Novel ‘The Three Dead’: First 998 Words

Hey, it’s not my fault the text I wrote only reaches 1K two words into a new sentence. You know, except for the fact that… I wrote it that way.

Huh. Guess it is my fault.

In that case, I hereby declare 998 the new 1000. Huzzah!

Anyway, I couldn’t decide whether the intro for my NaNoWriMo 2015 project was more of a prologue or a chapter one, so I have decided to take a third option and call it ‘Chapter Zero’.

And just like Coke Zero, this has nothing added to it–nothing by way of editing, proofreading, revision, etc.–with the idea that in about a billion years I’ll revisit this opening, polish it up and show you all the difference. Won’t that be something to look forward to, as we all meander unsteadily towards our graves?

Speaking of which, here’s the NaNo blurb for the novel of my writings, ‘The Three Dead‘:

*~*~*

“As you are, so once were we;
As we are–so shall ye be.”

Thus speak three skeletal beings to three young hunters cavorting in the forest. But when one hunter asks the question–does that mean the three dead are the future selves of the three living? Or are they unrelated others who died long ago?–the dead have no answer.

They have no answer because they know no answer; not who they are or were, how they died, or why they now walk the earth reminding the living of their eventual fate. Consumed by curiosity the three dead begin their journey to discover their nature and purpose as, unstuck in time, they wander the fourteenth century looking for themselves.

But they are not the only ones searching. Five friars out of Bavaria, two orphans of the Black Death, three students from the University of Montpellier and the three living themselves are among those investigating the appearances of these skeletons, while a party of ill-fated Englishmen carry a shroud to a mysterious buyer in the Alps, even as the world around them seems to be coming to an end.

Well. Perhaps ‘seems’ isn’t entirely accurate.

*~*~*

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/bd/30/57/bd3057c4e2b1823d883b71a5e9619ce8.jpg

Is it just me, or does wedding-cake hat-guy look like he’s pleasantly surprised to see the three strangely mannequin-like corpses? Like they were his old college buddies he just ran into unexpectedly in the street?

Well, with that deeply insightful comment out of the way, here’s those 998 or so words I was telling you about…

*~*~*

Chapter 0

 

Softly, a trickle of dirt no more voluminous than to have filled a thimble fell from the hollow socket where the Taller One’s right eye had been. Not that This One had ever seen the Taller One with eyes, but it was assumed there had once been eyes there, given the nature of their existence.

“Are they coming this way?” asked the Smaller One.

The Taller One turned his skull towards the other slowly, letting a few more grains of dead soil slip off his cheekbone.

“Can you not tell?” he asked in turn.

Had either the Taller One or the Smaller One had eyes, This One imagined that they would have locked them, as the living did. This One had something—a feeling?—that such a lock, which might as well have existed even if the accidents of it did not, was something it would be sensible to dispel, and so let their senses branch out into the woods themselves to answer the Smaller One’s question.

Until just recently it had been a fine, clear day. Although This One knew of ‘seasons’ they could not quite remember how the living labelled them, and so could not make a guess as to which one these woods dwelt in. This One was rather of the opinion though, that it was one of the two softer seasons—the ones that bridged the harsh bright with the bitter dark.

There was a cold wind rattling the leaves though. This One knew because, not two miles off, he saw—or felt?—one of the living pull their cloak around themselves with a shudder.

This One stepped up onto the root of a very old tree; finger-bones scraping against cracked bark.

“They’re following the beast.” Fox, This One remembered. Reynard. “Some ways north-east of here, heading west. It’s come as close to us as it’s going to get.”

The three of them should make the move to head them off, was implied in the announcement.

Both of the other Ones turned to This One as if they didn’t quite understand what they had meant. At least, that’s how This One felt the others had reacted, often This One wasn’t quite sure how to interpret what the other two did or said. They had what they assumed were feelings, yes; but who was to say how reflective of reality those were—if at all?

Fact was, it didn’t really matter. The three had a job to do, and they did it; usually without conversing even this much.

Usually…

How many times have we done this, again? This One wondered.

But that didn’t matter either. The Taller One soon pointed their dust-filled sockets out to the north-west where the living were, and the Smaller One followed suit within a moment. There was something comforting to This One about that.

“Dusk is approaching,” the Taller One announced. “There is a clearing they should reach as soon as the light falters. We should wait for them there.”

This One was happy to follow the Taller One’s lead. They withdrew their bones from the tree to wrap their shroud around themselves more tightly—they didn’t want to lose it to the forest with the speed they might move at if the Taller One decided to go quickly.

Then, as they adjusted the border of the garment that had been slipping off their shoulder, a few of the scarlet threads snapped where they had become brown and withered with decay. This One stilled at the sound of the tearing cloth. Their fingers gripped the fabric tighter, their arm relaxed. Out of habit, This One turned their head to inspect the damage, though they no more had eyes than the Taller One did.

There was no part of the shroud’s deep red that was not stained by the long wait beneath the earth; small streaks of the mess of insects clinging to every thread, and where the cloth had got so bad that you could no longer see the red in it there were many rips and patches frayed away.

But some of it still looked red. The feeling This One had looking at the new wound was, they would have said, the opposite of comfort.

The Smaller One noticed the matter too; perhaps had heard the tear. This One was embarrassed to be caught with their thoughts clearly lingering on it; considering their shroud was the most well-preserved of all their garments, and the few scraps of once-white cloth that clung to the shoulders and pelvic bones of the Smaller One quite clearly the least, though supplemented by their rosary and talisman.

It wasn’t as though any of them would say anything about it, of course. That wasn’t the sort of thing that Three Dead did.

“Let us depart,” said the Taller One. Whether they’d noticed the tear or not, This One couldn’t say—could only attempt to adjust the shroud by pulling at a sturdier part of the fabric, more gently than before. It seemed that it would hold.

They put it from their mind as they prepared to glide. When they wanted to, the three dead moved like water fowl landing on a lake, only at far greater speeds. This One was pretty certain they knew which of the many clearings in these woods the Taller One had meant; the fox they were chasing was poised to skirt its edges within a degree’s shift of the shadow on a sundial.

Would the living actually go into the clearing if they were focussed on the fox though, This One wondered. It had happened that the three had missed their targets on occasion and had to catch up with them again later; sometimes even days later. This One knew it annoyed both the others when that happened; the Taller One took their calling very seriously, while the Smaller One tended to follow the Taller One’s suit in that too.

“Hurry, cousin! The damned beast is getting away!”

*~*~*

(The Taller One, Smaller One and This One get actual names by the end of the chapter, don’t worry)

Yeah, it needs some work. But who likes work? That’s what I say, and it’s that attitude that’s carried me so far in life. I mean, I have a job and everything…

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