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Halloween Blog Hop

  • Posted on October 31, 2014 at 10:54 am

For my Halloween post, I invite you to enjoy this post. I found it tucked away in a corner of my high-school binder. I don’t recognize the writing as any of my friend’s, and it certainly isn’t mine, so I thought perhaps I could share it. If you remember writing something like this, please, send me a message. I’d love to give you credit.

*~*~*~*~*~*

It started with a smell. A noxious, poignant stench that you could almost taste on the edge of your tongue. Whenever one walked by the old oaken door to the basement, the bog-like odor would rise up and greet you anew like an old friend. I hated that smell. Always had, since we first bought the house when I was five. I remember whining to my mother about how it would stick to my clothes. She didn’t even turn from her computer when she told me not to go near the door then.

I’ve lived with the stench for years, so much so that I almost forgot it even existed. The only one I’ve seen go down there is Dad in his old coveralls splattered with paint the same color as the garage walls. The sounds of hammers and breaking rock come up after him, and I never had the courage to ask him how he could stand the smell. It followed him out of the basement sometimes, as obnoxious as the tan-orange of the paint.

I never was home alone, not really. When my mother and father went out of town, they always had my uncle or my aunts babysit me, even into my early teens. The aunts never complained about the smell. My uncle did, though. All the time, he bellyached about it, and would often take me out to dinner because he said he couldn’t stand the stench a second longer. My aunts hovered around the basement door, whispering to each other. But whenever I would come in, they would hush and ask if my homework was done, in that creepy way twins do.

Around when I turned fifteen, the smell seemed to get worse. Nauseating to the point that I developed a habit of opening windows every time I passed through a room. When asked about staying with my uncle and his wife, my mother, again not looking up from her swagbucks and online wordpuzzles, told me to bear with it for just a bit longer. Before I knew it, Dad had torn her away from her computer, and bundled her into the car, and with a note to me on the counter when I got home, they went on a ‘vacation’.

I was home alone for the first time. They’d even left me a key on the counter, next to the fifty dollars for food over the weekend. The first thing I did was open all of the windows, which only relieved the smell a little. However, it made for odd sounds. The curtains rustling in rooms I wasn’t in. The soft hush of breezes through the leaves outside, almost like someone whispering things. I started to note things a little more. Windows that I opened would sometimes slide down to half closed just as I left the room. It was odd, but I could only assume they were loose in their moorings. Maybe Dad could fix them when he got home and I let him know.

The second day of their trip, I went down into the kitchen to get some milk. The old greyish wood of the basement door was misplaced. The basement door, which was closed constantly, unless my father’s hand was on the handle, was open. Just an inch. Just barely enough to see the black behind it, the yawning space which lead to what I assumed were stairs. The stench was warmer now, thicker, like something had rolled in it, and was now heaving itself under my nose. I covered my mouth, abandoning the idea of milk, and shoved the door closed, with a heavy thud.

I tried not to think about it. I watched movies. I played videogames. I played mmos with my friends from school. I avoided going down to the kitchen by ordering pizza, and having it delivered up the stairs. Pizza deliverers are surprisingly tacit when offered a large tip. It was nice not having to get out of bed for food. The day slowly turned into night, and I only paused my game to go to the bathroom.

One such unpausing revealed more of the strange sussurus that I had thought was the wind in the leaves. But I could clearly see the old maple tree outside, and the leaves were still in the night air. The sound ebbed and flowed like the ocean that I had once had the fortune of feeling on my skin, cold and salty and fresh.  It was such an odd thing that I didn’t notice the scent from the kitchen had wafted up into my bedroom.

I followed the sound, oddly curious, temptation rising in me. The soft whisper of it touched my ears and made my skin prickle with goosebumps. I shivered, rubbing at the skin on my arms, as my chucks maneuvred the carpet-covered stairs. I followed it, as it got louder, and louder, into the kitchen. The door the basement was open again, the bright red of the pizza-warmer laying just in front of it. Wider this time, a large yawning foot of black so deep and dark that it looked like it was moving. An illusion, my eyes screamed, and I rubbed at them, to try and clear it. But closing my eyes only made the sound that much louder.

