Greachin in the ether is some of the hardest stuff to write.
How do you write a character with no corporeal form, no surroundings, no sanity? A being floating in space, in and out of time, with no grasp on whether he’s in his own past, the present, some portentious future?
If you think about it, can you really blame him for going mad? How many eons would you last?
Greachin is beyond weary with it. He wants it over. At the same time, he’s not someone who is familiar with inventorying his own wants. He is obsessive, but that’s a compulsion, not a desire.
I pity him.
I think of him in space, but outside of it. He sees cosmic phenomena in a different way than we do. He’s not affected by the physicalities of it, so it takes different tolls on him than it would us. He doesn’t need a space ship, obviously, and he doesn’t just see light and dark through cones and rods—he sees with his intellect, with the soul he doesn’t understand he is.
At the end of the chapter I just wrote, Greachin throws that all away again, to tidy up a mess he feels he’s left behind.
Silly Greachin. Tricks are for kids. Look at this stuff, man! Just look! See anything unusual?
If you haven’t met Greachin yet, click on the amazing animated gifs of the heavens to visit my Stories page. Then click on the link of your choice to buy This Brilliant Darkness. It is available in paperback, as well as ebook.
That Crackling Silence is the sequel to This Brilliant Darkness, a novel described by a recent reader as “fantastically well-written, fast-paced, detailed, and full of sinuously dark curves.” If I had known how readers would react to TBD, I’d have gone ahead and written TCS and released them together, but I honestly didn’t know if anyone would like the book. For it to be so highly rated and to get these terrific reviews really makes my day. Thank you.
Also? I love it when readers refer to Greachin as “The Greachin.” I believe he would appreciate that, as well.
Writer Wednesday! Peter Giglio in the house
So, being the nosy reporter that I am, I like to see what’s going on in the virtual shelfspace that Greachin & friends are haunting. I went on a scouting mission over the weekend, and discovered author Peter Giglio in This Brilliant Darkness’ Amazon Also Boughts.
I reached out to Mr. Giglio about doing a Writer Wednesday guest post, and he sent me this short story, which I think you are going to relish.
So, without further ado, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Peter!
REACHING FOR THE LIGHT
Copyright © 2012 by Peter Giglio
The code of his kind was simple—stay away from humans and things of their making and hunt at night. The latter he was fine with, but Glom’s curiosity, a peculiarity which earned him many harsh words from elder dwellers, made the first rule in the code hard to obey. Despite rebukes, he felt no shame for his rebellion; rather, he was ashamed of his breed—easily scared, overly suspicious, and perpetually closed-minded.
At an age between education and family, free to hunt in the woods to his stomach’s content, he was in his prime. “The years of building strength,” elders called it.
Nonsense, he thought, my culture is as nourishing as the muck in which we dwell.
He needed more—adventure, romance, mystery—things he’d discovered in books written by humans; sweeping, lyrical tales discarded to his delight in large green bins behind ominous, gray buildings. He savored every word, even though much of what he read was dense and hard to understand. And his obsession was risky. If discovered with the prose of light-walkers, the penalty would be unspeakable. Which was why, he assumed, it went unspoken.
Peering around a tree, he watched the tall, gray-haired man speed away in a shiny, black box.
This man’s house, nestled in a clearing, often fed Glom’s voyeuristic appetite, and he knew the dark man as the sole occupant. The home—a sharp, castle-like monstrosity—possessed the spoils of Glom’s desire, basking in dim, yellow light behind ornately latticed windows—shelves and shelves of precious books, begging discovery within each page.
Glom scuttled through snow, struggled up slick, wooden stairs, and then waddled to a tall, transparent door. He touched the door and knew it was secured—the locking mechanism clear in his mind’s eye, lending credence to myth.
According to legend, his people defeated locks with the power of thought. His kind didn’t employ locks in their holes, so he’d never had the chance to test the myth, but now, with the lock so clear in his brain, the tales were starting to ring true.
