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Savage Island…It’s Not Just a Story, It’s a World

October 19, 2018

Breath_KickstarterHeader_final_mediumIf you’ve been following my blog or any of my other shennanigans, you probably know that I’ve been in the process of writing an epic – and I mean epic in scale, adventure, romance, thrills and, and…well, lots of stuff – series. It’s called BREATH and I’ve just sent the final manuscript off to my editor for a last go-over-with-a-fine-toothed-comb. In the meantime, as I wait to begin the book launch process, I’ve found myself feeling restless and missing my characters something terrible. I’ve been pining for them while I drive car pool, while cooking dinner, in the shower, and late at night as I stare up at my ceiling and listen to the rain as it pelts our metal roof.

Finally, I could take it no longer!

Last week, I set about starting to write a novella that revisits the characters of BREATH in one of their previous lives. Once again, I’m feeling happy, fulfilled and like I want to take a break every couple of hours just to dance around my office. I do hope you readers will enjoy this as much as I do, and I’d really like to share the first few chapters with you over the next weeks and get your input.

Breath_KickstarterHeader_WIP01-2_retouchJust to remind you of what BREATH is all about in the first place, let me give you a short summary: Nif and Sherin are Ninti. They share a deep and powerful devotion that puts them both in mortal danger, while propelling them towards an extraordinary fate that ensures they will live infinite human lives…and suffer an equal number of deaths. Together they must solve a mystery that spans the ages, or risk losing one another forever.

BREATH is a story of lovers, killers, curses and destinies. It’s about the people who lived history, but it’s also a tale of those who unearthed history in order to preserve and understand its legacy.

You get to travel with Nif and Sherin during their adventures, but you’ll also be present alongside the past and future archeologists who are driven to solve the puzzle of their existence.

egypt-karnaktemple_nationalmediamuseum_flickr_3588098691_94d9a69c5e_oIf you’d like to know a little bit about what, specifically, is inspiring me to write this novella, let me begin with a short poem:

You are the poem I never knew how to write, and this life is the story I’ve always wanted to tell. – Tyler Knott Gregson

That’s it, in a nutshell. But if you’d also like to know a bit about what I hope to illuminate, both for myself and for readers, I’d like to give you a very short excerpt that will eventually make its way into this novella…somehow…if it kills me:

Without love and some tiny glimmer of faith – perhaps faith in God, faith in the great tapestry of which we are but one stitch, faith in goodness – it is a hopeless, numbing experience. A rational experience. And I would never wish a strictly rational mind on even my most bitter enemy. A life blind to magic, limited in its comprehension of art and unmoved by the possibilities of the imagination. Isn’t that a form of death? It certainly seems like that to me. –I wrote this one.

Without further ado:

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Savage Island, Chapter 1

By Victoria Dougherty

On the island of Niue, it’s hard to believe a whole world is at war. The sky is as blue as Aunt Kitty’s eyeshadow, and whale song erupts any old time from the endless plain of ocean surrounding us. Those giant doves of the sea, cooing at us like gods of an ancient world. “You’re not of this Earth,” they seem to say. “You’re one of us now.”

One of us. No, I’m not. And never will be.

No doubt the villagers here will still trickle in to Matapa Chasm if Hitler and Hirohito have their way. Just as they are now. I see Mary, the plump-bottomed woman who works at the post office. White perfectly square teeth with a big space between the front two – she smiles at me and waves before beginning to undress. Everyone’s been very welcoming, I have to give them that. And they have every reason to be. Matapa chasm, carved out by the sea, its porous rock walls, dark as cigarette ash, will remain sheltering and remote no matter how many people die in Europe and the Orient. The fresh, cool waters will beckon these people just as they did the ancient Kings of this place centuries ago. Toes will dip daintily into the crystalline waters, as my toe is doing right now.

“Come for a swim,” the waters will say. No need to whisper. We’re far, far away and nobody will hear. Certainly not the dreaded Axis.

“Angelie!”

It’s Mum.

“I’m coming!”

“Lunch is ready! Fish.”

What else?

“Don’t want it to get cold!”

Aunt Kitty’s always afraid of things getting cold. Sandwiches, in her estimation, can get cold. So can potato salad.

I trudge carefully over the rough swells of rock, picking my shoes up off of Donald Duck, a rather big hunk of million year-old coral that’s formed in the shape of Mum’s favorite Disney character. A sign, she says, that we made the right choice in coming here. I remind her there was no “we” about it. This was entirely her idea. Aunt Kitty came along because what else was she supposed to do? We’re all she’s got.