Whispers, yes, but not of something against something, or of wind through leaves, oh no. These were words. Words in a language I didn’t understand, couldn’t understand. It sounded almost as if whoever was speaking had three voices, no, twelve, no, one. I couldn’t make it out. I knew if I went closer to the stairs, just a touch, just a step, I could make out what it was saying.

Before I knew it, that one step had turned into two, five, twelve. The darkness rose up around me, and I couldn’t see. It moved, not illusion not smoke, but real and heavy and black and dark. Whispy tendrils of blackness felt like the touch of ice across my cheeks, my hands, the backs of my calves. Come, it said, come down, and see us, and know us, and when had I begun to learn the language that this spoke?

I stumbled, the end of the stairs a surprise. I didn’t feel cement beneath my feet. It was unsteady, crumbling like some kind of sand, or maybe dirt. My chucks shifted and something hissed. I stopped, stock still. Something different was down here. There was no smell, there was no sight, there was nothing but darkness and the whispers. Whispers asking me to stay, to love, to be loved, whispers that wanted me to just say I would stay, oh please.

My breath echoed in this place. My heart raced. I tried to think. I tried to answer. My lips seemed frozen. I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed. Time felt like a twisted ribbon. Something was wrong. I could see something, something moving. It didn’t make sense. Nothing made sense. Weightless. Broken. Put back together. Dashed on rocks so sharp they were knives now. I screamed and rocks flew from my lips like spittle.

Time passed.

Time.

I.

I woke up.

The smell… The smell was gone. I couldn’t smell anything. There was dirt under me. Dirt with small chunks of rubble like cement. The smell of dirt was unwelcome and heavy. I didn’t understand. Where had the scent gone? The marker coming from the basement, where had it gone? I opened my eyes.

A hole before me, filled with mannequins. No. Not mannequins. People. Hands, and arms, and heads, and feet. People, chopped up and decomposing, and some looked as if they had been for years decomposing. But what caught me… was the smell.

The scent… It smelled so good.

Like nothing I could name. Warm, and thick, and heady, and absolutely amazing. It reminded of me of the darkness like broken rocks on a shoreline where no stars shone. When my dad came home, I asked him if he could smell it. He nodded, and asked if I’d like to help him. The smell, the scent of that death, that decay, so sweet and warm and welcome, prompted me to agree.

First Light

  • Posted on October 17, 2014 at 12:29 am

Memory is a fickle thing, inherently wrong, yet personal in the greatest of ways. All of our memories are biased, based upon information our mind stores and corrupts. Stories we tell ourselves become memories, despite never happening. Things that happened turn out a different way when we think back on them.

Most personal to us all, and most telling of whom we will become, is our very first memory. The first bit of light our mind stores away for us in the world. These memories hide from us, little snippets of time. And then, like magic, a scent, or a sound, the touch of a familiar fabric, or the hum of a certain frequency reminds us, and it comes crashing back like nothing was ever missing at all.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The prickly poking of hay. The scent of his mother, soft and creamy like milk just warmed up, and the sound of his father’s quiet voice. Later, Dirk would learn that the conversation was their first discussion about whether they should go back home to Thosfig, back to their tribe. His nose itched, and he rubbed his little fingers against it to make it go away.Noticing how sharp his little fingernails were, he curled them into his palms. Crickets chirped somewhere, and he could hear crackling, like fire. His eyes felt heavy, and he didn’t want to sleep.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Pain. Yumil remembered pain first. A too-tight grip of an adult hand around a small wrist. The red of lines cut into child-soft skin by fingernails dyed with pigment from berries.  Yumil remembers looking up at her, her tawny hair shining in the sunlight. She is beautiful, and frightful. She calls him a bad boy,voice hissing. Yumil feels his stomach twist and clench, fear climbing inside. She is angry, and to Yumil it’s as if she has always been angry and will always be angry. He finds anger burning inside himself to match, hot and terrifyingly close to tears.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

