Del Toro Ago Exhibit

Note: Been a busy week starting a new job and looking for a place in a new city. I’ll also be celebrating the holidays over the weekend, but I should hopefully have another blog post up over the weekend.

I remember watching my first Guillermo Del Toro film, Blade II over ten years ago. I didn’t know it was a Del Toro film at the time but I remembered loving the story and the action.

I followed up Blade II with Hellboy. At the time, Hellboy was one of my favourite comic book films and although it may not be a top five, the Hellboy films and Blade II both stand as distinctive entries in the genre of comic book films. Blade II and Hellboy II also both contain great performances from Luke Goss as the villains Nomak and Prince Nuada respectively.

 

 

 

 

 

Nomak                                                                                                                  Prince Nuada

Pan’s Labyrinth was a masterpiece that combined historical fiction and fantasy seamlessly, combined with great performances and more of the stunning imagery and creature design I was introduced to in Hellboy. Finally, Pacific Rim gave me a live-action mecha film that I have been dreaming of seeing since I watched Gundam Wing as a child.

There are earlier works by Del Toro, such as The Devil’s Backbone that I have not yet seen. I have also missed newer releases such as Crimson Peak and The Shape of Water. After seeing the Del Toro exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) I am making it a priority to travel through more of Del Toro’s filmography.

The exhibit “At Home with Monsters” began September 30th and will end on January 7, 2018. I caught the exhibit near the end of its run and I’m glad I didn’t miss it. The exhibit is not only a great tribute to Del Toro’s works, it is also an insight into his creative process and all of the influences that birthed his works. I don’t only recommend the exhibit to movie lovers or Del Toro fans, I believe it is also a must see for any creative mind.

“At Home with Monsters” uses real decorations and props from Del Toro’s own home (or one of them), which he refers to as the “Bleak House”. These props include life-size figures of characters from his movies, and my personal favourite, his “rain room”: a room with a simulated environment of a rainy day, where Del Toro likes to spend a few hours at a time writing. Many of the figures I follow, such as Ryan Holiday, will play one song on repeat in order to focus. I have adopted this strategy as well, playing a low-energy, repetitive song on a loop. After a few minutes, the song becomes part of the background noise but helps to block out other noises e.g. loud roommates. The rain room appears to have a similar effect, with the repetitive and consistent light drumming of rain on a window, complete with an artificial overcast sky outside.

Edgar Allan Poe and H.P Lovecraft emerged as two of Del Toro’s literary influences. While I read some of Poe’s works in school, I have yet to touch H.P Lovecraft’s works. This is not due to an unwillingness,  Lovecraft has been on my list for a while but this exhibit makes him a priority. Del Toro has expressed interest in adapting Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”, going so far as to complete a screenplay for it. The exhibit featured a concept model of an ‘albino penguin’ for the film, which was basically a tall and pale penguin with puss infested eyes. Sweet dreams children.

I felt creatively motivated seeing Poe and Lovecraft represented. Both authors struggled to support themselves with their writing while they lived, but have since become legendary authors. I am not arrogant enough to assume the same fate will befall me, but their stories do give me motivation to continue working at my goal.

A theme of the exhibit, present in the Del Toro quotes plastered throughout, is that adulthood causes many people to lose their sense of wonder and creativity. Perhaps this is a cliche to some, but “At Home with Monsters” gives us a sense of what we can accomplish if we don’t let our curiosity die. A life-size statue of Poe reveals one inspiration, a wall of comics reveals another, a wall of novels reveals more… Del Toro’s works are the amalgamation of everything he consumed and continues to consume. His rain room is a childhood dream brought to life, the embodiment of someone who didn’t let go of what they wanted as a child. Del Toro didn’t only continue to dream, he continued to work at making his goal a reality, and that is what I intend to do as well.

Memory Slave

I have been working on my fourth book, Alive: Part II, on and off the for the past six months. The past few months have seen more progress and I am not about 40,000 words in. However, I have now reached a part in the story where I am trying to decide where I will take the story next. More brainstorming and a clearer idea of my goal for my characters will give me a better sense of the path I want them to take. With that in mind, I took a break from writing that book but I didn’t want to avoid writing altogether. Along with the grandma piece I posted last, I wanted to delve deeper into a concept that has been on my mind for the past few weeks.

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Memory Slave

She couldn’t remember how she got here, but she wasn’t supposed to. Her name, her place of birth, her family, were all lost to her. Sometimes she came close to remembering, seeing slivers of her past life cut through the memories forced on her. Those slivers, whether good or bad, were hers and she cherished them for seconds at a time. There were other memories drowning her real ones, parasites controlling their host.

The parasites were injected by people whose faces remained hidden: Doctors experimenting on a lab rat. There were no windows, no night and day. The lights in her room always shut off at some point during the day, announcing her bedtime. Yet days still lost their meaning without dates or the seasons. She measured time with her memories, counting the moments between a new one being added.

