Hello all! Some of you have indicated to me that you are looking forward to when my book is finished, so I thought I would be oh-so-generous and post a 10 page sneak peek into the world I’ve come to know and cherish… the one I’ve created in what I hope will become my debut novel, Laidy Mars and Her Adventures Elsewhere.
Enjoy! And please…feel free to leave feedback in the comments! I believe I am only about 15,000 words away from completing the draft, and then it will be time to hand her over to an editor so that she can be in tip top shape for the probing eyes of literary agents! Any feedback you have, both positive and negative, and with regards to the mechanics or the story itself, would be appreciated and most helpful! Take care, and as always, thanks for stopping by! -C.F. Boehlke
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeeeeep. Beepbeepbeepbeepbeep. What was that noise? I struggled to open my eyes against a blinding white light, but they wouldn’t cooperate. Like the plastic googly eyes that I used to buy in bulk from the craft store, they spun around like ocular acrobats and refused to focus.
“Her vitals are crashing. We’re losing her,” said the man with a deep, gravelly voice. As the command was spoken, shrill laughter penetrated the space.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” A woman muttered. It took me a moment to realize that this woman was my mother. Even in my earliest memories she had tucked away any appearance of humanity in exchange for some delusion of elegance and tranquility.
Most children conclude that their parents are aliens at one point or another during adolescence, but I never outgrew the hypothesis. Prior to this moment, my mother’s every action had been so unmistakably measured and calculated that it’d been irrational to consider her a human being. It was strange hearing her allude to the fact that something had caught her off guard.
A commotion on my right distracted me. “Excuse me? Who are you to tell me what to do?” Her words were like small shards of ice, each syllable ending with staccato.
The gravelly male rebounded, “We don’t have time for this. I’m need you to get out.”
I briefly wondered if they knew I could hear them but retracted the errant thought. It would be a cold day in hell before she allowed herself to be defeated in my presence. A heavy silence pulsated in my ears as I imagined the quiet rage reddening her jowls.
“Alright Doctor, but would someone mind telling me what is happening to my child?” False concern colored her tone. I wanted to laugh but physically couldn’t. Her attempt to save face was as brittle as her smoker’s skin.
“Your daughter tried to kill herself. She consumed a toxic amount of painkillers, and went into cardiac arrest. We got her back, but her vitals are weak, and her brain was without oxygen for close to two minutes.” After a pause, he added hesitantly, “Even if we get her stabilized, there may be permanent damage.”
The Doctor’s breath was warm against my face as he spoke. He must have been leaning over me. His delicious voice was a dead ringer for George Clooney’s. Was heaven one giant episode of ER? Or was I in hell? If so, I definitely got off easy.
Wait. The doctor said that I tried to kill myself. This meant that I failed. This meant that I was not in heaven, nor in hell, and that this doctor was definitely not George Clooney.
This meant that they are trying, so far successfully, to keep me alive. The shame, fear, and self-loathing generally associated with a thwarted suicide attempt crept in on me. I felt nauseous and quietly hoped that I’d vomit and choke on bile.
In what seemed like a direct response to my death wish, the medical equipment went wild. The room spun and just before the darkness washed over me, I heard the doctor mutter something about a medically induced coma.
Awesome, just awesome. The girl who wanted to be dead would instead be suspended in a catatonic state, neither living nor dying.
Like everything else I had ever done, I apparently hadn’t tried hard enough. The thing is, though, I really did try. I had put more effort into my death than my mother had put into my birth. Why was I still here?
The sunlight touched my skin for the first time in what felt like a millennium. I enjoyed the moment as a light breeze wove its way through my hair. The fact that I had hair should have been a hint that something was not quite right, but I was too distracted to notice.
The scent of long grass and canine filled my nostrils and my eyes opened to a panoramic view of the bluest sky I had ever seen, dotted with grand white clouds.
As I sat up, I noticed that there were roughly ten other people lying in the grass nearby. Most of them appeared to be asleep, but a few were groggily waking, much the same way that I had. We seemed to be in some sort of lakeside grove, with the water directly before us and scattered oak trees all around.
Underneath one sat a red golden retriever. Looking closer, I realized that the hefty old dog was lounging on a garden chair, wearing spectacles, with his nose lodged deep inside a book! I blinked a few times and shook my head a little, trying to make sense of what I was seeing.
The old dog noticed my movement, and set the large book aside to reveal that he was, inexplicably, wearing a three piece suit. “Ah! Welcome, my fair Laidy! Welcome! How do you feel?” He asked earnestly, excitement lighting up his warm amber eyes.
I blinked slowly and attempted to gather my thoughts before responding. While the obvious question at hand was, “Where am I?” the only conclusion I could come to is where I was not. This talking dog clearly illustrated that I was no longer a citizen of reality, but what I couldn’t figure out was whether I was hallucinating or dead. Given my recent consumption of excess medication, either situation was entirely plausible.
I was not going to be able to make sense of my current whereabouts without getting further information. Still in somewhat of a haze, I responded, “I’m fine, thanks. Where am I?”
