Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nightmare Before Halloween

The writer pulled herself back from sleep. The words of a character already born on paper but not yet even a submission to her publisher rang in her ears. Tamara? Impossible. Tamara, the Voo-Doo priestess, the Mambo, the servant of the sweet Loa of the Rada, powers of the Light that guarded the world from the bitter Loa of the Petro, forces of darkness – Tamara lived in 1888. And then only in the writer’s heart and soul.

‘Dis worl’… it be ringed with worl’s on worl’s. Dey shift, ‘dey overlap, and some of ‘dose worl’s be real dark, full of evil and danger, and some of ‘em, ‘dey be real bright and beautiful. An’ sometimes, folks whut doan’ know what ‘dey doin‘, ‘dey can make things happ’n whut wasn’t never ‘sposed to happ’n. An’ things can cross over from ‘dem other worl’s into ‘dis one.”

I fought to pull myself from the clinging tendrils of gray mist that engulfed me, hiding misshapen images hinting of evil, of danger, trying to peek through. “I’m the writer,” I told myself. “I’m Gail Roughton Branan. I control my characters. Sometimes. When they’re not controlling me. I live in the worlds on worlds that ring this world. I create parallel worlds of romance, adventure, horror. And worlds wherein I collect my special moments, my special people, the things that make me who I am, Flowers on the Fence Country, the blog that holds pieces of my heart.”

I felt lost, adrift in an alien world. It was All-Hallows Eve, that night of all nights when the veils between the worlds is thinnest, when reality mingles and merges with the realities of other dimensions. Over there, behind that rock enshrouded with mist, was that…could it be? I heard Johnny McKay’s voice, straight from the pages of my first soon-to-be-published novel, Miami Days & Truscan (K)nights, explaining to Tess Ames something of the world she’d crashed into.

“…the Prians, they’re some of the ugliest motherhumpers ever created…. Broad. Very strong. …almost no foreheads, eyes like Porky Pig, nose like a flat snout, big mouths… imagine a pig that’s turned human but not cute and you’d be pretty close… ”

There was a Prian behind that rock! I cleared my eyes but the image didn’t change. And then, out of nowhere, misshapen creatures, bat-like of body and demonic of face, flew out of nowhere and swooped and swirled…. One of them settled on top of Reverend Dennard’s skull and melted itself down over it. An eerie blue light glowed from the bone and red sparked from the eye sockets.

Wait just a minute here! Those misshapen creatures belonged in the not yet even submitted dark horror novel, Dark Destiny, with Tamara, she whose voice had first wakened me in warning. From the swirling mists, I spied a giant of a man, with shaved skull, chanting to himself, “My name be Cain. An’ my color be seb’n.”

A gravely voice answered him, animalistic, the grunt of a humanoid, but not a human. “Halt! You have no standing here. From where did you come, daring to intrude on Prian territory?” Kruska. The Bog Hog himself, King of Pria, mortal enemy of Trusca, the two major powers in the world beyond the door that swung open in the Bermuda Triangle when the swirling, insidious gray mists devoured the sky and sea. The gray mists! No wonder it looked familiar. Tess had flown through just such a miasma of nothingness when the door opened and thrust her into an alien world.

“Prian territory?! Don’t know who you think you are, son, but you in my county! And you and big boy over there can just move y’all’s carcasses right the hell on out!” Oh. My. Lord. Big John Kincaid, the bad guy of Down Home, my to-be-published next September novel. The man who’d run Rockland County with an iron fist for well on fifty years.

Under attack. I was in Flowers on the Fence Country. I could see the remnants of my beautiful fence, bright with flowers, my winding driveway draped with purple clusters of wisteria, withering quickly in the insidious, poisonous mists. My sanctuary was under attack! The door between the worlds now swung wide, allowing Kruska and Cain entry into Flowers on the Fence Country! My warriors, my heroes. Where were they?

As if on cue, the deep voice of Dalph, King of Trusa, sounded in the mists over to my right. “Green eyes, stay close. Kruska’s here, we cannot lose him now.”

The retort came quickly, my heroine Tess not being one to stay behind. “Then I suggest we move our rears and find him, my King!”

Dalph laughed softly. “And possibly if you cease scolding me, my Queen, we could manage not to alert him to our presence. I don’t know this country, Tess. I don’t know where we are. If we had someone familiar with the terrain –”

“Well, we might be able to help y’all out with that. Don’t you think, Maggie?” That came from behind me. I’d know that voice anywhere. The slow Southern drawl, not exaggerated and mutilated as it so often is on Hollywood’s big and small screens, but the real deal. As it should be. Billy Brayton, the hero of Down Home, home of country espionage mingled with a touch of the Redneck Comedy Tour.

