Hello blogosphere! Today I am adding another feature to my site. I have decided to start sharing a chapter each week from my current work in progress. My working title is Paradise, but I have no intention of that being the final title.
What I am sharing is the first draft, so don’t say you weren’t warned. I did proofread it once, but I can’t guarantee there are no typos. I’m looking for feedback on the story, not on grammar and spelling. I will fix the latter with an editor when I get closer to publication.
Brief synopsis: Rick wakes up in a beautiful strange place with no memory of how he got there. They tell him he is in paradise, but something in his gut tells him everything is not as it seems. Before long vivid dreams start to consume his nights. The dreams are just as real as his waking hours, leaving Rick to struggle with determining which world is reality.
I woke up three days ago. They tell me I’m in paradise. It would be easy to believe that was true. The view from my window is breathtaking. There’s beautiful snow capped mountains in the distance. I have no idea how far that distance is. The compound itself is almost tropical. There’s a spring fed waterfall not far from my rooming house. I can see it clearly from my window. It pours into a shallow pool and then runs through a babbling brook that winds its way around the compound.
Near the pool right now two white tigers are playing. A twinge of adrenalin runs through me at the thought of them so close. I’ve been told repeatedly that they would never hurt me, but something about that statement feels wrong.
I look back into my modest room. Most of the room is white, including the headboard of the bed and the soft, thick carpeting. The bed is big enough for two, but so far I’ve been the only one sleeping in it. There’s a large oval mirror on the wall across from the bed and a glass topped table under it. The table is held up by two stone pillars, stone the color of the mountain in the distance. Near the door there’s two high back white chairs. I prefer to sit on the cushioned window seat. Not that I feel unsafe, but there’s a sense of more calm when I can see outside the window clearly.
A man has been to visit me each morning. The first morning they brought me a tray with fresh fruit and a small loaf of bread on it. Since then they’ve asked that I eat in one of the dining areas with everyone else.
I get up and walk to the mirror and look at myself for a long time. The thick carpeting hugs my bare feet. My loose linen shirt and pants are softer than any fabric I ever remember feeling before. I know the others are working in the gardens or the fields right now. They will ask me why I wasn’t there. There doesn’t seem to be a punishment for not working though.
Looking in the mirror I run my hand through my thick black hair. It falls neatly to the right, wavy, flowing back, covering half of my forehead. I lean in a look closer at my blue eyes. They are beautiful eyes. If only I knew who they belonged to.
There was a knock on the door. I didn’t move. I felt tired though not necessarily sore and not in any pain. I still had yet to work in the fields or gardens. It had been five days now. I was no closer to knowing who I was. A moment later there was another knock and then I heard the door handle turning.
“Is it all right if I come in?” It was the man. I think he had told me the first morning his name was Vann but I hadn’t heard anyone say his name since then. I didn’t respond.
A few more moments and then the door opened and Vann stepped through. His smile was warm and welcoming and his teeth so white they almost glowed. He had kind gray eyes with just the faintest wrinkles at the sides.
“I’ve come to check on you.”
I kept looking out the window.
“Did you not hear the breakfast bells?”
I would have to have been deaf to not hear the breakfast bells. Though soft and soothing the jingling of the bells resonated through the compound. I’ve never seen the bells, but I hear them just as loud everywhere I go.
“It’s important that you eat,” he told me. “You must build your strength.”
He said that too each morning. I couldn’t help but wonder what I was recovering from.
“My brother,” he took a few steps closer to where I was sitting at the window seat. I could feel him move closer. “Is there anything that you need?”
No, clearly there wasn’t. For four days he knew I had hardly left this room and had asked for nothing. In fact, I had yet to even utter a word. I had kept the fruit and bread from the first morning and had eaten small bits the last few days. I was surprisingly not hungry.
“Is it okay if I sit with you a while?” I didn’t know why he asked. He knew I wouldn’t respond. He picked up one of the white chairs and brought it close to the window. I still didn’t turn to look at him.
“It looks like we’re off to another beautiful day. We’ve been getting just enough rain at night that the new crops should be sprouting perfectly.”
I could see the vineyards not far away. There were some rolling hills in the near distance and two of them were covered with vineyards. In my mind I had decided that when I was ready I would work there though I wasn’t sure what I would do.
“Rick,” he leaned forward and touched my arm and I flinched involuntarily. He pulled his hand back but only a little, letting it hover there not far from my arm. “Rick, it’s important that you start living again.”
