Look for “The Dark Wind of Dreams,” an exciting new novel by A.C. Tangreen, in mid-2014.
Here it is! The moment you’ve been waiting for! An excerpt from the first draft of my work-in-progress, The Dark Wind of Dreams. In the scenes that follow, I introduce you to the protagonist, Nora del Fuego. Nora is an amnesiac–she doesn’t know who or, more importantly, what she is until a mysterious man shows up with a message for her.
Leave me a message in the comments to let me know what you think!
Excerpt from The Dark Wind of Dreams by A.C. Tangreen
Restless and unable to sleep yet again, Nora ran her fingertips along the spines of the books on the shelf. They came to rest on Vincente’s favorite book of poetry—the one she brought with her when she fled Chile. The dust jacket was yellowed with age, and showed a sepia-toned portrait of the poet in his older years on the back. As she took the well-worn book in her hands it fell open to page 236 and she wondered if the book had a memory of the many times Vincente had read to her:
all night we walked
and when we woke up
you were intact and new,
as if the dark wind of dreams
had newly given fire to your tresses
Her heart caught in her throat. How could he still reach across time to her in this way? Would she never be rid of his touch? How could it be that after 37 years she still loved him as much as she had the last time she had ever seen him alive? It was a curse—this life—a never-ending torment. She threw the book across the room and threw herself down onto her bed, begging sleep to take her.
Nora ran across the open ground, small rocks and scree skittering away from her feet. Her hair, twisted into one long braid, swung back and forth with each step. She looked down at herself and saw that she was dressed in a colorful but coarsely woven wool tunic and trousers of some kind of soft, light animal skin but her feet were bare.
She was running along the ridge of a mountain and, as she glanced to her left, she could see down into a long, broad valley. The mountains across from her were the strangest she had ever seen. Three sharp fins of rock jutted up between the other mountain peaks. It was twilight, but she was fairly sure that it was pre-dawn, and that the sun would soon rise from behind the mountains with the strange peaks.
She glanced down and was not surprised at all to see a jaguar running along the ridge beside her. The cat was almost completely black, with just a hint of darker rings marking his fur. She felt no alarm at the sight of it. In fact, she was strangely reassured by its presence.
Ahead, a storm loomed on the southern edge of sight, a large field of much deeper blackness than what remained of the night sky. All at once the night began to get darker instead of lighter. Jagged streaks of lightning slashed the black sky and everything around her was suddenly starkly illuminated. Nora could see a shape on the ridge outlined against the night and her heart filled with fear. The moment passed and Nora’s world once again plunged into darkness. Her heart pounded as the lightning flashed again and she realized the shape was getting closer. It was moving fast—and coming straight for her.
She stopped and began to feel her way backwards in the dark, waiting for the next flash of lightning to tell her where to run. Suddenly she stumbled over something close to the ground, catching herself just before she fell.
A voice rang in her ear, “ten cuidado, mi amor” –be careful, my love. Just then another bolt of lightning seared the sky and she saw Vincente, standing protectively in front of her, his hand outstretched, index finger pointing to her left. “Nora, run!” In the same instant, she saw the figure—it was almost on top of Vincente and closing quickly.
Nora awakened with her heart pounding and the damp sheets stuck to her bare skin. She sat up, flipped the switch on the lamp beside her bed, and took a drink of water from the glass on her nightstand. Running her unsteady fingers through her hair, she lifted her damp tresses from her neck and took a series of deep breaths to steady herself. She told herself it was just a dream. But, if it was just a dream, why did she have it every night? There were always variations on the dream, but the creature was always there, Vincente was always there, and it always evoked the same feelings in her.
Nora’s dreams had become increasingly ominous over the past few months. They began last September, around the anniversary of Vincente’s death, and, because he began appearing to her in these dreams, she initially attributed their appearance to her loneliness and her longing for him. In every one of the dreams, Vincente was there, watching over her, standing between her and some ominous threat that always lurked in the distance. At first, the dreams felt like a far-off storm, one barely perceived upon the horizon. It was the kind of storm you knew would bring violent thunder and lightning, driving hail and buffeting winds. The kind of storm that any person with sense would know better than to be caught out in. At the end of each of these dreams Vincente said the same four words “ten cuidado,mi amor”—be careful, my love. This night, however, the dream was different. She had never managed to get a look at the creature before—it had always been a nebulous threat, somewhere out in the darkness. Something that remained undefined. But tonight she saw it clearly.
The fact that Vincente was in her dreams both disturbed and comforted her. She missed him desperately, and her longing for him never seemed to lessen over the years. It had been 37 years since she had last seen her husband, but it felt to her like no time at all had passed. She still recalled the sound of his voice, the scent of his skin, the way his arms felt around her, and how safe, how very safe she felt in his presence.
