So as anyone who has been reading this blog knows, I have spent most of my time and writing efforts helping my wife polish her stories and get them out. Due to this, in part, I have not really written anything of my own. Do not get me wrong, I love helping her out and there is a very large chance that if I was not helping I would still not be getting anything productive done with my own ideas, hehe. Sadly, that is how it has always been with me. I am going to try hard to start writing a little more and at least finish an entire rough draft some time this year. In fact, I intend to write a rough-draft prologue towards the end of this blog post, so please stay with me here!
I have written stories almost as long as I can remember, but have not completely finished one (aside from school assignments) since I was maybe eight years old. The first thing I can remember writing was an illustrated story called ‘Adam’s Island‘ when I was very young. It was a story about myself getting stranded on a desert island. There was nothing in the story about survival or hardship, in fact my main character thrived immediately – befriending and talking to animals, building a series of tree houses that were connected with skateboard ramps, and so on. Thus is the mind of a child, I suppose. No worries, no hardships, all fun. That is the last story I remember completely coming to a conclusion on (aside from school assignments, like I said). That is pretty bad seeing as it is now almost nineteen years later! I have had no lack of ideas since then, and have started many stories…but never finishing more than a few chapters. And when I say I have no lack of ideas for stories and books, that is a fact. I try to jot down and save any overall arcing idea I have just in case I ever do flesh it out. My little notepad file currently sits on the desktop with nineteen book ideas. The notepad in my head has countless more.
So, taking a 180 turn from my last finished project of ‘Adam’s Island‘ when I was eight, this current story is about people with real hardships. Real desires, and more often than not, they are not the positive kind. People who decide to give up their struggle and offer the last thing they have in order to succeed – Their soul.
The Devil’s Artifacts
Robert Johnson slammed the door behind him as he came out of the juke joint, or as best he could slam it. The door on the old wood building wasn’t much more than a barn door put on a track. Sort of like the doors on some rail cars he’d hitched on when he was a kid.
“Damned be them all!” he said, kicking a dried up beer bottle off the wood steps. He could hear the music starting back up behind him; the sound of drums and the quick whistle of a harmonica poured through the cracks in the wood planks along the building’s front.
He took a seat on the little porch and looked up at the new moon. It was pitch dark out aside from the lights squeezing out the two little windows on top of the juke joint’s walls. Along with the sound of music he could hear the people. His heart pounded each time he heard the rhythmic stomping of the crowd. All the laughing, clapping, and dancing sent tremors through the base boards and up his backside until he couldn’t take it anymore. Hopping down from the porch, he grabbed his old guitar and started walking.
He hadn’t gotten paid for his performance tonight, if that was what anyone would call what just happened – embarrassment might’ve been a better word. That is aside from a couple bottles of warm beer. Who were these folks to laugh him off the little stage and kick him out? Who were they to tell Robert that he should give up the guitar and head back to sharecropping? But maybe they were right. His idol, Son House, had told him just as much. If a legend at the guitar and the blues like Son called his music ‘racket’ then there had to be some credence in it.
Robert headed around the side of the building and popped the top button of his shirt open. It was a hell of a hot night, even for a Mississippi August. He propped his old guitar up beside the building and pulled off his dirty suit jacket with the holes in the cuffs. He dabbed the beads of sweat off his forehead and tossed the coat on top of the instrument. It was a beat up old thing, that guitar, but he loved it. Robert was starting to get the feeling it didn’t love him, though. He shook his head at the thought and undid the front of his pants. That dark beer had been sitting in his gut for a good hour or two and he had a mind to pay it back to the building before he headed off. When he was almost done with his business he heard something break on the wall inside. Someone had dropped a bottle, or thrown one, either way it was enough to startle Robert enough to jerk and piss on his jacket and guitar.
He buttoned up his trousers and cussed at his luck, or lack of it. He had had it. His dreams of hitting it big and becoming a renowned musician were not going to happen. Maybe the old women he used to pick crops with were right about hoodoo and curses. He sure felt cursed. Another round of laughs and clapping came from inside the building and it was too much to take. He kicked the guitar aside as hard as he could and watched it tumble into a corner where the building turned and made an L.
“Hey now, son, there ain’t no need in all that,” came a voice from what looked like an old pile of rags in the corner. “Why ain’t you in there playin’, boy, if you got this fine guitar here?”
“Are you jokin’ with me old man? Surely you done heard what happened in there?”
“Mayhaps I did and mayhaps I ain’t. Either way, ya got no business kickin’ this old pissed on thing on me.”
Robert was in no mood for any of this. The row of sweat had already formed back on his head from the humid night and he wiped it on his sleeve. “Y’know what, I don’t even need it no more sirs, you can keep it.” He turned around and started walking off; a missed drop of sweat rolled down and stung his eye.
