Saturday, February 28, 2009

Section 1: Just Below the Surface

Giving you another chapter from Section 1 of my book today. Why? Because I like you or something.

Just Below The Surface

July 13, 2009

Balthor, Ontario

Aldon Quay shuddered as he read the beautiful, eerie poem sent to him by his longtime friend and fellow author, Terry Bruckham. Terry was like a daughter to Aldon, and “Beneath the Surface” seemed an apt title for her as well as her latest creation. There was always something unspoken beneath the facade that Terry presented for the world. Aldon had known Terry since the time that she, at age 14, had written the then thirty-year-old author a letter praising his debut novel, Nightshade. He was impressed with his young fan’s intelligence and genteel yet forthcoming manner, and the pair had forged a friendship that had lasted a lifetime. Terry and Aldon both were now well-known novelists and, in 2007, they finally released their first collaboration to the delight of their readers, who thought that it was many years overdue.

Terry had always been prone to melancholy and had suffered several debilitating traumas over the years. Aldon hoped that things had settled down and that his friend could at last be happy and at peace. Aldon thought about Terry’s engagement to his second cousin, Elvin Barris. Both Elvin and Terry had previously endured long, unhappy marriages. It was good, Aldon thought, that two of his favorite people seemed to be making one another happy. But obviously, not everything was what it seemed.

In the email that the poem was attached to, Terry said she had an idea for a story. It would be a gothic romance interspersed with poetry accentuating the protagonist’s dark emotions. Terry thought that this poem should be the starting point. It certainly would work well in such a tale, Aldon agreed. It wasn’t the dark atmosphere of the poem that concerned him. He too usually wrote dark subject matter, though he was actually a reasonably happy fellow. A big bear of a man with dark red-brown hair liberally frosted with gray, Aldon sported a full beard and tended to favor checkered flannel shirts and jeans. He looked like a member of the logging crews that worked up the road from his farm and was far more jovial in manner than would seem to befit a famous horror novelist. But it wasn’t Aldon’s waking self who was inspired by sepulchral visions of rotting creatures who refused to die or malevolent spirits who destroyed the lives of those who accidentally invaded their territory. Rather, the visions came to the self who journeyed behind the walls of sleep and communed with the Gods and Goddesses and benevolent spirits who roamed the Elysian Fields and the gardens of Celephais and who gathered in Thoth’s library and Freya’s palace for grand festivals and intellectual discussions. For, in order to partake in such blessed events, one must also be prepared to defend against those who would bring ruin in a desire to subjugate all beings to their whim. Aldon’s gifts allowed him to see things that ordinary people could not perceive. And, he realized, most people would think him mad if he presented such things as real. Terry had inherited the same gifts. Like Howard Phillips Lovecraft and Ambrose Bierce before them, Aldon Quay and Terry Bruckham hid their real otherworldly adventures in the guise of fictional works.

“The truth is there for those aware” was a catch-phrase popularized in a series of light-hearted novels about a trio of reluctant Scandinavian monster-hunters, thinly disguised versions of three of Aldon’s real-life friends who also knew that not everything real was visible to the physical eye.

“’T’ain’t logical, McGee,” Aldon said quietly, exaggerating his slight Irish brogue. “But methinks perhaps logic be overrated.”

“Ah hell, Terry,” he sighed, switching the telephone nervously from hand to hand as he contemplated calling his friend. “How can I address my concerns about this to you without seeming callous about your feelings? Please, Angela Mia, don’t let this pain rip you apart. Heaven help me, what do I say to her?”

“Aldon?” his sister-in-law’s voice interrupted his thoughts.

“What is it, Hannah?” Aldon asked.

“Aldy, I’m so sorry to interrupt you,” she said. “But something awful is happening to my sheep. All of the lambs have fallen ill. It may be anthrax. Dr. Kippersoff and Will Wyzynski are quarantining them from the other animals. They want to test all my livestock and it could take them awhile. I know it’s been years since you took those veterinary courses, but I wonder if you could come help. They really have their hands full.”

“Sure, Hannah, I’ll be right there,” Aldon said, putting the phone back in its cradle. He scribbled himself a note which he understood completely but which anyone else might find cryptic and eerie:

Call Terry re: poem.

Have the dark dreams returned?

Aldon followed Hannah up the stairs, his worries about his friend temporarily pushed below the surface of this current concern.

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