I know, I suck at blogging these days - but I can't really help it. I'm in writing mode, and, frankly, I just can't spare the time to blog when I don't have a lot to say. My nano goal is 70,000 words, so I'm cheating a leeeeelte bit, by using some text that existed before Nov 1st. Yeah, I'm a dirty cheater. Sue me.
I'm working on a little ditty about Jack and Dia- oh, wait. That's John Mellencamp. Crap. What am I working on again? Oh, yeah. Julian. Taken out of the world by a bad guy named Corvin. We will call this... hmmm, torture porn? Or non-consensual erotica? Kidnap porn?
I dunno if Corvin is all bad. I mean, maybe he's just a little bit misunderstood. (You are supposed to be shaking your head at this point and saying "Whatever").
To tell you the truth, guys, this is pretty much all I've got right now. So maybe a sparkly (yeah, more like drafty) excerpt will make your visit worthwhile?
This is Corvin's point of view, shortly after he's stolen Julian. And following that is a bit from Julian, too.
I went upstairs and turned on the monitors, although the boy was only a shape against another shape in the dark. The infra-red cameras needed some light to work with, and I hadn't turned on so much as a nightlight because I wanted the boy named Julian to stew in the dark.
I heard him, though, the first coughing sobs, and imagined the bony chest-heaving spasms of sobs pushing against his ribs. A short time later came the most heartbroken crying I’d ever heard, and I’d made several boys cry and considered myself very good at it.
This was… different.
It was so wrenching I wanted to rush downstairs, fling the door open, offer comfort. It made my arms ache to wrap around this boy, made my heart long to fix… everything. Bring the boy upstairs, put him in my bed and curl myself around the slim body, tuck the sweet head beneath my chin, breathe in sync with him, run my fingers along the boy's –
But no. All of it – any of it – would be the wrong thing.
I kept the monitoring app open on my phone, then picked up Julian's backpack and brought it to my bed. Sacred the boy had said. Important.
I stroked the cover the way I'd like to stroke Julian's skin.
The first pages were simple sketches, trees, a cracked sidewalk, a Victorian-style house with a crumbling front porch. A child chasing a ball into the street, a car coming, a dark foreboding sense of impending collision.
The drawing Will Sutherland had mentioned, a woman sitting up in a hospital bed, her face young and smooth an unlined. Her eyes looked sad, but her mouth was almost smiling. Her dark hair pulled was back from her face, a thin ponytail coming around her neck like the strands of a flogger tail. She was hooked up to tubes and machines. Her hospital gown gaped open, exposing what would have been her left breast, if she'd had flesh, except she didn't. Instead what showed was the bones of her ribcage, and in between the bones, her heart.
Her right hand rested in her lap, fingers loosely curled, IV tubing running up to a bag hooked to a stand. Her left hand was extended, as if beseeching, begging for mercy, and again, there was no flesh, just her skeletal hand and wrist bones jutting out of a thin sleeve.
I studied it for a long time, then turned the page.
The same room, the same bed, only empty now, the perspective skewed. Dead machines oversized and looming like midnight monsters, a small figure with black hair and black clothes curled up, fetal position, underneath the bed. The letters G-O-N-E arranged crookedly across the rumpled white sheet. I turned that page fairly quickly.
The next page took my breath away.
This was art.
The drawing was nothing all that fancy – just a clock. But a huge clock that took up the whole space, more than, as the numbers seven, eight, nine, and ten were cut off the page. It was drawn in pencil so thick and black it could have been charcoal. And in the center of the clock, as if lying on top of the hands, was a fair representation of Julian, black hair, black clothes, bare feet. There was a sinew of cord that ran from the boy's neck to the hour hand of the clock, and somehow it was clear that as the minutes and hours ticked by, the cord would tighten around the boy's throat. The boy in the picture stared at the minute hand with wide horrified eyes, his mouth twisted into a grimace that almost looked like pleasure.
Time moves on, and it strangles. The symbolism wasn't exactly subtle.
I set the book aside. Listened to the breathing boy, and it was soft and regular, the kind that accompanies sleep. I forced myself to click off the light and do the same.
Julian closed the document and shut down the laptop because the room was brightening with daylight and he’d read enough for now. He knew he’d somehow been planned for, and he’d always understood that he wasn’t the first boy, and wasn’t stupid enough to think he’d be the last. Serial kidnappers and serial rapists and serial killers didn’t stop. They didn’t do the things they did because they could help themselves. He’d come to be able to gauge when Corvin would hurt him, and sometimes even how much. It was like a fuel tank slowly dropping to empty, an anxiety that Corvin tried to fight, and as he did so his nervous energy ramped up until he basically snapped. And if he waited too long, it was bad for Julian. Real bad.
So Julian learned to watch for that energy, and to make mistakes, or even be outright disobedient, which in a way forced Corvin to act, to punish, before his appetite for Julian’s pain got out of control. Julian learned, through trial and error, how to fill Corvin up.
He didn’t think Corvin ever figured that part out – that Julian had figured out how to soothe Corvin’s evil, to keep it almost in check. To keep him calm and rational.
