As we earnestly begin the task of pursuing publishers of the novel I have written, A Stone Heart, I’ve decided to periodically share excepts from the book. Besides, it’s also a cheap and lazy way to submit posts when the idea well is somewhat barren, like it is now. This is the story’s Prologue.
The trouble started when he increased the treadmill’s speed past the warm-up stage. His right leg mysteriously stopped working. It couldn’t maintain the normal left-right, left-right rhythm one normally takes for granted, unexpectedly became dead weight, and couldn’t function independently. Unable to lift or control the limb, his foot, lower leg and ankle all had the strength of overcooked spaghetti.
This was the first time in years Stone Summers had used his treadmill, and until that moment, he had felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
In what felt like a previous life, Stone exercised regularly, but the accident had robbed him of the desire to care about anything. This apathy faded with the passage of time however, and he eventually emerged from the emotional quicksand, ate more regularly, resumed a healthy diet, and took occasional walks. The notion of working out periodically resurfaced, and eventually became a goal.
Every Sunday, Stone vowed this would be the week he’d hit the gym, but the subsequent days provided a reason to put it off, and he’d half-heartedly scold himself for procrastinating. A creature of habit, Stone knew from experience that committing to something was always his Achilles’ heel. Once the plunge was taken, however, it became part of his DNA and he was all in.
A few minutes earlier, Stone had seized upon the thought and marched down the cellar stairs. He was ten minutes into his workout, and with each passing minute he became more content, confident and invigorated. As he began to perspire, he felt as if he was finally purging the personal demons he had painstakingly nurtured since that fateful day, when his life had been turned inside-out.
Now, Stone couldn’t keep pace with the machine. The weakness became worse with each step and, without warning, he lost his balance. Clumsily tumbling off the treadmill, he landed awkwardly on the side of his foot, and unceremoniously flopped onto a nearby sofa that fortuitously provided a soft landing. The rhythm of an escalating heartbeat pounded in his chest and thumped in his temples as he propped himself into a sitting position, alarmed and confused.
“What the hell?” he muttered aloud. Pondering his predicament, the only audible sound in the room was his breathing, the treadmill, which was still running, and the tick, tick, tick of a wall clock. He calmed himself and, after a few moments, flexed the uncooperative leg without any impediment. He curled his toes and moved the foot in a circular motion, testing the ankle, then rose from the couch, stood upright, turned off the machine, and strode purposely back and forth across the room before running in place, lifting his knees high off the ground like a sprinter warming up for an event. Everything worked, and the leg that a few moments earlier felt like a lifeless piece of meat had complete sensation, strength and range of motion.
“It only lasted a few minutes,” he rationalized, but Stone instinctively knew that whatever had just occurred, it wasn’t good. Climbing the stairs back to the main floor of his house without incident, Stone walked over to the refrigerator and grabbed a Sam Adams Lite, before settling onto the leather rocker-recliner, where he scratched his head, sighed, and wondered what he should do.
“You’re going to pretend it never happened, aren’t you?” he heard Stella’s voice say. “Don’t ignore this, Stone. Please be smart about this.”
“Oh, Stella,” he wistfully answered to the empty room. “I wish you were here. I need you more than ever.”