Journey Through Darkness
I need some feedback, badly. Can I get some help from my CBM pals?
Credit to "B1nd1" on DeviantArt for this picture. It's just some imagery to inspire your imagination.
Okay, here's the deal. Logically, I should have all it takes to write a novel. English has always been my strong suit, and I have near perfect grammar and punctuation. I've taken classes, been though College, and still I have writer's block. Really, it takes imagination and follow-through to write a novel. I understand this. However, I simply cannot carry on with my aspirations to be a fiction writer until I get some feedback. What I'm showing you is not CBM related at all, save for the fact that I do take inspiration from comic books in all my writing. It has been edited for errors. As a word document, it's about thirty pages. I know: "Holy crap, he wants us to read all that?". No, not exactly. Just enough to form an opinion.
This isn't the final draft of this story, and this is by no means a finished product. It is simply an excerpt of the beginning. I have a lot of other work in my files, but this is one that I feel has been done well. Please provide me with some honest feedback. Is it too detailed? Not detailed enough? Not interesting? Is more backstory needed? Does the story need a slower pace? These are all questions that I ask myself when I write. I've been told before that I am an excellent writer. Well, for what it's worth, even Einstein was a nobody before he had his big break.
The story is entitled, "Journey Through Darkness". It follows the travels of a man who lives his life as a vagabond, like a samurai with no home. It is a science-fiction/adventure novel. I cite Stephen King and Jules Verne as inspirations for my writing style. Also, if you spot some mistakes here, it's probably because this article-creator doesn't support formatting from .doc files. Bear with me. As a warning, I apologize for the rudeness of the middle scene. I make no exceptions in my writing, and anything explicit or vulgar is only a part of the story. It's not for perverted thrills.
Sympathy for the Beast
“Today, I woke up calmly. No creature came to disturb me, though I doubt it would have. I was sleeping so hard I doubted myself that I wanted to leave my spot in the cave. I'm wondering what will come my way today as I continue on my way. I've prepared my supplies for travel, and I'm planning on making my way through the bulk of the jungle before nightfall. Perhaps I will stumble upon a village; sometimes the villagers are friendly. Sometimes they aren't, but that's just the way life is. Unfair at times, and mostly unpredictable.
Some almost noon sunlight was peering through the canopy of the trees. It leaked into the cave's gaping maw like a broken faucet. A few streaks of white lay across the stone floor near the entrance, lighting the cave just enough for comfort. Beyond more than one hundred feet, it was pitch black again, much like the night itself in the jungle. Rhoran held his journal high, as a visor against the sunlight, and stood to his feet to take a gander at the night's destruction. Sometimes terrible storms raged across the land during the night, albeit the days were rarely anything but sunny. As far as he could see, which was not far, nothing but morning dew had graced the trees and wildlife during the long and tender night hours. Rhoran bent down to stow his journal away in his backpack, minding the old leather and being careful to place it correctly between his various other supplies. He reached over to grab his ink bottle and quill, which he placed in a separate compartment. He was low on ink, but blood would be a good substitute should he need more to write with. That is, if he didn't make it to another civilized area soon. Where the blood would come from, only time would tell.
Now he stood to his feet, slinging the backpack over his shoulders and giving it a sturdy hitch. He double checked his belt.
The former weapons he kept on his utility belt, tightly strapped and kept near him at all times. The gun was old but reliable, and the knife sharp as ever. The incendiaries were a gift from a shaman he met, some time ago. This shaman taught Rhoran how to make these deadly devices from plants in the jungle. It was a painstaking process, and it took many hours to do properly. He also gave Rhoran most of his bottles to make them with, but Rhoran had collected more bottles on his travels. He had three on his belt now, ready to be thrown at a moment's notice. He made sure each pouch was buttoned, tightly, before he was finished. Outfitted like a soldier, Rhoran completed his daily self-check.
Now, it was time to fetch breakfast. Food was a queer topic here in the jungle. You had to follow the rules of nature. Kill to eat, eat to survive. Rhoran intended on catching a smaller creature, possibly one he could coerce into trusting him. Such was the way of things, unless one intended to fight a much larger creature. Rhoran neither had the bullets or mettle to try it. A small roast over a fire would suffice him all day; patience and a tough belly was required to survive the harsh conditions of the jungles.
