SO MUCH FORGOTTEN

The snake that winds through me is generations long, its tail now buried within the dust of my ancestors, sprung from one of them like the demigod it is. Child of a god, come to slither its way through my family tree. Strangling the roots and killing us one by one until one day I woke with a darkness over me, a shadow over my mind, and I knew.

I knew.

I knew it had finally come for me.

I went to the doctors and she didn’t find anything so I went to another and another and another and none of them could see it, see it for what it was.

Of the five doctors I went to each gave me a new reason as to why I was going through what I was going through and what ailment they thought I might be facing.

It hid in plain sight from them.

Coiled around a half dozen symptoms and slithering out of view just as they seem to get close to it.

It was there though, and I knew it and as the fog settled in thicker and thicker I knew it was just a matter of time until the moments there was fog were more frequent than the moments of clarity.

When the shadow finally found me in full, the snake sinking its teeth into my chest until its poison was drained, it had been three years since I first guessed it had found me.

I had gone to sleep at ten in the evening, lying alone in my bed and staring up at the white sky of my ceiling.

I woke on my back, strapped to a gurney in a hospital scream, scream, screaming for my mother who was long dead.

The snake had taken my mother as it had taken her mother and her mother and on and on, striking down the women of our family and only managing to skip sisters, taking only one, its singular act of kindness.

My sister was there to sit with me and calm me as she explained that I had been found walking down the center of a highway three miles from my apartment.

More testing and the tests lead to medications and to assurances that we had caught it, whatever it was that was eating away at me.

After the third time I had been found my sister held my hand and said nothing as the doctor’s whispered to one another. She knew the snake, maybe not as well as I did but she knew it, and she knew it had come for me.

It was why neither of us had married.

It was why neither of us had had children.

Because the only way to kill the snake would be to starve it, even if it meant the end of us.

My sister got me out of the hospital with the promise she would look after me and get me the help and treatment I needed but it was a lie, only one of the many we had both told in our lives, this one woven out of love though, and for that I was grateful.

We spent the last hours of light on her porch, holding hands and looking at pictures from when we were kids. As we sat there the children in the photos became strange and unfamiliar and I suppose that was when my sister knew it was time.

When I came to again it was night and I was scared and cried for some time before I was clear enough to remember where I must be and why I was there.

And now it’s just me and the snake as it feasts on me but I know soon, very soon, it will starve.

It will starve and I will laugh at it as it does.

Laugh until the vomit comes, until the black clouds settle, and until I am long, long gone.

That was the last gift my sister gave me, as she settled me here in the grass of the woods where we used to play.

Three little pills that would let me choose darkness over the gray.

And when I was finally gone she would have me collected, and buried, and with me would be buried the snake, our inheritance, and the last of our family curse.

I lived not a great life.

I lived not a bad life.

I lived a life.

A life that was far too short for how very long it was.

So much I knew that was gone.

So much forgotten. .

Once my sister was gone there would be no one left to remember me and it was a black, bitter thing that life is its own sort of snake, that strangles the memories from all of us and all of those we love, strangling the world itself until there is nothing left of any of us but dust and forgotten dreams.

…c…

Course Correction

I can very safely say that when I was a teenager with his dreams of being a special effects makeup person quickly fading I didn’t really see myself writing stories at age 43. Not that I am doing it professionally, in any way, but that I would have written, er, fourteen books, I think, and would have sold books to strangers, and would have done the things I have was never something that would have crossed my mind. And when I look back at the story that set me in mind to WANT to write stories and to keep writing them I can’t say that I saw a day when I would write not one but three books for children and a series for all ages. I was into horror and dark stuff. I was into creepy and moody things. I wrote because it was my way to reach out to the world and to sort of bottle the weirdness that I seemed to produce by the gallon.

I have talked about all of this before.

It’s not new.

What I am getting at though is a little different.

I never had an intention to write anything other than dark and spooky stuff. Not out of any snobbishness but out of the sheer fact that I just couldn’t see it.

Not at 15.

Not at 20.

Not at 25.

Not at 35.

Well, maybe at 35 I was softening because around then I was starting to think about flying sheepies and that was the downfall.

 

While I think most people would agree that they’d rather write for a living, or at least for some sort of gain, those of us with the bug to write write because we have to. It’s just what we do. I didn’t and don’t write with money in mind, no, I write because a strange notion catches me off guard and I feel the need to write it and see where it goes. So when I write a story it’s because it’s something that draws me to it.

