The following is a deleted scene from my novel, The Darkening. I figured it would be nice to share something related to the novel in order to let you know of the mood I’m trying to create in the story. This post will be longer than most of my earlier ones.
There are a number of reasons this scene got deleted. First, it didn’t move the story forward, nor did it show anything new about the main character (his name is John Piscus). Second, it turned out gorier than I want the story to be. Though the Darkening is a post-apocalyptic horror story, I didn’t want the horror element to be gore-related. There are bits in the story where some splatter is essential (after all, I am dealing with a world where the shadows each person casts comes to life and kills its owner), BUT it’s minimal, and usually described indirectly (or at least, that’s what I think, lol).
Despite what you may think about dreams in fiction (a lot, if not everyone, claim that dream sequences for backstory are a no-no), the dream the main character sees is only one, broken up in bits and it’s the only memory he (John Piscus) has of his life. Everything else is wiped clean. It’s also the main reason why he blaims himself for what has happened to his family, and probably the reason he considers himself mad. It’s up to the reader to decide if he’s mad. Which brings me to the third reason this scene got the chop, since it wasn’t related to the single dream/memory John Piscus has.
A bit about the story. John is one of the few survivors from The Darkening, an event that brought each person’s shadow into life and eradicated the majority of the human race. He has lost all memories save his family’s death, for which he considers himself responsible. In near isolation, in fear of any light source, he hears a pair of voices; one that accuses him for everyone’s death and one that tells him to be the man who used to be. Robert is a neighbour, who lives a couple of hours away from his refuge with his family.
BE WARNED! What follows could be seen by some as graphic and disturbing. I mentioned earlier that it veered away from my intended implied horror element. If you don’t like horror or you can’t stand the post-apocalyptic element or anything related to it, please don’t continue. Some of you will read it, arch your brow at me and this statement, and think I’m exaggerating. I know. Still, I have to respect those who don’t like such things. And lets face it; this is not your usual Sunday morning read. You have been warned. ALSO, please note that it has only undergone through the first editing process, and although adverbs, adjectives, dependent clauses with hidden important action in them, and filter words have been dealt with as much as I could, it hasn’t been read by beta readers. Which means wordiness and other mistakes (partly due to language barrier) are probably still there. Feel free to comment about them. Your comments may prove invaluable to me for the rest of the story.
The wet kiss on his cheek and the playful shriek next to his ear bid him open his eyes in a blinding haze. His heart came to a stop. Before him, a merry-go-round spun a younger Pauline.
“Look Daddy. I go lound and lound,” the ‘r’ giving trouble to his baby girl.
John gawked at everything around him; this was not a memory but a real dream. When was the last time he saw a real dream?
Something white crept to the edges of his dream and distracted him. It vanished the moment he focused at it. His stomach twisted. I’ve never seen this thing before.
He directed his attention to his daughter, his beautiful girl, who waved a pudgy hand at him and turned her head left and right to keep him in her field of view, while she went round and round.
“Look Daddy,” she said between joyful shrieks. Deep down, John envied her; not out of spite but because he yearned to be as carefree as she was.
“Children are happy all the time, because they are free of sin and malevolence,” Robert once told him. “The torment we experience is what we’ve made for ourselves.”
“And yet they died all the same,” John had snapped at him. There was no hope for the world, for humans. Robert was a fool to think otherwise.
The white entity crept at the edge of his dream again, but when he turned to look at it, it was gone.
The world whispered, “Righteous retribution.” Someone had said the words in the past – not Robert – but John had no recollection who.
A pained shriek startled him and shattered the merriment around him, like a ball through a window. He whipped his head to the merry-go-round. Pauline lay on the ground, her hair a tangled mask on her face from sweat and tears. Not again. Please, not again.
He ran to her, his movements unsynchronised like moving through a viscous fluid. She clutched her right knee, now marred with grit and dirt, where a drop of crimson made its way to the surface.
Ear-splitting cries burrowed in his head, and he had to shield them with his hands. He took his eyes off her to the hazy world beyond, and there he saw them. Two white-clad figures stood rigid in the distance. This is new. What’s happening?
