Here's what one reviewer said the story: "Another powerful, edgy, and raw piece, juxtaposing the seedier aspects of a man's depravity, with the stuff that matters more - the ability to make decisions on a higher plane. And in failing, suffers the consequences of what emerges from the lower plane (so to speak). This is another example of Smith's prime motif throughout the anthology."
I like that. I like dealing with the grittier aspects of life or at least allowing the characters to roam amidst the honest psychological landscape said aspects inspire; and, really, as always, it's not me allowing them, no no, it's the road they choose. My interests as channeled via them. Sure. I don't mind getting my hands and mind dirty. What? Yeah, okay, my mind is dirty in many ways, but here I am referencing gritty. C'mon! Life on the streets, baby.
Here's the link to the previous blog take on the story, lots of fun reading there.
One of my favorite sequences in all of my stories occurs in this story, when revelations are made yet not quite acknowledged, yet. Too bad for poor Trane, our main character, as he slips and slides through the dark alley existence ignoring guilt or his best intentions until it's too late, riding it all the way down to the blackest pit of horror imaginable. Well, okay, it's dark stuff, black as pitch, brother to the abyss, that kind of true darkness.
Otherwordly, too. Hmmm...
Here's that sequence, after Trane and The Sunglasses Girl have had sex, sex and more sex in his car, and he wants something more--"something more" being another prime motivation for many of my characters, not always for the best--and she shows him a hint.
A moment of revelation he chooses to ignore...
Her playfulness abruptly ceased. “You don’t want to do that,” she snarled like a lioness guarding her kill. The snarl made his cock twitch. “More,” she said, hand kneading the insatiable throb. Now that he had gotten to know her, he thought everything about her was perfection, more so because of all she did, so completely uninhibited. He felt a connection, maybe something more transpiring with their union, maybe something more between them. This was different than with the others. He thought maybe she could become something more than just the evening’s entertainment. He knew he needed something more, or his life would not get back to any sense of normalcy; he needed structure, routine. She might just be the one, but he figured he would not know unless he saw what she was thinking; the eyes never lie. He thought prying would eventually get her to relinquish the black-lens masquerade, with revelations to follow.
“I just want to see your eyes.”
“Prostitution is not an exercise in closeness. Seeing my eyes will make you think you are closer to me than you are. Maybe you’re looking for something I cannot give you no matter what you think.” Trane leaned back, uneasily attentive. “You think they will tell you something my lips won’t tell you. But I will tell you. I had fun. You were good, and if you want more, I will gladly accommodate your wishes. But if you want something more, just because we’ve had great sex and you are lonely and sad and life sucks, and you think my eyes will tell you this, well, don’t—”
“But I just want—”
“No! If you wanted love, you would not have assumed I was a prostitute in the first place.”
“But aren’t you a—”
“I am whatever I need to be, to survive. To you, I am a prostitute, but you would have not approached the situation from that point of view if you had really wanted something else, something more, would you?”
She was right, but how was he to know what he wanted until he had tasted her sinfully delightful charms? Through the fog of confusing feelings, Trane still found the gumption to push even more. He clicked on the dome light, pulled his wallet out of his discarded pants, opened it, and told her to take what she wanted. The bank account was almost drained, but his wallet was always prepared for these digressions: he was loaded. She took much. She was worth it. After she had taken what she thought she deserved, or what she thought he thought she deserved, he plucked a crisp $100 bill from what remained and said, “I want to see your eyes.”
“No!” Not even a flinch of possibility.
Trane pulled out two more $100 bills.
She squirmed, noticeably discomforted, but snapped the three $100 bills from his fingers. He smiled, his erection, even after the exhausting exertion of the previous few hours, starting to dance. She smiled, all teeth, vicious, gleaming with disgust, and took off her sunglasses.
“Remember, you made this choice,” she seethed.
The moment was brief. Description was useless, but Trane’s mind flashed with unexpected images: vast gulfs of infinite, starless space; yawning abysses where the lost tumbled for eternity; black scars that oozed blindness. He felt an oppression begin to suffocate him. She had no eyes, per se, just the empty sockets where they should be, empty sockets that defined the word “empty” in new, disturbing ways: fathomless wells in which the echoed response of the dropped stone would never speak. They epitomized nothingness, a vast, turbulent nothingness that indicated there was no soul within her, no self, nothing of substance—nothing!—but something of unspecified definition that roiled like a cavern of agitated bats. The nothingness started to leak like viscous black rivers from a whirlpool of resentment and hatred and loathing and spite and so much more negativity—negativity, that was what he witnessed; the whirlpool writhed with an omniscient negativity—Trane’s head pulsated with the pummeling weight of her wrath. He gasped, his erection went south, and she put the sunglasses back on.
It was only one moment.
...because after that last paragraph, that one moment, he's so disorientated, well, his choices, as they've been for awhile, are not in his best interest. But as for her survival, his bad choices are what she's banking on.
Gave you a little more set-up before it all goes off the edge of the table, I hope you appreciated that. What? A quote from Eddie Van Halen, I think. He said that in an interview when talking about influences and saying Eric Clapton was a huge influence, and how he loved the way Clapton's guitar solos often sounded as if they had fallen off the edge of the table. What? Yeah, useless info, but I gotta let it out to play sometimes, y'know?
Also, one more note, the end of the story has a strong nod toward the movie, The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, starring Ray Milland and directed by Roger Corman. That and something Stephen King said in his book, Danse Macabre. He mentions movies and how at the end of this movie, the final line that they edited out was supposed to be, "I can still see." Which, under the circumstances of Milland's character, just having plucked out his eyes, is a widly disturbing image yet fraught with possiblities. That's where, well, when you read this story, remember that and when you get to the end, that was my mindset.
Here's some lovely links to buy the book, my friends. Don't be afraid, it won't bite. Well, it might nibble on your brain and make you squirm with discomfort or dread but, no, it won't really...bite.
Amazon Amazon UK Amazon Germany Amazon France B&N OmniLit Kobo and how about the Amazon reviews pages, eh?
And, yes, I will update the look of this blog at some point, probably more so when back in Rome which isn't toooooo far off! ;-)
As for a photo here, hmmm, how about a painting by the surrealist, Vladimir Kush, who does uniquely Kushesque art. If you look over all of his pieces, there's a tone, feel, there's that element that distinguishes it as his work and nobody elses; not dark, more playful, which I can appreciate, too. Here we have a pair of sunglasses...with the eyes captured within, something that could have saved Trane a lot of anguish, eh? What? Yeah, buy the book, find allll about what becomes of him, okay?!