It’s finally here — Day One of NaNoWriMo 2018! I woke up this morning super chuffed and raring to go, and quickly lost my drive as reality set in. I’m a parent, a housekeeper, a cook, an everything, and I’m all by myself at the moment until @steemydave returns in December. It turns out that writing an entire first draft chapter in one day was quite the endeavour under the circumstances. Might need wine tomorrow, just as Katéa does. 😉
I knew where I wanted to go with Chapter One at least, and pushed myself through in little increments when I could spare the time, and ta-da! Today’s #freewritemadness prompt is — tiny — and allow me to introduce you to chapter one of An Unfortunate Adventure! Please keep in mind that this is incredibly, desperately rough and nowhere near anywhere close to being something of a polished work. 😉 Please note that this work is written for fun, most definitely not for perfection and likely not for “proper” publication ever (though, hey, who knows what the future will bring), and I bet you can find the very moment I get antsy and start rushing it just to finish the damned thing in time to be counted for today.
Wordcount for today is: 1896
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Weaving in and out of the scraggly trees, the tiny disc-shaped lights illuminated the scrub in a glow that cast long, dark shadows across the parched, red dirt. Katéa raised her phone and edged closer to them, remaining silent as she stepped over broken twigs and small rocks. This time she would capture the blasted the things. She pressed ‘record’ and the orbs zipped to the left; she moved the camera and they then zoomed to the right. Bloody hell! A twig snapped underfoot, the crack echoing through the silent night, and the lights retreated further into the bush, hovering behind twisted branches and taunting her from within the safety of certain peril. There were snakes in there, spiders —all manner of creepy crawlies— and beyond that, the tales said to never follow the Min Min Lights; they would lure you away never to be seen again.
They danced from one tree to the next, just on the edge of the thick bush-land, and blinked away as she raised her phone again. Damn it. If she could provide an authentic recording of the phenomenon, fame and fortune would be at her fingertips. Well, maybe not fortune, but fame and followers. No-one had ever captured them before —no-one genuine at any rate— she would have the first valid recording in a sea of hoaxes. And if the things ‘lured her away’ like the stories told, it wasn’t any real worry; if worse came to worse the phone had GPS and luckily, the phone was at full battery.
The buildings at her back were silent and the windows were dark. No-one would miss her, and if she failed, she would soon be back and no-one would know of her foolishness. Unless a snake bit her. She smiled. That was unlikely; she might just be a dumb city chick to these rural folk, but even she knew that snakes rarely came out at night, and it was chilly besides! Didn’t they like the warmth? She’d be fine.
A burst of wind rustled across the treetops and whistled through the tiny gaps between branches. The lights swayed with the sweeping breeze and flittered hypnotically from each trunk before retreating deeper into the scrub. It was now or never, and she chose ‘now’.
Pushing aside the thin, scraggly twigs and branches, Katéa began pursuit. A deep vibration emanated from the lights and they sped through the trees with the litheness and grace of a flying feline. They were getting away! She tripped over a root and flew headfirst into an orbweaver’s web, narrowly avoiding introducing her face to the spider itself. Her stilettos were not the right footwear for this —hell, she was not the right person for this! Her heart racing, she glared at the frantic spider ascending the remaining strands of its web and sidled past the frightful creature.
Nature and its treachery aside, this little trek would be well worth it. Her followers would be so impressed, there would be millions of YouTube views, and the local news would probably want to interview her. She would be on the telly! Perhaps even make national news. She aimed her phone at the lights and they zoomed off again. This scrub was impossible.
The bush grew thicker, denser, and the dancing lights mocked her as they whorled and writhed amongst the intertwined branches and leaves, pirouetting into sight before disappearing again; the only evidence of their passage the illuminated shadows that scattered over the tangled undergrowth from behind knotted limbs.
The spindly twigs grasped for her and clung to her hair, to the soft threads of her dress, and with an annoyed heave, she wrenched away from their iron clutches —riiiiiip. “No!” she cried, her voice reverberating against each tree in a wail of despair. This dress cost four hundred dollars and it was the first time she had ever worn the thing. It was still brand new.
“Damn it, damn it, damn it!”
This was all Sarah’s fault. Damn her and her stupid ideas. Katéa wouldn’t even be here if not for that damned hippie wannabe. ‘Here’ being a nature retreat in the middle of nowhere that was supposed to help them become one with their inner selves and cleanse away the burdens of modern life. It was utter nonsense. She’d only agreed to come so that the experience could be shared on Instagram, but had then been informed that the retreat had no Wi-Fi. Three days with no internet, only ‘emergency data’.
Sarah’s smug makeup-free face burst into mind, her nasally drawl as clear as though she were standing beside her. “Kat, this is a retreat. We are retreating from such things. You’ll thank me when your chakras open and flood you with the delightful emptiness our ancestors once enjoyed.” She clearly had no idea what the hell she was talking about and was simply spouting some crap she had read online, but Katéa had rolled her eyes and succumbed to her friend’s wishes. Why couldn’t they have gone to Hollon’s Day Spa instead? Plenty of inner learning could’ve been had there, whilst sexy masseurs kneaded their backs in an expert display of ‘therapy’. Beep-beep —that was not a good sound; the phone was dying. But it had been fully charged mere minutes ago! It didn’t make sense.
