Preamble Stumble Sample

THE CELESTIAL CARRIAGE EMERGED FROM THE DARK FIRMAMENT. White wings stretched wide and steady, it glided down, parting the crowd in the public arena to land behind the grand amphitheatre. Everyone in attendance hoped to witness the coming of the great orator, Jawanza, and wish him well for the revelation.

 

The carriage doors opened to an expectant silence.

 

‘What’s happening up there?’ a wellwisher far away from the air carriage called out after a while.

 

‘He’s not there!’ someone up front called back.

 

Mouths dropped open and eyes grew wide. ‘How could he not be there?’

 

It was a mystery to all except the usher, Jink, who’d caught a brief glimpse of Jawanza on the carriage step when a zephyr had parted the mist and light had shone through.

 

‘He’s here! Do you see?’ Jink pointed at a tall, glassy entity whose large head carried mostly mouth and a one-track brain good for broadcasting stories across great distances and not much else.

 

‘Hello, wellwishers!’ said a disembodied voice.

 

‘Orator, put on your visibility cloak so we can see you!’ Jink whispered. When the orator remained unseen, he then said, ‘Did you forget it again?’

 

‘I did,’ Jawanza confessed with an awkward laugh. Notoriously absent-minded, he’d forgotten to bring it. The lark! Presenting as ethereal wasn’t the sensational arrival everyone expected and stepping out of the carriage to eager faces was the encouragement he needed before the reading. He felt bad that he’d let everyone down.

But then fortune shined upon him as it often did. Jink took off her cloak and handed it to him. ‘Thank you, Jink!’ Jawanza gave a nod of his giant head. The basic fabric didn’t reveal the orator, but it did contour his shape, and he hoped it would assure everyone that he was indeed there and that the show would go on.

All cheered, except for one. ‘What if it’s not really him?’ the wellwisher wondered.

 

‘Who else would it be?’ someone nearby countered.

 

‘It could be anyone,’ someone a little further back remarked.

 

‘The words appear only to him. No one else bares the stone.’

 

‘It’s definitely Jawanza,’ someone from the front assured. ‘Jink saw him before offering her cloak.’

 

‘It’s Jink’s cloak,’ someone called out for those in the back to hear.

 

‘The cloak’s jinxed!’ someone at the back heard.

 

‘Jinxed?’ someone else wondered.

 

‘Is the reading cursed?!’ queried another.

 

‘Impossible!’ came a protest.

 

Word travelled through the large crowd, changing as it passed from one to another. Oblivious to the shifting rumour, the orator raised a scroll thick with words. Carried out of the carriage on a long and loud cheer, Jawanza entered the crowd and followed Jink who swept a path through the wellwishers towards the grand amphitheatre.

 

All around, wellwishers wished him well.

 

‘Speak loud and clear!’ someone shouted.

 

‘I shall!’ Jawanza answered.

 

‘Make us feel like we’re there!’

 

‘I shall!’

 

Enjoy the reading, Orator!’

 

‘I shall!’

 

‘Don’t worry about the jinx!’

 

‘Pardon?’ Though he heard the comment, it didn’t register. When his mind was focussed solely on speaking, it tended to lag with processing spoken words, other than those that offered encouragement.

 

‘It’s probably not true!’

 

His smile fading, the orator’s face registered confusion. What was going on? He stopped and frowned. ‘What isn’t?’

 

Pushed along, he heard no reply and let it go until someone else called out, ‘‘Everything’s going to be okay!’

‘It is?’ His frown returned. This wasn’t wellwishing! It was reassurance! He didn’t mean for it to be a question. ‘It is!’ he said with slightly forced conviction.

 

Driven forward by the crowd, under the shadow of the departing air carriage, many encouraging hands steered Jawanza to the backstage entrance where Jink stood at the tall iron doors with a large ornate key that she turned in the lock. Jawanza arrived just as she opened it. Jink ushered the orator through then followed him inside. Closing the door blocked out the roar of the wellwishers and left them facing a long, white corridor. In keeping with tradition, Jawanza silently followed Jink down the corridor to a plain white door. Jink stood aside giving him a moment which he used to steady breath and empty mind.

 

‘Are you ready, Orator?’

 

Closed eyes open, he turned to see Jink holding the closed stage door by its edge. With one last long breath, Jawanza nodded. Jink swung open the door and Jawanza stepped through.