To my right, a young man was slowly coming to. As my eyes passed errantly over his face, I realized he looked familiar somehow but I couldn’t rationalize how anything could look familiar in a world where dogs could talk and everything was beautiful.
“Ah, not to worry, my dear. Where you are is not nearly as important as where you are not.” The dog said. Great. A talking dog that speaks in riddles. This should clear things right up.
“Before we continue, you must forgive me. I need to collect a bit of information for your induction papers,” he said as he reached into his coat and produced a quill pen, ink pot, and tablet of paper. “Purely routine, I assure you.”
I noticed that he had a way of muttering instead of speaking, and that his words often sounded like an inside joke amongst himself. “I don’t understand. Into what am I being inducted?”
“All in good time, my fair Laidy!” With a laugh, he added, “What a joy it is to have you here, if only for the pleasure of greeting you that way! Which reminds me, I neglected to introduce myself. Please forgive me. In leiu of knowing everyone that comes here by default, I forget that they have no way of knowing me. My name is Beauregard Stolarz. Please feel welcome to call me Bow, if you like. Many of my patients continue to defer to me as Doctor Stolarz, which you are welcome to do as well. It appears to be helpful in maintaining a sense of continuum between here and reality.”
So whatever this place is, it is not reality. “Thanks, Bow. Honestly, I have little interest in maintaining such a continuum.”
“No, I guess you wouldn’t, you would?” Bow muttered thoughtfully. He eyes seemed to focus somewhere on the horizon as he adjusted his delicate, gold-rimmed glasses. “I suppose that is why you are here, my dear. Now, let’s get started. Question number one: How would you describe the sensation of the sunlight on your skin?”
I was baffled. “Um, nice?”
“Details please, Laidy.”
How does one describe, in detail, the feeling of sunlight on his or her skin? I hadn’t the faintest idea, but I tried, primarily because I was intrigued by this unorthodox questionnaire. “Warm, but not hot. Tingly, but in a good way. I feel like it’s hugging me. Kind of like it’s 3D.”
“And visually?” he asked as he earnestly jotted down notes on his tablet.
“Well, it’s light instead of bright. I don’t know if that is helpful.” After chewing on my thoughts for another moment, I added, “The sunlight isn’t aggressive here.”
The doctor took a few more notes, and then looks up at me from his notebook. “Alright. Question number two: How would describe the sensation of the air in your lungs?”
This is ridiculous. “I really don’t know.”
“Come now, Laidy. Think! Feel! You’re hardly a vapid creature, so wield your intellect. We are blessed with vocabulary in order to ensure communication, and that communication is our most pressing matter at the moment.”
This retriever is seriously intense. How does one describe the sensation of the air in his or her lungs? “Well, it feels good to take a deep breath here. It’s how I imagine air is supposed to feel like, instead of like concrete. My chest always felt like an interstate before.”
“You see, this isn’t that difficult, is it?” Bow’s mouth was distorted in a toothy grin while his paw moved in a craze across the page. “You have quite a way with words when you apply yourself. Quite a way with words. How satisfying!”
Despite myself, I was pleased by his approval. I realized that this interview must be designed to allow him to familiarize himself with me. It dawned on me that he already does know me, or at least many things about me.
“Bow, how do you know my name? And why did you say what you did about why I am here?” It bothered me that he seemed to know so much about me, regardless of how absurd it was to be suspicious of a talking dog. Maybe I am hallucinating.
Maybe I am still lying on the carpet in my bedroom, frothing at the mouth with pills all around, waiting to die. Maybe this is the best my imagination can come up with as I desperately attempt to predict what heaven will be like. Maybe this is my mind’s defense mechanism, protecting itself from the terrifying concept that I might be going to hell.
“You are an inquisitive one, aren’t you?” he asked absently, still taking notes. I had a hard time believing that what I said of sunlight and air could take this long to transpose.
“Usually.” Despite my efforts, my temper was getting the best of me. I bristled each time he attempted to dodge my questions with an observation of my personality. “And while I mean no disrespect, Doctor, I am losing my patience.”
After giving me a long, leveled look, he exclaimed, “Hot-blooded and impetuous, as well! How terribly lovely, indeed.”Again gazing upon the horizon, he spoke as would an auctioneer before an audience of eager bidders. “Here we have Laidy, a zealous and gifted young woman with an unpredictable disposition and previously unknown gift with words. Not yet self-actualized and somewhat self-deprecating. And what is our fair Laidy’s value in this brave new world?”
After a long look that dared me to respond and my subsequent silence, he concluded, “Appraisal incomplete.”
“So is that what this is? Are you trying to decide what to do with me? Where I will be best put to use in this ‘brave new world?’ You really shouldn’t waste your time, Doctor, because as soon as I figure out how I got here, I am going to figure out how to leave. Go ahead and tell your stakeholders that I am defective!”
I hurried to get to my feet and predictably, I tripped. However, an unpredictable turn of events stopped me from storming off into the sunset with absolutely nowhere to go. On the verge of flying into a rage, I noticed a foot. My eyes followed the lines of this stranger’s body, from the foot to the knee, from the knee to the torso, and from the torso to the face. As my eyes settled upon his face I was hit with that strange sensation of deja vu, and realized he’s the familiar guy that woke up next to me in the grass.