One time, Rhoran actually did wrestle with a large beast to make a meal. It wasn't too long ago actually, but long enough that Rhoran's memory of the incident had begun to fade. The beast was twice his size, at around four hundred pounds, and nine foot tall while standing on his hind legs. This unsightly creation had jaws of furious teeth, surrounded by a face that resembled a demon's. The long black beast was frighteningly huge, and it's skin was slippery like an eel. It's clawed hands were as big as watermelons, and the claws themselves ranged to about four or five inches long when extended fully. Rhoran happened upon this monster by complete accident, and he was lucky to still be meddling around after meeting it. The beast was hiding in a tree, about ten foot off the ground. Rhoran was trying to make some headway after dark, hoping to find a safe place to camp for a few days. Rhoran was sprinting through some clear patches of trees, as fast as he could so not to dawdle and awaken something. The beast must have saw him coming for miles. It leaped directly in his path, only a few footsteps ahead of him. Luckily, Rhoran's adrenaline kicked in. He whipped out his revolver and fired a round at what he thought to be the beast's head. When the bullet went crackling by his ear, the beast howled in anger. He lept again, this time back into the tree to try again. Rhoran took a sprawling step backwards and hit the ground as the beast prepared to pounce. When the beast dove from his spot in the tree, Rhoran took just enough time to aim and fire. The beast landed with considerable upheaval directly beside him. One bullet to the brain killed it. An angel must have guided that bullet, because Rhoran was supposed to be digesting in the beast's stomach.
Today may or may not be much different. Whatever came his way, Rhoran was going to overcome it...or so he believed. He took a step out into the sunlight, beyond the cave's entrance. The brightness shocked him a bit at first, but his eyes quickly became accustomed. The weather was moderate, whatever that meant. At any given time, the heat might spark up quickly, or a chill might sweep over the land. Rhoran put these worries behind him and pressed on northwards. The path wasn't nearly as clear as it should be, but still it meant somebody had walked this way before. Whether beast or man, someone had traveled this way before. He would be lucky if the beast no longer remained too.
The jungle was getting thick, and unrestrained. Uninstructed. Nonrestrictive nature. It wanted to choke him it seemed, and this made him wonder if perhaps the previous traveler decided to wander off the beaten path. If so, Rhoran needed to make his own. He crushed some of the foliage in front of him with a sturdy boot stomp and used his hands to clear it as he continued on his way. He made sure to steal a glance at the two moons above before they disappeared under the canopy.
If the jungle didn't start to let up soon, Rhoran would be hip deep in a bad way of some sorts. That was for sure.
The air was sticky, muggy, and uncomfortable. Everybody in the vicinity was feeling about the same, save for the chieftain who was enjoying himself. Anybody in his position would be.
“It,” the chieftain began, “is time.”
An uneven murmur of satisfaction burst from the crowd surrounding the center of the village. The crowd was composed mostly of men, young and old, their faces dirty and a spry look upon their countenances. Most of the women were peeping out from their huts, but a few of them stood among the men.
The chieftain, sweat on his brow and a smile on his face, clasped his hands together and rubbed them frantically. He stepped forward and took a prominent stance on the pedestal that stood on one side of the village square. The sound of his leather boots against the dirt-littered wooden surface of the pedestal was ominous to behold. He cracked a toothy smile at the villages surrounding the square, his eyes sweeping across their numbers like a hawk searching for prey.
“Bring the girls!” he ordered in a joyful tone.
A gang of several men pushed their way through the sitting-duck villagers. Each pair of men were holding a young girl in their arms. The girls were dragged to the front of the crowd, like hostages.
“Ohnarah, brothers. Thank you.” the chieftain said, congratulating the men.
The girls, four of them, were pushed to their knees and lined up side by side on the stony ground. Their hands were bound with rope, and each of them were dressed in little clothing at all. The first girl had very pale skin, with flowing dark hair. A few freckles dotted her cheeks, and had pink full lips. She was all skin and bones however, and this did not interest the chieftain. The second girl was a dark-skinned girl, with short black hair in a ponytail. Her huge brown eyes shifted from side to side, refusing to stare to the chieftain in fear. Her back was arched proudly, and she sat comfortably on her knees, buttocks resting on her feet.
