The Presumption of Darkness Part 4

Hey, all…

Here is the fourth chapter of my latest WIP.

It will probably shape up to be a short novella. It’s hard to say now. I’m not sure how long I’m going to leave this up. I’ll probably take it down at some point and turn it into an eBook – with a free/pay-what-you-feel version on Smashwords and a pay version on Amazon.

If you like this opening, please leave feedback. It really helps me! And when I pull it down for the eBook version, please consider buying a copy, leaving reviews, etc.

Also, if you like this please consider buying a copy at LeanPub now, or Amazon or Smashwords when they are available. I know some people have reservations about buying stuff over the internet or for various reasons may not be able to, so I’ll try and always have a free version available. But I also believe in authors getting paid for the work.

You really need to read Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 for this chapter to make sense.

Working Title: The Presumption of Darkness

Word Count: 1,100 (approx)

Reading time for average reader: 10 minutes

Part 4 – Cassie

“You’re not serious. It’s so fucking cold up there.” Nick kept saying it over and over like the only reason I persisted in my plan was that I wasn’t hearing him.

“Look, I’m not saying I’d take the job, but openings for professors of Theology aren’t a dime a dozen. Plus this school doesn’t have some fascist statement of faith where they can just fire me if I write some paper that doesn’t exactly line up with their view point on the Trinity or gay marriage or something.”

“But winter in Boston…” He looked at his shoes again. I hate it when he does that. “I don’t know if I can handle it.”

“Don’t be a wimp, Nick. I need to keep my hand in the game for people to take me seriously. I’ll just be gone a couple of days.”

“Do they even have burritos there?” he asked as I walked into my office and closed the door.

I didn’t really want the job, Sammy. I just needed to get away from Nick and Julia’s crushing worry. They had been hounding me, double teaming me from the moment I got back from the conference. It was more than I could take.

So, I booked the flight. And then I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths and tried to reach out to you with my mind. Not that I knew what I was doing, I just tried doing something.

I’m going to be at the Parker House hotel in Boston on the 17th. Please, if you can hear me, come. Prove to me that I’m not crazy, that when I felt your voice at the conference that it was really you.

And then I waited.

Then there was a booming voice in my head: Why do you never talk to me, Cassie? Without me, Sammy would never even have had the nerve to kiss you, let alone do all the nasty things he did to you.

I grabbed my ears and felt the words, “Too loud” roll out of my mouth between gasps. I felt like the only thing keeping my head from exploding was the pressure I exerted with my hands.

I looked up, and the light in the room wasn’t right. I wasn’t like that horrible blackness I saw at the conference. Instead of blackness, I felt like there was this space where the light just wasn’t quite hitting. The color seemed dim, and details seemed to fade away. This draining, for lack of a better word, took on the shape of a man.

It wasn’t the shape that the horrible blackness took on. It was a familiar.

“Eric?” I asked.

Sammy, I saw his death again, in my mind, like I have so many times. But instead of running through the jungle when that thing grabbed him, I stayed. I held your hand, and we watch as that thing tore his limbs off and twisted his head. But instead of the screams I am so used to hearing, he laughed. Sammy, Eric laughed!

“Come and see!” he shouted, even though his head had been completely snapped off his body. “It’s wonderful!”


I wasn’t really expecting to see you in the lobby. But when I did, I girded myself. What were you going to do? Drag me by the hair back to North Carolina? Slit my throat in the lobby? Buy me lunch?

Instead, you sat down and reached out for my hand. And I freaked. No other word does my reaction justice. “Don’t touch me.”

Why did I say that, Sammy?

What I wanted to say was: Take me to my room. Show me that I am a woman and not just some challenge, some contest where you see how many times you can make me cum. Show me that you really love me and that there is still tenderness inside you, that it hasn’t all been swallowed up by that thing that killed Eric.

Would things have gone differently that night if you had stayed? Would you have spent the night if I had begged you? Why did I turn you away after you kissed me in the alley? Did you know where you were leading me or did you just happen upon that sexy little alcove?


Things got bad after you left. I guessed which flight you must be on and stayed up all night watching the flight status updates on the airline’s website, wiping tears from my eyes.

“You’ve gone sentimental in the last few years.”

“Eric?”

That weird fading of light I saw back in California was back.

“Sorry about the volume problems last time we chatted. And I can’t be as visually stunning as the thing from the cave. Isn’t that how you think of him? He’s so much more. But surely you’ve suspected as much, yes? All the time you spend reading fairy tales – you must suspect.”

“What’s his name, Eric?”

“You think that will help you? No. It won’t. But I won’t tell you anyway. Let’s just call him Our Dark Friend. He is your friend. Don’t you see that?”

“Why won’t you stay dead, Eric?”

“What’s the fun in that?”

The dullness in the light traveled across the room to the window as if it was admiring the view. “Boston is so lovely. I grew up here. Did you remember that, Cassie?”

Was there something wistful in his voice or was that wishful thinking?

“Sammy boy can never love you the way you want him to. Sammy was too close to Our Dark Friend. And even if he could, you’re polluted, too. If he could love you, you’d grow tired and resentful.”

“Please…”

“I have to go now. I’m still new at this. I’ll see you soon. Maybe next time I will be strong enough to fuck you just how you like it. Even better. I can do all sorts of things that normal humans could never do.”

“Go away, please. If you ever felt anything approaching compassion or friendship toward me, be merciful, Eric.”

“I’m afraid I have no mercy left, beautiful.”

And then he was gone.

Do you love me, Sammy? Are we even capable of love? Or are we running out of mercy, like Eric?

