First draft of Prologue and first chapter. Supernatural drama.
The two men walking along the crystal balcony seemed a sharp contrast to one another. The younger man moved in a fast, carefully measured step, every stride precisely the same length as the one which preceded it. He stood very straight, shoulders back and head held high. Dressed in a finely tailored suit, black with light grey pinstripes that accentuated his height, and black dress shoes polished to a high shine, he was well-manicured from head to toe, clean-shaven with short hair that lay close to his head. The only visible flaw in his carefully calculated perfection was the way his left hand dragged listlessly behind him on the railing, his deep blue-gray eyes staring unfocused on the darkness beyond the safety of the waist high guard wall.
The man walking alongside him seemed so old by comparison that it seemed improbable he could keep up with his younger companion, but he matched speed with him while appearing to glide along in a lazy, rolling gait. His long, snow-white hair fell in waves below his shoulders, and his beard seemed to match it. His face was only slightly wrinkled with age, but there were deeper lines around his eyes, as if he had seen more in his lifetime that was possible for one person. The eyes themselves were sharp and bright, and such a striking shade of blue that they seemed cut from a sapphire. He was dressed in a loose-fitting long sleeved shirt, pants of a similar cut, and soft slippers all in white. The only thing about the two of them which truly seemed unusual was the soft glow of light that surrounded them both, somewhat brighter around the older man, and without any visible source, though one might imagine it came from the glassy path on which they walked.
Neither of them could say how long they had been walking; time wasn't relevant here, and there was nothing about this place that could mark its passage even if it was. But how long they walked was never the point. The older man was focused on walking for as long as it took.
"You seem distracted, Son," he said. "I have told you before that your mind must be clear if you are to find it."
"My mind is clear Father," the younger man replied, though his voice sounded as though his heart wasn't in it. He stopped walking suddenly, and turned to face the older man. "I know you think that I don't listen to you, but I do. I want to find her. I have to."
"Her? You are sure of this?" There was a hint of surprise in the older man's voice, as if this was unexpected.
The younger man turned and started walking again, though his eyes were set with determination this time. "I have to be confident that I can find her. And yes, I know that much at least. I dreamt about her last night."
"Confidence is not the same as being certain. I have told you that you must keep that in mind." The older man had caught up again, walking with the same gliding stroll as before. "And I have warned you before about dreaming. They are as dangerous here as they were before. I have never had control over the mind in that way."
"I know Father. But she needs me, I can feel it." The younger man had become visibly upset. "I can't afford to waste any more time."
The older man stopped the younger with a gentle touch on the arm. "Impatience is not the path. You will find her when she truly needs you, not when you need her." His eyes softened a little, then he added, "Remember that time passes as it must, not as we wish that it would. She is not in any more danger now than she ever will be. It must wait until you both are ready."
The younger man's agitation seemed to drain from him. "You are right. It's just that I've known for so long that this would happen. Waiting for my chance hasn't been easy."
"Not for any of us, my Son." The older man gave a soft laugh. "To tell you the truth, I worry about you less than I used to. You have come to understand the meaning of purpose. In time you will also learn how to properly fulfill that purpose."
"I have always felt like I disappointed you, not doing it right the first time," said the younger man. "I never lived my life being afraid of death, but when the time came I hoped I had done enough."
The older man smiled a knowing smile. "No one gets it right the first time. Life is meant to be a challenge that prepares you for your future. Perfection is not the aim, but rather the destination."
The younger man stopped walking again, turning to face the waist-high wall again. "There's something out there, in the darkness. Do you see it?"
"The darkness is nothing more than the emptiness between this place and others. There is nothing in it to see."
"I am telling you I can see something there." The younger man was becoming agitated. "It's like a small light on a boat that you see at night on the ocean. It's getting brighter; coming closer. Surely you see it now?"
"I see only the void over the edge." The older man had joined his companion at the wall and placed his hand on the younger man's back. "Perhaps you need to rest a while. Your eyes might be strained from looking so hard."
"My eyes feel fine", the younger man said. "I don't need any rest; I just need to know what that is that I am seeing."
"Then perhaps you should go and take a look for yourself." And the older man pushed the younger man over the wall, into the darkness below.
Brea Elyse Symon had come to the end. She stood at the end of the world, feet sinking into the sand, watching wave after wave of cold, steel gray water destroy the shoreline in front of her. The sky above was almost a mirror of the ocean below. Dark clouds, heavy with water, seemed to churn and boil overhead, promising heavy rains. The setting sun hung on the horizon like a ball of fire, glowing bright red and refusing to be overwhelmed by the darkness above and below. To either side of the intense light, the sky burned in shades of pink, orange, and yellow, fading to purple and finally grey at the edges where the horizon curved out of sight.
Brea had been here before, and at the same time it all seemed so new. But this time, something was different. At first, there had been nothing but the clouds, water, and sun, nothing to break the smooth line of the horizon, nor anything standing with her on the sand in either direction for miles. Then something had appeared in the distance, seeming to float just above the water's surface. It had been dark and indistinct once, as if seen through a piece of dirty, stained glass, but now the picture before her was clear. The small city looked as though it had been there since before the Earth was made, though Brea knew that was impossible. The buildings had been white once, but now looked dingy, as though several layers of dust had been allowed to settle. There were broken windows next to others that stood untouched, reflecting the sunlight. Some of the walls were broken as well, and in some places the entire top of a building was missing, jagged edges like mountain peaks scraping the sky.
The streets were empty; that was one thing that never changed when Brea saw the city. In fact, the roads were covered in more dust than the buildings were, and never a sign of any track or footprint anywhere. She sometimes wasn't sure if it had ever been lived in, since the city was empty except for the buildings.