The chieftain made little notice of the other two girls, who both sported long red hair and fair skin. A grin spread across his face from ear to ear. He had made his choice.
“You!” he announced, pointing at the dark-skinned girl.
She at last made eye contact with the chieftain.
“Where did you find her?” the chieftain asked the gang of men eagerly.
The two men who brought her in answered promptly, “Nearby the springs, Ceasurum. She was bathing and we caught her.”
“She's dark-skinned, bahleah!” the chieftain pointed out gladly. “We do not see many bahleah here. This is very fortunate my Ohnarah!”
The chieftain guffawed proudly, clapping loudly and smiling. He motioned the boys to bring her forth, up onto the pedestal with him. Two of the boys grabbed her on either side, and she willingly walked with them onto the pedestal where they dropped her off and left her alone with the chieftain. She still refused to look him in the eyes, from her knees still. The chieftain thanked the boys, and turned his attention to the girl.
“Bahleah, have you a name?”
The girl ignored him, keeping her eyes leftward nonchalantly. The chieftain snatched her chin and averted her eyes to him. Now, she looked him in the eye.
“Young bahleah girl, I asked you...have you a name?”
His eyes were unforgiving and harsh, but had a warmth to them that was unexplainable. His face was inches from hers, almost like he was going to give her a kiss. Her smooth and untarnished skin was a contrast to his, like a stone held to the clear blue sky. Still, she did not answer him.
“Girl...I know you are proud. We are a proud people. This is no dishonor to you bahleah. You will serve me, and you will enjoy this. I can force an answer from you if you'd prefer. I wouldn't like that. I would like you to remain, how shall we say, beautiful?”
“Mariah.” the girl answered finally.
The chieftain stood up, releasing her chin.
“Mariah, a beautiful name.” The chieftain looked across the villagers again, saying “Mariah will be my ubariah, recognize!”
The men exclaimed unanimously from the crowds. For a small village, they made quite a roar.
“Mariah, you will serve me. This is your initiation, shall we say.”
The next minutes of Mariah's life were unexplainably embarrassing, even after being kidnapped while bathing. The chieftain removed his loincloth and undergarment, standing naked in front of everybody. He coaxed Mariah by rubbing his hand through her hair and across her cheeks. In seconds, she was pleasing him in front of the village. She felt exposed and humiliated, but she didn't cry. She could not cry. She would not show weakness in front of these savages.
The men watching watched in awe, like children watching television. Then, in a split second, Mariah was flipped over and placed in a receiving position. Her garments were stripped away. The men roared. In another couple seconds, Mariah was being broken in. She was ashamed deeply. Her knees and shins scraped against the wood of the pedestal harshly. The intrusion was deep and unwarranted. A few tears, now, fell from her eyes unyielding to their barbarism.
Unyielding to their barbarism.
Unyielding to the unfairness of her capture, and unyielding to beg for mercy.
It had only been hours since his exodus from the cave that he camped out for the night in, but already the heat of the jungle was eating at his nerves. There was rarely a break from the sun's beating rays, and the canopy of the jungle made it all the worse. In Rhoran's mind, the canopy was like a filter that failed to do its job; as the sunlight shone across the canopy, itty-bitty holes would let the sunlight through. There was no break in the heat, because the sun was too powerful. To Rhoran, it would seem that a cover above one's head would block the heat at least.
Under the incubator, it seemed, Rhoran continued trekking across the jungle terrain. After an hour or so of hiking, since leaving, he managed to find a path that was less resistant to man. Whoever traveled this path before
(the path less traveled)
must have been a wanderer like himself. On the other hand, Rhoran felt bad for whoever needed to travel in this desolate place in the first place. A proverb came to his mind, like a whisper in complete silence: “Not all who wander are lost”. In terms of being lost and found, the jungle seemed to have no sympathy. You were lost until you left the jungle. Period.
Thorns, bushes, branches, leaves the size of watermelons. The path seemed to be getting dense again, and only after a few minutes. He managed to avoid tripping over a few significantly large roots before the path was totally unclear again, biting at his flesh and leaves whipping him in the face. It was time to unleash the machete again, whom he'd lowered while the path was clear. Cutting branches and stomping them down, the sun continuing it's reign over the jungle, Rhoran made way the best he could.