She can’t remember the words anymore, but Eamon remembers the soft feeling of her mother’s chest. Her cheek fits against it perfectly. She remembers the hard push of her sister’s knee against her own leg, and the laugh in her mother’s voice. She recalls the lines of her sister’s hand and how it felt to rub her thumb along them until Lette shrieked with laughter, like it had tickled her. Eamon remembers how warm she felt, wrapped up in the two of them. A mix of flowers and cool water always brings this memory to her mind, and she smiles.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Grass tickling her nose, and a small round bug crawling along between the blades. Red like string scattering across her vision, as she was lifted from the earth. Her hand still reaching out for the little black bug, bigger hands tight against her ribs They squeezed a little painfully, but only enough to make her whine in the back of her throat. A murmur of her name, and Lette looks up. Her father’s green eyes smile down at her like the water of a murky lake. She smiles back, and giggles. His hand, scratchy with callouses, brushes back her hair.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Blurs moving past him, dark things swimming around the edges of his vision. Espin remembers crying, crying so loud and so long that he was sure no one heard him. He remembers unpleasant smells, something he later knows is the smell of sickness and waste. He remembers the crying making it worse, stopping his nose and how panicked he felt. A cool hand on his forehead was all that kept him awake, and he cried, and cried. Sleep would be kinder. His stomach lurched, and he felt hotness sear his throat and splash out his lips. Nothing eases his pain.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Her big brother’s back, warm and strong. Anelace was tied to it, she could feel the soft cloth against the back of her neck, feel the bounce of his step as he walked. He talked to her, telling her stories, and she burbled back to him. Her fingers found his coarse woven dreads, tugging for attention. She remembers how he smelt like sunshine and camels. He was so big, and strong, he carried her like she was smaller than an ant, and it made her feel small and she thought he must be the most powerful thing in the world.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

She was always angry. So angry. His mother was angry at him, yelling and screaming, and Jorgan hated yelling. He wanted to hide and forget. It made him cry, which made her so much angrier. She called him hurtful things he can’t remember later, things that might be true. Her palm struck his cheek, and his world went spinning. Pain blossomed in his jaw, his teeth rattling, as he toppled over. His cries came louder. The snap of a belt made his chest squeeze, and fear silenced him. His father’s footsteps, shaky and unstable, curled him into a tight ball.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

What glimpse does this first light give?

photo courtesy of flickr.com

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part One

  • Posted on August 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Welcome to a new series of articles centered around breaking down, and understanding Nemesis, a Miss Marple Mystery, by Agatha Christie. If you’re curious, and wish to follow along, you can purchase the book here! (or make use of your public library, of course! <3) We’ll be breaking down several things, focusing on the Tension, the Characterization, and the Plot Threads, while searching out this mysterious Agatha Christie Code that I’ve heard so much about!

Nemesis is a story in the middle of the Miss Marple Mysteries, a series about an old woman, Miss Jane Marple, who happens to solve mysteries in between gardening, knitting, and enjoying her golden years. At twenty two chapters, we’re going to be breaking down each chapter and looking over it. At the end, I’ll give a final post about what I’ve learned from the intrepid Miss Agatha.

In the afternoons it was custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.

The cover for the copy I am reading. Clicking will take you to Miss Christie’s Wikipage.

This is the first line of the novel. Odd choice, honestly, but it works, because it shows off a certain oddness about Miss Marple in the first place. Then, odder still, Miss Marple goes off on a tangent about how often her paper is late because the boy delivering it is either late, or has handed off his route for a little while, or has been sacked.

Strangely enough, this drew me in immediately, if only because I really felt like I was listening to the mental ramblings of an old lady. But another part of it shows just how very AWARE Miss Marple is about EVERYTHING. She knows more than just ‘oh the paper’s late, I can’t read it with early morning tea.’ She knows WHY her paper is late, which is something few people even bother paying attention to.