 

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The Presumption of Darkness Part 3

Hey, all…

Here is the third chapter of my latest WIP. It will probably shape up to be a short novella. It’s hard to say now. I’m not sure how long I’m going to leave this up. I’ll probably take it down at some point and turn it into an eBook – with a free/pay-what-you-feel version on Smashwords and a pay version on Amazon.

If you like this opening, please leave feedback. It really helps me! And when I pull it down for the eBook version, please consider buying a copy, leaving reviews, etc.

Also, if you like this please consider buying a copy at LeanPub now, or Amazon or Smashwords when they are available. I know some people have reservations about buying stuff over the internet or for various reasons may not be able to, so I’ll try and always have a free version available. But I also believe in authors getting paid for the work.

You really need to read Part 1 and Part 2 for this chapter to make sense.

Working Title: The Presumption of Darkness Word Count: 1578 (approx) Reading time for average reader: 10 minutes

 

 

Part 3 – Samuel

Each day the colors of life drained a little more. Sounds became quieter. Everything smelled slightly of bleach.

I would retreat to my office in the attic for hours at a time pretending to work on some paper or something. Abigail gave me my space. Sometimes at night, I would pretend I was asleep and I could sense her just staring at me. What does she know? I would wonder.

She knew about our tryst, Cassie. She stayed with me and I know it hurt her. I know I’m killing her a little every day, Cassie. But what can I do? How can I change when I don’t want to change? How can I learn to want what I don’t want? Where does one even begin to untangle such bonds?


I was sharpening a pile of pencils I didn’t ever expect to use when I felt your voice in my head.

I’m going to be at the Parker House hotel in Boston on the 17th. Please, if you can hear me, come. Prove to me that I’m not crazy.

I felt cold. Am I afraid? Am I losing my mind? Which is scarier – that this was you, Cassie? Or that it wasn’t? And why should I try to prove that you aren’t crazy when I am not even sure about my own sanity?

I knew it was your voice. You had sent me a message. Which means you probably had gotten my message when I watched you typing that email. What the fuck did this mean?

I booked my flight right away. I would arrive early on the 17th and leave late. I began composing excuses to Abigail. A job interview! That’s almost certainly why Cassie is there. So, if she starts digging, she’ll find that some school is really interviewing there. I’ll find out what school Cassie is probably looking at. She’ll be glad at the possibility of more income. Maybe she won’t ask too many questions.

But, of course, she did. You never got to spend much time with her, did you, Cassie? She is sharp. She is strong. I have no idea why she sticks with me.

But what else could I do? What if you sat there all day and then decided that our miraculous connection was just a fantasy? I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I had let this connection of ours slip away…

I suffered through days of Abigail asking me the same questions over and over – in ever so slightly different ways.

You would think that she was nagging, Cassie. By no means. She was so sweet as she asked. And she would accept any answer I gave. But I knew she was gently massaging all the data she was getting, searching for holes and inconsistencies. And I couldn’t blame her.

I knew she knew I was lying. And she did nothing. What could she do? She took her vows so seriously. She would fight for me. But she knew she had to play the long game. She always plays the long game, Cassie.


I expected to have to ask the front desk to call your room, but instead, I saw you sitting in a dark corner of the lobby in one of those overstuffed chairs.

You stared at me, lips parted. You weren’t really expecting me, were you? I thought.

I tried to make my steps measured and nonchalant, but I was shaking. I felt the sweat on my brow. I felt like all the air in the room had vanished. I must have looked like I was having a heart attack and refusing to admit it!

I sat down in a chair that was at a 90-degree angle to yours. I just stared for a few minutes. Your hair was blonde again. I remember how the blonde faded out of your hair while we traveled around on our fuck tour of Latin America. It was so cute seeing your polish disappear. But I guess now that you’re back in civilization, you put the polish back on.

You wore it well, that’s for sure.

Your slick interview suit looked great on you. Was that half a year’s salary? Or did you borrow it? No idea, but it sure showed off your athletic build. The skirt was just long enough to be “interview appropriate” and not a millimeter longer.

I reached out to take your hand and you quaked out a quick, “Please don’t touch me.” Your eyes were moist.

“Of course,” I said. I just wanted to know that you were real. That this wasn’t some dream.

Now what? I wondered.

“I think Eric is still alive,” you said.

“No. It’s not possible. No human being could withstand what he went through. His fucking limbs were yanked off as he screamed. That thing twisted his head completely around as it chewed on him. No. He’s dead as anyone ever has been.”

“Then I’m crazy. And then you aren’t really here because I never sent you that message. And then you’re crazy for thinking you’re talking to me.”

“Well, where does that leave us?” I asked.

“Let’s go for a walk.”

We walked out the door and the first thing was saw was a big, old fashioned church steeple. “Park Street Church,” she said. “The building is probably 200 years old. Lots of history.”

I nodded. We walked over to a large park – Boston Common, I guessed – teaming with people going to lunch, getting on and off the subway or just hanging out on the warm, sunny day.

In the middle of an expanse of pavement stones was a man in a hockey shirt. He was older – maybe in his sixties. He bounced a tennis ball as he read. I recognized it as Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace

To lose someone: we suffer because the departed, the absent, has become something imaginary and unreal. But our desire for him is not imaginary. We have to go down into ourselves to the abode of the desire which is not imaginary. Hunger: we imagine kinds of food, but the hunger itself is real: we have to fasten on to the hunger. The presence of the dead person is imaginary, but his absence is very real: henceforward it is his way of appearing.

“Interesting choice for a street preacher,” I said.

“This morning he was reading Kierkegaard!” you said with a laugh. “His name is Andy. I overheard him talking with some tourists. He must have an M. Div or something. Maybe he’s self-study, but he’s smart and well read.”

