Writing Wednesdays & A Writing Sprint link up
Because I’m a writer & storyteller and enjoy weaving words together into tapestries of stories both real and imagined, I’ve dedicated Wednesdays to my novel writing. I am currently working through the revision of The Dream Quest, a story about a young man named Daniel who embarks on an incredible quest based on a series of dreams he has involving people he’s never met. And because writers need to hone their craft, it’s the Writing Sprint link up. The Writing Sprint prompt appears at the end of this post and offers a writing prompt that encourages you to freewrite for 15 minutes without the alleged help of your inner critic. No overthinking. No stopping. No editing. No worries. No inner critics. Daily writing exercises help writers grow, improve and free their writing. The only rule is that you must leave a comment for the person who linked up before you. That’s it. Other than, free yourself from your doubts, your fears and your inner critic and have some writing fun with us!
QUESTION FOR FEEDBACK: What is your overall impression of the story so far? Characters, pacing, developments?
Chapter 7: It’s Complicated
Daniel sleeps restlessly, entering the familiar world of his dreams. A world that has only become familiar in the last six months. But now it is so familiar it is like his real life. The people, the places, the ideas that he encounters are all intimately familiar to him. Tonight, he recognizes the street in the shadows and the dark shape of the church rising above him beneath the full moon. He stands and waits, anticipating Jonas’ arrival from the dark alley beside the beautiful stone church. But Jonas does not come. Daniel waits, sitting on the steps of the church and looking around eagerly. He wonders what is keeping Jonas tonight.
Finally, he catches movement from the corner of his eye. But, when he turns it is not Jonas he sees, but his dad. His dad. He stands and stares at his father. His dad smiles uncertainly. It’s been a long time since the two have stood face to face. Neither speaks. His dad takes a tentative step and Daniel waits.
“I can’t believe it’s you,” Daniel says.
“I’ve missed you, Danny Boy,” his dad says. Awkwardly, his dad takes Daniel into his arms and Daniel lets him, not pulling away. “Let’s sit.”
They sit on the same steps, in front of the same church, where Daniel has met and talked with Jonas. In fact, the same church where he met Jonas the night he got out of Keith’s car. It seems both perfect and strange to sit here with his dad. Daniel studies his dad. He looks exactly like Daniel remembers him. A bit older, but still tall and strong. His jaw strong and square, his dark hair cropped close to his head and starting to grey around the temples just a little. His smile is still warm and comes easy, especially when he looks at his son. They have the same hazel eyes with gold flecks and he’s glad for that. In fact he wishes he were more like his dad in other ways.
His dad looks him over, his eyes searching for answers to questions long unasked, too long unanswered. “How are you?”
“I’m doing well,” Daniel says.
His dad looks at him and waits.
“I’ve struggled here and there. I dropped out of college. I’m sure Peter told you that.” Daniel pauses to see if this is true. His dad nods. “I’m sure you were disappointed to hear that,” he says, not looking at his father.
His dad touches his shoulder briefly.“I wasn’t so convinced law school was for you,” his dad replies.
“I saw some of your pictures. You have a real good eye, Danny.”
“I had no idea,” Daniel says.
After a moment, his dad continues. “Okay. So, you left college. Then what?”
“I traveled a little. I guess I was trying to find myself.”
“Or lose others.” His dad’s voice is serious, but not accusing.
“That, too.” He looks at his dad.
The two men sit quietly, each sifting through his own thoughts.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Daniel says at last.
“I didn’t like it. Still don’t. But I guess I understand. Lucy was trouble,” his dad says. ” She threw a wrench into the family.”
“No argument here.”
“Your mom eventually forgave me.”
Daniel absently twists the ring.
“Peter gave you the ring,” his dad says.
“What’s the story with it?”
Daniel senses movement in the growing shadows behind his dad and the air seems suddenly charged, as if a storm is building. His dad shifts as if he notices, too.
“We don’t have much time,” his dad says.
“Why the inscription?” Daniel asks. “Beware the wolf that roams about?”
“It’s complicated,” he says, “but I’ll give you my best thumbnail.”
Suddenly, an explosive crack fills the air and Daniel’s dad slumps forward, into Daniel. Daniel’s ears ring and sulphur burns his nose. In his arms, he feels his dad convulsing, gasping and gulping. A wet stickiness covers Daniel’s right hand, the hand that lays on his father’s chest.
“Dad!” Daniel screams. “Dad! Can you hear me? Dad!?” Daniel squints through the darkness and deepening shadows, trying to see his father’s face. He looks around them but sees nothing but darkness. Stillness settles around him and his father’s head lolls backwards.
Daniel moans, rocking his father back and forth and peering into the shadows that are getting darker, so dark he can barely make out the form of the church behind them let alone his dad. “No. No, no, no, no.”
