I’ve got a lot of forgotten projects on different computers. Some I find and develop, others get forgotten, again, perhaps never to see the light of day.
I don’t quite know what to do with Border Land. I’ve written a few chapters and am still deciding if the project is a go or not.
Border Land is set in the Border Lands of the German and Danish border where I live.
Here’s the prologue (rough edit). See what you think.
Kegnæs Fyr, Germany
February 10th, 1920
The blade was pitted, much like the old man’s face, but the edge was keen, like his eyes, as he climbed the stone steps of the lighthouse, the knife gripped between gnarled fingers. He was too old for this kind of work, but the committee had agreed it should be him, that he was the least likely to be suspected. He could do the job, and no one would be the wiser.
“Besides,” the committee had said. “Once the vote is in, no one will be looking for him. They’ll think he’ll have fled to Germany.”
And he should have. The old man had told him – he would have helped him, even, had it not been for the letter. Several letters that the committee knew about. It was hoped the young man in the lighthouse would have them.
“But if he doesn’t,” they said. “And if he won’t tell you where they are, then you be sure he takes that secret to the grave. Be sure now, Magnus. Be sure he takes it to the grave.”
Magnus paused to lean against the curved wall of the staircase. He looked at his fingernails in the soft oil light. He could smell the earth beneath his nails. If he closed his eyes, he could see the grave, just a hundred metres from the lighthouse, hidden in a small copse of trees. There was a cart beside the lighthouse keeper’s house.
“Use that,” they told him. “To move the body. Save your back, Magnus.”
Save your back.
“Save their necks, more like,” he whispered.
He looked up as the oil lamp flickered.
The soft voice slid around the curve in the wall. Magnus slipped the knife back into the pocket of his winter jacket, cursing softly as the blade nicked the lining.
“Just me, William,” he said.
“That’s right.” Magnus waited a moment, then said, “I’m coming up. All right?”
“Yes,” William said, although the word was more a breath than a welcome. “Come on up.”
Magnus took the steps one at a time, pausing as he neared top, slowing as he lifted his feet onto the narrow rungs of the ladder, the last few feet onto the platform that ringed the great lamp. William held out his hand, grasping for the old man in the dark, pulling him into the light that shone across the sound from the southern tip of the island of Als and across the water to the rest of Germany.
The uncontested part.
“I know why you’ve come,” William said, stepping back to give Magnus room.
“I didn’t want to.”
William gripped the rail and looked the older man in the eye. Magnus paled under William’s stare, shivering in the frigid air blowing off the sound. He tugged his coat closer around his body, slipped his hands into his pockets, head twitching to one side as his left hand closed around the handle of the knife.
“They’re not here,” William said. “The letters.”
“Where are they?”
“Safe.” William shrugged. “No one will find them.”
“The committee doesn’t believe you.”
“They should.” William nodded in the direction of the city of Sønderborg. “The vote’s in. We all know which way it will go. It’s done.”
“Apart from your letters.”
“It takes two to write a letter.”
“And the other half,” Magnus said. “They’ve burned their correspondence. Like you should have done, William.”
William tugged a pair of gloves from his belt. He offered them to Magnus, smiling as the old man shook his head.
“Calfskin,” William said, teasing the gloves onto his hands. “Local made. Not German.”
“It wouldn’t matter if they were,” Magnus said.
“Yes, old man. It would matter. It will always matter.” William walked around the lamp and Magnus followed. “Out there,” William said, pointing across the fjord. “Ships passing the two points, they’re sailing into history tonight. Just imagine it. Being aboard the last ship to pass Kegnæs Fyr, guided by a German light one second, then Danish in the next as the lamp turns. That should be recorded in the captain’s log. It means something now, but in the future it’ll mean more. They’ll talk about it. Maybe even write about it.”
“No one must write about what’s in those letters, William,” Magnus said. His lips quivered in the chill air. “They can never write about it.”
“But these are voices – people’s voices. We can’t silence them.”
“We must. That’s what the committee wants.”
“But why, Magnus?”
The knife grew heavy in Magnus’ fingers. “You’re a fool to ask such a question. More so if you don’t know the answer.” Magnus pulled the knife slowly from his pocket. The tip caught on the thick fold of the lip. He jerked it free. “You know why I’ve come tonight, William.”
William’s eyes fixed on the knife. The blade flashed once with the turn of the lighthouse lamp. It flashed again on the next, and a third time before he answered.
“You’ve come for the letters.”
Magnus lowered the blade out of the light, hiding it in the shadow cast by his body.
“Not just the letters. They want more than that.”
“If you murder me,” William said. “You’ll never find the letters. Not you, not them. No one.”
“Ah, William,” Magnus said. “That’s the wrong thing to say.”
Magnus took a small step towards the young lighthouse keeper, forcing William closer to the railing.
“You’ve should’ve run when I told you to.”
“I still could,” William said. “Magnus, please. Listen to me. I can still run.”
“No, William. You can’t.”
The committee chose Magnus for his age and familiarity. Magnus was well-liked and well-known in the local area. All doors were open to Magnus Pallesen. He was the perfect farmer – hard-working, soft spoken, a quiet German.
At least until midnight.
At midnight, when the vote was in, Magnus would shed his patriotic skin and clothe himself in the new colours of his old nation. He would speak up, loudly. Chorusing the celebrations, championing the will of the people, burying past affiliations, just like William buried the box of letters – closed correspondence written to influence the fate of a people. But now that the people had decided, those words were better burned or buried. Silenced, like young William Brand, as the wind rushed from his lungs, expelled with the hard slap of the ground against his back.
The lighthouse lamp turned, lighting the waters, steering the captains and their ships across one border and into another.