 

So you see, I never set out to write books for children, or families, it just worked out that way.

When I wrote THE MEEP SHEEP books they came from a silly idea I fleshed out at work with a friend and from a strong friendship with the woman that became the inspiration for the main character. I realized that I wanted to tell a story that, while still weird and dark, embraced other things that I loved – fairy tales. There’s something innately magical about fairy tales that embraces the dreamer in me and shows the world not lit by fires but lit by fading sunlight with the world tilted at an angle. Fairy tales are dangerous, when done well. Apples are poisoned. Fairies bite. The woods are dangerous. Oh, but there is magic as well, the magic of wishes and dreams and hopes. Those are the things that I wanted to capture in my MEEP SHEEP books. The spreading of darkness to oppose the light. It’s my hope that I am successful in how things came together.

 

The books for kiddos came to me from out of nowhere. The first one, DANNY FRANKENSTEIN, was inspired, as I have mention previously, by two guests of our weird little convention we did here in Flint. Two friends that shared a love of monsters, a love that had followed them from childhood. And the story was there, a boy that loved monsters and who needed them as the world closed in around him. Monsters were his happy place, their loneliness echoing his own and in them he found solace. The story wasn’t meant to scare but was meant to offer kids going through a hard time themselves a character that they might relate to. While he was inspired by other people, Danny was as much about as anything else because he could have been me, in many ways. I loved the weird and scary and my love for those things always seemed to keep me at arm’s length from a lot of other kids until I met other kids that, like me, loved the strange. Then the world opened up around me.

 

The second book came from the same place. A story that wasn’t like the others. A story that wasn’t about the sort of monsters I usually wrote about. This monster was different. This monster was maybe scarier because it was one that the little girl of the story loved, and loved without question. So was born LITTLE SUE AND THE MONSTER, the story of a little girl torn between mother and father and finding a monster in the middle. Little Sue’s book was the first one that I could have realized fully with color pictures to accompany things. I had wanted to do that with Danny’s book but my own budget and limited art skills penned me in but I think that works. I think Danny’s book works without pictures whereas Little Sue needs them, and thanks to a talented friend she has what she needs. Hers is as lonely of a book as Danny’s but there’s a uniting factor that comes into play and shines through my third book for kids as well.

 

LITTLE O AND THE STORMS sprung out of a story my wife told me of a little girl being bullied at school by a girl that claimed to be a friend. The heartbreaking sadness of the situation made me want to do something, some small thing, for her, to tell her it was OK and that she’d be OK. That was how the story was born. I struggled over it more than I had with the other two because it dealt with bullying and that’s not something that you should fool with without some thought. You don’t want to inspire a kid to do something they’ll regret. The story ended up as another with no art but, again, the story was more important than the image, not out of a sort of god-complex but because I think the story is what matters most, not how you see it.

 

What unites the books for kids is the hope that sits at the center of all three. The hope that all kids have until it’s snuffed out. And with the hope there is the belief that you can find yourself, and your friends, just as you are. That you don’t have to change.

 

And that’s what drew me to write those books.

Not a desire to scare but a desire to soothe and to pass on the hope that sustained me and sustains me still.

I don’t know that that makes my books better, worse, or the same.

I just know that I wanted to write stories about kids that didn’t have a lot of stories told about them. The kids who lived at the back of the class, in the corner of the room, and in the dark of their bedrooms.

Kids who could use a little hope.

And it’s my hope that in a small way I can give them some.

At this point, I just want to tell stories. Whatever they are. Whomever they are for.

That’s what matters.

That’s all that matters.

 

…c…

EXACERBATION

There is a sick sense of pleasure some people find in power. This is nothing new. This isn’t a startling revelation. We have all seen it. We have all experienced it. From the teacher that grins as they call a student to carpet to a boss that seems to be just managing to hide their smile as they fire an employee there is something sick about the pleasure one gets from emotionally damaging others. Sure, there are kids that need to be shamed, and there are employees that deserve to be fired. To think that everyone is a victim is silly. That’s never the case. Things aren’t ever as simple as black and white. Some people get the kick in the junk they need or deserve. Most get the kick that others want them to have.

That’s where the problems arise.

Continue reading “EXACERBATION”