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Sunday, 28 November 2010

Notebook: a tale of four brothers (short story) - Update

Notebook: a tale of four brothers
Introduction
This is an idea I’ve been playing around with for at least some years now. I (semi-)specialised in (mainly Dutch) mediaeval literature during my training, so I’ve read my share of rhyming middle-Dutch romances with knights in them. When I read too many of them, this came pouring out. Especially the rhyming bits were inspired by it and so was the general ‘quest’ and the highly present narrator-figure, but I couldn’t string everything together and make out a beginning and an end. Now I might’ve. It’s already more of a series and who knows, maybe it’ll turn into a novel in the end.
I gave it a provisional title, because I had to call it something, but I might change my mind on that later. This is just a first draft so it may alter greatly. Let me know what you think and feedback and/or suggestions are very welcome. I guess I’ll adapt and expand as I go.
(note: this is the once updated version. I took out some spelling mistakes and, considering the helpful comments of Diego Green and Timothy, made an effort to distinguish between the siblings more consistently. Their character is to be developed a bit more in later parts, at least that is my intention. Hope you like it and leave any kind of constructive comments below. Thanks in advance)



PART 1: broken commandments
“A book is a mirror. When a monkey looks in, no apostle can look out.”
Georg Lichtenberg



“Don’t!”
“Oh, please, don’t be ridiculous, Michael.”
“Yeah, it’s just a book, for God’s sakes.”
“You know we’re not supposed to be up here.” The boy replied. “What if they find out?”
“No one is going to find out, you chicken and even if they do, it’s not like we’re wrecking things. There’s nothing else we can do with that bloody rain.”
“Dad will be angry!”
“So, I’ll tell them we made you come, now quit being such a pain and give me that book!”
Reluctantly, the boy let go of his clenched treasure, which immediately passed into three sets of hands at once.
As soon as they touched it, Michael saw a flash of gold appear on the cover.
“What’s that?”
It were apparently letters. In a shaky voice, he read aloud:
Reader, behold!
Another world, shall soon unfold...
“Let go of that book! It’s evil!”
“Did you fall down and hit your head?!”
“I’m telling you, there’s something wrong with it, look!”
“Look where, nutcase?”
“The letters, on the cover, they weren’t there before!”
“What letters? There’s nothing on the cover.”
He showed him the front of the book. It was blank.
“I don’t understand, I...”
“Nice try, kiddo!” The second youngest brother replied.
“I think he finally snapped, Edward.” His by five minutes older twin George added, dryly.
“Perhaps he just wants some attention.” The oldest sibling briskly ran through his younger brother’s hair.
“There, there, boy.”
“Cut it out, I’m not a dog, Robert!”
Robert clutched the book. He wiped the cobwebs off the cover and eagerly opened the volume. The three elder brothers coughed in the cloud of dust.
As soon as the manuscript lay open, a beam of violently bright light emerged from the pages to blind the siblings. They covered their eyes, but it burned through their eyelids. When they opened them, all had changed.
Michael got up from his squatting position and looked around in the filthy attic. They were gone! The book was on the floor, open, and his siblings had vanished.
“Robert? George! It’s not funny guys, come out? Edward, I know you’re in here!”
It wasn’t a joke. They had really disappeared. Confused, he staggered towards the manuscript and picked it up. The minute his fingertips touched its cover, it was as if a lightning bolt went through him. Electricity flowed into his body and he could feel smoke whirl up from his skin, his ears, his hair. In that instance, he ceased to be ‘Michael’ and became ‘Narrator’.
“Michael? Michael!” Three frightened voices called out from the book. The boy snapped out of his daze and answered.
“I’m right here!”
“Where?”
“In the attic, where else?”
“We can’t see you, you idiot. We’re in the damn book!”
“And we’re dressed like bloody knights!” Edward exclaimed.
“In the book?! How the hell can you be in the book?”
“How should we know? The darn thing’s got a spell on it or something.”
“But you can hear me?”
“YEAH. Get us out!”
“How could I possibly...”
“Well, what does the book say?”
“Good thinking.”
He went through the pages.
“Th... There’s nothing there, it’s empty!” He cried out.
What?”
“Wait, something comes up.” A black spot swelled on the page and formed into words, then sentences.
For the three to re-ascend,
the tale be spun until the end
“What is that supposed to mean?” Edward yelled.
“I think the book wants us to finish the story.” George replied pensively.
“What story? You heard Michael. There’s no text. We’re stuck here!”
“Guys! Use your brains and shut your waffles, will you?” Robert intervened. “Now why is Michael still up there, when we’re here?”
“He wasn’t touching the book.” George pondered.
“Yes, but that’s not all. The light was everywhere, it dragged us in here. There must be a reason for Michael to have stayed behind. I’m sure he can get us back. He’s our only link left to the real world.”
Robert took a few steps forward and cried up to the sky.
