Most of those dead ends were captured on paper. I've got a couple old notebooks full of stuff, because I'd write everything out longhand, either on the train, or at home, or even (sorry again, Floor Focus) during down times at the magazine where I worked at the time. When I had a chance I would transcribe everything on the computer. Usually what made it on to the computer was edited and changed within the same document, so I only had the final version.
Or so I thought. Turns out, I've got a couple early versions kicking around on my hard drive. I'd totally forgotten about them. So imagine my surprise when I opened one to find that it contained a totally different opening daydream scene than what made it into the book! The final version of chapter one is actually the first three chapters I'd originally written, edited down into one. I posted the first part of it a while back.
In this version, the dream ha a totally different theme than the final one--one of those dead ends that I'd run into. But I'd totally forgotten I'd written it. It's like it came from an alternate universe or something!
So, I thought that maybe it would be fun to share the alternate beginning with you. The general idea is the same, but it's a totally different dream! Eric's name was originally Christian, after my son--that I remember! Check it out.
A Strange Meeting
He strode through the dense underbrush, hacking his way through with a machete. As he led his party deeper into the virgin Brazilian rainforest, Christian Scott chafed that he did not have a firmer idea of what lay ahead. Lush foliage surrounded and covered the explorers. Trees hung over them, hiding the blue sky above and blocking out all but a dim, greenish light, while monkeys chattered and exotic bird calls filled the air. The explorers’ shirts, dripping with sweat, clung to their backs. Christian made a decision. He stopped and turned to address the small party of five adventurers.
“We can’t go any further without some idea of what we’re heading into,” he said. “I’m gonna go up to take a look.”
He went to the nearest tree, a large Brazilian walnut, and climbed up, up, up to the top, scraping his hands and shins on the scaly bark. From this vantage point, it appeared that the jungle was neverending—running unbroken up into mist covered mountains ahead. Wait, what was that? Christian squinted from his perch among the leaves. It appeared to be a plume of smoke not too far ahead of them and over to the right, rising and mingling with the steamy mist. He remembered his binoculars hanging around his neck and raised them to his eyes.
Yes, there was no doubt, it was definitely smoke. It came from a clearing, which was ringed with thatched huts. In the center, a huge bonfire burned. Dancing around the fire were many natives carrying spears and bows. They were naked to the waist and their bronze skin was painted in multicolored designs. That looked like trouble. What should they do?
Christian stood in his tree fort and peered through his binoculars into the clearing, which was really Heather Schwartz’s back yard. Heather wore a lace dress and sat with her dolls at a rickety card table drinking tea and eating cake. A pink and blue plastic tea set was arranged on a white linen tablecloth that was draped over the table. He lowered the binoculars and wrinkled his nose, making his freckles scrunch together and his brown eyes squint—a look his mother hated.
Heather Schwartz lived in the house behind his, beyond the meadow that filled half his back yard. She was always playing games like tea party and house and trying to get him to play, too. She would be the mommy and make him be the daddy so she could boss him around. He hated that, and it was all because she was eleven and a half, while he was only eleven. He hated those games. She never wanted to play anything he liked, like explorer or pirates. Why did Heather have to be such a...girl?
He sighed and turned to survey the interior of the tree fort, his pride and joy—a place where he could be alone. He and his father had built it in a big oak tree that stood in the meadow in his back yard. The tree went right through the center of the fort, through the floor and up through the roof. Boards were nailed horizontally to the tree trunk, forming a ladder that was used to climb up into the fort. There were large windows in each of the four walls. The remaining wall space was covered with maps of the continents and posters showing cutaway views of the pyramids and Inca temples.
Christian flopped down on the many cushions that covered the floor, took a National Geographic from the stack that stood on an old end table (a donation to the tree fort from his parents). He leafed through the cover article about an expedition into the Brazilian rainforest and shook his head. He loved to read about far away, newly explored places. He longed to explore and chart some unexplored jungle himself one day. It seemed there was nowhere on Earth that was totally unexplored anymore.
When he was little, his yard had been all the adventure he needed. Half of his back yard was a meadow that stretched back to a line of trees, separating it from the Schwartz’s yard. Trees also screened out the neighbors on either side of the white ranch where he and his parents lived. The back lawn near the house was home to three knarled old chestnut trees that were huge and perfect for climbing. The front lawn and driveway sloped down to a busy street, while the left side of the front yard angled steeply down to a stream that flowed alongside the road, through a huge drainpipe under his driveway and out the other side. Trees grew thickly all along this ridge, screening the house from passing traffic.
The yard was a wonderful place to explore, but soon it became too familiar, and he set his sights on other areas of exploration. Candlewood Corners, the small town in Connecticut where he lived, had many acres of trails and open land. He and his parents spent hours hiking, swimming and camping. Now, even that wide expanse was starting to lose its mystery.
“Everything is boring,” he sighed, a strange statement for a boy of eleven to make. But then, he was only eleven.
Christian ran his hand through his tousled red hair, gazed out the window and saw something remarkable. Perched on a branch was a large, snowy white owl. It gazed at him serenely through large round golden eyes. Wow, an owl, right outside the window! And in the daytime, too. That was strange, he thought, no longer bored. You almost never see owls during the day. Things were going to get stranger, because as Christian was thinking this, the owl spoke.
The conversation between Christian (Eric) and Stig is pretty much the same as the final version. I've got one or two other goodies that never made it into the book, which I'll be sharing with you in the future.
What do you think about the discarded dream?