In honor of Nano this year, I'm posting a series of snippets from my past attempts at Nano. This one is the opening pages from 2007.
He stepped onto the mountain top just as the first gleams of sunlight appeared on the horizon. He had hiked in the dark for nearly five hours to reach this point, to prove to himself that this was the spot he wanted; and for that, he had to see how it looked as the sun rose. He had barely made it.
Exhausted, he dropped his duffel, collapsed onto a rock, and let his eyes take in the surroundings as the dawn light illuminated them. There were rocks and boulders galore, with a few patches of snow decorating them, the last survivors of a long, cold winter. Further, beyond the cliff face, he could see for miles, and there wasn't a single sign of civilization.
A bright flash of color caught his eye. Not ten feet from where he sat, an early bird of a spring flower had forced it's way through a patch of snow.
Perfect, he thought, smiling at the bloom. He closed his eyes, letting his body soak in the dawn light, the spring chill, and the scent of the new flower. He was content, and in that moment he knew he had made the right decision.
This would be the perfect place to die.
He had found the spot, and now time was short. There were trips to be made, preparations that had to be in place. Working his way back down the mountain was much easier in the light.
At the base of the mountain, as far as the road would allow, he had left his pickup truck. When he reached it, he put the keys on the driver's seat; he wouldn't need it anymore, and whoever found it might have a use for it. It had served him well for many a journey, and he patted the fender as he walked around it, almost like a cowboy saying goodbye to a tired old horse.
What he needed was the footlocker in the bed of the truck. Getting it to the top of the mountain was not going to be easy, but it had to be done. He caught the handle with his right hand, and dragged the box across the bed, almost dropping it on his foot. No sense smashing it open, he thought. It had to at least survive the hike. He avoided using his left hand, and tried to muscle the crate up the path, but barely made it a hundred yards before dropping it in disgust. At this rate, it would take a week to get it up there.
He sighed heavily, and closed his eyes, as if accepting a monstrous burden...or fighting internal monsters. He opened his eyes, and stared firmly at the deformed thing that had once been his left hand. It quivered, spasmed, almost fought.
Reaching down, he grasped the handle of the footlocker again, but with his left hand this time. Effortlessly, the box came off the ground, and he made his way back up the mountain.
The circle was chalked, though it probably wasn't necessary for this particular ritual. All of the important magic would be inside his own head. He placed tall, thick candles all around, wherever he could find a rock to hold them. They probably wouldn't stay lit if the mountain kicked up even a slight breeze, and he knew that that probably didn't matter either. Still, it kept him focused on what he was doing, and helped to filter out distractions.
The preparations were done, and the sun was near to setting. The ceremony itself would involve sitting through the night, mostly silently, waiting for the next--the last--sunrise. He would have preferred to do it alone, but that wouldn't have been right. He wasn't even sure if the ceremony would work or not, but even if it would, it still would have been...wrong. No, he would have company on this long, cold night...and likely unfriendly, unwelcome company at that.
He turned to the footlocker, and kicked the lock open in disgust. He raised the lid, slowly and carefully, like a snake charmer dealing with an angry cobra, but nothing jumped out, everything was as he had left it.
With a grunt, he toppled the footlocker, scattering the contents across the mountain clearing. Leather bags, some as small as a baseball, some as large as a grown man's leg, rolled across the ground. He selected one, righted the footlocker, and emptied the bag on top of it.
The decapitated head that fell from the bag bounced and rolled a bit, and he reached out, and stood it aright. It sat there, leaning slightly to the right like a drunken sailor, oozing a stain onto the lid of the box.
He gazed at it for a few seconds, and then walked a few feet away. He settled himself in the dirt, crossing his legs Indian style, and waited.
After just a few moments of silence, the eyes opened in the bodiless head.