"We are beautiful.
We of nine limbs and three pleasant smiles. We, with we one great silver eye and many large breasts. We, one of a kind and special because of it.
We are beautiful."
Sometimes, a sentence teases you into taking a writing trip that's so bizarre, you STILL don't know what to make of it. So goes "Beautiful," whose lines above came to me out of nowhere, the writer just scribbling whatever comes up, but along with those lines, the voice was clear. Crystal clear, though the voice itself, of our narrator, Belladonna, is anything but "clear." What I mean is, there's a distinct rough edge, one shaped by defiance and gargled stones and an understanding about one's self that's outside of the norm, because the norm has never been a part of Belladonna's life, that somehow came along with the sentences.
But what to do with it. Really, what could I do with that opening?
Embrace it. So I did. Here's what follows, the distinction of voice in full force:
They, male they and female they, sit across from we, ugly in they gray and navy-blue fabric, ashamed of they naked flesh. We understand they shame, though. Two arms, two legs, two eyes, two of they, everything so uniform. Just like all the rest of they.
Not special like we.
Granmama made we clothing before we born, sewed shirts and pants, but we did not fit those clothes. We are different. Special. Granmama still made clothing, for hobby, in Granmama’s sewing room. But we always naked to show off we beautiful we.
The tale was work. Keeping that tone, that voice in line, was not an easy task. Especially as Microsoft Word Office was screaming at me with red squiggly lines throughout the text. Didn't matter. I had to lock in and do the work, especially in keeping the regular pronouns at bay, and keeping it all consistent. I enjoy pushing myself, forcing myself to stretch, and experimenting as well. "Beautiful" was not easy in any way, but it was worth it. I learned a lot about writing in creating this one.
Also: if you've been paying attention, you will have realized a lot of the tales in Occasional Beasts: Tales are from the female perspective and/or the perspective one would qualify as "other." (9 of 14, to be precise.) Though I am a middle-aged white male, I would be bored if all the characters in my tales originated from within that already battered box, or were related to it in some way. Hence, a love of slipping into the skin of diverse characters and hopefully doing them justice.
Also of note: toward the end, the Frankenstein element (perhaps), a kind of inverted, self-mutilation into self-revelation into true self, was something I don't remember seeing until I got there. Part of the fun of writing, as noted before, is not knowing where it's all going to end, and being pleasantly surprised by the results.
Another also: Transformation. I recently did an in-depth --> Interview <-- over at Hellnotes, and we touched on transformation, and how transformation is a key element within a lot of my stories. Transformation is here...and as usual, it's not from a well-worn perspective that transformation takes hold. Read the interview for more about that.
"Beautiful" is my most reprinted tale to date. I remember when it first sold, Fossil Lake anthology editor Christine Morgan's reaction was (and I paraphrase): "I can't believe somebody sent this tale to me, something this good." Well, that's close, the specs, I don't think I saved them, haha... Then, in a reprint form, Ted E. Grau, editing Strange Eons, initially noted how striking the tale was, but didn't accept it for reprint because he needed more words. About a year later, for a special all-fiction issue of Strange Eons, I got the email from Grau, the tale having stuck with him, so he asked me if I would let him publish it in that issue. I, of course, said of course! It has appeared most recently in the Strange Behaviors: An Anthology of Absolute Luridity from NihilismRevisited.
Occasional Beasts: Tales is out in the wild and romping around, awaiting your perusal. Purchase your copy today. Read it, review it, rank it, love it, be disturbed my it, but go...Buy. Now! It loves you. Love it back.
Here's a photo from the popular Twilight Zone episode, Eye of the Beholder. I expect these folks understand a lot about how Belladonna feels.
Next up, strange messages from even stranger messengers: "Chrysalis."