Posts Tagged ‘serialized stories

27
Aug
18

Sometimes they just die on you…

Sometimes, no matter how much you like a story or a character or a situation, there comes a point where you have to throw your hands up and say “Call it. Time of death.”

“Riptide” appears to have suffered such a death. With all the health problems and other upheavals, attempting to write hasn’t been easy… attempting to work on that story in particular has been all but impossible. When I open the document and stare at it, trying to remember what I was doing and attempting to reconnect with our protagonist in an attempt to see what she’ll do next, I get the flat hum of dead air, the long, low beep of a flatlined monitor.

So, despite being in the middle, I have to state that the patient has died. It is an unfortunate truth of writing that sometimes that happens. It is sad, it is frustrating, and frequently leads into a blame game, pointing fingers at everything and everyone that might have led to the death. But sometimes it just happens. They slip away. At least, to me.

The bright side, of course, is that because writing is an inherently magical act, sometimes that death isn’t permanent. Sometimes those stories will get dragged back to the temple where some brave soul donates for a resurrection. They may return, Gandalf the White style, more powerful and radiant than they were before their deaths; they may return relatively unchanged, popping their feet up on the table, cracking a beer and asking “What’s up?” Sometimes they come crawling back as shambling monstrosities, abominations that are mockeries of their former selves… but at least for a horror writer, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Thankfully, while work has slowed significantly on Believe Me, it hasn’t died completely. So that’s one good thing, I suppose. There’s also a different bit of serialized fiction, “Three Blue Hearts” that seems to actually want to crawl onto the page, and that should start cropping up come Wednesday. Keep an eye out for that.

What about my fellow creatives out there? Has there been a project that you were working happily on but that just died in its tracks and refused to allow life-giving efforts? What caused it, and how did you deal with it? Let us know down below!

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18
Feb
18

Riptide, Part 6

(Missed the story so far? It starts here!)

Riptide.jpg

Mother was back. She’d announced her presence with a midnight beating. She’d crept up the stairs while Rachel slept, having felt safe that Mother wouldn’t return until morning. Somehow her friend hadn’t been aware of Mother’s return, either; Bertie gave no warning or attempt to defend her when she was jerked awake by the crack of the birch rod against her thigh.

Rachel was too surprised to scream, being yanked from a pleasant dream of floating in an endless ocean, free from concepts like pain and paranoia. She’d been just… drifting. Safe among the jellyfish and waves that meant her no harm. Her brain interpreted the first flare of pain as one of those jellyfish reaching out and stinging her with one ropy tentacle. When she blinked, the moon-face of Mother was in front of her instead of the gelid sac of sea life gone awry.

“Thought I’d forgotten about you, didn’t you? Thought Mother had just wandered off, leaving you to be free to do as you will, didn’t you, little whorelet?”

Her voice was thick and slurred, coming out of only one side of her mouth. Rachel could see that the whole left side of Mother’s face was sagging down, turning it into equal parts tragedy and comedy mask, while her left eye rolled in the socket, seemingly fixed on nothing at all.

Mother brought the switch down again, sending ripples through Rachel’s left arm before leaving it numb. Rachel saw a splash of blood spring up and droplets seem to hover in the air for a moment before raining down on the burlap sheets in a quick drum riff.

“Found your books, I did,” Mother said. She punctuated this with another swing but missed. The head of the switch bounced off the bed and rebounded; Rachel found herself wishing it would fly back and hit Mother in the face. Somewhere inside of her, a voice awakened, laughing at first.

You could always do it for her, it said after a moment. Rachel liked the idea. She pushed with her feet, forcing herself into a sitting position and tensing the muscles in her right arm – the left was still numb, good for nothing but dripping blood all around her – as she slit her eyes. Watching the tip of the switch the way a snake charmer might watch the eyes of a particularly aggressive cobra, she waited for her chance.

“Nothing but bad. Since you were born, I knew it.”

She swung again; Rachel twitched to her right but kept her arm still. The birch rod cracked against the wall only inches from her head. She wanted to lunge for it, but that internal voice had told her it wasn’t quite ready yet. Steady, it told her.

Mother pointed the switch at Rachel, as though she was lining up a pocket shot on a cue-ball, her good eye running down the twisted rod to lock with Rachel’s gaze. Rachel wanted to squirm under that mad glare but kept herself still. The moment was coming, she knew it.

