Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Teaser

Although the book I'm writing falls in the literary fiction genre, some scenes will require the characteristics of other genres. It will include, for example, suspenseful scenes with a lot of action. Over the past two years, I practiced my hand at different genres through short stories, working on the skills I'd need when I wrote my novels. The following excerpt is from one of them, an action/adventure piece entitled "The Way Forward."

They made their way to the head of the trail in high spirits. "White rectangular blazes mark the trail over the entire 2100 miles from Georgia to Maine," Michael read from the trail map. "Turns are marked with double blazes and side trails and approaches use blue." Michael stopped. Kaitlyn was no longer walking beside him. Turning, he spotted her heading off the path into the woods.

"Kait, honey, you're not supposed to leave the trail. Hon?"

Kaitlyn put her finger to her lips and looked back into the woods. A moment later she rejoined him.

"I thought I heard an animal, but it must have gotten scared and scurried off." Her flushed cheeks glowed with excitement.

"You never know what could be hiding in these woods, babe. There are snakes and bears living up here with the bunnies and squirrels." Michael wasn't sure if the look on Kaitlyn's face said his concern endeared him to her or simply amused her.

Kaitlyn's suppressed smile lingered in her eyes. "Tag! You're it!" she suddenly shouted, taking off down the trail.

Kaitlyn's playfulness infected Michael, and they made their way through the quiet woods, talking and joking. By noontime, they had hiked into Sosebee Cove, a remote nook protected by a wall of rock and ablaze with the colors of flourishing springtime bloomers.

"Do you hear water?" Kaitlyn asked.

Michael consulted the map. "It looks like DeSoto Falls is about a quarter mile from here." He looked to the left. "There, see that tree with the blue blaze on it? That trail will take us to it."

Ten minutes later they were heading down the side trail. It was harder to follow than the first one. The woods were thick with forbidding underbrush. The din of rushing water grew louder with each step, until its source came into view.

Melted snow from higher elevations had swelled the river to twice its normal size. Above them, raging water rushed over a promontory and crashed in billows of roiling white foam fifteen feet below. The noise was deafening. Kaitlyn pulled her camera from her pack and began snapping pictures. The air was much cooler here, and after a few minutes they turned to go.

"God! It's beautiful here," Kaitlyn sighed when they could hear each other again. Then, she sucked in her breath.

Following Kaitlyn's gaze, Michael saw the brightly colored butterfly she had spotted. She raised the camera to her eye as it settled on a trillium bush. No sooner had she focused the lens than the butterfly took flight again. Kaitlyn stepped off the path in pursuit of it.

Closer and closer to the river, the insect flitted from one blossom to the next. Finally, it alit on a branch at the water's edge. Looking through the lens of the camera, Kaitlyn edged closer. Michael called out, "That's close enough, Kait," but his voice was lost to the river. As she snapped the picture, her foot slipped on the moist embankment. She let out a high-pitched yelp that never made it to Michael's ears. All he saw was one of Kaitlyn's arms shoot out awkwardly before she disappeared below the bank.

Michael sprang into action even before his mind had time to process what had happened. He sprinted toward the river, ploughing through branches that tore at his face, shouting Kaitlyn's name. She was nowhere to be seen. He searched the white water churning with the vengeance of a stampede of beasts, mirroring the panic coursing through his body. Suddenly, Kaitlyn's head broke the surface of the water several yards away. There was an outcropping of rock visible further downstream, and Michael bolted for it.

"Swim for me!" he shouted as he ran, never taking his eyes off her. He threw himself onto the rock's edge, yelling, "Kaitlyn! Grab my hand!" He was flat on his stomach, reaching as far out over the water as he could manage, as the fast-paced current carried Kaitlyn toward him.

Terror was etched in every furrow of her contorted face. She could see Michael's hand but she was powerless over the current dictating her trajectory. The river slammed her like a rag doll against a rock, pitching her violently under the water. When she resurfaced moments later, she was heading straight for Michael.

Kaitlyn was floating impotently past Michael, but she managed to stretch her hand out. With astonishing timing, Michael heaved his weight forward and caught her firmly around the wrist. She dangled heavily there, her frightened eyes locked with his. The nightmare from years ago was brutally triggered, and fear threatened to rob him of brawn and confidence. He forced the old memory out of his mind and his resolution stoked his strength. "I've got you, baby! I've got you!" he gasped. Fighting the current and the water-logged weight of her pack, he struggled to pull her in. It wasn't until he got his hand around the back of her belt, that he realized he had denied the arrogating river of its quarry.