We listened to him expound on Weil, trying to stir up a hunger for God in whoever happened to be listening. Sometimes he would call out questions to people he seemed to know in the crowd. He must have been here all the time to know so many hot dog vendors and beat cops and the other denizens of such a place. He would ask them questions of varying relevance to his text.

He turned towards me. “You there, with the pretty girl.”

I nodded, grinning.

“You’ve seen some dark stuff, haven’t you? I can smell it on you. The darkness. Yeah?”

My grin vanished. “Yeah, I’ve seen some dark stuff.” And then I could see it on him. I could see little specks of darkness clinging to him despite the intensity of the sun beating down on us. Little remnants of something like the thing we saw in that cave. He could smell it on me and I could see it on him.

What has happened to us, Cassie?

“So have I. You know that, right?”

“Yes. I can see it on you.”

“That’s why I know God exists. How else could we know such darkness if we didn’t have the notion of light?” And then with that, he went back to reading and throwing out questions to other folks.

“I think I need a drink,” I said.

“Me, too,” you said. “I know a good place. Dark and cool.”

We started to walk away from Andy and his strange theology seminar.

We made some turns on several weird little streets – the kind you find in old cities. I crammed my hands in my pockets for fear I would grab you.

Then, you looked around, saw we were alone in an alley and you pushed me against the wall and kissed me. Your lips so soft… Our tongues touched lightly.

Then I felt it… The darkness in my stomach, churning… Longing to rise up in me, to pull us both into its domain.

Can’t I have a normal life, Cassie? Must this darkness follow me everywhere?

Then, you pushed me away, tears streaming down your face.

I sighed at the sight. Then I felt a drop of water hit the color of my shirt. Then I felt the tears streaming down my own cheeks.

“You’d better go,” you said. And you were right, Cassie. I walked off my mind feverishly running with previously unthinkable ideas.


I looked out the window into the rapidly darkening sky as the plane pulled me back to North Carolina. The night sky was a sea of black. But somewhere, flying alongside the plane, there was something blacker than that. And it was laughing at me.

Why do I feel like we just played into its hands, Cassie?

I love you now more than ever.

 

The Presumption of Darkness Part 2

Hey, all…

Here is the second chapter of my latest WIP.

It will probably shape up to be a short novella. It’s hard to say now. I’m not sure how long I’m going to leave this up. I’ll probably take it down at some point and turn it into an eBook – with a free/pay-what-you-feel version on Smashwords and a pay version on Amazon.

If you like this opening, please leave feedback. It really helps me! And when I pull it down for the eBook version, please consider buying a copy, leaving reviews, etc.

Also, if you like this please consider buying a copy at LeanPub now, or Amazon or Smashwords when they are available. I know some people have reservations about buying stuff over the internet or for various reasons may not be able to, so I’ll try and always have a free version available. But I also believe in authors getting paid for the work.

*You really need to read Chapter 1 for this chapter to make sense.

Working Title: The Presumption of Darkness
Word Count: 3000 (approx)
Reading time for average reader: 15 minutes

Part 2

Cassie

“Hey, Baby, watcha doin?” I asked.

Lisa looked up from her photocopied handouts. “English extra credit,” she said with a sigh.

My skin crawled ever so slightly. There was a part of me that said let it go. Don’t ask. It’s just some English extra credit assignment. You really don’t need to know these details. But I’ve got this thing, ya know, Sam? It’s a character flaw, I know. You probably never saw this because of the unique nature of our relationship, but I feel compelled to prove myself a good parent. I travel a lot and feel guilty. Hell, that trip we took to Latin America while Lisa was such a little girl…

So, I asked. “What are you doing for extra credit?”

“Oh, Mom, you would not believe it. I thought it would be easy. We were just supposed to read some fairy tales and write a quick analysis. But these stories are gross! This one has a man burning dogs to ashes and then boiling this king and…”

The Bronze Ring, I thought. Collected by Andrew Lang in The Blue Fairy Book. And my mind was off to that horrible place in myself I discovered in that jungle. But I see the story differently. I see a version of the story that is older than Lang’s version. Don’t ask me how I know this. It’s what my Wiccan friends would call Unverified Personal Gnosis, but I know it’s true.

I saw it Sam. The Gardener’s Son finding three dogs, but these are no ordinary dogs. These were creatures straight out of Hell – jaws elongated beyond anything nature could have intended. Teeth that looked like medieval torture devices. Instead of fur, sharp spines that rose and fell with the breath of these hulky creatures. “Take us,” they said over and over. “Use us,” they said.

The Gardener’s Son picked up a bag and the creatures dissolved into a powder that drifted into the bag.

Scene change. The Gardner’s Son has tricked a king from the East into a pot and released the powder from his bag. The evil creatures reconstituted themselves and begin to tear the King from the East apart. But then, the King’s face became Eric’s face. The screams go on and on… long after it seems physically possible. Even after the last bits of Eric have been ingested, the animals opened their mouths and I could hear Eric’s screams continue from deep in the bellies of these beasts.

“Mom!” Lisa shouted. “Mom! You’re doing it again.”

And then I was back. My daughter’s face is pale with a concern that should be alien to a 12 year-old girl.

“Doing what?” I ask. Is she going to fall for my feigned ignorance?

“You went all spacey again.”

“Oh.”

“Dad says you weren’t always like this.”

“Oh.” He’s right. I wasn’t like this until Eric. “Get back to your homework, Baby.”

“Are you still going on your trip?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I come? Dad says it’s going to be like the Sci Fi con we went to last month.”

“Oh, really?” I felt my stomach clench. Something was burning at the back of my throat.

“Yeah, except the Cos Play won’t be as cool. Just middle aged geeks dressed up as Moses or The Virgin Mary.”