Often speaking of his breed’s nature, his father warned, “Greed led to our discovery. Man called us ‘Ghoul’ and hunted us down with merciless brutality. To survive, we forsook our gift and trade. In their eyes, we were evil incarnate. As we deepened our homes, hunting only in the small hours of darkness, many generations of man thought us extinct. Now, they’ve forgotten us completely.”
Glom concentrated on the bolt, further testing the elders’ fables. When a dull click sounded, he gasped in ecstasy. Sliding the door open as he’d seen the dark man do several times before, he smiled. Generations bridged, he felt close to his ancestors, in touch with his roots. Though giddy beyond words, he forced his legs to remain still, though the urge to dance was strong. Celebration could wait, he told himself, and embarking upon alien terrain called for prudence. He would need to resist greed, too. He’d only take one book.
And, though thievery burned in his veins, he would return what he took before borrowing more.
As he snatched a heavy tome from a low shelf, a high-pitched cry pricked his ears.
He jerked away from the wall of riches and scanned his moonlit environs for animals. Though he’d never spied pets through the windows, he yanked the crossbow from his back and sprang into a defensive crouch. Better safe than sorry.
The second time he heard the cry, he recognized it as human.
Reverently, he slid the book back in place.
Walking down a spiral staircase, terror enveloped him. Part of his will, bent on self preservation, screamed Leave! But, distinguishing himself from other dwellers—other “Ghouls”—he fought the temptation to flee. With each step he took, frightening sounds grew louder.
Chains rattled. Nails clawed.
And an unpleasant odor intensified.
Fear, sweat, blood, and sex.
When he reached the base of the staircase he was surprised to find the sounds and scents still further below him.
The house had another level.
A secret level?
Soon, he found a secured passageway and unlocked it with his mind. He swung the door open, and the acrid stench intensified, making his eyes water. Urgent warnings sounded in the reptilian depths of his brain, but mystery drew him down.
One to admire stories of bravery and people in distress, he recognized his situation. An act of heroism might—would—elevate the status of his sorry lot, he thought. Not that they held any standing to speak of in the world of human affairs.
“I’ll be able to walk in the light,” he whispered. “We all will.”
“Who’s there?” someone shouted.
The voice belonged to a girl, and he could tell she’d been weeping.
He tried to speak, but words choked in his throat.
Plodding down the stairs, he reached up to the metal railing for support. He was on the verge of breaking the most sacred rule of his people. Power stirred inside him.
I’m doing the right thing, he told himself.
The calloused pads of his feet met cold concrete. He took a deep breath and found his voice. “I’m…here to… help.”
“Thank God,” the girl said with a glint of happiness in her otherwise sad tone. “Are you a cop?”
Glom stepped into a slash of moonlight that bled through a thin rectangular window. He didn’t know what a cop was, but he was pretty sure he wasn’t one. He shook his head and turned to face the girl.
He jerked back and took a closer look at her.
She was beautiful—long orange hair, alabaster skin, full lips.
And she was hurt—a deep cut across her cheek, body heavily bruised, bloody gashes on her legs. Around each ankle, thick metal bands dug into her flesh.
Her screams subsiding, fear still danced in her emerald eyes.
“What…what the hell…are you?”
He tilted his head and smiled, trying to look valiant. “A friend,” he proclaimed proudly.
“I’ve gone mad. Christ, I’m fucking seeing things.”
Unsure what to make of her response, he gently touched her shoulder.
She screamed again.
“Calm yourself,” he said in a thin voice. His rough hand trailed down her smooth arm. “I’m here to help you.”
“How can you help me? You’re fucking two feet tall. And there’s no way you’re real.”
He stood as straight as possible, fighting the natural curvature of his back. “I’ll have you know that I stand nearly three feet high, one of the tallest of my clan.” He tried to sound proud but knew himself a failure.
She cackled wildly. “So what’s your goddamn name?”
“I am Glom. And what do they call you?”
