The other day I was digging through the pile of manuscripts gathering dust in some semi-forgotten file on my hard drive and I came across a novel I wrote back in the 70's. A sci-fi novel that starts out pure adventure but gets soon into some deep doodoo when it comes to speculative science-fiction.
I wrote this in the hopes of starting a series thru the auspices of a well know sci-fi publisher whom I won't name. With that in mind I decided to write a prologue to the story that would absolutely guarantee the reader and/or an editor to find himself falling into a chasm and not being able to claw himself out until the book was done.
Huh. Obviously that didn't happen. The series was not picked up. But rediscovering it and going over the prologue again and I found myself thinking, 'Why the hell NOT! Why didn't the publisher snap this up--especially when yo consider the horseshit for science fiction that's been coming out lately.'
So you tell me. Below is the entire prologue to "A Princes of the Misty Isles." Ya gotta clue as to what failed to perk their interest, let me know. I think this dog needs to be let out so it can bark a while. I hope you'll agree with me.
It all began with my grandfather. Jeffery Arnold Clarke, my grandfather, died in 1989. At the time of his death he was 99 years old. He had been in his lifetime a cowboy, a police officer, a soldier of fortune and a private detective. He fought both alongside, and later against, Poncho Villa in Mexico. He smuggled guns for Chinese resistance fighters who were fighting Japanese occupation of their homeland prior to World War II. Before that he fought all of World War I flying extremely fragile fighter planes made of nothing but canvas, wire, and wood. And survived. When he died, he died old and proud and much loved by all those who knew him.
I was his favorite of all his grand children. He often said to me, as I grew to manhood, he had a special gift which he wanted me to have upon his death. I thought nothing of it for most of my life. That 'special gift' had already been given to me over and over again by this old gentleman I loved so much. But when he died, to my surprise, I did receive a special gift.
Among his possessions had been an old steamer trunk in which I remember playing on as a kid while it sat in the dark, dust-filled attic of grandfather's house. No one in the family took particular interest in this steamer trunk. Grandfather had told us often that nothing was in it except his old World War I uniforms and a few old photo albums. Nevertheless it was that old steamer trunk which he promised me. It was that steamer trunk that I wanted most from him.
I was pleased to hear that the old steamer trunk had been bequeathed to me in his will. It arrived at my house one cold and wet November day by special courier and I took possession of something which eventually came to own my soul with an all-consuming power.
One day in December, not long after the trunk was delivered, I decided to open it and rummage through my family's past. True enough, upon opening the trunk I found my grandfather's World War I uniform. He served in the Royal Flying Corps, which eventually became the Royal Air Force, in the Great War. He was one of the few survivors who joined in 1914 and lived to tell about it at war's end. He was an ace with fourteen confirmed kills and had, among other things, the distinction of being shot down twice by none other than Baron Manfred von Richthofen.
But the manuscripts underneath grandfather's uniform were the articles which consumed me. There, tied in neat bundles of six manuscripts apiece, were dusty pages of history which can only be described as being too incredible to believe.
Did I say history? Well—yes and no. Not history as you or I know it. But history, and revelations, only a prophet or a insane man might write. I cannot accurately describe accurately what these manuscripts say. One must read them in their entirety to truly understand both the fascination and the dread I feel whenever I think of them. But let me generalize, if I can, what these ancient and crumbling papers purport to say.
On one bright morning in 1920 my grandfather was walking on an empty stretch of Florida coastline just south of St Petersburg, Florida. He had been discharged from the RAF only a few weeks before and had taken up residence in the small Florida community he was to call home for the rest of his life. The doctors suggested recuperation in the Florida clime might be the best prescription for a return to health. Grandfather's health had been severely compromised while serving in the RAF in some official capacity while in Russia in 1919. It was a time in his life he would never talk about whenever I asked him about it. I got the impression it was still, after so many years had passed by, a source of intense emotion for him. Respecting his wishes I never approached the subject again.
But on this sunny, but somewhat lonely, Sunday morning was taking his usual stroll down the beach watching the ocean waves roll lazily onto the sands and enjoying the many sea gulls which seemed to equally enjoy strolling with him in the early morning light.
