This is the Prologue and Chapter One of a book (of sorts) I wrote a while back. Please tell me what you think:
Twelve Plus One
Book One: A Guide To Extremes
“Let us digress around hundred and fifty years: in the year 1857 a famous writer gave birth to a movement called ‘Realism’. His name is Gustave Flaubert (or however the French pronounce it!), and he wrote an extraordinary piece of work that some of us analyse today called: Madame Bovary. In a cliff note I found on the Internet, it says: “Flaubert depicted an entire segment of society and unmercifully analysed its people…” Which segment of society was analysed? “He created unforgettable characters from whom our own age can learn valuable and essential lessons…” Unforgettable characters in the form of a cheating wife who commits murder! It also states that: “…he took some mundane story and, thanks to his skill as a writer, demonstrated the potentialities of everyday life as a source of art…” …everyday life as a source of art!” (Introduction to ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’ More than a Movie Review, by CanguroArgentino@hotmail.com, 2006)
The rock floor was cold, grey and hard. They all just stood there, looking, staring at each other for the first time. Some were amazed, others stood open-mouthed, incredulous of what they were seeing, and two began crying, scared, lost, and unable to understand why they had suddenly blinked into that strange room. None of them knew each other; strangers trapped in a place they knew not how they had arrived.
It was an odd group of people, boys, girls, a young man and a young woman, dark-skinned, light-skinned, blondes, brunettes, a red head. Thirteen people all looking bewildered and scared.
The tallest male, a strong and handsome blonde figure, was the first to snap out of his stupor. He graciously shuffled towards the only apparent opening in that boxed room. It was a window-shaped space located high atop one of the tall stone walls. It had neither glass panes nor wooden borders, just an opening between the enormous rock bricks that made the wall. His hands, outstretched above his head, could not grasp the ledge, even on the tips of his toes. He tried finding a crack to place a foot, to hoist him that extra inch he needed, to no avail, it was too high to reach.
“What can you see?”
The voice shattered the awkward crying, breathing, sighing that had endured this long. Her voice seemed stronger than what she had anticipated, her eyes showing her own apprehension of how steady her question was released.
The tall blonde, standing directly below the opening, glanced quickly at where the voice had come from. Judging quickly who had spoken so clearly, he was amazed at her ability to speak when his mouth seemed so dry and unable to form coherent words. He stretched his neck as far as it could go and peered out the gap in the wall. As he wasn’t at a height to look down, he could only see what lay beyond the window-- in the distance.
“A forest…mountains…” He rasped, trying to form saliva to speak more clearly, “it looks like a picture on a postcard…it’s so green and colourful!”
A different voice echoed in the snug room. A boy’s voice: “It is Kenya. It is where I am from.”
“Kenya?” Many gasped, shocked and amazed at this outrageous claim. Clearly they were dubious about having been transferred so far from their homes.
A petite young boy made his way to the centre of the group.
“OK,” he said, “Let’s try to work this out. Where is everyone from? And, how do you think we got here? I’ll start…”
His analytical mind needed to piece the facts together, and from experience he believed sharing ideas was the best way to find solutions. He didn’t like standing out from the crowd, but this situation needed some kind of managing and he felt he was the only one able to do it.
No one commented on the language they were using, most for the very first time, yet they all understood each other perfectly, as if it were spoken throughout all time.
Chapter One: The Thinker
Part A: The End of the Beginning
Sam-Je was only thirteen, but even his teachers had observed he was much wiser than his peers. He came from a very humble home in Fairfield, a small suburb about 30 kilometres from the central business district of Sydney, Australia.
His parents, John and Mary, worked together in the local tiles factory, on and off, for the past twenty four years. Mary was John’s supervisor for the last ten years and had, just last year, become bedridden due to stress and anxiety. They had been together since leaving school at sixteen years of age. Their life together had been mostly hard and painful.
Through their many misconceptions, natural abortions and false pregnancies, they had fortified their bond and love for their only son, Sam-Je. His name was an amalgamation of all the other names John and Mary had thought of to name their lost children: Susan (died in the womb after only three months), Adam (a false pregnancy that lasted just six weeks), Mary-Jane (died at birth: cause unknown), and their penultimate intent at procreation, Elijah (which John mentioned as Mary missed her regular period, making her sob uncontrollably as this name was already in her mind for her last pregnancy with MJ, if she had been a boy). Therefore, not until Sam-Je was conceived, controlled and taken home that his unique name was decided upon.
Sam-Je’s parents raised him as if he were a blessing from God. After so much heartache and pain of losing their hopes and dreams, time after time, due to “unforseen circumstances” (as their councillor had called their struggle), Sam-Je was burdened with all their expectations and fears.