“My parents named me Rita. But most know me as Angel—that’s my stage name.”
“Are you an actress?” His eyes widened in awe.
She smiled crookedly, revealing a missing front tooth. “Somethin’ like that.”
A wave of exhilaration embraced him.
This girl, someone special, would tell the world of his nobility, and people would listen. They’d have to listen to someone special.
Unable to curb his delight, he broke into a jig and thought, what a glorious way to make our way back into the light. All the others would have him to thank. He’d be a hero for sure!
“For fuck’s sake,” Angel moaned.
Suddenly self-conscious, Glom stopped dancing and was troubled by a flurry of thoughts.
Why is she down here? Did she do something to warrant punishment? Something…wrong?
He’d heard humans were cruel and read several stories in which they actually killed their own. But he’d never completely believed the stories. They were just so…so unbelievable. Now he started to believe.
“Have you committed a crime, Angel?”
She shook her head. “Not exactly.”
“Then why are you chained to the wall?”
“You must be kidding me. The man who keeps me down here is crazy.”
“Insane. Not right in the head. He gets off by torturing girls. He drugged me then brought me down here. Do I need to draw you a fuckin’ map?”
Depravity too deep to grasp, confusion swept Glom’s face.
“There must be others like you,” she said.
“Well, aren’t some of them crazy?”
“No. I don’t…think so…” His mind drifted…
Flickering candlelight, mother warming herself by the clay oven. He, only a youngling, stared up with wide hopeful eyes and asked, “Why do we hate the light-walkers?”
She turned and sneered. “They hunted our kind for generations. And now they defile our mother, filling the air with toxins and poisoning the streams. We are weak because of them. Were we stronger, we’d rise up and destroy them. But we know it’s not necessary. They’re killing themselves, and in time we will once again walk in the light.”
“Father showed me what they look like the other night.”
“We watched from the edge of the woods. I think they look nice.”
“You’re crazy to say that, and far too young to be at the edge of the woods.” She stomped her feet in anger.
“So, you gonna help me or stare at me all day?” Angel asked.
“I’m here to…help.”
A loud mechanized clanking followed by a feral roar came from above.
“Jesus, he’s back,” Angel cried.
Glom concentrated on the locks of Angel’s shackles, unable to visualize their inner-workings. He knelt low, held her ankles in his hands, and caressing the cold metal bands.
“What the fuck are you doing?” she shouted, kicking her legs and slapping him with her hands.
“Be still,” he said. “I’m trying to defeat the locks.”
“With my mind.”
He stood, tears trailing down his green face. “I am not.”
A door slammed shut, and then heavy footsteps thumped above.
Glom’s heart raced.
He’d soon be discovered.
His people would once more be hunted. And it was his fault.
“Are you gonna get me out of here or what?”
The cellar door creaked opened.
“Angel,” the dark man boomed. “Darling, what seems to be the matter?”
A light came on as Glom scurried beneath a table.
“Let me go,” Angel cried.
The man laughed, clomping down the stairs.
Glom aimed the crossbow forward, nodding in Angel’s direction. Bathed in the unnatural light, her wounds looked gruesome. Sitting in a pool of blood, she continued to kick, muscle and nerve exposed where the restraints had torn into her flesh.
Again, Glom focused on her bonds.
One of her legs kicked free, an open shackle clanking against the floor.
The man stepped in front of her. “What the—”
Glom sprang forward, aimed upward, and released the arrow from the bow as the man turned.
The arrow sank into the soft human neck.
With a sudden jerk, the man screamed then kicked Glom.
Glom’s world spun.
He hit the floor hard, nasty pinpricks radiating through his forearms and short, wide legs. He shook his head rapidly, trying to summon his wits. His sight was fuzzy, telescoping in and out wildly. But then a loud blast cleared his head for him.
He dashed aimlessly in serpentine patterns, objects exploding around him.
Suddenly, something smashed his leg with the force of a thousand raging dwellers in heat, pulling the floor from under Glom. Headfirst, he collapsed, flares of white hot pain spiking through his entire body.
