The Elephant Gate Part 1 – Ch 1 to 5
Hello everyone! This year I am attempting the National Novel Writer’s Month challenge, that is, to write a 50,000 novella in 30 days, with an average daily word count of slightly less than 1700 words. Below are the first five chapters. Be warned that the speed-writing nature of contest means there has been little (translation: none) editing or wordsmithing, unless it was done on the fly. Enjoy!
The little boy sat humming to himself on the park bench outside the hospital, his Power Ranger sneakers flashing in the sun as he swung them back and forth. He idly plucked at the hem of his shirt, dislodging a few threads. A well-loved stuffed elephant with one ear missing leaned against his right leg.
“He’s going to have a rough time of it,” the doctor said, standing next to a worried looking woman a short distance away. She stared at him as if he held her little one’s life in his hands, which, in fact, he did. “The treatments for brain tumors are problematic for adults, with the risks and symptoms inherent in it. With the additional problem of the positive test for meningitis, his treatment could be more dangerous. However, we must start chemotherapy as soon as possible for even a small chance of success, and hope the antibiotics for the infection work before his T-cell levels drop.”
The woman nodded, tears welling up in her eyes. “I will bring him back tomorrow.” The gentleman nodded and watched as she headed to the bench.
“Kevin!” She called out, and the little boy turned and smiled, exposing a gap where a tooth used to be.
“Mama!!” He cried happily as he slid off the bench, grabbed his elephant by the one remaining ear, and trotted towards the woman. He laughed as the woman scooped him up and lifted him over her head, his hands reaching for the sun.
“No, I expected you to leave that construction site long enough to see your son!” The words were spoken in a fierce whisper but even above the beeping noises of the machines, Kevin could hear them. He clutched Kandula to his chest as he listened to this mom argue over the phone. He knew Dad was busy, building houses for families to move in, and that he rarely came to the hospital where he had been staying since he got a really bad headache weeks ago.
The hospital walls were decorated with frames of various children’s drawings, but the bright colors could not hide the clinical nature of the room, or the various machines lurking around the electric bed.
He missed his home, with all of his comic book hero figurines and his computer. The hospital teacher lady was very nice, but not as nice as Miss Ward, his English teacher at school. He missed his friends, most of which couldn’t visit him while he was sick. His parents always seemed angry nowadays. He tried to be a good boy and never complain, even when they served him yucky lima beans, but it didn’t help. Maybe once the doctors fixed him, his parents would smile at each other again.
He hugged his elephant again for comfort, and drifted off to sleep, his thumb in his mouth.
* * *
The little boy’s heart thumped painfully in in his chest as he tried to swallow his sobs. The pitiless buzzing of the hair clippers vibrated against his head; he unscrewed his eyes and peeked down to see brown drifts of hair float to the floor. His mom’s lap felt warm as her arms securely anchored him, and he felt a bit better. The shaver thing was really just ticklish; it wasn’t hurting him or anything.
“Just a little bit longer, my brave boy,” she murmured in his ear. Just then, the clippers stopped. “All done! Now thank the man.” He touched the back of his head, when the doctor was going to take the bad stuff out. It was funny, feeling the bumpy places. His mom placed a kiss near his hand, which made him giggle for a moment.
His mom gave him a brief hug before allowing him to slip off her lap and stand. He turned and solemnly watched at the man behind the chair. “Thank you, Mr Shaver.” The man nodded and smiled before turning away to begin the cleanup. Kevin focused on his mother as she brushed away stray hairs from his hospital johnny. Leaving her hands on his shoulders, she looked into his eyes. He stiffened under her hands, knowing what she was going to say was important.
“Remember what Doctor Miller told you? In a little bit, you are going to get some sleep medicine to eat, then some you breath in, and I’ll be her the whole time until you fall asleep, okay?”
Kevin felt his bottom lip quiver a little as he nodded. He promised he would be a big boy and not cry, because that made his mom sad. “I love you, Momma”.
His mom gave a half-sob half-laugh. “I love you too, baby.”
* * *
Later, feeling drowsy from the medicine drink, he gave his beloved toy a final hug and pushed it towards him mother.
“Momma, I told Kandula to take care of you, so you won’t cry anymore. He pinky-sweared it, even though he doesn’t have pinkies or anything. Will Daddy be here when I wake up? ‘Cuze I really really miss him.”
“I know he will try, and he loves you very very much,” his mother said. She stroked his hair one last time before the anesthesiologist began the final procedure.