She knew the memories weren’t really hers, but they were the only complete ones she had. She was still attached to hundreds, feeling all of the pain that was forced on her. Her mind was a bounty of misery and insecurities. Some people wanted to be rid of the memories that crippled their lives in some way: the unrequited love, the betrayal by a friend. Others were hiding from something truly traumatic, trying to erase violence they did to others or violence inflicted on them.

These memories were a gateway to pain, but they were also a gateway into the mind of the hosts. She knew their friends, their neighbourhoods and sometimes she even saw their faces. She knew their class, their race, their sexual orientation. These central parts of their identity were an anchor for most of the memories in her mind. Most of the memories were tied to something private that became public.

There was another class of memories, usually reserved for the wealthier hosts. They had the luxury of purging the most trivial things from their mind. One rude encounter was reason enough to remove a memory. Funny enough, they were usually the bully in these encounters.

She couldn’t remember truly meeting anyone. The masked doctors were her only gateway to the outside world. She tried to speak to them, but they never responded. She started with threats, hundreds of memories ago. Her will became weaker with each memory and soon enough she longed to simply hear one of them greet her, or answer if she asked them how they were doing.

She now had to accept that she was only a tool. No different than a hammer that a worker used and unceremoniously disregarded. There was a time when she thought she must have done something to deserve such a fate. Perhaps this was some sort of prison sentence? Time erased that thought from her mind. What was the point of punishment if you didn’t know what it was for? Was there some sort of lottery to pick the lucky winners? Was she just one of many selected from a certain area?

The white walls seemed to mock her. Promising answers beyond, but unwilling to yield. Some unseen force pinned her to the floor before the doctors came in. A distinctive hum always accompanied the increased gravity, as if some giant machine came to life beneath her. The doctors arrived, ignored her words and injected the latest memory. When they left they made sure to open the door just wide enough to squeeze through, preventing her from seeing anything beyond. When the door opened, no other sounds crept through. Wherever she was, it was soundproof and isolated.

There was another world out there, where she could find friends, family and happiness. She wanted to see that world again, to see herself. Her room had a small shower and sink, but no mirror and no reflective surfaces of any kind. She knew her skin was dark brown and that her hair was black, a contrast to everything around her. Her nose was broad, her lips full, and her knowledge of herself died there.

The remnants of her past life didn’t reveal anything more. She saw an older woman’s face, with dark skin like her own, perhaps her mother. She saw a small red bricked house, surrounded by cracked sidewalk and weeds. Perhaps her home. There was no way to truly tell that these memories were hers, she only assumed they were because they weren’t tied to something negative.

She heard the humming this time before she was pinned. Her pacing came to a halt as her feet stayed rooted to the ground. The pressure on her knees forced her to kneel, planting her hands on the ground as well. Her cot was to her right, looking like it was on the verge of imploding. The springs were squealing in protest, almost constricting one another by the time the doctors entered.

The gravity didn’t affect them, allowing them to move swiftly to either side of her. White pants, white shirts, white surgical masks. Their clothes almost seemed to glow under the light. She had to keep her head facing the floor, trying to turn it was too painful. The syringe came from the doctor to her left, piercing a spot just above her right ear. The memory wouldn’t come to her immediately, it would take some time. She guessed it usually took a few hours, but there was no way for her to be sure.

The doctor’s footsteps were almost drowned out by the hum as they left the room. Her face was nearly pinned to the floor by the time the gravity subsided, causing her to nearly jump off the ground with the force of her exertion. There were usually at least three light outs before another memory was injected, and she knew that she guessed that she carried hundreds now, some fresh and others lurking beneath the surface. It seemed like almost a year may have passed, but she never got used to the enhanced gravity. It was as if they increased its strength a little more with each visit.

Alive: Part II

For any new readers or those who haven’t trawled the archives, I have begun working on my fourth book again. It is a continuation of the werewolf story I told in the third, “Alive”.

Due to numerous things I am looking into at the moment, especially hunting for a new place, my time has become more limited and I’ve had some trouble writing one page a day as I originally intended. Now I aim to write an extra page a day for everyone missed (e.g. miss 5 days, write 5 pages the next day). I began working on “Alive: Part II” months ago, beginning with writing 500 words a day. I continued with this pace for a few weeks until I eventually stopped, due to a tighter schedule and excuses on my part. I realize that I can’t use a busy schedule as an excuse not to write. One week without writing can quickly morph into months. I originally intended to finish a draft of Part II  by the end of this year, but that will likely have to be moved to March 2018. I now realize that committing to a smaller amount and staying consistent can still pay bigger dividends than aiming higher and falling off earlier.

I began watching Hemlock Grove recently, mainly because I wanted to see more of Bill Skarsgard after his performance in It.  The plot involving a vampire (Skarsgard) and a werewolf teaming up to investigate a series of grisly murders was also appealing. Basically, it seemed like an awesome concept that Twilight could have been if it wasn’t bogged down by teen love and Mormon wish fulfillment.