He didn’t think he was particularly skilled at reading human nature, but he did become very, very skilled at reading Corvin. Unfortunately, it went both ways. Corvin knew him just as intimately.
It was sick and it was twisted, but he found himself grateful for Corvin’s letter.
He liked Corvin’s description of his artwork, the drawings of his mom, drawings of fear and loss and a heart breaking. What surprised him were Corvin’s descriptions of his own passion. Julian hadn’t thought Corvin capable of deep passion or introspection – it had seemed to Julian that what Corvin wanted, Corvin would have NOW, and he would not be denied. Certainly Julian learned that lesson quickly enough. And though Corvin sometimes seemed edgy, and quirky, and barely controlled, overall he was the opposite – exceptionally smart, calculated and in full control. Sometimes Julian wondered if Corvin’s nervous energy was an act designed to keep him off balance, that the joke was on him when he thought he could willfully disobey and force Corvin to punish him.
The truth was probably somewhere in between.
He tried to remember what he thought of Corvin before he knew about the room behind the red door.
He’d been in the midst of a serious and terrible depression when Corvin took him. An apathy so exhausting and all-inclusive that he was on pause, numb to the world, and had no idea what, if anything, could bring him to life again. His days were spent in his room, headphones blasting into his ears, ignoring Will as much as possible. Rosetta Stone on repeat – don’t expect too much from me, you’re touching on nothing, nothing that is sacred to me…Drowning in the music because nothing could possibly be worse than losing his mother. She had tried to prepare him for her death but nothing could prepare him.
She tried to teach him mindfulness, the ability to remain in this one present moment, reminding him a thousand times over that nothing awful was happening this minute, that they had time to enjoy each other, and she was grateful for every minute without pain. And, she said, she got through the minutes and hours of pain by remembering that this, too, would end. Once she was gone, for real, the minutes dragged by, one slow agony after another, sliding jerkily into hours and days and weeks of NOTHING.
Corvin at the door, looking like a totally lame-ass guy trying to sell something, until he said his name was Corvid, emphasize the D, and Julian knew there was a joke in there somewhere. And the question about music, and Julian’s answer, which was privately sly, because no one liked the music he listened to, and certainly no adult twice his age had ever heard of it.
But Corvin’s response was just as sly. Nothing (important)? Nothing [special]? Just that one clue – one screaming clue – that the man who called himself Corvid was not what he appeared. Because there were plenty who would declare they were versions or remixes of the same song. But someone who paid attention knew the truth – it was a series of songs, a bit of musical genius that let you feel exactly how it felt to fall apart or come unhinged.
And Julian was falling apart.
The room behind the red door was all white. Shiny white tiles on the floor and crawling up the walls, white grout between them, except… oh except. Those places where it was stained, mostly rust brown, but here and there so dark it was nearly black. There was a drain on the floor. Julian was horrified by the concept of the drain, much as he tried not to look at the floor, tried not to notice the areas of stained grout, but he would come to realize later that not only did he look at them, he memorized their size and shape and location, all the while trying to convince himself they weren’t blood.
There were only two pieces of furniture. The first was an exam table, not much different than any exam table in any doctor’s office, except it had been modified with straps and cuffs and restraints. The second was a chair, also set up with restraints.
Julian’s brain steered away from thinking about it, beyond the fact that Corvin had known, exactly, how to bring Julian to life. How to make mindfulness laughable, how to hurt in ways that forced flood after flood of healing chemicals into Julian’s brain, dopamine, serotonin, the whole gamut of endorphins, in the most bizarre cure for depression in the history of history.
But that came later. What came first?
The knowledge of Nothing, that came first. The word game, the crow, the absolutely manipulative approach and retreat. Because no matter what part Will had in this – if he advertised on Craigslist or somehow accidentally met up with Corvin somehow, Corvin used what he knew of Rosetta Stone, of Nothing, to lure Julian in. It was exactly the bait that made Julian obey when Corvin said, “Get in the car.” He trusted Corvin more than Will in that instant – believing that on some level Corvin understood him better than Will ever had or ever would. With that one tiny, tiny understanding of the song, Corvin set himself up as Julian’s ally. He let Julian think it was Us against Them. When, really, in the end, it was just Corvin doing what he needed to do to steal Julian.
Julian should have tapped into anger at this betrayal the moment he saw the cell that would become his home, the cage that would be his bedroom. But then, back then, he was still in shock, still in denial, still thought Corvin would be kinder than Will. But something in the shock, the inevitability of it all, left him empty and passive, no strength to fight Corvin, whose intents and purposes were, at least at the very beginning, nothing more than question marks.
Question marks that turned into exclamation marks, soon enough.He should make a vow to himself, right this minute, to never open Corvin’s letter ever, ever again. It wasn’t going to help him. It would only make everything worse. But he knew he would go back to it, that he would read every word, sucking up Corvin’s point of view, because he’d tried for so long to understand the man, to know him, in hopes that something would change. If he had privacy, he’d read every word straight through. He knew he would.