Sunday, 2 October 2016

Beyond Dark Waters by Des Birch

From being cast out from the group, to losing his way in the dark lake at night-time, Ben will never betray his friends. Even when he feels a vicious fang slowly piercing his flesh, he knows what he is doing is right. He will never submit to the bullies, racists or indeed anyone who tries to steer him from the path he is taking. Ben is growing up very quickly and soon he gains many followers. This leads to a multitude of challenges and to one of his friends giving his life for Ben. As an eleven year old he manages to avert a war and bring pride to different communities.

For Ben, falling into the lake and entering into different species presented many challenges, but the rewards will stay with him forever.

Beyond Dark Waters plots a young man's rite of passage into adulthood, seen from the viewpoint of different species in and around a lake.

Excerpt #1

Winter was over.  The snow had gone but the sun had not yet chased away the frost that froze time in the grassy shadows under the bushes.  The air was crisp with chill and anticipation as glints of sunlight flashed across the top of the lake, energising the water and promising the World its annual rebirth.

As I placed one tentative foot on the path between the lake and the small river that silently slid past it, I felt the ground tremble.  Mother Nature was not yet ready to release her grip on spring’s freedom.  Instead, she held it tightly to herself as the leaves were held in buds on the trees, ready to blossom forth when her signal released them.

As always, Mother Nature released the Snowdrops first.  They gathered in small groups, whispering in the silence of the chilled air, heads bowed in secrecy, lest anyone should discover their mysteries.  They were aware of my presence as I crept past, yet they never turned a petal.  They would not tell that I had been here.

A loud ‘crack’ echoed across the lake, repeated again and again as the Mallard duck called to his mate.  The sound seemed out of place around these still waters.  It was as though it should have been reserved for summer, when the clamour of young families of different species rocked the air itself.

I listened in silence and gradually distant bird song fell in soft flakes all around me.  Every living thing was awakening, everything knew its place.  Preparations were being made, old mates found and dances practiced to attract new ones.  All of this was being conducted covertly.  Nothing had begun yet, no signal had been given.  But everything was moving into the starting position.  As muscles strained and tensions grew, Mother Nature would make one final inspection.  When, and only when she was satisfied that everything was in its place, would she then release her grip and allow everything to spring into life.

Then the struggle would begin in earnest.  Leaves would burst forth to paint the canopy.  Plants would push through the soil, grass unroll as a carpet and the air would become alive with the sounds of creatures happy simply to exist.  Then Mother Nature would beckon in all the migrants, swelling the skies with sights and sounds.  What a wonderful time to be alive!

But for now the bow was still tight.  The tension in the air was almost unbearable!

The ground vibrated and I crouched behind a bush as a giant creature slowly lumbered past, oblivious to all the sights and sounds around it.  I would be all right as long as I kept still because its eyesight was poor.  It would not smell me either as this sad lumbering giant had lost most of its senses. A sound from the lake caused me to turn my head and witness a jumping trout, seemingly suspended in mid air, its shape transcribed by an arc of rainbow water above it.  We would go fishing today!

I skipped across the path and slid into the soothing water of the narrow river.  Once back in the Holt, my mate was excited.  I told her about my trip, but she could already taste it from licking my coat.  I mentioned the lumbering beast.  She said that she had heard that Man, (as it was called) did not hibernate because it had to stay awake counting the days to know what season it was.  I laughed, but part of the theory did ring true to me.  What a sad life it must be when you can’t feel the seasons turning around you.

The Author:

Des Birch lives in Norfolk UK with his wife, Julie.  He is a self-professed writing nut, shark nut, wild about the natural world and is motivated to empower young people.  Des admits to being frightened of heights, bears, and hagfish; an odd combination he will admit, but reality is often stranger than fiction.

He has raised his two children on his own, been in shark cages, stroked big cats, jumped off a mountain, SCUBA dived the Red Sea and lived in other European countries.  If asked why, Des will smile and say, "I enjoy living life to the fullest."

Des does not write about super heroes or people with special powers.  He would much rather take ordinary people and place them in extraordinary situations, and record how they react.

Des has always written in one form or another but in 2006 while living in Spain, he wrote his first novel, The Diary of an Innocent.  A couple of years later he moved back to England and married Julie, with whose help and support, he continues writing.

If he could have one wish come true, it would be that his young adult books (Dark Water series) will serve to empower young minds.

Excerpt #2

At first it looked like a couple of thin sticks moving behind Bob.  Then what I saw filled me with dread.  A shimmering silvery body hovered over eight tentacle-like legs.  I knew the spider’s body was not really that colour.  It seemed to be wearing some kind of camouflage that made it shine like a silver ghost.  I looked at it in fear.  I think it was because the body remained so rigid while each of the eight legs moved independently, searching, stalking.  As it neared Bob I could see its fangs opening in readiness.

“Yes, you’ll soon get used to these moults.  You’ll get quicker every time.”

I was powerless to speak.  As I watched the two front legs raise above Bob, all I could think was that it could have been me!  I wanted to warn him, I wanted to do something, but my body was limp.

In the end it was quick.  The front legs wrapped around him and the fangs penetrated his soft shell.  A couple of times he tried to struggle but then he knew that the end had come.

“Oh you’re a nice soft juicy one,” I heard the spider say in his twangy voice, as he held him in a death grip.

“Bye bye Quinling,” were Bobs final words.

I watched helplessly as the spider carried Bob up the reed and into the silver dome he had built.  I began eating as quickly as I could and humming for all I was worth and I took comfort in the sound of humming coming from all the other Bobs.

That night was very long.  Every movement, every shadow seemed to scream danger.  Was that twig moving?  Was that a piece of weed waving gently, or was it something frightening lurking in the darkness.  I thought about Bob’s final words.  He did not seem to worry about being eaten by the spider.

Night time always felt empty as the humming would stop.  I just lay there frightened to move, breathing gently, hoping than no creature would know that I was soft-shelled, trembling and alone.  Eventually, just as dawn was breaking, I heard a sound.  It was only faint but there was definitely a humming in the distance.  I began to hum too and very soon the bottom was alive with the sound.

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