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Take Me Back to the Garden of Love

by John Pickman

Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich
And strange.

-William Shakespeare
The Tempest

Prologue: Byzantium

The moon shone out, no longer enclosed within the black cocoon she had worn six days before. She waned now, her curves flattening down toward sickle moon, toward darkness. The night was clear, the fog gone. The strange lights that had played over the Hagia Sophia were nowhere to be seen. If great powers or forces had wrestled for control of Constantinople, they were gone. Only mortal engines remained.

Figures moved on the vasty plain before the city. The armies of the Turks were readying for a final assault, their fires kindling, their brightness muting the light of the moon overhead. From his place on the battlements, Manuel could see them arrayed below, spread out nearly to the horizon line. Their mustering was an endless thunder, a pounding noise that neither ceased nor built to crescendo. If it went on much longer, he would surely go mad.

Below him, George Mundus stirred, his breath catching as he woke and sat forward. He scrubbed a hand over his face and looked up at Manuel, eyes hollow and red-rimmed. "Anything?"

Manuel shook his head. "Still mustering."

"Great God..." Mundus rubbed at his neck, sore from leaning back against the wall. "I'd have this over, rather than wait here and breathe their smoke."

"I doubt it will be much longer."

"They'll come tonight, then?" It wasn't really a question.

"Yes," Manuel said. "I think they will come tonight."

"Does God still favor us, do you think?" This was a question Mundus had asked repeatedly throughout the previous days. "Could he have grown displeased with us? Abandoned us?"

"God does not favor me with his opinions," Manuel said. "And if he conveys them through signs and portents, I don't have the wit to read them." He was thinking- as Mundus surely was- of the lights over Hagia Sophia.

"But surely God doesn't favor the Turks-"

"I doubt," Manuel said, cutting off the diatribe- with its endless repetitions and variations- in mid-sentence, "that God favors anyone tonight. If he has an opinion, he's kept it to himself. As for me, I suspect he has retreated to his own City to let us play out our conflicts on our own. I find it hard to imagine a God with blood on his hands."

Mundus stared at him, wide-eyed, but the blasphemy did not hold the power it might once have done. Not here, on the edge of the night, with death and destruction spread out all around them.

"This is the end of the world," Manuel said, and sat back against the wall. "I'm going to sleep. Wake me when the fighting starts." He closed his eyes.

Mundus woke him from a confused dream of star-strewn cities. He lurched to his feet as the cannon of the Turks began firing.

From there, the night was a confusion of noise and movement, acrid smoke and coppery tang of blood in his nostrils, fires burning endlessly along the battlements. The azabs broke against the walls and fell back, only to be replaced with the Sultan's Anatolians in the northwest of the city. They were driven back with loss, and as the elite Janissaries swarmed in behind, Manuel and the others rushed to the open Kerkoporta gate, where the Ottomans were spilling through the gap. The incoming Janissaries met the weary, outnumbered Byzantines- their king fighting among them in this last hour- at the open gate. There was a moment of confusion as the two waves of infantry met and overlapped. Someone's arm swung back and struck Manuel across the head. He reeled, kept his feet, and felt an explosion of heat and pain from his side. He looked down to see the spear being pulled from him, blood running out over his tunic and down his legs. The spear stabbed out again and broke through his ribs, scraping over them as it pierced his chest. There was a second explosion; not pain this time, but a terrible, engulfing weakness. He fell to his knees, the roar of battle spiralling away into widening blackness. He looked up. Above was the moon, cool and serene, her fires undimmed. He fell on his side, still looking at her shape, now remote and ghostly in the smoke. He thought of her reflection on the water, of her light bathing the wide lands in gleaming silver.

So thinking, he died.

Sometime later, he awoke amidst the scattered dead. As the moon rose, her belly thinner than the night before, he crept away into the catacombs beneath the city.

Three days later, he left Constantinople.

"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.

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The following comments are for "Take Me Back to the Garden of Love - 1"
by Beckett Grey

Hagia Sophia
Wow! A story around the taking of the great city and the Dome. This is ambitious - good job so far! I'm already hooked and in awe!

( Posted by: jonpenny [Member] On: November 25, 2009 )

@ jonpenny
Thanks! I'm afraid that's the last we'll see of Constantinople for a while, but I have an abiding love for the Byzantine Empire and its capital city. You're right about the ambitious part though...I may be in over my head.

Thanks for reading,


( Posted by: Beckett Grey [Member] On: November 26, 2009 )

So! A ghost story, eh??
Either that or his death was just the 24-hour kind.

