by Gordon Zany
After some feedback I rewrote the prologue for my novel, please give me your impressions.
So, when my mother got sick, and they said that there wasn't anything they could do for her, I didn't really know what to think, I didn't know how to feel. And for two weeks she went from being able to walk, to being confined to a bed, to being paler and thinner, and thinner. In the end, I can hardly say I could recognise her anymore, and unable to talk I could no longer hear her voice. I think my mother died when she was no longer able to eat, or talk or walk, but it was tonight that she really died, when I woke in the knight, to the sound of my father's cries coming down the hall from their bedroom, I knew.
We're farmers you see, simple peasants, serfs, we don't have doors in our rooms to keep out the sound, and most other farmers don't even have rooms, just simple log homes with thatched roofs, we can't afford proper doctors, or medicine. When someone is sick, they either get better, or die.
Well, I don't know why, but I knew I couldn't stay here, not now, this wasn't something I wanted to watch, it wasn't something I wanted to see, so I got out of my cot, and in the dark I grabbed my shoes and coat, and headed for the door.
I could hear him even outside, receding behind me as I made my way through the fields of freshly planted crops, stepping over painstakingly tilled soil, towards the forest that borders our land. I go there when I want to be alone, away from the work, and pointless toiling labour that consumes the life of a farmer, I like to go there to dream, of a life not tied to that of a peasant.
The house is a distant thing far behind me now, as I look up at the great imposing woods of Magone forest, with its tall tree trunks stretching up toward the sky, and branches like twisted arms reaching out over me, casting unsettling shadows from the white moons glow.
I push my way through thick brush and forest growth, like wading through water, and emerge into another world, a dark, seemingly sinister one, with angular shapes depicted in the canopy above, creating a suffocating darkness around me with only patches of pale light. It's scary here, at night.
But, I cannot go back, so my resolve carries me forward, and on I walk deeper into the forest, deciding it better to move forward, then stay here. Perhaps one of the beasts that are said to live here will do away with my drowning heart, and restless mind, and maybe I could find peace in that, in this cruel and meaningless world.
But as I carry on I hug my jacket closer to me, feeling the cold now. When I rushed out, I didn't notice it, but now that my hands have stopped shaking, the rest of my body has started to. So, I tuck my hands beneath my armpits for warmth as I manoeuvre through treacherous terrain, trying not to trip on anything or walk into any branch concealed within the dark. Trying not to think about the cold.
I was told long ago not to go into the forest, everyone's always said that ghosts live here, that's why no one hunts in these woods, or cuts the trees for timber, but I've always gone into them, at least on the fringes, it's always seemed inviting to me. But I've never gone this far before, I have enough sense to know that wild creatures live this far, and that losing my way could spell my death. But right now, I couldn't care less.
It's as I'm climbing over a fallen tree that something swoops over me, making me slip and fall to the ground. I raise my hands over my head for protection, waiting, but nothing happens. So, slowly, I peer up over my arms and see, silhouetted with the moon at its back, a great owl perched up on a branch, with large yellow brown eyes staring directly at me, and as if in greeting, it lets out a haunting hoot. Stunned and sore from my hard landing, I get to my feet and brush off the loose soil that clung to me, and stare back.
"Well, hello to you too," I reply. The owl, as if acknowledging my greeting, takes off, and following its direction I'm shocked, and even a little elated to see, the tell tail appearance of unnatural light, softly pressing around the dark trees off in the distance.
So, with indecent haste I push my way through the bushes and scrub, under branches and over logs, and make my way toward the light. And almost without warning I'm standing on the edge of a sizable piece of land cleared of trees, with a thatched house sitting in its centre, and windows bathing light onto a sort of veranda that's attached to its face.
It's under that veranda, in the warm glow coming from the house, that I see another pair of eyes tonight, gentle brown ones set upon the relaxed expression of a smiling women. I almost trip over myself as I move to see her better, some foolish thing inside me telling me it could be mother. But as I get a little closer I see that she is younger than mother, and far more beautiful, with oaky brown hair tied behind to reveal stunning eyes that follow me as I move nearer. Up close I see she's dressed in simple woollens, and sitting in an old wooden chair with a blanket over her legs, a long pipe carelessly resting in her right hand, sending up gentle wisps of smoke.
'Good morning' I say, feeling a little awkward and unsure of what to do. Here I am wondering up to her house and almost tripping over as I race over to her, she must be wondering what I'm doing out here. Well... what is she doing out here, and sitting in this cold, in the middle of the night?
'I wouldn't say it looks like you've been having a very good morning at all.' The woman replies. A young face, but wise, old eyes consider mine as she speaks softly, raising her pipe to take a small puff before continuing. 'What brings you here where no earthly business of men should be brought, what frights do you run from child?' her tone remains the same but I feel strong intent behind them, like I'm being talked down to, not because she's patronising, but because I am a child here, before something great and imposing.
'My mother,' I begin, but choke on my words, feeling like a hand has clenched its fingers around my heart, my gaze drops and my fists clench. Why should I tell her, a stranger in the woods no one's supposed to go into, why should she care? 'she's, she's passed... she...my mother...' but I cannot finish, it seeps out my eyes and closes off my voice, and a croak is all that escapes me, as all the feeling I had held in as I stormed off wildly into the night, the cold determination that masked my pain, pours out now, with a wail of sorrow and loss. It feels like the world is spinning beneath me and my body is becoming numb, and one moment I'm standing in front of a strange women, a contorted face of misery, and the next something soft presses against me, and wraps around me. A cheek rests upon my head and whispers into my ear.
'Foolish child, wandering in here at night,' she lets out a sigh 'You'll be alright.' My legs give out beneath me, but I fall into her arms instead of the ground, and I cannot help but press my face into her chest, and weep.
I lost my mother in only two weeks, that's all it took.
Years later (In chapter one)