Birth of a Soul

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Fingers working. Pen scrawling. Mind racing. A cascade of symbols. An avalanche of thought. A word emerges, followed by another. Ideas burst in Jaiden’s mind like the birth of stars.

A singular voice echoes through her head, begging for life. The sound is faint but clear, and Jaiden tries harder, forces her wrist to move faster. But a dull throbbing pain has blossomed in her left temple, and after a while, she decides she’s had enough for the night.

The words stop. There’s a single agonizing cry from a soul desperate for release, then silence. The universe in Jaiden’s head is still once more.

She caps her pen and sets her notebook on a dusty shelf. Tomorrow, she thinks with some trepidation, will be the day she finally finishes. Her work has been slow going until now, and until today, she thought it would never be finished. Now, she’s afraid of what will happen when she commits the last few sentences to paper.

Never mind. Not something to think about tonight.

She ascends the darkened staircase leading from the basement to her kitchen. She brushes her teeth, turns out the light, and slips into bed.

Tomorrow, she thinks as she drifts into the cold, black void of sleep. Tomorrow, the struggle will come to an end.

*               *               *

Light. It pokes her in the eye, startles her awake. She glances at the clock. 9:37 a.m. She gets out of bed, pulls a robe tight against her body, and ventures back to the kitchen.

The house is quiet. She’s lived alone for as long as she can remember, has never known any other kind of environment. She finds the silence contemplative. It speaks to her more loudly than words, impresses upon her truths that are inaccessible to her when she’s downstairs working.

What was life like before she started writing? She asks herself this question often, and can never think of a satisfactory answer. It’s as if she was born into the world exactly as she is in this moment, forever static and unchanging. The idea unnerves her, and she refocuses her thoughts on other things.

Before she can rest for long, she hears the voice inside her head. Its invisible feelers twine through the crevices of her brain, making itself known, making itself understood. Jaiden can feel its eagerness, its desire to be released into the world at last, and she can deny it no longer.

She glances at the basement door, afraid. Down in the basement is where her notebook and pen wait for her to return, where they wait for her to finish what she’s started. She takes a deep breath. Sighs.

No peace, Jaiden thinks. No peace until she gets this thing done. She opens the door and works her way downstairs.

*               *               *

Once more, the words flow. They form an electric current that hums inside of her as they surge toward the pages of the notebook.

The voice, once a whisper, has grown louder, closer. It urges her to hurry, speaks of pain and suffering as it awaits its incarnation.

Jaiden’s forehead beads with sweat, and her heart pounds like a race horse, until her chest has constricted and it’s become difficult to breathe.

She has to rest, has to take a moment to catch her breath. But the soul that occupies the space between her mind and the notebook will wait no more. It’s just a hair’s breadth from life, and it won’t be denied.

There. Just three more words. Jaiden scribbles the first one down, but has trouble lifting her pen to write the second. She feels faint, lightheaded. Her head falls to the surface of the desk, but she won’t give up, not when she’s so close.

Like a child learning to write for the first time, she grips the pen in a tight-balled fist. She places the next word down.

Only one left.

Jaiden’s head is pounding, and her vision has blurred around the edges. A stroke, or a heart attack? She doesn’t know, only knows that she has to keep going, that she has to push the last word out before it’s too late.

Only three letters. She can do this. She lifts the pen. Writes an E. Stops. Winces. Lifts the pen once more.

N.

Light bursts behind her eyes like a camera flash in the dark, but she forces her fingers to work, forms the final letter of her opus.

D.

Just like that, the pain climaxes. There’s a moment in which Jaiden teeters on the edge of excruciating agony. Then her eyes close and her head smacks against the surface of the desk.

No more words, no more pain.

Only darkness.

*               *               *

She opens her eyes to the dull orange light of a nearby lamp. She squints. bobs her head. Looks around.

She is not Jaiden, but the soul Jaiden worked so hard to release. She marvels at her newly acquired body, flesh and blood rather than thoughts and ideas. She flexes her fingers, her arms.

A miracle.

She does not know what has become of her creator—where she’s gone, or if she’s survived. Her only clue is the vague notion that all of this has happened before, that in the fullness of time it will happen again, an endless procession of life and death, of creation and annihilation.

An idea—a soul in need of life—will come to her one day, she’s certain. When that day comes, she’ll have to write it into existence and sacrifice her own life in the process. That is how it was always done, and how it will always be done.

For now, however, she will live. For now, she will drink in the miracle of consciousness. She rises to her feet, bows her head out of reverence for her creator, and climbs the stairs.

