My partner and I still do not have the novel ready, but here is the short story that started (or is starting) it all.
The bullet tore flesh from his left shoulder. Akira Tanaka yelped in pain but quickly regained his focus. He had been shot before and knew he would be shot again if he didn’t keep quiet. He took a moment to control his breathing and glance at the bloody wound. It was a lucky shot; he had been out of their line of sight.
Tanaka’s daughter has been kidnapped. He must face a group of determined yakuza to save her. This fast-paced 7,500 word story is the first in a series of thrilling adventures featuring Tanaka.
“Well written and puts you into the action right away.” – Larry LaVoie, author of Leap of Faith and other suspense/thriller/mystery novels.
The Temporal Chapter Two by CJ Martin (Right click to download)
(If this is the first section you’ve heard, See the Prologue Podcast)
Sam’s new job would begin later in the month. This gave him time to find an apartment and, of course, time to explore Japan. The hotel concierge helped him order shinkansen—bullet train—tickets to Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. The return trip would be a scenic route back through the Hokuriku area in central Japan.
It was August, the time of the Obon festival when everyone traveled, the concierge warned. Sam was fine with that. He wasn’t in a particular hurry and thought it therapeutic to be around crowds of unfamiliar distractions.
The next morning at the station, with a little help from a kind and elderly gentleman and a kid eager to practice his English, he found the correct train and waited in a line that led him directly to his seat.
In the train, his mind wandered aimlessly in search of an anchor. At times it seemed he didn’t have the strength to stop it from latching on to his wife—his ex-wife. (He had a hard time accepting that simple change of title.)
The announcement music began, snapping him back to reality. A tinny, speaker-tainted voice announced the next stop in Japanese.
Two elementary school girls giggled at seeing “Fuji-san” for the first time. Sam closed his eyes and was back in his childhood. He and his classmates had climbed that active volcano several times.
Living in Shizuoka prefecture, it was his school’s yearly summer field trip. Well, the bus would drive them up to level four and they would hike to level five. This is how they “climbed” Mt. Fuji. Still, even this short hike was enough to exhaust the young Sam. The air was thin and with every step, it became thinner.
Thoughts of his classmate’s laughter and the tossing of volcanic rock at the crows gave way to fleeting images of recent events mixed with absurd abstract notions that seem so sensible to a half-asleep mind. This continued until the announcement music brought him back to the train and Osaka was just ahead.
He got off and did the touristy stuff, not really sure about his direction. He came across and boarded an English tour bus. He heard all about Osaka Castle and that big crab in mid-town Osaka. But his mind kept wandering Stateside. Self-pity engulfed his thoughts. Nothing could penetrate this shroud of darkness it seemed—not even the sharp pincers of that giant crab.
A day or two later, he boarded a train to get to Kyoto and found a hotel for the night. After that, it was Hiroshima, but it was no matter. His mind was ever sinking, and his spirit was crushed under the weight of failure and betrayal. No change of scenery reciprocated a change of mind. But onward he went.
Hokuriku was different. He took local trains stopping at every minor town. A business man in his forties sat next to him all the way through Fukui prefecture. Unusually bubbly and eager to strike up a conversation with a foreigner, the man provided a welcomed distraction from Sam’s melancholy. The man had been on a week-long business trip; a week away from his family. The businessman stepped off at Eiheiji in northern Fukui leaving Sam to contemplate the meaning of the word, “family.”
In short order, Sam got off the train at Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture. It was a typical August morning in Japan: humid with no healing breeze. He found an information desk at the station and asked for an English guide to the sights around Ishikawa.
He had been here once before. His parents took him to Kenrokuen—one of the three great gardens of Japan, he was told. As a child he glossed over the controlled natural beauty of the garden. At thirty-five, he would have another look.
A young girl, surely on her first summer job, took his money and handed him his ticket. It had a full color photo of the park in the winter just as he had remembered it. The snow covered rock gardens, stone bridge, and roped trees he saw as a child instructed him how beauty—and by extension, love—needed to be restrained and cultivated. But it was now a hot, eternal summer and the trees were left naked and free. This led his thoughts back to his wife; was he too controlling or not enough? He knew the trees were trying to teach him something, but he wasn’t sure what it was.
Following the instructions on the tourist guide, he took a bus to Noto Peninsula. Noto boldly sticks out the top of Ishikawa prefecture into the Sea of Japan. Sam wanted to be bold.
They stopped at a small building that served as a bus stop. The sounds and smell of an unseen beach were strong and nearby.
The Japanese characters on a paper pinned to a board caught his eye. He started to ask someone what it meant, but thought it better to leave the mystery intact for now. He began jotting down a rough representation of the kanji to look up later.
He only copied a single character when a clock chimed and distracted him. He heard it ring one, two, three… He knew it had to be ten o’clock, but he continued counting anyway… six, seven, eight…
Somewhere between nine and ten, time stopped. The earth, a hungry lion, groaned. There seemed to be a pause, a preamble to the inevitable, like the moment after an orchestra tunes the strings but before the performance begins—an overwhelming silence.
In a moment seemingly outside time, he relived his birth. He didn’t have time to think of the oddity of it. In fact, it seemed there was no time involved. It was more of a holistic feeling; not a thought or memory, but something he just understood instinctively. He experienced his mother’s mixture of extreme pain and joy, seemingly opposite feelings in perfect harmony.
Then the rubber band snapped.
All the pent-up energy imploded inside him. Time had no hold on him. Sam, for that one moment, seemed to float outside his body; see all things, hear all things. His senses were heightened and time slowed if it existed at all. A terrible sound; of trumpets; a thousand percussion; brass instruments; simultaneously striking a crescendo of vastly discorded notes. The sound waves were even visible to Sam’s eyes as they blasted him with extraordinary force into a newly formed cavity. The building next to him collapsed and showered him with debris and large chunks of earth.