“I tried to beat it out of you. Tried to guide you to the Lord. But you wouldn’t listen.”

Her voice was rising in volume and dropping in octave, until it was a bass rumble that Rachel felt certain must have been rocking the flimsy walls of her attic prison.

“The devil in you answers to only one law. And the good Lord told me if thine child offends thee,”

She began to raise the switch above her head. Rachel saw it in slow motion, tracing the arc with a clinical precision that she wouldn’t have believed herself capable of.

“Then you must strike her down!”

Now! the internal voice shrieked as Mother brought the switch down. The whistling trajectory was aimed right at her head, and Rachel had no doubt that if it connected she’d be unconscious or worse.

But it didn’t. Her hand shot up, without conscious thought, and wrapped around the rod an instant before it hit her forehead. Ther was a meaty thud instead of the sharp crack she had been expecting. Her arm reverberated with the impact, and her hand became nothing but a leaden glove leaking blood between the fingers, but she had hold of the weapon.

Mother seemed too shocked to respond. Rachel knew what to do. She yanked, pulling it free from Mother’s weakened grasp. With a casual flip, she turned the business end around, raising it over her own head as she stood up.

Towering above Mother, feet planted squarely on the bed and thankful for once that it was nothing more than a wooden slab with a thin cushion of burlap thrown over it, Rachel’s teeth shone forth in a feral grin.

“How’s this for evil, Mother?”

She swung, aiming for that rolling eye and whatever diseased brain lay behind it.

KA Spiral no signature

03
Feb
18

Riptide, Part 5

(Missed the start? It’s right here!)

Riptide.jpgMother was gone again. She did that sometimes. Tossed a box of jerky, a gallon jug of water, and a bible with certain passages bookmarked and covered in highlighter and with notes written in the margins.

She was to fast, eat only what was necessary, drink as little as possible, and brand those passages into her brain. Usually, they dealt with harlots and hellfire; Mother wasn’t a big believer in the New Testament. Leviticus was a favorite chapter, often used as a rationale for a beating or other punishment.

Rachel enjoyed those times. Not because of the studying, and certainly not for the extreme punishments that would be levied at her when Mother inevitably returned, but because they gave her a period of peace. She would ration out the jerky and water, not because Mother wanted her to, but because she was smart enough to know that she’d starve or dehydrate herself into a coma. The irony of dying of thirst when she was less than a quarter mile from the ocean and in the middle of a pine rainforest wasn’t lost on her.

She would ignore the Bible; she knew well enough what was in there and what lessons Mother wanted her to learn. Instead, she would draw, pulling up the floorboards in the corner where she’d managed to hide a few broken pencils and a battered art pad. They were relics of Celia’s, brought up to the window by a pulley system she’d rigged when she was younger. Before her sister started buying into Mother’s hysterics and shunned all contact with her.

The art pad’s first handful of pages were done with child’s crayon drawings, bright yellow suns and squiggly shapes that could only be described as people with a mother’s kindness and a toddler’s imagination. Rachel sometimes found herself wanting to cry when looking at them, because there were only two such people in the drawings; she was absent in all of them. Other times she was less touched by it. She was an outsider here and knew it.

Her own drawings were small, economical. Frequently four or five on a page, on both sides. She knew she had to make the artbook last. Even so, she was nearing the end. She wasn’t sure what she’d do when she hit that final page. Probably enter a final descent into madness. She’d asked Bertie to smuggle her in a fresh pad, but Bertie said it was something she couldn’t do. At least, not yet.

Her drawings had started simple, aping her sister’s, but with a natural talent the younger girl lacked. After a time, once she realized Mother was not going to give her the love she craved, they turned inward, self-portraits and fantastic creatures. Once Bertie had come, they were frequently sketches of the older girl, though some pages featured more disturbing imagery; Mother with her eyes gouged out, Celia drowning in the ocean, the birch rod leaning against a tree, blood dripping from the end, with a lifeless lump beside it.

Rachel knew drawings like that were exactly what Mother thought was inside her all the time, were the reason for the beatings and her captivity, but sometimes they bubbled up anyway, pouring out of her in a frenzied trance that left her panting and exhausted when they were finished.