Daniel looks around again and realizes he’s sitting up in his oversized bed in the penthouse suite at the airport hotel and he’s alone. He twists the ring around and around, shaking and his breathing ragged. Eventually he pushes himself and walks shakily to the window, taking in the city below. He stares at all the lights and the cars and wonders at the movement below him at such a late hour. He wonders where Peter is. He wonders what Jonas is doing. He thinks about Michael Atkins. His mind races until it stops at the memory of the dream, his father, the gunshot, his dad dying. Daniel looks at his hands as if he expects to see blood.
He forces himself to lie down and tries to calm himself, but his mind races. Tomorrow he leaves for another city and another person from his dreams. He drifts through his memories, memories of all the dreams he’s had and the people he met in them. He wishes now he’d taken time to keep track of them. Of course he didn’t realize right away they would play out in his life. Peter, he thinks, and grabs his phone. It’s late, so he sends him a text: I need to talk to you. It’s urgent, so call me as soon as you get this. Daniel. He puts the phone down and wanders through his mind again, wondering about his dad, the ring, the dream, and, most of all, who killed his father and why. No matter how hard he tried, he cannot connect the dots between his dreams.
After a while he finally feels tired and hopes with everything in him he’ll sleep without dreams for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, even though it doesn’t involve his dad, Daniel floats into another vivid dreamscape. This one feels familiar; there is music, and colors, and voices singing but the words are not completely clear to him. The voices populate the periphery of his consciousness, an ethereal chorus. In the dream, he wanders alone down a country road with the sun shining brightly overhead and fields and trees all around. The trees are losing their leaves. They float on the wind, like me, he thinks, as he makes his way down the road. There are only a few houses and they are pretty good distances apart, many so far off the road all he can see is the steep driveways that lead off to the distant homes.
Off to his left is an abandoned house. It seems out of place here. It is diagonally across the street form a small three bedroom cottage and he wonders if perhaps the property belongs to the people in the cottage. There is a sign posted for trespassers to keep out and an abandoned car sitting in front of a leaning garage whose sideboards are mostly rotted through. The house is also falling apart, almost as if parts of it have disintegrated. A screen door stands open, falling from its hinges, the windows are broken out and the roof is partially caved in on one side. Even so, there is something about the house and its surroundings that makes Daniel wish he had his camera because he sees beauty here, something he wishes he could capture on film. It is life. Life lived. Life moved on. But life. He senses it as he walks slowly past.
Suddenly, he sees movement in one of the upstairs windows. He stops and stares. Surely he’s mistaken. But as he stands there a moment longer, he sees it again. A face peers from behind torn fabric hanging across the window like curtains. He takes a step toward the overgrown driveway and the face disappears. He looks at the signs again and decides to rest here on the road, at the edge of the drive. He sits and looks around the property, his eyes resting on a nearby tree where a spider in its web moves gently with the breeze, the web catching the sunlight every few moments. Daniel watches it through the lens of the camera he wishes he had and waits. When it’s pretty clear that he’s not leaving anytime soon, the person moves the board that serves as a door behind the hanging screen door. It’s a young woman, maybe about 18. He stays where he is and watches her. He doesn’t know how, but they know each other and so he waits for her.
She walks slowly down the rotted wooden stairs and onto the driveway and stops closer to the house than the road where he sits. “This is far as I go,” she says. “If you got something to say.”
Daniel sits for another moment, then slowly pushes himself up off the ground. “I’d like a chance to talk to you, but only if it’s okay with you.”
She looks at him and then at the crow that is cawing overhead. Sadness radiates from her. She turns her eyes toward him and says, “Yeah, it’s okay.” She crosses her arms and adds, “As long as you got food and something to drink.”
As Daniel reaches into his messenger bag to get the sandwiches he bought, he senses movement from the shadows of the trees. The air is charged with the feel of a storm and Daniel turns around. In that moment, a loud crack breaks the stillness; he hears a cry ring out and sees a figure dart into the darkness across the street.
Daniel wakes abruptly feeling wrung out. He hasn’t had back to back to dreams before now and he realizes again how exhausting these dream visions are. Did I just refer to them as visions, Daniel thinks. But that’s what they are beginning to feel like. At least since he met Michael Atkins and realized that he’d met him in one of his dreams. But these are far more vivid and even more startling. If they’re visions, Daniel wonders what they mean? He realizes he desperately needs to connect the dots and hopes he’ll have a chance to talk to Peter, but when he checks his phone, there’s nothing from him yet.
