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Sunday, October 01, 2006

The first chapter of my novel.

Hello, this is the first chapter of my novel, In Search of Prey. It is unfinished and unrevised. I've played with this chapter a little, but it's not polished. If you are interested in seeing my style or seeing how my story starts... here you go. I hope you enjoy it. I'm not the best at formatting in Blogger... so this may not be as "clean" as you'd like to see.

Light flashed through the canopy as the sun began its descent. The forest woke to greet the evening and the shadows darkened, stretching toward Norberto. He felt the deep sigh of life within its depths as creatures began to stir. A tangle of lianas wove a web of thick vines before him. In the distance, the barking of the spider monkey warned him that a predator was beginning its search for an evening meal. He shivered and looked behind him. The boat, heavy with Mogno, was silent and still.

“Hoje é dia näo para mim,” he muttered.

“Wrong! Meu amigo. Today is a good day, a very good day.” A man pushed aside thick palms and stepped onto the river bank.

Norberto frowned at the slender estrangeiro. “There is something not so good in this forest, Peter.”

“What? It’s got trees, and animals,” he swatted at a large bee, “and bugs. Just like any other part of this godforsaken place.”

Norberto watched as Peter walked to the water’s edge. Peter pulled something from his hip pack and rinsed it in the water. When he stood he tossed it to Norberto.

“With the Mahogany on the boat we will make some good money, but finding the Tucuma Palms will just give us something more to sell.” Peter smiled, “After all, money is good, yes?”

Norberto tossed the fruit back. “Where are the others?” Peter was new to their crew and often annoyed the others. They had probably sent Peter back to keep him out of their way.

“Looking a little more, but they want you to bring some of the empty crates from the boat.”

As Norberto stepped into the shadows, leaves and branches tugged at his clothes. He paused and tightened his grip on the crate. Behind him he could hear Peter whistling, the sound of it unnatural in the heavy foliage. Norberto scowled, Peter’s careless ways would make trouble for them. He followed the small trail that had been made when the others entered the forest. Norberto stepped over a tree root and stopped to wipe his arm across his face. The dampness clung to his skin and lightly tickled him. He could no longer hear the whistling. The sounds of the rainforest surrounded him, the leaves whispered, soft drips of water drummed a gentle beat and restless animals shuffled along the forest floor.

A sense of uneasiness settled around him and he held his breath as he waited. The sun had set and only the faintest rays of light remained. Illegal logging was dangerous. This crew had been together for five years, sneaking in and out of the jungle laden with rich timber. They had survived tribesmen, poachers, the law, and conservationists. Norberto remembered all the times they had narrowly escaped those who would stop their foraging. The forest suddenly seemed to still around him as the cacophony of sound faded into silence. He quietly lowered the crate to the ground and drew the long blade he kept at his waist. A slight draft stirred the air. He tensed; a bird flew from a nearby tree. His ears strained.

Suddenly, the leaves rustled as something moved toward him. Norberto crouched and lifted his blade to greet the danger. A short, skinny man jumped out of the darkness and flew past him. Norberto barely recognized Celio as he ran by.

“Run!” Celio shouted. “The Curupira has come for us!”

“What?” Norberto asked, but Celio had already ducked under a branch and disappeared.

A scream tore through the forest. Norberto turned toward the sound, the direction that Celio had just fled. He heard another scream, one that ended abruptly. He placed a hand upon a large green frond and pushed it aside. He took a step, concern for his friends pulling him forward. The skin on his neck crawled. He squeezed the handle of his knife and took another step. Something moved in the darkness, something large. He heard a snap, like bones breaking. Leaves crackled under Norberto’s boots, and a snort responded. Glowing eyes appeared and seemed to float in the inky blackness, eyes that stared into Norberto.

He turned and began to run, dodging leaves and vines. Bushes scraped against his boots and bits of forest debris poked into his pants. His lungs burned as he pushed his legs harder. He wove between the trees, vines tugged at him while his mind filled with images of bright yellow eyes. Fear kept him from looking back. He could feel the invisible claws of a beast reaching for him. He leapt over a large root covered by a creeping plant. A sharp flash of pain in his ankle brought him to the ground. He inhaled the thick scent of earth and decay and struggled to keep from coughing as his lungs pounded for air. While his ankle throbbed a large, brilliantly colored beetle scurried along the root. He groaned and stood, carefully putting his weight on the twisted muscles. The first step brought tears to his eyes. He listened, but could only hear his own thundering heart.

He was far from the trail. The night was warm and humid, but his skin was chilled. A forlorn call from some forest creature echoed and faded. Swatting at the bugs that buzzed around his head, he tried to get his bearing. The river traveled north to reach the Amazon. He turned right, and peered up to the sky. Green darkness blocked his vision. The night sky was beyond his sight, hidden above the canopy. He stepped through the undergrowth as he walked deeper into the jungle. Vines curved up the thick trunks of the trees that soared into the canopy. Roots spread high across the ground. Mosquitoes swirled around him, eager to land and drink their fill.

Something light against the shadows caught his eye. He moved toward it, his throat tightened as he realized what lay before him. The pale fabric of Celio’s shirt was tangled in the large green leaves of a Heliconia bush. The red claw like flowers blended into the blood-soaked cloth. A trail of black glistened against the yellows, greens and browns of the forest floor. Norberto swallowed the bile that pooled in his mouth and followed the trail. Massive leaves, fronds and small trees created a carpet of dark green and brown. A massive Ceiba tree, blanketed with Orchids, appeared out of the shadows. Beneath the thick perfume of flowers Norberto could smell the coppery scent of death. He stumbled when he found what remained of Celio. The headless body lay near the tree’s base. Large gaping lacerations covered the torso. One arm had been sliced to the bone. Flies crawled along the cooling flesh, their buzzing filled his ears.

Norberto felt the hair on his arms start to rise. He could not see anything, but he felt the eyes on him. He could taste his own fear and knew the creature could also taste it. Norberto’s stomach rolled as he watched insects disappearing into the open wounds. Moving slowly, he retreated from the body. He turned and ran, this time much deeper into the jungle. His heart pounding, he prayed, O Dues, ajudame.


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