Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fields of Elysium Book Extra: Deleted Prologue

This never-before-published prologue was originally part of Fields of Elysium, and was removed from the final version during the editing process.
The conversation between Molly and Camilla foreshadows important details of the upcoming sequel Valley of Darkness


Once the wormhole spouts me out, I land on my knees. My journeys through the Secret Passage used to be much smoother, enjoyable even, but this time every cell of my body aches. Well, I’m not sixteen anymore, I groan, and heave myself to my feet, holding on to the cave’s cold wall. I look back at the swirling blue light to note the gradual calming of the ring-shaped swellings. Seconds later only a few waves ripple across the surface and at last it smooths out. If I were to describe the circular phenomenon blocking the way in a few words, I’d say it looked as if a mirror-smooth lake had flipped vertically in front of me, creating confusion as to what was up and what was down.
The image doesn’t shock me, though. Not anymore.
I turn toward the darkness to find my way out of the cavern. My eyes take a moment to get used to the dim light as I slowly begin stumbling along the rocky path.
It was a sudden decision to return to Earth, and now here in the dark I realize how unprepared I am for this visit. I desperately need some light, which I don’t have. However, the creepiness of this place doesn’t faze me. I’m well aware of the infiltrated light I’m about to reach. So I just keep going, inhaling the dusty air, low on oxygen.
Just one more step, I keep encouraging myself.
When I finally reach the spot where the mouth of the cave is supposed to be, it’s still pitch black around me. A worm of suspicion starts to bore inside me. Is it possible that I had calculated the time incorrectly and arrived to Earth at night?  I had done this so many times before; I even had a special device to do the work for me. I couldn’t be wrong.
Determined to get out of this place, I take the next few yards with my arms stretched out in front of me. I search for the entrance like a blind man. Soon my fingers touch something soft, a living thing. A plant perhaps? With my eyes still useless in the dark, I can feel my fingers wrapping around a vine and I tear on it, allowing the sunbeams to penetrate the vegetation. And after more intense tearing and pushing, I breach the overgrown cluster of desert bushes and shrubs in front of the entrance.
At last I’m out of the cave.
Standing in the clearing, I draw a long and deep breath of the summer California air.
I’m finally home.
Oh, how much I missed this place!
My watch beeps madly and I squint at it. The settings have already changed to Earth’s date and time, and I let out a sigh of relief. My calculations are precise and I still have plenty of time to hike up on the bluff and get to Griffith Observatory, where I planned to call for a taxi.
Despite my active lifestyle since I passed fifty, my endurance isn’t what it used to be. From climbing on the steep side of the hill, I pant heavily and lean against the railing by the Observatory, trying to slow down my heartbeats.
When the burning in my thighs dissolves and my lungs don’t hurt as much, I steal one more glance at Los Angeles beneath me and head to the main building of the Observatory to find a public phone.
The taxi ride is short, yet I regain my strength, which I very much needed. I’m going to spend my entire afternoon telling my extraordinary story to a bestselling author, Camilla Baker. In high school, she was one of my best friends. Today, more than likely, she is going to greet me as a stranger.
So many things had changed since my family moved to the West Coast, but I had decades to digest the past, so I’m calm when I step out of the cab.
“Hi, Camilla!” I greet the young woman sitting on the bench under a giant palm tree. There is an undisguised joy in my voice from seeing her again, even when I suspect that she is not going to recognize me. Out of an old habit, a very old habit, I wrap my arms around her body, rigid with astonishment. She smells just as good as I had remembered.
When I pull back, Camilla gazes at me, wide-eyed. My intimate greeting must have left her confused.
“It’s me. Molly. Molly Bennett,” I say, my body tingling with excitement, as I sit down beside her.
The notebook falls out of her hand and lands on the concrete sidewalk with a thud. As she picks it up, her narrowed eyes scan me from my toes to my head.
“You called me about a story, right?” she asks. I can detect a faint recognition developing in her eyes, though her mind is obviously fighting to reject the idea.
“Yes, I did,” I confirm, trying hard to sound formal. It can’t be managed without difficulty because the anticipation of spending time with Camilla after so many years wants to burst out of me. “When I learned about your successful career as an author I was so proud. So once I decided to tell my story to someone, there was no question whom to ask.”
“Do we know each other? Have we met at a book signing or a book fair somewhere?” Camilla’s face flushes with a mixture of suspicion and discomfort. I have to choose my words carefully now. I don’t want her to get up and run, thinking that I was an escapee from an asylum.
“We went to high school together,” I say slowly, allowing the words to sink in. “The girl from Hopewell?” I remind her, pointing to myself.
“That’s impossible,” she bursts out, shock creeping into her voice. She leans back on the bench, her body as tense as ever. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but the Molly I went to school with would be twenty-five now. While you … you look …”
“I’m fifty-eight. I know this doesn’t make any sense to you right now but once I’ve finished telling you what happened to me it will all make sense.” I smile, in an effort to radiate calmness.
Being back on Earth is making me very emotional. It had been forty years Arkana time since I last breathed the air here. And soon the passage is going to be destroyed, gone forever. I only have a few days to make sure that my name wouldn’t disappear and the memories of my life fade away without a trace.
The blood drains from Camilla’s face as she looks over her shoulder. She seems to be expecting a camera crew from a prank TV show jumping out from behind the bushes. But there is nothing or nobody around us; only the warm summer breeze, birds chirping, and random passing cars.
Choosing our old school’s front lawn as a meeting place is both good and bad.
Good because just by looking at the ivory-colored Beverly Hills High School building the flashbacks starts. And bad because the memories wrench my heart.
 When Camilla looks at me again, her eyes are more focused. She must have started to notice the resemblance between my younger face and the one I have today.
“It is you!” she whispers after seconds of an awkward silence, tears gathering in her eyes. “Where have you been? What happened to you?”
My vision becomes misty as I hug her again. This time Camilla returns my hug with the passion of an old friend.
“That’s why I’m here today … to tell you everything. Every little detail.” I speak softly into her ear and straighten back up. “Did you bring your recorder?”
She lifts the device to show me, wiping away the tears that glistened on her cheeks. “Why didn’t you call? I’ve been waiting for you to contact me for years.”
“I never moved to the North. I lied to you. I lied to everybody. Once my parents died something broke in me. It was excruciatingly painful. No seventeen-year-old body should experience what I was forced to live through emotionally. I’m sure you remember when my aunt came down after the accident to look after Nick and me. But I just couldn’t stand staying with her. I chose a different path which determined my entire life.”
“Thank you for calling me, Molly. I don’t even know what to say. I can’t wait to hear the entire story. What made you age so fast?”
Having a techie as a friend on Arkana had been very useful to me. I could never have figured out how to get in touch with Camilla from across the universe on my own.
“It’s so awesome that you are a published novelist. It’s so cool.” I smile again, fighting the lump in my throat. I used to think that my tear ducts had dried up years ago, but apparently I thought wrong.
I close my eyes for a moment and sigh. I concentrate on the day when this amazing journey began. The picture is so clear in my mind, as if it had all happened yesterday.
I hear the beep of the voice recorder.
I take a deep breath, look up at the school, and start my story.

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