Inevitably Mother would return, the sketch pad would go back under the floorboards, and Rachel would forget about it for a little while. It wasn’t safe when Mother was home, as she might pick any moment to come thundering up the stairs. Being caught with it would lead to punishments Rachel wasn’t able to imagine, the worst of which being the loss of the pad and pencils.

Today was different, though. Normally, she was alone when she drew. But today, Bertie was watching. She was hunkered down, staring as though hypnotized as Rachel’s fingers spilled out a series of lines and streaks that were resolving themselves into an image of Rachel standing above her Mother, the switch in one hand and the bible in the other; it was taking up the full page, one of the rare times she had done so. Though she didn’t know it, Rachel was smiling, her tongue tucked into the corner of her mouth.

Bertie spoke as Rachel put the final stroke.

“Maybe instead of drawing it,” she said, before pausing.

Rachel glanced up at her friend, raising her brows. When there seemed to be nothing more, she punched one fist into her thigh.

“What?” she demanded.

Bertie smiled, tapping her chin with one lacquered nail.

“Well. Maybe you should just do it, instead.”

The idea hung in the air for a full minute as Rachel considered the idea, both shock and simmering rage fighting for command of her body.

“Maybe I should,” she whispered after that moment. “Maybe I should.”

(The story continues here!)

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27
Jan
18

Riptide, Part 4

(Missed the beginning? Click here!)

Riptide.jpg

Rachel wasn’t sure when Roberta had come into her life. There was no one moment she could point to and say “There, that’s the day it happened.”

There’d been a slow escalation, starting when she was young. Only three and locked in Mother’s attic for the first time, bawling her eyes out. A fresh gouge in one cheek, blood pouring down her chubby chin, wailing and bruising her tiny fists as she thudded them uselessly against the heavy wooden door while her mother raved from the other side.

How long she’d gone on like that she didn’t know, but she did remember hearing a voice, one she almost thought she could make out. It seemed to be offering words of comfort, telling her that it would work out in the end and not to cry so much over someone that didn’t really matter.

She was too young to accept the concept then. Mother was the world, Mother was the ultimate in authority, Mother was God. But the voice continued. It came to her when Mother would lock her away again, when the colorless shift replaced brighter clothes, when the manacles and birch rod took up their silent watch just outside the door.

As the years wore on, the voice grew louder, and then the visions started. Flickers of someone or something just at the edge of Rachel’s vision, typically right before she fainted from the pain and the stress. A vaguely female form, floating just out of reach, seeming to extend one luminescent hand to her in succor.

Then, when Rachel had been twelve, Mother had gone overboard, even for her. She’d administered a beating that had seemed it would never end. For hours she slapped at Rachel’s back, buttocks, and thighs with the switch, and when that didn’t seem like enough, she went to work with her fists. Though she’d suffered hundreds of beatings by then, and rarely remembered the offense – real or imagined – that had led to them, that one was clear enough.

She’d awakened that day to a terrible stomach ache and a spreading red stain on her sheets. She’d begun to scream, certain that she was dying. The screaming grew louder when she realized the source of the blood.

Mother had all manner of things to say on that occasion, most of them rooted back in her belief that Rachel was the devil’s whore. But after hours of it, both eyes almost completely swollen shut, several teeth loose or knocked out, one nostril caved in and the other barely able to draw breath through the large bubble of blood that swelled and sank with her panting, Rachel saw Mother swinging the rod towards her head and thought that would be the end of it.

There was a period of darkness. How long, Rachel didn’t know. Maybe minutes; maybe days. Maybe even weeks. Time didn’t mean anything. But in the darkness, she started to realize she wasn’t alone.

She saw a figure, the female body she’d seen before, standing in front of her. Hovering in the darkness, at first, it was nothing more than a brilliant shape that seemed to call to her. Rachel stared at it for an unknowable period of time, before she realized it was losing some of its light, filling in with colors and definite shapes.

That shape was a girl, maybe only five years older than she. Short, heavyset. A round face with a dimpled chin, pouty lips, and bright green eyes. Hair hanging to her shoulders in a ragged bob, dyed white on one half, black on the other. She was wearing a black and gray striped sweater that looked a size too small, black jeans, and a pair of black leather boots.

Rachel was in awe of her; the girl floating in front of her was just about everything she wished she could be, with a devil-may-care look that said no one should ever mess with her if they didn’t want their ass kicked, a cool fashion sense, and best of all, not scarred and marked by the signs of a Mother.