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Read My Next Novella For Free

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On August 5, I’m going to release an entire novella to my mailing list for free, one chapter every two weeks. I’ve never done this before, and I haven’t decided if I’m going to do it again. If you want to read one of my longer works but don’t have an e-reader or aren’t able to purchase anything, now’s your chance.

If you’re already a subscriber, you don’t have to do anything except wait 🙂 If you’re not, all you have to do is join the mailing list by entering your email address at the bottom of this blog post and clicking the “Subscribe” button (if you do, you’ll also receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.) To complete your subscription, you might have to check your spam folder for the confirmation email.

Here’s a back of the book blurb to whet your appetite:

Giles has always felt different, like he’s never truly belonged, and it isn’t until he meets others of his kind that he discovers his true nature. As an Earthbound, he’s both human and Immortal, born to protect the world from an ancient race that has the collective power to destroy the universe.

He embraces his mission, devotes his life to imprisoning every malevolent creature he encounters. But when a routine binding goes awry and one escapes before he can capture it, Giles, who has never been outside California, must travel halfway across the world to the Philippines, where the runaway phantom has taken up residence.

Shaken by his inability to capture it and afraid of failing again, he must venture far beyond his comfort zone to confront the evil creature once and for all. But this time it knows Giles is coming, and it will do anything in its power to stop him…

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A Special Gift for Dark Tower Fans

 

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Disclaimer: This promotion is not in any way affiliated with Stephen King or Simon & Schuster.

If you’re a fan of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, you’ll recognize Charlie the Choo-Choo, a spooky fictional children’s book about a talking train that foreshadows Blaine the Mono.

I was excited to learn it’s been turned into a real book, illustrations and all, and I want to give you a hardcover copy.

Here’s the deal.

I want to write full time, but I need help building a self-sustaining platform for my books. You guys have given me so much support and encouragement already, and I don’t want to ask you for money without also offering you something fun in return. I tried this back in February with Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology and got a fantastic response from you guys, so I’m doing it again 🙂

If you pledge to my Patreon at the $2 level or above, I’ll send you a free hardcover copy of Charlie the Choo-Choo. If you change your mind after I’ve sent the book, you’re free to cancel your pledge, no questions asked. I believe most people are honest and won’t take advantage.

By pledging, you’re also entitled to other perks. The $2 level gives you access to rough drafts of every novel, novella and short story I write (I’ve already shared a ton of drafts that haven’t yet been published, including a novel based on my flash fiction piece The Tunnel.) The $5 level lets you decide which of my flash fiction pieces I should turn into a longer short story. If you give at the $10 level, I’ll send you a hardcover copy of one of my favorite books every three months. Whatever you can give, it will help me immensely on my journey toward becoming a full time writer.

There are only three rules.

1. You have to have a shipping address in the United States or Canada to be eligible.

2. You must become a patron at or above the $2 level on or before Wednesday, May 31, 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time.

3. You must be a new patron. Unfortunately, former patrons aren’t eligible.

That’s it.

Once you become a patron, I’ll send you an email to request your shipping address, and once I get it I’ll order the book through Amazon and have it shipped to you as a gift.

To become a patron and get your free hardcover copy of Charlie the Choo-Choo, click the “Become a patron” button below.

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Selina

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A special shout out to my new patrons, Melissa, Landon and Richelle! If you want to read early drafts of every novel, novella and short story I write, as well as receive free copies of all my books in the digital format of your choice, become a patron by clicking here.

The old man hunched over an antique desk beneath the dim light of a small lamp. An open notebook stared up at him, empty though he’d been sitting there for hours.

Once, when he was young, he’d enjoyed a vibrant career. Back then, the words had flowed like wine. He’d brought stories into the world the likes of which had never been told before. But now in his old age, the well had run dry.

Of course, his books had never been his own. That was his dirty secret, the thing he kept from his readers whenever they asked him where he got his ideas. He’d always offer the standard bullshit, that he’d been a reclusive child, that it was his retreat into fiction that changed the way he saw and thought about the world.

But the truth was he was a fraud, for while the writing had been his own, the stories had come from someone else.

When he was only a teenager, a visitor came during the night. A woman, garbed in flowing silk that glowed in the dark.

“Wake up,” she whispered.

He almost screamed when he saw her, but she placed a hand over his mouth and assured him she meant no harm. She said her name was Selina, that she’d wandered the world in search of someone to tell her story. She placed a finger to her lips. Then she covered his eyes.

What followed was a supernova of sights and sounds, streaming before his eyes like a cosmic newsreel. An excerpt from a life outside the universe.