I nearly gave up on the show, mainly due to the acting. Skarsgard has apparently developed a lot as an actor since the show’s first season at least. Famke Janssen’s performance is hampered by an English accent that either comes and goes, or is just overdone. Four episodes in, and one of the strongest actors is the actor who plays the werewolf, Landon Liboiron. Hearing about the mythos again actually motivated me to make sure that I stick to the task of completing Alive: Part II. The transformation scene is also a memorable and painful looking one that makes me wish I could have thought of it first.

Hemlock Grove fortunately is focusing on its fantasy mythos early on in the series instead of the high school drama that the character’s ages lends itself to. I’ll stick with the series and see how it goes, and will probably revisit for inspiration as I try to craft a werewolf story that someone aside from myself will also read and enjoy one day.

The OA Ending Thoughts

Note: Obviously there will be spoilers for the entire series below. 
Between catching up on Suits, and following several ongoing series I was reluctant to add another show to my list. However, a friend recommended The OA numerous times since they knew that I write science-fiction (The OA straddles sci-fi and fantasy).

I didn’t look up any reviews before I eventually decided to start watching. I was relieved to see the show only had one season, meaning the time investment wouldn’t be as detrimental as some other series that I’ve been recommended (I’m looking at you Community).

The OA did have some moments of relatively slow pacing but I didn’t notice the slower pace since the show began on an interesting note. Knowing that the main protagonist came back from a seven year disappearance with the ability to see drew me in, and made me patient for the buildup. This is in contrast to shows like True Detective (season one) where the actors and rave reviews made me willing to wait for the payoff.

Since The OA had a relatively slow build, and left a lot of questions unanswered going into the finale I hoped that the ending would give us a strong sendoff. I don’t mind ambiguous endings, with Inception being one of my favourites, but this is one ending that definitely leaves some questions. A second season is confirmed so I am sure more answers will be forthcoming, but I still wanted to share my thoughts on the ending of season 1.

Throughout the season, there is no real proof that the story Prairie is sharing is entirely true. Of course, we see the events, but we could only be seeing Khatun, the captives and the NDE’s through Prairie’s own warped perspective. Similar to how we see most of Fight Club through on character’s warped perspective. The audience and the five are likely to believe Prairie due to the miraculous nature of Prairie’s reappearance and the restoration of her eyesight. One miracle makes us willing to accept others.

Leading up the final scene, it appears Prairie fabricated most of the events she shared about her disappearance. The movements, the other captives, all appear to be figments of her imagination. Her greatest companion, Homer, appears to have been dreamed up from a copy of Homer’s Iliad. Prairie also has books on angels and near death experiences, forming the backbone of the story.

The last scene involving the school shooting was all foreshadowed with one line from the Sheriff’s wife, which Prairie and Homer helped to heal of her ALS. After giving them the fifth movement, the wife remarks it “will save their lives”. Prairie then passes this onto the five, and they all understand what must be done when the shooter traps them in the cafeteria.

Up until this point, the movements were somewhat odd to say the least. The movements themselves reminded me of a haka but the added vocalizations, such as the hissing and spitting, added an extra air of “What am I watching”? However, all of that vanishes in this scene. The tension built up to that point, and the music all make the final performance of the movements an epic moment.

Of course, the movements themselves don’t do anything. They provide a distraction and still fulfill the promise indirectly. This moment made me wonder if there was some truth to Prairie’s story, specifically her kidnapping by Hap and the existence of Homer and the other captives. This appears to be the reason why the five, Steve especially, gain new belief in The OA when she is being carted off on the ambulance. It looks like Prairie’s life may not be saved, but the lives of her new friends, the other angels were saved. Additionally, Prairie’s collision with the one stray bullet strikes me as exceptionally bad luck, or a fortuitous NDE that will allow her to leave Earth and be reunited with Homer and the others in another dimension. Hence Steve’s plea of “Take me with you”.

Prairie addresses Homer in the very last scene of the season, but yet again if her mind is warped then she will see whatever she wants to see.

The books may have been ones she collected after her incident as a means of gathering information on her new reality and a sense of kinship with her missing friends. However, given what happened before, it looks like season 2 will shed more light on the fact that Prairie is not insane and that her story truly did happen, either in part or in whole.

The ending left me staring at the screen hoping another episode would begin soon, but I don’t think that has to be a bad thing. It can be a sign of something rushed or sloppy, but in this case I think it is a sign of something intriguing that is yet to be finished.

Stretching Writing Muscles

As I continue working on Alive, I’ve tried to keep a set deadline for its completion. Like my previous books, I set my original goal as one page per day. A typical novel’s length is 60,000-100,000 words and I figured that Alive would be at least 80,000 words. One page is typically about 300 words. That would mean the book would take at least 266 days to write, plus the time I would need to edit it before I can start submitting it to literary agents.

A friend told me about National Novel Writing Month, which challenges writers to write 1,000 words a day. Although I didn’t officially compete, I set the goal of 1,000 words a day for myself and this allowed me to craft the first 15,000 words of my book in a relatively short period of time. I read an article by James Altucher where he says that trying to hit a new daily limit is like stretching a muscle. I stretched the muscle to 1000, but then fell back on 500. With simple math this means that writing the book will likely take twice as long.

