Help me publish The Changing. -- This book has been a long term project (years). It is ready to hand off to the printers except for some minor formatting. So if you can give me a hand, then pledge what you can – every dollar helps. Even if you do not pledge, have a look at the first chapter and let me know what you think. And most important – tell your friends about Kickstarter! Love to all.
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I could feel it – eyes watching me, but when I turned no one was there. It was an annoyance, nothing more. I wasn't frightened. After all, I was alone on the island.
When I had lugged the last few bags of groceries and my backpack up the stairs to the front door, I turned back again to have a look around – nothing, not even the island's only resident bear. It was still too early in the year for him to be out of hibernation, anyway. "Been up here alone too long," I told myself, and stepped into the welcoming warmth of my home.* * *
For nearly three months, I had been in seclusion; I was working on a new book. However, as far as I could see, I hadn't accomplished a damn thing – writer's block. I had several different outlines to work with, some really good ones, too. Then there was the book I told Mike I was coming up here to write – a novel centered on the antics of three teenagers growing up in Beverly Hills in the late eighties. Mike liked that one the best.
Mike is my agent, but we've been friends since high school. Good friends, and lovers, each other's first. Then there was Graham; Mike introduced us. He thought we'd make a good match – a writer and an actor. And, we did. Then Graham hit it big in the movies and discovered the joys of stardom and starlets. We parted as friends. Graham kept the house in Topanga Canyon, and I took our summer hide-away on a secluded island in the Alaskan Panhandle.
The island was perfect, quiet and serene, a writer's paradise – well, this writer's idea of paradise. There had been far too many distractions in Southern California – parties and weekend jaunts to Mexico. It was too easy to put off working on a story when there was always something else to do. Oh, I'd written scripts in L.A. for a few of the studios and worked on a couple of movies, but that was work-for-pay and there were deadlines to meet. I had even managed to write a book, SunPilots, in my off time, but it had taken three years of weekends and late nights to do it. The book was selling quite well; but I wanted more, I wanted to write something with substance – a novel to be proud of. That was the plan anyway.
I wrote the first chapter in fewer than two days, it was great. I was on top of the world, no pun intended. Then the world fell in. The plot wasn't moving the way I wanted it to. The story and its characters just sit there staring at me like a hungry dog waiting to be fed.
Day into day into endless night I sat at my desk staring at a nearly blank screen trying to write something new.
When the dam finally broke, I was flooded with visions, but they were not the images I wanted. SunPilots, the first book I wrote, was growing and developing into the sequel I didn't want to write.
I tried to avoid thinking about SunPilots' protagonist who continued to speak lines of dialog in my mind, but it was wasted effort. He was always there. Demanding to be heard, he overshadowed everything I tried to write with extraneous but tantalizing tidbits omitted from the first book. It was frustrating to say the least. Worrisome. He and his cohorts were too real, too vivid, and alive in my mind's eye. It was as if they had taken on a life of their own, and now they were living an existence beyond the pages of the manuscript that had given birth to them.
One morning while I sat at my computer keyboard, fighting unsuccessfully to free myself from the voices haunting me, I recalled a silly conversation Mike and I had at the Black Orchid in Honolulu before I flew to Alaska. It didn't seem so innocent anymore.
Mike, in all seriousness, had told me to be careful about the things of which I was writing. He said when it's good, original, and doesn't happen on this Earth, it might be real! I laughed when he told me that I was creating worlds with the stroke of my pen. You had better be careful, Denni girl, one of these days those characters of yours might come back to haunt you. He then proceeded to tell me that if I continued to write about them, they might seek me out and put an end to my interference in their lives. It was only a joke – a silly conversation between two old friends. But the discussion didn't end there. We proceeded to build on the scenario until our uproarious laughter attracted the beleaguered stares of other patrons. The Maître d’ politely asked us to leave.
The following morning, Mike called me at my hotel pretending to be SunPilots' protagonist. He insisted he needed some obscure bit of technical data related to the ship I had designed for him. The drive unit had failed and he was stranded on Earth with a horde of voluptuous maidens, dressed in string bikinis, who were hot on his trail.
That night in the Black Orchid had been a hoot, a great bit of fun, but now the subject of our conversation, SunPilots' protagonist, was hounding me. The distraction was too much to deal with so I gave up writing for a few days and caught up on some overdue household maintenance.
The change in routine proved to be of little help. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no reprieve from the creative dry spell I was experiencing.
Friday afternoon I caught a floatplane into Ketchikan. I spent the entire weekend just knocking around the town, shopping during the day, and spending the nights at one of the local hotels. Not exactly what most people consider a great time, but after being alone up here for a while even Ketchikan seems like the Big City.
* * *
My computer was on when I went into my upstairs study. I was sure I had turned it off before I left for Ketchikan.