During the longest treks of his voyage, it seemed comfortable to reminisce and ponder over the past. This time, Rhoran remembered a particularly fond memory. This memory, which was most definitely inscribed in his journal, concerned a young woman he met in a city far from where he was now, and deep in his past. Rhoran had just rode in on horse and buggy, courtesy of a villager who was riding in to sell his fruits, when the burden of travel overwhelmed him with fatigue. Rhoran managed to find a cheap hostel in one corner of town, that seemed friendly toward travelers.
Walking to the clerk's desk, Rhoran asked, “Urm, have you any open rooms? I want one for tonight. Leavin' tommorow.”
“Yes, we do. Can I have a name, or will you be staying now?”
“Graves. That's it. And yeah I'll be going up for now.”
The clerk opened the ledger, sliding it across the dusty desk, and scribbled on a blank line underneath another tenant by the name of “Besheth Horman” (however well Rhoran could read upside down, he would never know). The clerk, an older woman with salt and pepper hair, had beautiful handwriting. When she finished writing she turned slightly and picked a key off the wall before handing it to Rhoran.
“Room 3, first floor. Is that fine Mr. Graves?”
Rhoran thought for a moment.
First floor. Noise downstairs. Maybe a party later? What if I'm disturbed? Aaah, c'mon, don't be a spahzak.
“Yeah...no, that will be fine.
He took the key, fondled it into his fist, and turned to go find the room. He knew he looked like a moron, a spahzak. His emotions were often painted on his face, and the lady clerk had to see the grimace on his face, even behind the beard. Walking up the stairs, he felt like everybody was staring a hole into his back, straight through his leather coat. It was a relief to finally make it to the room, the last one on the left side of a hallway that looked suspiciously uninviting. Hey, you can't have your cake and eat it too. Rhoran had after all picked a cheap hostel in a strange place.
The door was open in seconds, and there was no big surprise to the room. The floor and walls were wooden, much the same as the rest of the place. A double bed on one wall, next to a couple nightstands with candles to light on them. A wicker chair in one corner, with a cushion, to sit and do...anything, on. On the other side of the wall the chair was on was the door to the latrine, a simple bathroom: a hole for a seat and a bucket of water for washing up. Some cities had working toilets and sewers, and there might even be some in the higher-end part of this town, but obviously not here.
Rhoran shut the door, and plopped himself down on the bed; the bed was comfortable for one a thousand women had probably been screwed over. The thought was welcome, and he expected it, but that's not why you stay in a hotel though...is it? He lied his head down, feet still on the floor, and closed his eyes. It only felt like five minutes before a knock came a'knocking at his door. Light was still coming through the cloth window shades, so he hadn't napped for long, if he napped at all.
Roughly, “Ahem, what is it?”
He didn't even open his eyes.
“The clerk sent me up. Free gift on the house!”
Free gift on the house? This is a stay-n-go kinda place, not some fancy place for rich folk who don't travel much.
“Uhm, I don't think it's locked. Come in?”
The doorknob turned, and the door swung open a little. An obviously young lady
it's dark in here she could be old
peeped her head in and swiveled around to see Rhoran lying on the bed like a bored little kid. Rhoran sat up to properly see her. She was holding a lit candle in one hand, that she also used to light up the room. Holding it out in front of her like a cane, she entered the room and closed the door behind her.
“Oh, I didn't realize you were sleeping Mr. Graves.”
Rhoran acknowledged her with a grunt, a friendly one.
“Like sleeping in the middle of the day?” the girl asked him.
The candle, right beneath her navel, lit the room sufficiently for Rhoran to see exactly who he was talking to. The girl had to be in her twenties. She was wearing a simple sack-cloth tunic, with a V-neck that did little to hide her modesty. Her skirt was made from the same material, and from what Rhoran could see she was barefooted too. The candlelight on the soft skin of her face revealed her age. She couldn't have been older than nineteen years old.
“I'll keep the candles unlit, if you prefer.”
“Yeah, uhm....what do you want Miss?”
