I’m relieved. I just finished my latest story — title above — and it was a bit of a struggle. The final section had to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and it gave me a fit. I generally feel more at home writing straight action sequences, so putting things into the context of a meeting was a little more difficult.
Just to give y’all a feel for the story, and, yes, it’s time-travel again, here’s a section from Chapter 8. The main character, Logan Walker, has just arrived in the past, and is still trying to adapt to his unexpected situation.
The moon was high, its bright rays shining through the oak leaves. The light made strange patterns and shapes on the ground between the trees. The blotches of darkness seemed impenetrable, making it impossible to see what lurked below.
Despite his thirst, Logan had managed to sleep for awhile. He wasn’t sure how long it had been. The moon was now nearly overhead. It hadn’t even risen when he had dropped off to sleep.
He carefully studied the ground. There was no sign of the cat creature. Perhaps it had left, looking for other prey. Surely there was something to attract it, something easier to catch than one scrawny human.
He thought about climbing down to look for water, then rejected that idea. Even with the moonlight, he couldn’t see well enough to be sure that something wasn’t hiding, waiting for him to make a stupid move.
The tree seemed to be intent on impressing every nuance of its rough bark on his posterior. He found that changing position every thirty minutes or so made the fork of the branches barely tolerable. Thirst bothered him more and more as the stars wandered towards sunrise. All-in-all it was an amazingly long and restless night.
Logan had always slept late, but now he was beginning to think that the sun had stopped. When that thought first popped up, he snickered, but then stopped to consider his situation.
He was in a tree, trying to avoid some kind of big and really toothy cat thing, and trying to hold out until morning so he could get a drink. He’d been in the front yard, fallen into the drainage ditch, and then this place had somehow grabbed him. He hadn’t consciously wanted to come here. He’d…Oh! He’d wanted to escape that woman. Before that he’d eaten that brownie. Maybe something in it was giving him a bad trip. She’d said it was very strong. Still this didn’t seem like an hallucination. Everything was too real. It had that unmistakable feeling of reality, not like a dream or any kind of altered state of consciousness.
Whatever had happened to thrust him into this situation, it was beyond his understanding. It may have been related to the brownie or it may simply have been chance. It seemed that somehow he’d fallen through a hole, ending in another world, or…and here he paused…another time.
The cat-creature gave him one clue. He hadn’t looked too closely at it, being more concerned with avoiding its jumps, but it had a tawny, sort of stripy coat and a short tail. The most obvious feature was its huge teeth. He’d thought that it reminded him of a saber-tooth tiger, but they were extinct. Only maybe not in this place. Maybe here they weren’t extinct.
Logan gave up trying to figure out what had happened. In a sense it didn’t matter. He was here now and he had to learn how to survive until he could get back to where he’d come from. It really was that simple.
The thought crossed his mind that he might not be able to go back, but he shoved it away. That wasn’t something he wanted to consider.
By this time it was getting light. The sun was peeping over the horizon somewhere out at sea to the east and its light was gradually infiltrating through the foliage that surrounded him. Somewhere a bird started up, singing its morning song. The song quickly changed, and then changed again. It was a mockingbird; had to be. Nothing else sang so many songs at peak volume.
He heaved a sigh of relief. At least he was still on Earth. He’d thought for a moment that he might be on another planet. All he’d had to go on was the impossible cat or tiger of the saber-tooth variety. A mockingbird was at least familiar and made the place seem very Florida-like despite the lack of people and houses.
Logan maneuvered around and stood up, trying to stretch the cramps out of his neck and back while he waited for his left leg to regain its circulation. He’d been sitting in such a way that it was wedged tightly into the fork of the tree and now it hurt and tingled.
He carefully edged over and rested his hand on one of the more vertical branches, unzipped his pants, and relieved himself. The stream spattered on the dried leaves below. There was no answering sound. He’d half expected the cat to come charging out at the noise.
Finished, he began to edge onto the connecting branch to the magnolia tree. He’d descend carefully, then see about a drink. The idea of water tormented him now, and he had to mentally restrain his movements. It wouldn’t be good to slip and fall. He had to be careful.
He reached the magnolia with no sign of his attacker. Just to make sure, he broke off a rotten stub and threw it into the bushes. It made a gratifying rustle and crunch. Then all was silent except for that mockingbird. It continued to sing somewhere over near the edge of the stand of trees.
That was a good sign, wasn’t it? Logan thought that birds might be quiet or sound some kind of alarm call if anything dangerous was nearby, but he wasn’t sure about that. All he had to go on was his brief experience at the dig site, and, years ago, a week at summer camp with the Cub Scouts. He was realistic enough to recognize that he couldn’t really rely on the information he’d seen on TV.
“I wish I’d read more prepper-type stuff on the Internet,” he muttered as he climbed down the smaller tree.
The last branch was about five feet up, and it decided that his weight was too much this time around. It snapped, precipitating him onto the ground in an undignified fashion. The fall knocked the wind out of him, but he jumped up, looking wildly around, preparing to either run or to try to climb the tree again. Nothing happened. The saber-tooth must have given up and gone elsewhere for its meal.
I’m rewriting the first draft now, cleaning it up and working on the flow, so it will read easily. It’ll go to my editor in a few days, then (I hope) be ready to publish by July 1. (I know. I’m optimistic.)