Hey everyone. Here’s a little peek into the world of writing. This is the opening of my second book–working title: Kokoro. This is only the second draft, so it has a way to go yet. Still, I thought it might be interesting to show you how a book looks in its early stages. I’m about halfway through with this revision, with more to go. No guarantees, but I’ll post these first few pages again when I have a chance to edit and polish. Until then–enjoy 🙂
Earth: Guilin City, China
Byron Taylor pulled his battered jeep to the side of the rode and cast an uneasy gaze into the skies. He assumed a new start would change him, would ease his anxiety, would bring him the peace he never had at home.
He’d been mistaken.
Fear stalked him wherever he went; he jumped at shadows, saw danger where none existed. Even here, in a remote corner of China’s Guangxi province, he imagined the worst. The rational part of his brain told him the speck of silver light knifing through the skies was nothing more than an airliner, and still his emotions refused to listen. Overruling reason, they sent adrenaline into his rapidly beating heart, each contraction shooting more through his blood, energizing him, making him jittery.
“It’s just a plane,” he said aloud. The odds of it being anything else were astronomical. He closed his eyes and started a long, slow breath to calm his mind. “It’s just a plane,” he repeated. They couldn’t have found him; he had to believe that.
But he didn’t. He’d been through too much, seen too much. People died around him, their bodies blown apart while he drove his great armored suit against hundreds of others. He remembered them all, the faces of those he’d killed. They died because him, because he wasn’t good enough or smart enough. Because he wasn’t meant for this.
His eyes snapped open, his breathing still rapid and shallow. Meditation didn’t help; cleansing breaths were equally useless. His head said he was safe, but his body said otherwise. In desperation, he pulled a pair of binoculars from the seat beside him and brought them up to his eyes. Proof. That’s what he needed–something to demonstrate his foolishness.
Through the glass, the sky opened to him, deep azure, limitless, boundless, infinite. The vapor trail appeared as a thin sliver at the very top of the lens. He adjusted his aim until he’d centered then worked his way toward the head. The activity relieved some of his tension–having something to do distracted his senses enough to settle him.
The longer he followed the trail, however, the more his tension returned. He didn’t think a plane moved that fast, not the planes he knew. Dread clawed at him, suppressing his breath. The tightening in his chest intensified as he followed the narrowing contrail to its source.
He relaxed a little when a pair of silver tail fins appeared, only to have his world tilt a moment later. Instead of ending, the fins swept upward, merging with what could only be thick metal legs. The legs met an armored torso on which sat a cruel, hawk-like helm.
A thousand icy daggers drilled into Byron’s skin. A Mah-kai! The Riders were here; they’d found him. Tremors started again in his fingertips. He gulped at the air, feverishly trying to estimate how long it would take them to search the area, trying to guess how much time he had to run.
Furious, he drove his fist into the dash. Damn them! He’d made a home here, had just started to feel comfortable. The first few years were always the most difficult, creating an identity from nothing, fitting in. That was over now. All of it–the carefully crafted persona, the teen prodigy, the brilliant young scientist.
Cursing, he fumbled for the shift and threw the jeep into gear. He sped off, determined to reach the dig before his team spotted him. His ignorance put them at risk. Friends, colleagues, students. They were in danger now. He should have know better. He’d grown too comfortable. Too secure. The find blinded him, the ramifications, its link to his world.
He’d been here for less than a week with a team of the finest scientists and field researchers he could assemble, the whole expedition coming together quickly considering the mounds of paperwork needed for an undertaking of this size.
The Chinese government helped more than he expected, their excitement over the find earning him both respect and cooperation. It wasn’t every day a researcher unearthed an ancient human, this one unlike any before it: the perfectly preserved remains of a woman predating the age of dinosaurs. Top level officials were so thrilled with the discovery, they ordered the Ministry of Culture fast-tracked his permits through the bureaucracy, subsidized seventy-five percent of the expedition, and had the military quarantine all ten thousand square miles of Guilin City.
In retrospect, that’s what bothered him the most about the unknown object. Nothing apart from supplies and basic necessities entered the area: not boat, not transport, and certainly not aircraft. He glanced up, watched the white streak crest the eastern mountains, and let out a relieved sigh. It hadn’t spotted him. Not yet anyway. Thankfully, foresight–or paranoia, he wasn’t sure which–made him secure the valley with electronic countermeasures while advancing the site. It bought him some time. Not much, but some.
A road cut across the fields in front of him, a precisely tiled ribbon of mortared stone that wound its way into the wall. He swerved onto it. The archeologist in him noted its age; the fugitive watched for danger. Without trees or buildings, he was alarmingly exposed. His gaze alternated between road and sky, watching for the object’s return. Each glance seemed to lengthen the road ahead. The wall, despite its size, looked so far away.
He gunned the engine, sped forward, and eventually plunged into the tunnel. Echoes assaulted his ears–the engine’s roar, the whistling wind. Two miles long and dead straight, the road cut beneath the slimmest of the karst hills. Byron didn’t know who built it or why, only that–judging by the aged paving stone both inside the tunnel and out–it was at least as old as the Great Wall itself.
Growing sunlight signaled the end of the tunnel, and the jeep hit the mouth without slowing, the wind in Byron’s ears flattening to a dull roar. He’d donned sunglasses to compensate for the bright summer sun, cranked the wheel to the left, and followed the road past the banks of a large cenote.
This close, the still blue waters called to him. Local legend said a water goddess blasted it into existence and then filled it with her tears. He filled it with something else, something that brought tears to thousands.