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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Belly: Chapter One

Today, I begin my second serialized short story. It's an extensive re-write of a piece I first attempted many years ago. The story and character at the core of it have sat dormant but never left me, waiting for the proper moment to re-emerge. I believe that moment has come. All feedback is appreciated and will be amply rewarded with my undying gratitude.

Prologue: A Circular Journey Repeated
by Francis Scudellari

Jonah Tannin's too heavy head jumps skyward as if tugged by a puppeteer's ungraceful twitch. The force of the commuter train's unexpected stop punches his jaw backward; it pulls his mind from the murky depths of a dreamless sleep.

Eyes of limpid blue, framed by new-pried, black-lashed lids, strain against the sudden flood of pallid, yellow light. Ears, rudely reconnected, receive the crashing waves sent out as the mechanical beast slowly regains its stride: screech, rattle, and rumble. Nostrils, at first flared to gulp the fueling air, now spit back the pungent smell of perspiration mixed with wet wool.

"What time is it?"

Jonah's left arm, too long wedged against the wall, refuses the command to lift up. The right hand, eager to revive its mate, quickly heeds the master's call and leaps the lapped divide to massage the deadened flesh. Blood gradually returns and brings with it the prick of tiny needles. Jonah clenches the waking fingers into a tight fist and then stretches them outward. He repeats this exercise -- grasp, release, and grasp again at nothing -- until the dull ache subsides and the stubborn arm rises to its proper position.

His mind starts to catch up with his senses. Words, an idea, and old feelings follow in lockstep with the sighted abstraction of two silver strips spread like open scissors against the plain white disk.

"Seven o'clock again, but that can't be."

Time's usually steady gait had limped to a halt and then reversed path back to the moment icy winds ushered Jonah onto this circular route. Jonah taps the glass crystal, but it offers no sign of life.

He peers out the frosted train window, but his vision can't pierce the confounding darkness that blankets the world outside. The uniform, black cover conceals from him the objects whose outlines reveal clues to his place in this ever-repeated journey.

"It doesn't matter."

A willing captive, Jonah nestles back into his accustomed spot in the belly of the speeding beast. Suspended inanimate within its vibrating walls, he lets the wash of artificial light and heat coax him back to unconsciousness. The troubling city sprawled out below him fades further into the early winter morning. His once sharp calling recedes to the indistinct mumble of words spoken far away in a forgotten tongue.

Overcome again by sleep, Jonah's shoulders slump down and his head nods forward. His controlling strings are severed anew.
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