Please read with the knowledge that this is the prologue of my novel (still in process). At the bottom of this post is the contact form to fill out to send me constructive criticism–comments have been disabled on this post.  

Prologue: The Tree

For weeks now I had been dreaming about the tree. It was the largest tree I had ever seen. In my dream I knew, in that way you know things in the dreaming world, that fifty grown men could stretch out their arms as if to hug the tree and barely be able to make it around. The branches swooped out and then up, cupping the sky and forming a deep green bowl. The tree was perfectly symmetrical except for one solitary branch that stuck out from below the bowl. This singular branch was lower than all the rest and it drew my attention. It was high enough to keep anyone from climbing the tree but was low enough to throw a rope around. In fact in my dream a frayed noose was hanging from this branch.

I could feel the pain, the sadness and the guilt of the person who had thrown the noose over the branch. I could feel the majesty of this great tree and in the dream I knew there was something special about this beautiful but sad tree. The noose was agonizingly familiar and yet I could not have said why. Why would anyone think a frayed piece of rope was familiar in the first place? But I felt somehow that I was connected to this rope and the death it had caused.

It wasn’t a very complicated dream; just the tree and the feelings that it invoked. Yet every night for almost an entire month I dreamt of the tree. Frustrated with the unusual dream and its regular occurrence I told my best friend about it. I was even more confused when Lo, a girl I had known my entire life to be logical and not give to flights of fancy, told me that she too had been dreaming of the tree. The two dreams were exactly the same. Identical right down to the feel of the gentle warm breeze ruffling the emerald leaves and making the noose swing as it held someone tight in its grip.

On the day we spoke of the dream was the night that it changed. I now watched the tree as people slowly came into view. I knew that they were soldiers despite the unfamiliar and old fashioned looking armor that they wore. These soldiers were somehow my friends, my family, but even more surprisingly they were under my command. Somehow I was the General of these soldiers and held their lives in my hands. As the breeze came and set the rope swinging I heard a footfall behind me. I turned slowly and came face to face with Lo.

In this new version of the dream she was more beautiful than in real life. She actually glowed with an unexplained power. I had always loved Lo and in the past few years I had realized that along the way I had fallen in love with her as well. Within the dream she knew this and was in love with me as well. My heart swelled at this knowledge and I reached to touch her cheek. All of sudden she was gone. In my out stretched hand I now held an exquisitely carved black bow. The bow was so powerful I could feel the ripples of magic as I held it in my hand. As I gripped the bow it felt like it had been made for my hand and my hand alone. This bow somehow connected me to those soldiers that were under my command as well as the magic infused Lo.

The morning after this new version of the dream I contemplated telling Lo how the dream had changed. She’d been just as shocked as I when we realized we were having the same dream–I assumed she would want to know that now it had changed; if only to see if her dream had changed as well. But how could I do that without revealing that I was in love with her? I was not about to risk the life-long relationship with my best friend when I knew that she didn’t feel the same way I did. She didn’t date much but it had always been with the opposite sex. As best friends we knew everything about each other and there had never even been a hint she was attracted to girls, let alone to me. I was still mulling over the decision to tell her when our lives changed dramatically.

It had been raining for a month. If I hadn’t been wrapped up in my dream induced confusion I might have realized that the rain had started the day I had the dream for the first time. Some days it was just a sprinkling shower, all though the cloud remained throughout the entire day and night. Other days it would be a misty drizzle. Still other days it would pour so hard you couldn’t see more than a few inches in front of your face. The entire town was bogged down with mud. Every creek and pond were bursting and many small back road had flooded or washed away completely. As a small town we struggled on despite the inconvenience of entire roads disappearing.

In our town kids went straight from high school to the little community college on the outskirts of town. Only the best and the brightest would do the smart thing and get out of town, going to a four year university somewhere far away. The rest would struggle on with small town life and a few would escape after a few years of community college-needing to spread their wings somewhere everyone in town didn’t know your middle name. Lo and I were in our first year at the run down community college with grand plans to get out of town and go somewhere bigger and brighter.

Lo and I had always made plans together, with the knowledge that when we finally got out we would be able to do it because we would be doing it together. We tried to convince our parents to let us get an apartment together but to no avail. They didn’t understand our dream or drive to get out of town. They were lifers. We did however manage to get into all the same classes and drive to school together every single day. For us it was just an extension of high school.

On this day the college had closed at lunch time due to a flood in one of the small buildings on campus. So Lo and I piled into my tiny beat up used car that my parents had given me for my seventeenth birthday and headed home. We were nearly home when I finally got enough courage to broach the subject of the dream. I was navigating the bridge that would bring us into our neighborhood when everything went wrong.

