19 December 2012

Surf Girl: A Graphic Novel

Last summer, my friend J-Bird and I started working on a graphic novel, with her creating the graphics and me writing the novel. Here's my first draft of the beginning of the story.

Nerina (illustrated by J-Bird)
Ah, dawn patrol! All the world is new again in the growing light. A faint breeze stirs the cool air, laced with the salty tang of the sea. Waves emerge from the dim distance and peel in glassy sheets down the beach as the sun paints the sky behind me with the pale colors of early morning. The swell has come up more than I expected and will definitely push the boundaries of my comfort zone. But the greater risk holds promise of greater reward. I swallow trepidation and pick my way down the short bluff to the sand with my trusty 6’2” surfboard under my arm.

 As I near the waterline, an unremembered rock moves on the beach, which on closer approach becomes a young harbor seal. She lifts her head from the sand and looks at me with big, brown, woeful eyes. A plastic six-pack ring dangles from her neck, with one of the rings stretched taut around it, an ugly and uncomfortable necklace.
Cleodora and Nerina (illustrated by J-Bird)

I ought to go back to the car and call the Flipper’s Friends stranding hotline. Yet the plastic has mostly separated on the ring that binds her; it would be quick and easy to snap it, for someone who has fingers instead of flippers. We lock eyes, brown to brown, and she is asking for my help. But she’s a large wild animal with big teeth, and FF personnel would come armed with shields and nets. Her eyes haven’t left mine. I won’t hurt you, she seems to say, please help. I set my surfboard slowly on the ground and she doesn’t blink. Impulsively, I move with deliberate haste to her side, and in one smooth movement, break the plastic ring and step back. It may be my imagination but she looks relieved and grateful. After executing an awkward turn toward the ocean, the seal flops on her belly into the shallows and swims away. She pauses once to look back at me, then dives into the depths and is gone. I strap my leash to my ankle and follow her into the water.

The waves are bigger than I realized from the shore, well over my head. A rip current and well-timed lull between sets got me to the empty lineup without much difficulty, but now the butterflies are awake in my belly. I’d feel better if I had a buddy out here, and there she is. My friend Ava has reached the beach and is doing some yoga stretches while she checks the surf. The butterflies settle a little.

A set comes and I let the first wave go by, watching where and how it breaks. With the second incoming, I give myself a little pep talk. OK, Nerina, you can do this. Paddle hard. Commit. I’m in the right place with the right timing and make the drop into a fun left, turning off the bottom, zooming up toward the lip, and back down again, several times, until the wave fizzles out over the nearshore trench and I let it go on without me to break again as shorepound. Woo hoo! Ava’s picked up her board now and gives me a raised-arm salute, stoked for you! I’ve got a grin on my face that won’t quit.

Getting back out is more of a challenge this time, but finally I break through the walls of whitewater to the smooth water on the outside. After a little breather, I’m ready for another. The swell rises behind me and I stroke hard. This wave is bigger than the last, much bigger, but I’m going for it. As I get to my feet, it all goes wrong. I’m ass-over-teakettle, falling through air and then water, the lip of the wave crashing down on me and pushing me deeper as I tumble. I’d grabbed a quick breath at the top, but need another, and I can’t find the surface. Don’t panic! My hand reaches my left ankle to trace my leash to the surfboard floating above, up where the air is. But there is no air there, no sky, just a thick layer of foam atop the water. Kicking upward, I get my mouth above the foam to inhale a tiny gasp before the next wave of the set breaks on my head and sends me down again. I feel the weight of the water, its dark heaviness...
“What are we going to do with her?” a voice demanded. “You know you can’t keep her here, Silas.”

“She saved Cleodora. I couldn’t let her drown.”

I opened my eyes to the strangest scene.

I was underwater, but not in the water, suspended in a big bubble in the midst of a kelp forest, gently swaying in the current. Two merfolk hovered nearby, and they were arguing. About me.

“Well then, Mr. Chivalrous, what’s your plan?” The blond mermaid scowled, her arms folded across her bare chest and her tail swishling like an angry cat’s.

The merman shrugged and smiled weakly. He had curly dark hair and was, frankly, gorgeous. l realized then that they hadn’t been talking out loud; I could hear them in my head. I must be dreaming. Or dead? My mind recoiled from the thought. Maybe just unconscious. Do people in comas dream?

He averted his gaze from the mermaid’s angry countenance and turned my way. “Look, Petra, she’s awake.”

“Now you’ve got an even bigger problem! Get rid of her.” Petra gave me the evil eye before swimming away, thrashing her tail in my direction to set the bubble rocking in the turbulence.

Silas moved more gently to my side, placing his hands on the bubble and locking his Caribbean-blue eyes to mine. “What’s your name?” he asked in my head.

“Nerina. Nerina West,” I thought back at him, hoping he couldn’t hear what else I was thinking.

“Nerina, I thank you for helping Cleodora.” He hooked his thumb toward a small group of seals who were playing in the kelp nearby, chasing each other like happy puppies. One of them broke free of the game and came towards us. She had a raw circle around her neck where until this morning a six-pack strap had been trying to strangle her. The seal rubbed her head against Silas’ outstretched palm, looked at me with grateful eyes, and darted back to her friends.

“I must take you back to your world, but first, I will give you a gift.” His hands pierced the bubble and he pulled my face toward his. My heart pounded as the sea rushed in.

To be continued... (more here)

No comments:

Post a Comment