The Gift: A novel

My project for A man finds himself alone on a paradisical island where has has no need to work to support himself. His life is spent transforming the island.

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Location: Los Angeles, United States

I am an awkward, stubborn, slightly insane woman who would rather talk Plato than Prada, rather watch Frank Capra than Carrie Bradshaw, and rather listen to Norse myths sung in Icelandic than anything currently on the radio. Yeah. Told you I was weird.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

Chapter 8(since the ****** computer deleted the first try of this one)

This chapter is late, because I had it written out beautifully, the characters were working well, and then POOF the computer ate it all!! 3 hours work!! Two thousand words!!)

Cobb stared drowsily up at the stars, moving slowly overhead. Unable to sleep, he had first tried to count them, but abandoned that as futile. Instead, he entertained himself by marking their progress across the sky. His eyes were now fixed on the three brightest stars in the sky, just above the trees. They had not been there an hour ago; he had watched them rise above the trees, twinkling brightly. He considered naming them, but couldn't decide on any good names before he drifted off to sleep.
There, in the midst of the moonlit clearing, he began to dream.
He stood in a small pool of warm light, a small circle of light in the midst of darkness. He was alone. Suddenly, a figure appeared. It was a very pretty girl, no older than 11. He smiled, remembering her. His first childhood love. As he watched, she smiled, and stretched out her arms to him. He reached out to touch her childish hands, but as he did so, her smile faded and turned to tears. She opened her mouth in a silent wail, and began to fade away. She did not disappear completely, but hovered in the background, a silent shade. He shuddered, but then saw another girl appear from out of the darkness. She was about sixteen, and still had braces. She smiled shyly, and extended her hands. Again he reached out, and again the figure cried out and faded away. Another figure now, and another, and another. He put his hands over his face, trying to block out the sight of them. Suddenly, he caught a glimpse of someone new; he looked up and saw a woman there. She was not familiar to him, though the others had been. She smiled and beckoned him forward. He shook his head, eyes darting to the other figures darting about in the shadows. She laughed, and waved her hands. The figures contorted briefly, and then dissipated into the darkness. She stepped toward him, arms open. He moved to embrace her, feeling her body against his. Suddenly, he screamed. Her face, moving in close to kiss him, had begun to change. It stretched and darkened, beginning to take on hideous shades of green. He tried to pull out of her embrace, but her fingers had turned to claws, and they latched onto his skin and would not release him. Her watched in terror as her legs cleaved together, growing into a thick, writhing tail. She moved a hand closer to his heart. Horrified, he saw her spread her lips in a grin, a ghastly grin that revealed two long white fangs. She moved one hand closer to his heart, claws clicking dangerously. He tried once more to escape, then she plunged her claws into his chest, piercing his heart.

He woke, sweating and clutching his pounding heart. He looked around desperately, straining to see into the darkness of the woods. But the silence of the night and the emptiness of the horizon served to reassure him that the horror had, indeed, been only a dream. Though he still felt wide awake, he lay back down, and tried to calm his nerves. The exhaustion of the day's exertion and the lateness of the night soon lulled him back into an uneasy sleep.

He saw her as soon as he fell asleep, waiting for him. She wore a tight green dress. It shimmered slightly in the light, as if she wore a garment of scales. She moved towards him, smiling enticingly. He turned to flee, but as is so common in dreams, moved too slowly. He heard the angry hiss of a snake, and fell to the ground. A single gasp escaped his lips, a plea. He looked once over his shoulder, and saw only the yellow glowing eyes of the serpent. Suddenly, a flash of silver light blinded him. He looked behind him once again, and saw a pulsing silver light. The light dimmed slightly, and he could see the figures of two men standing between himself and the snake. In their hands, each man held a sword. The snake hissed and struck, but the men dodged and returned the strikes. The serpent twisted, trying to get behind them, to return to its prey, but they were too quick for it. It hissed a final time, and slithered away into the darkness. Sheathing their swords, the men slowly turned to face Cobb. With a sudden certainty, he knew that he did not wish to meet their eyes. As they turned, the silver light increased until it was almost blinding. For a split second, Cobb met their eyes.