The rain began to come down harder and my car suddenly turned off. I pulled on the emergency break and we began to drift. There was water was coming up over the bridge and it was pulling the car towards the edge. My heart began racing as my car became a boat over which I had no control. The car bumped into the railing and my heart jumped with the loud bang. Lo turned her large red-lashed eyes to me and I saw my own fear mirrored in their depths.

“What’s happening?” her voice was soft and breathy as if speaking loudly would somehow make everything worse.

“I don’t know.” I was taking slow deep breaths, trying to stay calm. I had turned the key and the car was refusing to start back up. It wasn’t even making the dead battery grinding sound when I turned the key.

“The river is flooding.” Lo’s voice was higher pitched than normal. She had seen me try to restart the car and I could see that panic was starting to take over. “Do we stay in the car?” her knuckles were white where she gripped the door handle.

Despite the panic and being surrounded by water on all sides, the only thing I was actually aware of was Lo. Everything about her was overloading my senses. The lavender scented lotion she used was all I could smell. The sweat beading along her hairline and making her red hair frizz and curl was all I could see. I was losing myself in the sound of her heavy breathing and could feel myself leaning closer towards her. I had never been so enthralled before and it was more panic inducing than the potentially deadly situation we found ourselves in. I had lost all control.

I was yanked back into reality by a loud crack. Jerking my eyes away from my friend and towards the windshield I saw that the worst had happened. The bridge had broken and given way to the superior strength of the rushing river. The car was being rushed downstream faster than I had thought possible. I want to say I screamed but it was all happening so fast that the scream never had the time to make it past my lips. The river was taking over and before I knew it the car was filling up with it. I was waist deep in cold river water within seconds. I reached over to open the window thinking it would be the only way out in a few moments. But the window wouldn’t budge. A high keening noise reached my panic deafened ears. Once I realized the horrible sound was coming from me I swallowed it back with a moan. I could feel the adrenaline hit my body and my stomach swam nauseously. My blood felt like ice and was moving sluggishly through my veins. Numbly I realized that Lo was talking. I turned to her, watching the water steadily rise inside the car, everything for some reason was now in slow motion.

“The tree was there like always but so was this green eyed man. It was like he was waiting for me but I wasn’t who he expected. You were there too but you weren’t you. So beautiful and wings. There was a winged creature.” Her words became choppy and confusing. She was babbling, anything to keep her from realizing the river was inside the car with us.

That’s when I realized that we were going to die. We were stuck in a car with the river rushing in. Soon it would be rushing into our lungs. I had read once that drowning was extremely painful way to die. The human lungs, once having left the womb, were not meant to handle water. So what was I supposed to do now? Lo was just babbling random words. Had she realized that our deaths were eminent?

Swimming ahead of me was the dream tree. I blinked furiously. The tree was no longer there. Was I hallucinating? Did you hallucinate before you died? How was I supposed to, I’d never been in a life and death situation before. I thought your life was supposed to flash before you eyes, at least that’s what the movies always showed. Again I saw the tree floating before me. It vanished when I blinked. The water inside the car was high enough now to make my buoyant body float. The seatbelt was trying to force me down. Dimly I was aware that this should be painful yet all I knew was that I was cold. Being surrounded by water was only warm when you were in the bath. This was no bath. Why was I thinking about baths? My mind was beginning to wander. I turned to Lo who had stopped talking. She was staring at me, her flame red hair quickly darkening in the water. I saw that her necklace was floating just under her chin.

Lo had always worn that necklace. When she was adopted it had come with her, the agency said that it was given to her to remember her birth family by. It was a simple silver chair with a stark black onyx cross. It its simplicity it was exquisite. I had always loved that necklace. To me it was the symbol connected with my best friend and person I loved most in the world. Unbeknownst to Lo at the end of the summer I had gotten a tattoo on my right shoulder blade. It was a replica of the cross she wore and it was a way for me to feel connected to Lo without her feeling pressure to be more than just my friend.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and prepared to tell Lo that I loved her. We were dying after all and that’s when you’re supposed to confess. When I opened my eyes though everything had changed. The car was gone. The water, the bridge, everything was gone. I was lying face down in the dirt. My hair was dripping wet and making puddles of cold mud under my cheeks. When I raised my head and looked up I nearly had a heart attack.

Above me, in all its awesome glory, was the tree I had been dreaming about for the past month. The tree was real? Or was I dead?