The pacing so far is unbearably slow. I haven’t figured out anything other than what this old woman is doing with her afternoon. Which appears to be reading a newspaper she’s nicknamed “The Daily All-Sorts”. Then, we are treated to another rant, this time about being unable to find anything in the Times. This rant seems devoted to her lamenting how things have changed from when she was young.

A wonderful way to show us her age, and also an intriguingly clear indication that perhaps the so-called Agatha Christie Code is correct. She seems very intent on describing Miss Marple’s thought process in larger-than-life detail.  Here, we find out another odd detail about Miss Marple.

“It’s sad really, but nowadays one is only interested in the deaths!” – Miss Marple

Miss Marple discovers the Internet

She seems to be looking to see if anyone she knows has died, or perhaps given birth, or gotten married. An odd passtime, but when one has all the time on her hands that Miss Marple seems to, I can see why it would become interesting. Everything about Miss Marple at this point seems to be just this side of odd for an old woman. Miss Christie is leaving us hints as to just how odd Old Miss Marple is underneath. This is wonderful examples of characterization. But still, nothing has happened yet.

Finally, Miss Marple comes across a name that stirs some familiarity. Jason Rafiel, listed in the obituaries. She can’t seem to remember who it is, but she has no doubt it will come to her. In fact, we are treated to a long process of her figuring it out. She begins by looking out the window, lamenting that the doctors refuse to allow her to garden. Another hobby we find she enjoyed that now she is restricted. Poor Miss Marple, her old age is catching up to her. Turning away from the window, she picks up her knitting, which appears to be a pink jacket, just missing the sleeves.

Now pink wool, this triggers something of her memory. As we can see:

Pink wool. Now wait a minute, where did that fit in? Yes- yes- it fitted in with the name she’d just read in the paper. Pink wool. A blue sea. A Carribean sea. A sandy beach. Sunshine. Herself knitting and- why of course, Mr. Rafiel. That trip she had made to the caribbean. The Island of St. Honore. A treat from her nephew Raymond. And she remembered Joan, her niece-in-law, Raymond’s wife, saying: “Don’t get mixed up in any more murders, Aunt Jane. It isn’t good for you.”

Do you see what she did there? Miss Agatha Christie just took us through a perfect example of how the mind ACTUALLY works! After scent, touch is the closest sense to memory, followed by sight! Now, Miss Marple didn’t just remember this up, as if it were a scene, no, it’s broken down into actual recollections, actual thoughts. Instead of a flashback, we get a disjointed connection through various memories.

And like any of us, Miss Marple doesn’t just remember everything about that trip at once. No, she has to tease it together, starting with the names. She remembered the elderly Major, whose name continued escaping her. Then she remembers the kind of man Mr. Rafiel had been. Not perfectly, as some people are want to do. She remembers him being an obstinate man, as well as strong, as well as rich. Difficult, irritable and shockingly rude, she remembers. Clearly he made an impression on Miss Marple. And, not only has she remembered Mr. Rafiel, but others too.

Mrs. Walters, a widow and Mr. Rafiel’s secretary. Mr Rafiel’s Masseur-Attendant, Arthur Jackson, who she thought was a rather doubtful character. But instead of being sure of Jackson’s name, she continues to question it. This is a very organic process of tracking down what the thoughts and memories of this time were. And clearly she is remembering the people specifically, not the events. I assume this was Miss Christie’s way of not rehashing the entire events of the previous book, but instead teasing us along into remembering it as well.

Then comes Miss Knight, who was once Miss Marple’s own companion, a young woman she’s rather happy to get rid of. But for some reason, she keeps messing up her name, thinking of her as Miss Bishop. She even quips about it:

“Oh dear,” said Miss Marple again, “I always get all the names wrong. And of course, it was Miss Knight I was thinking of. Not Miss Bishop. Why do I think of her as Miss Bishop?” The answer came to her. Chess, of course. A Chess piece. A knight. A bishop.