Kevin slowly became aware he was uncomfortable. There was something jabbing his side, and his nose tickled. The last thing he remembered was seeing his mom’s face before the funny-smelling rubber mask covered his face. But where was he now?
He reached out a hand and touched wood. It felt like the wooden bench in his backyard, but much rougher. And he was hearing click-click noises to his left. And his nose was tickling. He opened first one eye, then the other before sitting up. His vision swam for a moment as a momentary pain flash across his head, and then cleared. He looked around with wonder.
He was sitting in a square, covered building. The sides were open, but it didn’t look anything like his neighborhood in Richmond. It was like the pictures he had seen online of tropical places; palm trees, bushes covered with colorful flowers, smooth green lawn.
He was dressed in his favorite Green Lantern pajamas, the ones without the footies. He scootched to the bench edge and tentatively lowered his feet to the wooden deck of the gazebo. It felt solid beneath his feet. He finally stood up, a little unsteady but with growing confidence.
He climbed down to the cool grass, walked the short distance to the nearest palm tree, and touched it. It was real! Where was he? Was it a dinosaur park? Or a zoo?
“Who are you?” said someone from the other side of the gazebo. Kevin spun around to stare wide-eyed at a little girl, who was hiding behind on of the trees a few feet away. He decided to stay where he was.
“I’m Kevin. And I think I’m lost. Who are you?” The girl looked like Jubilee, except she was wearing a blue dress instead of a yellow trenchcoat. Maybe he was in a comic book?
“I’m Surikitiya.” Her accent sounded funny to his ears. “This is my home. How did you get here?”
Kevin thought for a moment, then shrugged. “ I dunno. I woke up in the wooden house, but I was in hospital before then.” He rubbed his head. Wait! He had hair! It was shorter that before, but it was still there. He touched the back of his head, and felt a raised area that wasn’t there before. It didn’t hurt, but it felt kind of bumpy. “The doctor was gonna open my head. I guess I’m all better, but I bet I have a cool scar, just like GI Joe.”
“GI-who? I want to see your scar.” And with that, the little girl skipped out from behind the tree. She was a little bit shorter than he was. Up close her dress had all kinds of sparkly threads on it. She grabbed his arm and tugged on it to bring him to her level. Kevin squatted down so she could see the back of his head.
Her tiny fingers pushed through his hair until she touched the scar. “Oooh,” she breathed, “It looks just like a flower!”
“What?” Kevin yelped, and stood up so quickly that the girl fell back with a thump. Her face screwed up and she took a big breath. Kevin knew she was going to wail; his best friend in school Bobby had a little sister who made just that face.
He reached down and hauled her up and gave her a hug. “I’m sorry.” He said. Momma always told him to be nice to girls, ‘specially when they cried. “I didn’t mean to knock you down.”
She sniffed for a minute or two, and Kevin judged it safe to let her go. “What do you mean by flower?”
She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and pulled her dress straight. Taking his hand, she said, “I’ll show you.” She hauled him towards a little pond with white flowers in the middle. Along the sandy edge, she sat down and drew a shape with her finger:
Kevin tried to interpret her scrawl. Did it look like a flower? He couldn’t tell, maybe it looked more like a fist. Whatever, it was still cool to have a scar.
His stomach rumbled, and he suddenly realized he was hungry. She giggled, her fall completely forgotten as she grabbed his hand again with the single-mindedness of a little princess, and tugged until he gave in and started walking with her.
“Come on, Khun Pa will make you something to eat.”
They walked around a large hedge and the wooden house disappeared from view. Kevin stopped and pulled her up short. She turned and glanced at him.
“Where are we going again, Sur’kya?” Kevin didn’t like the way he sounded, but he was worried. Nothing was familiar here. What if that wooden house was the only way home? Momma always told him to go to a safe place when he was lost, and it was where he first woke up.
“There! We just hafta follow the path.”
Just past the trees there was a huge house, almost like a palace. It was pink, which Kevin thought was a girly color, but the roof was black, and it was all outlined in white, so it didn’t look like a dollhouse. He recognized flat stones embedded in the grass. They were greenish-gray and didn’t really stand out unless you looked really hard. When he glanced back, he could actually see the crown-shaped top of the wooden structure above the thick hedge. A wave of relief washed over him when he realized he could find his way back.
He allowed himself to be pulled into her wake as she walked determinedly towards the house.
The pair approach a large pool in the back of the estate. There were big multi-colored umbrellas over a couple of tables at one end, and Kevin could see a couple of grown ups sitting at one of them. Suddenly feeling very self-conscious, he tried to smooth his pajamas a little. They weren’t really clothes, but he didn’t have anything else.