“Don’t see why not. Be downright inhospitable not to. Not to mention dangerous.” Maggie Kincaid Brayton, steel magnolia. “Know I heard Daddy Dearest over there. Not sure what else is loose in the woods, Billy, but I got an idea we don’t want ‘em here in Rockland County. And for sure not in our woods. And we know we don’t want Daddy Dearest runnin’ loose. Hey, y’all. I’m Maggie Brayton. This is my husband,
Billy. And y’all would be?”

Of all my characters, Billy and Maggie Brayton knew Flowers on the Fence Country. It was their country, too, Down Home being modeled on the country life and folks I knew so well as my home town.

“Our pleasure. I am Randalph of Trusca. Call me Dalph. This is my queen, Tess. And one of the things loose in your woods is the King of Pria. And no, you do not want him here.”

“Sounded strange. Don’t b’lieve I’ve ever heard a human sound quite that. Almost like a pig snortin’.” Maggie, born and bred in Flowers on the Fence Country, would know.

“Good ear,” Tess said approvingly. “That’s close. But the other guy over there, the one mixing up numbers and colors, that ‘my color be seb’n’ dude, I don’t have a clue about him.”

“And that would make you a very lucky lady.” That voice came from the left. From Dark Destiny, not yet even submitted for publication. “Cain’s not a man you want to socialize with. If he’s even a man at all.” The soft, cultured Southern voice of Dr. Paul Devlin, who’d defeated Cain for the first time in 1888, in another southern town I knew intimately. Macon, Georgia. But he was by himself. Where was – Oh! There she was. Ria Knight, the fearless attorney who’d fallen in love with Paul Devlin over a century later in Rose Hill Cemetery, who’d joined him in the second battle against Cain.

“He’s not so tough as he thinks,” Ria hooked her arm through Paul’s. “You’ve taken him down already, darlin’.”

“But he so persistently comes back!” Paul shook his head.

“Third time’s a charm,” said Ria.

“You say that here, too?” asked Dalph.

“Excuse me, formal introductions are nice and all, all of us having lived together for so long in that crazy writer woman’s head, I swear, does she pop happy pills for breakfast? I mean, how else could she think of all this stuff? But can we get down to business here?” Trust Tess, the true businesswoman, the corporate troubleshooter, to get right down to the nitty-gritty.

“I don’t mean to assume, but I believe I know just the solution to this problem.” Lord, I loved Paul Devlin. Though I loved Dalph and Billy just as much. No mother could choose between her children, after all. “And if I’m not mistaken, there’s a feel in the air that makes me think we don’t have a lot of time to implement it.”

“Well, don’t be shy, sugar, please enlighten us.” There was something so down right down home about Maggie.

Billy, lifelong lawman, cocked his head and lifted his eyebrown. “And something else is gettin’ ready to start shakin’?”

“Oh, yes, there’s the same feel to the air – ” Paul broke off. No time. They were out of time. A lightning bolt struck down, almost at their feet. The air filled with electrical current flowing from the lightning that flashed as other doors cracked, opening in to the worlds on worlds that ringed this earth. But this was different. The air didn’t just crackle. It hissed, it burned, it smoldered.

It appeared from nowhere. At one moment, it wasn’t there; the next it was. It. The beast was huge, ten feet or more in height. It stood before them, and opening its mouth, gave a mighty roar. It seemed a composite of all predators that roamed the earth. My mind, not capable of fully accepting the true appearance of the beast, swiftly translated its characteristics into terms the human brain could comprehend. Visions of a lion’s mane, a wolf’s fur, a monkey’s face, a lizard’s feet, ran swiftly before my eyes, and settled in dread on the alligator-like teeth that ringed the open mouth.

It growled and turned toward my characters. It could smell the blood, I knew. Lovely blood; hot, rich and heavy. Though it came here seldom, and though the doors almost never cracked between the creature’s world and ours, this was its favorite hunting ground. The inhabitants of this plane were so full of blood; bright red blood which ran like wine down its thirsty throat, not like the anemic creatures with which it habitually had to content itself.

Billy, Investigator for the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department, reached for the Glock in his belt. The twin of the Glock appeared in Maggie’s hands, though I didn’t see her pull it out. Dalph, warrior from an earlier time, drew his sword. Tess did the same, and just as swiftly, too, my mother’s eye noted in approval. My modern American girl had wasted no time in figuring out that the rules of the game had changed and she’d best be getting conversant with the rules of the world she’d ended up in.

“Admirable speed, but I’m afraid those won’t do you much good,” Paul advised. “That’s a Blood Drinker.”

“We’re open to suggestions, buddy,” drawled Billy, sighting the Glock directly on where he hoped the creature’s heart was. “Maggie, aim for the eyes. That’s gotta do something, no matter where any other vital organ is.”

“Tamara!” Paul’s shout rang through the mists while the Blood Drinker advanced towards my characters. My other family. My children. “Tamara, where are you?”