The burning in my throat got hotter.

Then my phone buzzed. I picked it up and saw a text message saying my email account had been accessed by an unfamiliar computer. I checked the location and felt my face get hot. The name of the town just happened to be the town Nick’s office was located in.

I got up trying to make my limbs move fluidly, choking back the desire to scream. I walked to the living room and plopped down on the couch.

I started a text to my sister, Julia. I don’t think you ever met her, Sam. You’d like her. But I think you’d be a little scared of her. Of course, I’m thinking of the old you. The pre-Eric you.

Me: Julia, Nick is checking my email without telling me.

Julia: You should leave him.

Me: He’s the father of my child. I can’t just leave him.

Julia: Oh, yeah? Has he been hitting you?

Me: The anger management class helped. He’s really trying. I promised myself if he was going to try then I was going to try.

Julia: Once a bastard, always a bastard.

Me: That’s not fair.

I waited for a response and got none. I drifted to sleep on the couch.

I dreamed of you, Sam. I dreamed we were in that cabin in the woods of North Carolina. I dreamed I was your prisoner. Damn, it was hot, Sam.

I felt a man’s hand jostle my shoulder. I almost, just almost let myself think things too good to be true.

I opened my eyes to see Nick smiling at me with flowers in his hand.

I didn’t bother to hide my disappointment. “What’s with checking my email?”

“Oh,” he said, putting the flowers down on the coffee table.

“That’s all you have to say?”

“Your trips don’t always go well.”

I sat up, eyes burning, cheeks wet. “You’re still angry about what happened seven years ago? Look, I did some terribly stupid things.”

I wiped the tears from my eyes and stared hard into Nick’s eyes. “Nick, I’ve gone on other work trips since then and I didn’t have you spying on me. It’s not like you’ve been a saint. I thought we agreed to just try and move forward.”

“It’s different this time. You’ve been getting that 1000-yard stare more and more. It’s almost like when you just got back from Latin America. You’re gone more than you’re here.”

He was right, Sam. I mentally reviewed my week and there were all these gaps. I felt something in my guts drop as I realized how much of my week was missing.

He put his hand on my face. It felt so big. It wasn’t that long ago that I had been slapped by that big slab of meat. “Cassie,” his eyes locked with mine. “Julia’s worried, too.”

“Maybe it’s not something about this trip or about me at all. Maybe it’s because you’re not supporting me anymore.”

I felt his hand twitch and I flinched.

“What do you mean?” His voice was very even. Too even.

“Do you think I’d look hot in a Virgin Mary costume?”

“Oh,” he said, looking down at the floor.

I smiled at him and lifted his chin. “Look, I don’t want to leave on a bad note. Let’s just let this go and talk again when I get back, ok?”

“Ok, honey.” He got up and walked out of the room. I could barely hear his big feet padding across the floor.

I picked up my cell phone and sent another text to Julia.

Me: Are you trying to play both sides against the middle or something?

Julia: Look, I don’t care much for Nick, but you have been acting weird. All the gals miss you. And you aren’t laughing anymore.

Me: So? I’m just preoccupied. I’m presenting a big paper.

Julia: That might make sense for some people but a Cassie without laughter… unthinkable!

Me: A Cassie without laughter is like an object greater than which nothing can be conceived but which happens to lack existence?

Julia: See? Did you laugh at that? I bet not. And don’t tell me that wasn’t a joke. I don’t have any idea what it means but I can tell it’s the kind of joke that would put yourself in stitches while everyone in the room vainly tried to figure out what it meant.

I tossed the phone over to the end of the couch and began to sob.


I sat down in the conference center lounge with my “complimentary continental breakfast” – a burnt cup off coffee in a Styrofoam cup and a stale doughnut. I pulled out my conference program. The opening ceremony included mostly names I recognized and then there was a break before the first plenary session.

I skipped over the description of the plenary and looked at the breakout sessions of the day. There were a surprising number of sessions about fairy tales. I circled each one. Maybe someone in one of these will have some answers for me.

I looked at the description of the Plenary Session. Who is this Timothy Kolos person? Should I even bother going? Guess I’ll at least read the description. Mystical poetry, huh? My mind drifted back to all those times when you would read me poetry, Sam. It was cute the way you pretended you just wanted my academic opinion. You were cute. And sweet. And you had this strange strength to you. But I’m married and I have a kid! I kept trying to project that to you but it never seemed to penetrate. Men…

Sam, when I saw you on that podium. I was so sure you were dead that for a moment I thought Timothy Kolos was your long lost twin. But once you started reading… Those poems… The very lines, the very intonation you used when you read them to me…

My mind drifted back to the time you finally consummated that tireless, yet unrequited love you had for me. Eric started fucking me before our trip but I kept that hidden from you. I was selfish, I guess. Your undeterred affection hit a deep place in my heart.

Eric had been teasing me with the idea of inviting you into our fucking sessions. I dare not call what we did “making love” or anything even remotely poetic. He was rough… brutal at times – just like his approach to finding the truth about God, nature, the mind… reality itself. He wanted to crack it wide open and have his way with it, just like he wanted to rip me wide open and play with me all day. And I loved it.

At first, I pushed back. “Don’t be a prude, Cassie,” he said. “You’re already an adulterer. In for a penny, in for a pound, right?”

Well, you remember the night. I blush when I remember how shy you were at first. My heart finally melted for you. You kept getting flustered whenever you remembered Eric was with us. I had to take you in my mouth over and over that first night to keep you hard you were so scared.

