“They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” — Edgar Allen Poe
I love this quote because that is what I do. I dream by day.
Every fiction writer does.
Today, I am dreaming about Ragnar, the main character in the prequel to my first novel, Maelstrom. Ragnar is a tall, handsome, rugged Icelandic fisherman who is struggling to find a way to follow his convictions. Understand the chaos of the war that has engulfed his small island. Participate in the war without hurting the people he loves most. Her.
In the quiet of my upstairs office, as I listen to the music of the Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds, Ragnar tells me what the Icelandic sky looks like in winter. What it means to be a fisherman during war time. Face a wall of green-black sea. Leave behind the people you love.
And because I am dreaming, because I am paying attention to these day dreams, Ragnar’s story comes into focus.
From Ragnar’s story
They were fighting. Again.
From the deck of his fishing boat, Ragnar listened to their battle of wills: the carping of day, the bullying of night. Each time a quiver of daylight broke along the horizon, the lingering darkness of night sucked it back. Aided by a gang of thug storm clouds, it kept its grip tight around the throat of morning. Refused to succumb to dawn.
And so there would be no fishing today.
Then he heard it, in the sky overhead. A heaving presence, cloaked from view by the storm’s swaddling. It was gasping for breath. Clawing for altitude. Boxing the assailant squall for its survival. It could be only one thing: a military aircraft in distress.
Wincing, Ragnar braced himself for the shock of impact. Metal colliding with volcanic rock. Perhaps, the sea. He waited for the deathly silence that preceded a crash. Those terrifying moments just after the engine cut out. Before the aircraft started screaming downward.
Ragnar couldn’t tell by sound alone which country it was from. Then again, it didn’t matter. This plane and its crew were going down.
Ragnar grew up on the sea. Learned to fish at his father’s side when he was just a boy. Fishing is what his family did to survive. Any thoughts that Ragnar had of not fishing, of telling his father he would rather do something else with his life, would be received as selfish and foolish. So he kept those thoughts to himself. Never told a soul.
Not even her.
What he learned, what he mastered out at sea, was the nature of the water itself. He did not conquer it. No one could do that. Rather, he respected and understood it. Saw it as a living, breathing thing with unpredictable mood swings. A tendency to temper tantrums. He had tangled with the sea many times. Gotten caught in its squalls. Witnessed mammoth green-black walls of raging ocean. And yet in the face of all that angry spume, he never gave up. Always felt that the skills he had perfected as a fisherman would give him a chance.
But how, he wondered, did one battle the sky?