Title: SOLSTICE - SONGLINE
Author: John J Blenkush
Genre: Fantasy/Magical Realism/Romance
To prove her virtue and fit, Julissa must walk Songline with Aaron and discover her true heart.
As we grow warm from exertion, the sweat on our backs becomes the lubrication of our well-oiled machine. We rub up against each other, in tune with each other’s motion. It stirs sensual emotion within me. I grow hot and wet where I shouldn’t. The passion disrupts my singlemindedness. I falter in my duty. The clipped vines get ahead of me, threaten to overwhelm me with their profligate growth. It’s only when Aaron leans back and helps me do I gain ground.
“Sorry,” I say.
“No time for sorry. Just do.”
And I do...focus. On cutting. Trimming. Snipping. But mostly using the side of the sword to redirect the plants’ snake-like vines. As Aaron has taught me, it takes less energy to divert the attacker’s pent-up force than to absorb it.
We work our way into the thick of the jungle, remaining cocooned in our open-aired shell, moving ever higher, clawing up the grade, inch-by-inch, foot-by-foot. The day wears on. Our backs become fused as one, our skin bonded together with sweat, dirt, and plant syrup.
Buried deep within the jungle foliage, one cannot see the sun’s arc. Only the light here at the floor gives note to the time of day, and even that is deceptive, depending on the breadth of the canopy. But it is without question that it is late in the day when I feel Aaron faltering. You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but I can feel the muscles in his back weakening. No longer do they flex tight like the strings on a well-tuned guitar.
“How much farther?” It’s the first words I’ve spoken all day. My parched throat mutilates them. I swallow and give it another try. “How much farther do we have to go?”
“Not far. There’s a plateau up ahead.”
It’s then I know we aren’t going to make it. The absence of vigor in Aaron’s voice betrays his resolve. I find I’m having to carry a bigger load with every swing.
“Let me,” I say, “up front.”
Aaron doesn’t hesitate. He swings to the side, which throws me to the other side. For a time we’re boxed in, front and back and sides. We sling our swords, fight for the openings, and prevail as Aaron moves to the back and I move to the front. For a time I am able to whack away and make progress, moving increments forward. Aaron continues to defend our backside. I sense the wall of foliage growing thicker as we slow in our climb up the abutment leading to the plateau. My reach is not as high as Aaron’s, so our hole is smaller. It causes him to have to hunch down. The swing of his sword becomes less effective.
Panic filters in. I sense the foliage closing in around us. The vines lace into and around my arms, grab at my legs, and jab like spear-tips at my face. I hear Aaron growling the hollowed-out grunt of defeat.
It’s not as though, years from now, someone will happen across these two skeletons laying here in the jungle. We’re not about to die, are we? We’re avatars. We can’t succumb. But we can fail. And to nosedive, in the role we’re enacting, means death. Not only to us, but to the many. And maybe to all mankind.
And so as the vines close in around us, essentially neutralizing our progress, I want to turn toward Aaron, embrace him, and let him know I don’t fault him for our failure to complete Songline together. If anything, I have only me to blame.
Jungo had done his best to prepare me in Discovery. He taught me how to overcome my fears and make peace with my guilt, which led to my gaining confidence. All for naught. And then I wonder. Was it for nothing? Did he not also give me the gift of darting?
I swing my sword up in front of my face, align it with my nose, and close my eyes. I channel what life-force energy I have left inside me into a continuous stream. When it’s at its peak I instill singlemindedness, sever the stream, and batch it. And I dart. Right to where I want to go. To the plateau. Without Aaron. And I know; I’ve deserted him. Left him behind. Saved myself. For what purpose? For walking Songline alone has none. And then I see the jungle parting before my eyes. Aaron emerges, unscathed, smiling even as he climbs the abutment.
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Julissa and Aaron’s story draws one into their magical-realism world. “Blenkush has created a universe that stands out from the rest, wrapping his main characters up in narratives that are full of mystery, passion, and inspiration.” Red City Reviews
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Runs May 1 – 31, 2021.
Drawing will be held on June 1, 2021.
John J Blenkush is the author of the critically acclaimed thrillers REDDITION and STACY’S STORY, (Kirkus Reviews) and the epic SOLSTICE SERIES. Besides writing, John loves the great outdoors, running marathons, and recreational mountain climbing. He lives with his wife, Nancy, in Northern California.
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