To explain. I first started writing a novel, Orion’s Belt, back in the early nineties.
I made it about 25,000 words in when life, circumstance, boredom caused me to stop.
If I read it now, I file it under ‘not bad’. Truth is, its very unlikely to ever get finished, superceded as it was by the, now almost complete, BM (of which, more later no doubt) and TE (to start next year hopefully).
Here’s the 1st chapter. I went off the beginning pretty quickly and would probably have changed it. It was clearly just a poor attempt to pastiche the start of H2G2, which isn’t right, frankly.
Chapter 1 – The Return
High in the northern sky, straddled by the celestial equator; sandwiched between the constellations of Gemini and Taurus, lies the collection of stars, galaxies and nebulae known as Orion. The Hunter stands with his sword held high. His broad shoulders spread across the sky from the vast red supergiant of Betelgeuse, a mere 310 light years away, to the lesser known Bellatrix. An arm extends to grasp an impressive bow and, below, his body extends all the way down to Saiph and the very bright Rigel. Somewhere in between lie Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka; a row of three stars otherwise known as Orion’s belt.
His dogs Canis Major and Canis Minor stand ready at his side. Presumably, to chase the constellation Lepus, the hare, down the starry river Po that is Eridanus. Monoceros the Unicorn looks on proudly, unaffected by the intense glare from the greater of the two dogs. Its eye, Sirius, is the brightest eye in the sky and would scare away most other passing animals. Even Taurus the bull would shy away from its gaze had he not otherwise been preoccupied with the bow of Orion aimed squarely at its flanks.
Of all the objects and creatures in the sky; it is Orion’s belt that stands out more than anything else. This line of beacons in the sky is the first thing I see every time I look to the sky. The smooth continuity of the line disguising the fact the rightmost of the three stars, Mintaka, is twice as far from us as the others.
Orion is by far the most spectacular constellation in the sky. To the naked eye his outline is obvious on any cloudless night and the wondrous sights of M42 and the Horsehead Nebula have bewitched astronomers for centuries. I suppose it is therefore slightly surprising that a poll of the general populace would identify Orion as a make of Ford car other than one of the most beautiful sights in the galaxy. Ford executives, of course, would no doubt claim that their misconceived ‘Escort with a boot’ could hold its own in a beauty contest. I fear that says rather more about the executives that it does about the appearance of the car which does not do any sort of justice to its celestial namesake.
Until recently, I was as much part of the populace as anyone else on this. The discovery of Orion happened about only 18 months ago and undoubtedly played a part in me driving here tonight. I’m not implying any magical powers or astrological significance. I’ve got far too little imagination for anything like that. Only that ever since I resolved to look at the world with the same eyes that discovered Orion; nothing else has quite been the same.
Looking up at Orion now I’ve just noticed something that has unbelievably escaped my notice all these months. Orion, despite all his greatness and prowess as a hunter, appears not to have a head. His shoulders do rise to a point in the middle but it’s not exactly what you’d call a head. You might say that it’s quite a big detail to miss. In my defence I can only say the glory of his sword, bow and belt can easily blind the casual observer to the omission of such a necessary feature. There is certainly a big part of me that wishes I had noticed his lack of head a bit sooner. Perhaps then I would not have been quite so taken with the star gazing business and would therefore not have ended up here in the freezing cold. Vince would say that that was me looking for someone or something other than myself to blame. He does have an irritating knack of being cruelly right with these things. I know I can’t blame Orion, headless or not. If I try to be honest ( and there’s nothing better for that than a freezing cold cloudless Highland night ) I know there’s no one else to blame; if, indeed, there is any blame to be apportioned.
I cast my eyes around the sky and picked out many of the features I had learnt to recognise. The Great Bear of Ursa Major looked down on me; the Plough standing out among the group of stars. Cassiopeia, the proud queen and mother of Andromeda, her bright variables like a heartbeat; Hydra, the watersnake, swimming across the heavenly sea. The heavens told so many stories. Stories that I had recounted from this very spot.
Looking lower in the sky, the dark and portentous mountains on the other side of the Loch blocked the view of the sky. Seeing those mighty peaks reminded me of the of the reason for my return to this place and the happiness I had known here previously.
The peace that lay across the depths of the Loch Ness was just as I has remembered it. Even at night, the intense, unflappable calm was almost tangible. It was a calm that left my mind clear to try to appease the pain that I now felt very clearly in this silent location. Devoid of any outward stimulus, the brain left to concentrate on only the thoughts inside it.
The waters of the Loch looked as dark as space itself. In many ways we know far about the vast expanses of space than we do about the immense depths of Loch Ness. Some believe in a monster. I was never one of them. Lack of real scientific evidence had always blinded me of the real story of the monster. If the stars can be symbols of Gods, warriors and animals why then can’t this Loch be a symbol of a great monsters hidden somewhere in its darkness. I know who it was that made me start to think that way. Knowing that made my pain worsen. I needed an answer before my need for excuses and reason where none exists might cast me into the Loch.
I took my eyes away from the water and continued their slow progression downward until I stood staring at my feet. Below was the solid rock. The rock she had said could hold memories forever. Could they help me to remember ? I knew I had come to the right place. It seemed strange at the time to jump in the car and drive to Loch Ness. Something in my subconscious evidently knew what was the best thing to do even if my outward self would have found it difficult to make a cup of tea.
I had left at 6.30pm. I had made up my mind on my next course action within the first few miles. I don’t know why I hadn’t turned round then and got it all over with. Perhaps it was the rocks that drew me here; their strong granite magnetism pulling on whatever core I had left. Or maybe it was my memories that remain here that tugged me further north; away from the protective lights of the city and the civilisation that made me feel that all the world was mine. In the city I could survive on my own or so I thought. The further the orange glow of humanity was left behind the more my decision had changed. Stripped bare of the surroundings that made me feel part of something; the defence of a citadel full of distractions I realised quite how alone I was.
On the road I could see nothing but darkness in front of me. I wondered if this was in any way symbolic. I drove on in the hope of at least finding a chink of light. By the time I had reached Drumochter my previous decision had been completely forgotten; left behind in the false benevolence of concrete and sodium light.
When I arrived it was completely dark. It took a while to recognise enough of the landmarks to find the exact spot where I had stood before. The only place that might contain the memories that I could not see through the pain. I knew I could not leave here until I had made the right decision; no matter how long it took. I looked down at my feet for inspiration. The memories were not returning. I toyed with the idea of taking of my shoes in the hope that it would help the rock communicate with me. I decided against it. Maybe I was starting to take all this symbolism a bit to far; I had to stick to what I knew best. The answer was there; it just had to be found.
I looked back to the sky and began to see a glimmer of hope. My old friend Orion stood as proud as the day I had first picked out his figure in the myriad of stars. If I was going to find an answer it would be by going back to the very beginning. To the day when I first decided to cast my eyes to the stars; the day that led me to discover Orion’s Belt.