The Clearing by Dan Newman is a thriller set in the tropical locale of St. Lucia (available April 5, 2016).
A young man travels back to St. Lucia, where he grew up, and where his guilt for the part he played in a murder continues to haunt.
Now, thirty years later, Nate responds to his father’s suicide with a trip back to St. Lucia, the land where he was raised as an outsider, tolerated but not accepted. As a boy he ventured out to the plantation of Ti Fenwe with three others—weak-willed Pip, and cousins Richard and Tristan. Surrounded on all sides by dense jungle, the boys explore, their only rule to be back in the house before nightfall. Because at Ti Fenwe, something ancient stalks the jungle, its reputation more horrifying than any of the boys can comprehend.
But it’s a very real enemy who changes the boys forever, and snuffs out a life. Decades later, Nate comes back to finally gain a measure of peace over his role in the killing, and to uncover the deadly secrets of St. Lucia once and for all.
Rachael watched from the path and Nate turned momentarily before pushing on. He knew the question she was not asking: “I’m going to the clearing,” he said, and then turned down the path.
He followed the path at his feet, ducking under branches and pushing leaves and vines out of his way. The path was used less now, and the forest had narrowed it and claimed some parts almost entirely. Still, he was able to find the bare brown floor with enough regularity to keep pushing on. Finally he ducked under a swath of vines that were wrapping themselves into a stand of green bamboo, and found himself standing at the edge of that natural opening in the forest, still largely dome-shaped thanks to the trees that lined the edge and cast their branches up and over. It was darker now. The holes he remembered at its zenith were now filled in, and while light did still come into the natural room, it did so in shafts that cut their individual ways through and lit small pools of light on the earthen floor like puddles after a rainstorm. At the center of the clearing there was a cluster of small angular structures, and despite his edginess Nate was somehow thrilled to recognize them as old bits of furniture, some now just steel skeletons—a chair-back here, a coil-spring base there. And at the center, like a nucleus for the litter of rusting metal and softening wooden shapes sat the circular form of the old industrial-wire spool.
Nate walked into the clearing slowly, almost reverently, like a man entering a quiet church. He walked through the shafts of light, leaving swirling pools of dust to dance behind him, flitting in and out of the light like tiny pixies celebrating the return of some long departed king. The memories were coming fast now, and as he touched the edge of a slowly decomposing wooden chair, it was like electrifying a synapse, and his mind came alive with images of Pip, Richard, and Tristan, laughing that untroubled, carefree summertime laughter.
For a brief moment, he tapped into an incredible sense of lightness, that state of being unique to childhood where the day is limitless, where no rules exist to restrain, and no logic cinches around us to bound ideas. Nothing is impossible: not flight, not dragons, not warring armies, not magical armor. It hovered for a brief moment, and then it was gone. He was a man again, a man standing in the penumbra of a forest clearing surrounded by the relics of a single day in his childhood.
The laughter seemed far away now, little more than the lingering echo of something light and childlike coming from another room. As Nate approached the industrial-wire spool table, he felt a different sensation, one much less welcome but somehow seared more indelibly into his childhood memory. He remembered standing there facing Tristan, scared in a way that transcended a momentary fright. This was real fear—formative, life changing terror. It reached past the moment, past its inception, and cast a shadow on how he would see the world from there on in. It was an awakening of sorts for Nate, a sickening realization that the world was not a safe, fun-filled romp, but rather a risky, uncertain landscape crammed with sharp edges over which a veneer of happiness and safety was thinly draped.
He looked down at the circular wooden table top, and was not surprised to see that the old wooden box, the one that had held the wrist rockets, was no longer there. The table was bare except for four small round spheres, each caked completely with brown rust, each sitting in the parallel seams of the wood that made up the table top. He reached out and picked one up, and rolled it into his palm. It was one of the ball bearings they had used all those years ago, and he looked automatically up toward the far end of the clearing where the white blocks of Styrofoam used to hang in the trees. Of course, there was no sign of them now.
Copyright © 2016 Dan Newman.
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Dan Newman counts his having been raised “in-transit” around the globe as his most valuable education – despite a Master’s degree in Journalism. The son of a globe-trotting international development worker, Dan grew up in St. Lucia, Lesotho, Swaziland, England, Canada, and Australia. Ask him where he comes from and you'll get a puzzled look, but it's left a love of travel, writing and far-flung places. He now lives with his wife and son just outside of Toronto, Canada.