This is another sneak peek at the beginning of my Gateworld series, book one. The reason I’ve posted it is because I want to know if you think I should keep the prologue before this (see my blog post on Sept. 14) or just jump in right here. (Just so you know I’m leaning towards trashing the prologue)
CHAPTER ONE- THE GIRL IN THE GARDEN
The old house looked like a face with its eyes gouged out. The windows were gaping sockets of darkness, sunken through the puckered folds of cracked and weathered concrete. A high wall topped in thick ivy wrapped covetously about its borders like a snake. The wall twisted and turned, extending beyond the house and ensnaring a tower, a church and four other houses, all abandoned.
Beyond the wall, fields of stiff barley and garish yellow canola rolled like the ocean in every direction, thriving under the dry windless heat. The village itself wallowed in a cool and murky hollow.
Tavin wiped the slick of dust and sweat from his upper lip and shifted his rucksack uneasily. He glanced behind him, at the rugged road that sulked off towards the nearest place with internet service, two hours away. He looked at the house again and humorously wondered what sort of desperate fool would seek sanctuary there.
He cussed gently under his breath. Whatever the house might look like, it was still the only place in the whole world with the promise of a drink and a bit of shade. The pale skin on his arms brightened with sunburn, while the top of his head felt swollen with heat. He told his feet to move, reminding them they couldn’t afford the luxury of being fussy.
A high arch in the wall lead to a courtyard where the air smelt damp. Tavin read the word “Wanderhof” carved with fancy curving letters proudly into the keystone over his head. The courtyard was silent and damp as the belly of a whale smelling of hidden rot.
Tavin stubbornly fought the urge to tiptoe. When he pressed the doorbell, the sound rumbled through the house with the clamor of a Chinese gong. After a long, pondering, and nervous silence, the bones of the house creaked and the black doors cautiously opened. An old man with marionette limbs looked down at Tavin in watery-eyed surprise. Tavin tried on his most charming smile.
“I wrote,” he said. “I don’t know if you got the letters, at least I never heard from you.” Tavin paused, trying to gauge the old man’s reactions. The old man merely blinked a few times, encouraging him with a vague smile.
“Well, um…” Tavin cleared his throat. He should never have come.
“What I mean to say” he continued, “is that I’m your grandson, and I’ve got nowhere else to go.”
The old man blinked in surprise. His mouth opened and shut like a fish. He reached out and steadied himself on Tavin’s shoulder as if to assure himself that Tavin was real.
“Opa Klause?” Tavin wondered if the old man would fall.
“Is it true?” Opa’s voice sounded like wind through wheat, dry and husky. His grip tightened and Tavin winced, surprised at the old man’s strength.
“Is it true?” repeated Opa. “You are the son of my son, whom I have not seen for eighteen years? My son who I thought was dead?”
“My dad was Julius Thornbush, my name’s Tavin.”
Opa’s eyes widened.
“And what of Julius? Where is he now?”
Tavin started to speak but Opa interrupted him.
“No, not now. We must not speak of it outside. Quickly! Come in where it is safe, come and meet your grandmother!”
Opa took Tavin’s rucksack and retreated away from the door. Tavin couldn’t help a surreptitious glance over his shoulder. The courtyard remained dark and still, the air heavy with ancient secrets. Beyond the wall, the fields flared with heat, turning white upon the hills and vanishing into the pale and listless horizon.