Rachel wasn’t sure how long she’d stared, before the girl finally quirked one bushy brow, grinned at her, and spoke.

“Got anything to say, or just gonna stare all day?”

Rachel shook her head, not sure how to respond to that.

“That’s fine. We’ll talk plenty. In time. I’m Roberta. But you can call me Bertie.”

“Bertie,” Rachel had managed, tasting it. Liking what she tasted. The name felt powerful in her mouth, like speaking a magic word.

“Yep. That’s my name. Don’t wear it out. But kid?”

Rachel cocked her head, watching as Bertie had come closer to her, barely registering that the black space around the other girl was filling in with details of the bedroom which was her haven and her prison.

“Don’t forget to call when you wake up.”

Rachel had snapped awake then, and the girl was gone. The room was as she had seen it, as was she; tied to the bed again, though the bloodstains were cleaned up and she was wearing a freshly washed dress. She could hear Celia outside somewhere, laughing, and the heavy tread that said Mother was coming up the stairs.

“I won’t,” she whispered.

That was the real start of it.

(Want more? The story continues here!)

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25
Jan
18

Riptide, Part 3

(Missed where it started? Click here!)

Riptide.jpg

“You worry too much.”

The voice seemed to come from everywhere around her, a husky drawl that bubbled with amusement but that echoed somehow false to Rachel’s ears… like her friend was hiding something under the joviality.

Rachel glanced back to the corner by the bed, the spot of shade caught between the bookshelf – piled high with schoolbooks that had last been accurate somewhere in the 1920s and religious tracts – and the large shutter of the central window. There was nothing there, at least at first; a moment later it looked as though dust motes and raindrops were swirling in that dark and somehow heavy air, enough to darken and warp the errant edges of ancient issues of The Watchtower before they took a more cohesive shape.

As always, that shape was amorphous at first, a mere mass that was both unpleasant to look at and somehow frightening, quickening Rachel’s pulse. Brief flickers as it throbbed and swelled, a vision of something behind that shape, something dark and wet, that Rachel always thought of as hungry, somehow. Then it took a more recognizable form. Despite her pain, the fear that always came with it, when her friend stepped from the corner, Rachel was smiling.

The other girl was on the short side and overweight, though she carried it well; her shoulder-length hair was two-tone, black and white split straight down the middle. Her thin lips were coated an exotic purple that shimmered, the right corner twisted up in a sarcastic and somehow angry smile.

The eyes were what always froze Rachel, made her picture herself as nothing but an ant drowning in the ocean. She adored staring into those eyes but was unable to do so for very long. Locking her gaze with the brilliant green orbs that her friend looked out onto the world with for any length of time seemed to invite madness.

Stealing a brief glance at those eyes, as always leading to them by tracing the intricate patterns of kohl along the rim and the lid before flicking to the iris and back away again, Rachel shuddered, trying to regain at least some of her composure before sinking to the ground in a painful lump.

“She did it again,” she muttered. “Where were you?”

Her friend stepped out of the corner, padding on bare feet that left perfectly-shaped puddles of seawater behind for several seconds. She reached out one chubby, ring-bedecked hand and placed it under Rachel’s chin, stroking it like one would a baby’s.

“Business. I came as soon as I could. I always do, don’t I?”

Rachel thought about that for a moment. It was true; her friend did always come. Maybe not swiftly, and sometimes lacking any real solace or relief, but she did always come.

“Yeah,” Rachel sighed.

The girl grunted as she lowered herself to the floor, cradling Rachel’s head against her breast, shushing her.

“What about Celia?”

“Hmm?”

“Celia. What happened to her? I heard her scream.”

Despite the resentment she had for her sister, free to wander the beach while Rachel was left locked up here, always Mother’s favorite, never subject to the switch or any of the other implements Mother’s temper was so fond of using on her, Rachel didn’t have any particular desire to see her sister hurt. Not in any lasting way, at least. The scream had sounded genuinely pained, and even though it had bought her a temporary reprieve, she didn’t want to think about what it had cost. The heavy pillow she lay against heaved in a sigh, and even though her eyes were closed Rachel could easily imagine the other girl’s emerald eyes rolling in their sockets with exasperation.

“She’s fine. Just scared her a little. Not even a bruise.” She paused for a moment. “Your mother will probably be too busy hauling her to the emergency room for nothing at all to be a bother the rest of the night, at least.”