“Ma! Da! Look what I found in the garden!” At her shout, the people at the table turned and stared. Suddenly, there were a couple of mean-looking guards surrounding them, and Kevin shrank back, his urge to flee stopped by the tiny but firm grip on his arm. The tallest of the guards reached down and plucked the princess away, leaving him blocked with one in front and one behind.
Surikitiya wriggled out of his arms and pushed the other guard before she again grabbed Kevin’s arm. “Stop it! K’vin is my friend! I found him at the lotus pond. He’s nice!” The little girl appealed to the taller guard, and with a nod from him, the other two stepped back. He gestured the little girl, who despite a mulish pout, let go of Kevin’s hand and moved back several steps.
The guard squatted down in front of Kevin.
“My name is Thadchai, and I am the captain of the royal bodyguards. Who are you? And where are you from?” The man’s eyes were brown and friendly, not mean. His voice had the same melodic quality that Sur’kya had, and Kevin instinctively trusted him.
He straightened up to his full height, although he still wasn’t quite as tall as the kneeling guard. “My name is Kevin. I’m eight years old, and I live in Richmond, Virginia. That’s in the United States of America.” Kevin wondered again if he was still in America.
“I see,” said Captain Thadchai, “and how did you get here?”
“I don’t know, Mister Captain. I was in the hospital and the doctor was going to fix my head and I fell asleep with my mom there and I woke up in the wooden house.” Kevin took a deep breath. “I don’t know where I am ‘cuze at home we don’t have palm trees and plants like this and stuff. Can you get me home? I really want to see my mom and dad again.” Kevin could feel tears pricking the back of his eyes, but he ccouldn’thelp it. He was tired and hungry.
“I promised Khun Pa would make him something to eat.” Surikitiya called from behind the other guards. The captain made a decision and stood up. Bowing to the young boy, he reached out his gloved hand. “Come, Noy Kevin, let’s have some food, and we will talk later.” Kevin wiped his eyes with his sleeve and grabbed the offered hand. The two guards fell behind as they walked towards the umbrellas, the girl skipping ahead.
* * *
By the time Kevin reached the tables, Surikitiya was being gently scolded by a pretty lady dressed in dark green. While she squirmed, the lady brushed off bits of grass and sand from the little girl’s outfit. Kevin squeezed the captain’s hand, wondering what to do next. Her ministrations done, the lady straightened up to look at the young boy.
The captain took the initiative. “May it please Your Highness, I present Master Kevin.” Kevin performed a clumsy bow, causing various people around the table to snicker. The couple at the table said nothing but smiled. Surikitiya scampered over and grabbed his other arm. “Come on, you can sit here.”
Unresisting, he found himself sitting across from the elegant couple. At a nod from the king, Captain Thadchai sat to his left while Sur’kya sat on his right. Immediately, fragrant dishes were placed in front of him. His stomach rumbled again, and the king chuckled.
“You can eat first, and we will talk later.” Kevin needed no urging, although he did mumble “Thank you.” before reaching for the plates. There were hunks of bread slathered with butter and spices; curly noodles like the hard blocks of ramyun at home, except the water had chunks of vegetables in it. And there wasn’t a lima bean in sight.
A short time later, he felt pleasantly sated and sleepy; Surikitiyia’s head was nodding in tandem.
“I think our questions will need to wait until tomorrow.” A male voice caused Kevin to force his heavy eyes open.
“I promised to answer your questions, Mister King. And Momma always tells me to keep my promises.”
The king chuckled. “It’s okay, son. We will find you a place to sleep for now, and we can talk later. Captain Thadchai, please take him to the blue guest room.”
Kevin was lifted high by a pair of strong arms. He nestled in and fell asleep almost immediately, and never remembered being tucked into bed.
Kevin woke up from a wonderful dream. There was a pink palace with a king and queen, and really good food and cool trees. When he opened his eyes, though, the ceiling looked strange. It was light blue with white curliques and birds. There wasn’t a red plane ceiling fan like his own room, but it wasn’t the boring white of his hospital room, either. Where was he?
He heard a noise, and immediately sat up. There was an lady standing by his bed, as old as his mom. She smiled when their eyes met. “I’m Sutasinee, and I’m to get you ready for breakfast. You can call me Khun Nee.” Uh oh, the dream wasn’t really a dream. He was really really here. He looked down; he still had his Green Lantern pajamas on, but they were all wrinkly.
