I have been so busy concentrating on NaNoWriMo this week, that I completely forgot to write something for today’s Fiction Friday. Instead I have decided to give you a sneak peek at one of the earlier scenes from Planet X, the novel I am currently working on.
If you decide to read it, please bear in mind that, besides a basic spell-check, this is completely unedited, un-revised, un-refined and un-beta’d. You read this at your own risk.
The baking sun beat down upon Sam’s tired body, causing rivulets of sweat to trace tracks down his dirty face. Sixty-Seven, he thought as he stood, arching his back in an attempt to ease the ache. He enjoyed the work he did maintaining the local picnic garden. It was a productive way to pass the time since his retirement and a way for him to feel useful to his community. This was not, however, the way he had imagined he would be spending his birthday.
He took a deep breath, struggling to fill his lungs with the thin air. One would think that standing directly below a tree would gift him with extra oxygen, but he supposed these small pockets of green space were simply unable to cope with the endless sea of concrete between them.
Taking another deep breath, attempting to stave off the wave of vertigo that threatened his balance, Sam decided a rest was definitely on the agenda. Sitting on the wide bench seat that looked over the gardens, he soaked up the quiet and tranquillity the gardens provided. His shoulders relaxed and his face showed a peace that had not been there a moment ago.
It wasn’t often that Sam allowed himself to sit at ease and simply be. Since his retirement, he had done all he could to keep the loneliness at bay. His lover of many years had passed away in an enviro-terrorist attack a few years ago, and they had no children to fill the void. Most of their close friends had been with them that day.
For Sam, who had pulled through only because he was shielded by the bodies of his friends, work became about more than just a steady income. It was a way to connect with his peers, to maintain contact with the rest of humanity and to ward off the loneliness that threatened to overwhelm him every second of ever day.
Since his forced retirement two years ago, Sam had filled the hours as best he could. He spent many hours nurturing the green, growing things in the Picnic Park near his home. While he disagreed with their methods and had lost much to their actions, the enviro-terrorist groups did have point. More oxygen rich spaces were needed before they choked the life out of the entire planet.
When he wasn’t working at the park, Sam kept himself busy. Whether it was cleaning, cooking or watching television, he always had something going on. Anything to keep his mind off the emptiness of his apartment. He could not recall the last time he had simply sat and enjoyed the gardens he had helped to grow.
Sam’s mind drifted back to birthdays past. His love had always made this day special. He was always greeted after work with a huge bouquet of daffodils, his favourite flowers since childhood. After a quick shower to wash away the dirt, followed by a long, soothing soak in a scented bath, he was treated to a three course candlelit dinner, featuring a selection of his favourite foods.
Once the meal was complete, and the dishes cleared away, the couple would snuggle on the couch sipping wine and chatting about everything and nothing until it was time for bed. An evening of love-making followed, his love worshipping his body as though he were the most precious thing in the world. Afterwards he would drift off to sleep, wrapped in his lovers arms, content in the knowledge that he was loved.
A handful of tears spilled from his suddenly full eyes. He missed those arms terribly. Missed waking to the feel of hair tickling his cheek, missed seeing sleepy brown eyes gazing into his own as he prepared to face a new day. His bed felt so empty now.
Sam sighed. Such maudlin thoughts for such a peaceful place. Feeling melancholy, he decided to pack up early. His body was too tired and his mind was not in the right place to continue with his work. He stood and walked back to the area he had been working on. Bending to retrieve his tools, he rinsed them under a nearby grey-water tap before drying them with a clean cloth and packing them away.
Using the same tap, he washed the worst of the dirt from his hands and face. Waving to a small group of elderly ladies making use of the gardens for a gossip session, he slowly made his way toward the exit. As he walked, he observed the wildlife around him, enjoying the quiet space while he still could, knowing it would not last.
When he stepped out the gate, he wondered if he had made the correct decision in leaving early. The footpath was teeming with commuters, pressed so tightly that Sam was carried along with the crowd. He sighed. This would add at least an hour to his travel time and he was already exhausted. By the time he finally manoeuvred his way out of the crowd, his feet ached and his head throbbed with each step he took. Perhaps he should find a cafe or something and wait until the crowds died down somewhat.
