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The Tunnel

This is a short story with a religious theme, hope you enjoy 

The Tunnel

            The crash took me by surprise, and I checked myself over. There were a few cuts and bruises, but I felt fine. I crawled out of the car through the window and onto the road, mum and dad were already there.

“Are you ok?” mum asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, although I was shaken.

“Sit at the side of the road for a moment, I need to ask you dad some questions.” I obeyed without arguing, I was too stunned.

The car was a wreck in the ditch, but I did not look too closely, rather sat on a hillock as mum and dad spoke in hushed tones together. In time they returned with half smiles.

“We’re going to wait in the woods for the ambulances and police to turn up,” mum said. Dad led as we crossed through a gap in the trees to where there was a clearing.

It was a gentle place, the sun filtered through the leaves, sending dappled warm light on a the lush green grass where Christmas Roses and Columbines grew. There was the sound of birds calling and singing among the trees, and an aura of calm. A gentle hill marked the edge of the clearing, and a metal bench was opposite, set against the trunk of a large cedar tree. Mum sat on the bench, and I went to the hill.

I saw there was a large animal hole and I peered into it and saw it trailed off into the distance of the mound.

“Dad, we could fit in here, shall we see what’s in here?” I asked. I expected him to say no. We did not know what animal would live in such a large hole.

“Sure, but you go first,” he said. “There may be a monster in there,” he joked.

“Are you coming, mum?” She shook her head.

“You go. I may be along later.” I did not think mum would come, she was not really into getting dirty and would be quite happy sitting in the gentle clearing.

I went first, crawling on hands and knees, I entered the tunnel. I felt a surge of excitement. Although the ground was damp cool mud, it was firm and comfortable. The smell was pleasant, and roots had formed around the walls of the tunnel, but none barred our way. We said nothing as we made out way along the tunnel. Finally I saw some light ahead.

“There’s light ahead,” I mumbled with a furrowed brow. Dad said nothing. I was not even sure he was still with me, but the tunnel was too narrow to look back.

The light was from the end of the tunnel, and I emerged into the forest, although I knew instantly that this was not the same woodland.

The air was cool, the sky deep blue, and the first tree that I saw was a huge elm tree, but about it were fir trees. There was an old woman sat on a rocking chair before a thatched timber framed and roses surrounded the low doorway. She looked up as I emerged from the hole and put aside her knitting.

“I have waited many years for you,” she said, unsurprised at my appearance from the hole. I looked about and saw dad was beside me, smiling broadly and I thought I saw a tear in his eye. The woman seemed familiar, although I was not sure where from. “And you,” she continued, pointing at me, “you have become a handsome young man, like your dad was at your age. How old are you?”

“Fourteen,” I said. She nodded, and looked at dad.

“Over there is Paul, he will show you the way to the castle.”

I saw now a man holding a staff and was dressed in purple and blue. He was short, with a long hooked nose, a bald head and eyes brows that met. He smiled on hearing his name, and I saw that his eyes, although red rimmed, were gentle and kind. The sun was behind him, shining about his head.

“Come, follow me,” he said with a heavy accent. As we followed, the trees dropped back, and I saw a wide range of mountains.

There were beautiful snow capped mountains stretching into the distance, and birds soared high above. A castle was in the distance, tall turrets thrust skyward and pennants fluttering in a gentle cool wind.

Shortly along the path we passed a house that was a simple wooden home, low fronted with large doors on an annex which were thrown open to reveal a workshop.

“Dad, that’s like your ideal house there. You always tell mum you would love a simple life with a workshop so you can make things.”

“Yes, it’s a wonderful home there,” he said. Paul paused and turned to us, a gentle smile on his lips. We said no more, but continued our way. Paul walked quickly, despite having crooked legs and in time we reached the gates of the castle.

There were two large doors, but they were open. The walls of the castle were white; a christogram of IHS was carved into the stone above the gateway.