It had been a surprise the first time the city had appeared. Usually she stood at the edge of the water and let the vast emptiness of the endless shore and ocean consume her, until she felt that there was nothing left for her but to fall in and let the water carry her away. With the arrival of the city in the distance, there was now a purpose to this place, wherever this place was. Brea never knew how she got there, or how she got home, but she spent a good deal of time on the beach. And the longer she stood there, the more she got the feeling that she needed to be in the city, or rather, that the city needed her there. The distance was impossible though. She could never swim that far, and there was nothing on the beach with which to make a boat of any kind.
Brea felt a sudden breeze. It was an odd feeling, since nothing ever moved at all, and the shock was almost enough to send her falling back onto the sand. But when she looked at the city again, what she saw made her drop to her knees. There was a man standing in one of the broken windows, and even more surprising was the fact that he was looking directly at her. There was no expression on his face, and yet Brea could feel emotion coming from the man more strongly than if he had been shouting at her. He needed help. Something was calling to her, calling out her name. But it was not the name she expected to hear, at least not here.
"Elyse! Elyse, wake up!"
Elyse sat up straight in her chair, and then quickly wished she hadn't. Everyone in the classroom was staring at her, and the attention made her uncomfortable. She felt a hand on her arm, and looked to see her friend Melissa looking at her the way a doctor looks at a sick patient in bed. "Are you okay?" Melissa asked her. "We thought you'd passed out."
"I'm okay," Elyse answered, "though perhaps I should go to my room and lay down for a while."
Their professor, Dr. Simmins, gave her a skeptical look. "I think you've already enjoyed a pleasant nap during my lecture, but if you're not feeling well Miss Williams can escort you home and you can pick up the notes from my office tomorrow."
"Thank you, sir," Elyse replied. "I'm sorry I fell asleep."
Dr. Simmins' expression softened into an amused smile. "It won't do to have my students dying on me. Take care of yourself Miss Symon, and I'll see you in class on Friday."
The walk back to the dormitory she shared with Melissa was a blur. Who was the man standing in the window, and where had he come from? She had never felt need from another person like that before. There had to be a way to get across the water to him, to find out why he needed help. She supposed if she found herself in a deserted, broken city she might be looking for help herself, but why would he be there if not on purpose? She had so many questions, but nowhere to find the answers.
When they reached the dorm room, Melissa got her into bed and wrapped warmly in the blankets, but it did little to take away the winter chill. Elyse was haunted by her vision of the beach, but it seemed that there was no escape from it. Sometimes she was afraid to fall asleep, afraid to face the vast expanse of sand and water with no end in sight. But now there was something more to the vision; the man looking at her from the window.
"It was the dream again, wasn't it?" Melissa had pulled a chair up to the bed and was holding a mug that had steam rising from it. There was a tray next to her as well; a bowl of hot noodle soup, toast with butter and raspberry jam, and another steaming mug sat on top of it. "You were there on the beach weren't you?"
"How long was I asleep? No, don't tell me. I'll just be more embarrassed." Elyse lowered her eyes to look at the blankets. She wasn't sure she could stand the look of fear and concern that was always on her friend's face when they talked about the dream. "There was something different this time. I saw someone; a man standing in one of the broken windows."
Melissa tried not to show any sign of surprise, an act which was only slightly successful. "Did you talk to him?"
"No, but I felt like he needed me to. He seemed like he was in trouble."
"Was the city any different this time? What made you think he needed help?"
Elyse didn't know how to answer her friend. "There was just something about his face, about the look he had in his eyes. It was haunting the way he was watching me, almost like he expected me to be there. It hurt him that I couldn't get to the island."
"There's no way over there is there? I mean, no way you can see."
"None that I've found since I first noticed the city was there. It's never been a place that I've wanted to go before. Something isn't right about it.
They fell into silence, taking a moment to reflect on the changes in Elyse's dream. Not for the first time, Elyse was glad her friend understood her enough to not think she was losing her mind, or at least to not say how she really felt if she did think it.
Elyse had known Melissa since they were seven years old. The Williams' had moved into the neighborhood the summer before second grade began for the girls, and they had been friends since they had discovered at school that they shared the 24th of October as a birthday. The two had hardly spent any time apart since then; they had deliberately chosen the same university to attend, and were sharing a major in biology to be able to take the same classes. Their junior year had held a lot of promise as being a wonderful time, especially since they had just turned 21. Things had changed at the end of July when the dreams had begun.
"Here, you should try and eat something," Melissa said as she moved the tray closer to the bed, "and not just because I took the time to make it for you." The smile on her face showed that she wouldn't be too upset if Elyse ate nothing at all. Picking up the mug, which was still issuing steam from its top, Elyse carefully took a sip of what turned out to be hot chocolate.
"It's like having my mother here," Elyse said with a small hint of mocking in her voice. "I certainly never take care of myself so well."
"Don't I know it," said Melissa. "You rarely remember to eat anymore unless I say something about it. Are you sure you shouldn't see a doctor? Maybe they could give you something that could help?"
Elyse tried not to frown at her friend's suggestion. It was one she had given herself many times before. "If I thought they could really do anything to help, I'd ask, but they'd probably just think I'm insane. Sometimes I think they wouldn't be too wrong to say so."
"Don't give up now Elyse." Melissa's eyes were wet with tears she was trying to hold back. "We're strong enough to make it through this, whatever this is. We always have been."
Elyse wasn't able to contain her emotion as she leaned forward and pulled her friend into a tight hug, tears streaming down her face. "I won't quit as long as you don't. And you're just stubborn enough to get us through anything. We'll hold on together and find out what is going on inside my head."