But the next night… Something came over you. I suspect Eric did some sort of magic, played some sort of head game… I don’t know. He had this way of bringing out the beast in people. However he did it, you were a changed man the next night. You were almost as beastly as Eric, and I loved it. The two of you would trade off most of the night and then, when I thought I would die of pleasure, the two of you would take me at once, attacking every hole you could get hold of. There were a few times on that trip that I was sure I was dying of sensory overload.

Still, even at your roughest, there was always a tenderness underneath it which was almost completely absent in Eric.

I thought about ditching Eric. You were lover enough for me. But if Eric left the equation, would he take his magic with him? That bastard was so deep inside my head. I felt like he was with me even when he wasn’t, whispering blasphemous thoughts in my ear. I knew the same was true for you, too, Sam. Eric was a part of each of us.

And then… Suddenly, I heard Eric’s screams as that thing in the cave pounced on him. I don’t know how I got out of the cave but I was running. The path was slippery form the rain. The whole jungle seemed to tear and rip at me as I ran.

And then I was back in reality, listening to you quote those poems you used to try and express your love for me. I tried to fill in the missing pieces of the conversation you were so clumsily trying to have with me. Were you so sure I’d be there that you wrote that paper just to talk with me?

Of course you were. Of course you did.

But what were you trying to tell me?

As soon as you started to field questions, I left the hall. I ripped up my circled program and got a new one. I started circling a new list of break out sessions with names like: Topics in Textual Transmission or Second Temple Era Synagogue Liturgy or Free will and Determinism in the 19th Century… The more boring and technical the better. I wanted no more passion for a while.

I don’t remember a word that was uttered the rest of the day. I just made my way to the hotel where I was staying and started drinking and typing on my laptop. I guess the drinks clouded my judgment a bit because I started writing an email to you. I found your bio in the conference program and your email address was just sitting there. Well, the email address for Timothy Kolos. Anyway, I was pretty sure you would get the email.

I started typing…

Samuel, you bastard. I’ve missed you. Why didn’t you tell me you were alive? So many questions…

And then it was like I could hear you in my hear saying:

I’m sorry, Cassie. I missed you, too. More than you could know. I’m not sure I was alive. I spent so much time trying to blot out my consciousness… Maybe I did die and somehow came back to life.

And then I wrote:
What happened to you in that cave? Was it the same thing that happened to me? Is Eric really dead, or did he survive somehow, too?

And the voice in my head replied:

We saw more truth than we knew how to deal with. Eric is dead. I hope for Christ’s sake that he is, anyway. I can’t see how anyone could survive what his body went through. I know his soul went through worse. I hope it’s at peace.

And then I typed:

I don’t want to presume that the subtext of your paper was about me, Sam… But… I’ve missed you.

And your voice… I knew it was you said:

Presume? Why not? Your “presumption” would be entirely correct. Fucking hell, you are precious to me.

Then I wrote:

What about your wife?

And your fucking voice, in my head said:

She had every right to leave me when I ran off with you and Eric. But she didn’t. And somehow she had the faith to believe I wasn’t dead. I came back and tried to pick things up where they were… But as much as I love her, each day with her is a living death. Not even a fancy, “bells and whistles” sort of Messiah-complex death, just a dirty, gritty “I die daily” sort of death.

And it went on… A whole dialogue in my head. How did you get in there? Your voice was even more real than Eric’s. What have you become, Sam? What have we become?

But I knew Nick would be checking my email. I knew that’s why you never reached out to me. He was getting better, but I knew that his healing was still in such an early stage. He would beat me, maybe even kill me. And then he would go looking for you.

So, I deleted the draft and closed my computer. I had what I needed anyway. I knew you were alive and I knew somehow we were in contact. I had what I wanted. But along with that came fear. If you were alive, what wasn’t possible?

I went to bed and dreamed… I dreamed of Eric being tortured to death by that thing in the cave.

I woke up to it’s presence. I couldn’t see it, but I knew it was there. It hissed in my ear.

“You were such a delightful frog to boil, Cassie. And Eric… Eric was such a beautiful pawn, wasn’t he?”

“Please,” was all that came out of my mouth in reply.

“Please what? Leave you and Sammy boy alone? Why? Do you think you could ever be ‘life partners’ or some such nonsense? Do you still cling to those dreams of romance?”

And then I was asleep again, dreaming of you, Sam. Dreaming of you coming for me. It started, as it often did, with me jogging in some beautiful, deserted tree lined park. I sensed someone – you, Sam – following me. I caught glimpses of you out of the corner of my eye. Then it became dark. Clouds? An eclipse? The flow of time twisting to your will?

I get so occupied with keeping track of you that I don’t even see your trap. Out of nowhere I am caught up in something and I can’t even see. I find myself in the back of your cargo van, tied up expertly and secured to the floor, mouth gagged.

Then I am in your dungeon, suspended by an intricate system of ropes. You take me in each hole, roughly, brutally. You choke me as I cum. You press your hunting knife against my flesh and give me little nicks and cuts as I cum, over and over.

I am your slave… No, not even your slave. I am lower than that. And I love each moment of it. There is no tenderness left in you and I don’t miss it.

But I sense that horrible thing there in the dark with us.

Samuel, what are we going to do? I love you.

The Presumption of Darkness – Part 1

Hey, all…

Here is the first chapter of my latest WIP.

It will probably shape up to be a short novella. It’s hard to say now. I’m not sure how long I’m going to leave this up. I’ll probably take it down at some point and turn it into an eBook – with a free/pay-what-you-feel version on Smashwords and a pay version on Amazon.

If you like this opening, please leave feedback. It really helps me! And when I pull it down for the eBook version, please consider buying a copy, leaving reviews, etc.

Also, if you like this please consider buying a copy at LeanPub now, or Amazon or Smashwords when they are available. I know some people have reservations about buying stuff over the internet or for various reasons may not be able to, so I’ll try and always have a free version available. But I also believe in authors getting paid for the work.

