Thursday, June 30, 2011

Excerpt from "Kouros (Working Title)"

So this is an excerpt from a book series I have been working on for a long time now. Its set in ancient greece and essentially just takes up the greek mythology. However, its still meant to retain realism. So this is an excerpt from one of the chapters that I simply wrapped into its own short story form. Its about a supporting character called O, who is looking for a name. So he goes by several different O names, like Ophicus and Omnicron. Its still really rough, especially in its insulation from the rest of the story context, but right now I'm working mostly on just establishing the emotional state and psyche of this side character named O.

As the last note died out, he opened his eyes and looked out over the crowd. For a brief second there was silence. He lived for that second. He played for that second. The second of silence when the sheer shock of the emotional avalanche he created and then so suddenly stopped caused the crowd to be speechless with wonder. The wonder of his music. His song. Then they erupted in cheers and clapping, foot stomping and bright colored veils of the women being waved back and forth.

Ah, Athens, how I’ve missed you, he thought as he gave his short bow before trusting his lyre into the air as the cheering crescendoed.

“Make way! Make way!” a voice called from the crowd as a short, fat man trundled up, surrounded by four guards. “Come along Ophicus! We have to get you to the harbor! Your next ship leaves at sunset. We can’t miss the games at Olympia! I worked for months to get your name on the register!”

“I know, I know.” He said, hoping down from the stage and following the armed guards through the ampitheater walkway where hundreds of fans were throwing garlands while reaching out to touch Ophicus. “Hold on, where’s Chloe?”

“She’s already on boards with Kouros and Phaeton. Now come on!” He said, forcefully grabbing the boy and yanking him along.”

“Don’t touch me!” Ophicus said, pulling away, his face suddenly white with terror.

“Alright. Fine. Then walk yourself but hurry!” his manager said, walking away at a brisk pace.

Ophicus sat down and ran his fingers through his hair as he tried to control the shaking.

Not here, not now, he thought as he clenched and unclenched his jaw. Looking up he saw several families walking by pull their children closer as they passed on the other side of the street. Without his fame he was just another nobody to them. All that love on the stage and still that old familiar feeling. Of being totally alone.

“No, no, no, no, no. Not now!” he wanted to scream.

But instead he was back there again. So long ago.

“Omnicron! Where the Hades did that boy get to!” yelled the man as he stepped into the room.

“Dolon, I’m sorry. I-I was trying to reach the top shelf and I...” he tried to say it but thought he was going to throw up. He hadn’t had any food for two days already.

“You little piece of filth! Look at this! That amphora of wine was worth more than your whole sorry little life will ever be!”

“I’m sorry Dolon.” He said, trying not to cry.

“Shut up! You’re just a no good waste of flesh! Just like that slut, your mom!” Dolon yelled as he threw piece of potsherd at the boy.

One hit Omnicron’s face, leaving a deep gash. Surprisingly, it didn’t even seem to hurt. Somehow it helped to stop the tears too. It felt like relief. Like everything inside went grey and dead as Dolon kept ranting.

“I’m just glad you aren’t one of mine! Spending all your day with that stupid instrument. Playing your little songs! Well you can forget about that!”

Dolon grabbed the small make shift lyre that Omnicron has made out of some twigs and catgut and put it on the ground between him and Omnicron.

“Now, you understand why I have to do this, right?”

Whenever Dolon suddenly took on his caring voice Omnicron could feel his insides twist together. He could only nod.

“You broke something of mine. Now I have to break something of yours. That’s fair, right.”

Dolon was crying again, his tears mixing with his bleeding cheek, stinging salt as he tried to wipe his eyes.

“It is, it is fair, am I right? Look at me. Look at me, you piece of filth!”

Omnicron looked up at Dolon feeling sick and empty and dirty. Like the piece of filth he knew he was.

“Now, I am not going to break your lyre.” Dolon said, taking a step back and folding his arms across his chest.

“R-r-really?” The boy asked, looking up.

“No.” Dolon said as he shook his head before making eye contact with Omnicron, “You are.”

Omnicron just looked at the thing on the floor and suddenly felt the room spin. The only thing he had. Out of nineteen brothers and sisters, he was the one with the lyre. Without this, he wouldn’t be anything. How could he break it? It was all he had. It was all he was.

“Are you listening to me?” Dolon began to grow red, “I said you are breaking it! So do it!”

“B-but. I-I don’t, w-want to-” but his sentence was cut short by the back of Dolon’s hand across the gash on his cheek, knocking him down ontop of the instrument.