He woke as suddenly as if he had heard a shot. Glancing about him, he saw that the night was almost gone, and dawn was approaching in the east.

Dranger lay quietly, his eyelids cracked open only the tiniest bit. He watched the progress of the dawn as it advanced. Slowly the sea turned from black to blue-grey, and the colors of the land began to emerge from the grey drabness of the night. Occasionally, he heard the soft fluttering of a bird's wings, as they awakened and prepared for the coming day. Finally, the tip of the sun peeked out over the horizon and began to rise, turning the sand to a rich yellow, and the sea to a dazzing blue. The birds erupted from the trees, singing loud enough to reach the sun itself. They circled about the clearing, and Dranger noticed for the first time how the light drew in perfect clarity the shape of every hollow of the ground, and rested like a halo on every little mound. The birds flew one last circle of the clearing, then began streaming out toward the sea. He could not see for long, but as they flew out over the waves, it looked to him as though they flew into the sun.

The men ate their breakfast in silence, and quickly packed up their camp. As they renewed their journey, Cobb looked back over his shoulder. He saw the light pick out the topography of the campsite, and suddenly saw a pattern in the earth, similar to the Anasazi drawings. He never would have seen it, unless the sun had hit it just right, but on either side of the marker stone lay the winged figures of two men, each holding a sword.
He gently kneaded the mounds of earth, working by moonlight. He smiled, leaning back on his heels, deciding to incorporate more gardening into his future works. Taking a quick drink from a large clay jar, he sat down on the ground, and examined his work. He wasn't sure why he had decided to work at night, but he was certainly enjoying the moonlight. Once your eyes get accustomed to it, he thought, it's as bright as day. Until he had landed on the island, he had never seen a moon bright enough to cast shadows, but they were by now a familiar sight.
Returning to his work, he walked around the clearing, checking to make sure that the lines would have the effect he wanted. It was hard to tell, since they were still bare earth, but once the grass grew over them again....He nodded. It should work.
He knelt down in the dirt again, and began to dig. After digging a small trench, he filled the bottom of it with small stones, then mounded the dirt back into place and patted it down. He then moved a few feet to the side, and began to work on the next bit of line; digging the dirt, placing the stones, then pushing the earth back into place, kneading it gently...
"Mmmm, that feels good." She smiled, her long blond hair falling across his hand. He smiled and continued rubbing the back of her neck. "Headache getting better?" She nodded, beaming at him. He massaged her neck for a few moments longer, then turned back to reading his book. She sat for a few moments, then asked, "What are you reading?" He turned the front cover of the book so that she could see it. "It's a collection of Grail legends. In this one, Lancelot--"
"Ooh!" she squealed, "Is that guy from Camelot and First Knight?"
Arthur cringed slightly but nodded. "Yeah, sort of. In this one, the vision of the Grail pulls him back from madness, so he goes off to seek it."
"Does he get it?"
He shook his head. "No, he's too unpure."
"Well, he's a traitor and an adulterer, there's no way he'd be able to get to the Grail."
"What does that have to do with anything? He's a good fighter, so why wouldn't he be able to walk up to the Grail?"
"Well....that's a long story."
He turned back to his book, and continued reading. After a few moments, a tinny ring began sounding. "Oh!" she yelped, jumping up to retrieve her cell phone, and knocking his book to the floor. "Oh, no, don't get up, I knocked it down, I'll get it." She bent down to scoop up his book, and he couldnt' help noticing that the neck of her blouse was rather loose-fitting. He cleared his throat slightly, embarassed. She straightened up, cell phone in hand, and handed his book back as she answered the phone. She frowned, and looked at the phone. "They hung up. Well, they can always leave a message, I guess." She wrapped her arms about herself. "Brrr! It's cold in here!"
Smiling slightly, he draped his jacket around her shoulders. She slipped her arms into the sleeves and sat back down. He noticed how the jacket sleeves hung past her fingertip, and the hem almost concealed the hem of het skirt. She looks like a little girl playing dress-up, he thought absently.