Working Title: The Presumption of Darkness
Word Count: 2,400 (approx)
Reading time for average reader: 12 minutes

Part 1

Samuel

Before I even completed my walk to the podium I found you in the audience. You were seventh row back, 5 seats from the right. You recognized me as soon as I made eye contact with you. You managed to suppress the gasp. I could almost see it catch in your throat. Of course, you didn’t know I had changed my name, so I’m sure it was really a surprise. I was not surprised you were there. You always took the social aspect of academic theology just as seriously – if not more so – than all the papers, research, and teaching. Well, at least until our summer traveling around Latin America. Everything changed that Summer. But not so much that you would miss this.

I was a little surprised that my paper was accepted for a plenary session. I had been out of the game for a long time. But the dance came back quickly after I managed to drag my sorry corpse back to the US.

I started reading a felt a little twinge of guilt. You probably thought I was dead, I thought. Or maybe in some loony bin. You wouldn’t have been far off. It took me a week to find my way out of the jungle. Maybe more. I should have died. Then I spent the next seven years finding ways to keep myself drunk in half a dozen different countries. I would dry myself out now and then and make some vague attempt to get myself back to the US but then I’d remember what the three of us saw in the cave and, well, I would find a way to make enough dough to go back to my drinking.

I very consciously avoided looking at you as I read the rest of the paper. I let the dance take over. Once upon a time I engaged in academic theology as a search for truth, but truth seemed so elusive, so damn frustrating, that I let the joy of writing take over. My teachers would often tell me that I was more a poet than a theologian. Some meant this as a criticism, others as praise. Either way, it got me most of the way through graduate school. Well, that and my not-so-secret crush on you. Theology became just a very special sort of poetry to me… Until you and I found ourselves sucked into Eric’s orbit.

Still, it seems to move people. If you had asked me what my paper was about, I’m not sure I could have given you a straight answer. I think the title went something like To God and Back Again:Metaphors of Self-hood in Mystic Poetry I had to admit, my definition of Mystic Poetry was pretty broad. I encoded hints and secret messages designed to reach you – and only you. So, I had to do some rather artificial things in my selection of sources. Many of the messages came from mouths who were nothing like mine and land on ears who were nothing like yours, Precious. Still, I managed to make all the jumble dance. When I can feel the dancing under the surface of my text, I know I have a good paper. Even if, as in this case, I haven’t the foggiest idea what it all means. No one has ever called me out about this, but if they did, I’d probably mutter something about my paper being written in a prophetic mode or some such thing. There is some truth in this. I often feel like my writing is informed by voices and forces outside of myself.

Truth seems more like a person to me than a set of propositions. Truth reveals a bit of herself, but hides more. She gives and takes away.

I answered a few questions after I finish reading the paper. I turned my attention back to your seat and saw you were missing. I felt a twinge of guilt. I didn’t want to hurt you or ambush you, I thought, but what was I supposed to do? Send you an email telling you I was alive? Would you immediately block my account and tell your husband? I’ve gone through too much to get back to you to just let you wash your hands of me that easily.

I stepped down of the stage and exited the lecture hall and looked at my conference schedule and headed for the beak out session I had chosen to sit in on.

I spent most of the rest of the day sitting in on sessions about fairy tales. I was really surprised at how many sessions at a theology conference had some connection to fairy tales. Or, rather, I would have been before I found myself with you and Eric in that blasted cave. Now I know what so many of the fairy tales are really about. No amount of Freudian sexualization, Jungian archetypal or demythologizing will ever sanitize the reading of these little stories ever again. I can sense the darkness underneath them, the darkness that lives in the heart of this planet… maybe in the heart of the universe itself. And I can now sense people who have been close to that darkness.

You can sense the darkness, too, can’t you, Cassie? Are you an unheeded prophetess? Or have you stopped issuing warnings about what we found? Or did you never bother? Didn’t you feel like you owed the world? Or didn’t you feel like you at least owed poor Eric something? What did you tell people when they asked about him? Or me, for that matter?

That night, after the last of the sessions, I headed to the bar at my hotel. It wasn’t the closest one to the conference center, but it was close enough that it was packed with theology geeks. Back before my Latin America tour, it would have been a joy to be there, knowing I was never the weirdest person in the room. But I’ve seen too many things that these people have only speculated about to ever be at peace anymore. I find myself a secluded table and order a whiskey with a beer chaser. I gave the waitress a big tip and made it clear that I’m not driving and that I’ll get even looser with my money if she keeps the drinks coming.

I was barely done with my first order when I saw you typing away on your laptop with you back to me. I saw the familiar Gmail interface on your web browser and you were typing like mad. Somehow, and I knew you were typing an email to me. You found it in the program or on my website or something. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. I let me mind reach out to you, hoping I could read your thoughts. I can’t be sure if I succeeded, but I felt like I knew what you were typing – at least parts of it. And I tried to answer your questions as you typed them

Samuel, you bastard. I’ve missed you. Why didn’t you tell me you were alive? So many questions…

I’m sorry, Cassie. I missed you, too. More than you could know. I’m not sure I was alive. I spent so much time trying to blot out my consciousness… Maybe I did die and somehow came back to life.

What happened to you in that cave? Was it the same thing that happened to me? Is Eric really dead, or did he survive somehow, too?

We saw more truth than we knew how to deal with. Eric is dead. I hope for Christ’s sake that he is, anyway. I can’t see how anyone could survive what his body went through. I know his soul went through worse. I hope it’s at peace.

I don’t want to presume that the subtext of your paper was about me, Sam… But… I’ve missed you.

