Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Ulrich Johns waited to board the plane to Alaska.

To die.

He sat in front of immense glass overlooking the dark tarmac. A coffee machine hissed behind him. A lone worker yawned behind the counter. The only other early passenger mumbled a sleepy message on his cell phone.

Five thirty five on the clock. Even the glow of the digital numbers looked tired. Below, a man dragged the hose from a refueling truck in the predawn twilight.

The lights of Philadelphia speckled the distance.

An unattended world blinking time.

Automation turned the wheels while people slept with the reigns of power tucked under pillows.

But human power was a joke. Unless you celebrated chaos. Left, right, forward, backward, start, never finish, yell, kiss, fall, birth, abuse, exalt, crush, humiliate. Soon, alarm clocks would ring. Drooled faces would roll out of pillowcase craters. Hands would slap snooze alarms and gather back the fluttering threads of dreams.

And Ulrich sat outside of it all. Above the tarmac of Philadelphia International Airport. Like a brooding god. Never in. Never part of. Seeing patterns. Seeing the march of causes and reactions. Seeing the strings pulling millions of marionette skins.

His mechanical calm waned as dawn seeped with pale yellow and infused the black with grey. Families arrived. A breathless little girl bounced into a nearby seat. A father squeezed the bridge of his nose and told another to stop jumping. Ulrich closed his eyes as the attendants opened the boarding station and tapped keys on the computer.

With the night still alive in his mind, he tried to reach beyond the immense glass. Beyond the fueling planes. Beyond the rolling lights dueling on the runways.

He imagined that he felt electricity. Switches switching. Computer code chopping human blundering into manageable packets of perfection.

But no.

The crowd heated to a simmer. The noise tapped cracks into the clear glass of his thoughts.

Alaska would be so different. The endless rainforests of the Tongass National Forest. Trails for hundreds of miles. Deep silence so profound that the northern lights sizzle in the sky.

If only he could die under the northern lights.

Somehow they would accept him. Somehow they would touch the poetic reds and ghostly greens buried in his soul. Somehow his tattered emotions would finally be soothed.

At some point, the plane arrived, and the attendants called for first class passengers. Ulrich rose. No way he was going to fly to the wide beauty of his funeral in coach.

(As an experiment, I'm going to be sharing pieces of my new novel-in-progress, but only scenes which have merit as stand alone pieces. If you find something you particularly like in these scenes, such as a mood, style, or theme, please let me know. On the flip side, if you find something you particularly don't like in these selections, please do the same. Some scenes will feature Nami, a woman who finds herself budding with profound powers over the Earth and its elements. Other scenes will feature Ulrich, a man who embarks on a one-way hike into the rain forests of Alaska to die. This particular scene has the distinction of being the opening of the novel.)


Shadow said...

nothing to not like here...

Linda S. Socha said...

Ulrich...I am taken with the name. If this is a sample of the first of a kind...I am going to love this one, WELL done Jason

jinksy said...

Families arrived. A breathless little girl bounced into a nearby seat. A father squeezed the bridge of his nose and told another to stop jumping.

I like this prozaic snapshot in the midst of Ulrich's tumbling thoughts.

Four Dinners said...

I like Ulrich already. I take it the plane doesn't crash?'d be daft...;-)

Why does he want to die somewhere so flaming cold? My curiosity is well and truly piqued. Nice one old bean

the walking man said...

To my eye you have set the somber but real tone needed in the scene. A man going off to his (he presumes or knows with certainty) death.

Just dark enough for me to still find my way through it.

Milly said...

I like the color of it. You paint a picture. I’ve been to Alaska so I’m hooked. Alaska is one of the most beautiful places on this earth, God created blue in Alaska.

Jean said...

It is a grabber, for sure.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Jaaason...I love it! You have set this extraordinary premise down into very ordinary surroundings, making the opening unsettling - in a good way, of course - and captivating!

The noise tapped cracks into the clear glass of his thoughts.

What a remarkable line!

Many questions here, which I know will be answered in your wonderful novel. It's hard to wait. Looking forward to more excerpts!

staceyjwarner said...