Squinting from agony, he could see the upside-down man looming above him.
A river of blood ran down the man’s neck, and it looked like he, too, was fighting to keep his eyes open.
“What the…what the fuck are you?” the man asked. Lips quivering, he sneered then, before Glom could respond, crumpled to the floor.
“Bring me his gun!” Angel shouted.
Pain intensified as Glom pried the metal object from the human’s hand; his eyes burned from the acrid smoke billowing from the object’s muzzle. “This?” he muttered, holding the cold, hard thing up.
“Yeah, bring it to me. Now!”
Weak, he crawled toward her, blood gushing from his shattered leg. He handed her the fearsome implement then watched her aim it at the remaining chain. After two earsplitting bangs, she was free.
Glom reached out to her as she limped toward the stairs. “Please…I need a healer.”
She turned. “You and me both, buddy.”
“I don’t live far from here. Carry me into the woods. The healer will fix us both…I promise…not far…I can’t make it by myself.”
“Sorry, you’re on your own now.”
“Please…I saved you…I—”
“I don’t even know what you are, what diseases you carry, and you expect me to pick you up?”
“My kind lives underground. We fear humans…but mean you no harm.”
She laughed. “You should have stayed underground. Look at you—you’re hideous. Lord only knows what they’ll make of you when they find you here.”
“So you’ll be sending someone?”
“Hell no. I know where the fucker keeps his money, and once I’ve taken what’s rightfully mine, I’ll never breathe a word about what happened here.”
Tears ran down Glom’s cheeks. Angel ran up the stairs.
He held onto consciousness for as long as he could and thought about the code.
Stay away from humans.
Now he knew why. Just as Mother had warned, they were crazy.
Just like him.
Life ebbing, he closed his eyes. He imagined himself walking in the light.
And then he was.
It was the smell of home—dank earth, unwashed kinsmen fresh from the hunt, roasting deer meat—that told him he was alive. He slowly opened his eyes to find Cleng, the senior elder, looking down with surprisingly benevolent eyes.
“I’m glad to see you awake,” Cleng said.
“How did I—”
“Your mother’s been tracking your scent through the woods at night. It seems she’s been worried about you. You were delivered to the healers just in time.”
Glom sat up and began to rub his sore leg. “What you must think of me—saved by my mother like a helpless cub.”
“She tells me you’ve been reading human words.”
Glom’s blood ran cold. Trembling, he turned to face the elder. “How does she know?”
“It is not my place to question the intuition of a mother. I take it her words are true?”
Glom nodded. “And the punishment?”
Cleng laughed. “It’s more common a crime than you think. When I was your age, I had a fascination with Greek mythology. I was particularly fond of a story about a fellow named Icarus. His father, a skilled craftsman, built wings made of feathers and wax. He warned his son not to fly too close to the sun. But Icarus didn’t heed his father’s words. The heat from the sun melted the wings, and Icarus fell to his death. It’s okay to be curious, Glom. But it’s never okay to fly too close to the sun. For now, we’re just glad to have you back.”
Glom considered the story for a moment.
“Do you understand?” Cleng asked.
“Yes,” Glom muttered. But he knew his interpretation was different than the elder’s. After all, he was crazy. Not crazy like the tall, gray-haired man, but crazy nonetheless. The type of crazy he could be proud of.
Smiling, Glom thought: I need better wings next time!
Wow, can you see why we’ve got overlap between our readers? I don’t know about you, but I definitely feel for Glom. I might consider putting together a support group for misunderstood, needy creatures. Glom & Greachin can be the founding members. ;)
Regardless, GREAT writing, and I know I will be adding Giglio’s books to my queue.
Read more from Peter Giglio:
When I wrote Greachin, I chose to write a character who had never experienced love, with the brief exception of love for his family, which was wholly natural to experience at a tender age.