“Michael? Michael, can you hear me?”
“Yes, Robert, I can hear you, you don’t have to shout.”
“Micky, make up a tale to bring us home.”
“Okay, just a sec, uh... Three boys were taken in the book and... then they came back out.”
“Very good.”
“Nothing’s happening.”
“Why are we still here?”
“Think back to what the book said... Ah, that’s it. Michael, you have to make it rhyme.”
“Rhyme?”
“Just do it. Everything else rhymed.”
“Okay, I’ll give it a try. Let me see... What does the book-world look like.”
They were standing in a green pasture. Peaceful breeze played with the longer blades of grass. Birds were singing.
“Uh... Like a meadow. There’s really nothing special to see here.”
All of a sudden Robert noticed George on his knees in the grass, pushing his glasses up and mumbling to himself.
“It’s just impossible.” He picked some blades of grass and smelled them, feeling around. “It defies all reason. Maybe we fell asleep.”
“Three or four people, dreaming the same thing?” Robert raised an eyebrow and picked up a small pebble. “Dream this!”
“Aw!”
“Hurt, didn’t it? So far for your theory. Now get your ass over here!”
George fidgeted with his spectacles. He was nervous, straining his brain to make sense of the situation.
“We’re ready for you, Michael.”
 “Alright, let’s see... How’s this? The three boys, their lesson learned, to their home then returned.”
The pages from the book lit up as Michael scribbled the words into it.
“Michael, I think it’s working!”
Then Michael spoke again. Something came over him and settled like a white film over his eyes. His voice resonated through the alternate world, with a distinctive echo of another, speaking in chorus with him.
When fulfilled, they shall return,
first their lesson, they must learn.
“Michael, what the hell are you doing?!”
“It’s not me doing it, I swear! It’s like my lips move on their own.”
“Get a grip, will you?” Edward yelled.
“Stop harassing the boy, Edward, you heard him, didn’t you? It’s not his fault. He’s just as enchanted as we are.”
“George has a point, Edward.” Robert scanned the sloping land. “We may want to look around. We don’t know how long we’ll be down here, so we’ll need some place to stay when it gets dark.”
The trio made off. They soon came across a path.
“Maybe if we follow this, we’ll find a village or a house or something.”
The path quickly turned into a road, but still there was no person in sight and not a single building. After at least half an hour of walking, and wining on the part of the youngest boy who was not at all accustomed to hikes, they heard the sound of running water. They came across a mighty river.
“Oh, just great! Now how are we going to cross that?”
“Well, the current’s too strong to swim.”
“Let’s go looking. There must be a bridge somewhere. Hey, Michael, rhyme us a way to get to the other side.”
The siblings crossed plain and mound
till at long last, a bridge was found
“How’s that?”
“Brilliant, thanks, sport.”
Barely had they put a single foot on the bridge, when a deep voice bellowed.
“Who dares cross my bridge.” From the heavens, the narrator’s voice again resounded.
But for this bridge, there was a guard
who many knight before had marred.
With fists as rocks
he slaughtered flocks
of soldiers strong and brave
who to defeat him, crave.
“I don’t like the looks of this! Let’s get out of here quickly, before that guard shows up. We can just make it.”
“And what’s up with this guy’s grammar. Is he spastic?”
“Edward, do not, insult, the narrator...”
Be Robert’s attempt great,
to not insult, it is too late.
“Oh, crap, here we go, thanks a lot, Edward.”
The bridge started to pound under the feet of something big coming their way.
“God, I hope that’s just an earth-quake.”
And there they met a Dilgemesh,
a creature large and frightening,
who had a taste for human flesh,
and was as fast as lightening.
And there it was, stomping across the wooden overpass. It was at least six feet seven tall and two men wide, hairy and muscular, with filthy brown manes falling all the way down to the waist. Three eyes, it had and was a horror to behold.
“MICHAEL!”
“I’m trying, I’m trying, don’t push me!”
“We’re getting eaten down here!”
“Alright, alright, how’s this:
The Dilgemesh, the prince well knew,
is the weakest thing in all of Grover,
it would simply tipple over
if you but blew in its third eye,
so surely, it would die.
“Oh great, how could we possibly get to its eye?”
“Think fast, George, you’re the brainy one.”
“And where the hell is Grover?”
“You’re in it, Edward! I named it the land of Grover, it was the first name I could think of that rhymed.”
A small crown fell from the sky and landed before their feet.
“The prince has to do it.”
“Who’s the prince?”
“I don’t want to be the prince, not if I’d have to go fight that! Here, George, you take it.”
“What, me? Robert is the oldest, let him take it.”
“Fine! I’ll do it! It’s only fair.” Robert said.
The other two looked at him dumbfounded.
“What, are you mad? It will maul you!”
“Thanks for the confidence, guys. It warms my heart.”
“Well, it was good knowing ya.”
Robert took a deep breath and prepared to go into battle with the much larger creature that was coming their way. Edward grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back. He was relieved.
“Robert?”
“Yes?”
“Can I have your CD’s?”
Annoyed, he jerked free.