“You don’t dare talk back to me! I said break it! Or do you want me to break your fingers instead? Either way you aren’t ever playing ever again!”

Omnicron’s hands shook as he took up the instrument and grabbed the two outside edges. He strained against the wood as his whole body quivered from lack of food and the beat of his heart echoing inside the cut on his cheek. Then there was an ear splitting snap and it was done. He let the pieces slide out of his limp hands.

“You know what the problem is!” Dolon said, grabbing him by his tunic collar, “You kids have no respect anymore. Here I am, trying to teach you a valuable life lesson and you talk back to me! I think the only way to teach you respect is to remind you who puts bread on this table to begin with! That’s two more days added!”

Omnicron just looked at the floor. The world melted away as the rest of what Dolon said and did faded into the background blur of the high pitch scream burning in his brain. And as he kept looking at his feet he noticed more and more of the small details around them. The brightly polished Athenian marble on the walkway. The few green dandelion leaves prouting between the cracks by his feet. He was in Athens. He wasn’t back there anymore. He was far from Dolon and the rest of the family.

Realizing he had stayed too long, he jumped up and ran down to catch the ship before his manager had a heartattack. It was the games of Olympia. These were the big leagues. If he could get enough crowd support he might be able to have one of his songs taken up by the Homeridae. Which would mean eternal fame and glory.

On the ship to Olympia he stayed away from the others, lying off to the side and pretending to be asleep. He had promised himself that he wouldn’t let it happen to him again. Not after last time. But all it took was one small thing to throw him back into the memory. He would worry about it some other time. For now he had to focus on getting his song recognized.

They deboarded at Olympia and walked up the garland way with people cheering and throwing flowers on either side. This was it. All thoughts of the previous night’s events were forgotten as he made his way to the massive ampitheater where thousands of people from all the great cities would come to watch him perform. There was a nervous energy that seemed to coil in his stomach, but he kind of liked the feeling. The same feeling he got whenever he was about to strike the first note. And after that. After that it all turned into music and rhythm and the fluid beauty that you don’t even have to thing about.

“Omnicron! Omnicron! It is you!” A voice called from within the crowd as he neared the main entrance.

An old man hobbled out of the crowd and latched onto him. And in that second it was as if he was back in his childhood. Except that his childhood and his present seemed to bleed together in the old man, and he recognized him. And suddenly he felt helpless and filthy and angry and confused all at the same time.

“Omnicron! It’s me! Dolon. Your old dad. Oh, my boy we’ve missed you so much. Ever since the day you ran away your mother and I worried ourselves sick.”

“I thought you said you didn’t know who my father was.” Dolon said, his cheek burning.

“No. Its me. It’s always been me. I’m your father, Omnicron.” the old man said as he smiled in almost delirium at the boy. “And of course it is a son’s prerogative to take care of his family.”

And that’s when he got it. Why Dolon was here. Why he suddenly wanted to talk. Why he was suddenly so willing to claim Omnicron as son. It was all just about the money. Omnicron has never been mad at him until this moment. How dare he.

“Get away from me, you piece of filth.” But even as he said the words he felt like he was betraying himself, looking down at the old, guant man, “I don’t know who you are but you are not my father. My name is Ophicus, not Omnicron. Leave me alone.”

“Omnicron! Omnicron! I’m sorry! I made a mistake! Come back!” his echoes rebounded down the dark tunnel as Ophicus walked in and closed his eyes, his grip on his old, rebound lyre tightening as he prepared for the show that would make him the most famous man in Greece. While he was concentrating his thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a passing servent boy who had dropped a bowl.

“I’m trying to concentrate! This perfomance is worth more than you are you little piece of filth!”

And there in the dark chamber with the cheers of fake love and meaningless fame echoing around the ampitheater, he came face to face with himself, old and young, looking at each other from across the gaping maw of time and into the face of the disease that had been slowly eating away at his soul for so long.

“Is there any hope for us?” asked his younger self.

“I-I don’t know. I thought. I mean, we got out.” His older self answered.

“But we will never get out. Will we?” the young boy said as he began to cry.

“I don’t know. I don’t know anymore.” The older man said as he took the boy in his arms and began to cry as well.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my hot-freaking gosh. This was amazing. I seriously almost cried...there was so much realism in his situation; I loved how you used real conditions, like PTSD and even a verison of cutting to describe this guy's pain. And the setting was so vivid and natural. Wow. This was an inspiration; I hope I see more of this :)