“I saw one of those lion fish,” I tell them.

Kitty gasps. “In the chasm?” Her eyes dart over to the pool.

“In a rock pool near the Arches.”

Kitty shakes her head while Mum serves the fish onto banana leaves, careful the filets don’t break apart.

“Those are poisonous, Angelie!”

“Venemous,” I say. “And none at all deadly. Even if one of them had poked me, the worst that would happen is my foot would swell up.”

The lion fish are like everything on Niue. Beautiful, but with a murderous appearance.

“And don’t you go climbing around those arches again. Anyone can see you from above!”

Now the very sky has become a danger. See, two days ago, only a week after our unceremonious arrival on this rock, a V formation flew high over Alofi Bay. Only they weren’t birds. Mum trained her binoculars on them and recognized the markings.

“God Save the Queen!” Aunt Kitty called up to the sky, wielding her yellow cotton handkerchief. The one she cried into all the way on the journey from Sydney, wringing it over the railing – her tears dispersing into the ocean brew, same as we’d done when we left the harbor, becoming only a dot on the horizon until vanishing altogether.

“They’re Yanks,” Mum announced, passing the binoculars to her.

“They’re Allies,” Kitty countered.

Ever since, word has spread and there’s nothing but talk of the war. And that’s all it is. Talk, talk, talk. What else is there to do here?

“Those things are sharp all over and a good wind can come and blow you right off the top.”

Aunt Kitty’s still on the damned arches.

“You know they used to call this place Savage Island. For years and years, they did!” Aunt Kitty bites into a flaky chunk of parrotfish and her eyes bulge. She pulls a thin, white bone out of her mouth as if it’s proof of the hidden perils that surround us.

“They only called it Savage Island because of Captain Cook,” Mum says, laughing. “I imagine that from his perspective it was rather accurate, but it’s a good lesson not to judge things by the way they look.”

The islanders drove him off three times back in the 1770s – they’re very proud of that here and take every chance to tell you about how they painted their teeth a bloody crimson with skins of red banana, and jumped and screamed to all insanity. You know, like savages. Cook could see them up close, as his ship was only fifty feet or so from the beach. Deep water there. We’re on a rock after all, and the short shelf of coral reef drops off into a blue as deep as the Queen’s sapphire.

Last even remotely interesting thing that’s happened here, I imagine.

“Savage Island. Hard to believe Nuie was ever called that,” I say.

Mum tisk-tisks me.

“Angelie, we’re in a lovely place far away from the war. A place where people need us.”

I’m this close to rolling my eyes.

“We’re on a rock and everyone here seems to have been doing just fine without us. The people who need us are trying to keep the whole world from being consumed by evil!”

I give one big huff and Mum kisses the top of my head.

“Strawberry blonde, but all strawberry in temperament. Just like your dad.” She nudges me to eat my fish. “And we’ve given our share to the war effort.”

I pinch a piece of fish and place it on my tongue. Delicious. Fresh and salted. A hint of coconut. I tell Mum how good it is, since I feel like such a shit.

By “our share,” Mum means my brother and father. They died nearly two years ago now on a merchant ship that was sunk by a Japanese submarine. It was just after the attack on Sydney Harbor, and although there have been no attacks since, and boats like the one dad and Jamie went down on have by and large managed to keep away from the likes of the enemy, most of Sydney has been sure that at any time the Emperor himself will show up at their very front doors with two Samurai, lop off their heads, and bring them back to Tokyo as souvenirs!

“What’s that?” Aunt Kitty asks. She stands, her freckled nose tipped up and pointing out to sea.

Mum turns around and squints her eyes. “A barge, I think.”

“I thought those only come once a month.” That last one came only a day or so after we arrived.

Mum shrugs. “There was a big hullabaloo at the post office today, that’s all I know. A man named Max Vogel is coming to the island.”

“Vogel,” I say. “A German?”

Mum nods.

Aunt Kitty crosses herself. “What’s a German doing here?”

Mum takes a serving of bread fruit passing me a slice. “That’s what everyone wants to know.”

Stay tuned for Chapter Two, next week…

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And in the meantime, here’s a lovely photo of Matapa Chasm on the Island of Niue

And here are the Arches of Talava, also referenced in Chapter One:

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