This snobby sounding title is not meant to put people off. Of course not. However, my book has been out for about a month and a half and I thought it might be interesting to show where the whole thing came from. What would eventually become my first novel started out as a Halloween flash fiction contest put on by a writer I’ve come to enjoy, Chuck Wendig.
I then used the piece as a jumping off point for an attempt at the Nanowrimo, a contest where the goal is to write 50,000 words in a single month. It took me a lot longer than that to finish, however. I hit the 50k goal in July of last year. After that it was a downhill rush to expand, edit, format, and publish in less than six months.
Officially Yokai Blues came out on January 1st, 2014. Which means it was a journey of over two years to get to this point. Hopefully it won’t take as long for my next book to come out but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the past and will continue with me on into the future.
That last bit was pretty sappy wasn’t it? Comes with the territory I reckon.
A Brand New Monster
I arrived into that haze between sleep and waking. My sheets were twisted around my body in a corkscrew, the covers long since kicked to the floor. The air conditioner coughed on the wall above my head. It had given up on it’s duties to make the room comfortable and had instead chosen a path of dripping foul smelling water onto the floor. To describe the air it belched forth as mustier than a desiccated corpse would be doing it a service. The many layers of padding scrounged from Goodwill that made up my bed had shifted during the night and had arranged themselves into a mosaic of lumpy uncomfortableness. That spidery, itching feeling I had on my arm could have been cockroaches wandering past or just my imagination. At this point I was unsure which and had long since crashed through the wall of not giving a shit.
I tried to sit up and reach for my water glass that I kept on a nearby table. However, I was impeded by a heavy weight sitting on my chest. Heavier than a cat and lighter than a box made of iron it sat there in the dark, restricting me to my unwashed prison of sheets.
I rubbed the gunk from my eyes and tried to figure out what the hell was sitting on me so casually. Dirty gray sunlight was starting to filter through the nicotine stained drapes but it was hardly enough light to clarify any detail no matter how obvious.
Where is my friend?
The amorphous darkness on my stomach had asked me a question. I didn’t quite know how to respond. I attempted to engage it in conversation.
The shape came closer and against all laws of physics as I understood them, I saw the pale morning sunlight flash off of five slender steel claws. Thin as a pencil lead they were. The beast, as I now considered it, dragged these filaments across my cheek.
The friend you always kept with me.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.
The beast withdrew his thin claws from my face but I could hear them in the dark. A smell of honeyed wine drifted through my nostrils. Other scents lingered there. Freshly poured beer over cut grass. The smell of a concrete sidewalk after I’d sprayed it with a hose. Smells of summer back home. What torture was this?
You abandoned him.
“This is so not what I need right now,” I said, “I’ve got work in the morning.”
The creature rushed me. All I could see with my eyes was a darkness that deepened but the smell hit me with the power of a subway train. It took me a brief moment to place it but I knew the stench all too well. It was the smell of a third dry heave, head stuffed firmly into a porcelain bowl. Praying to anything that will listen to please release me from this horrific pain. Then it comes, the muscle pain and acidic bile rushes up my whole body.
That is what this creature smelled of now. What it made me experience again in vivid detail. I tried to look at it’s face but saw only a swirling black. It grabbed me with those thin metal claws and twisted my head around, as if it was searching for something. The thing leaned down and I heard it sniff me. Rapid and broken like a dog searching for a treat hidden inside my skin.
You don’t smell of him anymore. What did you do?
The horrific smell drifted away and was replaced by several more pleasant odors. Sizzling bacon, an ocean breeze, my most recent ex-girlfriend’s perfume. I think I had an idea what this thing was after now.
“I quit,” I said, “Cold turkey.”
The smells and the oppressive darkness came back. This time it was a truck stop bathroom with a hint of dead squirrel. I felt the long steel fingers pierce into my liver. The beast twisted them around vigorously though I couldn’t feel any blood spill. Only pain. I swatted at the darkness above me but found no purchase. It laughed at me and the smell of pretzels assaulted me.
What did you do with my friend? We were always together!
The creature screeched at me. My eardrums were ready to give up their day jobs and retire somewhere away from all of this insanity. My liver felt like it was going to explode in a sea of bile and whatever it is that causes jaundice. My nose was filled with smells that made a six day old human corpse seem like roses in comparison.
“I TOLD YOU I QUIT!” I shouted.
Everything went away in an instant. The pain, the smells, the sounds, and even the pressure on my chest.
You won’t quit me, will you?
The touch of the metal claws on my cheek was gentle this time. Almost protective even. I rolled over and gathered the sweat soaked sheets around me. I heard the the air conditioner kick into stronger life. The scent of cigar smoke wafted over me. Other smells, impossible to single out but when strung together brought back memories of many a night spent in a bar with friends.
“No,” I said, “I won’t quit you. You’re too fun.”
I felt the presence recede from my bed and from the room. After it was gone the stale scent of my home returned. The only sounds I was left with were the AC and the long haul trucks rumbling by outside of my window. I thought, not for the first time, that I should really clean this place up and get my life in order. But as I had done every other night that this thought occurred to me, I decided to leave it for the next day. There was nothing I could do tonight, I needed my sleep.
“I’ll start tomorrow.”
See you then.