There’s a lot on my plate, and not as much time as I’d like to write on this blog, so I thought I’d leave you with a snippet of some of the rewritten material from The Dream King’s Daughter. My mother, in editing the first draft, said that the final confrontation between Aurora and the Dream King in the Dream King’s “castle” had to be more surreal, and that previously, the Dream King’s headquarters were too mundane. I’ve tried to work on that. And here is some of what I have…
The door slammed. Darkness took her. She lay a long moment in blind silence, not even sure if she had a body.
Gradually, she became aware of her heart racing. She lay a moment longer, breathing slowly while the beats slowed down. Finally, she sat up. “Where am I?”
She reached out, and found walls on either side of her. Keeping her hands on one wall, she walked forward for several minutes, aware only of the echo of her feet, and the smoothness of the walls. Gradually, a spark of light appeared up ahead and turned into a square. Aurora rushed towards it.
She emerged into the light, then looked down at herself, for her clothes had changed. She was herself, but she wore a long, black cloak over a shimmering black, sleeveless, ankle-length dress. The black shoes on her feet had heels.
She stood at the door to a gigantic ballroom. Crystal columns held up a vaulting ceiling of cloud and star. Checkerboard marble tiles stretched in all directions, longer than a football field.
Aurora stepped into the ballroom. Her footfalls echoed. She walked and walked, until she was in the middle of the gigantic room. Then she stopped and did a slow circle. There was no one here. There was nothing to do but wait.
Then a piano started playing. Aurora whirled around, but saw nothing. The music continued, tinny, like from an old upright that her ballet teacher used during class, rattling off a rapid waltz.
As Aurora turned, her feet took up the rhythm. She stared at them, but it was hard to resist the urge to tap.
More instruments joined the waltz: a pipe organ and drums that resonated in the chest. An unseen woman belted out the lyrics. Aurora almost recognized the song.
And around her, figures shifting up through the floor as if they were ghosts, there limbs jerking in time with the music. Where seconds before, Aurora was in the middle of an empty ballroom, now the hall was filled with dancers. They all wore fancy dress, modern, Victorian and Renaissance. Their skin was green-grey, their hands like mittens, and their faces blank as mannequins.
Something tapped her shoulder. Aurora turned. The nearest figure bowed low, and extended his mitten-hand to her.
“I don’t—” Aurora began. But the man took her hand, put his other hand on her side, and turned her into the dance. To her surprise, she followed his steps with ease, heels, dress and all.
In the ballroom of crystal, the dancers paired off and began to circle in time, tracing intricate patterns across the floor.
Aurora’s mannequin partner turned her. She twirled, and found another hand reaching for her. In time with the music, she took it, twirled again, and found herself in the arms of Salvadore, wearing an evening suit with a plum-coloured vest.
He grinned at her. “You do dance divinely, my dear.”
“Trust me, it’s not by choice,” Aurora growled. But the rhythm brought out her words staccato-style.
“It’s not by my choice either I fear,” said Salvadore. “But since I’m trapped here in this dance, I might as well enjoy the company.”
He twirled her. Aurora spun on the balls of her feet, but couldn’t let go of the tips of his fingers before she came twisting back. He caught her in a graceful dip.
He pulled her up. Aurora felt breathless, then she slapped down the feeling. Her glare could have sizzled steak. “If you’re trapped here, who’s trapping you? Who are all these…” She tossed her head at the mannequins, “…ghosts?”
“You’ve trapped me here, my dear,” said Salvadore. “You and your father. This—” And he grunted in frustration as the music twirled her away again. Aurora found herself reaching for another hand, twirling into another man’s arms. She blinked up at his face.
“This is your dream,” said Polk, in his tuxedo and bow-tie, “and the Dream King’s. The others can’t be more than ghosts to you, here. We’re the only ones strong enough to break through to talk to you.”
He pulled her into a dip. Aurora arched her back, then came up suddenly, her hands clasping the back of his neck.
“How did you get here?” she asked.
“I had help.”
She frowned at him. “And how did you get that black eye?”
He grinned ruefully. “Again… I had help.”
They switched partners again. Aurora blinked at the new face. “Mom! You have special powers too?”
“Of course,” said her mother, wearing a low-cut, ankle-length red dress. “I’m a psychologist.”
“Aurora,” said her mother, as they each did a back-to-back turn. “You’ve got to get away from here, before the Dream King finds you.”
“Is he here?” she looked around. They switched partners again, and Salvadore clasped her.
“He’s over there,” said Salvadore, nodding to the table at the head of the room. Aurora hadn’t noticed it before, but a figure like a shadow stood there, staring at her. “He’s coming for you.”
“Good,” said Aurora. “Let’s finish this.”
She tried to twirl out of Salvadore’s hold, but the beat and his sudden tug pulled her back.
“Look at me, you foolish girl!” he hissed. “I may like to cause a little chaos, spread a little fear, but there are limits. I agreed to help the Dream King find you so I could hamper his search. You have to stay away from him!”
They swapped partners again, and Aurora found herself staring into the face of her mother.
“Everybody has been telling you to stay away from him,” she snapped. “Even Salvadore, the Nightmare King. Maybe you should listen to all that advice?”
“But Mom,” said Aurora, “He’s my father. He won’t stop coming for me. You know that. And I can’t stop him. I’m not going to live the rest of my life on the run. This has to end, one way or another, now.”
“I would rather die than have anything happen to you,” said her mother. “But it’s not just you.”
“What are you talking about?” said Aurora, her voice rising. “What happened that made you run away from him?”
Her mother started to say something, but the music switched partners again, and Aurora was face to face with Polk. Behind him, she could see that the Dream King had moved away from the table and was standing at the edge of the dance floor.
“I told you the Dream King killed my parents,” said Polk. “I don’t think he intended to, but he did, the moment you were born.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I was there, but I was too young and it was all so confused, I don’t really remember. But it was bad.” He looked over Aurora’s shoulder, and swallowed. Aurora looked back to see the dark figure slipping into the dancing crowd, towards her.
“Aurora,” said Polk. “Please, get out of here.”
“Not until somebody tells me what happened!” said Aurora.
They switched partners again, and now she was with her mother.
“I was almost out of it from the labour,” said her mom. “Then dreams started breaking into the real world. At first I thought it was the drugs they used on me, but it wasn’t.”
“He did that?” said Aurora, looking back. “Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know,” said her mother. “But it got a lot worse until his people came and separated us. When I recovered from the shock, they told me to hide myself and you. I remember enough terror in what happened that this is what I did. I ran from my practise in Toronto to a school counsellor’s job in Winnipeg. But it wasn’t far enough.”
She looked over Aurora’s shoulder, and her breath caught. “Aurora, stop dancing. He’s right behind you. Run.”
The title of this post is from a song by Kate Bush that I do hear being played over the dancing. You can hear it, and watch an intriguing early eighties video by Kate Bush here on YouTube.
About twenty years later, she’d release King of the Mountain.