However, I also don’t want to fall into the trap of writing only to hit a word limit. This could lead to rushed plot developments or poor dialogue that I have to spend a lot of time editing anyway. I finished my first rough draft of Elseworld pretty quickly but then had to spend plenty of time editing dialogue, plot holes, removing characters and completely rewriting the book from start to finish. Elseworld was a great learning experience but I also don’t want to use it as an excuse to stick to 500 words a day.

As I write Alive, I brainstorm the next few pages of the book. This allows me to have a clear idea of where I am going with the next 1000 words to hopefully avoid time consuming rewrites later in the process. I’m currently at 30,000 words and if I can commit to 1000 words a day I can have a rough draft completed by April. Alive feels like it will be longer than Elseworld, and I am predicting the rough draft will hit 100,000 words, which will need to be trimmed. The main areas I will trim will likely be the first thirty pages.

In some ways, Alive is a superhero story, about a regular person being bestowed with superhuman abilities. The origin story might be taking up too much time. The one time I got any personalized feedback from an agent, they advised that they were worried the story started too slow. Alive has a slower start, so I think it is a good idea to cut it down for the final draft. I don’t want to remove all of the content but I will likely reformat it into condensed flashbacks. Until then, I want to keep taking it 1000 words at a time.

Alive-Work In Progress

I have previously shared the first five pages of my third book, Alive, which was in turn inspired by my poetry series. I originally committed to writing one page a day, then I bumped the number to 1000. I was consistently writing 1000 words for a few weeks, but I am now aiming for 500. There are days when I do more, but 500 is a new minimum that allows me to write at least twice as much as I used to. I’m currently at 22,000 words, and as I continue writing I realize the final product could be near 100,000 words. Typical novel length is anywhere from 60,000-100,000, but for a new author agents will be wary of anything over 90,000.

When I was querying agents about my first book, Elseworld, one of the few agents who agreed to review the book said it started too slow. Correction, she was worried that the editors of the big publishing houses would think it starts too slow. The opening of Elseworld was much improved from my original draft, which made me more resistant to altering it again. However, I realized I needed to put my pride aside and accept constructive criticism. That need becomes more clear as I continue writing Alive. The book takes place in a fictional medieval world where the main character, Mason, is bitten by a werewolf. As a black man in this society, Mason’s subjugation continues when he is used as a weapon to attack Alexandria, a village that is systematically annexing others.

After his attack on Alexandria, Mason meets another werewolf, who wants to use their power to eliminate the people who have oppressed them. The book begins after the character’s first werewolf transformation, and he is now imprisoned in his village. As I near page 70, the main character has not transformed for the second time yet. It is clear that the book probably does start too slow in this case.

The first portion of the book has detailed Mason’s time in prison. I didn’t spend the time on mundane details, but I have developed his relationship with an older father figure and chronicled the development of Mason’s new abilities, such as a healing factor and enhanced senses. Prison serves as a sort of library, where Mason has the quiet and the time to experiment and strengthen his new body. Although I enjoyed writing this part of the story, I have to realize that these developments may not be as interesting for prospective readers or might be too dull if consumed in one long stretch.  I am not going back to rewrite at the moment. I figure I will finish it, and then edit the beginning as necessary. I’ll likely just be cutting the opening fifty pages or so and inserting them throughout the book as brief flashbacks. This way, I can begin with a part of the book that editors will hopefully deem more exciting. It’s just one of the small changes that I hope can contribute to finally getting an agent, and then getting published.

The Next Five Pages of Alive

Hello everyone,

As I have mentioned before I started writing my third novel at the end of October. It is inspired by my poetry series, Alive. Set in a fictional medieval world, Alive tells the tale of a villager who’s curse is used to attack another village. Instead of writing one page a day, which usually equals about three hundreds words. I am now committed to writing at least 500 words a day. It is a small change but will allow me to cut the expected completion of a rough draft down from June to April. I am excited about where the story is going but I also realize that the direction I am taking it in could be very controversial. However, the controversial story is the one I want to tell. Below I have the second excerpt from the novel. Along with the first excerpt, these pages account for chapter one.

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werewolf_tattoo_idea_by_spdmngtruper-d6gwr9b

About ten minutes passed before the cuts healed. Mason was doing a rough count in his head, to satisfy his own curiosity. He knew the cut was starting to heal before William left the cell. It was a sensation he became familiar with over the past five weeks. He could feel his skin stretching to sew up the holes that William created. It started with a burning sensation that gave way to a prickling one as the skin stitched itself together.

Mason peeled off the bandage and used his sleeve to wipe away the blood, revealing unmarked skin. He then put the bandage back on. He didn’t want to give William too much information yet. The longer William had to spend doing his tests, the longer Mason would stay alive.

