There are multiple plot lines and conflicts revolving simultaneously around the central plot and setting of World War 2 in my novel Aristeia. Some are introduced in the beginning pages and others take time to develop. The facilitation of multiple plot lines and conflicts allows me to create a unique chronological sequence, which is loads of fun, but often times difficult to properly construct and articulate to my readers. Whereas some conflicts move forward more rapidly than others, reaching their climax while an ambient conflict is still developing, others progress more slowly, thus giving me one of my primary obstacles to overcome: donating somewhat equal page space to all the main characters, even though some plots require the portrayal of a few days advancement, and others are only requisite of an instance (a few hours or even a day). The puzzle continues…
This is one of many decisive moments – the catalyst – that pits two characters against one another. It comes much later in the book (around page 300 to be exact). The parameters of this conflict determine that the resolution will unfold more rapidly, so now there is the question of how much needs to be said in each chapter, and how I can say just enough that I don’t dilute character timelines half a world away. This is the Cardinal Poldi vs. Hauptmann Wadel:
“Hauptmann Wadel fidgeted with his fingers as he moved on to the next cell, rubbing the tension from his bones. The questions were mounting now, and as he drifted further away from an answer, any answer, the inadequecies articulated by Cardinal Poldi began to replay in his head. He asked Prisoner 44 the same question: “Fresh air or music?” but was instead answered by the muffled screams of a paranoid prisoner who could hear Hauptmann Wadel’s presence from down the hall. Prisoner 36 grabbed the attention of a bear… but anything was better than the red bird. Hauptmann Wadel looked up to the exposed plumbing that hung from the ceiling, already acquainted with the vibrations that were rattling the cold pipes. “Fresh air,” said Prisoner 44 before being silenced by a stiff hand. Hauptmann Wadel strained his ears and the screaming came back to him a second time. A frightful nostalgia dripped from the pipes. Hauptmann Wadel rushed out of the cell and bounded into Cell 9. He grabbed Rosanella by the shoulders and shook her from her silence, screaming, “Why did we stop?” over and over in German. Annette’s head fumbled, but she did not answer. Hauptmann Wadel grabbed her by the throat with both hands to squeeze the truth from her, repeating his question with a coarse whisper. She raised her eyes to his. Her veins bulged with hot blood and the rims of her corneia turned purple. Her vocal chords ached from the tension, but she released the answer with the last of her breath, “You didn’t.” He threw her head away and shot to his feet, pinching the sides of his forehead with two fingers to stress the feint nostalgia, but only anger surfaced. He stomped back to Rosanella, grabbed her by the hair and raised his fist, screaming, “What stopped us?” before hitting her above her right eye. She cried under the weight of the blow, but did not change the truth. “What stopped us?” he yelled again, as he brought his fist to the ready. “The screams! It was the screaming,” said a desperate voice from behind him. That was all it took. The night came back to Hauptmann Wadel and he could hear the screaming from down the hall and feel the warm bronze door on the side of his face. He stormed from the cell with his fist still half raised in the air, and ordered Wachtmeister Burger to check all the cells. The bronze door at the end of the hallway emanated its vestigial heat as Hauptmann Wadel moved closer to the screaming man and a sliver of truth. “Fresh air! Fresh air! Please! Fresh air!” cowered the man before the door was even open. He was alone. He was alone. Those empty chains dangling on the wall opposite him rattled truths of treason, but he wanted the full confession, he would settle for nothing less. He bounded towards the hysterical prisoner and struck him across the face just hard enough to focus his attention. “Who took Prisoner 27?… Who-“
“The cardinal,” whimpered Prisoner 30, as he shuttered behind tired eyes.
The door was cold now. The bronze was lifeless. There was no possession of the basement. No divine ritual. Whatever veracities were left to discover chirped from the bell tower at Sacre Coeur Basilica. Wachtmeister Burger raced Hauptmann Wadel to the Cardinal’s hideaway. He pounded up the stairway frenzied by haste and betrayal. There was no divinity in his walk this time, only the sound of frozen concrete and the repition of aggression that he played over in his mind. Hauptmann Wadel dove into the hymns of choir practice, hearing little from the music and seeing nothing in the fresco above him. He swirled about expecting to see Cardinal Poldi skulking about the second floor, but the rapid scanning only blurred the geometry of the pews, sending a dizzying rush of blood to his head that left him staggering against the old wood with a tired cough. Wachtmeister Burger rushed to his side, and Hautpmann Wadel coughed out the order for him to go search Cardinal Poldi’s office. He dropped into one of the pews and clasped his heart. The deception foreshadowed his inadequacies, or perhaps it was the other way around. Failure triggers a few reactions: pity or perserverance. The more popular reaction, however: guidance – the bond with god. What other choice did he have? Hauptmann Wadel looked up to God through his only son in search of his blessing, but could not shake the blurred sight of vandalism upon the fresco. The devil’s tongue protruded from Jesus Christ’s mouth and his eyes rolled back into his head. “He’s gone,” huffed Wachtmeister Burger, as Hauptmann Wadel witnessed the possession.