A figure materialized beside the Blood Drinker, regal of bearing, copper of skin, a rag turban highlighting beautiful cheekbones that gave the impression of an African Queen. Oh, yes. Tamara was in the house. She fell to her knees and began to chant. Her face poured sweat. The small capillaries in her eyes popped in the intense concentration and poured blood. She chanted like she’d never chanted before; begging God and the Loa of the Rada, all the sweet spirits of the Light, to stop this intruder, to send the invader back, back to the worlds which were its by right.

Never, never in her long battle with the dark had she swayed with this intensity. And in reward, the Loa poured their power through her in a scalding flood. Drenched in sweat, she felt the Rada battling with the Blood Drinker, the child from the outer reaches of the planes of darkness. So did the Blood Drinker. It started towards Tamara, who chanted relentlessly, pouring sweat in rivulets, and abruptly, the air was split with a monstrous bolt of lightning and the Blood Drinker disappeared. Tamara collapsed.

My characters rushed to her, but as they approached, her figure wavered and disappeared and only her voice floated back.

“All y’all! You be children of ‘de light! Doan you nev’r give in to the darkness! Do you hear me?”

And in another instant, all my characters disappeared. My eyes flew open. I was sitting on the backyard swing, my favorite reading spot for those perfect fall and spring days.

My five year old grandson slipped his little hand in mine.

“Grandmama? Where’d they go?”

“Where did who go, honey?”

“The people. The monsters.”

“You must have been day dreamin’, honey,” I assured him, knowing full well he wasn’t.

“No, Grandmama! The heroes were here! I saw them by my own eyes!” He reached his hand up and traced a line underneath his eye and across his cheekbones with his finger. I smiled at his wording. I’d miss those treasures of childhood that disappeared as children grew. “I want to see them again!”

“Well, you learn to read and grow up for a few more years, I can show them to you.”

“All of them?”

“Well, I can’t promise all of them right yet,” I said, smiling as I remembered my soon-to-be-published characters’ parting words to Paul and Ria, who’d not yet been submitted for publication.

“Hurry, come join us! It’s time to be born! Don’t let her dilly-dally around with you!”

Guess I’d better get busy on Paul and Ria’s final polish.

Don’t y’all think?


  1. Gail, sweetie, your mind is full of these characters and what an imagination you have!! Your grandson is very lucky to have you!! I really enjoyed this peek into your mind:)

  2. HOLY MOLY.....What a talent!
    Very impressive, Gail!

  3. Scary dream. Hey, Barbara, you're first to respond this time. Great post, Gail

  4. Hey guys! Thank you all for stopping in! Barbara, don't forget you're supposed to visit Flowers on the Fence whenever you're ready. Door's always open. Penny! So happy you dropped in! Why don't you com'on over to Flowers on the Fence, too? Anytime you're ready, it's got what you might call an open schedule as I haven't set up a schedule for anything. Anything you'd like to blog about. And Ro, you've visited already but you know you're always welcome!

  5. Bog Hog and all - sensational. I especially loved the end touch, with the kid having seen Maggie and Ria. Magic.

  6. Naturally unbelievable, sensational, fantastic and I bet a c-scan of your mind would short circuit the machine and ruin it. Great Job - Chad

  7. Good golly, Miss Molly! Talk about a way with words. I am speechless ... which for me is saying a lot! You are definitely talented, Gail! I feel honored to have you in my circle of friends :D

  8. Diana! You are so good for my ego! When are you coming to guest on Flowers on the Fence?

  9. Hi Gail! Stop by my blog to pick up your blogger awards. Have a great day!

  10. Gail,this is very intense. You really pulled back the thin curtain separating the worlds.

  11. I am glad I didn't find your words until I was old enough not to be haunted with nightmares after reading about such nerve twanging events.

    When I was about eight-nine, I came down with the measles. Quarratined to a lonely room pitched totally in the dark, a small black and white TV for company and sunglasses forced upon me if I wanted to keep that TV, less I damage my measle infected corneas, I remember sitting there, hovering in my chair, the rest of the family out there beyond the confines of my all too narrow world...when onto the TV screen came the cause of my very first terrifying night shakes.

    A small child, body raging with the fever accompanying measles, sentenced to solitary confinement should NEVER watch THE INVISIBLE MAN.

    Through my sunglasses I shook as his nothingness moved with terrifying menace across the blank screen.

    Did I scream?

    Probably, but when it was over and time to crawl into my still dark enshrouded bed, I ached to flip on a light, check beneath my bed, tear the TV apart and make certain the Invisible Man was nowhere near my "Connect The Dots" person.

    I never forgot how terrifying watching The Invisible Man was there in the dark through my sunglasses with no reprieve in sight.

    Reading your story reminded me of how scared I was that long ago night...SO Gail, I am glad I did not find your tale until I was old enough to not run from things that go Bump In the Night...but just the same...I think I'll sleep with my lights on tonight...