His face was somehow long yet wide, giving the illusion of having a rather large head, crowned with a moderately messy mop of black hair. While he was pale, he was not quite the alabaster shade that I was, with a hint of olive undertones somewhere in his ancestry. His large blue eyes were rimmed with long, thick lashes that any grown woman would envy. He smiled under my scrutinizing gaze, revealing a perfectly imperfect set of teeth, not quite pristine in color nor completely straight. This was the kind of guy that was more beautiful as a result of his small physical flaws.
A few moments passed in a considerably awkward silence. I was immediately self-conscious when I realized that this guy was taking stock of me while I was analyzing him. A small voice in the back my head wondered what he saw.
Meanwhile, Bow continued to take notes on his tablet, periodically looking up to appraise the situation. Just as the blood begun to flood my face and neck, he set his quill pen down on the grass and folded his paws across his furry abdomen.
“Still leaving, I presume?” he asked, thoroughly gratified by my momentary lack of resolve.
My cheeks must have been a previously undiscovered shade of fuscia as I straightened my dress. Why am I wearing a dress? My hair is long, and I am wearing a purple sundress. I reminded myself that this (whatever this was) was not reality, and that as soon as I figured out how to leave, I would be back to my unabsolved and hairless self, complete with my baggy blue jeans and stained tee shirts.
“Yes actually, I am,” I huffed, looking around. No one else was in the lake. It seemed to be as good of an escape route as any, and devoid of distractions.
Whoever said that life was full of surprises was without a doubt incorrect. Life was incredibly predictable, as were the other people within it. Over the years I had grown accustomed to that, and more accurately, I had come to depend on it. I rather enjoyed avoiding the impact and consequences of surprise.
Apparently seeing me eyeball the lake, the mop-topped stranger next to me piped up, “Ah, yes. That sounds exactly like what I need right now. If you don’t mind, I’ll join you for a swim?”
The Doctor looked all too pleased by this latest development, and for a moment I suspected that this whole conversation was a ploy. Perhaps this stranger was Bow’s wing man, employed to do whatever was necessary to keep me in the old dog’s presence. Perhaps he was used to help prevent newcomers’ escapes. In a world where talking dogs could exist, would it be completely reasonable to wonder whether or not people were capable of unfathomable feats?
Perhaps I had never seen this man in my life, therefore making him absolutely unfamiliar to me, but he had the power to somehow evoke a feeling of acquaintance. Perhaps he was capable of emotionally manipulating others, enticing them with his intrigue, until the newcomer was caught. Hook, line, and sinker.
“Swim if you want. It’s not my lake.” I replied, hoping that indifference would discourage him. I turned away from him to address Doctor Stolarz, “And you, sir. Thank you for your time and for illustrating that my imagination is still alive and well. I bid you better luck with the next imbecile that crosses your path.”
“You imply that you, too, are an imbecile?”
“I certainly do. Only an imbecile would validate the notions of a talking dog in a suit and spectacles. Goodbye, Doctor Stolarz.”
“But my fair Laidy, my friends call me Bow.”
“Irrelevant. We aren’t friends. Take care now.”
As I turned towards the lake and felt the Doctor’s cronie close behind me, the dog called out, “But we will be, my dear! See you soon!”
I ignored him and continued towards the lake. In my opinion, doctors were just as delusional as the rest of us sometimes. This guy had the rest of them beat if he thought that I was going to change my mind and befriend a talking dog who relished word games. Apparently he didn’t know everything about me.
As I reached the edge of the lake, I paused and considered whether or not I want to swim in the dress or strip in front of this strange man. Under usual circumstances I would have probably left the sundress on the shore, though I had never really considered myself to be an exhibitionist, but under normal circumstances I would have been alone. When I realized he was no longer behind me and instead at my left side, I noticed that he was already stripped down to his underwear and tried not to look. This wasn’t difficult because of his pleasant lanky physique, but because his underwear was a relic from another century! Quite literally, his undergarments looked like they belonged at the Boston Tea Party. The thick twill fabric was knee length, with gold buttons fastening the bottom of each leg. Did men wear underpants back then? Regardless, this guy wore colonial breeches as his.
“Are you coming?” He stood half naked with one foot in the water, a coy smile playing on his lips.
“I didn’t say I was swimming with you,” I replied, focusing my gaze on my feet as my toes sank into the ground. They wriggled in some sort of thick mud, red in color but not as thick as clay. The coolness felt divine, but I stubbornly reminded myself not to appear the least bit happy in front of this man. Who knows who his eyes and ears belong to?
He laughed heartily at my expense and waded into the clear water. “Suit yourself then! This lake is big enough for the two of us.”
Staring daggers into his back, I muttered, “I doubt it.” Who does this guy think he is? My friend? Just because he happened to be present for my first argument with man’s best friend didn’t automatically make him mine.
-Written by C.F. Boehlke