Monday, 30 March 2009

book opening pages

Thick amber mist boiled across the ground, a perfect mirror for the unnaturally colored clouds that rolled overhead. The ghostly silhouettes of malformed trees and fragmented architecture loomed menacingly from within the haze.

Dark things stirred upon the ground, unquantifiable and ominous they sped across the rough terrain like oil, flowing around rocks and rubble with ease. A towering figure twice the height and build of a man erupted forth from the darkness and screaming filled the air.

Jonas sat bolt upright in his bunk, his coarse woolen blankets tangled around his legs and his pillow drenched with sweat. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand, sweeping his long, light brown fringe to the side before running his fingers through the rest of his tangled mass of hair. The screaming of his nightmare still resonating in his ears.

History is full of great men, whose ambitions and actions lead them to even greater things. Men who are remembered in legend long after they passed from this earth, such were their lives. Jonas wasn’t one of these men. He wasn’t even close.

Jonas Howard was simply an archaeologist in his late twenties, an underpaid, unappreciated, over worked one at that. His area of expertise lay in the somewhat redundant field of ancient mythology where he eked out a meager existence, living off the salary of assistant lecturer at whichever universities would have him. But that was his chosen path. He had been obsessed with mythology ever since he was young, the endless tales of fauns and centaurs, of giants and dragons and all manner of heroic deeds had left their mark along side an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

He lay on his bunk for a while, staring up at the roof of the tent that had served as his home for several months now. It was still dark, but the smallest spots of mellow light crept through the holes in the moth eaten ceiling. Along with rain, and rather a lot of it. The persistent patter of raindrops upon the canvas roof were accompanied by the louder plinks and plonks of those drops that found their way inside, landing on the stacks of books, boxes, suitcases and all manner of archaeological detritus. Not to mention the head of Jonas’s colleague and oldest friend, Thomas Montgomery.

As he lay there, Jonas knew that sleep would not grant him the small mercy of allowing him to slip back into it’s blissful embrace. The dream was still fresh in his head and he couldn’t help but replay it, it was etched in his minds eye as clearly as if he were watching it play out before him.

This was always the case with his dreams, and he’d had enough of them now to be used to it. Not just any old nightmares, always the same ones… the same place. They’d haunted him since he was ten regularly disturbing his sleep, driving him to distraction in the early years.

He’d been shuffled discreetly between therapists, his prudish middle class parents terrified that some one might assume them to be a household of deranged misfits. Not without cause though, his grandfather – source of his endless fascination with what his parents referred to as “the fictitious” – had been committed to an asylum when Jonas was just eight years of age. Regardless of family history, no one had been able to find anything wrong with Jonas, stating he simply had an overactive imagination…

His parents assumed he grew out of them, the truth however was simply that he stopped telling them – and in fact stopped talking to them altogether, forced away by their disapproval and narrow-minded nature – the only people now who knew about the recurring nightmares were his fiancĂ© and Thomas, though even to them he was careful about what he said.

He clambered out of bed, his feet landing on the damp tarpaulin. He pulled on his usual assortment of clothes. Mostly in varying shades of grey, it bore all the hallmarks of once having been fairly smart, now however the shirt had a mismatched assortment of buttons, his trousers were faded and the bottom of each leg was frayed beyond repair. The green corduroy jacket that he was never to be found without (also possibly the most colorful thing he owned) had been through more than any jacket should have. It was also too big; the life of near poverty that he led and the subsequent lack of food had taken its toll on his physique.

He breathed deeply and sighed, the smell of the damp tent filling his nose and his breath condensing in the surprisingly chilly air. He pushed on his glasses and slipped quietly out of the tent, intending to clear his head with a quick stroll in the fresh morning air.

Jonas unfurled an umbrella as characteristically battered as everything else he owned as he stepped into the world beyond his shelter. It wasn’t long before dawn, the hopeful glimmer of the sun’s rising light just breaking over the wooded horizon, casting its illuminating touch over the world around it with ever more potency as it pushed back the night.

The September of 1940 had thus far been fair, but now the sky was leaden and the air bore a bitter chill that sank to the very core of Jonas’ bones as he strode through the camp. His gait and pace suggested a purpose that his surroundings denied. There was nowhere to walk to. Nowhere to go.

The camp was atop a hill, in the depths of rural Dorset. Veiled in darkness below them in the lower slopes of the undulating landscape lay the decidedly quaint village of Piddle Trent-Hyde, though it was only faintly visible at this hour. Outside of that, lay only farmland, mile upon mile of it. This is where for the past few months Jonas had known as his home, hardly exotic or exciting, but he and the two-dozen other archaeologists and laborers that lived within the ramshackle camp had their reasons.

That reason was the ruins. Ancient structures unearthed by chance as a farmer ploughed his field. What had at first been chalked up to yet another in an endless list of random finds had soon developed into a major dig.

They sat southwest of the camp, and now as the sun steadily crept higher the exposed stones were picked out with a pale highlight. They looked so ghostly… so enticing… Jonas walked towards them, his umbrella lowered; some sort of reverie had taken hold as he approached the ancient stonework, no longer was he lucid or his own master, now the ruins lured him close like bait on a hook.

His vision swam and his thoughts slipped away like water down the drain. It was a momentary island of serenity. Suddenly a searing pain erupted behind his eyes and he fell to the muddy grass, the world turned momentarily to amber… trees… mist… shadows… and then. As suddenly as the pain had come it vanished.

No comments:

Post a Comment