The girl giggled. His blunt responses weren't bothering him, as they were intended to. “Miss? No, that's the clerk out there. I'm Kathandra. I'm here to bring you a gift...on the house.”
Kathandra sat her candle on the nightstand, and lied down belly first on the bed with Rhoran. He could see her clearly now. She was a beautiful girl, an ageless one like an angel would be. She had cherry-blonde hair down her shoulders and a face that would melt the heart of Lucifer. Her nose was petite, and pointed slightly upwards. Her lips were thin but kissable, with a shiny spot of flesh on her pouting bottom lip. Her breasts folded nicely under her neck as she lied down next to him, behind her clasped and fumbling hands.
“A...uh,” Rhoran begin, “A gift?”
A dumb question.
“Yes, mister Graves, a gift.”
The girl kissed him gently. He didn't realize she was already that close. His stomach churned. It was a sickly feeling, but a good one.
“Are...are you a...a special lady?” Rhoran asked.
“Hmmm...” she exaggerated with a smile. “I might be special.”
She kissed him again, open mouth and inviting.
“For a price ma'am? I'm not really that kind of man.”
She laughed heartily at his suggestion.
“I won't tell anybody. Let's keep this one between me and you.”
Another dumb question.
“The clerk said you were the nicest lookin' fella to cross over here for a long time. You're not scruffed up, you're not sportin' cuts and bruises, and you don't have your 'cargo' in tow.”
“I see,” Rhoran said. “Well, I appreciate it Kathy but --”
She placed a finger over his mouth, shushing him.
She kissed him again. This time, she didn't stop.
The jungle wasn't letting up. It was still thick and heavily fortified. Although Rhoran thought an hour or so had easily passed while he daydreamed, it may have been longer. It was barely afternoon, and with no horizon to see, it was difficult to tell if he'd made any progress through the jungle at all. Eventually he would have to find another shelter. The cave he stayed in previously was a lucky find, and so was the mountain it was in. If anything, he should have climbed the mountain before moving on.
Another daydream would seem to be a fitting maneuver, but too much daydreaming may be dangerous. What if he so becomes lost in his mind that he loses control of the present situation? No. It would be best to remain vigilant and sober. The jungle dragged Rhoran ever forward.
Rhoran stopped dead in his tracks. Screeching again.
“EEEEEEEK RA REEEEK!”
Rhoran Rhoran c'mon buddy survival mode, now!
Rhoran dropped to the ground in a prone position, like a soldier on a battlefield. The bushes whizzed, and grass scuzzled. Someone, or something, was moving. The jungle itself moved like a living and breathing beast, but this was different. It was impossible to ignore the jungle life in the first place, amongst all the noises of bugs and mammals, but this was something much different...and nearby.
The screeching and howling seemed like it was circling him. He craned his neck to look around him at at the treetops, or what of the treetops he could see. He saw nothing.
“Eeek, ra reek? Radada reeeeeeeeeeeeekkkkk”
Rhoran stood and took off in a direction, his feet blasting him forward. The screeching followed like a train behind him, howling and blowing its horn. He tried to feel for his gun, but he was moving too fast. The screeching continued and got closer. Rhoran dropped to the ground again. The jungle floor was rough but adrenaline saved him the pain.
“eeek....reek...reek reek reeeeeeeeeeeee”
Rhoran's right hand snapped to his belt, feeling for his revolver. His fingers grasped the handle, thankfully. He pulled it from the holster and held it in front of him like a flashlight, ready to spot the Boogeyman. The screeching had stopped but the movement in the trees hadn't. His eyes darted back and forth but he couldn't see what it was.
Rhoran whistled. His lips were too dry. He licked them, and whistled again. It was much louder, as intended originally.
The movement stopped.
Rhoran could feel his chest heaving. Whatever was out there, it could be anything.
“Aaaah oh my –!”
A wooden brown furred creature dropped to the ground in front of him. Rhoran swirled as if on a pedestal and felt for something behind him to hold onto. He found a tree, and tried to prop a foot or two in front of him for protection. The creature stood still.
Lucky for him, it's only about four feet tall.
“Reek dada reek beek?”
Rhoran suspected...but no...not it couldn't be.
“Huh?” Rhoran asked it, feeling quite silly.
