Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Riding The Centipede: The Weirdest Scene & A Conversation...

There's a lot of 'weird' in my debut novel, Riding the Centipede.  A lot of horror and bizarre (not bizarro) and noir, too.  Drug fiction and perhaps quest fiction, as well.  You may think other genres (perhaps even bizarro).  It's all over the place, but in a good way.  In a message from the excellent horror writer, Brian Fatah Steele, he noted as follows:

"The scene between Blake and Solon, man... that was just... that's gonna be in my head forever. That scene ALONE would've got you a 5 Star review from me." [his actual review can be read Here]

This comment brought me much delight.  I purposefully worked the weird into this scene, stronger than anywhere else.  (This is, of course, a personal observation as there are a few other scenes where the weird is heavy as well.)  Even though the centerpiece of the scene--it overlaps two of Blake's chapters in the middle of the book--is a conversation--a strange one, at that--I purposefully amped up the strongest elements of weird fiction as it took shape.  Elements of mood and ambience.  A sense that something is 'off,' yet uncertain as to what that something is.  The magnification of these elements contributed to a sense of disorientation that we experience through private investigator, Terrence Blake.  Even before he made it to Solon's blue ranch house...

"He peered into the deep blue, the sky so vast it swallowed all thought, adding to the monotony that surrounded him. Telephone poles stood crooked, cutting a path through the fields, their hides weathered by the elements. Cables strung out between them sagged and swayed sounding like the flapping wings of Pterodactyls as the hot breeze beat them unmercifully, before simmering down to a hum. The murmur of voices in transit, but never stopping out here. Down where he was, edge of a field that dulled senses and sight, the feral electricity of insects and phantoms and lost souls brought a chill to his soul; the one barely hanging on…"
Then, sighting the blue ranch house, where he hesitates on the porch and observes via the windows to each side of the door...
"To the left stood a wooden frame for a sofa, mismatched pillows piled in disarray upon it. A table that looked like the cousin to the sofa. Everything looked bone naked. Two doors, one opened and one closed. The open door led to darkness the measure of which Blake thought of as complete. As if light, natural or artificial, never had graced the room. That was it, sparse teetering on non-existent. To the right, a large bookshelf dominated the room, books stuffed every which way onto the shelves, tumbling to stacks on the floor. The lone bookshelf unworthy of the onslaught. To the right of the bookshelf, was a tiny desk on thin legs with an old typewriter on it, accompanied by an uncomfortable looking wooden chair. Another room, door open, showed the remnants of a kitchen, no curtains over the window above the sink. Even from outside, Blake could make out dishes piled on a table, a broken mug on the floor.
As he focused, he noticed roaches and moths crawl and flutter about. They drew his eye to the picture frames above the desk, to the right and left of the entrance to the kitchen. All of them empty. Though this could be anybody’s house, something about the contents of this house made his instincts sing. This had to be Peter Solon’s home.
No matter the strong possibility Peter Solon was no longer of this earth, Blake knocked."
It was quite exhilarating to find such a dark and weird setting amidst the sweltering heat of the midday sun.  I like to play against the norm, or at least look at the world from less familiar angles, as often as possible.  These scenes allowed me to shine a light on one of the darkest places on the planet, in the heat-blasted middle of nowhere, USA.
Then, of course, there's the pure madness that is the enigmatic writer, Peter Solon, first here, with Blake at the door, ready to leave, knocking...
"One last time, then out of here: “Mr. Solon. Peter Solon.” Parchment inscribed with invisible ink.
The house moaned and cracked, as if the wood were alive. A sound like nothing Blake had ever heard split through the rumble, like glass being chewed with feverish dedication by teeth made of gravel. Pops and whirrs; amplifier hum after a strummed power chord.

Then: “Who’s asking?”
A voice shaped by these obtuse sounds. The voice of Peter Solon.
Blake stepped past the front door and into the house with a deep breath and a desire to be anywhere but here, in the presence of the man who had created the legend of the green limousine. Solon was the key. He would have to follow through. Even if his courage was on life support."
And then a conversation to make your head spin.  Ambiguous truths, slippery observations, preposterous perceptions and even the most bizarre of revelations...
[okay, a big snippet from Solon, talking about his relationship with William S. Burroughs; less the weird I am noting for this piece, though it is quite weird, and more the pure madness that rules Solon's mind.  Or is it just an understanding of reality we'd rather ignore...?]
“He’s always thought his work superior to mine. Even if he stole from it for elements found in much of his work. The use of the language of insects in the unabridged version of Naked Lunch being his most blatant—”
Solon screamed, or at least let loose with a sound related to a scream. It was a tone that scissored through the air, slicing into Blake’s mind, body, the house itself. Insects froze and tumbled from walls; lizards hung on a few seconds longer before joining them. Blake buckled to his knees.
“—his most obvious example. Yet, he never had the heart to release that version on the world you live in, only down here. Where it sits amid the mid-list titles and well below my masterpieces. You see”—pausing again, a sense of bringing composure to the shadows, as if one was brushing lint off a suit, plucking the finer pieces—“Burroughs is a man who dreamed of being an insect, but did not understand the true sacrifice inherent for success: letting go of one’s humanity. Completely. A harder task than mine.”
“Which would be…?”
“I am an insect who dreamed of being a man, if only to coordinate the uprising of insects to our rightful place in the world. It was easy; humans are easy to assimilate. But it was not worth the effort, as humans do not have the capacity to understand the magnitude of my stories, to embrace the essence of their inherent insect logic. We need the gates of distant, primal cognizance to swing open, in order to take command. At this time, human knowledge is not the equal to the task. So we wait. I wait.”
Dear God. Blake had never heard such madness. Perhaps that’s why Solon lived in isolation, probably writing more of his unsuccessful tales, jealous of a dead man, angry at the world."
Okay, enough of that.  But I will say as the writer of this madness and the weirdness it is wrapped up in, this is one of my personal favorite sequences I have ever written.  A reaction like Brian's up there confirms I might just have gotten it right.   
There's a lot more going on in my novel, Riding the Centipede.  Purchase a copy Here and join along for the wild ride.  Oh, and check out the Fantabulous reviews, too!

This photo by Heath Yonaites of an abandoned house somewhere in Arizona perfectly captures a bit of the weird mood Blake ran into.  Why?  The window...it's set incorrectly.  Crooked.
In a way, this place could be related to Solon's blue ranch house.  Related?  Houses related?  Hmmm...  Houses of the same...mindset?  Alive?  Hmmmm...  [story idea fodder?] 



  1. There was a house like this that my fireteam and I explored out of boredom while I was stationed in North Dakota. This scene definitely reminds me that. Abandoned but very much still had the "lived in" appearance.

    Hmmm...makes you wander if folks all just dropped off the face of the earth in these little middle of nowhere towns at the same time. You got my mind womdering on a story...but I could never give it the justice it needs. At least not at the moment, at least not in the way I see it in my head to get it down on paper with the type of atmosphere creeping up your spine like you do!

  2. Hey, Kevin.

    If the house your explored was more mid-west, perhaps this IS it, eh? heheh...

    Good thought: "makes you wander if folks all just dropped off the face of the earth in these little middle of nowhere towns at the same time." Yes, it really does make you wonder. Funny, a piece I am revising deals with an old town that is a living entity and how it feasts on lost souls, in a way. In the tale, the town is where, "if somebody wanted to disappear, this is where they'd go."

    Just write and see what happens, see if you can conjure the images for your own desolate house. Have you read the novel? Do, it balances a few more Weird scenes within the mad construction.

    Thanks for the comment.