“Khun Nee lady, I hafta go to the bathroom. And I don’t have a toothbrush or anything. Can you help me?” The older lady laughed merrily, warming his heart.
“Everthing is already set, Noy Kevin.” She led him to big bathroom; it was all white and blue. The bathtub was like his friend Bobby’s hot tub. They weren’t allowed to play near it, because is was over their heads, but sometimes they would sneak over and sit on the side with their feet dangling in the hot water. He wondered how deep this one was.
“Is it over my head? ‘Cuze I can swim really good, but I’m not supposed to go near a hot tub.” The tub was already full of bubbly water, but Kevin had a more urgent need. “Um, I really need to go.”
The woman was puzzled for a moment, then smiled. She led him over to a tall door; inside was a dark blue toilet. She flipped on the light and shut the door to give him some privacy.
After he finished, he washed his hands and brushed his teeth. The toothbrush was wooden, and the toothpaste was in a dish instead of a tube, but it left his mouth feeling clean anyway.
Once he was done, it was time for a bath. Kevin delighted in playing with the thick bubbles floating on the surface of the warm water. There weren’t any water toys, but that was okay. Khun
Nee helped him just like his mom does; she made sure he scrubbed everywhere before wrapping him in a large fluffy towel. While she rubbed his hair dry, he wondered what he would wear.
“Um, Khun Nee lady, is there any clothes I can wear? Because my pajamas are grungy.” She stopped messing with his hair and gave his shoulders a squeeze. “We have some clothes that should fit you.”
She started brushing his damp hair and it felt good. She stopped when the brush touched his scar. “What is that?” Kevin shrugged. “It’s the scar from where the doctor took the bad stuff out. Sur’kya said it looks like a flower. I think it looks like a fist! A fist is cool. I don’t want to have any stupid flower on my head.” She parted her hair until the scar was exposed, and gave a gasp.
“It’s a lotus!” At his lack of reaction, the woman excused herself to fetch something for him to wear.
The clothes turned out to be a pair of loose-fitting pants in red. They had a drawstring, so Kevin could pull it tight. He had trouble with the knot, but the housekeeper helped. The yellow shirt didn’t have any buttons or anything, it just slipped over his head. The only underwear was baggy shorts like his dad’s.
Once he was cleaned and dressed, he felt a lot better, but hungry. Khun Nee took his hand and led him through several hallways to a large staircase. He stared in awe. The ceiling was a big dome with colorful windows all the way around. When he looked down, the sunlight streaming through the stained glass made a pattern of flowers and fruit on the marble floor below. “Ooh, that’s pretty.” Khun Nee squeezed his hand as they walked down the steps to the ground floor. Once he was there, he glanced up at the cupola and the windows. In the very center of the cupola ceiling was a large gold sunburst.
A tug from the lady brought his attention back, and together they walked to a pair of wooden doors. He stepped into a large room with a long table. There were a few familiar faces at the far end.
“K’vin!” Surikitiya squealed before she jumped off her chair and ran to the door. “Come eat with us.” She grabbed his hand and he went along, already used to her demanding behavior.
Captain Thadchai was standing behind the king. He walked around the table towards the doors where Khun Nee was gesturing, stopping to nod at Kevin as he was towed past him.
Once Kevin was in front of the queen, he bowed to her, trying to emulate the captain’s actions. She took his hands and smiled.
“How are you today, Noy Kevin?” she asked. “I’m fine, queen lady, but really hungry.” She laughed and gestured to the chair next to her. When he climbed up, a young manservant placed a cloth napkin in his lap. The queen loaded his plate with rice, eggs, and ham. A steaming bowl of porridge was placed near his plate. It was more food than he had ever eaten for breakfast. He happily dug in, though, and barely paid attention to the whispering conversation at the far end of the room.
By the time the edge of his hunger disappeared, the captain had leaned down and was quietly talking to the king. Kevin slowed down; he forgot to say thank you for his food. He bit his lip uncertainly and put his fork down.
The king took this as a sign. He leaned towards Kevin. “I think we should talk. First, let me introduce everyone. My name is King Phuna. My wife is Queen Rachini. You have already met my daughter, Surikitiyia. Captain Thadchai told me what you said yesterday. We have never heard of the country where you came from. Can you remember anything else?”
Kevin thought and thought, but he couldn’t remember anything about how he came here. He shook his head. The king thought for a moment. “Can I see the scar on your head?”
“Sure. It looks like a fist!” Kevin thought it was cool that everyone liked his scar. He lowered his head so the king could see it. The queen, too, stood up and walked around the chair until she was next to her husband. Together, they leaned over him.
