A Day in the Life.

  By: C.R Billingsley

    The single file line takes forever to get moving. When it’s finally our turn to climb aboard, One and Three join me in the small rectangular container. Blank white walls meet at crisp edges, and the corners fold neatly into each other.  Nary a speck of dirt or cobweb to be found, it’s homey enough, yet lacking in even the slightest hint of personality. Functionality over beauty I suppose. The solitary window that stretches along one wall provides a distorted view of the landscape around us. Secured into our seats, the lid is lowered, and we're ready for transit. Four rectangle boxes, three travellers per, huddle together as the cover is fixed into place.

Perhaps it’s the steady rocking motion of the box, or maybe that we’re travelling in darkness, but I find it difficult to stay awake, and drift off to sleep.

When we stop moving, my eyes flutter open. The two guys on either side of me stare out the window, seemingly comatose.

“Do you guys know where we are?” I ask, but neither one even acknowledges me.

Humph. How Rude.

Luckily, the fleecy white clouds and fresh blue sky lighten our car, and my mood. I roll on one side, stretching my weary body. I’ve been in better shape, but the roundness I’m sporting suits me just fine. In my profession, less emphasis is placed on physical appearance, more on performance.

Although the more I travel, the greater the physical price my body pays. Retirement beckons me like the sun calls for the grass to deny its roots. Maybe this will be my last job. I think I’ve earned it.

With the sun this high in the sky, I’m lulled into a false sense of optimism. Foolishly, I think it might be a great day to explore the wilderness, to find a green and frolic upon it. The ominous shadow that blankets our window says otherwise. Blocking the blissful sun, my gut tells me something's wrong. The giant stomps, growls and snorts as it stalks our car, waiting for the right moment to pounce. The blank stares from my travel companions puzzle me.

“Uh guys? Do you not see this?” I whisper. My body tenses and I pray that it skips us altogether and moves on to another prey.

But it’s not to be.

Silence broken, the giant lifts our box in its monstrous hands and tips us on end. I tumble towards the guy with the huge ‘three’ on his shirt, and number ‘one’ crashes into me. The box rocks violently, and we bounce off of each other. Just as I steady myself, the entire back end of our transport blows open and we’re suspended in mid-air, staring at the ground below us. Getting my first look at the giant beast’s expression, it’s one I’ve seen all too often. The spawn of anger and frustration, a creature in this state is unpredictable and desperate for redemption. This is never a good thing for someone in my vocation.

Number ‘One’, says nothing, but looks at me blankly. His dimpled cheeks and laissez-faire expression befuddle me. You know the saying, the lights are on but there’s no one… never mind. This guy’s lights are off. Maybe never even been turned on. Which is probably a good thing since he’s ripped from the container, dropping into the giant’s hand. I roll on one side, hoping to avoid the same fate.

“Three, help me!”  I shout, but he ignores me completely.

My heart races as I frantically search for an exit.  Three's mental state mirrors One's. Gonzo. How did I end up with the two stiffs? 

“He’s going to come back you know, wake up, man!” I scream, but he’s unresponsive.

I hope it takes him next.

The box sealed shut, we’re shoved upside down into a dark cave. I’m lying on my back with three pressed against me. I swear, if I can somehow survive this, I’m getting out of this job. No more. My heart can’t take it.

I lay still. It’s all I can do to breathe. I try to shove Three off of me, but it’s no use. He’s too heavy and of course, I have no arms.

From outside the cave, the giant bellows and a stream of golden light slices through the darkness. In the seconds it takes my eyes to adjust to the light, I wish I’d kept them closed. The creature is back to take another victim.

“Take this guy!” I shout.

With a blatant disregard for our welfare, the creature grabs the box and shakes it once more.  The compartment flies open and I’m met with its angry, beady eyes. The putrid smell of hot dog, barley and hops saturate the air. 

Greasy fingers flip us upside down. Unable to stop myself, I fall; landing in its outstretched palm. Pinching me between its index finger and thumb, the monster places me on a wooden stake.

While the sun beats down, three more giants join the fray, witnesses to the impending sacrifice. They prod the beast into attacking, crying out for it to ‘murder’ me. How can they be so callous? What have I done to deserve this?   

Surrounded, any thoughts of escape are extinguished.  All of the sudden, everyone backs up, like they’re being called off by a bigger dog. Frantically, I search the greens and forests for the terror about to be unleashed upon my dimpled exterior.  And then, I see it.

Long and narrow, with an oversized head, the metal monster creeps towards me. A slight breeze wobbles my perch, and I plead for it to knock me from the wooden stake that forbids my escape. The metal dog bares its teeth and growls, licking its chops. Its master holds it on a stiff leash, keeping it from devouring me whole. When it lunges at me excitedly, the master pulls it back in restraint. This continues two or three more times. Mind numbing fear just about does me in. Blood drains from my face and my heart nearly stops. The wait is killing me. Just end it already!

When the creature obliges me and unleashes the beast I want to take it back.

The force at which the dog pulverizes me scrambles my brain and every other organ in my body. Flying through the air, my life flashes before me. So this is how it ends; a yard sale of my innards and outers strewn across God’s green earth. Time slows as I plummet towards the ground.

