A Difficult Mirror – Preview

A Difficult Mirror by Benjamin X. WretlindWell, it’s getting closer to the time when I release A DIFFICULT MIRROR to the masses. When will that be? When I’m ready, of course. The book may have been written for decades and then edited for nearly as long, but I want to be sure it’s the product I envisioned. (Heck, even if it’s not the product I envisioned, I would like it to be nothing less than darn-tooting good.)

To give you a glimpse at the novel, here’s an excerpt. This portion doesn’t open the book, but it’s near the front. Enjoy…and keep your eyes peeled for the release of the novel. Coming! Soon! Very! (“Like” my Facebook author page for constant updates/badgering: http://www.facebook.com/bxwretlind/)


The headlights of the car illuminated a naked man standing in a puddle of water. He raised his arms up in the glare of the lights then collapsed. The blue Honda swerved as Marie Evans jerked the steering wheel to the right and stomped on the brake pedal. Gravel flew, and the car came to a rest with a soft jolt. The engine let out a sigh of relief, a sputter of agony, and finally fell silent.

Marie gripped the steering wheel of the car, too terrified to move. Shaking, she peered through the windshield. One of her hands left the wheel and mechanically pushed away a tangle of blond hair to wipe away the drool running from the corner of her open mouth.

As she stared, swirling thoughts in her mind coalesced into some form that made no sense whatsoever. Had she hit him? Was he dead? She could barely see the man in front of her, just a dark shape curled in a fetal position.

Breathe.

Okay.

Dark, gravel road, trees, and a naked man in a puddle of water.

Breathe. That’s better. I see the trees.

Naked man.

Crazy people.

Did I hit him?

Pretty trees.

Marie pushed back another strand of hair and tucked it behind her ear. She bit her lip. Naked men lying in puddles in the middle of nowhere may not be friendly naked men.

Breathe.

This sounds like a movie: The Naked Man.

What to do? What to do? What to…

The Naked Man moved. He lifted his head up from the puddle and looked at Marie. His eyes squinted at the light blazing from the front of the car. He pushed himself up on his hands, appeared to give up trying to stand as his arms buckled, then rolled over onto his back. From where Marie sat, the man looked pale—almost as pale as the knuckles on her hands, which now crushed the steering wheel. She thought she could see a small trail of blood mixed with rainwater trickle down his face.

The Naked Man looked like he just woke up from a long nap. He brought his hands up and rubbed his eyes. A tiny ring on his right little finger caught the headlights for a moment.

Marie relaxed her grip on the steering wheel and sighed. Her mind struggled to find a safe, sound solution to get her out of this situation, but between the trees and the Naked Man, she kept drawing blanks as to what should be done.

Breathe.

The Naked Man sat up and screamed, his face contorted in pain.

Marie jumped in her seat and let loose a squeal of her own. Quickly, she covered her mouth to prevent additional outbursts from startling the Naked Man. She drew a deep breath, afraid to let it out. Her heart pounded faster and faster.

Okay. The Naked Man lying in the puddle is screaming.

Breathe, Marie. Breathe.

Marie let her breath out slowly. She could try to restart the car, turn around, and drive like crazy to get away, but the Naked Man looked injured and might need help. She had taken her share of first-aid classes and was prepared to offer help to injured strangers, but none of them covered how to help Screaming Naked Men in puddles.

I don’t know, she thought, but inside something told her to get out of the car, walk over to the Screaming Naked Man and discover the problem. Her mind battled back and forth, until she finally mustered enough courage to step out and face her fears.

Do what you fear. Silly mantra.

The Naked Man stopped screaming as the car door opened. Marie watched him wipe his face and look in her direction.

“Are you okay?” Marie found her voice weak, almost lost in the lump in her throat. She slowly walked closer, size 5 boots crunching the gravel underfoot.

The Naked Man closed his eyes. Aside from the strangeness of it all, he looked like she really had hit him. Blood mixed with muddy water and trickled from wounds unseen. A feeling of guilt rushed through Marie as she edged a little closer.

Another step forward and the Naked Man opened his eyes. Marie found herself within six feet. As she squatted down, he looked up at her.

“Are you okay?” Marie asked again, with the same waver in her voice. Uncertainty hung in the air for a few seconds, and the man stared back at her with bright blue eyes.

The Naked Man opened his mouth to speak, but stopped short. He hung his head, closed his eyes again, and finally mustered enough strength to get his words out. “I think so.”

Marie’s mind whirled through every scenario which would put her in immediate danger, both by being out of the car and by offering help. She studied him a little closer, looking for any sign of fractures or joints out of place. She could see nothing but the blood trickling down his pale skin.

“I know a little first-aid,” she said. “Are you hurt?”

God that sounded stupid. Surely that was the right pick up line you practiced on lifeless manikins in the classroom.

The Naked Man wiped his forehead with a muddy forearm and looked back at Marie. She caught those eyes with her own and found herself locked, as if the man’s bright blue could beckon her to a peaceful world away from the nightmare world of her own life. Those eyes spoke to her—paragraphs describing wonders she couldn’t understand, words punctuated by vast emotion. In that brief moment as their eyes met, she began to relax and feel comforted by his presence… as if she had known him all her life.

“I need some water,” the Naked Man whispered, drawing Marie out of her trance.

A smile crept across Marie’s face. “How about a blanket, too? You can’t be all that comfortable sitting naked in a puddle in southern Alaska.”

The Naked Man nodded, then turned and looked the other way, toward the lights of a city not too far away. “Where did you say I was?”

Marie opened her mouth to answer but paused first. Maybe he was just delirious. Maybe this was a bad idea after all. “Alaska. Just north of Anchorage.”

The Naked Man seemed to digest the information. Slowly, he pushed himself up on his knees, placed a foot forward, and tried to stand.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Marie asked. “You look a little beaten.”

“Fine.”

“I know it may not be my place, but… what happened?”

The Naked Man stood up straight and brushed some mud and blood off his arms and chest. He was built, so much so that Marie reveled in that fact. She caught herself, and turned her eyes up, her cheeks warm.

The Naked Man looked at Marie, and cocked his head to the right. He repeated the gesture to the left, like a giant rising from a nap on a tiny couch. “I fell.”

Marie’s stomach sank as the tone of the man’s voice changed. It was now clear and powerful, as if he hadn’t been injured at all. She looked into his eyes to find the comfort she thought was there, but the longer she stared, the more the eyes turned dark, then empty. As her heart quickened, the eyes dug deep into Marie and ripped out any feeling of relaxation she might have briefly felt, replacing it with sheer terror.

She took a step back. The car was her only salvation. If she could get inside, she could lock the door and get out of there as quickly as possible.

“I forgot my place for a moment,” the Naked Man said, his voice clear and distinct. “I’m sorry. I don’t think I’ve introduced myself.” He put his hand out in greeting. “My name is David.”

Marie took another step back, mentally counting the distance to the safety of her car. One more step? Two? Ten?

“Correct me if I’m wrong here,” David said, inching forward. “Your name is Marie, right?”

Seven steps. Marie turned and ran, thankful the door was still open. Her trembling hands fumbled with the key still in the ignition.

She slammed the door shut and turned the key. “Come on…”

With a sputter of agony, her little car came to life. The Naked Man—now David—took another step forward, directly in front of Marie’s getaway.

“You don’t know what you’re missing,” David called out over the rumble of the car.

Instinctively, Marie’s foot left the clutch as she stomped on the accelerator. The front tires spun in the loose gravel then finally caught hold.

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