Approach To The Inmost Cave

I had another nightmare last night. Bombs exploded (with a half-muted sound) in the distance and the sky turned orange and then gray and then everything was ashen and it was hard to breathe.

I was a kid in my dream, and I had kids... you know how dreams go. There was a dog -- a black dog. Jim Williams, my contractor friend, drove his truck through the haze to my house to bring me my dog, who had been swimming in brackish water. The kids didn't understand what was happening and were soon bored. I let them play with the hose in the back yard and wash trash cans.

I'm writing about all of this right now in my novel -- isn't that weird? Or not. Franny has to do chores. There is a dog -- Jack is his name. There is a gravel pit that looks like a nuclear blast site or a crater on the moon. There is a bomb shelter, and everyone is afraid of nuclear war. Franny is a kid -- she is me. I am she. (All my characters are part of me.) And I am a grown-up, writing this story. It's all there.

I'm sure my dream is influenced, too, by Cormac McCarthy's book, THE ROAD, which I read several months ago, about a father and son trying to survive a nuclear winter. It's bleak and beautiful, painful and powerful, and I recognize the landscape of that novel in my dream.

I dreamed in color. I hope I'm writing in color, too. There is a sense of foreboding in the novel, but I hope you are laughing, too, when you read the finished book. Oh, I am trying hard to make you laugh. I'm holding both sides of Uncle Edisto's stick.

I didn't laugh in my dream, though. It was filled with a surreal, walking-under-water feeling, and this is how I feel about the novel now. Yesterday I figured out the way forward, I took long, solid strides, and I can see that I have left the stage of "Tests, Allies, and Enemies."

I am approaching the inmost cave with this revision. If you have read Chris Vogler's THE WRITER'S JOURNEY, you'll recognize that term. If you are a novel writer, or a student of story, you'll recognize the place:

"The Hero must make the preparations needed to approach the Inmost Cave that leads to the Journey's heart, or central Ordeal. Maps may be reviewed, attacks planned, a reconnaissance launched, and possibly the enemy forces whittled down before the Hero can face his greatest fear, or the supreme danger lurking in the Special World."

That's where I am. I am moving into the heart of my story -- I'm racing OUT of the middle, thank goodness. I can review everything later, but for now, I want to keep moving forward, and take Franny to the heart of her fear, and let her figure her way out. It feels good to be racing for the finish.

Just a note: As I surfed the Web this morning, looking for a suitable public-domain photo of a nuclear blast, I found this video game, "World in Conflict," with its accompanying YouTube moment of nuclear blasts, and all I can say is... really? Really? This would have so totally terrified me as a kid.

In fact... it did terrify me. I remember adults talking about the Sedan Site in Nevada, where an underground nuclear test was conducted in June 1962 (photo at right), resulting in two radioactive clouds drifting across the United States toward my home just outside of Washington, D.C.. We watched the news. We knew this cloud was invisible poison. We tracked its progress across the country, and we knew there was nothing we could do about it. We could not control our world.

Today I stick to what I can control. I suit up and show up. And now, forward, toward that inmost cave.

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