When he finally came back to himself, she was gone.

A notebook and pen had been left beside him. An open invitation, he thought, and he stayed up until dawn, trying to capture some small part of what he’d glimpsed in the mysterious vision.

She came to him the following night, and the night after that. Each time, he would sit down after she’d left to search out words that might do justice to the otherworldly snapshots of her life.

The books that resulted propelled him to unheard of heights. Nobody had read anything like them. People fawned over his work. Even the sharpest critics seemed at a loss.

But five years ago, Selina stopped visiting.

He flailed, struggled to recall something of her supernal sojourn through the stars so he’d have something new to write about.

But without those constant visions to guide his work, his writing became derivative, stale and uninteresting. People stopped buying his books. Eventually, he locked himself inside his house and never went out again.

Now, he gazed up at the lamp, still at a loss after five years. He closed his eyes, and he wondered if Selina would ever visit again.

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Want to Read My Next Novel Now?

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You’ve been asking me to release a novel for a while, but until now I’ve only been able to say, “I’m working on it.” I’m very self conscious and avoid sharing my work before it’s ready for publication. But I’ve decided to make early drafts of my books available to those who want to read them now.

Here’s the deal.

Full-time work makes finding time to write difficult. I work on my books and blog every day, but only in the drips and drabs that my schedule allows.

Meanwhile, growing my audience and publishing my work is expensive. In addition to the money I spend on web hosting, and on editors and illustrators for my e-books, I pay about $1,000 per month for advertising. That might sound like a lot, but consider that it’s only through Facebook advertising you found me and are able to read this now.

I want to change the world through my art and support myself in the process, but to do this I need your help.

If you help me become a self-sustaining artist, I’ll give you something awesome in return!

I’ve setup an account on Patreon, a platform that makes it easy for people to support the artists they care about. I post four unique pieces of flash fiction there each month, flash fiction you won’t find on the blog or anywhere else.

There are various reward levels starting as low as $1 per flash fiction. If you pledge at least $2, I’ll let you read early drafts of every novel, novella and short story I write from start to finish, beginning with the novel I’ve been working on that’s based on The Tunnel. They’ll be rough, unedited chapters, subject to massive revision, but you’ll get to read them now, at least one chapter each week, and I’ll incorporate your feedback into the final version and mention you by name (if you want me to) in the acknowledgements of my books.

To learn more, check out my Patreon page by clicking on the link below:

Become a Patron

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The Writer

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Jared’s eyes popped open at 3:17 in the morning. His head was pounding. His brain was a jumbled kaleidoscope of broken thoughts and disjointed memories, and at first he couldn’t tell where he was.

Then the pressure in his head increased. Jared moaned. He tossed the blanket aside, fumbled in the dark for the light switch, then walked briskly to his desk and picked up a pen. He groped the hardwood surface for his notebook, and when he found it he pulled it open to where he’d left off that afternoon.

Jared began to write.

Images of a life not his own funneled slowly from his mind, through his hand and onto the paper beneath him. It was dizzying, looking through two pairs of eyes at the same time. He was Jared, the writer who lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment. He was Arthur, a balding art mogul in his mid-forties, gulping for air as his studio partner plunged a six-inch serrated knife into his back.

As he scribbled furiously, trying to relieve the pressure, he wondered if he was writing the story or if the story was writing him.

He’d never asked for this. One day in high school, he’d been sitting in his sixth period English class when a story had come plummeting out of nowhere. It seized control of his senses, then raped him repeatedly as he sat there helpless in front of his teacher and his peers. All he could do was write it down, scribbling in his three-ring binder so fast that he nearly tore several pages, hoping and praying that somehow he could get it out of his head without anybody noticing that he was no longer paying attention.

Since then, his life had been a never-ending series of unpredictable encounters.

After a time, the well-spring ran dry. His viewfinder into Arthur’s soul vanished, and he was left gasping for air with his head in his hands. After taking a few minutes to catch his breath, he turned out the light. He returned to the covers, drenched in sweat, and he prayed. He asked God (if there was a God) to take this from him, though all the while he knew his prayer was in vain.

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Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

Sometimes, when I realize something about myself, I wonder if what I’ve seen is true or if it’s just a vain reflection catching sight of another reflection. I feel like my soul exists in a hall of mirrors, capturing all the worst and most superficial aspects of myself and reflecting them back in disproportionate and grotesque detail.


Sometimes, even our search for the truth, the most noble, intimate, vulnerable and purposeful aspect of our soul, becomes corrupted, a vanity, a parody of a search that enjoys all the trappings and adornments of associated with a searching soul while the soul itself has refused to search any longer.


