Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

  • Music:

Sins, Sins, Sins.

About last year, I decided I could write Across the Seven Continents of the Underworld in a year, but life, it has demands, and I like to do things like start working for myself and writing comics. Five months after that deadline, I'm looking at six months, but not too much longer, I don't think, for I've gotten it all down in my head.

I am at the stage now that I'm writing and cleaning up and rewriting as I go. It's not that surprising, since I rewrite a lot. I don't know what other writers are like when it comes to this, but I vomit words and ideas down, and then begin to shape it through a first draft, then a second, third, and so on until I'm happy with it. At times it strikes me as odd that I should spend so much time creating something that most people will spend a couple of days with at the most, but what can you do. Other times I wonder why my spelling doesn't improve, but I've grown immune to this, I think, to the point now that I can even ignore spelling in email. Still, an example of the changes I make is that, for the past hundred thousand words, I have been dutifully blacking out parts of a diary that forms the second narrative of the book. A fantastic idea, I thought: I'll black out all the parts that point to the villains, and have this be something that the main protagonist discovers on his path of killing people. I congratulated myself when I thought up this. Clearly, I was a genius. And what a self sacrificing genius I was, too, for I would be blacking out my own precious, precious words. Yes. Truly, an artist.


Well, it's helpful no one gives out artist licences, since I'd like have mine taken away from me now. The final quarter of the book, where the protagonist's brother dies--his is the diary in the novel, so it's not a spoiler, or any shit like that; the whole novel is about killing the men who killed your brother, after all--anyhow, at this stage, where all the plot strands are being tied together doesn't work at all if all the valuable plot points in the book are fucking blacked out, does it now? Heh. Bloody genius I am. "Yes, hi, I'd like to visibly hide all the plot strands from the reader, and let them figure it out for themselves. Could I include a map written in invisible ink?" Still, it's on par with the stuff I've written before, where I've gotten to the last quarter and I'm tying up everything and I realise that my moment of brilliance needs to be scrapped out. Oddly, I've done the blacked out text bit a couple of times now, and I guess I've got an urge to do the whole thing where you hide important information from the reader, but imply it through another means.

At any rate, I decided this morning that for a blog post I'd drop a section of the book in to give people a look. I've shown bits from the start of the book before, but I figured this time I'd pull something from the middle, just for kicks:

It was with no surprise, then, when the blurred, orange lights of a gazebo appeared in the dark and it became clear that Sara Mae was leading them towards it.

Closer, and Brady could see that the large gazebo sat on the edge of a ravine, but also that, on second glance, that it, in fact, went into the large divide of the land, the copper and brass and wooden walls attached to the rocky wall. He suspect that it went all the way to the bottom of the ravine, but he could not make it out properly due to the darkness; the light from his bike was no help at his distance, either. The lights from the house, tiny burning eyes, likewise, did not reach the bottom of the ravine, but rather stopped, half way down, as if the rest of the structure went to a place that light could exist in. Of the gazebo itself that clung, much like a hunched figure, to the ledge, it was as if it were light like the remains of a destroyed building, so did the lights within it seem to smolder. Yet, there was nothing to hint at a damaged frame, or to say that it had suffered from any kind of destruction, self inflicted or otherwise, and it to gave the impression of being nothing short of occupied.

Closer still, and Brady was able to make out the silhouette of a man, emerging from the door.

His presence did not surprise Sara Mae, who continued without pause; but for Brady, and for Cowan, who was ahead of him, it did, and both their bikes dropped a gear as they came upon the path leading up to the gazebo. Indeed, they paused, Cowan first, then Brady, and watched on idling bikes as Sara Mae stepped off her bike, and walked up to the man and hugged him. In response, Brady heard Cowan grunt, the sound a mirror for the one he did not voice, the sense of unknown he did not like about what was before him, but then he rode up the path, the shrinking distance stripping away the shadows of the man, to reveal him to be ten to fifteen years older than Brady. He was of about medium height, average in build but for a slight layer of fat to his entire body; upon that fat, however, and of most interest to Brady as he killed the engine, and kicked out his stand, was the neat and very traditional marks across his skin: the marks, in short, of a mortician. He even wore, the other man noted still, the traditional mortician's black pants, and with a dirty, grease stained white shirt wrinkled and untucked around him. Yet, there was something about him, and perhaps it was in the unshaven, messy haired face that he had, or in the way his faded blue eyes flicked from him to Cowan, casually, and without first glancing at their own marks, that spoke not of the latter mess, but of a calm, controlled quality that Brady first associated with morticians.

“Matt,” Sara Mae said, as he drew closer. “Robert. This is Jonathan Daniels.”

The man held out his unmarked hand, which Cowan took first, then Brady. “Bit of a surprise,” he said, his voice easy, casual, a hint of a smile on his lips. “I wasn't expecting visitors.”

“I came to see my brother.”

