I confess that in writing this brief introduction, I am slightly nervous. First drafts are, by their nature, scrappy little things. Having read over the first draft of my aborted NaNoWriMo novel, tentatively titled Children of the Elder God, I’ve already noticed several things I would change. What I am putting here however, is the untouched and unedited first draft of chapter one.
I have received several requests from friends asking to see the work in progress, and since I would like to think I’m a writer, I would like to open myself up to the world through something I have created. To me a first draft is beautiful, even in its imperfection, and so this is why I am choosing to show this. It’s 2000 words or so, so longer than any of my other posts, but I hope you will take the time to read it, and I would like to ask that if you do, please post a comment here, or on the Facebook post, or tweet me telling me what you liked or disliked. I’m looking for genuine criticism, not shallow ego stroking. So, without further comment…
“Jason. Psst, Jason. Wake up!”
The urgent whispering came somewhere from Jason Loch’s left. Momentarily trapped in the twilight realm of half sleep, he couldn’t tell who was whispering, or even how far away. It could have been kilometres…
“Jason, would you wake the fuck up?!”
But then again, it might have been right next to his ear. Still groggy, Jason opened his eyes slowly, allowing them time to adjust to the light.
The cabin of the aeroplane was dimly lit. The television screen on the back of the seat in front of him was rolling the credits of whatever film he had put on before drifting off to sleep. Looking to his right, he could see that it was still somewhat dark. The majority of passengers were still asleep, his wife Raven included. He felt a slight twinge, which exploded into a sudden sharp pain in his neck as he turned towards the source of the whispers. Ciarán Hartwood, his father in law, was sat next to him with an expression that bordered both anxious and impatient.
“Hey, I’m awake. We there yet?” asked Jason, knowing full well they weren’t due to land until mid-morning.
“No, we’re not ‘there yet’.” Ciarán replied with a half amused sigh.
By now, Raven had also woken up. Her hair was hanging over one side of her face, betraying the natural brown colour underneath the copious amounts of red dye she used. She watched the exchange between Jason and Ciarán with growing curiosity.
“Okay then,” said Jason, drawing the words out slowly, “Why did you feel the need to wake me up?”
“So you have time to put your seat back up right and fold your tray table away before landing. Also, I wanted to inform you that you missed just about all of The Dark Knight. Besides, fortune never favours the lazy, so make sure you’re up. We may have a job to do.”
With those last words, Jason finally perked up. If Ciarán thought there was trouble, it was wise to listen to him. He didn’t know much of Ciarán’s past, but he did know that both he and his daughter Raven had been investigating paranormal phenomena for years before he had entered their lives. While he had been sceptical at first, he had seen enough while travelling with them to soon change his mind.
He looked over past Ciarán at his younger brother Kyle, who was sleeping restlessly. Jason knew what he was dreaming about. A few years previously, they had been in the middle of an investigation into a cult of some kind, and Ciarán had managed to learn the location of a mass séance.
At the time, Kyle had recently graduated from an Experimental Mathematics course at university. From a young age he had been a prodigy, but had also been afflicted by numerous problems including a severe case of bipolar disorder. Kyle had begged Jason to come to the séance. His intelligence was only outmatched by his need to learn about new things, seek out new experiences.
Jason had eventually relented. They had been to several séances without any problems. This one however, had been different. Whatever it was this cult had been attempting to communicate with had exploited Kyle’s depression to gain a handhold within his mind. Luckily, the rational, logical side of Kyle had managed to force most of it back out, but there was still a remnant of it left. It lay dormant, waiting for Kyle to lower his guard to strike. It had gotten so dangerous, Kyle had volunteered to be kept in a straitjacket. People often stared or asked questions, but Raven had provided a solution when she started explaining it as being for intense agoraphobia.
The trip to Los Angeles had been following up on the first lead they’d had on the cult since the séance, but it had proved to be a waste of time. More and more, Jason was losing hope, but he could never bring himself to admit it to his family.
He was brought back to his senses by the plane rocking slightly. Raven smiled reassuringly at him, but she took the time to readjust the glasses she was wearing. Jason had been married to her long enough to know that was a sign that she was nervous about something.
“Alright then,” he said, turning to look at Ciarán again, “What’s this job? And have we hit turbulence or something?”
The fasten seatbelt signs were still dark. If they had hit turbulence, either the flight crew was unaware, or there was a problem in the cockpit.
“Just listen,” said Ciarán, “What do you hear?”
“Only the engine sound. What should I be hearing?”
“Listen harder. Below the engine rumble. What do you hear?”
There was a distinct low rumble, concealed beneath the general sound of the engines, but most definitely there. It was emanating from behind the door to the cockpit.
Jason tried to place the source of the noise, “Poltergeist?”
Ciarán shook his head, “Close, but not quite. Has to be a Revenant.”
Now Raven definitely looked worried, “If it’s a Revenant, we’re pretty fucked up here. There’s no way we can…”
“Me and Jason will go take a look,” Ciarán cut her off, “You stay here with Kyle. If he wakes up and has an episode, you’re the best at calming him down.”
Raven stood up to allow her husband and father out, then took Ciarán’s seat next to the still peaceful Kyle.
“So, how should we play this? I mean, she’s right, there’s no way of fighting that thing up here. I fucking hate flying,” said Jason.
Ciarán took a second to look pointedly at Jason’s bomber jacket, “May I point out the crippling irony in your attire?”
“Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up. I like this jacket, okay?”
By now, Raven was getting irritated, “Would you two stop bickering and get on with this? Jason, I swear you married my father instead of me. God knows you fight like a couple.”
Both looked sheepish, “Sorry dear.”