These tests made it clear that Mason could heal quickly, but he was sure he could still be killed. There was a good chance his body might not heal from a severed head, and the village council must have thought the same thing. Maybe Mason’s head would reattach itself, but there was only one way to find out and Mason was eager to avoid it. He was also hoping that William didn’t have that test on his agenda.

About twenty minutes in, Mason heard footsteps approaching the door. Either his count was far off or William was eager to see his patient. The footsteps continued to the door, and then stopped for a few seconds. Mason heard the tell-tale clink of a key ring, then the sound of a door unlocking. The sound emanated from the base of the door this time though.

The straps pulled taut as Mason rushed to the foot of his bed, with his eyes fixed on the door. A panel slid open along the bottom, reminding Mason of the door he made to allow his dog to get out of the house. The bottom two feet of the door now revealed a food tray that was pushed into the room, sliding until it hit Mason’s feet.

Mason quickly gripped the tray with his feet and dragged it until it was at the head of his bed. From there, the straps allowed him to bend and lift the tray onto his lap. He looked to his right to see that the panel was already closed. The guard probably figured his job was done once the tray was in the cell, it didn’t matter if Mason could reach it or not.

The tray held three chicken legs and nothing else, which suited Mason fine. He knew meat was in shorter supply due to the recent raids, but it seemed like William also wanted to test Mason’s appetite. Mason could see the marks made when the guards deboned the legs, but he didn’t mind. Mason finished eating in a few minutes, leaving nothing but the tray. The tray itself was made from parchment, molded by a printing press into a single, thick sheet that folded up and formed a wall around the food inside. Mason tossed the tray back to the foot of his bed and washed his hands, barely able to reach the sink to his left.

By his count, he had another five minutes before William returned.

#

The door opened again in three minutes, by Mason’s count. William didn’t wait for the door to be closed behind him before he rushed to Mason’s bedside. The guards rushed to catch up to him, standing only within arm’s reach of William this time.

“Do you mind?” William said, as he reached for the bandage.

“Like you said, I don’t have a choice. Go ahead.” Mason said.

William offered a wan smile as he peeled the bandage back. He pulled a cloth from his robe and wiped away the blood, revealing the unmarked skin underneath.

“Amazing,” William said.

While William was fascinated, the guards both looked horrified. They both took a step backwards; as if they were worried the curse was contagious. It was, in a sense. A bite had apparently transferred the bite to Mason, but that appeared to be the only way for anyone else to get it. That didn’t matter to the guards at this moment. Protecting William was the least of their concerns.

“Not a single scar. Like anyone, smaller injuries heal faster. Took a few weeks to recover from your attack. What makes you special is that your injuries don’t leave a single scar. So many of our men have died in battles from injuries far less severe than yours. It’s possible that you could still die from old age, but I believe that if that does happen, it would happen much later than the average person. You weren’t affected by any of the diseases that normally kill someone after an animal attack. It’s possible that your body is able to resist infection completely. If we could find a way to transfer your healing to others, we’d never have to worry about raids again. If you work with me, you can save this village.” William said.

“How can you transfer it to others? Does the council want an army of…people like me?” Mason said. He still couldn’t bring himself to say the word.

“They want people with your abilities, without your alternate persona of course. Trying to create that is the greatest challenge.” William said.

Mason knew an army of soldiers that could heal from injury could protect Torville, but they could also turn against their people. The risk of coups and abuse of power would be amplified from people that didn’t fear death. As expected, there was something else that William wasn’t telling him. Probing for the truth wouldn’t get him anywhere right now. Mason kept focusing on the next full moon.

“Thanks again for your cooperation, Mason. It truly makes things a lot easier for all of us.” William said. Mason knew another test was coming.

William reached into the front pocket of his robe again, pulling out a syringe. The glass tube was about four inches long, with an iron handle and needle protruding from either end. The tube itself was filled with blood. At least that is what Mason guessed; he didn’t know what else the dark red liquid could be.

“I’m going to inject you with this; it will serve as one of the most important tests.” William said as he approached Mason again. “Is that alright with you?”

The second sentence seemed like an afterthought. Maybe William needed to maintain the charade of friendliness in order to sleep at night. Mason was smart enough to realize that the blood in the tube was altered somehow. Maybe it was tainted with some sort of chemical; a type of weapon that William was developing to kill Mason’s other half. Maybe William already had everything he needed and was now worried that the guard’s weapons wouldn’t be able to end Mason’s life. Mason realized that even if he was right, there was nothing to be done now.

Mason could feel his heart beating faster as it pumped his own blood. He extended his right forearm, seeing the veins bulging against his skin. William wasted no time finding his target and injecting the payload. The alien blood flowed into Mason’s body, and he held his breath as he waited for his body’s response. By the time Mason exhaled William was by the cell door.

“I’ll check on you tomorrow morning, good night Mason.”

Mason’s arm trembled as he brought it back to his lap. He knew the trembling was from fear. He was fine for now, but he worried what the future would bring. If he was injected with some sort of disease that could kill him from the inside, he might go days without seeing symptoms. William mentioned that Mason didn’t get any of the diseases that could normally result from an animal attack, and that was the only thing stopping Mason from panicking. He started counting again.