Uh oh! I just thought of another possibility: PLEASE tell me he's not a zombie!

At any rate, I'm intrigued to see where you go with this. So far it DOES seem to be a bit of a departure for you, at least from "The Outsiders." Please carry on!

( Posted by: LinnieRed [Member] On: November 29, 2009 )

You had me here...
but now with part two out, it ONLY gets better...

( Posted by: TheRealKarmaTseringLhamo [Member] On: December 4, 2009 )

Garden of Love
Better late than never I always say. This was wonderful. I'm about to go and read the second one so I'll write me thoughts there. Good job so far my friend!

Much Love,


( Posted by: HeRoCoMpLeX [Member] On: December 16, 2009 )

I'm coming in late on this
Hi Beckett:

I'm coming in late on this. Life for me has been a series of adjustments lately -- I've added one project after another (school with 2 majors, another book project, magazine projects, etc) to the point that I've been overwhelmed.

Finally, with the semester more than half way over and the self-imposed deadline for my next proposal, I'm finding balance again. It ain't easy!

I think I'm going to love your latest work!

What I love most about it is this: You open with a nice descriptive piece about the moon. It gives me, as a reader, a feeling of peace as I read it . . . and then all hell breaks loose. I'm very partial to descriptions that give me something to visualize. I don't like vivid descriptions of characters -- I like to come up with those images in my head on my own -- but I do like knowing exactly what the setting looks like, and with your opening paragraph you gave me something to focus on and begin with.

And when you end the chapter, the reader is again focusing on the moon. It just gives it the feeling of a complete scene, and with it, we know that scene is closed. What's the word I'm looking or here? It gives me a feeling of "complete-ness."

What I don't like about the moon imagery? The brightness of a fire muting the light of the moon overhead. I think I know the image you want to build there -- the light from the fire mutes the moonlight on the earth -- but when I read that line it implies that the fire dims the moon itself. I've been to some huge bonfires in my day, and a bonfire never really dims the image of the moon in the sky. It dims the light of the stars, but the moon is still rather bright. You might want to rework that part just a bit.

Now that I'm organized again, I'll try to read one submission per day until I'm all caught up. This has all the promise of the "Outsiders."

By the way -- what are you going to do with that serial? It NEEDS to be published somehow.


PS: I hate to hijack the thread for something else, but Four Seasons is being uploaded tonight. We uploaded it earlier, but our page count was off by "1". We had to typeset . . . again.

( Posted by: OchaniLele [Member] On: March 13, 2010 )

@ Ochani
Better late than never. Thank you for your kind words!

Regarding the question of whether fires can dim the light of the moon: I don't doubt you've been to some big bonfires, but according to available data, Sultan Mehmed II brought somewhere between 80,000 and 200,000 troops to the gates of Constantinople. I've no idea what cooking/forging/camp fires for 200,000 soldiers would do to the sky, so I'm just guessing, but it seemed appropriately world-shaking.

As for The Outsiders, I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with it. My general plan is to finish editing it, then send it out to anyone who still accepts unsolicited manuscripts and seems in the market for that kind of fiction. If no one bites, I'll probably self-publish through Lulu or someone similar. I'm always open to suggestions, if you have any :)

Take care,


( Posted by: Beckett Grey [Member] On: March 13, 2010 )

@ Beckett
There are TONS of publishers in the world who do not work with unagented authors; therefore, they work with unsolicited manuscripts.

This is what I've done during my brief career as a writer, and it works for others as well.

If one is a good writer, and you are, there is no reason your work should NOT be published. The trick is to find a publisher who is both accepting manuscripts and accepting manuscripts in YOUR genre.

Get a copy of the "Writers' Guide to the Literary Marketplace." Comb through it for all publishers who publish material from unagented authors in your genre. Make note of what they require: 1. query; 2. query and proposal/sample chapters; or 3. complete manuscript. Some want a query followed by a complete manuscript. Their entry will give specifics.

Find books similar to yours in the same genre. Look up that publisher's information.

Once you've done that and narrowed yourself down to a few publishers, go to their websites and look for specific submission guidelines. With today's word processors, it's very easy to format your individual proposals to their specifics.

Finally -- no publisher wants simultaneous submissions. Each wants you to submit to them one at a time. Too bad. Submit, submit, submit, and let each think they are the ONLY publisher to whom you are submitting. There is a numbers game to all this -- and it's none of their business who you show your material to!

That's what I've done, and to date (knock on wood) I've had ZERO rejection letters.

Good luck!

( Posted by: OchaniLele [Member] On: March 13, 2010 )

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