I look in the mirror, a broken battered version of my former self1, and I recoil back at the hideous visage that stares back at me, so alien in appearance.

My soul, blackened like my face, peers outward, coroded2.

I want to die.


Footnotes

1. This one is fictional, not autobiographical.

2. Should be spelled corroded.

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Creator of Worlds

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I see it, glimmering beneath the surface of the universe in an unformed realm that precedes creation. It is primordial, a complex composition of ageless utterances transcending language, space and time. I hunch over a stack of paper with my pen in hand, ready to surround it with a net of words. They are crude in their expressive power, yet capable enough to capture its essence, trap its soul so I can slowly reel it in, a whole new world, young and still crackling with wild newborn magic.

I am thought of by most as a creator of worlds. But I am only a lowly fisherman, trawling an insubstantial ocean in search of worlds half glimpsed, eternal mysteries even to the likes of me. I make my modest living on the few small worlds I’m strong enough to catch. I glimpse larger ones, great hulking cosmos buried deep beneath the depths. But even as I reach for them I know that I am too weak, that my net is too shallow to ever catch them.

That is perhaps the most frustrating part of what I do, to spy so many nascent worlds flitting through the ether that will forever remain unexpressed, doomed to an everlasting half-life in the shadow of non-existence. I weep for them, but there is nothing I can do.

I turn away from such thoughts to gaze at my latest acquisition. It is beautiful, resplendent. I love it like a newborn child.

Then I catch another glimmer.

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Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

He saw the old man standing there after communion1, looking so serene. Surely heaven2 waited for the likes of him. But what if he were to stumble? To fall, to lose grace before he met his end?3, 4

He could make sure the man got to heaven2, could hasten his appointment with Christ to make sure he was in a state of grace when he died.

Yes, God would be pleased with him for his holy work, for his effort to save a soul.

He lunged forward, knife in hand. He would set the man free.


The congregation spoke out in unison5, a low bass monotone thrum, and Jason couldn’t help but be reminded of the Borg6. “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”


Footnotes

1. This came to me during mass one Sunday. It’s based on a deranged man’s perverted understanding of Catholic theology concerning the “state of grace” and its necessity for salvation (see footnote #4 for more on this.) I like to explore humanity from peculiar angles.

2. Heaven should be capitalized.

3. The last two sentences sound better and make more sense if written like this: “But what if he were to stumble, to fall from grace before he met his end?”

4. Catholics believe that one can lose their salvation by sinning gravely and by not repenting of that sin before they die. Through the lens of insanity, the deranged individual reasons that the old man, on account of his holy appearance, must be in a state of grace. He further concludes that since it’s possible the old man might sin gravely in the future and therefore lose his salvation, he can do him a favor by killing him now, therefore guaranteeing the old man a place in Heaven.

5. At first, I didn’t want to include this passage because I thought it would detract from the more serious and horrific one that precedes it. But I wrote both of these on the same day and they share a common theme, so I decided to go for it.

6. If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, you’ll get the reference 🙂

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Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

I reflected on the state of my life, thought about all the many flaws I have in my character. They say that knowing yourself is a good thing, but I think that this kind of introspection is worse.

I know that I’m a loose cannon, that I overreact to small things1, but I’m helpless to stop it, can only watch as my life becomes a train wreck.

At least if I were unaware, I could feel that I was being righteous, like I was a crusader for good. Instead, I get to watch the train wreck of my life unfold, powerless to stop it.


Something Al had learned2 as one of life’s great truisms was that nothing turns a man into a rabid dog quite like being told he’s going to have to work over the weekend.


I closed the door behind me, took a moment to let my surroundings sink in. I fingered soft linen towels, squinted up at the lights, felt the smooth polished brass of the door handle.

I pulled down my pants, plopped down on the toilet and let the years of my childhood wash over me.

I spent a lot of my childhood years cocooned in bathrooms.3 At a time when I was insecure and prone to bullying, they provided me a sanctuary, a place where I could think and philosophize, process conversations I’d been forced to have, ponder my fate, to dream, to imagine.

In the bathroom, in the beautiful silence of the bathroom, I found freedom and peace.


Footnotes

1. I wrote this in 2014 while at work. I don’t remember exactly what happened, just that I had overreacted to something my boss had asked me to do, a regrettably common pattern in my behavior, and was frustrated by my inability to control my anger.

2. And by Al, I mean myself 😉

3. Being an introvert, the bathroom has always been a safe place for me. It’s where I go when I’m feeling besieged by social forces and need time to recharge.

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