He still has nine more people to find and talk to and decides to make a list of the people from each dream, like the girl he just left, Michael Atkins, an elderly couple, a fisherman. He tries to remember which ones he’s met more than once. Clearly, the girl was familiar to him, and he tries to remember any dreams with her in them. And what about Dad? he wonders. Does he factor in to all of this? But more than that, he wonders about the dream itself because up until now, his dreams have only involved people he believes are alive. And unrelated to him. His heart aches just a little as he heads for the shower.
“Ready to continue the adventure?” Jonas greets him over scrambled eggs and bacon and a tall cup of steaming black coffee.
“My adventure doesn’t really seem to end, even when I’m sleeping,” Daniel replies.
“More dreams last night?” Jonas asks.
“As if you don’t know.”
Jonas laughs that now familiar deep laugh. “I know a lot of things, Daniel, but I’m not inside your head.”
“But you are sometimes inside my dreams,” Daniel says, looking intently at Jonas over his steaming coffee. He takes a sip and then adds, “Tell me how that happens.”
Before Jonas can answer, Sara enters the breakfast nook. “Good morning, gentlemen.” She smiles warmly down at Jonas and glances tentatively at Daniel.
Daniel nods. “Hey.”
“We were just talking about dreams,” Jonas tells her. “Are you one who recalls her dreams?”
Sara considers this a moment. “I don’t think I do,” she says. “Either that or I don’t dream. What about you gentlemen? Are you dreamers?”
Jonas nods. “Absolutely. And I can usually recall every detail, down to the number of turns in a spider web hanging in a tree along a path I’m walking.”
Daniel narrows his eyes. He thinks about the spider web in the tree to the side of the driveway where the young girl stood in his dreams last night. He wonders if Jonas is telling him something or not.
“What about you?” Sara asks, interrupting his thoughts.
“Do you remember your dreams?”
“Depends on the dream,” he replies.
“That makes sense,” Sara says. When it’s clear that Daniel isn’t going to say anything more, she turns and heads to the buffet.
When she is out of earshot, Daniel turns to Jonas. “Spider webs?”
“Just an example to make my point. It’s a detail that most people wouldn’t notice, right?”
“Right.” Daniel finishes his coffee and the two clear their dishes. Daniel is eager to get on the plane and start piecing together his dreams. “So, when do we leave?”
“Right after breakfast.”
Out on the sidewalk, Daniel suddenly spots Peter.
“Excuse me,” he says and moves past Jonas and out the door. Daniel wonders if Peter and Sara spent the night together and his stomach tightens at the thought. Peter is checking his messages when Daniel approaches. Peter looks up and smiles.
“Hey bro,” he says.
“Did you get my text?”
“Just seeing it right now.”
“I need to know what happened to dad,” Daniel says.
“What?” Peter shifts his weight from one foot to the other and clears his throat.
“Dad. What happened to him?” He locks eyes with Peter and waits.
Peter looks down at his phone and then out at the line of cabs. “It’s complicated, Danny.”
Daniel nods. “Just give me the bare bones then. Heart attack. Stroke. Car accident. What?”
Peter clears his throat and hails a cab. “I’ve got a laundry list of depositions starting in fifteen minutes.”
“I saw Dad last night. Watched him die.”
“What?” The cabbie gives the horn a few quick beeps and Peter waves the cab on.
Daniel looks around and says, “I have these dreams–”
“Hear me out.”
Peter checks the time and hails another cab. “It was a serious heart attack with no warning signs. The doctors said his aorta was a mess and his arteries showed severe damage,” Peter says. “I’m sorry, Danny. I wish you’d had a chance to see him.”
“Did he suffer?” Daniel presses.
“He was in a coma for a while –”
“What about the ring?”
“Danny, what’s going on, man?”
“Tell me about the ring.” Daniel holds up his hand.
“This is something we really should talk about when we have more time.” Peter begins inching toward the cab.
“Where’d it come from?” Daniel asks.
Peter says nothing.
“Where’d Dad get it?”
“I don’t know,” Peter says, looking over at the cabbie and signaling he’ll be right there. He gestures to his bag and lets the cabbie load it into the trunk. “I need to go, Danny Boy.”
“You never call me that.”
Peter seems equally surprised by the words. “It just rolled off my tongue.” He shrugs. “You okay, bro?”
“I don’t think so.”
“I’m finished around five, why don’t we grab dinner?” Peter asks.
“I can’t. We’re flying out shortly.”
“Jonas’ plane,” Daniel says.
“Where you heading?”
“It’s complicated, Peter.”
This Week’s Writing Sprint: a ring
Write a scene, a poem or a story that involves a ring. Give us what you’ve got with as much detail and dialog as you can muster in 15 minutes. And most of all, have fun. Free your writer from your inner critic. When you’re done, come back and link up what you’ve got! And remember to give some encouragement to the person who linked up before you.