January 2, 2021

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!

This is going to be a great year. (How can it be worse, right?) I’ve been away from blogging during the holidays but I definitely wasn’t away from writing. I’m happy to report that my next novel, Interference, will be done sometime next month. This one is a paranormal thriller and has been quite comfortable to write. My aim is to release it sometime between May and July and I’m already confident the release will be much, much smoother than Redeemer’s release. For those of you who have supported me and bought Redeemer during those rocky first weeks, I’m greatly indebted to you. I’ve learned so much, and I know you’ve learned right along side me and for that I’m forever thankful for your support. To those of you who have pestered your local libraries into carrying my book, thank you. To those of you who have shared the book with friends and family, thank you. To those of you who have given me reviews where I need it most, thank you. I’m pleasantly surprised when I review my reports and find I’ve sold more books. I’m in a contract with Amazon until the middle of February that limits my e-book to its platform only, but I did recently upload the print file to Ingram Sparks for a wider release to bricks and mortar bookstores, libraries, and the like. I’ve done zero advertising in this regard, told no one, because I was so focused on my current writing project. And what a surprise it was a few minutes ago to see that I had made sales across the US. Yay for me, the newbie. Once my contract with Amazon expires, I’m going to go wider with Redeemer‘s distribution, so we’ll see how that goes.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the prologue for Interference. (If you’re a testy pearl-clutcher, I would suggest reading something else. No offense to delicate natures, I love you as much as everyone else. It’s just that this genre won’t help you sleep at night.)

Prologue

            Harold Ridgeway woke knowing it would be his last day on earth. Polk County, Texas, was suitably cloudy this morning, with the bitter winds of hurricane Xavier departing much too slowly, but even that would not stall his death. They were as bent on his execution as he was on those murders and he knew that after eleven years inside Polunsky’s paint-peeled, sunlight-deficient walls, no one would mourn him. His transfer to A-Pod three months prior told him his options were exhausted, so he accordingly prepared for death. Harold didn’t pray, as others had before him, for he knew that he was beyond salvation. The devil had been his companion much longer than Jesus had and that alone sealed his fate. Instead, Harold took solace in the memory of those dark nights of delicious terror. In his new surroundings, with his high, slit window and emaciated mattress and cold floor and leaking roof, Harold meditated on screams and clutchings and last breaths, consuming these recollections almost orgasmically, sometimes actually so. It required little effort to take him back. By now, he had returned so often that all he needed was to close his eyes and bite his thumb. The taste of that dirty part of his flesh evinced flashbacks of necks and lips and genitalia, of all colors, sizes, genders, rigouring as he watched, fascinated, and this release is what he presently settled into to calm his nerves.

            Rising as his breakfast clanged through the door slot, Harold yawed and stretched. He turned the twenty-seven deaths over in his mind and briefly considered admitting to the other nine. The hope of new information could stay his execution, though not indefinitely, and while his depraved existence at Polunsky hadn’t been constructive for anyone, something inside Harold rallied for more time. It was there, that thing, that enduring urge that ravaged his youth and planted strange impulses that first appeared tentative, then nagging, then insistent, ultimately dominating his adulthood, when the unbearable pressure had to be vented. Harold wasn’t sure if the thing was part of him or of some spectral deity, but it was there, invading his brain, twisting his motives, rotting his ambitions. The thing stuffed his ears with reassurances, like a gentle pat on a dog’s head, then grew impatient and filled his mind with a darkness he had come to rely on. Harold requested no visitors today so he turned to the thing now, if only to have an understanding companion. You there? he wondered inside his head.

            The thing unfurled itself, spreading wide until all space that was not the thing was shrouded inside him. She liked to be called Pandora, but Harold was too selfish to understand that. Narcissistic hosts, the best hosts, could be compelled to do many things except recognize the notion of self in others, and while Pandora could make him speak her name, the effort was beneath her. He had already given her what she wanted, hadn’t he? He’d given her terror and death and the kind of melancholy that not only filled her tanks, but kept her satiated for longer periods than when she was with Pickton or Dahmer or Gacy because Harold held on, pushing his victims to the edges of death, then brought them back, repeatedly extending their torture (and Pandora’s rapture) until the very last filament that held them to life was snuffed, as if by a whisper. Pandora sensed his anxiety. It filled the chambers of his heart, the marrow of his fifty-two-year-old bones, his cartilage, his blood, the vitreous of his eyes. Pandora stroked him, letting the weight of her presence soothe what was left of his soul and thanked him for his service. She would stay with this one until the very end. I’m here, she conveyed.

            I’m not sorry, for anything, he imparted, and I don’t feel wrong about that.

