As usual, I'm up to my clavicle in alligators, but I own this alternate-Thursday space and I'm not about to let you down. I'm busy writing, which is at least a good excuse. For the past week, I've been 10,000 words from the end of my third mystery. This equates to that dream in which you are running toward a door and the more you run, the further away it gets.
Or am I the only one who dreams that?
I can see the final conflict in this book as if it's a movie reel, playing in my head. I even know how the last scene works. I just have to get there, and it seems there's always one more place Peri needs to visit and one more person she needs to talk to and one more piece of information she needs before she gets there.
Only 10,000 more words.
After it's completed, I'll put it away until I've nearly forgotten about it, then drag it out for editing. In the meantime, I thought I'd show you the first chapter. I won't claim it's raw - I tend to write fairly clean and I have been through a little fine-tuning in one read & critique session. But I feel comfy enough with you to pull it out and let you drive it around the block, kick the tires, etc.
I don't have a title for the book yet. The working title is "Burning Mad" but I don't care for that. Here's how it starts:
The drugs raced through the teenager's mind. On his back, on the floor, he watched the ceiling above him swirl into a dark velvet expanse, dotted with stars. His arm stretched out to grab a handful but they eluded his grasp, preferring to settle on his fingertips. He smiled, the corners of his mouth stretching away from their usual pout.
Dad complains I'm grumpy, but it's his fault. He barely speaks to me, anyway. Good thing. "Why can't you just," whatever, it's all he ever says. Straighten up, go to school, be normal. What for?
Mom's always yelling at me one second then saying it's okay she understands the next. What does she know? She doesn't know what school is like, all those crappy teachers, whining crappy assignments. Homework is useless. I already know what I want to know. If I don't, it's because it's boring.
My friends are all I need.
He scowled, his hand lowering to his chest. His friends hung out with him because his parents were so generous. Mom and Dad fed them, let them swim in the pool, and were kind enough to leave beer where they could get at it. He supplied the video games and kept his parents at bay by apologizing each time the bar was raided.
These drugs are fine, def wicked. For several minutes, he focused on his breath. He felt his bones move apart to give the air somewhere to go, then relax back into each other when he no longer needed that gulp. In… out… in… out…
Dylan said it was some kind of cocktail. Alex giggled. Cock. Tail. Cock tail. He laughed out loud. That Dylan was a riot.
His hallucination shifted, from night to day. Now he saw blue skies and white clouds above him. Reaching up to a cloud, he felt mist run through his fingers, and saw a trail of white follow his hand.
The clouds in front of him began to turn grey and dirty. The air coagulated in a brown haze around him. His ribs no longer spread, although his lungs fought for oxygen. The air they drew in smelled of smoke and stung all the way down. He coughed himself out of the dream and looked around.
The room was dark and unfamiliar. He remembered; this was not his home. They had broken into this place, thinking it was abandoned. Each over-filled room told them they were wrong, but no one was home, so they explored it before the pills and whiskey took effect. Alex had ended up in what looked like an old lady's bedroom. A vanity held fancy glass bottles, and a porcelain doll nestled in the pillows that were covered by a tufted bedspread.
He heard his name being called. "Alex. Hey, Alex."
Opening his mouth to answer, he coughed again. The air was getting thicker with smoke. He saw shadows pass by the doorway, and tried again, but his throat was too raw for noise. One of the shadows paused.
"Dude… we gotta… get… out of here." Whoever said it was coughing, hard.
"Come on." Dylan's voice sounded hoarse but loud. "Alex is probably already out."
He didn't hear anything after that, so he rolled to his stomach and began to crawl. The smoke swirled around his body, much like the imaginary stars. He wished the smoke was the illusion.
Dragging his body around the corner of the bed, he looked down the hallway. Red-hot light sizzled upon his face. He backed into the bedroom again and saw curtains. With an effort, he pushed to his hands and knees and scooted to the lacy ruffles. He pulled them open and yanked on the window. It was locked.
The room continued to fill with smoke and heat. His breathing felt like a fish gasping for water, and his head grew light. He felt around the frame, searching for a latch. Finding one, he slid it, the only direction it would go, and felt the window casing spring up. He reached both hands forward to remove the screen and slide to safety.
Wow, am I going to have a story to tell the guys.
That's when he felt the security bars. His last bit of effort was to grab them and prove their immobility. He slid down, to the floor beneath the window, and listened to the pretty glass bottles exploding on the vanity, as they shattered from the heat. Rolling to his side, he looked at the shards on the carpet, lit by the flames around the doorway.
He reached out his hand to them, sparkling like stars.
* * * *
I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see how it ends.