It felt like an opening. I loved the mood of the piece, quite dark. Whenever a read great descriptive writing like this I wonder what am I doing writing "bubble-gum-on-the-beach" books. LOL!

much love

SzélsőFa said...

Ulrich's my kinda fella.
I liked how his clear mind was shattered by the mundane. I don't travel much, but I totally got the feeling with the help of your words.

Did I get it well that he had an elitist approach by not stooping down to travelling the tourists' class?
(last paragraph)

Nevine said...

There was nothing at all I didn't like about this. What I particularly liked was Ulrich's very busy mind amidst its own silence, its craving for silence. A very nice opening for a novel...


Terri said...

It's a great opening scene, does exactly what it's designed to do - tells us just enough to make us want to read more. Thanks for the preview :-)

Anonymous said...

Shadow, cool. :)

Linda, the Ulrich portion of the novel will definitely feel like this one. A bit enigmatic. A bit detached.

Jinksy, thanks. :) I wanted to give a flavor of the pushes and pulls in Ulrich.

Four Dinners, piqued curiosity is perfect!

Walking Man, I'm glad that somber tone was palpable, yet manageable to read.

Milly, oh, what a wonderful line! God created blue in Alaska.... Can I use that?? I could see a similar thought running through Ulrich's mind when he arrives.

Jean, if it has enough grab, then I'm very happy. :)

Kaye, I love your enthusiam!! It's such a challenge to pour enough in. I feel like I'm on the right track, though. :) Thanks.

Stacey, I'm sure your writing has its own depth. Thank you for the feedback on mine! I do strive for a richness of description.

Szelsofa, you captured the travel mood very well! As for the elitist question, it's not a feeling of superiority that lands him in first class. Since it's going to be his last flight ever in his life, he figures he should splurge for the extra comfort. If he doesn't do it now, he never will.

Nevine, yes, Ulrich craves peace. A kind of peace that seems to be forever out of his grasp. I appreciate your feedback!

Terri, much appreciated. :) There indeed is a lot of weight on openings.

PixieDust said...

I was captivated by the routine of life around this man who carries his death in the overhead... very descriptive... a great opening...



Milly said...

I would be honored to read that line in a book. I kept thinking "Good job God." while there. The blue water, the blue, sky, and the blue glaciers are amazing.

Anonymous said...

Jason, had to close up shop for a bit. Crazy life, wasn't coming back but people were wondering where was SP. Made me feel guilty. But I'm here...on the DL :)

Loved this. The last line: A quirky twist at the end which made me smile.

Anonymous said...

Btw, SP=She Poet in case you forgot :)

Anonymous said...

PixieDust, it seems like Ulrich's detachment while life moves on around him is making an impression. I think I'll build on that. :)

Milly, excellent! I'll weave you in.

Life Uncharted, it's great to see you back! It's always jarring when blogger disappears. I'm glad that you're okay. (Yes, I knew it was you, SP. :) )

Meghana Naidu said...

oh wow.

will sound cliched but i cant wait to read all of it!
there's something about such absurd certainty, (of death in alaska) and the idea of acting on it, thats fascinating!

Meghana Naidu said...

oh here's a little something for you on my blog.


Vesper said...

Jason, this is beautiful and a very strong opening. I love it.
The forests of Alaska... any immense forest of the North... seem like a very fitting place to die... Beautiful!

Woman in a Window said...

No, Jason. I'm there. Nothing to leave behind. I love it. The stand alone sentence, to die, I think it was. The dying. To going to to be understood.

I'm in this place right now wondering why it is that we so often wait to die to set aside the construct of our day to day to fully indulge our spirit. What you've written here and the language you employ is vastly appealing to me.

And it doesn't hurt, that bit of tongue in cheek and biting human in the end about coach. HA!

Anonymous said...

Meghana, thank you for the enthusiam, and thank you for the wonderful compliment on your blog!!

Vesper, I'm glad it was strong for you. I really wanted these first images and experiences to be potent.

Erin, you're right. What a strange sentiment. To feel so burdened in life that we look forward to leaving it. In a way, my character feels this way. Perhaps even stronger.

Mayur said...

I want more! :D.