Twenty minutes passed, with Mason staring at the ceiling as he counted. Although he knew how much time passed, he realized he had no idea what time it was. He was losing track of hours and days. He only knew of the date for the next full moon because William told him, and William’s daily visits were the best indicator of time moving from day to day.

The cell door was never open wide enough for Mason to get a good glimpse outside. He only ever made out white walls. There appeared to be a hallway that led straight ahead, with no other cells in sight. Lanterns hung along the wall and there was one window carved into it about fifty feet down. There wasn’t any light filtering in from the window this time. It was dark out now, so it was probably at least seven o’clock already.

There was one lantern hanging from the ceiling, about twenty feet high and far out of Mason’s reach. The lantern wasn’t going to be in the room originally, William said it was only there due to his requests. Mason couldn’t be sure if William was telling the truth. Otherwise, the room would be shrouded in darkness for the entire day. There were no windows or openings of any kind, except the door, which was open for only a few seconds at a time.

This was his life now; Glimpses of sunlight, followed by one test after another.

 

First Five Pages of Alive

Hello everyone,

While I work on posting The Visitor to Wattpad, I am also working on my third book. Alive is inspired by the poetry series and will expand on the werewolf story. The book is set in a fictional medieval society where the protagonist’s curse is used as a weapon to attack other villages. I have always loved werewolf stories so it is great to finally start creating my own. I am writing one page a day, and should have a rough draft done by June of next year. There are days when I have written more, but committing to just one a day helps to ensure that I write consistently. June may seem far away, but I have developed plenty of patience for the pursuit of publication. Once my rough draft is completed, and edited by September, I will then seek publication for Alive.

The first five pages are copied below.

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Mason could still move his fingers. It was the only sign that the restraints weren’t cutting off his blood flow. The leather straps were digging into his skin, branding my flesh. Their tightness felt intrusive, but he knew he’d get used to it soon.

He heard what happened the first time he transformed. The villagers stood in front of him, telling him what he did to their cattle, their pets, their loved ones. He didn’t want to believe them. He couldn’t remember any of it. He could only remember awaking in a field, naked and bloodied. He wouldn’t be in prison if the blood was his own.

Ten cows, five people, three dogs. There were no torches and pitchforks, but there were fists, knives and guns. Imprisonment saved him from death. The village leaders promised their people that they would be safe. If these straps failed, they would break their promise.

The straps were looped through metal rings screwed into the wall, and it was likely that the straps could be broken without breaking the rings. It didn’t seem like the leaders thought this through. Mason wasn’t complaining, if the leaders were sensible he’d be dead. Why keep him alive?

Mason was still in denial, but he’d know if the claims were true in three weeks. It would be the first full moon since the incident. Either he would be released, or he would be living proof that folklore could hold a kernel of truth.

There were paranoid whispers when he was bitten. Word spread fast, and soon everyone knew he was attacked by a wolf. People also knew his wounds healed much faster than expected. It wasn’t the elderly that were the most paranoid. They lived through more superstitious times, they outgrew it. It was the younger people who embraced the novelty of a potential new threat, even though there were plenty of threats already.

The last raid drained most of the food supply, and prisoners had the lowest priority for being fed. Mason’s stomach was rumbling, and although he wanted to deny it, he was only craving meat. Folklore continued to intrude on his life.

There were so many witnesses, but he knew most of them could be lying. They lied about his mother too. Witnesses came out of the woodwork, saying she had cursed them. Saying they saw her fly. Proof wasn’t necessary then, it might not be necessary now. Mason could still smell her skin burning.

Her skin was like Mason’s, so much darker than everyone else’s. They were never truly accepted here. The village did what they could to get rid of his mother, now they found their excuse to get rid of him. If he wasn’t in prison, he would probably be working on someone’s field. His mother owned a shop, but it was burned just like she was. Mason knew the shop was doing well for a long time, better than a lot of the other stores. Maybe that is why she was singled out.

It took being chained to the wall for Mason to realize he should have left Torville a long time ago. Yet the burden of starting over always seemed to great a hurdle. His mom always said that it is better to stay with the devil you know. Maybe he would have had a better life; maybe he never would have been bitten.

Mason’s reverie was broken as he heard the door being unlocked. The metal door was the only thing that broke up the orange brick all around him, and Mason caught a glimpse of white, stone walls as the door swung outward. Three men rushed in, and the door was quickly shut again.

Two men stood by the door, with unsheathed swords hanging by their sides. They both wore the plain red uniforms, but the armour they normally wore on top of it was nowhere to be seen. Mason allegedly tore through armour like butter when he transformed. It seemed like speed was the greater priority now.

Neither guard made eye contact. They both focused on the man a few feet in front of them, William Reddick.

“How are you feeling Mason?” William said.

“How do you think?” Mason said.