Presume? Why not? Your “presumption” would be entirely correct. Fucking hell, you are precious to me.

What about your wife?

She had every right to leave me when I ran off with you and Eric. But she didn’t. And somehow she had the faith to believe I wasn’t dead. I came back and tried to pick things up where they were… But as much as I love her, each day with her is a living death. Not even a fancy, “bells and whistles” sort of Messiah-complex death, just a dirty, gritty “I die daily” sort of death.

Your bio says you are still in Texas. Do you still hate it?

Yes, Cassie. Too many rich people with big cars and fancy churches.

Your paper is so ambiguous. Do you still have any faith left?

I suppose. I have enough faith for today. I’m not really sure what it is I have faith in anymore. God seems so near for a moment or two, and then my mind goes back to that cave. And you, Cassie? What do you trust in these days?

And then, quite suddenly, and quite… well, it was anything but a surprise… You hit delete instead of send. Did you get my responses? Did my thoughts reach you? I then proceeded to bury myself behind a book and consumed drinks as fast as the waitress could bring them.


That night, in my room, I dreamed of you. I love you, Cassie. I love you and yet, when I dream of you, I don’t dream of making love to you. That thing in the cave polluted everything good in me. My fantasies of you always turn twisted and dark – usually they involve me hunting you down, stalking you, capturing you and whisking you away to my lair, deep in the wooded mountains of North Carolina. There I do horrible things to you, torture you sadistically. You beg for mercy the first few days but after a while, you become as depraved as me, begging me to take you deeper into our little slice of hell.

I woke up and sensed someone in the room. I heard a hissing.

“Samuel,” it said. “What delightful dreams you have.” It had the shape of a man, but none of the details. It was just a blackness deeper than the blackness around it. I was tempted to be relieved that it didn’t have the shape of the beast that tore Eric literally to shreds as he screamed. But as I peered into the darkness I almost missed it’s more obviously hideous shape

“Why are you here? Leave me alone!”

“You don’t mean that, Sammy, my boy. You don’t mean that. What would your pal Eric say? Such an intoxicating fellow, wasn’t he?”

The creature was right. Eric’s twisted fantasies brought out a gravitas in you. You always seemed to think of theology as a lark you could give up any time. It’s not to say you weren’t talented and hardworking, but to you, the social aspect – the classes, the discussions, the conferences – they always seemed as important as the work. But when Eric was around, you couldn’t help but want to pierce the layers of reality.

“He got what he wanted,” said the creature. “He saw the truth. You conjured up something you couldn’t put down, but it was effective magic. For Eric, at least. Oh, the things he saw… You should be jealous.”

“I’m only jealous in that he is dead and I am alive,” I said, sweat pouring down my head.

“Let your mind drift back,” it said


I started to dream again – not the usual surreal, twisted fantasies I usually dream, but an almost photo realistic compression of that last trip we took together. We were supposed to be researching various ways Latin American churches had applied liberation theology to various political and social struggles people were facing. Mostly, we needed an excuse to wander around an alien landscape and get drunk.

I cried in my beer the first night when you and Eric went off by yourselves to make love. I thought about going home that night, but when he invited me to join you the next night… Well, I felt like I was in heaven. We would spend hours playing the game of you – giving you climax after climax as we tried to push ourselves closer and closer to our own edges without going over – trying to one up each other over how long we could go before passing the point of no return.

I think ours was the most debauched church trip in all of history.

After a week, we gave up all pretense of our agenda and just wandered from city to city, country to country, finding new places to get drunk and screw. Sometimes we’d glom on to whatever expat community we’d find. It seemed like every city no matter how small had some expats. They loved to new energy we’d bring to their rather incestuous community. We’d get them to buy us drinks and give us tips on things to see and places to go.

One of them, I would kill him on the spot if I could, suggested a walking tour into the rain forest. He knew just the guide. It would only be a couple of hours – nothing to strenuous the first time. The rain forest can be very dangerous to those who are unfamiliar with it.

It all was going so well. It was so beautiful. Until, somehow, we got separated from our guide. Then a massive rain storm opened up. The cave looked somewhat dry. And that’s where we saw it. Immediately, I knew we were int he presence of something dark and terrible. This was no mere animal. It’s eyes were like space itself.

You ran as soon as the thing dug into Eric. I have no idea why, but I hesitated and watched it dissect him. And then…

It took me two weeks to find my way out of the jungle. I have no idea how I survived.

Part of me wanted to return home to the states, to Texas. But each night I would dream of that thing in the cave and dream about its eyes… Eyes as vast and dark as space… And all I could do was drink.

Seven years I wandered from place to place running from my dreams. Long enough to be legally dead, I would think. I was spiritually dead, that’s for sure.

I love you, Cassie.

Click here for Part 2

This is the Hour of Lead

I cannot help but think of my favorite poem as I burned down that cabin in the woods where you used to visit me.

