It starts with the bird...
“What in the…?”
The black bird plunked down on the kitchen tiles and skidded along the floor to Regina’s feet. She turned and immediately took to standing on her tip-toes before her balance wavered and she set her heels back down on each side of the trembling creature. She shuffled to one side, the shock of the intrusion one to shake her out of the doldrums of her dreary existence.
While listlessly washing the dishes, she’d once again been daydreaming about suicide as a legitimate goal in life. A goal she knew she was too weak to attain. She used to write bleak, depressive poetry, which might seem a cliché many maudlin young girls on the cusp of womanhood undertake, but her aspirations and talent were obvious. A few years later, as Regina had begun to make a name for herself, the weight of her dead whale marriage crushed her Muse. She allowed real misery to derail her burgeoning writing career before it truly got off the ground. It sank without a struggle, an anchor tied to the ankle of promise.
...and immediately puts you in Regina's misery-laden world. But it didn't always end up at Regina's feet. She may have been the original focal point, but I went through stages, attempting to find another protag (who knows why, I don't; before I knew who she was, she was perhaps too "normal") and a reason for this bird to come crashing through a window. Another version had a junkie living in an abandoned building, but I ended up coming back to Regina.
Regina? Even though I like her here, I took the name from the girlfriend of one of my best friend's when I was 8-9 years old who told him he couldn't hang out with me and another of my friends because we weren't cool. Here name was Regina, and that stuck with me. She may have been right, we may not have been cool, but when you're an awkward, shy kid, being cool doesn't matter. Survival without embarrassing yourself in front of the other kids did.
Anyway, with this tale, the bird crashing through the window was the key in unlocking part of a quirky poem Regina is meant to know. Other messengers, some inanimate, come along to give her other pieces of the poem. She learns in the process, the poem is something more than simply words, it's a means to an end.
As my friend Marco Cinque, Italian poet extraordinaire once said, "Words are living things." I believe this, in my own writerly way. I also used this as the opening epigraph for the title story to my collection, Autumn in the Abyss.
The words as living things in this tale inspire transformation which, if you've been paying attention, is one of my favorite subjects. You can read more about it and other worthy writing stuff, as well as more about the new collection in my Hellnotes interview.
Another amusing tidbit. As the story unfolded--and often, as I am writing tales--some of what's going on around me made it into the tale. In this case, my girlfriend had either submitted a poem to, or mentioned, an online magazine called, Menacing Hedge. I mentioned liking that title, so decided to...borrow it, as you can read here.
She could make out the outline of the menacing hedge that rimmed the lower portion of the window; menacing because it seemed more a moat around a castle, filled with sleek, razer-fanged serpents that did not allow her to step any further than the front porch. Excursions beyond were always accompanied by Derek, except for grocery shopping, which he hated. He timed those brief outings, limiting her freedom, which she knew was only an illusion. She was never free. The sinister king, the sadistic ruler of this dismal empire, made sure of this.
It may all seem bleak, hell, those samples confirm it is, but it ends up in a place of absolute bliss. This was not totally of my doing. Sure, what I had originally set down was a positive outcome for Regina, but it was more subtle. When I submitted the story to Scott Dwyer for the excellent Phantasm/Chimera: An Anthology of Strange and Troubling Dreams, he said he wanted something more. Something to really sink one's teeth into. I gave him what he wanted and what I should have known from the beginning, because it really gave the story the proper finale. You'll just have to read it to see for yourself.
Where can you read it? In Occasional Beasts: Tales, my new collection. Please do! Let me know what you think of it. Order your copy at the link above or right HERE. Mwah!
Here's a piece of cool bird art. I bet those birds have many messages to spread around the world, eh? All except who the artist for the piece is, though it looks as though it was the cover for an album by a band called The Gloaming. Anyway, I like it.
Up next: the alternative translation of a rare book leads a man to a strange house, to find his lost love, who may or may not be dead. What the...? You'll find out in "Vox Terrae."