A ball of light shot past and she jumped back, crying out as her foot buckled beneath her weight and snapped her six-inch heel. Fan-fucking-tastic. First her dress and now her shoes.
“Better get back,” she mumbled, cringing as her quiet voice resounded as loud as a shout. Another orb rose up before her, near blinding her as it shone as bright as the midday sun, and it hummed that bizarre vibration once more before it zipped away into the tangled trees. “Fuckin’ thing.”
It didn’t matter anymore. There was not enough power to record the phenomenon and she needed what little that remained so she could find her way back through this wretched scrub-land. Beep-beep. The phone lit up and a sleepy face appeared on-screen before being replaced with ‘Goodbye’, and powering off. Fuck.
“Okay, not to worry. Just turn around and walk back the way you came,” she whispered, eyeing the dark shadows that closed in around her. The lights were gone and all was silent but for the whistling wind. The cool breeze strengthened into a spiralling gust and entwined itself about her body, causing tiny goosebumps to spread across her skin. This was not good. She hobbled forward and stumbled over her broken heel. Maybe she should just take the damned things off. Throw them away. Let the bugs eat her toes. Whatever. This night was shitty enough and it couldn’t get much worse… she shook her head and muttered aloud, “Famous last words, Kat. Shut up.”
Kicking off her heels, she winced as her feet met the sharp stones and pointy twigs that hid beneath the darkness. It had been years since she had gone barefoot anywhere that was not carpeted, sandy, or covered with thick, lush grass. This was certainly a flashback to the ol’ childhood —an unwanted flashback— the younger years were certainly not the ones she wanted to remember whilst trapped in the middle of the bush.
She took a deep breath before exhaling it in a long, slow sigh. It would be okay; her feet would survive, she would survive, and the tales of people never being seen again after chasing the Min Min Lights were irrelevant. This was the modern era! Sarah would wake up and would notice that her friend was missing, and they would send out a search party. Easy peasy. But… what would she say when they found her? That some mythical lights were dancing in the trees and she felt compelled to chase after them? No way! They would think she was an idiot, and then Sarah would pull her aside and spew some more nonsense about how they weren’t the Min Min Lights, that they were actually her spirit guides and they were guiding her to inner wellness… or some hippie shit like that. Because spirit guides lured their chosen ones deep into scrub-land all the time! Ruining their clothes, breaking their shoes, sending them face-first into spider-webs. Obviously. Made all the sense in the world.
The twisted trees and their gnarled limbs rose high above, appearing as disfigured silhouettes of people as she passed them by… were these previous victims of the lights? “Shut your thoughts, idiot,” she chided herself, pushing aside another branch. Scattered moonlight broke through the rough treetops and hope flourished. Perhaps she hadn’t gone so far into the scrub after all.
Long minutes passed as she continued her trek, squealing each time she stepped on a particularly sharp stone or twig. Her feet would be a bloodied mess by the time she emerged! It was unthinkable. A visit to the beach was definitely on the cards after this nightmare of a weekend —the salty water would be a blessing beyond compare. If Sarah didn’t listen, she’d wrest control of the car and drive them there herself.
A wave of humidity swept through the thinning growth in a viscous wave, starkly contrasting the chilled wind that had been blowing just minutes ago. She slogged through the soupy air, each step more tiring than the last, when the heat vanished as swiftly as it had fallen. She could breathe again! The air was crisp, fresh, with the soft hint of burning wood wafting around her. That was strange; there had been no burn-offs when she had first entered the scrub. Maybe the lights had set something on fire? There was no smoke though, and the air was as clear as could be at this time of night. The ground was softer, too. If her feet could breathe, they would release a relieved sigh.
She stifled a giggle. She had been out in the bush for too long, her thoughts were getting a bit iffy. A nice relaxing wine —perhaps a fruity moscato— would be very welcome when she returned. Did they even have any of that stuff on-hand at an all-natural nature retreat? Wine was natural! If they didn’t have any, complaints would be filed; those people would never host another crystal meditation yoga session again! Her giggles escaped in a fit of hysteria and she fell to her knees, gulping in the crystal clear air as she fought to control her laughter. Tears streamed from her eyes and did not stop until day broke, when the soft light filtered in through the tall, sturdy trees and caressed her face with its magical gift. She blinked and slowly returned to her feet —this wasn’t scrub-land. Where was she? The tree-tops were as beautiful and fiery as a picturesque Autumn painting. The leaves did not turn where she was from, and besides, it was early Spring! There was an opening up ahead. If she had only taken a few more steps… oh, well.
Casting another confused look around the trees, Katéa stumbled towards the sun-drenched gap and closed her eyes as the warmth embraced her. Now, all she needed to do was find a bottle of wine. Perhaps two.