Thursday, July 25, 2013

Work in Progress: Fogg and Thalcave

When Time doesn't work, the world can be a frightening place.
Two men, so very different: one an exemplar of civilized upper-class Britain, punctual, whose behavior is regulated as the ticking of a clock; the other a giant from the wilds of Patagonia, impulsive, a near-savage whose life has been given over to adventure.
Two men, so very different: yet united by the great sorrows their lives have brought them.
Their conceptions of the world are soon to be rent asunder as the laws of reality are shredded before their eyes.
Work in Progress: untitled
It's sad when a story doesn't have a name.
Actually, this still-in-progress story has about four tentative titles. I simply can't seem to settle on one yet.
In honor of FarmerCon VIII, which launches today at PulpFest 2013, today's excerpt features two characters from the works of Jules Verne.
FarmerCon VIII celebrates the works of P.J. Farmer, particularly his Wold Newton-associated stories, essays, and novels, which were based on the conceit that all the world's popular heroes were related by a bloodline that had mutated thanks to exposure to a meteorite that fell in England. Specifically, in Wold Newton.
One of Farmer's novels features the lead character from Verne's most famous novel, Around the World in 80 Days. Farmer's novel, The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, purports to reveal the secret story behind the events Verne reported.
The following story features Fogg in action many years after the closing of Verne's novel. The other character, Thalcave, is hardly known at all except by dedicated Vernians. Thalcave is from Patagonia, and appears as a secondary character in another around-the-world adventure tale, The Children of Captain Grant. This novel differs significantly from Around the World in 80 Days, because the characters circumnavigate the globe by following a single line of latitude as they hunt for the survivors of a shipwreck.
The following excerpt doesn't offer a lot of action and adventure, but it establishes a melancholy tone that influences the plot a great deal in the events that follow this scene.
Around the World in 80 Days has experienced success on the stage and, quite dramatically, in film. So to borrow a Hollywood term, you might say it's raw footage. Therefore, consider reading the scene below as an opportunity to see the creative process at work, if you will: the prose that follows is still rough draft, and one day you can compare it to the final polished version that will be its published form.
This story is one of two that will be vying for my attention once I complete Space Detective. When it's done (and finally receives a title), it will join my other works at Amazon and Smashwords.
Now, let your journey with Fogg and Thalcave begin . . .
Fogg and Thalcave
Time, in the mind of Phileas Fogg, drew the boundaries of the Earth.
It had done so when he circumnavigated the world so famously within eighty days.
Correction: seventy-nine days.
It was still true today—thirty-five years later.
But the world was a different place these days for Fogg than it had been then.
For Fogg was no longer a part of the world.
He had removed himself from its definition when he realized time no longer defined his boundaries as it did so for other people.
The realization arrived through a gradual progress, like the growth of a sprig to the unfolding of its flower into bloom. From year to year, the impulsive Passepartout lost more of his agility. His nimble manservant eventually retired to France, still irascible, but far slower.
Fogg’s great love, Aouda, whom he found during his remarkable voyage, lost the elasticity of her limbs—her flesh grew heavier, her jowls filled, her hair lost its brilliant black gloss and faded to grey. Yet her eyes never lost their shine, her smile would burst into life at a moment’s surprise.
But by 1897, the fire of life had dimmed, and an ashy pallor had dulled the glow in her cheeks. She had grown quiet, and the flash in her eyes had eventually done most of her communicating. That and the long, building squeeze her hand would give his as he would sit beside her in the early evenings before she retired for the night.
He could feel her grip now, tight in his hand.
Fogg’s attention had dropped into a somber, interior space, and the unexpected recollection—the surprising physical remembrance of Aouda’s hand in his—brought a quick return of alertness to him of his surroundings.
He noticed his left hand still was curled as though it were wound around another, smaller hand.
Fogg reached, gripped the rail before him. The cold of the metal displaced the previous sensation that had haunted his fingers.
“Are you well, my friend?”
The voice came from Fogg’s left: An unusually tall, robust man with a stolid expression Fogg had come to find both familiar and comforting.
“All is well, Thalcave,” Fogg reassured his companion.
The Patagonian turned from Fogg and, like the renowned traveler, gazed out at the swells of water through which their craft surged. Light fretted and spangled across the rolling seas in a sort of frenetic ballet that flashed in a grand display, then would disappear as a wave turned and swept past.
“There is no shame in recalling the fond moments,” Thalcave said.
“I have no shame regarding Aouda.”
Thalcave watched the light and water dance their singular waltz a few moments before replying. “Nor would any man say you should or would, my friend. But there is no reason to fear recalling those we have loved.” He glanced at Fogg without turning his head. “We are men, you and I. We do not fear love.” He ducked his head a bit. “There is no shame in grieving its loss. For if our love is lost to us, and it is not worth our grief, was it truly love? And if we have had true love, and have lost it, we are less the men if we do not acknowledge its value and its loss.”
The two were quiet. Two minutes and thirty-six seconds passed before Fogg responded: “I am honored to know you, Thalcave.”
“The honor is mine, my friend.”
A number of boats had come into sight, and their presences on the water disrupted the dramatic displays of light on the sea surface.
A shrill whistle sounded.
“We’ll soon be landed,” Thalcave said.
“Let us retrieve our bags.” Fogg moved from the rail. “Another step for another journey.”

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