It's been a bit, I know. We're all a little stressed right now with this Covid-19 Pandemic and my often iffy writing inspiration, already a bit up and down after mom passed in August, took a bit of a dive for a little while. That being said, I'd like to announce that I've finally really laid the groundwork of Night is Falling, being nearly at the 20k mark and feeling pretty steady about some of the other 40-60k to come. This one is strongly tied to my own personal roots (as is Jodie to be fair) and I think I may be getting into a strong Appalachian Gothic era with my writing. That's only fitting considering where I come from and how much both sides of my family are tied into Appalachia. Above you can see my maternal and paternal grandparents, I kind of hope they enjoy this homecoming with my work. In any case, below you can find a snippet of the most recent section of Night is Falling. I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to let me know what you think!
He jerked awake with a start, feeling an immediate sense of fear he couldn’t connect to anything real and present around him, all of his muscles alive with adrenaline and his skin wet with a sweat that had soaked his clothes enough to initially make him worried he’d wet himself somehow. Only half awake and all too aware that it was still dark out, his eyes peering as deeply as they could into every shadow as he rushed off to the bedroom, he yanked off his clothes and stood naked before the dresser for a moment, trying to think about how he wanted to tackle this feeling.
The air from the open bedroom window felt good on his too-warm skin, carrying a waft of sweetness from what remained of his grandmother’s peonies and the lilacs that had been there god only knew how long now. It was comforting, normalizing when he’d been hyper-vigilant enough to come in here in only a few strides. He took in a few long breaths of the flowers and then glanced at the digital alarm clock on the dresser in from of him, his eyes catching on his own reflection in the attached mirror above it too. 4:00 AM blinked back at him in big red numerals on the screen, and he felt like he had after awakening in the woods at 12:33, surreal and disoriented.
A part of him knew he should probably get another shower to clear the sweat and reset, but he wasn’t in any headspace to do so right now. Instead, he grabbed his towel from the previous shower, wiped off, and let the rest dry before he tossed on a t-shirt, some boxers, and loose shorts. He knew he should be tired, even exhausted, but he didn’t think getting more sleep was in the cards, not after whatever it was he’d dreamed about, after his jumpy shower, and especially not after the encounter and lost time in the woods. For better or worse he was up for a while. So what should he do? No more cartoon or junk TV, that was for sure. And he didn’t have it in him to try and write anything more on the topic of what was going on in the woods or with Mr. Sayre.
Z came to mind for a moment. He guessed it was because of that memory surfacing and grounding him earlier tonight and maybe the smell of the flowers. Z had always been the sort of man who enjoyed the little things, the smell of Bobby Gene’s backyard flowers among them. He remembered him in the bed he was sitting on now, the way he’d casually sit there, naked as a jaybird, and sensuously stretch with his eyes closed, as much a cat as Bobby Gene himself, and pull in a breath of the flowers with a delighted moan of pleasure not all that far removed from the ones he’d been making a few moments before. He remembered the way those warm green eyes fell on him, heavy and warm with love.
That’s what I love about you, Bobby Gene, the way you can be simple and complex, like those flowers out there. The way that you just are, like the weather, you know?
He didn’t know, of course. He couldn’t read Z’s mind and he was more than a little flummoxed that the man was here at all, loving on him and letting him love Z back without much conflict at all. Maybe that had been it; maybe they just were, like the weather. Whatever it had been, it was gone now and had been for a long while. Z took off one day and didn’t say anything before he did or after. Like summer rain. Bobby Gene didn’t chase after him, that wasn’t what they’d had, not really. Z would come and go on his own whim and Bobby Gene had been glad for the respites there were when they carried him into his arms. He’d long ago learned that you take what you can get and you don’t weep for what you don’t.
Maybe he should read, he hadn’t done that in a few days and there were some books stacked on the stand waiting for him to pick from, the distraction would surely be welcome for now. He slowly looked up from the patch of carpet he’d been staring out while he thought for the last hour or so and over to the stack on the stand. He could take in all of the colors, the titles, the authors’ names, even in this late night gloom, but none of it seemed to appeal all that much at the moment. He chuckled to himself as he thought that same old phrase for what might be the thousandth time. Maybe I shouldn’t be reading so much horror.