Nora grabbed her keys, adjusted her ponytail, and headed out for her daily pre-dawn run. As she stepped out onto her front porch she breathed in the crisp, dry air, letting her lungs fill completely. She spent a couple of minutes gently stretching her muscles and clearing her mind.
She started off down the sidewalk at an easy pace. Her neighbor’s standard poodle and Westie terrier gave their usual greeting as she jogged by. The sky was growing lighter to her right as she started onto the dirt trail in the desert behind her house. The scent of creosote bushes and catclaw blossoms filled her nostrils as her pace settled into an easy, loping, cross-country rhythm.
Her long, black hair, drawn up into a high ponytail, swung behind her like a pendulum. She marked out the seconds with the regular tapping of her feet on the path. Her head was clear and she thought of nothing but where to put her feet next.
The sky began to brighten all around and the eastern horizon grew lighter by the second. The birds had awakened with her, as they did every day, and seemed to be cheering her on in her run. She thought of them as her cheering section because their song always grew louder toward the end of her run, just when she needed the extra motivation.
The growing chorus of birds greeting the dawn pleased Nora. She never felt better than when she was in nature, and this morning, after her especially disturbing dream, she needed its soothing presence more than ever. She decided to run the 5-mile loop this morning, a short, 35-minute run that would have her back in plenty of time to get ready to head in to the university for classes. She ran down along the creek bed, startling a rabbit at the bottom of the hill, then over to the next creek and back up.
By the time she finished the loop, the sun was up and the temperature had warmed significantly. As she rounded the corner where the dirt trail met the concrete sidewalk in the neighborhood she shortened her stride and slowed her pace, allowing herself a little cool-down time before reaching her house.
The sun was casting long shadows and might have been playing tricks on her eyes, but she thought she had just seen the shadow of a man slipping around the corner of her house. She thought it must be the dream, still so fresh in her mind, causing her to see things that were not there, because when she looked again, as she approached the house, she could see nothing out of the ordinary. Still, she slowed to a walk and passed by the house, as if she did not live there, in order to get a better look. There was no one hiding in the shadows by the door, nor around the corner, in the shadows at the side of the house.
Breathing only a little easier, Nora turned back and strode briskly to her door, key in hand, intending to get inside as quickly as possible. She slipped her key into the lock and turned the knob, opening the door a narrow slit and easing herself quickly through. She shut the door quickly and snapped the locks in place and then turned to stand with her back against the door and her heart pounding.
That’s when she saw him—inside her house. She choked off a startled scream as the man dropped to the carpet on his knees and bent to touch his head to the floor, prostrating himself in front of her.
“Mari mari, Great One,” said the man who had prostrated himself in front of Nora.
Nora, feeling the adrenaline pumping through her veins, kept one hand on the doorknob at her back, ready to take off back out the door at a moment’s notice. “Who are you and what are you doing in my house?” she demanded.
The man kept his forehead pressed to the carpet. “Great One, I am here with a message for you.”
“What message, and why do you keep calling me that?”
“The message is from your father, Great One. What other name would you like your servant to call you, O Great One?”
A wave of disbelief coursed through Nora, followed closely by a surge of anger. “My father?” Was this man playing some kind of cruel joke? She didn’t know her father, and, besides, if he were alive, he would be half a world away from here. “What do you mean by this? Get up off the floor. Move slowly and keep your hands where I can see them or I swear I will hurt you.”
“Please, Great One. I mean you no harm.” The man said, slowly raising his head from the floor and even more slowly getting to his feet. He was taller than her 5 feet 9 inches, by probably a good half head. His jet-black hair hung to just below his shoulders. His features were those of the people native to the northern part of her country. His face was serious but kind. Strong brows overshadowed amber-colored eyes that held both intelligence and compassion. He had high cheekbones and a wide but sharp nose that presided over a full-lipped mouth. Somehow, as their eyes met, much of the alarm Nora felt began to evaporate.
“Stop calling me that!” Nora snapped, although much of the severity had left her tone. “My name is Nora. You, however, can call me Señora del Fuego. And you can tell me who you are and what in God’s name you are doing in my house.”
“Exactamente! El nombre de Dios,” he said, his mouth curving into a half-smile. “I am Ángel Riquelme. I am a messenger and your protector. You do not remember who or what you are, but I know. I am here to awaken you so that you may flee from the danger that pursues you. I know your name, O Great One, is Huilenora Malen del Fuego Mendivíl. You are Springtime Maiden of the Fire Mountain Village. And you are a God of my people.”