Through the Reeds

These are two versions of a short prologue for a novel, since I decided, against my better judgment, to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year (and won!). The first attempt was a little too cutesy, and doesn’t fit very well with the tone of the book. The second one is fine enough, but I’ve since gotten rid of the prologue altogether.

Essentially, here’s some crap I’m deleting. Enjoy it.

Prologue #1—Meteor

A lonesome chunk of iron and ice, about the size of a school bus, burst into flames as it streaked across a midnight sky. It was excited to be coming home.

Four and a half billion years earlier it had been thrown out by its parents. The father—absent ever since—had crashed into the mother, Earth, ejecting an enormous plume of material, brothers and sisters, into the cold and dark. Many of them had banded together, forming into the big sister, Luna, who watched over her little brother on his triumphant return from the edge of infinity.

The chunk turned night into day as it careened heedlessly toward its mother’s warm embrace, drawing the curiosity and awe of skunks, owls and katydids. By the time it hit the ground it had been reduced to a lumpy ball no bigger than a phone book, but its enthusiasm could not be contained. It ploughed into the Earth with great fanfare, waking the neighbors, the deer and the raven, and then, by ancient magic, the chunk turned itself inside-out and became a hole.

It waited patiently through the eons as Mother Earth worked to fill it with water, carving out tunnels below and connecting it to the rest of the world, slowly easing its edges into the shores of a lake. In only three million years, even the squirrels had to agree that the work was finally done.

Not very long after, the shores of the lake lapped gently against the toes of white and red sneakers. A boy stood at the water’s lip, his grey face reminding the lake of what it was like, back in the day, to be iron and ice. Not for the first time, the lake observed the hesitant strides of a human being stepping into its waters, and wondered curiously as the boy’s movements became thrashing and fearful.

The lake returned to its serene meditation, tenderly ebbing against the reeds, the silt, and time itself. It didn’t get the chance to see very many people, but those it did, it would cherish forever.

Prologue #2—Oddities

In 1964 a man and his wife in central Arkansas looked up at the sky and saw what they thought was the archangel Raphael riding in a chariot of fire toward their homestead. The husband, probably named Jeb, had been struggling with the decision to sell the family farm after three years of blight, but his prayers were about to be answered. He grabbed his missus by the shoulders and said, “Baby girl, get out the bone china!”

Six and a half seconds later the happy couple was disintigrated in a tremendous shockwave, along with the farm, when a meteor the size of a phone book smashed into their ’57 Chevy Cameo. The only thing left of the family, after five generations of tending the fields, was a collection of smut mags Jeb kept in the attic, pages from which rained down over nearby back gardens and schoolyards and introduced an untold number of children to the Dirtiest Muffs West of the Mississippi.

A little while after that, at a small music festival in Hitachi, Japan, over 4,000 recreational drug addicts were treated to quite an uncommon occurrence. Few of them noticed the earthquake itself, which melded quite nicely with a frenetic assault of bass and drums, but most in attendance were able to detect the ground beneath their feet bulging and slowly being replaced by water. The lead guitarist for the band on stage announced “Suijin wants to rock!” and the audience took to splashing and sloshing around with increased virulence, up to the moment the water reached an exposed power main and killed every last one of them.

Strange things happen all the time. Sadly, in many cases, an ill fate might have been avoided if people had only listened to their instincts instead of voices from on high. We can learn from their mistakes. If a flaming mass is about to fall on your family, or the ocean is suddenly found in a place you’ve never seen it before, a single wise word is sure to be of more use to you than any number of holy tomes: Run.

There is only one exception that I’m aware of. In 1864 there was a curmudgeonly man working the mines of a goldrush town in central British Columbia, who thought he heard the voice of God speaking to him from a little lake. As you might expect, he proceeded to build a church around this encounter and amassed an impressive following. The thing that made this strange occurrence exceptional is that when Eli Roth thought a lake was talking to him, he was goddamn right.

Exceptional only in the sense that his faith was not misleading him. It would still have been better for everyone involved if he’d run as far from that place as he could.

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