Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Very Short Prologue.

I have a theory on prologues: they shouldn't be too long.  They should, in fact, be short.  A prologue should be succinct and to the point.  In this vein, I have constructed one for my novel -- Southern Hospitality. So what we have here is the prologue to my WIP (Work In Progress).  I believe it accomplishes what any good prolouge is supposed to, which is to entice without giving much away.  It is a taste and a nice little bite-sized chunk of my novel.

Without further adeu, Southern Hospitality:

Old Tawnee Road was never very well known. It seemed like from the moment that it was laid (from anyone’s best guess it was around the time of the Van Buren administration) it was forgotten. The old road linked two major highways and could save travelers upwards of thirty minutes if they had spotted the street sign that hung slightly askew on a metal pole when it bisected with their path. It was unfortunate then, that the entrance to either side came at a particularly difficult intersection to navigate and so, for the most part, the road remained unchecked for the better part of a century. Traveling southeast along the byway, a traveler would have seen a distinct dichotomy between the two sides: on the driver’s side was untamed and unbridled forest – Georgia Pines, smothered with kudzu and a few bushes skirted along the underbrush; to the right, there were the scant signs that civilization had once prospered in the area – old and rotted clapboard plantations, white and periwinkle paint peeling from the shudders and tiles missing from the roofs. Old Tawnee Road stood as a barrier between the virulent wilderness and the long-forgotten memories of what was.

These skeletons of the past harkened back to a time when slavery was the norm and a house without a bustling team of Negros would be deemed inefficient and quaint. But with the Emancipation Proclamation came an unsustainable business model. The southern rural aristocratic society was born, raised, and died among the shackles of the slave ships that hailed from the shores of East Africa. The great families had long disappeared from the plantations and taken the crops with them. The fields that once bore black-eyed peas, corn, wheat, peaches, and cotton were now fallow, and surrounded the houses that were now mere husks of their former selves – the corpses of the extinct southern gentry

Despite the gentle beauty and glimpses into the past that one could have found on Old Tawnee Road, its ability to keep the forest from encroaching upon the plantation side of the road and the small amount of decay that had come to the structures lining it had created stories about that twenty-five mile stretch of largely uninhabited roadway. The locals spoke of ancient evils that lurked beneath the ground, and ghosts of slaves that lingered in the fields, waiting with scythe in-hand to lop off the heads of any white person dumb enough to walk into their domain. Other stories spoke of specific houses and the histories of their residents, and of murders and infidelities of those residents that branched out to other families and created a web of intrigue and malice that terrified its listeners to the point of taboo.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of those stories wasn’t the variation, but rather the constant. Despite the innumerable ghost sightings and ethereal experiences, there existed one unimpeachable and absolute fact that pervaded every story told: On some nights, at two o’clock in the morning, at 455 Old Tawnee Road in the upper left-hand window, there is a flicker of light where the silhouette of an old woman is seen in a rocking chair – slowly going back and forth, to and fro. After exactly four minutes the wavering, dancing light would extinguish with unnatural abruptness. If one had been unfortunate enough to see that rippling, fiery light through the window, they would not hear, but feel the grating sepulchral lament of that woman as she screamed and moaned in great convulsions of pain that mutilated their senses and coursed through their very being. It would be followed by a feeling that was so brief yet so intense one wondered if they had actually felt it: the cold edge of a steel knife piercing their breast and rending their still-beating heart.

This was the only fact in the lore of Old Tawnee Road. It was never questioned by any of the locals because, at one point or another, they had all had their very essence shaken by that old woman’s death rattle.

Probably still not in its final form, but I like what I have so far.  Thanks for reading!