Greachin is murdered repeatedly, again and again, by the entity Fengrid, who has somehow been able to possess him and control him through the eons—until finally driving Greachin into the realm of power only Fengrid heretofore wields (as far as Fengrid knows, that is).
Greachin had never felt the impulse to love, never been allowed to let love come to its fruition—not once in his many lives before his Ascent, did that happen. And so he was stuck. All he knew was self-defense, and it had taken so many lives to learn even that.
Readers have written to me expressing their sympathy for Greachin, noting that he doesn’t seem all bad. Others have written to me hoping to see Greachin pay for his sins, to face punishment for what he’s done.
Greachin’s not like us. He’s never had a girlfriend, he’s never had a child, he’s never had a pet to nurture—but does that mean he won’t? Does that mean he can’t?
I’m not answering that for you, not just now. I’m just sayin’.
The thing about us spiritual beings—we are all, inevitably, cut from the same cloth. Some of us are more broken than others, but we are all made of the same spiritual “stuff.” We just are. There is nothing else to animate our forms. We are life, embodied. We are energy, love, transcendence, undiluted and unleashed on the universe. We are raw magic.
Are you going to look into the face of magic and say “You’ll never…”? Are you the one to tell pure love “You can’t…”?
What is possible?
I used to teach a journaling class, at a local center for patients who had been diagnosed with a serious neurological disorder. Many of them were going through life-changing adjustments, thanks to their health. They had a lot to deal with, so I led them in courses on journaling. We did all kinds of exercises, I answered questions, and they wrote, wrote, wrote. But you know what the first thing I asked every batch of students was?
“Class, what’s the first rule of journaling?”
They would look around the room nervously at one another, like kids in a grade school class. It was precious.
After I’d let them sweat a minute or two, I’d say “Take out your pens and open your journal.” Once they did that, I’d say “Write this down: The first rule of journaling is There are No Rules to Journaling.”
Once we got that out there, everyone breathed so much easier. This was going to be a fun class, an “easy” class, a class where they were free to do and say whatever they needed. And they did.
So, my dear readers, what’s the first rule of Redemption? Is there some law that states that Greachin can’t change, that he can’t grow, that he can’t discover within himself an actual heart? Can this monster be redeemed?
What do you think?
And if that’s true of him, what’s true of Fengrid? Oh, dear Lord, is Fengrid still out there? Is Fengrid coming?
Between you and me, dear reader, this is on my mind tonight because the inspiration for Fengrid and Greachin’s karmic struggle, although an old wound, has been made so dazzlingly fresh of late, that I am struggling to carry the burden of it, although I am for the most part outside of it. It is just so heavy, it affects me, and affects me hard. When I think of these recent events, I wish I did not think of Fengrid and Greachin, and I wish I did not think to myself “Well, at least they are literary characters—they can be redeemed. The situation with So&So can not.”
I would so much rather deal with the fantasy world, my friends. Not with these difficult realities.
They say that every character we write is really us—a part of us. The good, bad, and ugly, I suppose. Not a pretty picture, is it?
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been holed up like Richard. I would so rather look to the stars, these days.
I chose this sea anemone illustration because it reminds me of Greachin, alone in the dark, only his feelers to guide him—and it reminds me of Fengrid, and Richard, and in a lesser case, Tom. All wounded, all alone, all quite terribly blind…but being made where and how and what they are, all they can do is be their dazzling, beautiful/terrible selves. And all we can do is wonder how much they know, and what will happen next.
Well, I will write what happens next. I know what happens next. I’m glad that at least in this book’s reality, I can say that much, with certainty. If only life were as easy to call.
HEY, if you haven’t read This Brilliant Darkness yet, get to know Greachin and the rest of the gang:
If you are a lover of printed books, pick up a copy from either Amazon, at the above link, or at one of two giveaways going on this weekend: Other Writers, Other Worlds is hosting an interview w/ yours truly, and a giveaway, and the wonderful review blog SweepingMe.com gave This Brilliant Darkness five stars, and is hosting a giveaway, as well.