He sighed and let his eyes drift over the room, touching on plenty of his grandmother and father’s old things, all of them in all the same old places. It didn’t make a lot of sense for him to leave them, but somehow it also didn’t feel right to get rid of them either. He certainly couldn’t put away all of the pictures. There, on the wall above the bed, were pictures of his grandma as a girl holding a bunch of flowers with a big sunny smile when she was all of seven or eight, another of her as a teen in front of her dad’s truck holding his father in her arms with the wind blowing her long dark hair all around her. Below these were a picture of an old woman she’d always told him was his great great Aunt Caroline (she who had the legendary spirit in her) with fierce eyes that shone out like two coins in her weathered and bonneted face, a picture with four men in bib’alls and ball caps sitting in rockers on a porch from something like the forties she said was her brothers Carter, Cal, and Dennis, and another of his great grandmother Abby making dinner on an old stove in the fifties. Another row below that contained a family picture in front of this very house just brimming with relations young and old, struggling to fit inside the frame with all of their smiles, frowns, and fierce energy. Beside this were two more big pictures, one of his father as he leaned down to lay a kiss on his mother’s head in the seventies sometime during their courting years, and another of his mother while she was pregnant with him, hugging her belly as well as one could when it was their own. The final row held a framed picture of his mother in her casket (pretty as a picture even dead), one of his daddy, grandma, and him on kitchen chairs in the yard when he was seven, and one more of grandma on her deathbed with his father holding her hand.
He smiled at all of it, but he could feel that it was a smile that was a little bit sad. He couldn’t help but feel that way now that he was alone here, as long as it had been. Sure, he had Andy and a lot of other cousins around in these woods and scattered all across the whole region of the Appalachians and what must be a thousand or more pictures in frames and photo albums in storage chests and closets in this old place, but none of them were quite as much a part of him as his dad and his grandma had been.
As always his eyes drifted down to the chest of drawers that stood behind his bed, the top of which had always been a shrine to their collective ancestors for Granny. Since she’d died it had sat as it was the day she left it, her candles, pictures of the saints and more family in frames there along with feathers, stones, bones, herbs, and jars of things all in their places on her handmade and embroidered cloth, every bit of these things comforting to have over his head at night, especially after his dad had passed on. He could still remember her leaning over the bed to whisper blessings over him as she gazed at that altar with intent, and watching the candles flicker in her eyes as she worked, incense and freshly blown out candles filtering into his head as he drifted safely to sleep with her hand on the top of his head. She never left until he was sound asleep, meaning to protect him from his fears and any potential risks both. He didn’t dare to touch her altar, it was too sacred. This was not to say that he hadn’t made one of his own on the other side of the room, you can’t leave ancestors hanging just because you don’t know them as well as your elders- especially not when you’re taught better- but he couldn’t quite help the feeling that he wasn’t as connected or together with all that his grandmother had been in her time.
Maybe that’s just it, maybe I need to connect deeper and ask my ancestors for help.
But what if I fuck it up? I didn’t learn nearly as much as I wish I did from her, and daddy never took it up the way he took up the woods and that. They had different gifts, and I seem to be something else altogether.
He could see her in his head, his grandma giving him that stern but fair look she reserved for foolishness that ran counter to what they both knew very well. I know, I know. But this is all so strange now, and nothing like I ever heard you recall. Nor daddy. I’m more than a little lost in the woods now, grandma. Tell me if you got any idea what to do, tell me somehow like you used to. I trust your word, you never steered me wrong all of those years ago.
He turned to his own ancestor’s altar then, and reached for the candle he used for her place. Lighting it with a match, he kissed his fingers and touched them to her cheek in the framed photo, slipping a chocolate covered cherry from a box under the table and into the tray the pillar candle sat in. He lit some rose scented incense for good measure and placed it between her and the candle with Mother Mary on its glass front, both of them close because she might as well have been Mary herself she was so sweet and guiding. He could still feel her in the room, and suddenly he felt that maybe it had actually been her in his head giving that look to him. It felt right, and he had to laugh a little at that.
Maybe I just haven’t been listening hard enough lately. That said, he realized he’d started to feel a lot better, the images of…whatever it had been shifting out of focus enough that he might even be said to be genuinely feeling drowsy again.
Ok, maybe it’s time for bed again, grandma, I feel you close. Mind if I put out this candle and let you enjoy your candy and incense while I do? I don’t want to burn this place down; it’s all I got now. It was subtle, but he felt it, this inner knowing that she’d nodded with her peaceful smile, so he gently snuffed out the candle with his freshly licked fingertips and laid down to rest. It was almost like he was a child again, feeling her there and remembering her whispered blessings. For a moment he even felt the lightness of her gentle hand on his head, and maybe it was.