“I am sorry that you’ve been imprisoned, but I’m sure you understand why. I can already see that most of your wounds are healed. Men twice your size have died from losing that much blood. I don’t listen to rumours, but my own eyes tell me there is something special about you. All I ask is that you help me understand it. This is for your safety and everyone else’s. You already know what the alternative is.”

“I am grateful to be alive, and I thank you for all you’ve done for me.” Mason said. The words made him sick, but he knew that resistance wouldn’t help him at this point. He learned a long time ago that people liked to see him beg.

“I’m glad to hear that Mason. Since you healed so quickly I just want to run a quick test.” William reached into a pocket of his white robe, withdrawing a scalpel. The blade was only a few inches long but it seemed much bigger to Mason.

“Please don’t be scared. The warden wanted me to bring more guards with me, and have them hold you down for this part. I told him that won’t be necessary. All I want to do is make a few small cuts on your forearm, and monitor how quickly you heal.” William said.

“Why are you doing this? This isn’t just about other people’s safety. What do you want from me?” Mason said.

“Your body could hold the key to prolonging life. If I can test its abilities, its limits, that could be the first step towards understanding it and maybe creating some type of serum that can give your abilities to other people.” William said.

William’s voice was brimming with excitement, which did nothing to make Mason more at ease. William wasn’t talking to a human being; he was talking to a tool, a test subject.

“Test my limits? So you give me a few cuts this time and if I heal fast enough, you’ll take an arm off the next time?” Mason said.

“Of course not,” William said, with his words lacking the conviction that was present before. “I want to make this easy for you, but remember that you don’t have much of a choice here. Can you work with me on this?”

Mason knew he was being manipulated but he also had to admit that William was one of the few people who genuinely showed him respect. If Mason could bide his time until then the next full moon he may be able to figure out a way to escape.

“Alright,” Mason said as he slowly extended his forearm.

He was able to reach the foot of his bed before the straps went taut and restricted any further movement. The guards both gripped their swords tighter and took a step forward. They were only about five feet away, if Mason did manage to get his hands on William he could probably grab the scalpel and do irreparable damage before anyone touched him. Although William wasn’t really a friend, it was clear that he was putting some trust in his test subject.

William smiled as he moved closer, in a weak attempt to comfort the person he was about to cut. He leaned in with the scalpel and made two shallow incisions halfway between Mason’s elbow and hand. Mason knew the cuts wouldn’t be too painful but he still braced for pain. He saw the scalpel pierce his skin and could see the blood snaking down his arm before William wrapped a bandage around the cuts. The sensation was no different than being poked, he knew something touched his skin but there was no pain. The most striking sensation was the feeling of flowing blood.

“Sorry, one more thing. Would you mind lifting up your shirt? I just want to check on the scarring from the attack.” William said.

William was choosing his words carefully, making it seem like he was a friend asking for a favour. Of course, if Mason refused he would be given an ultimatum again. For that reason, he didn’t hesitate to pull his shirt up. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d done that today. Mason didn’t need a doctor to tell him that he healed much faster than normal.

When Mason was carried to William’s office five weeks ago, his arms and torso looked like ground meat. Only a few shards of skin remained; overshadowed by ruptured veins and blood-drenched muscles. Mason’s organs were still contained, and his bones seemed to be intact, but that was the only good news. Mason drifted in and out of consciousness that night. He remembered his blood staining the hospital bed and forming a trail a mile long that stretched back to the woods. Bandages were soon abandoned in favour of towels. That was the last thing Mason remembered before waking up the next morning.

His muscles were still damaged, but they looked better. The deepest tears were already closing up. There was still plenty of pain, but the sensation was dulled. Mason assumed that he was given a painkiller, but William told him he never gave him one. Mason was in no condition to swallow one, and William was hesitant to inject a needle into Mason’s gored flesh. It was a miracle that Mason’s skin grew back at all. As Mason lifted his shirt, he was still surprised to see new skin, and not a single scar.

 

Alive: Part V

Hello everyone,

This piece will conclude the Alive series. I have finished a draft of The Visitor, and plan to start editing it in two weeks. I want to let it sit for a little while so I can return to it with fresh(er) eyes.

*******

The six-foot thick sheet of glass fell to the ground,

The scientists already vacated the room,

But their scents lingered,

Forming a trail that I could easily follow,

There was a door on the left side,

I knew I couldn’t fit through it,

With one slap I tore down the brick wall around it,

Showering the ground with tiles and revealing a hallway that led to the surface,

I could see the scientists now,

Running as fast as their legs would carry them,

They were about fifty feet ahead of me,

While a line of armed soldiers were less than ten feet away,

 

I screamed as a barrage of bullets hit me,

With the scream coming out as a growl,

Bullets pierced my chest, arms, legs,

I fell to the ground,

Knowing what the soldiers would do next,

They kept shooting for a few seconds,

More bullets hit my skull,

Grazing the skin but failing to break through the thick bone,

I barely refrained from smiling as I heard the click of empty magazines,

 

