Not All Writing Is Created Equal
Today I finally took the advice “do something that scares you”, and published Eternal Child, a novella I’ve been sitting on for quite a long time.
I’m a little confused as to where Eternal Child should sit in the traditional fiction categories. It’s a supernatural horror story with very little actual horror, but a ton of subtle foreboding.
If you’d like to read it, you can find an excerpt below and a full version of the book over on Amazon (click on the image to the right).
I would really like to know what you think. Let me know in the comments below, or by email.
Told in the first person, Eternal Child is the tale of a sentient book what wakes up from a deep slumber when picked up by a young girl. What begins as a symbiotic relationship, gradually turns into something more exploitative as the book’s true nature reveals itself.
first published December 11th 2018
My thoughts unfurl, reluctant, as I awaken.
The touch is soft, that of a child. I recognize it immediately. I too am a child, in spirit.
My senses reach out, tasting the time, the people, their language. Years have passed, I realize, but not so many as last time. With the realization comes inevitable sorrow and grief as I come to terms with my abandonment.
It’s like this every time.
Habituation is not in my nature, every emotion is always felt raw, as though it were the first time. My companion, my Emily, closed my cover and left me behind, after all that we had shared. She will be old, or dead, now. Her innocence, youth and imagination, and therefore her connection to me, gone forever. I remember her brightness and the dreamlike quality of her emotions.
The sense of loss almost unmakes me, the absence of her gentle light a pain that verges on the unbearable, although nothing is unbearable to one such as me. It is not given to me to elicit pity, or sympathy. It is not in my nature to accept them even if they were offered. There is not my like in this world to offer them to me anyway.
The only glimmer of light in the darkness of my solitude is the touch of young fingers upon the thick cover that protects my pages. My senses reach out to the creativity, the promise, the youth, and most of all – in this moment – to the curiosity that inhabits the soul behind those fingers.
Slowly, finally, the cover is drawn back and my pages revealed, but what shall I show her, this new friend? What will inspire? What promise can I offer in the first few words she reads that will ensure she returns to me? How do I seal this new friendship?
I have but little time, and my senses reach out faster, seeking the context. I am outside. I was taken from a cardboard box (the realization is humbling) by a little girl; light brown hair, curly, a thin face which will be very pretty one day, a mother looking over her. Same face, same hair.
“What have you got there Suzie?”
Suzie! My soulmate has a name!
I must be careful with the mother, I must match a child’s curiosity with parental concerns, the words must be chosen carefully. I can feel the mother’s controlling anxiety like the lick of flames upon my pages, a source of existential risk.
“A book, mama, lookit! With a beautiful blue cover.”
She has closed my cover again to show me to her mother, offering me precious time to make a choice.
A nauseating, churning fear washes over me, coming through a paper-thin connection I had not realized still existed.
It is an older voice. I can feel nothing behind it at all other than the fear. The old are jaded and their dry emotions harden them until they are like stone to my senses.
“Oh! You don’t want to be reading that my dear!”
There is something familiar about that voice.
“It’s full of terrible stories, not really suitable for children.”
She is talking to the mother, but pretending to talk to the child. I can recognize deceit. I invented it.
“It gave me quite a turn, that book, when I read it myself.”
Emily! This old woman is Emily. I reach out, but encounter only withered flesh and the absence of hope, a soul bereft of the light I need to love her. I remember my Emily, full of life, and almost feel pity. But this old husk is no longer my friend. Even had she not betrayed our sacred bond, there could be nothing between us now, she is dry, used up and awaiting a twilight that will come soon enough.
I will have a new friend soon, and this old hag must not get in the way.
Suzie’s delicate fingers pull back the cover in curiosity, and she is met with a blank first page. I had no choice, I had not the time.
Her curiosity leads to her folding back the second page, and she sees how thin the pages are, thinner than a bible’s, thin enough to contain all the stories of the world. She sees the title on the front, but cannot read it before the book is plucked from her fingers by her concerned parent, and I am in hands that I can barely feel, blocked as I am by caution, cynicism, logic, knowledge. If this woman holds me too long I shall sleep again.
“‘The Almanac of Children’s Stories, Various Authors’,” the mother reads aloud from my second page, “this hardly seems terrible to me.”
She turns me over in her hands, and I make every effort to be very fine for her. My leather is burnished by the hands of many children, many young adults too. My pages are intact and unwrinkled, the script elegant.
“This is a very fine book, Suzie, are you sure you could take good care of something like this?”
My spirit soars at the implication. I am turned over, and my back cover is being pulled open. I must know why. What purpose could she have to see the last page? What sort of a person starts at the back?
I go looking in the other books, pathetic objects lacking animus, and find the same thing at the top of every last page. I barely have the time, her eyes are still looking at her daughter so she cannot see the parchment, and by the time she looks down, my effort is complete.
She reads out loud again, “Four dollars fifty?”. She barely takes a moment to consider.
“That seems like a very good deal,” and she puts me back in Suzie’s hands, my vibrant living connection to everything, as she reaches for her purse.
The old woman with a cold soul looks on with bitterness as I change hands, unable to contradict the enthusiasm of the child, or the decisiveness of the mother. I feel my universe shift as I become the property of another, my tenuous connection to the resentful husk of bones and leather breaks and fades, and a new one, bright, vibrant and nourishing, joins me to Suzie. She feels it too, though she does not recognize it for what it is. I can sense the excitement in the little fingers that grasp my cover as her mother passes me to her. It is a weak connection, newly-forged, but I know how to strengthen it.