In case you haven’t been properly informed, I’ve changed my main blog address. I didn’t realize you could change the web address until after I created the new one. I still like the Raj Rien moniker which is why I’m keeping this one open, but until further notice I will only be posting to the Rien Reigns moniker. Thanks for following me over.
No, I’m not talking about myself. I’m not that damn egotistical. I’m talking about Stephen King, of course.
I recently revisited King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and I must say, it’s been quite motivational, and a nice walk down reminiscent road. I listened to the audiobook while digging garden beds, planting lettuce, harvesting fall/winter crops, and rebuilding fences. I highly recommend the audiobook version because it’s great to hear the man himself telling the story. It was like a fascinating interview without having to ask any questions.
Listening to it sparked quite a few ideas for blog posts that I hope you will enjoy.
To quote the King himself: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
This brings me to the first post in this series.
A stroll down Lovedbooks Lane: Apocalyptic fiction
I won’t potentially lie by saying that I’ve always loved reading, because my memory is pliable and it has betrayed me in the past. I will say though that I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember, and I believe that to be true.
My tastes in literature have always been varied. As a child, some of the books I remember reading and loving were: The Mouse and the Motorcycle, The Boxcar Children, The Hardy Boys, and the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine (the Stephen King for children.)
However, the first book that comes to mind, that really ignited my passion for reading, is “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell. In a way, I believe this book sparked my interest in post-apocalyptic fiction. In the most basic form, apocalyptic fiction is the end of the physical world we knew (hero’s journey, anyone?), and this is exactly what happens to the protagonist Wonapalei, AKA Karana. After some unfortunate events, she ends up alone on her island, for eighteen years. If that isn’t apocalyptic, I don’t know what is.
In case you haven’t read the book, it might interest you to know it’s actually based on a real woman, Juana Maria. Coincidentally, I haven’t thought about the book in some time, but while refreshing my memory for the post, I found out that just a few weeks ago, Naval archeologists believe they have finally discovered Maria’s cave on the real Island of the Blue Dolphins, San Nicholas.
Here is a link to the story if you’re interested. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lone-woman-cave-20121027,0,1564818.story
I think part of my love for apocalyptic fiction stems from me being an introvert and my desire to have the world less crowded. I’m also fascinated about what life was like before the Industrial Revolution and how people survived before all our modern conveniences.
Another book I love comes to mind that relates to Island of the Blue Dolphins, and that is I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson. They are very different, but at the heart of both, is a single individual learning how to survive when everyone else is gone. I would have to say that I love I Am Legend a lot more, because I think it delves deeper into the psychology of a man being alone. Not to mention the twist ending, which makes the book so great. Three movies have been made based on the book, and in my humble opinion, none of them have done it justice. I do like all three movies, in their own way, and I feel the latest one starring Will Smith, which bares the title of the book, actually comes closest to the essence of the story, but still fails to hit bull’s eye. I was disappointed walking out of the theater after the ending. But, I was glad when the dvd came out, and it contained an alternate ending that I felt the movie was leading up to, which the theatrical version dropped the ball on.
I know it isn’t a book, but is anyone else watching the NBC show Revolution? I saw the trailers for it months ago but didn’t start watching until I heard good reviews from friends, and now, I’m hooked. Initially I put off watching it because I already watch too many shows, which is time spent not writing, and its premise reminded me a little too much of a book which I love, Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling. In both, the books and the show, one day all electricity in the world suddenly disappears, and that’s about where the similarities end. A major difference is that in the books, certain laws of physics are also altered which results in no explosions, which means no guns, something Revolution has plenty of, even though bullets are scarce. I’m liking what is going on in the present timeline of Revolution, but I’m actually liking the flashbacks and seeing the evolution of the characters the most.
Dies the Fire was one of the many inspirations for my to turn to farming, as well as my attempt to be more self-sufficient. Even though I don’t think electricity is going to suddenly disappear, natural disasters do occur, and I think by now we’ve seen what it does to people living in the afflicted areas. Maybe you think it won’t happen to you. Maybe you don’t live near a coast. Maybe you don’t live in tornado alley. Maybe you don’t live near a fault line, or a nuclear plant, or any other thing that comes to mind that would result in a catastrophe. Good for you, you’re smart in my opinion.