As he walked he discovered this old steamer trunk. The trunk I now possess. It was half buried in the sand. To say the least, my grandfather was quite perplexed at finding this artifact on this particular beach at this particular time of the day. It was, as grandfather's own handwriting says in the many diaries he left for me to read, both an exciting and fearful discovery. At first he thought he might have come across some old pirate's treasure chest filled with Spanish doubloons and stolen Aztec gold. But then it occurred to him that it was possibly only flotsam left from a recent ship's sinking in the gulf. Kneeling, grandfather became curious as he observed the blackened and scorched markings he found on the exterior of the trunk. He pried open the trunk's lid and lifted it to see what was inside. What he found was enough gold and jewels to instantly make himself a multi-millionaire! But more than that, he found the bundles of manuscripts and the long, rambling letter from a long-forgotten ancestor by the name of Geoffery Clarke. The letter was addressed to Geoffery Armstrong Clarke.
The letter was addressed to me, a distant cousin to this Geoffery Clarke. Incredibly a letter addressed to me almost 400 years prior to my birth!
My name is Geoffery Armstrong Clarke. Geoffery Clarke is my great-grandfather, ten generations removed. This distant relative, who was born in 1588, communicated through Time using my grandfather as the intermediary! I was born in 1968. But this Geoffery Clarke had written to me, and mistaken my grandfather as me, back in 1920!
To be confronted by the ramifications of this experience is devastating to one's sense of reality. It was with a disorienting sense of deja vu I had when I read my grandfather's diary, and later, the manuscripts.
At first my grandfather believed someone was playing on him a massive and cruel joke. But the gold and jewels were genuine and priceless and no one came to claim them. Grandfather hauled the heavy trunk back to his house and over the years quietly began to exchange gold for currency. Our family fortunes were made with his serendipitous finding. However, it was the other pieces of evidence included in the trunk which finally made grandfather realize a relative of ours had mistakenly believed he was communicating with Geoffery Armstrong Clarke—me—by sending the trunk through Time by some incredulous means.
Confusing to comprehend? Not as confusing as the full impact of what waited for me in that dusty steamer trunk. As I read both my grandfather's diaries and the manuscripts themselves, a sense of vertigo gripped my soul. For weeks after making the initial discovery I moped around the house trying to comprehend what was taking place. I admit there were times I thought I would go insane. For the more I read my ancestor’s adventures, the more I became confused.
Geoffery Clarke was not communicating with me from the past. They came from the future. The distant future, and more amazingly, from a distant planet. Amidst the hundreds of pages of handwritten manuscripts were pieces of evidence which irrefutably proved this relative was indeed in the distant future. He knew what fortunes, and misfortunes, lay ahead for Earth. Fortunes and misfortunes grandfather would have had no way of knowing would take place in 1920.
In the trunk were photographs. Not photographs of whatever place and in whatever time Geoffery Clarke was in. But photographs of Earth. Three dimensional photographs! A photographic technique only now in experimental stages of development in my time! Earth orbit photographs. Lunar photographs showing the back side of the moon. Photographs of what seemed to be a thriving metropolis on Mars! And there are photographs of objects; objects like automobiles. Automobiles built in the 1980s. Automobiles built in 2050. Photographs grandfather held in this trunk, in the attic of his house, since 1920!
How did this trunk get to Florida? How could a distant ancestor of mine find himself whisked away from Earth, in his own time period, and unceremoniously dumped onto a distant world in a distant future? How could this distant relative send this trunk, and the evidence to prove this was no hoax, back through Time?
Of course, perhaps, part of the answer lies in the Bermuda Triangle. It is only a few hundred miles to the southeast of where my grandfather lived in 1920. Oddly enough, in 1610 it is the place where my distant namesake apparently was whisked away from his home world by a strange power. But how? Who? And the most intriguing question of all—Why? Why was this strange power trying to communicate to me in 1920? Even my father had not been born in 1920. So how did Geoffery Clarke know he would eventually communicate with me over this vast distance?
There are far more questions than there are answers. I have no answers other than what Geoffery Clarke offers in his many manuscripts. But the questions are so enticing, and the adventures my distant relative had so wondrous, I felt compelled to have them published.
I leave to the reader whatever judgments they wish to take. All I do is faithfully record what my distant relative put down in his own handwriting. There are a dozen or so manuscripts in the trunk and my plans are to have them published one at a time. Perhaps in time an answer will be found. Answers which will explain the whys and hows of this perplexing phenomenon. But for now, all one can do is read . And believe.