Most puzzling, though, was what was on the monitor – the setup options page. I hadn't so much as looked at it since the initial setup.
When I tried to exit the page, all I got was a blank screen. No prompt line, no cursor – nothing, just blank screen. “What the ...” I mumbled. I was afraid I'd really done something wrong and lost it all – word processor – everything. I can't work without my word processor. I've been using it for so long that I can't imagine writing anything longer than a shopping list without it, and a short shopping list at that.
For a moment, I just sat there staring at the screen. Then the generator cut out and the lights went with it. I stood up with the intention of going down to the basement to check it out but suddenly everything came back on.
“Weird”, I said to no one, and sat down.
I punched at the exit key, then the enter key, the print screen, number pads and so on. The monitor was on; its little green light was staring at me. I checked all the connections and found no problem. I was back to staring at a blank screen.
When all else fails, kick it!
My version of kicking a computer is punching keys at random – running my fingers across the keyboard, pounding, pounding at the keys harder and harder until something, anything, happens.
The computer beeped at me, lights flashed and a message appeared on the screen.
FILES COMPARE OK ...
MESSAGE FOLLOWS ...
PRESS ANY KEY TO CONTINUE
“What files?” I wasn't trying to access any files. I was only playing with the keys. “Oh, well”, at least the blank screen was gone – always a good sign.
The message itself was of little importance except that it indicated that the operating system was up and running.
I hit the enter key.
The information that appeared on the screen had nothing to do with my computer or its internal programming.
It read ...
LOOK OUT YOUR WINDOW
So, I did. Without a second thought for the meaning of the message, I looked out the window.
I have no idea how long I sat there, staring at the large black object parked in the yard. It was near the size of a semi-truck trailer and shaped like a half-flattened teardrop. The fascinating thing was its similarity to the craft my characters built in SunPilots.
I closed my eyes, tight; then opened them again. The ship was still there.
I stood and moved closer to the window. I was sure the ship was only some odd reflection; that, or I was hallucinating. No such luck.
The ship appeared to be quite solid and real.
But ... a UFO on my island – in my yard?
A quick glance at the monitor told me nothing.
I looked at the ship again. A hatch, or doorway, was opening on the near side. A ramp appeared at the base of the hatchway and extended to the ground.
I should have been frightened at that point. I remember thinking about putting a good deal of distance between the ship and myself. But my feet would not move. Part of me wanted to stay, while another part planned an escape down the rear steps from the view deck off the living room. Theboat, it's only a hundred yards downhill to the dock. Go for it!
The part of me that is the writer didn't want to leave. The writer wanted to know what was inside that object and how it, or whoever was flying it, had gained access to my computer.
Curiosity and fear aside, my imagination kicked into high gear. I envisioned a front page spread on one of those rag magazines with my picture in one corner of an article titled, Science Fiction Author Kidnapped By Extraterrestrial. It was a funny thought, but the images that followed were not. They were of old science fiction movies, some good, some bad and some entirely too frightening in contrast with the situation I faced.
It was too much too fast. Run and hide, or stay. Mental overload.
Then it happened. A figure, dressed all in black, stepped from the ship and descended the ramp. My cognitive abilities vaporized in an adrenalin rush – total mind tilt.
I froze statue like at the window. My heart had stopped beating and everything was moving in slow motion. It couldn't be. But it was
It was human – a man. He looked up and smiled. The smile was gentle and friendly; and, not at all, what I was expecting – not at all like some crazed manic alien from galaxies unknown.
Ordinarily, preconceptions and fear aside, I could have dealt rationally with the presence of an alien and a UFO; after all, other people have had close encounters and come away from them sane and lucid. But this was different. In this case, there were extenuating circumstances.
I recognized him!
That rather startling detail convinced me I'd gone insane. I had been out here alone too long and now I would pay for it. My mind had snapped and driven me over the falls into some kind of fantasy world. It no longer mattered if the person in the yard was extraterrestrial – real or not, he was someone I knew – someone I had created with my own pen! I was at once fascinated and confused, and surprisingly comfortable with the idea that I had lost my mind.
So, when he knocked on the front door I was not the least bit hesitant about going downstairs to greet him. Then, of course, I was quite sure I'd gone insane and none of this was real anyway. What possible harm could come from being polite and saying hello? Right?
What was it that our mothers always told us? "Never open the door to a stranger." In my confused state, I didn't think of this person as a stranger, though had I been writing this scene I'm sure the character undergoing this ordeal would never have opened the door. All the same, the little voice in my head screaming at me to run and hide did just that; the little voice ran and hid because I refused to listen to it.
I opened the door and smiled. "Hello, Val."
I fully expected the hallucination to vanish at that moment, but it didn't. I did not expect it to talk back to me!
Good day, Writer." He reached for my hand ....
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