The white duo gradually took human shape, and the figures of a man and a woman formed. Flame-red hair adorned the woman’s head, tied in a ponytail. He couldn’t see any other feature. The man remained obscured, mist-made, like a dream within his dream.
Pauline howled once more. He lowered his eyes to her, but she was no longer there. In his hands he held her shoe, not empty but not attached to her either. The howl continued, distorted and distant, seemingly from the end of a tunnel. “Help me Daddy. Help me.”
His stomach churned and his heart screamed with the pain his baby girl felt. He clutched her shoe and searched left and right for her.
The light changed to purple then blue. The merry-go-round dripped blood and from underneath it, hidden in its shadow, a voice spoke. “Righteous retribution.”
He took a step back. The dreamworld changed, invaded by maroon hues as if two fluids mixed. The red haze spread like a virus, covered everything, distorted life itself. Screams and pleas rose and died, only to have new voices take their place. All save Pauline’s pleas for help. “Save me Daddy, help…” And the white-dressed duo; they still regarded him with eyeless expressions, and waited for his next move. Who are they? What do they want in my dream?
He turned to leave, Pauline’s name on his lips, when he realised he sloshed in a pool of blood coming out of her shoe.
Righteous retribution. The world whispered the words on and on, until the words synchronised with his heart’s rhythm.
The pool of crimson ended in a small trail, leading in the distance. “Daddy, please help me.” John followed the crimson trail, his movement sluggish, slower than his mind wanted it to be. The world whirled. Smells of blood and decaying flesh emanated from the ground around him.
The red mist changed to black, his sight rendered useless the darker it got. Every voice died out except Pauline’s. More than once he lost the trail in the darkness, but her voice led him closer to her, and the closer he got, the steeper the ground turned, until his thighs and sheens burned and the air grew staler.
The two figures dressed in white entered the edges of his view, but he refused to waste time on them. You don’t belong here.
“Please help. It hurts Daddy.”
John clutched her shoe.
“Righteous retribution,” the world whispered.
By the time he climbed what he thought was a mountain, blackness had swallowed him. The smell of rotten flesh permeated the air. How long had he run for? Moments? Minutes? Hours? His heart hammered his chest. He went down to his knees, panting.
“Daddy.” A few more strides and he would reach her, help her.
“I’m here, baby,” he gasped and dragged his body in a coppery-smelling mud, until he touched concrete.
He fumbled in the darkness, and found a door. “Please. Daddy. Don’t leave me.” Pauline’s voice came from behind it, but no more than a whisper now.
He pushed himself up, and when he found the handle, a howl shook the ground he stood on, and Pauline’s voice stopped.
“No,” he cried and clawed at the door. He banged, kicked and slammed it as hard as possible. Will it never end? He battered the door, put all his weight into it, but it didn’t budge. “Let her go, you monsters.”
“Righteous retribution,” resonated, until the howling stopped. Tears welled up and in the blurriness they created, the white shapes appeared again, at the edges of his perception. “Get away from her,” he bellowed and flailed his arms at them, his voice thick with tears and anger.
A hubbub of whispers swept over the darkened dream, louder than anything John had ever heard. The door opened and the whispers ceased. He crawled through it, and his hands plunged into warm liquid. The smell of clotted blood lingered in the air.
“Baby?” he said through sobs and tears. “Daddy’s here, baby. Talk to me.”
Oh God, please. Must I always live this?
The white-clad pair stepped on the edges of his vision, each on either side. John’s hands curled into fists. What did they want with Pauline? The pair shrunk to the size of a bead, and slid on the surface of the pool until they came close to each other.
When he opened his eyes, a pair of milky eyes stared back at him.
He screamed and jumped back. Behind him, more sets of eyes opened and what he thought was an ordinary mountain turned into a mountain of bodies, all staring at him with white eyes.
Bangs full of anger and impatience came from somewhere far; one, then another. The make-believe world around him collapsed, the ground shook, and something dragged him out of the dream. “No, let me be with her,” he cried. “Leave her and take me.”
The words survived the onslaught, repeated themselves in his head, and rose in strength and volume, until they were louder than the clamour around him.
There you have it. Obviously nowhere near perfection (if such a thing exists), and with probable flow issues (if you spot them, let me know), but better than the draft.