            Pandora let him reflect while she poked around his memory so she, too, could relive those moments. She went back to the first, a young nurse walking home from a late shift with her nose in her phone. Harold followed her for six blocks, lurking behind bushes and fences and cars, until the woman entered a small clutch of trees along a shortcut between the sidewalk and an older residential area. Once she departed the reach of the streetlights, Harold sprang at her, clamping his hand over her mouth, and pulled her into the bushes. Barely an adult himself, Harold was not prepared for how viciously she fought and he sustained long scratches across his face and deep bite marks on his hands. She’d almost torn off his pinky finger when he finally knocked her out and carried her to his car for the long drive to his grandmother’s farmhouse in Hillsboro. There, in the quiet of the night, with his grandmother’s hearing aid on the night table as she slept, Harold dragged the woman to a disused pig barn. Then he woke the nurse and let his urges reign. The evening rejuvenated Pandora as would a relapsed addict. That first taste of death, long since overdue, fortified the deepest part of her being and she knew at once that she had chosen well with Harold. He wasn’t premature like many of the others and he faced no moral dilemma because darkness was already present in Harold long before Pandora had even reached him, perhaps since birth. This allowed her to fuse quickly and securely and she stayed with him, growing stronger with every kill, while Harold himself leaned into their interdependent companionship. Remember Barbara? Pandora asked him now. She almost got you, you know.

            A thin smile cracked Harold’s lips. He recalled his second, an older accountant out for an evening run. Harold hadn’t realized how fit the woman was until she broke free from his hold, running like the devil down the empty streets of Fort Stockton’s industrial zone. He had the rusty taste of blood by the time he caught up with her, along with a dozen broken and bloody blisters and no less than five impressive gouges from clumsy jumps over stored equipment. He’d been purple as a grape when he squeezed through that last opening between a loader and the wall of a metal fabrication outfit, catching Barbara by her ponytail. She was a tough one, Harold agreed to Pandora. For a long while, they dwelled on their time together. Laughing, howling, arousing each other with thoughts of Stephen, Kristina, Paulina, Max, Teddy, Jonathan, Olga, Felicity, Dorothy, Elijah, and the others, they spent the hours this way until Harold was finally escorted to the cage for his strip-search. He removed his jumpsuit and let it fall to the floor while too many sets of eyes scoured his skin, his insides. Will you stay with me? Harold asked Pandora, feeling the first pangs of apprehension he’d really felt since his incarceration, not because his time had run out but because his time with Pandora had run out.

            I will, Pandora told him.

            Where will you go after me?

            This Pandora could not answer, for Harold was a rare breed. He was loyal and eager and never hesitated when given a command. Unlike others who fought her occupation, Harold welcomed Pandora’s presence and though she’d dabbled unenthusiastically with dozens of other potential hosts since his incarceration, she always found them lacking. She didn’t much care for the ones who acted mechanically, who didn’t enjoy their adventures together. It was like having an unappreciative lover, and while Pandora may have settled for such affairs in her early years, she now often longed for foreplay and those naughty after-moments where her hosts shared their often-unexpected delight. Harold was a good lover this way. She never had to ask with him. If anything, it was Harold who initiated their hunts, and their subsequent gloating. She would miss him. At last, she regarded the circle of apprehensive uniforms crowding her host and pushed outward, sending a small jolt through their shoes and up their feet. Instantly, a collective shriek rang out.

            “What the hell was that?” McMurty shrieked, skipping. The smallest of the six, he felt Pandora’s strike the most severely.

            Robinson, the longest serving guard at Polunsky, lifted each foot and inspected the bottom of his shoes. “Call the Warden and get someone to check the generators. Maybe the storm’s messed with the electrical.” McMurty hurried away.

            A crisp new prison uniform was given to Harold and he quickly covered his nakedness for his transport to the Wall. But before the cage door could open, Pandora flung herself upward. Bolts of light shattered the overhead fluorescents above the cage, beside the cage, down the hall, in every prisoner’s cell, bang, bang, bang, bang, until all lights were extinguished and they were thrust into darkness with only sparse patches of escaped sunlight. Sirens blared, men shouted, radios buzzed, footsteps retreated, advanced, fumbled about, the whole prison in a fury of panic. Through the commotion, Harold’s curiosity came soft and clear to Pandora. W-was that you? he asked.

            Pandora flexed herself again, nudging the guards, poking the prisoners, jabbing the Warden himself. Screams normally reserved for the men in the chamber now erupted violently here, there, inside the walls where free men and sentenced men shared a rare common experience. Alone in the cage, however, Harold was the only one untouched. Pandora now reached tenderly for him. I had to do something, she insisted, and that was enough for him for he knew that had she orchestrated his escape, his freedom would be short-lived and they would not hesitate to gun him down. After all Harold had done for her, she couldn’t let that happen. No. She could not. She would not let them take him the way they wanted. Instead, she wrapped herself around his heart and pressed her appreciation into him. Pandora coiled tight, tighter yet, more and more, until the steady beats of Harold’s heart faded softly away. She stayed like that for some time and when the lights finally came back on, she released Harold’s body to them. Then, lamenting their history, Pandora went to find a new host.

Writer of fiction, non-fiction, and stories in between.

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