Rachel nodded. “Mmmkay.”

“Enough about her, though. We have a while. C’mon, and tell Bertie what happened. We’ll make it all okay.”

Rachel, her head against Bertie’s chest, eyes closed, snuggled in like a baby about to go to sleep, didn’t see her friend’s thin lips split, or the jagged grill of spears that seemed to rise from the gums, the extension of an obscenely lolling tongue that danced in the air like a snake’s for a moment.

“It’ll all be okay,” it whispered.

(The story continues here!)

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21
Jan
18

Riptide, Part 2

(Missed Part 1? Find it here!)

Riptide.jpg

Mother raised her left arm high, the birch switch quivering at the end and almost reaching to the ceiling. Rachel knew the moment where control would be lost was coming; when Mother was willing to swing from there, she had no intention of holding back. That meant that the ointments and splints would come next, and those were almost as bad as the beatings themselves.

Mother was not gentle in administering first aid. Rachel had often thought that Mother was somehow broken, incapable of gentleness; even in so thinking, though, she frequently corrected herself. Mother was perfectly capable of it… at least, around others.

When she was alone with her eldest daughter, however, all bets were off.

A single tear tracked down her rapidly swelling cheek, the cool saltiness of it burrowing into a fresh cut with a sting that was almost sweet; compared to her backside and her arms, the sting of the salt in a fresh cut was practically pleasant, a brief reprieve, something else to focus on.

At sight of that tear, Mother roared and started her swing. Rachel brought her arm – careful to use the left, as the right had already been thoroughly assaulted today – in front of her face, knowing it would earn her worse and not caring, only hoping today wasn’t the day she lost an eye.

Something louder than Mother’s hollering, something that seemed almost in answer to Rachel’s half-hearted prayer of a moment before, came from outside. A snarling sound, something snapping, then a high shriek. Celia, screaming.

Mother’s arm froze halfway down, her head jerking towards the window and thrusting at the air like an angry chicken’s. Her eyes narrowed and she glared down at her daughter for a moment, letting her tongue slick across her lips like a snake’s.

“I’ll finish with you later, whorelet.”

She spun on her heel, slamming the stout wooden door as hard as she could. Rachel knew better than to dive for it, try to stop her. Mother was fearsomely strong when she got like this, and the door was thick and heavy; she’d almost lost a finger trying that stunt before. A moment later she heard the hollow and somehow deadly thud of the bolt being shut, and the lighter click of the switch being laid beside the door.

Celia had stopped screaming, but Rachel knew that it wouldn’t stop Mother’s progress to go and check on her youngest. She watched her very carefully, after all. Wouldn’t want her to get the devil in her like Rachel had. Mother’s tread thumped down the stairwell, and only when the door at the base of the lighthouse gave it’s familiar shriek did Rachel remember to breathe.

She’d prayed, and something had answered. It wasn’t the first time. But it may have been the first time the thought that followed it had occurred to her:

Just what had she been praying to?

(Want more? The story continues here!)

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20
Jan
18

Pacing

Those of you who follow the blog are probably aware; “Layers” has been completed, and it’s on to the next bit of serial madness. I chose to do “Riptide,” though I couldn’t say why. It called to me. Blame it on my current moods.

Layers_banner.jpg

There is a crucial difference between the two, though. The pacing of the work. Not the story itself, exactly, but the way it’s written. “Layers” was spewed out at a rapid pace, almost writing itself. It was based on a dream I’ve had for over thirty years, and thus all the elements were already in place; I merely had to transcribe them.

Riptide.jpg

“Riptide” is a bit different. I know the broad strokes, and the story I want to tell. The ending is actually already written; in a rare moment of being scattershot, I actually wrote that before I even had the backstory. I’m now essentially writing the tale backwards, fast forwarding and rewinding between the ending I’ve written and the parts that show how Rachel gets there.

That means the work progresses a little slower. “Layers” may not have been the best project to start with in my forays into serialization; I worry I may have given unrealistic expectations on my output. But for those of you following, don’t be concerned. Just because you don’t see a new bit of “Riptide” every other day, it doesn’t mean it’s been abandoned. Just been worked on. I aim to release a new segment at least once and hopefully twice a week until the tale is told, but we’ll see how it goes.

Regardless, I hope you enjoy the story. Be well.

KA Spiral no signature




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