The Shadowlands are the main setting in The Shadow Series I’m working on. It is a parallel universe where there is no civilisation, no law to protect you, it is you against nature and some of the brutal truths in this world. It tracks the journey of a character as she tries to find a way to survive the impossible, it would be a lie to say some of the ideas aren’t recycled from my own life, it is a contrast of my greatest fears and the power of hope. Everything that features in this story is a product of my experiences and observations, but what goes in is never exactly the same as what comes out.
Sometimes the inspiration is as simple as a landscape, I might be walking through a park in the middle of the day, the sun is shining, people are out with their dogs and there’s cars driving past but if I let my attention focus only on the trees I can block the rest of it out. I start to imagine what it would be like if all those things were gone, what if it was cold and there were clouds closing in on me? What if the tree branches weren’t stretching out with enthusiasm but drooping as though they were trying to reach me? If the light was fading and there was no one else around, would it be the silence that scared me most?
Would a strong gust of wind feel like an approaching enemy? Would the tree roots bulging from the earth look like snakes ready to curl around my legs? If humans hadn’t been here before and marked the path how would I know which direction to walk? When the plants grow closer together it makes movement even harder, rough leaves scratching the skin from my legs, the shoes on my feet are gone, every step makes me flinch but the feeling of being watched is starting to grow stronger. There are goose bumps forming on my neck, the wind dragging my hair across my shoulders, the touch so light it makes me shiver. When night falls I won’t be able to see anything, my other senses will be magnified and every crack in the woods will turn my nerves electric.
If it starts to rain I won’t be able to hear the crickets circling me, the cold water will run over my skin until I don’t know whether the shakes are caused by fear or exposure. I’ve felt fear before, I’ve been nervous in this sheltered life where there’s always a door to hide behind, but now all those little securities are gone. There’s no one to call on and the fear isn’t just a manifestation of self doubt, what if the next step I take is the real difference between life and death?
Facing unknown dangers and a serious risk of exposure, I’m completely out of my depth, I have no experience to pull on, no concept of how to survive, what do I do next?