Mary had become overprotective of her son to a point where he could not even walk by himself, until he was at least five and a half. When he stood on his own two feet at eighteen months Mary scrambled around him placing cushions, pillows and blankets to break his fall. Her movements were so fast and jerky that they scared Sam-Je into a sitting position. He would not stand again until he was twenty months old. When he finally took his first steps Mary was right there to grab his hands after two small shuffles.
John was also protective of his son’s well-being and taped bubble-wrap to every piece of furniture that had sharp corners, curved corners, and protruding parts. When Sam-Je commenced crawling, John bought him a tiny helmet so that he wouldn’t hurt himself when bumping into things. When they had to go for a drive somewhere, something both Mary and John avoided unless it was inevitable, Sam-Je was strapped to his baby seat, helmet on, and a wall of bubble-wrap was placed over the window and the seat in front of him.
Many people who did not know what Mary had been through looked on with contempt, and those who were aware of her circumstances could not convince Mary to be any other way. John refused to listen to any advice and supported Mary’s decisions because he too believed Sam-Je was their last hope of having a family.
Sam-Je, on the other hand, didn’t know his name represented his parents’ previous misfortunes. What he did know was that his name presented a few misfortunes of its own. Ever since a little-known director from New Zealand had brought to life the forty-eight-year-old fantasy tale of J.R.R. Tolkien, with a leading hobbit character by the name of Samwise Gamgee, Sam-Je had suffered humiliating jokes, snide remarks, and unnecessary, let alone unfounded, comparisons to that short, strict, and somewhat annoying little hobbit that was to Frodo like Bonnie was to Clyde, albeit the same gender.
His name wasn’t the only contributing factor to his ‘loner’ attitude; his personality also played a vital part in his reclusion. As sports, playing outside near the traffic, and using blunt instruments such as bats, racquets and sticks, were extremely dangerous for an only son, Sam-Je’s physical development was limited. Lacking exercise to certain muscles, he trained one muscle more than the rest: his brain.
His indoors activities included watching television, reading from a very young age, playing games he’d invent, writing short stories for his own entertainment, and building complex structures with his enormous Lego collection. So when he took these skills to school, he found the only place to use them without being teased was in the library. So day after day, Sam-Je hid from his peers in the school’s library, and at the same time quenched his thirst for knowledge. The more he secluded himself from the world, the more he learnt about it through many significant books, novels, magazines and newspapers. His knowledge expanded laterally, not uniformly like many of his peers who became obsessed with one subject or topic and wouldn’t even think about anything else. Sam-Je liked delving into many subjects and topics, sometimes various ones at a time. He would be interested in rockets, for example, and then through the research on rocket building he would find that his interest diverged into combustion engine manufacturing, employee benefits in shift working positions, through to the cost of bread in other parts of the world. One thing would always lead him to another, and another, and so forth until something would lead him back to his first interest, like the rockets in the previous example.
The academic exams that measured IQ showed he wasn’t Einstein-smart; those scores told him he was average, or a little above average, according to his age. Sam-Je was knowledgeable, well-read, and quick-witted. The reason for his poor performance in controlled exam situations was his wandering mind. One question in an exam could send his mind wheeling to all sorts of ideas, concepts, theories and possible answers he had read from different perspectives than what the school had taught him.
By the time he reached high school Sam-Je’s inquisitive nature got him into more trouble than he needed. His constant questioning of his teachers, using real quotes from contradicting sources, made them all dread their fifty five minute lessons with him.
He would never accept an answer like: “because it is”, or “because that is the way it’s been forever”. In mathematics, for example, when he was in year 8, the straight-out-of-college, mid-20, tall, blonde, very intelligent young teacher he had, taught the class Pythagoras’ rule. Even though it was a scientifically proven, world-renown formula to obtain the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle, until Sam-Je proved it for himself, he would argue non-stop with his teacher:
“How did he work it out?”
“I don’t know, but it works and is used in maths the world over.”
“But what if he’s wrong?”
“He isn’t! The formula works…every time!”
“Did he measure every triangle he could draw or find?”
“He used his brain to work it out. He came up with the formula by calculating the figures involved.”
And so the battering of questions persisted until Sam-Je himself had drawn 100 different sized right-angle triangles and had calculated and measured the hypotenuse in each one. Because he was using his standard school ruler, his results were sometimes off by one or two millimetres. When he finally verified that the sum of the square of both sides equalled the square of the hypotenuse, he stopped arguing with the teacher and accepted the rule.
This was the way he tackled each and every piece of information he was given. It was doubtful until he could prove it valid. Except, of course, those which he deemed were immoral, mean, bad or dirty. He never stole a bike, though he did enjoy the adrenaline a couple of lollies provided from the corner store, which, in fact, he later paid back by purposely leaving his change. He even found a wallet once with a couple of hundred dollars in it, and he thought of everything he would buy with them, all the way to the police station to hand it in.
