Next up is scene-setting. Describe a place, real or fictional, where you would like to live (and presumably write) for a year.
So, my original plan for this was to talk about Marseilles for a while because it is the one place that I feel I simply must see before I die. However, as I started actually writing my novel, I created a setting that I would like to share. This is not a place that I would like to live or work. It’s actually just the opening scene to my novel. However, since Halloween is just barely behind us, I think it is highly appropriate.
Katie opened her eyes in a bright field where she was stretched out on her back gazing at the sky. She felt in the back of her mind that it wasn’t real, but she didn’t really care. The sunshine was warm on her skin, and the dandelions bouncing around in front of her vision promised hours of contemplation if she were so inclined. She settled more firmly into the grass, but then something sharp jabbed her in the back, and she sat up.
She put her hands down on either side of her on the ground, but she had to immediately pull them back up. Katie looked down to find large fire ants crawling all around her. They crept up her flowing blue skirt seeking skin to latch onto with their pincers. Katie leaped to her feet and walked away from the spot, batting at the insects as she went. By the time she flicked them all away and looked up again, she had reached the edge of the field. She stopped just out of reach of the shadows cast by the trees that ringed the clearing. The sun still shone down on her here, but the trees looked cold. Despite the giant ants, she didn’t want to leave the field of dandelions.
As she glanced back over her shoulder to look at the peaceful field again, a hawk made the decision for her as it dove for her face. Katie threw up a hand to ward it off and felt sharp talons rip through the sheer sleeves of her blouse. The hawk shrieked as it wheeled back into the air to come around for another attack. Katie didn’t give it time. She fled into the trees holding her torn arm up in the air in an attempt to slow the flow of blood.
The trees and undergrowth grew denser as she moved forward. Eventually, she could not push ahead anymore with her one good arm, but she knew she could not stop. She could not rest, and she could not go back the way she had come. Those were the rules of the nightmare. She knew where she was now, and she knew what was coming next, but she could not escape it.
Katie paused to rip a bit of fabric off her skirt and haphazardly wrap it around her arm. The blood loss wasn’t really important here, but it made her feel as though she had some measure of control over the dream this way. Once she had secured the thin material around her forearm, Katie turned to her left and began walking again. The path to the left was always clear.
She trudged through the trees wrapping her arms around herself as the chill of the shadows settled into her bones. The trees echoed with the sinister crooning of the shadow children. Branches looming overhead creaked with the weight of the children as they danced along above her. She lifted her chin and stared straight ahead into the gloom. A strange gray light permeated the undergrowth, but the way remained clear.
The path ended at a large ash tree towering above the others. It sat in a small cleared space, but she knew if she walked around it, there would be no other path to follow. She stopped at the very edge of the space. She knew that she would soon be driven forward by the scrapes of the shadow children’s fingers and their hisses in her ear, yet she also knew that she would resist as long as possible. It made the dream drag on, but her dread of the end was worse.
Time warped within the dream, so she could not measure how long she endured the touch of the children. It began as light scrapes down her back and legs. Then, the touches became more forceful before turning into pushes and shoves to harry her forward to the waiting ash tree. And, more importantly, the being who lived there.
Finally, she gave in to the prodding of the shadow children. She lifted one foot at a time, placing it down carefully on the wet dead leaves before raising the other. Her heart lodged itself in her throat as it beat wildly. She stood within inches of the dark tree entirely too soon. As soon as she reached her position, the children stopped whispering. A bated silence reigned in the dark forest. Katie tried to remember how to breathe for even the few moments she would be allowed the luxury.
A great crack split the silence. She willed her eyes to shut, but the lids remained firmly lifted as though they had been sewed in place. For all she knew, they might have been. The deep gray of the tree’s bark darkened further as the shadow lord pulled himself from the center of the tree. Darkness spread out from him in waves. He had no discernible shape. He was the dark. He was the fear within the night. As his tendrils of shadow crept closer to her, what little warmth had remained in her body vanished. The breath halted in her lungs as her veins iced over and her heart struggled to beat the now solidified blood.
Still he crept closer.
No matter how many times she encountered him, she never stopped expecting his eyes to glow red when he finally allowed her to see them. But they never did. Instead, his eyes were solid white like the fog that hides the deer in the road when the car comes around a bend.
As his darkness enveloped her completely, just before her heart gave its last stutter, he whispered, “Welcome home, my dearest daughter.”
Then, there was nothing but the dark and her silent screams.
Hope everyone enjoyed that. Let me know what you think in the comments!