“Does not, it looks like a flower!” Surikitiyia called from her seat. When the two monarchs moved his hair and saw the mark, they glanced at each other. Kevin didn’t see it though.
“You can straighten up, Noy Kevin, thank you.” King Phuna said. Kevin walked back and sat down on his chair, ready for seconds.
When he finally felt full, he pushed his plate away. “Thank you for the food.” The king smiled and gestured to the captain, who immediately bowed and walked forward.
“I want you and Suri to go with Captain Thadchai back to the place where you first were here. After that, you two can play, but make sure to stay near the palace.” The little girl whooped, hopped off her chair, and dashed towards the door, ready for adventure. Kevin was slower; after all, he was a boy and boys didn’t act silly like girls. He gave another bow, already comfortable with the gesture, and left the room at a much slower pace. The king exchanged a few words with the captain before he, too, bowed and followed his charges out.
Once they were out of the dining room, Queen Rachini turned to her spouse. “Do you think he might be the one? He came from somewhere else, and bears the mark of the lotus flower. But he is so young.” King Phuna placed a comforting hand on her arm. “We will have to see. For now, Thadchai will keep an eye on him. I trust him to determine how and why this little boy ended up here, and whether he is a threat.”
The sun was brilliant in the sky when the trio emerged from the rear of the palace. They skirted the edge of the pool until they reached the dark green path stones. Surikitiyia ran back and forth between the flower beds; it seemed she wanted to see or touch everything. Kevin hung back with the captain, and tried to copy his bearing. Unfortunately, his smaller legs made it hard to match the captain’s strides. Thadchai realized this, and a few strides later, Kevin was giggling on his back, piggyback-style.
“Do you have any kids of your own, Mister Captain?” Kevin asked. From that height, he could almost see forever, and easily saw the bright yellow of Sur’kya several yards ahead of them.
“I’m not married, so I don’t have any children.” His voice rumbled against Kevin’s chest, eliciting another giggle. “Is this where you woke up?” They entered the clearing with the gazebo on one side and the lotus pond on the other.
“Yep.” The captain lowered Kevin to the ground, and when the little boy was steady on his feet, stood up and carefully examined the wooden structure. There didn’t seem to be anything unusual or different. Kevin climbed up and walked to one of the benches. “This was the one I woke up on.” He sat down, but nothing happened. He had half-hoped that somehow he would end up back home.
Thadchai sat down next to him. “Noy Kevin, do you feel anything when you are sitting there?” Kevin shook his head. He felt the same as he did yesterday when he first found himself in this spot. The captain made a decision.
“I want to tell you a story that’s been handed down for many years now. A hero is supposed to come from a strange and far away land, to battle on our behalf and protect Pratheptikundee. This warrior shall be known by the mark of our country.” He looked at the little boy. “Our symbols are the athame and the lotus.”
Kevin instinctively touched the back of his head felt the bump of the scar. “D’you think it’s me? Because I play videogames but I don’t know nothing about real fighting.” The captain ruffled his hair and smiled. “I think you are too young to be the prophesy. And we are currently at peace. But I don’t have an explanation as to why you are here, or how to get you back home. For now, though, you can stay at the palace.” Surikitiyia climbed into the gazebo.
“I’m bored. Can we go see the elephants?” At this, Kevin perked up. Did they have real live elephants? He had seen them in a zoo, and he had really liked them, and his favorite stuffed animal was an elephant.
He looked at the captain. “I wanna see them too, please.” The captain nodded, and Kevn jumped down off the bench, his moment of homesickness disappearing under his eagerness. He grabbed Sur’kya’s hand this time. “So, do you have a lot of elephants? And can I touch one?” She laughed.
“We have a whole bunch! And baby elephants, too.” Her face clouded for a moment. “One baby is really sick. Mom said he was born too early, so he’s really small. Yunno, he’s got a funny mark on his head, just like yours.”
“Cool! When can we see them?”
The little girl looked up the captain. He leaned down, and patted her head. “You will need to ask permission from your parents. If they say yes, I will drive you there.” She clapped her hands and jumped. Kevin almost did the same thing, but stopped himself. He didn’t want to act like a little kid in front of Cap’n Thadchai.
After taking a final look around the gazebo, the man gestured to the youngsters, and they started back up the path to the palace.
Posted on November 4, 2014, in (completed) The Elephant Gate Part 1 (NaNoWriMo 2014), My Fan-Fictions and Novels and tagged nanowrimo; fiction; elephant prince; young adult fiction; novel; asia. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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