To quench his zest for knowledge, he had read books on history, geography, literature, fiction, philosophy, biographies, theology, sports, medicine, politics, and much more, but he couldn’t find his passion in any of them. His teachers, worried that he wouldn’t hone his skills, sent him a number of times to the school counsellor where he was tested for intelligence, career paths, and, Sam-Je was sure he had seen an Attention-Deficit Disorder checklist on the counsellor’s desk, but was never tagged with it, nor was he given a specific path to follow.
Sam-Je was special. ‘Weird, wonderful and unique’, as his parents would describe him, or simply ‘WWW’, which he tried to argue was incorrect but was always responded in the same fashion: “the last ‘w’ is silent in ‘wunique’. Sam-Je himself had trouble identifying exactly what or where his parents’ mind-frame came from.
I must interrupt the detailed description of Sam-Je’s life to inform the valued reader of the narrator’s unorthodox method of perception, as I’m sure you’ll be thinking: “what a strange description!”
The narrator is an entity which informs the reader of all the information necessary for the story’s development; an all-seeing, all-knowing persona, much like a guide that enhances a tour. This particular narrator is weighed down in its unbiased portrayal of events by three very important voices it hears as it is observing: the good, the bad, and the balanced voice of reason. Each voice has its own interpretation of an event and how the character has reacted from it. Sometimes, the three points of view intertwine in one long sentence and/or paragraph, making it hard for the reader to form a strong opinion of the event and/or character. As the three points of view, or voices, will not be identified, it is up to the reader to assume which is which. Even the characters sometimes listen to the wrong voices and are lead astray by their persuasiveness.
Furthermore, you may read this story in differing layers, defined by interpretations of events by different viewpoints. Even if the characters choose a different path than the one you might have chosen, each of their decisions will be justified by their unique thought process. Sooner or later they will learn lessons that will guide them to the right voice, but until that time, your patience is greatly appreciated.
Ergo, Sam-Je’s childhood was littered with ‘events’ that made his disposition for learning all the more insatiable. His at-the-moment passions were varied and numerous. At the time when this story occurred, he was perfecting his skills on a computer game called Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones.
He also had a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm or desire for reading texts reserved for people thrice (39) his age, watching, analysing and reviewing movies, collecting comic books, magazines, figurines, and dinosaur models. Please forgive my broad observations as I don’t believe some details are detrimental to the character’s development, like a physical description. It doesn’t matter if Sam-Je was skinny, chubby, fat, long-haired, black-haired, wore glasses or dressed in clothes two sizes bigger than him, his attitude towards life, as defined by his upbringing and perspective make a much more in-depth portrait than me telling you what he looked like. Imagine someone you know, who thinks or acts similar to Sam-Je for a mental picture of the character.
Sam-Je’s solitary existence at the school’s library extended to his home where most afternoons were spent locked up in his bedroom, avoiding the yelling and fighting his parents engaged in over trivial matters, such as who had paid the bills, whose turn it was to buy a carton of beer, packet of smokes, or the milk that week. These incidents, however, didn’t impinge on his belief that he was happy. Who are we to assume a pig isn’t happy with his mud just because we don’t like the mess?
His life was built on routines. He had come to a firm conclusion that if anything in his life wasn’t made up of certain rules and restrictions, his theories, goals, or aspirations would fail. This perspective came about from his extensive reading where every famous writer, poet, actor, philosopher, inventor, sportsperson, scientist, leader, guide and guru had prepared a plan, stuck to it whatever their obstacle to reach their dream. So, from peeing to fleeing the bullies at school, Sam-Je had worked out a schedule- a plan of sorts.
To exemplify this, his normal school day consisted of the following routines, in the following order; wake up at 6 a.m., toilet, shower, self-prepared breakfast, brush teeth, make lunch, pack school bag, take out trash, watch cartoons until 8:15 a.m., walk to school library until bell, classes, morning tea, library, classes, lunch, library, classes until end of school bell, library until 3:15 p.m., walk home, empty schoolbag, do his homework, make tea, watch TV for an hour, read in his room or play on his computer for an hour, dinner, wash up, freeze popper for next day, brush teeth, toilet, read in bed until 9:15 p.m., sleep. And thus he believed his life was on route to greatness, or somewhere in that vicinity.
The day he decided to be ‘naughty’ and took a longer, more scenic route to school was the last he remembered before ending up in that strange castle-like room with the other twelve strangers.
While the doctors informed his parents of his undefined state of coma, due to the impact of the vehicle, Sam-Je was taking control of his life in a far-away, mystical, magical place.