Under Purple Clouds

Chapter One of “Walking Through the Past”

One of the sites I write at, Vocal.media, is running a contest in which you write the first chapter of a hypothetical magical realism book, starting with an assigned sentence. Below is my entry. It’s not a long read, maybe 5 minutes.

I’m not expecting to win the contest or anything as this is my first real try at writing fiction, but I would appreciate any comments or guidance in case I decide to try writing more.

Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky. It was a stunning sight, on par with seeing the Aurora Borealis in person, and evey month, hundreds of people came to Elk Grove just to witness it. Initially, some townspeople wanted it fixed, but no one could figure out how. Then many started to find the display quite beautiful, and when it became a tourist attraction, everyone agreed to leave it alone.

There was an old high school tradition that each year, students would create some kind of a sky-show to celebrate graduation. Most classes went for animated writing, virtual fireworks or something to that effect – a display that could be seen from the ground – but one year, the students decided to try transforming the sky itself. The effect was only supposed to last for one hour that night, but it returned again the next night, and the next, and so on for the last 10 years.

Still, it generally made Janessa smile. The colours were beautifully harmonized, and the movement of the clouds was fluid and graceful. Tonight, however, she was finding it hard to smile. She snuffed out her cigarette in an old flower pot, pulled her cardigan a bit tighter around her and went back inside to a waiting N’Davi.

“Honey,” he started, quietly, “I know its hard on you, but we’re just not getting anywhere on this case.” His soft blue eyes pleaded with her. “Since we lost Brett, we haven’t…”

“I know,” she interrupted. “You haven’t been able to find another past reader.” She sighed and sat down next to him on the couch, it’s burgundy leather creaking with the movement. N’Davi put a comforting arm around her shoulder.

“We even brought in a spirit speaker, hon, but the spirit couldn’t help us. He hadn’t seen his killer, so he couldn’t give us any clues.”

Janessa took out another cigarette, created a small flame in her hand to light it and took a long drag. “You know I’ll do it,” she sighed. “I’m not going to let a killer get off just because it’s hard to watch a murder. I just would like…” she paused to take another puff. D’Navi nodded to her, encouraging her to finish her thought. “I’d just like to feel like I had the option of saying ‘no’… that… I don’t know, I just…”

“You just wish it wasn’t always you, right?” he asked, pulling her over closer and kissing her gently on the temple. He brushed her long blonde hair back from her face.

“Yeah,” she agreed. “We do it in the morning.” Janessa looked at her husband. You’d never know he was a cop, she thought. His blue eyes were kind, his broad smile gentle. Even his hair had a soft look to it, numerous black strands creating a frame around his face, the rest somehow managing to look casually windblown and perfectly sculpted at the same time.

“I’ll just send the boss a text so he knows to expect us first thing, ok?”

She squeezed his hand as he stood up, then pulled him toward her for a quick kiss. “Yeah, ok.”

She wandered into the bedroom and snuggled down into their large soft bed. A few minutes later, she felt her husband join her, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close as the skies faded back to black.

It felt too early for the alarm to be ringing when Janessa woke the next morning, but it was the usual 7:00 am. She nudged N’Davi a couple of times before he began to stir. How he could sleep through the alarm she had no idea, but he managed to do it regularly. Wrapping her robe around her she headed out to the kitchen for a quick breakfast of Greek yogurt and orange juice. She chuckled as N’Davi stumbled out from the bedroom, his robe inside out and his hair pointing in every direction. She quickly poured him a cup of coffee, touselled his hair a bit, and headed back to the master bathroom for a shower before getting dressed.

She adjusted the temperature on the shower just the way she liked it, then paused for a moment. She was rewarded with a sharp cry and several curse words from her husband as he discovered yet again that fresh brewed coffee was hot. Knowing he wouldn’t fall back asleep now, she quickly ran her hand through the water adding a light jasmine fragerance to it, then stepped inside. The scent would linger on her skin for several hours, and she hoped it would help keep her calm as she prepared for the past reading she’d be doing that morning.

They finished dressing and headed out to their car. The drive to the Elk Grove police station was peaceful as they drove down the tree-lined streets of their post-WWII subdivision with it’s little, boxy houses before reaching the towns main thoroughfare. The station quickly came into view and they pulled into the parking lot. Entering the station, Janessa was overwhelmed by the sight of all the bodies in blue hustling from desks to file cabinets to computers and back, and the smell of stale coffee and the sweat of hard work. Elk Grove was a mid-sized, middle-class suburb, so there wasn’t a lot of serious crime, but the work of vandals, petty burglars, overheated rednecks brawling at the bars and reckless joyriders still added up.

“Chief!” N’Davi called out, waving his boss over.

“What’s up, Richards” the keys at his waist jangled as his shoes tapped out a staccato rhythm. He turned to Janessa “Good morning, Ma’am!”

She smiled as N’Davi answered “I brought Janessa along to see if she can help us get any more information from the crime scene on the Taylor murder.”

“Ah! Good idea!” the chief replied “Let me know what you find… ” his eye caught a motion from the back of the room and he held up his index finger to let someone know he’d be a moment. “You’ll have to excuse me, I’ve been needing to speak to Garfield.” He nodded to both N’Davi and Janessa, then took off.

N’Davi turned to his wife “Well, dear, shall we get this over with?”

She nodded. N’Davi made his way over to the key holder, grabbed the key for his patrol car and led her back outside. They got in the car and headed for the exit, As N’Davi checked to make sure the road was clear before pulling into the street. As he began his turn, he spotted something out of the corner of his eye. Cresting the top of the hill near the driveway was a black SUV that had been blocked from view, and it was coming at them extrordinarily fast. N’Davi tried to pull back into the parking lot, but he was too late. He and Janessa barely had time to hear, more than feel, the initial crunch as the SUV plowed into their side, before everything went black.

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