I’ll admit, at this point, Miss Christie had me hooked as a writer, although perhaps not as a reader. Such an organic transition, and a clear definition of this character’s mind. Already I am aware that she notices things others don’t care about, and she puts together odd connections, forming them in her mind to remind herself of things. I haven’t even had to read the rest of the series, and I find myself feeling like Miss Marple is an old friend.

She gives us a rundown of how she and Mr. Rafiel had been partners, for a time, but she never gets around to explaining in what. This makes me want to track down the book previous and read it. Well played, Miss Christie. We find out that Miss Marple was quite excited about these events, and it makes us excited too. Already, we’ve found ourselves enthralled by the way Jane Marple sees the world.

Then, we get to meet Cherry, who is now Miss Marple’s Companion. It seems that Miss Marple uses Cherry as a bit of a sounding board. Also, the voices between Miss Marple and Cherry are quite different. I find myself seeing Cherry as perhaps african american, if only because of the vernacular she chooses.

“You did have it in for little Gary Hopkins I must say,” said Cherry. “When you caught him torturing his cat that day. Never knew you had it in you to go for anyone like that! Scared him stiff, you did. He’s never forgotten it.”

“I hope he hasn’t tortured anymore cats.”

“Well, he’s made sure you weren’t about if he did,” said Cherry. “In fact I’m not at all sure as there isn’t other boys as got scared. Seeing you with your wool and the pretty things you knits and all that- anyone would think you were gentle as a lamb. But there’s times I could say you’d behave like a lion if you was goaded into it.”

Also, a wonderful choice there, to show us Miss Marple’s sense of rough justice through the eyes of Cherry, her companion. At this point, I’m also hoping to see more of Cherry. Their interaction seems quite natural, that of a companion and someone of an age beyond adulthood.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the syntax of Miss Christie’s work. So far, I’m seeing quite a large number of ‘said’s, and very little added description. She was clearly a follower of the ‘no adjectives’ rule, as well as a detractor from the ‘said is dead’ forum of discussion. However, I don’t feel it takes away from her work. The dialogue itself is well written, as well as showing us little glimpses of what we need to know about Miss Marple. There isn’t a word wasted here. I can see why Agatha Christie is said to be the single best-selling author in the world.

There’s a small break away from the heavy thinking to have a conversation with Miss Bartlett, a companion-gardener to one Miss Hastings. Then, her mind turns back to Mr. Rafiel, and gives us a wonderful description of their relationship. Ships that pass in the night. After that, she resolves that she will probably never think of him again. She’d look out for an obituary, out of what seems an honor for his passing, but she isn’t very hopeful about it. As a final thought, she notes that he hadn’t been anyone of major importance in any industry.

He had just all his life made enormous amounts of money…

All the money. Obsene amounts of money.

What I wouldn’t give to make enormous amounts of money. But on another note, clearly, the foreshadowing here is pretty thick. On the second read through, I found things I hadn’t noticed, such as the Mrs. Hastings reference. Already we have so many characters to follow, and Miss Marple at the center of it all. Red herrings everywhere for a mystery that hasn’t even been introduced, and I’m excited about this book that literally NOTHING HAS HAPPENED IN. All Miss Marple has done is read her newspaper, think about old memories, and talk to two women for five minutes each!

Breaking it down, just a bit, we see already how Miss Christie built up the character for us, showing through thought and action just what sort of woman Miss Marple is. We know she has just a little lion inside her, and is the kind to beat a child senseless for torturing an innocent creature. We know that she has an impeccable memory for detail, although sometimes it takes her a minute and some odd associations to get there.

This entire first chapter was spent introducing the main character. But it wasn’t wasted at all. We weren’t bored to tears by a flashback of what happened in the Caribbean. We weren’t shown her beating the boy, we weren’t even shown her doing anything other than normal things. THIS is an introduction chapter. This is the type of first chapter that will get you published.

Here’s a challenge, then. Take the first chapter of your book, or first paragraph of your short story, or any beginning at all. And have the main character do nothing, but think. Explain who this character is, show it, by their thoughts and actions. Give us a snippet of your results in the comments! And don’t be afraid to tell me what you think about the article either!

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