Inside, the entrance hall was large with golden stairs rising up either side. There was a table, covered in delicious food. I could hear constant singing, and it was so beautiful. The song went deep into my heart, making me smile as I heard it, warming me to the core. Dad was smiling too.

“It is fantastic here,” he said.

“Yes,” I replied, “there is nothing wrong at all.”

“Please,” said Paul, “eat your fill. Even you, Jack, can have the wine.” It never occurred to me that Paul knew my name, for I was too interested getting a glass of wine. At home, I had only been allowed wine at Christmas.

I took a plate of food and a glass of wine, and sat to eat with Paul and dad. Then some other men came in, and there were ten others. They all looked wise but friendly and normally I was shy, but they quickly set me at ease.

As I spoke to Paul on my right and dad on my left, I overheard some snippets of conversations;

“He will arrive soon. The king is coming.” I was about to meet a king. I thought I must be dreaming, for the place was surreal, but if it was a dream I did not mind, for the place was too wondrous.

After a feast like none other that I have had, I stepped outside with Paul and dad. I looked out across the endless mountains, where forests nestled around the foothills and snow capped their peaks. In the far distance I could see the tops of a city and it seemed to glow as if made of gold. There was no sun, but it was warm and light. I glanced at my watch and saw that it had stopped.

“What time is it?” I asked.

“Soon it will be time to meet the king,” Paul replied. I frowned at his answer, but he continued. “We should go back to the house.”

I was a little disappointed, but I knew we had to get back to mum. We took the short journey back along the path, but stopped at the wooden shack. The old woman was there now, waiting.

“You go in, son, get the kettle on,” dad said. I went to the front door, it was open slightly but there was no handle. Dad would be able to fix that easily. Inside, it was surprisingly comfortable.

There was a stove in the corner, although it was not lit, with a pile of wood in a basket alongside. A table in the middle had six chairs, and the wall had a hanging. There was clutter all about, and I passed from here into a kitchen. It was neat, and I saw an Aga cooker. Taking the kettle, I looked for a tap, but there was none. Instead I looked out of the window and saw that there was pump.

“Dad should buy this place, it’s so rustic,” I said to myself. I was about to leave to get the water when I heard a knock at the door.

“Come in!” I called, but the reply was another knock at the door. Placing the kettle on the table I saw a figure at the door.

I opened the door and saw a tall man with long dark brown hair, a full beard and piercing kind brown eyes. He wore all white and the light behind him illuminated his head as it had Paul’s.

“Hello Jack,” he said. “You know who I am.” His voice was gentle and although he spoke, the words seemed to be in my mind and heart as well.

“Yes,” I replied, although I had never met him before, “you are the Lord Jesus.” Stunned I stepped back, “come in.” And as he stepped into the room, so it was that light followed him, I looked about the room again.

I noticed that there was a shelf with a picture of me, dad and mum. There was a pair of boots in the corner that were dads, and on the table, his cup that I bought him at father’s day. In front of the now lit stove was a black dog, and I knew it was Kruger, our Great Dane, who had died two years ago. He and dad had been inseparable.

“What…?”

“You have let me in, and now you see the Truth,” Jesus said. “Come.” He took me outside, and dad and the woman were waiting, Paul had left. I looked to the sky and saw that they were not eagles soaring high, but angels in many colours, although with human faces they were beautiful beyond words.

“Dad, what is going on?” I asked, tears in my eyes.

“You know where we are,” he said.

“Heaven? That means I am dead.”

“No, Jack, not you. Sorry, but I never walked away from that crash.”

I had tears in my eyes, and was sad, but also I was not sad. There can be no sadness in Heaven.

“I wanted to show you that I will be fine. One day we’ll be together again.”

“The tunnel, we came through that together.”

“I was not with you. My tunnel was filled with light until I got here. Now you must go, mum needs you.” I threw my arms around him, a great tight hug, tears spilling down, but with a warmth knowing he would be happy.