However, the world in which we now find ourselves has become vastly interconnected and independent on other regions for the simple things we need. While where you live may be safe from a likely disaster, how much are you dependent on receiving goods from somewhere else? People tend to take for granted that they can go to a grocery store and get what they need, but how many times have you gone to a store and they’re out of whatever item you’re looking for? It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving and we’re almost to Christmas, so it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine, but it’s worth taking a second to think about.
Stephen King was my inspiration for these posts, and I will be tying him in to each of them. I already did that with the R.L. Stine reference, but it would behoove me to not mention a King classic in the genre, The Stand.
I hope I’ve left you with some possible good reads.
I hope you’ll continue to accompany me, as I journey down Lovedbooks Lane, the first section of my series, The King – On Writing.
In my next post, our subject will be focused on the age appropriateness of certain literature. l’ll begin with the first Stephen King book I read, at the age of eleven, The Tommyknockers.
I walk the streets at night…searching. For what, I’m not entirely sure. An aspect of myself, the one I try to keep subdued, I guess you could say is seeking god. Not the one of biblical proportions mind you. Unless of course, you’re considering the vengeful god of the old testament, among other ancient, but lesser known deities today. Nor is it searching for some creator, or mythological state of enlightenment. No, it’s searching more for that feeling of godliness within oneself – to feel the intoxicating power of deciding one’s fate, either through benevolence, or the extermination of another living creature – specifically that of another human being.
It’s tasted this power on more than one occasion, and like with any other drug, the body and mind adapts, and with each occurrence thereafter, it loses that initial magic, which leads to the quest to re-obtain that which can never again be felt in its full glory.
As one who has seized the maxim ‘Know Thyself’ by the jugular, like the beast that I am, I seek to understand the inner workings of the mind, especially, and more specifically, my own. I’ve gnawed at the bit and mauled over this aphorism for far too long now. It has become a burden – a curse, rather than that which could set me free.
I fear there is nothing gained in knowing myself, when I remain unable to fix my own irreparability broken psyche. And I dare not seek outside assistance in my quest, for fear that whatever little hope I have, at any sort of redemption, it would be ripped from my fingers, and this shell of a man would be cast into a sanatorium to rot and decay by those who would inevitably come to the same conclusion that I have. I am a sociopath.
As alluded to previously, this other aspect of myself, which speaks to you now, seeks deliverance, but does not feel that it can be found by any religious means, for they have all failed in the past. If there is a god out there, it surely must be more sadistic than even I to allow individuals such as myself a continued existence in this world; especially without offering tangible assistance at altering our own maniacal behavior.
I’ve spent months walking and prowling this cesspool of a city and have yet to find either, or to have allowed myself to feel again a life dissipate within my grasp. I hope that the longer I can resist, that it is a sign that atonement can be found, and that I can subdue my dark desires. The longer it goes without its drug of choice, the harder it is to remember that sense of godliness. Hopefully, if enough time has passed, this addiction will disappear altogether.
But, I also fear, that it all might be in vain, and in reality, a ploy by the other aspect. For I suspect that it is an attempt to once again feel that first euphoric high. I believe that it may be a way of resetting the baseline, so to speak. Rather than a continued roller coaster ride of short ups and downs, much like riding over rolling hills. I fear the darkness within is attempting to change the landscape into great monstrous peaks and abysmal valleys.
It would seem that there really isn’t a whole lot that I can to do, other than to try and remain vigilant, while remaining on this ride called life, and letting it run its course.
Another night of hopelessness is almost over, when my ears detect the faint reverberations of a woman’s scream, echoing off the walls of a nearby building. It’s faint – subdued by the measly meanderings of the late night populace. I suspect that others who are within a close enough proximity to respond and offer assistance, are the ‘It’s None of My Concern’ type. Therefore, the screams indicating a need for help, are falling on deaf ears – except mine that is. The mock god voice in my head says, It was close. Investigate. Feeling that finally something will come to fruition I follow the prompt. The battle of wills within will determine whether it will be to the benefit of the one in need.
Like a predator hunting its prey, I stalk the surrounding area, tracking the source of the disturbance. Ever so slightly, my ears detect the whimpering and pleas for mercy, down a nearby unlit alley. I peer down the corridor. There is just enough light to make out a few shapes at the end.
