Prologue of “The Autumn of the Whitewood”

This is the prologue from my upcoming fantasy novel titled “The Autumn of the Whitewood.” I hope that you enjoy. Be aware that cursing is in the prologue.

Prologue

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             The truck sputtered and stalled. This is the fourth time tonight it’s stalled! The driver slammed the palms of his hands into the steering wheel and cursed, “Damn it!” He lifted up his handheld two-way radio and held down the talk button.

“This is truck forty-six, over…” He had no doubt: unemployment was in his future. Static greeted him from over the handheld. Great…. The walkie and the truck both dead. He held down the talk button again, but received back only crisp, dead static. Unfastening his seat belt unceremoniously, he pushed open the truck’s door. Supposed to be working on the transformers, but how can I if I can never get there? He gave a heavy sigh. Fifth time this week it’s malfunctioned.  

“Probably another outdated transformer overheating again,” he said to himself. His weight fell onto his feet with a thud; he straightened the belt gripping his round stomach. The tight belt threatened to cut him in half. He stopped as the sound of a woman crying and gasping struck him, but he could see no one in the dark. The night was illuminated only by the headlights and the slender fingernail of the moon. Getting up in age, old man. He popped the hood switch and left the door wide open as he made his way to the front of the beater. I’ve had this job for two years and they still give me this old piece of shit. Startled from his thoughts again, he could swear that he heard a woman crying. No other sounds drew his attention as he listened. He shook his head, paying it no mind.

“Getting old,” he said as he propped open the hood and looked at the engine. Everything seemed to be in order, not that it meant anything. I’m going to get fired, and that wife of mine is going to be on my case. Twenty-six years together and still her mission in life is to make me miserable. Huffing, he stood still looking down at the engine. His gnarled hand reached up and he ran it through his salt and pepper hair.

An earthquake roared through the valley. His eyes were still fixed on the engine as the rumble came and went. Earthquake? We don’t get those in these parts. He glanced around; the trees were in place and he saw no sign of a disturbance. Just my luck, the earth’s gonna open up and swallow the truck. Then I’ll have to walk the rest of the way back to the main road.

The soft crying began again, drawing his attention from the earthquake. Turning, he saw a slim, dark-haired figure in white crouched on the ground. “Hey! You okay over there?” The figure stood, but didn’t look in his direction. Leaving the clearing behind, she moved into the forest. As she did so, he heard no rustling of leaves or cracking of branches. It was as though she floated above the ground. Darkness blotted out the sliver of moon as he considered following her. In the end, he chose safety over curiosity. Turning his attention back to the truck, he checked the spark plugs and all the connections to make sure they worked.

A roar echoed through the valley, snapping him out of his concern for the truck. The roar was like nothing he had ever heard. The lady is out here by herself and there’s a wild animal on the loose. Why is she out here? Another thought occurred to him. Highway Forty-one isn’t far. That woman in white may have been in a car wreck and wandered out here. That can happen. His mind drifted back to a time in his early twenties when he worked as an EMT. A call had come into dispatch. A Buick had run off the road during a snow storm. He didn’t work the day of the accident, but he’d heard about it his next day on. When they’d arrived on the scene, dispatch reported no sign of the driver and the car door was left ajar.

Three days later, a man walking his dog found her body, dead from exposure, in a field. She had to have been disoriented to wander out in the field like that. Slamming down the hood, he yelled towards the forest, “Hey! Lady! You okay?” He went back to the truck’s cab and pulled out the handheld walkie talkie. Pushing the button again, he spoke, “This is truck forty-six, over…” Again, static greeted him. “Fuck it,” he cursed as he put down the handheld and started walking the way the woman had gone. Everything else is going to hell; I’d probably get blamed for it if something happened to her. All right, fine. “Hello? Ma’am?” As he walked closer towards the forest, the earth shook again. He almost lost his footing, but he persevered.

The third wave knocked his feet out from under him. He lay on his back, unable to get up and struggled for breath as the sky blurred. Wind knocked out of you, old man. Keeping his eyes fixed on the sky, he noticed that the stars were different. While the pain receded, he started going over the constellations he knew in his head. Big Dipper… Little Dipper… Orion’s Belt…. Should have paid more attention, old man. That’s it for the constellations for me. Frowning, he still looked at the sky. There were three red lights, stars just north of Orion’s Belt. One he didn’t recognize. He noted another deep blue star just to the west of those. The earth shook again as a dark shape blotted out the light from above. A loud whooshing sound accompanied the obscuring figure. Fire appeared all around the man of truck forty-six as he took his first terrified look upon oblivion. He could still hear the woman’s sobs echoing in his mind.