There was no familiarity to the name. Rick. It conjured no memories or feelings.
I had my feet up on the cushion in front of me, and I hugged my knees closer to my chest.
“It’s safe here,” Vann continued. “And you are well. It’s time you come out and meet everyone.”
I remained silent.
“I know you’re probably feeling a little disoriented. That’s only natural. It will pass in a day or two. The clean air alone and the higher oxygen content can’t help but make you feel a little light headed at times.
He was right. Something made me feel like my head was just a little higher than my body. At times when I walked I felt like I was not touching the ground.
“Rick, I’m sure you have questions, questions that will all be answered in good time. Come, see the compound with me. Come meet the friends.”
He held his right hand out in front of me palm up. I felt like he was addressing a child. I didn’t know how old I was but I knew I definitely wasn’t a child. I knew that I had lived long enough that something inside was keeping me from speaking now.
I knew his pleas were going to become more incessant. I had ventured out of the rooming house the first day. I had walked as far as the pool just below the waterfall. When I touched the water something in me moved. I wasn’t sure what. Before I knew it I was in full sprint running back to the rooming house. I had not left my room since.
“Rick, please, just a few minutes.”
I probably did need to learn more about my surroundings. I would have to leave this room eventually. I turned and looked at him and his gray eyes sparkled in the sunlight shining in. There was something very inviting about him. At the same time something repelled me as well. I nodded once and his smile widened.
“Excellent.” He stood slowly so as not to spook me. “Maybe we can walk as far as the vineyards. I’ve noticed you enjoy watching them.”
The vineyards would be good. They were elevated just enough that maybe I could see the layout of the compound. I nodded once more and rose to follow him. He offered me some leather flip flops before we left the rooming house. “The grass is very soft, but the vineyards are still a bit rocky in places. You will want to protect your feet.” I put them on but they didn’t feel right.
Outside the door there were benches on either side of the door. To the right a very dark skinned man was sitting. He wasn’t smiling, unlike everyone else I had seen so far. He rose when he saw us.
“Rick, this is Paul. He will be joining us on our walk today.” Paul nodded once in my direction but said nothing. His eyes made contact with mine only briefly before he turned in the direction we would be going.
Vann talked enthusiastically about the compound, the fruit trees, the vineyards and all the friends living nearby. It had only been two years but he was just amazed at how much they had accomplished in that time. Paul remained as silent as I was.
A section of the vineyard was ready to harvest. It hardly seemed right as other sections seemed like they were just budding out. I reached out to touch a bunch hanging near me but then stopped and quickly pulled my hand back.
“It’s all right,” Vann laughed lightly. “Go ahead. There is no shortage here.”
I reached back out and touched the grapes. Something else stirred inside me. It was not the same as touching the water. I didn’t feel the urge to run or hide. It was something on the fringe of a happy memory. I closed my eyes for a moment. For just a brief second everything seemed different. Everything was calm and peaceful and safe. Then, just as quickly, it was gone.
“Go ahead and eat some,” Vann encouraged me. “You’ve not had anything yet today, have you?”
I pulled off three grapes and ate them by taking very small bites. Paul stood silently near us.
“Go on, have some more,” Vann said. “You too, Paul.”
I felt my head snap toward him and the words, “Only three,” were out of my mouth before I knew it. Paul’s eyes looked alarmed. He stood up straighter, shoulders back.
“Well,” Vann couldn’t help but smile proudly. “It seems we are making all kinds of progress today.”
“Paul, would you like some grapes as well? There really is no limit.”
I looked at Paul and our eyes locked for a moment. He then reached out and grabbed three grapes but ate them in one gulp.
“There’s no need to stop. Clearly we have an abundance.”
Paul said nothing. He turned back in the direction of the rooming houses and retained his shoulders back pose.
“Suit yourself,” Vann continued. “Just know that you are welcome to anything you see.”
We walked quietly from there through some of the fruit orchards and then back in the direction of the rooming houses. We stopped near the pool and the white tigers ran to Vann. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Paul also became more rigid beside me.
“Well, hello,” Vann practically giggled at the tigers. “How are my favorite cats today?” They rubbed against him walking back and forth around him.
I started to step backward very slowly and cautiously. From the corner of my eye I saw Paul doing the same.
“Hold on, brothers,” Vann called to us. “There is nothing to fear. I promise you.” I heard the words, but I definitely did not trust them.
Be sure to come back next week for chapter 2
What do you think of the story so far? Please comment below.