I mentioned in my Writer’s Process post that I have a novel in the works about a modern day prophet. Below I’m sharing with you the opening pages. In order not to break up the flow, this is a longer blog post than usual.
The entire novel won’t be written for some time, but I’m curious if you find it understandable. I’ve been told by my writer’s critique group that they need more information, but I didn’t want to do an info dump. More details will come throughout the plot line. Let me know what you think. Thanks, and hope you enjoy it.
by L. Virelli
Max Greenwood, June 3, 2027
I rested alone on a park bench overlooking a lake where morning mist hugged the water’s surface. Leaning forward with elbows on my knees, I clasped the diary of a dead woman in my hands and released words with a heavy breath, “Why me, Julia?”
The peaceful, deserted grounds offered the chance to quiet my mind and allow a possible answer to come forward. A paved trail from the cemetery behind me led to a path around the lake. Green rolling hills lay beyond. Lining the walkway, vivid lavenders reached for the dawning sun. Early summer exhaled enough damp air to require a light jacket.
A comforting dove’s coo helped me to focus on inner stillness.
Soon, a crow’s sharp caw disturbed the solitude. I slipped my fingers through my dark hair and pulled strands into spikes. My ex-wife, Lana used to hate this nervous habit of mine.
I slumped back on the bench now, still clinging to Julia’s diary. I received it from her will two weeks ago, but couldn’t bring myself to read her valued words. I usually lived for this type of information, so why hesitate now?
The reason for my apprehension wasn’t buried too deep. I hoped to evade what Julia intended for me to do with her journal. I had researched her mentor, Joshua Cabe, for personal reasons, nothing more. I was a trained journalist—a war correspondent. Writing about a hippie-like modern day prophet did not fit my profile.
In the 1960’s, society experimented with moral relativism. Later, evangelism made a comeback, until politics claimed its rigid dogma to be bigoted. As a result, moral relativism hit big again by the twenty-first century. Over time, scruples of any kind became associated with zealotry and racism. Many religions practiced in obscurity, except for one—a new church movement that claimed to revolve around the philosophy of Joshua Cabe. A man named Tobias Jones was its founder.
Human contact and compassion had diminished, replaced by text messages and video chats. Julia’s diary held revelations from Joshua and could make a profound difference, but who am I to tell his story? I’m forty-two years old, and this would be a complete about-face in my career. I write about heroes of battles, not heroes of peace. I wasn’t even fit to interview Joshua, let alone write about him. And, of all the crazy things to happen to me, I actually met the man sixty years after his death. Again, I can’t help but wonder, why me?
A gust of wind out of nowhere whipped me in the face. My hands tingled beneath the book’s leather bound cover until it grew warm … almost hot to the touch. “Okay, Okay.”
I opened the journal and recognized Julia’s signature in the upper right corner. From there, I flipped through and let it fall to any page.
April 17, 1960
I found Joshua sprawled on the ground in the alley. Blood dribbled from his mouth. Cyrus lay beside him, also beaten badly.
I dropped to the gritty gravel and lifted Joshua’s head onto my lap, my cheeks streaked with tears.
An agonizing groan gurgled in Joshua’s throat, and my breath caught with fright for him.
His head wobbled as he turned toward Cyrus, who whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“You’re effort to save me is your salvation.” Joshua spoke strongly despite his wounds.
I swung my long, dark hair behind me and then stroked his moist face.
A woman’s shriek came from around the corner. Joshua’s mother, Isabella, and his aunt Marta, darted into the alley toward us.
Isabella fell to the grimy earth at her son’s feet…her brown graying bun broke loose on one side.
Marta gasped and cupped a hand over her mouth.
I shouted, “Quick, call for help, Marta.”
She started to move but Joshua spoke up. “No, it’s too late.” He peeked at me through swollen lids, his radiant turquoise eyes now dull and gray. “You and Isabella … take care of each other.”
A death rattle came from Cyrus, and the three of us women wept uncontrollably.
Joshua’s eyes focused at something above my head as if recognizing someone. “Okay, yes. Forgive them.” His lids closed and his head slid down the side of my lap.”
I slapped the book shut, snuffing emotions that tried to surface over the tragic scene.
Julia’s voice whispered in my head, “Messengers of peace are often reluctant.”
I gazed out toward the lake again and knew. The story needed to be told, but not by me. Julia and Tobias would tell the true story of Joshua Cabe.