7 comments:

  1. I do like your style, it is ever so readable. The trouble, though, with writing short stories is the lack of time/space for creating a character. I know, because I struggle with that same thing in writing my novel. But at least I give myself plenty of opportunity to do so.
    I think you've got a good thing going here.

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  2. Very nice, this has some potential to be quite awesome and epic if you allow it to grow. I would certainly suggest, though, that you invest some time toward developing the four brothers' characters individually - give them each a back story and personality profile for yourself if you haven't already - because as it stands, it's a little hard to distinguish between the four boys. That might be, as Drachma pointed out, merely because shorter stories leave precious little time to flesh out a character

    ReplyDelete
  3. @ Green & Drachma: I'm so glad you two are so positive. I should do something about the character development, you're quite right. Maybe I can just add some sentences here and there to hint at their personality. I don't have much time at the moment, but I hope to have an updated version ready by the end of the week.
    Thank you both so much for being around and helping out with this.

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  4. I think you have a great writing style developing here. Maybe it's just me, but I think you could use some more descriptive language to give readers a clearer picture of what's going on (describing a character's overall appearance/demeanor can also help to develop them more quickly). I'm an aspiring writer as well so I think it's only appropriate that I click that cute little "follow" button at the top of the screen :D

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  5. @pennedbytaylor:

    by all means, push the button (cue Chemical Brother's 'Push the Button') :D

    Thank you very much, I think I've come a long way with this (you should see some of my earlier, pre-blog work, *shiver in horror*)

    And you may be onto something with that remark, it could use some more description. I've heard especially the dialogues with all three characters talking get confusing sometimes and they shouldn't be, because each character's personal development is very important in the story.

    I'm going to try to focus on completing the story first, so I don't lose my connection to the plot, but I'll definitely try to do something about all that when I rewrite it.

    Thank you for commenting and subscribing ;)

    What's your blog link?

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  6. Happy to help! I don't post any of my creative pieces for fear of them being stolen. My blog is mostly just personal thoughts.

    http://pennedbytaylor.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well, if you ever need a proof-reader, let me know... (I'm atyour disposal as soon as exams are over :))

    ReplyDelete

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