There were things about this first chapter I liked. I love how a few of the frames came out – some of the colors. But the pacing was weird. I was trying to go between two different times, and I had it in mind to do the same thing throughout the critical scenes of this whole story. Flashbacks that control how much you know when. Also, I was trying to take advantage of how the webtoon format allowed for scrolling instead of page-turning, and trying to keep the mystery going. I am really rethinking it and may split this part into two different episodes. I feel like I need to communicate so much more information now that I am looking at it again.
So, taking a fresh look at Chapter 1, here it is in prose, an exercise I am going to do with the whole thing so I can get a better feel for what I am trying to accomplish. Later this week I will post the new storyboards for this chapter. What do you think? Leave some feedback in the comments, please!
The floor was cold. But Nina didn’t feel the cold. She didn’t feel anything at all.
Blood. So much blood. How could there be so much blood?
How long had she been on the floor, legs and arms wrapped up tightly as if she could fold up and disappear? She had been there long enough for her legs and feet to go numb. Numb like her heart. Maybe it was gone. Like his. Maybe that’s why she couldn’t feel.
For a brief moment last night she had felt pure rage. But that faded, and she couldn’t bring up the feeling of anger anymore. She wasn’t sad. Or even scared. When she had come back into the house, she went straight for the wine in the fridge. Only a glass left, and it was barely drinkable. It probably should have been thrown out weeks ago. Then she opened the big drawer in the kitchen that held the odds and ends she kept because she didn’t want to be wasteful. The ketchup packets and plastic sporks from fast food restaurants. The twist ties and corks and other odds and ends that always came in handy. She was nothing if not resourceful. And the bottles. Lots of tiny bottles. She rarely drank, but they came in handy when a recipe called for two tablespoons of whiskey or rum.
She had worked her way through all the bottles. One after the other, paying little attention to what they were. On the last bottle, the tears started. She cried harder than she had ever cried. She cried so hard she shook violently. Silently. Her eyes hurt. Her head hurt. And then it all stopped. And she just sat there on the floor, staring blankly into the dark bedroom.
She didn’t see the wedding photo, smashed against the wall. She didn’t see the broken glass that littered the floor, in amongst the bright red splotches. Red everywhere. Blood?
So much blood.
No. Not blood. Rose petals. He always gave her red roses. He had given her roses yesterday. He thought he would be forgiven. But forgiveness wasn’t possible. Not anymore.
Nina pressed her eyes closed and slid her feet out to rest her legs on the floor. She reached for the knife beside her. The blade of the Ka-Bar still had a smear of blood on it. Like her nightgown, her legs and her arms.
She stood up with the knife and walked to the mirror. It would all be over soon. But she wasn’t going like this. She lifted the knife to her chin, pulled her hair aside, and in one swift motion, sliced across her long hair, leaving her with a ragged, chin-length bob.
He liked her hair long.
Ignoring the dried blood on her legs and arms, she pulled on shorts and a tank top and walked barefoot down the steps.
There was still light coming from the massive fireplace that was the centerpiece of the enormous timber frame home he had built for her. Had so little time really passed that the logs were still burning? It felt she had sat on the floor for days. The glow of the bright embers lit up the copper sculpture that hung on the stone chimney. The Uktena’s snake-like body seemed to be coming from the fire itself, winding up toward the ceiling with wings outspread. He seemed to writhe and struggle to be free, as a chunk of the log fell into the coals, shooting up bright new flames.
You’re not free. We’re both prisoners.
Maybe they could help each other.
Nina went out to the shed to get the ladder, which she dragged to the fireplace. She lifted the sculpture off its frame. I forgot how heavy this thing is. She set it down on the floor and took the wings apart. It was slow work. She had to go back out to the shed twice for more tools. But the copper feathers and frame of the horned serpent were finally detached. She put the hardware in a ziplock bag and then bundled up the pieces and set them by the door, along with some of the old leather tree climbing gear she had inherited from her father.
One thing left to do.
She didn’t want to. She wanted to just go away and never look back. But she had to. She forced herself to walk down the dark path to the storm shelter. The stars were bright in the sky. Twinkling cheerfully as if they weren’t complicent. Silent witnesses to the worst acts of humanity.
The storm shelter door was shut. She didn’t remember closing it. She pulled it open and walked slowly down the stairs. The single light bulb dangling from the ceiling was on, but its pale light hardly reached the floor or the walls of the underground shelter that always seemed to her like a tomb. Well, now it was a tomb.
He was still there. Not that he could go anywhere without his heart. She didn’t look at him. She couldn’t. She had seen enough already.
She walked passed him to the corner and knelt down on the dirt floor. She knew this part of the floor had been disturbed, so she started digging. First with her fingers, then with a broken piece of a mason jar she had found nearby.
She couldn’t breathe down here. She had to find it. It belonged to her, and it was up to her to get it out of here. To put it somewhere safe. She hit something hard, and she cut her finger on the edge of the glass. What was a little more blood?
She tossed the piece of glass aside and kept digging with her fingers, pushing around the clay jar, feeling the small bundle of leather tucked inside. She held it carefully, like a broken living thing that might get frightened and turn against her, and headed back up the stairs, stepping around the body, slipping a little on the slick floor.
The stone was her responsibility. She had found it, deep in the mountains years ago. It had glowed so beautifully and whispered to her. How could she know?
She put the bundle in her backpack, and strapped the copper pieces to the back of her dad’s old Scout. She sped down the driveway on the bike without a backward glance.