They walked hand in hand down the leaf-strewn main avenue of the campus. She was wearing his jacket again, though with jeans this time. After all, it had begun to get cold. They were just past the library when he saw her. She was walking toward them, black skirt swishing against her shoes, and bead belt swinging and clicking from her movement. She was neither tall nor short, and her figure could only be described as one too thouroughly healthy to ever be forced into a corset. Her rich brown hair hung long and curled slightly as it fell around her shoulders. As they approached, a small gust of wind whooshed by, stirring up a trail of leaves. As they swirled around her, she laughed. Arthur had never heard such a laugh, as free as a bird song, as rich as notes from a French horn, and as light as the air. As she laughed, she gathered up a bit of her skirt in her hand, and twirled in the midst of the leaves. Her skirt swung out, swishing around her calves, revealing two small feet sheathed in brown boots. As she twirled, her hair lifted off her shoulders and flew in a perfect arc around her, creating a natural halo. A few quick twisting steps through the leaf-dotted air, and then she was past them.

Sara snorted slightly. "Boy, talk about a real hippy! Well...I guess she's too young to really be a hippy, but her parents were, I bet." But Arthur did not hear her.

Sara had insisted on staying inside today, having no desire to walk about in the wet snow. Arthur gave in reluctantly, though he had hoped to spend some time walking in the snow before going for coffee. So they sat in the dormitory lobby instead, Arthur reading while Sara watched TV. Glancing distractedly out the curtains, he suddenly realized that there was at least one person brave enough to slog about in the snow. The Twirling Girl, so he called her, was out there, building some sort of snow mound. He watched, curious, until Sara begged him to close the curtains, claiming that the sight of the snow outside made her feel cold. Soon, however, the girl came inside and rummaged about in the dorm kitchen. Then, poking her head into the lobby, said, "Excuse me, but do either of you know if there's food coloring anywhere in here?"
Not looking away from the tv screen, Sara said, "Try the pantry."
"Well, in all honesty, I did, but I can't quite see the top shelf. Normally, I'd just pull up a chair to stand on, but..." She extended a booted foot, which was covered in snow and mud. "I don't think Custodial would appreciate that very much." She laughed again, and Arthur's heart skipped a beat. "I'll go see if I can find some for you." He rose, and was in the kitchen before Sara could protest. She huffed slightly, then returned to her movie. Arthur returned shortly, and handed a carboard box to the girl. She peered inside, and saw bottles of several different food colors. She clapped her mittened hands excitedly. "Oh, thank you!"
Even after the girl had gone, Sara remained sulky, finally finishing her movie. "I'm going back to bed, it's too cold out here." She gathered up her stack of DVDs and walked off.
As she disappeared through the door, Arthur jumped to his feet, quickly grabbing his scarf and hat, and jamming his arms into his coat sleeves as he walked outside. As he looked outside, his heart sank. The girl was no longer in sight. Then his eyes were drawn to one bright spot in the snow. There, in front of the dorm, sprawled a large dragon, resplendant in heraldic colors.

He saw her again in the spring. She sat under a tree that had recently burst into patchy green leaves. Her skirt was spread across the grass, and she was intently reading a small leather-bound book. With her hair hanging loose and her face slightly flushed from the warmth of the day, he thought she looked like an Ophelia or Belle Dame Sans Merci by Waterhouse or Rosetti. He hesitated, not wanted to interrupt the perfect picture, but then she looked up, noticed him, and smiled. He walked over quietly, and sat beside her.
"What is your name?"
A smile flickered at the edges of her mouth. "Rachel."
"Rachel, what are you reading?"
She held out the book to him. "Tennyson. At the moment, the Lady of Shallott."
"There she weaves by night and day,
A magic web with colors gay,
She smiled and joined in. "She has heard a whisper say, a curse is on her if she stay to look down on Camelot."
He looked at her, and she laughed again, the laugh so rich and light. "Go on, keep reading, I didn't mean to interrupt."
They read all that long sunny afternoon, sitting together in the checkered shade of the tree.

He sighed, remembering that first sight of her. No matter how many years passed, he would never forget that laugh, and the sight of her twirling amongst the leaves. At that moment, the sun rose above the horizon, and all the birds began to sing. He listened to their song, then returned to the job of shaping the earth.
copyright 2004 Elizabeth J. Weaver


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