My body was already expelling the bullets,

Slowly pushing them out to make way for new muscle,

The pain would persist for several hours,

My mind would block it out,

My body was ready,

I leapt off the ground,

Swinging my right arm in an arc,

My claws severed necks,

Cleaved skulls,

Lacerated faces,

Five hits,

Five soldiers dead,

 

One more problem to take care of,

I waited a few more seconds,

I could feel some of the bullet holes were healed,

There were just a few more to go now,

One bullet was still being dislodged from my left knee,

Tearing through nerves and veins as it made its way out,

I heard it hit the ground,

Then I could feel my muscles stretching to sew up the hole,

I planted my legs beneath me,

Feeling their strength,

Knowing that I was ready,

 

I pushed off,

Sailing over the soldier’s bodies,

Another leap,

Then another,

The gap between the scientists and I continued to dwindle,

I could only make out grey figures with my eyes,

But my nose and hearing showed me more,

Their coats flapping,

The rhythm of their steps,

Sweat on their skin,

The scent of food on their tongues,

 

With ten leaps,

There was food on my tongue,

I tore through the first scientist’s shoulder,

My teeth collided with one another,

Rattling my jaw,

Compressing bone and flesh,

The man’s scream was almost deafening to my ears,

So I brought my right paw onto his head to silence him,

I felt his skull flex under the weight before it stretched and crushed his brain,

As I raised my paw,

His head was a single splatter on the metal floor beneath me,

Three more to go,

They were all running at a similar pace,

Separated by only a few feet,

 

Five leaps,

One swing of my right arm,

Two more carcasses,

I wanted to take my time with the last one,

He was the mastermind behind my imprisonment,

I wanted him to stare into Frankenstein’s eyes before he died,

Two more leaps,

A claw tore through his Achilles tendons,

Sending him crashing to the ground,

 

I heard screams again,

So loud, so grating,

Worse than gunfire,

The mastermind kept moving forward,

Trying to crawl to safety,

I slid a paw underneath his chest,

Lifted my arm to effortlessly flip him onto his back,

 

He saw me now,

Red eyes,

Bloodstained teeth,

Five hundred pounds of fur-coated muscle,

The scent of urine became more pungent,

The screams died down to a whimper,

Tears mixed with sweat,

Forming a tapestry that I found deeply satisfying,

Not because of the smell itself,

But what it signified,

The mastermind now realized that I was not his pet,

I was his damnation,

 

My teeth tore through his face,

Penetrating his eyes, mouth and skull,

As I pulled my teeth away,

I could only make out a severed neck beneath me,

A macabre fountain that was decorating the ground with coppery blood,

 

The scientists picked this area because it was remote,

Now that would be their undoing,

The sun wouldn’t come up for eight more hours,

My new body would carry me far away by then,

To freedom,

To peace.

 

 

Alive: Part IV

Hello everyone,

In my previous post, I discussed my intention to try to get published through poetry or short stories so that I have more credentials to my name before I try to get my books (Elseworld and The Visitor) published again.

I am thinking that I might turn the Alive series into a short story and then try to submit that to contests or magazines. The title comes from a Kid Cudi song that  focuses on a metaphorical nighttime transformation into a beast. Lyrics such as “everytime, the moon shines I become alive” also allude to a werewolf transformation and I knew that I wanted that title before I finished the first part.

Below is part IV, which will be followed by the conclusion in Part V.

************

werewolf_tattoo_idea_by_spdmngtruper-d6gwr9b
The room was designed to be soundproof,

But nothing could stop me from hearing breathing and feet shuffling in the next room,

The rapid, panicked breathing gave way to speech,

Plans to subdue me, use me,

They thought they were in control,

I volunteered for this,

Knowing I would be closer to the people in power,

I would get to sever the head from the beast,

Before I made my escape,

 

I could smell traces of urine now,

I could smell bullets too,

The scent stuck with me from the time when ten of them were embedded in my flesh,

It didn’t kill me, but it still hurt,

There was a one-way mirror blocking me from the scientists,

I walked over, with my longer legs carrying me there in two steps,

I took a deep breath, feeling my enlarged lungs burn as I inhaled,

The speech from the other end became louder,

Everyone was being assured that I couldn’t break through,

I smiled, bearing my teeth for the audience on the other end,

I could barely see them reflected in the glass,

White, foot-long daggers that could tear through flesh like butter,

 

I raised my right hand,

I didn’t clench since  it would cause my claws to bury themselves in my palm,

With my feet planted,

I brought my right hand down on the glass,

I knew it must be bulletproof,

I could feel how dense the glass was,

The leaders took precautions with me,

But not enough,

I started to push,

Driving from my legs,

Feeling the sheet of glass slowly begin to slide out of its frame,

There was plenty of strength to spare,

But I wasn’t in a rush,

No head start could save the leaders from me,
There were more words now,

Escape plans, prayers,

All futile,

They wanted the beast,

Now he was knocking at their front door.

 

werewolf-zoppy

 

Images:
http://zoppy.deviantart.com/art/Night-Werewolf-348063640

http://spdmngtruper.deviantart.com/art/werewolf-tattoo-idea-391199231