“Let me lead you back to the tunnel,” Jesus spoke. So it was he led me, along the path, past the thatched cottage, to the tunnel.

“So it is,” Jesus spoke. I entered the tunnel, and moved quickly along it. When I emerged, mum was still sat on the bench. I could see through the trees, the flashing of ambulance lights. Mum rose from the bench and took my hand.

“Come on, let’s go home,” was all she said. It was all she needed to say.

©Copyright Alan Grace 2014

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Character Creation or stuck for ideas?

Character Creation or stuck for ideas?

©Alan Grace

One of the first parts of writing for me is character creation. It also helps sometimes when stuck for a new story to create several characters and see what happens to them I have included a sample character John ‘Lizard’ McGrath. I made him up as a ‘stream of conscience’ in about half an hour, so it need not take long. Obviously he can be ‘fine tuned’ at a later date.

 

Sample Character

John ‘Lizard’ McGrath

John McGrath was born to a poor family in Southampton, and has two older brothers, (Patrick and Jamie) and a younger sister Daisy. His dad left when he was two, and his mum struggled to bring them up alone. When he was twelve, his mum married Ethan Edwards. He turned out to be an abusive drunk, and when John was fifteen, he took a hit too many and fought back, breaking his step dad’s jaw before he ran away.

John spent four years on the street, getting into trouble with the police for fighting and theft. When he was nineteen he met Father Jake Thompson, a Catholic minister. He helped him though his drug and alcohol problems, although John still had a terrible anger. He joined the army, getting into the SAS, and served in the Gulf War, then in Northern Ireland and the invasion of Iraq.

It was in Iraq that he was blown up by a roadside bomb, and lost an eye. He was offered a false eye, by decided to have a patch instead. He left the army on medical grounds becoming a reporter.

He became embroiled in many stories he was covering. In 2010, he saved the life of a high ranking police officer who was the target of the RIRA. When he was covering the 2012 London Olympics, he uncovered a plot by anarchists who were planning to release a nerve agent over the Olympic Village.

He got the nickname ‘Lizard’ from his army days, when he was in the SAS, his ability to conceal himself was like a Chameleon.

Name: John McGrath

DOB: 03/07/1970

POB: Southampton

Occupation: Reporter

Height: 6ft 2”

Weight: 13stone

Eyes: Dark Brown

Hair: Brown with a few flecks of grey.

Appearance: John is quite a character; he is blind in his right eye and wears a patch with a lizard symbol on. His nose has a small scar on, and he rarely smiles. He is scruffy, often with stubble and short spiky hair.

Religion: Catholic – Quite devout.

Family: He is not close to his brothers as they turned against him when he left home and was an alcoholic. He is very close to his sister Daisy. He hardly ever talks to his mum, who he has never forgiven for marrying Ethan. He was fond of his gran, but she died when he was in Iraq – something he feels guilt for.

Friends; Closet friend is Father Jake Thompson, who has given him a reason to live and introduced him to his faith. He has many friends from his days in the army, although he is not very close to them, as he finds it hard to trust people. He does get on well with Charlie Fitzgerald who he went through army training with.

Enemies: He hated Ethan Edwards, his step dad, and fell out with fellow reporter Laura Johnson. Some of his operations in the SAS and later as a reporter has made him some dangerous enemies.

Interests/like: John likes anything to do with the military, and builds military models. He also enjoys go-karting and rugby. He likes the USA and admires the Ghurkhas.

Dislikes: He dislikes gambling on religious grounds, and is tee-total and against drugs due to his past. He hates fishing, finding it boring, and hates the Welsh.

Personality: John is often withdrawn and solemn, he smiles rarely. He distrusts all but those closest to him. However, he is totally loyal to people and would do anything he can to look after them. He is quick to anger, and this has often resulted in violence.

Dreams/ambitions: John would like to settle down one day and marry, but he enjoys his job too much. He has occasionally thought about joining the clergy.