The creature, which oddly resembled something apelike, cocked it's head to one side in puppy dog fashion. Its bright yellow round eyes were lit up like spotlights. Its eyes were the only color in the middle of its perfectly round and blackened face. No mouth was visible.
What a stupid looking monkey, Rhoran thought at the back of his mind.
“Eeeek eek eek eek Reek....”
It took a bold two steps forward, it's fingered feet making a crunchy pad noise on the leaves.
Rhoran shuffled nervously. This...thing, could be poisonous. Hell, it could be the most poisonous thing in this whole damn jungle.
Rhoran flashed his revolver at it nervously. It wasn't phased. The monkey jerked his head back. Rhoran half expected a retort like “What the heck are you doing? Don't point that thing at people...geez man...”. Instead, the monkey thing only looked into his eyes deeper. His little round head, about the size of a small bowling ball, moved closer to Rhoran's.
“What...what d'ya want? I'll shoot ya if you don't go away!”
Why are you talking to a monkey?
The monkey thing's left eye shifted, like it was raising an eyebrow at his remark.
“....eeeek?” it asked him.
Rhoran let his head rest against the tree behind him. It was apparent that the thing, monkey or creature default, wasn't dangerous. It was, however, quite curious. He opened his eyes, unafraid now, and wiped the sweat from his face.
“You're quite curious, aren't you? You 'bout scared half the doggone devil outta me.”
The monkey made a “Hmmph” sound at him. Rhoran wasn't sure if this was a rebuttle or not, but he decided to not take offense nonetheless.
“Well, you gonna stare at me all day?”
The monkey sat down the instant he finished his sentence. The thing looked funnily like a rag doll. A long, dark brown, lanky rag doll with two yellow eyes like oranges with black specks.
“Huh...so you're not quite as daft as you look.”
The monkey's eyes opened wider.
“What? Is that an insult?” it might have said if it could talk.
“Hum...I kinda travel alone for a reason fella. And I downright feel stupid for talking to you right now anyway.”
It was true. Rhoran hadn't talked to another soul for months. It was a wonder he didn't forget how to talk, much less communicate. By now, he must have been lonely to start talking to the animals. Still, the monkey only stared at him.
“Well buddy I don't know what you want, but I can't feed you because I can barely feed myself. You wanna sit here a while, we can do that. I've got time. You wanna leave, that's fine. You wanna come with, well, I guess that's okay too.”
For what seemed like forever, the monkey only stared at him like a helpless child. No, it was only forever in Rhoran's mind. After a couple minutes, it turned around and scooted back to the same tree Rhoran was leaning against. Rhoran looked at him longingly, wondering what must have been going through his mind.
Winnie the freaking Pooh, huh?
Instead of killing him, instead of threatening his life, instead of making Rhoran use that revolver he was so skilled with, the humble creature folded his little fingers and wrapped them around his knees like a child listening to a story. He averted from Rhoran to the jungle ahead; for the first time in the last few minutes, Rhoran saw through the trees that they were moving downhill. He must have taken a nasty turn when the monkey creature scared him.
“Beek. Reek beek.” the monkey said with a lonely tone.
“Where the hell is your mouth?” Rhoran asked.
The monkey looked at him, not saying anything for a second, and then moved his gaze again. Rhoran laid his head back against the tree. Now, must be moving on. He had to get out of this jungle.
“You wanna go with me?”
The two of them, together, rested against the tree for a while before the monkey did anything to answer him. The monkey stood to his feet, and leaned down to pick up Rhoran's hand. Rhoran, from his seat at the base of the tree, examined his own hand. The skin on his knuckles was rough from years of wear and tear. Graying hair grew on the back of his wrist, like medals on a decorated soldier.
“Eeek a reek a beek a.” the monkey said.
The monkey, using his left hand to hold Rhoran's, flipped Rhoran's hand over to see his palm. The monkey took his own right hand and placed it in Rhoran's palm. He looked at Rhoran harshly as he patted his palm. It was an gesture of friendliness, despite the notion in Rhoran's mind that he had intended to eat the next thing that he was near enough to kill.
Yes, we can be pals.
“Heh, Okay, Eek beek a reek." he said, jesting. "We can be pals. Nice to have a friend.”
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