘Til then, farewell!

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