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs
   I am flooded with memories of you as I watch my haven burn to the ground along with every memento I have of you. I watch it burn all night and come the morning I feel the truth of Good Old Emily Dickinson’s verse
The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone
   Truly my feet did mechanical go round as I poke the ashes with a stick, wondering if any of your letters survived.
   I turn my attention to the trees. How dare they watch something so sacred and not pay some price, I thought. I spent the rest of the morning chopping one of them down. A fine old one. I fall down in exhaustion and say, “Let that be an example to you all.”
   I pass out on the floor of the forest and dream of you. I dream of the first time you came to the cabin – blindfolded, handcuffed to the door of my pickup. You gasp as the handcuffs click closed. “What if there’s an accident?”
   I am tempted – for a brief second – to feel disgust toward you. But I know it was just a short time earlier that I was just like you.  Instead of disgust, I think, you need me worse than I thought. “What’s worse? Living a safe lie or dying in the search for the truth?” I ask. You don’t answer. It doesn’t matter. I have the key and you don’t.
   After I wake from my dream of you, I take the only things I own, all stuffed in a hiking pack, and head toward my pickup truck. I drive southwest trying to catch some breeze that will land me somewhere that I won’t think of you too much. I am not hopeful.
   As I drive hour after hour, I mull over some more of the poem.
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived
   Yes, Emily, this is the hour of lead. I don’t know if I will outlive it.
   After several days of driving I find myself renting an apartment on the outskirts of one of those cities I never dreamed of living in – not so much out of disgust or fear as out of shear alienness. But it will have no traces of you. Just a big city in one of those big states filled with big people and big highways.
   I hate it.
   I fight the temptation to hate you for driving me to this. It is not easy. Lust turns into hate so quickly. But I don’t want my memory of you to be besmirched. So, I fight.
   The landlord doesn’t mind the cash payments. In this neighborhood, cash payments are not unusual. Neither are fake references, I think as I sign the lease.
   I don’t know how long the cash will last. I’m not a big spender, so it might last a long time. If not, I can go back to my wicked ways, I suppose.
   I find some trails nearby. The remind me of the mountains where we dallied. I spend most of my days there. That’s where I first saw them. Their mouths full of sharp teeth. Their hideous, gaunt appendages surrounded in expensive suits. They call my name, but I’m good at hiding. Their eyes speak of hatred and their smiles point toward some torturous domesticity whose secrets are revealed in the strange missives I find at my apartment each night. I burn them, unread.
   I dream of you again. I dream about the third time you came to visit me. By now, you trusted me. Your mistake, I guess. I knew you wouldn’t have put in all those fail safes – all those “If you don’t hear from me” messages you left for people the first two times you came.
   You were tied to the bed posts when I pulled out my knife. I dreamed of its peculiar design – weird cut-outs and such a strange shape. Peculiar, but still deadly, I thought. I dreamed it one night years ago and found it lying on my doorstep the next morning.  Since then, it has been my constant companion in all my misdeeds.
   I press the knife against your naked flesh and instead of inducing fear, it seemed to drive you wild as you bucked against the ropes, you body inflamed by the cool of the steel.

   Would you have run if you knew I was going to kill you? Or would you have been willing to die now that you knew the truth?

But I didn’t kill you. Instead, I show you my scars. Your breath almost stopped when I took off your blindfold. “Where did those scars come from?” you ask.

“I have a special talent for hiding scars,” I say and then I enumerate them. One by one, I tell you each of their stories. I cry, sob like a baby as I got deeper into the list.

The next morning, I let you go. That was the last time I saw you. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. You saw my scars.

And now they are getting closer to me. I hide in the trees, but I know they eventually will find me. Miss Emily was right.

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

I miss you.

The Christian who Couldn’t Believe

Paradoxes…

I spoke about this briefly the other day. I’ve entered a state of life where it seems that paradox is the rule instead of the exception. I’m not sure how I ended up here, but here is where I am.

The biggest paradox I’ve been dealing with today is the paradox of how I can label myself a Christian when I do not even believe He is real?

Part of it is that I see my act of faith as throwing my lot in with His program, aligning myself with His agenda to promote His kingdom where the first is last and the servant is greater than the master. I’ve always been fascinated by His words and I have made a commitment to follow those words as best as His grace enables me.

That doesn’t seem so bad, right? A lot of people align themselves with some plan or idea inspired by someone long dead and buried. But I’m in a worse plight. You see, Jesus talks to me. Seriously, I don’t believe in Him and yet He has this annoying way of showing up in my brain and telling me all sorts of crazy things about how much He loves me. And I love Him.

He shows up and things change: anger drops away, tension lifts, fear dissipates.

I long for Him. He used to show up in visions when I locked myself in my room wanting nothing bu death. He showed up bloody and glory and stirred up my soul to want the infinite, covering me with His blood, dancing His bloody dance through me.

So, there’s my paradox for the day – I love this man whose existence seems so unlikely. He laughs at me when I try to dismiss Him. He knows He has my heart, what use does He have for my brain?

Why fiction? Why the Blood?

Why fiction?

For some people this isn’t even a sensible question. For some people story is something they live, breathe and eat. Sadly, I’ve been blessed/cursed with a philosopher’s temperament. I questions things – perhaps too much. I’ve seen the damage story can do as well as the heights of ecstasy it can bring. Story is dangerous. In the hands of the demagogue it can fan the fires of hatred. And in the hand of the dreamer, it can lull the soul to a sickly sleep.

Still… Still, I crave story. But I have to question it. So, I spin theories… Well, theory is probably too grandiose a word. Perhaps a better word would be idea. I can’t help but have ideas about writing. It’s part of my character. In the past my motivating idea was story as dance between author and audience. I have to admit I stole this idea from Thomas Ligotti. It was and is a good one. It motivated many of the stories I wrote under my old pen name.

But I’m in a new phase of life and I need a new motivating idea for my writing. For now, I use story as a way to examine the paradox of problems. Different genres of writing express certain ideas and modes of thinking more naturally than others, at least, in the hands of certain people.

For me, story allows me to explore problems without an eye toward explaining them or showing their solution. I want to bring the problem – especially the paradoxes that lie at the root of so many of our deepest problems – without giving the impression that I understand these problems any more than my readers. In other words, I see story as an expression of solidarity.

We face the paradoxes every day and try to hide. I’ve run from so many of these… the first becomes last, seeking life is seeking death, the savior nailed to the cross, ecstasy hidden in blood.