Daniels—the name so close, Brady noted, to Daniel—nodded.

Sara Mae pushed through the door first, the others following behind. Inside, the smoldering light of the gazebo continued, casting the room in a soft, coppery light. Brady had been expecting to find a morticians chair, a tattoo gun, and rows of ink, but instead, he found a large, long work bench, in which mechanical devices lay across in neat, organised lines, their wiring and wires and sprockets laid out next to each other, the internal laid naked. On the bench was a clock, a fan, the engine of a bike—or a generator—and, lastly, a brass boned, very still body of a cat. Behind the bench was a long library of books, the titles of which, Brady noted in his glances, related to anatomy, to diseases, to mechanics, to philosophy, and to botany. A glance to the ceiling told him that even the space up there was used, with large baskets hanging from hooks—and containing what, he wondered—interspaced by copper bladed fans that, even now, spun slowly. It was there, while staring at them, that he realised that the gazebo, unlike so many others in Ailartsua, had electricity in it, and that the smoldering effect of the light was caused by this, and that, yes, on second glance, the object that he took to be an engine or a generator, was in fact the latter, but the putrid odour he associated with them was not there, just a faint chemical smell.

“You're not a mortician, are you?”

“Once,” Daniels replied. “Before I was transported.”

“You were transported?” There was disbelief in Cowan's voice when he spoke. “I never heard of a mortician being transported.”

In response, the older man merely smiled, and shrugged.

Ahead of him, Sara Mae had reached the end of the room, where, behind a set of copper gates, sat an elevator. However, while she pushed the gates back, Daniels turned, faced the two ex-convicts, and directed them down a short hallway, where, in the faint light, a pair of couches could be made out, a glass table between them. As he made his way to it, Brady glanced back, once, to see the girl step into the elevator: as she did, she offered him a tiny smile, a hesitant thing that, he thought, was the kind you gave before you did something you knew would be emotionally difficult.

“I doubt she'll be long,” Daniels said.

As the elevator began to descend in a rattle, Brady said, “She can be as long as she wants.”

In the room, the older man offered them drink, which they took, and he passed Brady an ashtray as he pulled out a cigarette. In response, Brady offered him a stick, which the man took, the ritual of ex-convicts.

“You been here a while, yeah?” Cowan's voice had a touch of jealousy in it which, Brady thought, he tried to mask by pulling out his own, cheap grey cigarettes. “Place like this just doesn't appear.”

“Takes some time,” the older man agreed, “and some money. I was transported ten years ago.”

“How long you get?”

He offered that easy, casual smile of his. “I was told not to come back.”

“You get a sentence?”

“Two years—I served about six months, before I was employed on the settlements around here.”

Brady blew out smoke. “You're a surgeon, aren't you?”

“I know the trade, yes.” Daniels saluted with his own cigarette. “But I'm trained as a mortician—the marks probably tell you that. The Morticians Council doesn't approve, however, when you start trying to combine the two. You record a life, they say, you don't make one.”

Back down the hallway, he heard the elevator shudder to a stop, returning. Quick. Much quicker than he thought it would be. The footsteps that he heard were not just a single pair, but two and, he realised, he wasn't surprised by that. Cowan, Brady could see, was; but for himself, he had begun to piece it together quickly, to realise that as he saw and heard more from Daniels, that Sara Mae had not traveled to a grave. She was not going to sit and talk to a little marker. There was no emotional bond to be had with a site. No. She had come to find her brother, her actual brother, who had died, who had killed himself, if her story was to be believed, and who this man had Returned. Had made a Return. Out here, in the heat, in the red dirt, beneath the red sky, and with the electricity he had made himself... and as the sound of gears, the growl of mechanics came close, as it drew behind him, then in front of him, Brady felt a faint smile cross his face. But. But as the smile began, as the thought of what this meant to him crossed his mind with it, it stopped, halted by the sight of the two figures before him, and off the tattered, exposed nature of the second, the Returned.

He was not much taller than Sara Mae, but after that, there was no similarity between the two, for in Daniel Oktober, there was a body clothed in tatters: in ripped pants and shirt, and in ripped, decaying skin, so far gone that it revealed the copper and bronze bones of his arms and chest, the silver veins that crossed dirtily from each to each, the pumps and the gears that lurked in his chest in a massive display of complexity, a jigsaw he would never be able to decipher. And of his face—his face, with the original skin that he had once had—was a ruin, with decay having set in there to such an extent that it was all but an old child's tattered mask, with bright, artificial eyes staring out of his face.

“Though as you can see,” Daniels said, still casual though his voice was diminished beneath the machine growl of the boy, “I've never been interested in that rule.”

Of course, I hate everything about it, but that's part of the course at this stage of writing, too. 'cause hate means you're almost done.

After all, you never leave a thing while you're in love.
Tags: acrossthesevencontinentsoftheunderworld

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