Red Soil

By Jamie Chipperfield

For one Mars lawman, a multi-disappearance shall have great implications for the colony he calls home.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Happy New Year (and some bonus content.)

2019 is here. Hurrah. Happy new year to all my kind supporters. Yes, it’s time to get back to the grindstone. 

One great challenge debut writers face is convincing the reading public to trust in their writing ability. The well-known authors can sell books on name alone, the unknowns have to work for it. 

I feel it is only fair that I provide ample proof of my writing ability, especially when people are willing to invest financially in my cause. I leave below a sample from a cancelled project, a historical novel, entirely different to the concepts of Red Soil.

Once more, thank you. 

- - -

It was a cloudless night. The moon hung in the sky like a silver pendant, resplendent in all its shining majesty. Silver moonbeams reflected upon an ocean far below, distorted by the ripples across its surface, the impossibly dark blueness of its depths stretching as far as the horizon. The night was clear with the cool warmth of a Caribbean evening, a night not ideal for undertaking the illicit.

Somewhere in that serenity sits an island, a week's voyage from the nearest trade lanes, far enough away from the prying eyes of passing ships and national borders. An insignificant landmass of less than a mile square, unrecorded by any known map. Dense mangrove swamp fill the island, alive with the chirps and clicks of nocturnal wildlife. To discern where the swamp ends and the ocean begins would be impossible.

Despite such remoteness, there was human activity to be found that night. Ever so quietly, a boat rows its way around the curve of the island, five hooded figures journeying through the night. Eventually it moors amidst the submerged roots of the swamp fauna, out of sight. The crew disembark, fully aware of the task at hand, clambering carefully through the foliage towards their intended target.

"Johnson, stay on watch. I want that boat unmoored if we need to leave with haste," one figure whispers to another, with an authority earned through trust, not just rank.

The four remaining figures awkwardly make their way through the swamp. The going is hot and difficult, the necessity of stealth makes their progress all the more arduous. To their combined relief, they arrive before a clearing, a stretch of beach, an oasis of sand among impassible greenery. Beyond the beach stands a manmade structure, an imposition of civilisation upon untamed nature, looming ominously from the tree line. A coastal fort, stout and strong, its curving perimeter wall disappearing back into the jungle. For the gathered individuals, it is a daunting prospect ahead of them, a tough nut to crack. Far tougher than expected.

"Right lads, you know what to do," the same figure confirms to his comrades.

The infiltrators cross the beach as quickly and quietly as they can, fully aware that a patrolling guard would spot them easily out in the open. They cross the hundred yards of beach knowing their life depended on it, leaving behind footprints in the unblemished sand, the only evidence of their intrusion.

By the time they reach the safety of the stone foundations, no sign of life had yet been witnessed whatsoever. The place may well have been abandoned. 

Once up close, it was clear the fort had been made from large granite blocks, its footings worn smooth by time and tide. An iron portcullis stood as a sole entry point, heavily rusted by the comings and goings of the sea. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to construct such a fortification, and yet, why were such defences required if nobody could find it in the first place.

The group begin to set their plan into motion, producing the equipment they each have stowed upon their persons. One pair untie the lengths of rope wrapped around their waist, while the others provide grappling hooks slung over their belts. The infiltrators had taken the boarding ropes from their vessel, intended to latch one ship to another, and repurposed them for tonight. It would have to make do.

Suddenly, a light appeared far above, a flicker of firelight burning through the darkness. They all froze, statuesque, watching with baited breath as the orange glow passed overhead. Eventually, it disappears out of sight, continuing on its way unperturbed. As one, the shadows at the foot of the wall let out an involuntary sigh of relief. The threat had passed, but sadly, it was only the first of many.

***

"And how are your other boys?" Edward Danbury asked of his father, setting down the fine bone china teapot with care.

"A damn sight better than you will ever be," father replied bitterly. He had not taken kindly to the tidings his son had brought him.

As the saying went, there had always been Danbury's in Danbury, the family estate sitting just outside of the village. In aristocratic terms, the meagre holdings of the Danbury family was considered little more than a 'scrap' of land. They were only minor gentry, stranded between those above and below, alone in the middle of the hierarchy of life. Somewhere along the line, one Danbury patriarch had decided that his family would be a naval lineage, and it had had been the fate of every son ever since.

"I promised mother that I'd keep an eye on you when she passed," Edward protested, respectfully. "I've kept this old ruin funded. I may not have either of my brother's status, but at least my wages make it back home."

Father answered with a disapproving harrumph, the way father always did, even if he knew it to be true.

There was no argument to be had on the subject, the Danbury family did not argue, but there was always things that remained unsaid. And so Edward, swallowing his pride, took a sip from the fragrant tea he had poured himself, and remained silent. Consequently, Edward's face wrinkled, eliciting an expression of disgrace from his father.

The tea, 'father's special tea' as it was known internally, was as aromatic as it was disgusting, satiating a taste the man had acquired during his time spent in service abroad. Nobody specifically knew where abroad this tea had originally come from, only that the reliability of their father’s tastebuds was entirely suspect. Like many things, Edward's distaste for the tea was just another personal affront to such an obstinate soul.

Edward took another sip of the vile, warm liquid, and looked at the family drawing room about him. His life had made him stray far from these familial surroundings, all that time, all those memories. And still, he was inexorably drawn back, like a moth to a flame. Edward didn't know when he would be back, he didn’t know where his commission would take him nor how long it would draw on for. Time and distance are such precise instruments, but they mean little compared to the broad, sweeping emotions. The heart will always yearn. The soul mourns what it has lost.

There was so much Edward could have said to his father, so much that needed to be told before it was too late. The inevitable regrets of mortality, of things left too late, loomed like a spectre.

In the end, Edward did not act upon the feelings that boiled under the surface. He simply humoured his father, finishing that terrible drink of his, and sought safer conversation topics.

 

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