Thanks for listening to me talk about this personal stuff tonight. Here’s to a better tomorrow.
From The ocean world, by Louis Figuier, London, Paris, New York, 1872.
Welcome back to Sample Sunday, Dear Reader. I’ve got a new passage to share with you this week, from This Brilliant Darkness, Chapter Seven.
This is a Greachin chapter. This Brilliant Darkness was just featured in the Weekend Reading category at Bat Country, btw.
In this sample, Greachin is still in a very young host body that he’s tailor-making to scare the wits out of our hapless heroine, Christine Grace:
It was a matter of hours before he could take flight into the darkness, on the hunt for the woman. He could manage a few miles, if he stopped to rest on the way. A few miles were all he needed.
The woman’s pulse was calling him, but not from these woods. He’d found her scent in this locale, but except for his finding a host, it had been a dead end.
Well, she’d found a dead end, too, hadn’t she?
A smile flickered across his dimpled cheeks, and faded as he turned his head in the direction of his target’s beating heart.
Christine Grace had been here, definitely, but this was not her forest.
He closed his eyes, tilting his crested head to one leathery shoulder. He could hear the rattle of branches in a canopy across the nearby town. He was on the outskirts and she waited in the center, radiating a signal that burned in him, impossible to ignore.
Her ruah beat upward and out, into the woods, her scent wrapping languidly around her own trees, then carried to him on the breeze.
Greachin hummed, unconsciously leaning into the direction of her spirit, as the woman walked briskly across a hard paved path. His ruah flapped enormous wings high above her, then dove.
Too soon. Not yet.
His small physical eyes opened, and he wrenched himself upright. He had gone too far, too fast into the scent, into the pulse. He wrapped his chubby baby legs around the branch of the ash.
An insect bored into the trunk, and Greachin leaned forward, pawing at the emerald green bug with his tender talons.
Eating was a trick. Greachin leaned forward on the branch, his supple lips sucking theinsect’s spindly body into his mouth, raking the exoskeleton across his burning gums. His pointed teeth strained to burst through blackening flesh.
Distasteful meal. Teething, too. The scare had better be worth it.
Greachin mused over the power of fear as he munched another emerald ash borer.
The humans seemed to love eating, making great rituals out of it, but Greachin had never understood their celebrations. Meals, hugging, kissing, shaking hands—and the mating. Oh, what a ritual surprise that was. The fruitless mating.
Greachin continues to riff on the unique experience of human physicality, and someone dies in this chapter, but I shan’t spoil it for you. This Brilliant Darkness is $.99 right now on Amazon, and I invite you to give it a read and let me know what you think.
And in case you’re a science nerd like me, here’s a little educational video about Greachin’s lunch, the Emerald Ash Borer that’s been a bane to Indiana forests for the past decade, courtesy the USDA:
The Nature Walk: Understanding the Life Cycle of the EABTake a virtual nature walk and learn all about the life cycle of the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle that has killed tens of millions of trees, from forests to neighborhoods.
I’m pretty sure that the kids’ chant “Burn it where you buy it” has a completely different meaning in Bloomington.
While you’re here, enter my giveaway. You could win a Kindle or Amazon gift cards.
Greachin & Richard Meet
- “You are alien?” Greachin asked.
- “No." Richard was startled by the question. He couldn't think what to reply. "No. Are you?"
- Greachin stared at him, opened his beak, and hissed a putrid hormonal breath.
- “Yes, of course, you are, how silly of me,” said Richard.
Aliens + physics = crop circles
I’m not gonna lie. Aliens *can* and do use physics to make crop circles. Sure, blame GPS and cell phones all you want—that doesn’t mean it isn’t also Greachin.
I’ll tell you more about that in the sequel to This Brilliant Darkness. If you want to read the first book first (always encouraged), stay tuned here, or send me an email at RedTashBooks@gmail.com with the words “email list” in your subject line.