He paused for a moment, undecided. Today’s air was particularly thin and his lungs felt tight and unresponsive. Couple that with his headache, and the lingering sadness from his earlier reminiscing, and he wanted nothing more than to go home to his oxygenated apartment, swallow a tablet and relax in a steaming shower. Yes, that was exactly what he wanted, crowds be damned.
Unfortunately, just as he was about to try heading back in the direction of his apartment, Sam remembered that he hadn’t gotten around to shopping that week. He would need to grab a few things to tide him over for a few days.
Struggling through the warm bodies, he proceeded to push and shove his way in the direction of the nearest grocery store, sighing in relief as finally made it through the doors. Grabbing a basket, he considered what he wanted to buy. Deciding he really wasn’t in the mood for cooking a fancy meal, he thought of something quick and simple he could enjoy.
He walked the aisles, occasionally adding needed items to the basket until it was full to overflowing. Figuring he had enough to be getting on with, specially since he had to carry this lot home, he approached the automatic teller.
As he scanned his items, placing them in the waiting bags, he though back to when he was child. These machines had only been in general use for a short while at that point and customers still had the option of being served by a cashier. These days, even that tiny piece of human interaction was denied him.
After paying for his items, Sam collected his bags and fought his way through the dwindling crowd to trudged the lonely route to his tiny apartment. He breathed deeply, once again failing to take in sufficient oxygen to satisfy his struggling lungs. With such a long walk ahead of him and his head still throbbing, he was glad that the day was beginning to cool. It was still exceedingly hot, but the blistering heat that had assaulted him earlier had died away.
As he walked home, struggling to push his way against the flow of the commuters, Sam’s mind once again drifted to his youth. He recalled a time when the cities weren’t quite so full, when one could comfortably move in whichever direction was needed. The trains may have been packed full at peak hour, but people could make their way to and from the stations as they pleased.
The footpaths didn’t contain the unassailable tide of humanity that they did today. He shifted the bags, feeling them cutting into his hands. He wished someone would offer to help him. He was obviously struggling, but people were so caught up in their lives these days. They didn’t have the time or energy to help a stranger struggling to carry his groceries.
Remembering just such an offer, long ago, an offer that had led to him meeting the love of his life, Sam smiled sadly. Oh, how he longed for those days. Standing a little straighter, Sam gave himself a little shake. What was wrong with him today? He hadn’t thought of these things in years. Why was he dwelling on them today, of all days?
Pushing his way through the crowd, he paused to rest a moment. Placing his bags at his feet, he leaned against a wall, glaring at anyone who came too close. That was something else he missed. It wasn’t that long ago when resting like this was no big deal. He could sit a dozen clear plastic bags at his feet and, while the occasional thief might be tempted, the vast majority of people would barely glance his way.
These days, of course, he had to guard his bags with his life. And that was no exaggeration. Almost everyone who passed, gave his bags a calculating perusal, looking away guiltily whenever he caught them staring. If anyone thought for a moment that he might have rarer items such as fresh milk or real bacon, his bags would be gone in the blink of an eye, his body left to bleed out on the sidewalk.
Thankfully, his casual work clothes and his tired, dirty appearance worked in his favour. No passerby seriously believed he could afford such things, so he was left alone; not helped, but not attacked either.
After one too many minutes of enduring the scrutiny of people passing by, Sam bent to pick up his bags and continued on his way. He couldn’t figure out why his mind kept drifting to the past. He knew, however, that if it was going to continue, he would prefer it to happen in the safety of his apartment, rather than in a public space where he was alone and vulnerable,
After another half-hour of walking, occasionally shifting the bags from one hand to another, warily watching his fellow citizens, Sam was relieved when he neared the cross-street nearest to his apartment building. With a small pleased smile, he increased his pace, eager to be home. His apartment may feel empty now, with only him living there, but it was still a place where he felt safe and comfortable. With the way he’d been acting today, a safe place was exactly what he needed. Shifting his bags once again, he turned into his street and hurried towards his home.
I hope you enjoyed this short sneak peek. That’s all you get to see before the book is published. At this point, it’s looking as though Planet X will be the first of a trilogy. I’ll let you know once it’s decided for certain.
Categories: Fiction Friday