The tree tops close in and as I fall, I pray for a soft landing. The first branch is painful, and every other seems less so. Perhaps the damage I’m suffering on the way down dulls my pain receptors. Each tree, branch and leaf I hit slows my descent, and I come to rest in a pile of hearty vegetation. Looking up through the foliage, the sun is barely visible. My face is covered in thick black mud. The numbness I feel could mean my back is broken. Maybe I’m paralyzed. I try to move, but it’s useless. 

The gentle sounds of the forest soothe me. The bird’s gossip, telling stories and singing songs. Insects and animals interact jovially. Maybe this won’t be so bad. I could think of worse ways to end my days. I heard number four was last seen at the bottom of a lake.

My resignation is cut short by heavy footsteps trudging through the forest. The giants aren’t finished yet. I will myself to move, but my body denies me. If only I could roll over, the log right next to me would provide cover. They’re closing in. Four giant beasts, scouring the forest floor.

And suddenly, I'm given hope. They’ve stopped too early. They’re looking in the wrong spot. Oh happy day! Could it be?  The euphoric feeling is enough to make me shout out loud, but I refrain for I’m not out of the woods yet.

The giant bellows in anger and frustration as the other three leave him alone in the forest to contemplate everything that is wrong with his game. His allotted two minutes expired, the creature storms towards the fairway. He turns one last time, hoping, and praying that I might jump up and announce my position, but I deny him that joy.

Such is the life of a Titleist 2 golf ball.    

 

Answering the Call to Adventure

The Call to Adventure - The Story of The Empire City

In 2011, I gave my grade 7 and 8 class, "The Novelist Assignment". The students were tasked with creating a one-line sentence that would describe a story they wanted to create. As any awesome teacher would do, I created an exemplar to model for my students.  So I projected this sentence onto the SmartBoard(tm)

"A seventeen year old boy learns that he is part of an ancient prophecy and must unite the six magical ravens and defeat an evil emperor."

And the students LOVED it.

Using their enthusiasm and excitement as a springboard, I churned out TEN chapters within the first month. I wrote a one paragraph synopsis, and tested it on several other students around the school; under the guise that, "I was looking for a novel to use as a Read Aloud". I said that I was considering this book, and asked for their opinion.  It went something like this;

"Seventeen year-old Henry and his nine year-old sister Charlotte are alone in a war ravaged world. Running from scavenger and wraiths has taken its toll on the siblings. Seeking a better life for himself and Charlotte, the pair board a ship that will take them to The Empire City and what they hope is a better life. When a massive storm sinks the ship, Henry and Charlotte are separated. He awakes on a mystical island with a beautiful girl named Calli The pair discover that they are part of an ancient prophecy that will thrust them on a harrowing journey to unite the six magical ravens, find Charlotte and restore peace to the world.

The response was an overwhelming, YES!

I was flooded with comments like, "What book is that?", "Is that in our library?", "Can I read it?"

So over the next year and a half, I wrote as much as I could when I had time. I had written up to the end of Part II: The Island, but eventually my forward progressed stalled, and months passed without much writing being done.

Two visits within one week of each other provided the motivation I needed to finish the manuscript. 

The first, was a class trip to the London Central Library to listen to Wesley King, author of the Vindico (thevindico.com) speak about writing, and his novels. (Which, by the way was the winner of the Red Maple contest, so I highly recommend that you read the Vindico and the sequel Feros right now!)

Actually, no. Wait. You need to finish reading my Call to Adventure first.

While listening to Wes speak, my story-telling juices started to flow and I knew I had to finish the book.  He said something that resonated with me; "Out of the 100 people who start a novel, only three will finish. Of those three, only one will see it published."

It was right then and there, that I decided that I was going to be one of the three. And I was going to be the one.

You can imagine my thrill when I approached Wes after the presentation and he graciously offered to read my story and give me some feedback.  Needless to say, the next few chapters poured out like water from a crumbling dam. I sent it to Wes a few weeks later. As promised, Wes returned it to me with some feedback, encouraging words and an offer to mentor me along the way. I am forever indebted to Wesley King, and Wes, if you are reading this, THANK YOU.

The second visit came from two former students; Liam and Tad, who were now in grade ten. They returned to my classroom to visit, and the first question Liam asked was "Have you finished your book?" To have these boys come back, over a year later, and ask about it pushed me over the edge. They showed me that this story was worth writing, and worth fighting for.

Liam read the first (awful!) draft and loved it.  He wants to play Keyln in the movie.

I have an amazing circle of friends and family that support me and have a long list of people who want to be beta readers. To my wife, the solid foundation that I have chosen to build my life upon, there are no words. To my colleagues that were the very first beta readers who trudged through contraction hell, and too much "telling" and not enough "showing", thank you for your support.

My manuscript is currently nestled safely in the wondrously magical hands of author and freelance editor Kim Graff (kimgraff.com) and I cannot wait to see what she will do with it.

I have answered the Call to Adventure and am looking forward to taking my first step into the Special World of Authorville.

Stay Tuned!

C.R.B