Monday, November 19, 2007

The Prologue to Okeanus

I am editing my fantasy novel Okenaus. Here is the Prologue.

On October 31, La Toussaint, Benoit Kohlbert leaned against a brass street lamp on a corner of an intersection near the Bois de Boulogne, a large park in Paris. His shadow stretched across the street until it penetrated the boundaries of a dense wood.

He whispered, “I shouldn’t go. It’s not fair.”

He gazed into the woods with such longing, however, that a stranger stopped and asked if he needed help.

Benoit waved him away and as soon as the man turned the corner, he argued, “but it is really better for my wife if I do this. I need it and it calms my nerves and makes me a better husband.”

A figure emerged from the woods, a shadow really, an outline of a man or a woman.
Benoit gave a faint wave. The figure waved back and then lit a cigarette, which illuminated delicate olive features, long black hair, and a slight frame.

Benoit made up his mind. He straightened his jacket, looked both ways and then hurried across the street, dodging the nighttime traffic.

As he approached, the figure, dressed in a black dress and stiletto heels, reached out to take his hand. Benoit smiled because the prostitute, in honor of All Saints Eve, wore a Venetian mask of pink porcelain, leaving only eyes and full red lips exposed. The two turned away from the streetlights and entered the autumn woods like Hansel and Gretel.

Benoit had been here before and he knew the routine. They walked silently to a clearing deep within the park where the young man spoke for the first time, telling him the fee and asking what he wanted.

Benoit fished a wad of euros from his pocket and handed them to the prostitute, who sat down on a tuft of brown grass and multi-colored leaves to count the bills.

While waiting, Benoit heard two things, which distracted his attention. The first was a distance rumble of thunder from the north, somewhere over Sacre Coeur. Because of global warming, Paris was undergoing a drought and rain was a rare and unexpected event. Even though France desperately needed it, rain tonight, he thought, was a bad omen. The second thing, he heard, was a soft hollow thump coming from his right, just above the trees; the sound repeated regularly like a runner’s heart at rest.

The young prostitute, ignoring the sounds, reached for his hand to pull him down onto the grass, but Benoit, unnerved and distracted by the eery sounds of thunder and thumping, pushed the hand away and looked up through a break in the limbs of the trees, where a deeper, darker blue shadow separated from the rain filled clouds. The shadow hung in the air like a hummingbird, its great wings filling with air and then propelling downward with a mighty push that made the bothersome thump that had first caught his attention.

The shadowy creature descended, close enough for him to see its yellow eyes. Benoit deflected his gaze, hoping not to attract its attention. The beast sniffed and turned its wolf-like maw toward the prostitute, who was pulling the dress off to reveal a flat hairy stomach beneath a red padded bra. He still wore the mask.

Benoit, now no longer interested in the young Brasilian and his taut body, watched entranced, as drops of saliva fell from the beast’s fangs and ignited into yellow flames. With a moist cough, the beast, like a snake before a strike, recoiled. A heartbeat passed before yellowish flames spewed in a concerted thrust downward and engulfed the young man, melting his flesh in a private inferno, and burning a silhouette of the prostitute into the grass.

Benoit paralysed with fright, his nostrils blistered by the acrid smoke of the burning flesh, watched the beast recoil a second time. In awe he crossed himself and whispered: “Sweet Mary, holy Mother of God, a blue dragon.”

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