Who doesn't like a little free literature? I know I definitely do. I revealed the cover, now I give you the first chapter of my new novel, Ecotone. Enjoy! And, let me know what you think.
Chapter 1: The Dream
Dry brown grass waves in a lurid breeze across the hillside. A large barn stands halfway between the road and the manor commanding the high ground. Long slats of brown wood hold up the towering structure as I walk toward it.
Pushing the smaller door on the side open, I stride into the musky building. Tack and tools line the clean walls in orderly rows. A workshop set on one half of the building features a large countertop and a myriad of tools I can’t identify.
The single, expansive stall dominating the other half of the barn is clean with fresh hay thrown upon the dirt floor. Hung on the brown wall is a weathered oil painting of Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox. A silly sort of thing to adorn an otherwise ordinary livestock barn.
I turn away from the diversion and proceed up the hill. White dominates the landscape where the manor stands. Like the snow cap of a mountain, the house sits in a bed of swaying white daisies. Pristine, sterile, yet homey and inviting.
The steps remain silent as I glide up the four planks to the wide porch. The door looms before me nearly sighing when I grasp the golden handle. With a soft click it swings open on well-oiled hinges.
A large foyer opens before me filled with the style of pioneer toys one finds in an antique shop. Porcelain dolls with cherubim faces smile from a large bay window seat. Other toys lie about in an orderly invitation to make myself at home. The only one that truly tempts is a rocking horse with a smiling face and a wild yellow mane. I run a hand over its glossy, shellacked wood grain with a smile.
Light glints off something gold in a high loft above. Venturing toward the marble staircase, I let my fingers drift over anything they can reach. Knowing, somehow, that nothing will harm me here. At the top of the stairs, I look down on the room below smiling at the perfect playroom. It is every child’s dream come true.
With a contented sigh I stride toward a doorknob glinting gold in the sunlight streaming from the large window below. Though impossible for any rays to reach the loft, every surface of the home is bathed in light, as though the very paint is luminous.
My hand reaches toward the knob as the overpowering scent of fresh linen washes over my senses. A presence larger than anything I have felt materializes behind me. Safety, security, and protectiveness roll off him to settle like a warm blanket on my soul.
I feel his hand reach for me, the feeling of support nearly striking the breath from my lungs. My smile widens and my body relaxes into the knowledge that whoever he is, whatever his station in the world, I am important to him. I am valued and wanted. He knows nothing about me, but he will never let the world harm me.
Just as his massive hand settles on my slight shoulder, he takes a deep and contented breath. It feels like fate and destiny click in place. “Terry,” his voice rumbles, deeper than any man can possibly speak and with more conviction and confidence than any man could ever show.
I turn my head to gaze upon his face. A face I am certain contains a pair of sparkling, happy eyes. Instead of a smiling face and noble features, I behold the swaying limbs of an oak towering above me. The dancing leaves let slivers of sunlight through to kiss my pale skin. I take a deep breath, reveling in the clean breeze, and smile at the old dream. The same one I’ve had since childhood.
The opening strains of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” announces the abrupt end of my lunch break siesta. With slight chagrin, I liberate my lunchbox from an enterprising stampede of bugs, mostly ants, brush off my clothes, and shake out my picnic blanket to rid it of the same interlopers. Double-checking the security card is still on my person, I make the short trek up the path from the stone monument on the shore of Lake Washington in Seattle to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Western Regional campus.
I walk past the picnic area outside the cafeteria in Building 2. The motion sensor doors to Building 3 open with soft whispers. The foyer, lobby, hallways, and breakrooms I pass have the few stragglers of the lunch hour rushing to get back to work. I stroll to the stairway and hop up them two at a time.
Reaching the landing of the second floor I proceed to my office. Not so much an enclosed space with doors and windows, but a glorified cubicle with enough air to lose myself in a sea of papers and oceanic charts. Personal effects stowed in the bottom drawer of my desk, I don a lab coat and wake up my computer.
A few quick keystrokes flash the screen from forest to oceanscape. The collapsed collage of opened documents lays waiting for me to pick up where I left off. My smile fades. The whole reason I ventured to the stone garden was to clear my mind and ease away the emotional tumult of my research. As hard as I try to quell feelings of panic, the science doesn’t lie.
From wind patterns to ocean currents to salmon populations, the world is sending a vivid message. And it is, most definitely, not a thank you card.