 

Character Creation or stuck for ideas?

Creation:

Character creation is simple, and almost like creating a character in Dungeons and Dragons. (Actually on some characters in the past, I have used the Warhammer character creation for this!) During the course of writing a story, I often learn more about my characters so I add details as I go. Maybe the character will mention that he likes orange juice, so will add that.

I start with the character’s Christian names from looking at baby name websites. I choose a name which has images of what he looks like. Names are related to personalities. ‘John’ is quite a tough name –such as John Wayne, John McClane (die Hard) or John-117 (Halo).  Other names in the character profile was very random but appropriate to background (nationality, ethnicity, age)

Next I move to physical details, so I know what the character looks like. From his name, I will have some ideas already. This will have hair colour, eye colour etc. If I am writing a novel and the character is important, I would probably draw a picture of him

The background was made up as I went. I only slowed to check a few details such as dates of the Gulf war; I did not want him to be three when he went to war! As this was a random character I did not need to write any pre-made story about him. I did want him to be a little different so he had no right eye. A background is important as, unless writing about a newborn, everyone has ‘done stuff’ before the story begins. It also helps mould their personality and motivations. Look at yourself – why do you like and think this and that?

All people, even evil dictators or brave soldiers have families and interests and views of the world. No one is totally evil or totally perfect. John’s likes would have to be appropriate to his job – no point being lazy and fat when he is a reporter and former SAS soldier. What he dislikes can be wide ranging. He could have been a frothing racist, or dislike baked beans. I chose him to dislike gambling which fits with his faith, and having been through the horrors of alcohol and drugs, it is very likely he would dislike that. The dislike of the Welsh was only to be a rounded character. Even people who claim not to be racist often dislike someone (Many English dislike the French.) Of course how this dislike manifests itself remains to be seen. Does he hate them to a degree he would not work with them? Does he call them nasty names or just distrust them? As a hero of a story, it cannot be too nasty. He was going to dislike the Irish, having served in Northern Ireland, but then being Catholic it may not have been appropriate.

Dreams are what drive people. Why does he not just stay in bed all day? This is important for a story as it affects how people act. Despite his tough lifestyle, he is possibly a romantic at heart and would love a wife and kids.

Stuck on a Story? – Or Where to Go now?

Ok, so if you are stuck on a story, you could create a random character like this, but where to go next? Look over the character and he will write a story for you. Here are a few ideas on John:

  • He is struggling with Post Traumatic Stress
  • He is struggling with his faith
  • An enemy comes to kill/blackmail him. Maybe from his SAS mission or reporting.
  • He uncovers a major threat while reporting – terrorism, drug trafficking, assassination attempt etc (think action films!)
  • The story of his attempt to become a member of the clergy.
  • His love life
  • He is recalled for ‘one last job’ by the SAS (as obviously there is no one else who can do it.)
  • He is decorated for his action.
  • His mum dies and there is dispute or resolution with Ethan Edwards.
  • Expand on his enemy Laura Johnson – why do they not get on?
  • Tell the story of his fight in Iraq where he lost his eye.
  • He wants to repair his relationship with family

Ok, so you get the picture. It can be almost any genre you like, a short story or a novel. To expand further, use several components; he has to go back to Iraq, but is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress, or he has to work with a Welsh man. Maybe he has to cover a story with Laura Johnson. Or maybe, he is getting an MBE from the Queen but uncovers a terrorist plot or feels guilty and wants his mum to be there. He would have to make up with her and try to have some kind of relationship with Ethan.

The likes and interests also help set scenes. It expands scope of where people can meet up and also who their friends would be. It is probable that John has friends who also enjoy rugby as well, and he could meet some at the local rugby pitch and talk to them, or meet a potential girlfriend at the Go-Karting track.

So that is just a few ideas if you want to create characters or are stuck for ideas on what to write next. Play around, and most importantly – HAVE FUN!