A sudden crash from the cockpit stopped them all in their tracks. It was followed by a voice screaming in a language not quite English,
“PLEENE! CREESH! DOI!”
At that, Jason leapt into action, producing a badge from the inside pocket of his jacket,
“Alright everyone, listen up! I’m an Air Marshal! The man with me is a doctor. No doubt at least some of you heard that, and I’m sure you’re all worried. Don’t. We’re just going inside the cockpit to take a look at what’s going on. I’d like everyone to stay in their seats. Keep your safety belts fastened, and put a movie on or something. I recommend Source Code.”
With that, he pocketed the badge, and he and Ciarán started making their way up the plane. When they were out of earshot, Ciarán turned and whispered,
“School prefect badge?”
“Oh. Yeah,” replied Jason.
“Why do you have that in your pocket?”
“I dunno, I just keep it there. Never know what might be useful. Still, deus ex machina, right?”
The cockpit door was unlocked. As they opened it, the shouting from within grew more intense. The pilot was writhing in pain on the floor, a stewardess attempting to calm him down, patting his forehead with a damp cloth. The strange sounds seemed to be coming from him, creating a cacophony within the confined room. The stewardess’s lips were moving silent, uttering a prayer under her breath. She was interrupted by the two men stepping into the room, as was the clearly flustered co-pilot. He started to shout,
“Joanne, can you get these people out of here?!”
She stood up, blocking their view of the possessed pilot.
“Sir, I’m afraid I have to ask you to return to your seat!” she was practically in a state of panic. Jason stepped in,
“We’re paranormal investigators, we can help.”
“I don’t care who the fuck you are, I can’t let you near him!”
It was Ciarán’s turn to reason with her,
“Ma’am, do you know what you’re dealing with? This is a Revenant, a particularly angry form of spirit, and it will remain in possession of this man’s body and mind unless you step aside and allow us to help.”
She finally relented and stepped away. Ciarán breezed past to examine the pilot, while Jason stayed standing, watching,
“Thank you Joanne. I promise we’ll do what we can to save him.”
“So, how do you get rid of these Revenants?”
“Oh, it’s quite easy actually. Just find the grave of the spirit in question and decapitate the body. They don’t tend to wander too far from wherever they were buried. Of course, given that we’re thirty thousand feet in the air, this could pose slightly more of a problem.”
“Yes, it could,” Ciarán spoke up, “I’m going to have to try an exorcism, but I can’t guarantee it will expel the spirit permanently.”
Joanne knelt down next to Ciarán, “Should I continue to pray?”
“You can if you want,” replied Ciarán nonchalantly.
“Will it help at all?”
“Probably not, but it can’t hurt.”
Joanne’s lips began moving again as she resumed her praying. Ciarán bolted from the cockpit and returned within a minute, carrying his small flight bag.
“Kyle’s awake, no problems,” he said pointedly, closing the door behind him. He addressed the co-pilot,
“I’ll do my best to keep it quiet, but you understand this can be a loud procedure. Please try not to get too distracted. I need you to keep the plane as steady as possible.”
The co-pilot nodded in agreement as Ciarán set up for the exorcism ritual.
He set out seven candles in a vaguely circular pattern on the floor, lighting them as he went. Motioning for Jason to restrain the man’s arms, he placed his hands on the pilot’s head, and began to chant in Latin.
Jason had witnessed enough exorcisms to know the chant by heart, although he had never performed one himself. There wasn’t really anything religious about the ceremony, the chant was to draw the spirit out of the body, where they would generally leave the mortal realm for good. This one, however, was most definitely a fighter. Every time Ciarán started the chant over, he got more intense and focused.
The air suddenly seemed to rush out of the room, and for a few seconds, everyone inside felt like they were suspended in nothingness. Then the candles blew out, the pilot’s body went limp, and Ciarán finally relaxed.
He stood up, and suddenly the terrible shouting started again, but from Ciarán instead. The Revenant had transferred directly into him, and he was headed for the co-pilot, hands outstretched, shouting,
“CREESH PLEENE! DOI!”
Jason was quick to his feet, grabbing Ciarán’s wrists from behind, pulling him back to the floor. Joanne very quickly got the idea and relit the candles, then moved on top of Ciarán’s body to hold him down.
Jason knew there was no time to stop and worry. The more he panicked, the more chance there was of him getting this wrong. He placed his hands on his father in law’s head and started the chant, bracing for the spirit to possess his body.
Instead, the cabin door flew open, Ciarán went limp, and the spirit went howling down the plane. Its shout had changed,
It took only seconds for Kyle to realise that the spirit had entered his mind and was attempting to take possession of his body. By now, he was used to the feeling. It felt like an old friend returning home after a long time away. He took one look around at the concerned faces, then closed his eyes and retreated into his mind.
Morley House was a familiar sight to him by now. The last time he had walked these corridors, they had seemed foreboding, now they were welcoming. The yellow glow of the afternoon sun filtered through the windows, as he strode with purpose past the numbered rooms.
In real life a rehabilitation home for the criminally insane, in his mind it was a prison for all he feared. It was a construct he had started as a child. When his depression and mood swings had threatened to overpower him, he had retreated to within himself and locked them away in the room at the end of the corridor. Room 106.
He approached that room now, not running, but not taking his time. The spirit was stood within, awaiting Kyle’s judgement. It was dressed in an antiquated fighter pilot uniform, much of it rotted away by years of water damage. It attempted to scream at him, but it was in vain, as Kyle closed the door, allowing it to be devoured by the other evils that lay within.
“Kyle, Kyle, are you alright?”
He came to back on the plane, with Jason and Ciarán looking down at him, worried.
“Oh,” he said calmly, “You don’t need to worry about that any more. Believe me, I have much worse locked up in here.”