“Now wait son, I know what you’re feelin’.”
Robert almost kept walking but something in the man’s voice made him stop. It sounded familiar. “I beg your pardons, sir, but you ain’t got no idea what I’m feelin.”
“You think you’re the only one that’s gotten laughed off from his dreams, boy? Nah, I reckon I know plenty. I tell ya what though, you cut off that shit attitude ya got there and I’ll tell ya what to do. I’ll tell ya how to get them in there to like ya.”
“No sirs, I don’t much care what them people in there think. I’m done with it. On my way back to sharecroppin’.”
“Listen boy, I ain’t just talkin’ about them in there, you can have anything you want. You can be bigger than Big Bill Broonsy, ol’ Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Son House.” The last name struck a chord.
“What you gettin’ at mister?”
“There’s a man that’ll teach you how to play better than any man alive knows. More than a man. You see that road there behind ya, boy?” he pointed. “You go on and follow that. Follow it about eight miles I’d reckon and you’ll hit a crossroads. Now there’s some roads on the way but it ain’t like this one. You’ll know the one, boy just keep walkin’. There’s a big ol’ oak and some brush there, ya can’t miss it.”
“And what I do after I get there? He lives in that part?”
“He knows you’re comin’. Just get on now. I told’im you’d be there by midnight and I reckon it’s already done past nine at least and it’s a good two hour walk for a young man.”
Robert didn’t even reply; it was clear this old man was drunk. He started to walk off when he felt a tap on his shoulder.
“You’re goina need this, boy.” The man was younger than he had thought, and blacker than the night. He had a wide friendly smile, though it was full of rotten teeth. Robert took the guitar without saying a word, turned and headed off east towards the crossroads.
He’d been walking more than two hours now and by this point was thinking the man back at the joint really was crazy. Hell, maybe he was the crazy one for believing him. He didn’t have much to lose though and nobody would be missing him.
Robert wiped another hot mess of sweat from his face with his sleeve and crested another little dirt hill. The place down in front of him had to be what the man was talking about. The road he was on stretched off as far as he could tell into the darkness, and another bisected it in a perfect cross. Right on the northeast corner was the biggest oak he’d ever seen, surrounded by some thick brush. Although he was a mile past tired, he ran down the rest of the way.
Just as the clock back at the juke joint struck twelve, Robert walked out into the heart of the crossroads and waited. It was quiet out here aside from the katydids and a rustling in the brush under the tree – though the sliver of moon didn’t give him enough light to see what caused it.
Robert looked around for signs of a house or building and saw nothing but land and wild. He was about to start heading back when a voice came from behind the old tree. As he swung around he spotted a tall man dressed in all black wearing a hat and dark sunglasses.
“Well good evenin’ there Robert, boy. You come to make yo’ bargain?”
Robert nodded and noticed the man’s outstretched hands, palms to the sky.
“The guitar, boy.”
Robert stepped over to the dark skinned man and placed his old guitar in his hands.
“Well, here’s your problem, Robert boy, just needs a good tunin’ is all.” The man held the instrument up and twisted each knob. The whole process took no more than a minute. “Don’t mind if I play a chord now do ya?” He didn’t wait for Robert to answer before he started playing.
The sound coming from the old bottleneck guitar was like nothing Robert had heard before. All the players at the juke joints and dance houses he’d ever been didn’t compare. There was feeling in each note – soul in every chord struck. He watched in awe as the man played, eyes closed with a big smirk on his face.
“That’ll about do it. One more thing before you go though, boy. I’ll be needin’ you to sign this paper about yo’ bargain and all.”
Robert took the thick parchment and pen from the stranger and wrote down his letters as best he could. Once he was done he offered it back to the man in black and in exchange got his guitar. He went to turn and head home when he heard the man clear his throat.
“Just one more thing, boy, I promise,” he nodded towards Robert’s feet. “I’m goina be needin’ yo’ shoes, too.”
Robert complied and slid off his old black shoes, handing them to the man. “Why’d you want my shoes, sir?”
The man in all black grinned wide. “Don’t you worry ‘bout them shoes boy, you’ll get ‘em back in Hell…”
From there it will switch to chapter one and it is now set in the present. The book itself is about an FBI agent that is tasked with tracking down a stolen object from the Smithsonian museum – The guitar of Robert Johnson. He is in for more than he bargains for though when he encounters at least two more people searching for it. One sent by the church, and one unknown dark figure. The agent does’t believe in the occult or myths, but is in for a rude awakening.
What does everyone think about this idea in general? What did you think of my rough draft for the prologue?
Sadly, I do not know if I will ever write this book. As I said earlier, I tend to start hundreds of stories and never finish. I will try to make time though, as long as it does not interfere with my other priorities.
As always, thanks for reading!