My friend Jesse Montini-Vose and I are working on turning my first novel into a series of short animated films. Here is the first sketch and a section from the first chapter.
Surprised that the Aristocrat knew her name, she snapped her head back to face him. She studied the terrible scene in front of her: the hooded man, the guillotine and the roses, and felt terror for the first time as if she was unaware of the danger she was in before, and had just now realized the severity of her situation.
“Why won’t you let me leave?” she cried desperately. “Can’t you see that I’m wounded and need help?”
His silence made her ashamed and she dropped her head in misery. Every creature within the oasis relaxed and allowed the evening breeze of the late sunset to pass through them. The aristocrat looked down at his coat and picked a piece of lint from his lapel. The collective exhale of the oasis normalized and the Aristocrat looked up, but refrained from pressing Beth any further. He turned in his chair and resituated his body, crossing his legs.
“There is no bother looking,” he said.
“At what?” She thought, defeated.
“It has been healed.”
Beth felt around her stomach, but couldn’t find the pain; the hole had been plugged. She felt actual fear in the bullethole’s absence.
“What are you?”
She closed her eyes to escape. She returned to the opaque plain of her subconscious and stood beside the petrified bodies of Alex and Cole, who still lay where she had left them. She looked up into the blank atmosphere and saw a black crow flap its wings overhead. “Crow?” She said, confused. The bird hovered overhead. She worried that he would get tired and fall. A snap popped at her feet and drew her attention down to Cole’s hand punching through his rock mold. The blue hand felt around for her ankle, then a black loafer came into view and ground its blunt heal into Cole’s icy flesh. The Aristocrat pivoted and swung around on the hand to face Beth. His lanky body towered over her and his chest heaved at her eye level as he peered down at her.
“These corpses are worse than bullets to you.”
“They were my friends.” She mumbled.
“Corpses will always be dead.”
He raised his arm and attempted to place his hand on her shoulder, she pulled away and opened her eyes — she was back at the pass and caught herself from falling off of her horse.
“Twice in one day.” Their voices said together in her head — the Aristocrat sitting again at his chair.
“Stop it.” She yelled. “You have no right to be in there.”
“But I must know.” He said.
More ivy climbed up the legs of his chair.
“I must know what brings you here?”
“I told you, I don’t know. I’m only here to cross over the mountains.”
“You are lost?”
(He read her thoughts)
“You have a very limited concept of time to think that I am strange. If you knew where you were I would not be so wicked to you. You would know me quite well and know me as part of the mechanism.
“Yes. So, I ask you again, what brings you here?”
“No, brings you. On what moment did you arrive?”
She closed her eyes to think, to disappear again. However, he still stood close to her in her mind, unwilling to give her peace. She jumped back, startled, but this time unable to pass back into consciousness.
“Shall we take a walk?” He asked.
He turned away from her and looked out onto the flat grassy plain.
“What secrets must mingle here?” He asked himself aloud.
Beth stood and watched him scan her thoughts.
The Aristocrat grabbed the collar of his mask and pulled the heavy canvas bag from his head and turned back towards her. Beth’s eyes mapped his face; for a moment unsure of what was missing to make it so grotesque. The lower jaw of the man was missing and all that remained were a set of decayed molars rotting at the back of his splintered mandible and a sick tongue unrolled. In contrast, his upper teeth were pearly white and hung down, exposed for exhibition. His nose was thin and pointy. His eyes were clear and encircled with bruised eyelids and a thin pair of bleached eyebrows to match his white periwig. His pallor was as if he had walked inside from the cold. He ignored Beth’s hand pinching her lip, and in one unconcerned flourish pulled a blue kerchief from his coat pocket. He wound it tight and tied it around his head so a triangle piece covered his teeth.
“It’s rude to show your teeth to someone.” He said, turning only slightly to make slight eye contact with her. Now, shall we?”
Beth’s world went dark. It brightened to a bustling café. He looked around in wonderment, scanned the white walls, the ornate crown molding, and the brass handrails of an iron spiral staircase that stood behind Beth. She stood at the opposite end of a round granite tabletop.
“Sit.” He said, as he took his chair. “Oh, my this is wonderful.” He gasped. “I’ve been forward in time, but never outside of, well…” He closed his thoughts.
However, Beth hadn’t heard a word from the Aristocrat. She was looking at a table on the other side of the room at a young woman wearing a white dress and black cardigan. Her hair was short. It was her. She sat with a young man wearing a black suit and a rounded white collared shirt. His brown hair was parted. Beth was unresponsive to the Aristocrat’s ploys to rouse her attention. She looked at the two, ensnared within the vines of melancholy, saddened by a memory she felt guilty to have forgotten.
“Guilt?” He questioned rhetorically. “No, no, your youth is nothing to mourn.”
His cold white hand pinched her chin. She pulled away, shuttered, and gave him a disgusted look.
“I’m not feeling guilty.” She snapped, noticeably upset. “I just don’t want to be here.”
“In your past, or with him?”
“But, he seems like a nice boy?”
“A coward, actually.”
The young man stood and walked to the front counter. He collected two cups and saucer in his hands and returned to the table. He leaned forward, fumbled in a last ditched attempt, but the china crashed to the tile floor. Everyone in the café turned to see what the matter was, but Beth looked away.
“I want to leave.” She said, affected, nervously looking out the café’s large front window. “I’ll take you to where I can hurt you if you don’t let me leave here.” She said, now understanding the power of her own mind.
“They’re so in love.” He said, disingenuously.
All went black.