I slink in the shadows making sure I’m unheard as I creep ever closer to the confrontation before me. From the darkness I can make out a dumpster slightly in the foreground. A slight distance beyond that, I make out the shape of a man looming over a sobbing woman – the source of the scream.
I duck behind the dumpster to go unseen as a silent witness.
“Gimme your purse, you stupid bitch,” says the assailant.
I peer around the corner and notice he’s pointing a gun at her. It’s small though, most likely nothing more than a .22. I pull up my pant leg and unsheathe the man made extension of myself. I caress the sharp cold steel of the 7” fixed blade combat knife I received for my service – the same one which gave me my first taste of murder – though in a time of war they don’t call it murder, they call it a duty, a service to your country. What I plan to do with it now will be more of a service to my country than all the duties I accomplished overseas.
You’ve served me well, I think to myself, as I slide the flat of the steel across my cheek in a loving caress. You’re the only thing that has remained constant in this forever changing drudgery called existence. What would I do, what would I be, without you?
I look again at the scene and see the woman throw her purse at the thug while she cries and pleads for him not to hurt her. Apparently satisfied, I see the man turn to leave, except now I see he’s not a man, but a boy around mid-teens. I fall back behind the dumpster and listen to his footfalls coming closer. When I surmise that he’s next to the dumpster I stretch out my leg, tripping the kid. I watch the gun and purse fly through the air while he takes a face plant to the asphalt.
I run over and grab the fallen gun just in case. The voice in my head says, Kill him, but I respond, No, there’s a witness -the woman. To which it counters, Then kill them both. I contemplate it for a fraction of a second before replying, It would take too long to do it right and enjoy it.
Then teach him a lesson, the voice commands.
Can’t argue with that.
I look back at the woman. She is starting to look in my direction so I fire a shot into the air. As expected she curls up into a ball. That should give me some time. I kick the kid between his scrawny legs and he cries out louder than the woman did earlier. I turn the kid over onto his back and kneel down on top of him, pinning him to the ground easily, as I outweigh him by several pounds of muscle.
I flash the blade in front of his face, and he attempts to scream before I cover his mouth with my free hand. With my extra limb of sharp steel, I can’t resist the temptation to let my friend have a taste of the young man’s cheek. With some measure of restraint I keep the cut shallow, even though I want all the world to see.
“Remember this moment when dark twisted thoughts enter your pathetic mind, and know that there is another greater darkness in this world which preys upon those who would do evil deeds.”
I’ve spent hours trying to find the perfect phrase to dissuade those who might turn into the monster I’ve become – this is the best I’ve come up with so far.
There is evil in this world, of that there should be no doubt. Not the kind of mythological demons, devils, and beasts, but that born of the broken minds of man. I am a product of the misdeeds of corrupt individuals. They made me a killing machine and then thought they could discard me when I was done doing their bidding, but I continue to exist, to prove them wrong. I am a disturbed individual, of that I am aware. I know I cannot change, not completely. The evil within will always remain, but I can control it – to an extent, and I will use it to the best of my ability to prevent them from creating others like myself.
I flip the kid back onto his stomach and take his wallet so that I can keep tabs on him. He is in the beginning stages of delving into darkness. What happens here tonight might be enough to turn him back towards the light. If not though, I will do as the voice commands. I put his wallet in my jacket pocket, tuck the gun into the back of my pants, holster my blade, and stand.
Towering above him, I say “Get outta here before I change my mind.”
The kid scrambles to his feet and stumbles out of the alley, disappearing into the night.
I retrieve the purse and approach the woman who is still curled into a ball, sobbing. She curls up even tighter as I come closer. She is too scared to look and see that I am not the man who attacked her. I hover over her, purse in hand, unsure of how to act. Should I console her? Give her time to compose herself? Leave?
The voice in my head says, Look at her. She’s broken. She’s like a wounded animal. She’ll never again be the same. Kill her. Put her out of her misery. It’s possible the voice is correct, but she should at least have the opportunity to overcome the damage that has been done. There is still hope for her, unlike myself.
“It’s alright now,” I say. “You’re safe. He’s gone.”
It seems to take her a few seconds to rationalize that my voice is not the same as her attacker.
Finally she looks up at me and realizing such, speaks. “Thank you, thank you so much. I was so afraid,” she says.
I stretch out my freehand. She takes it as leverage and pulls herself to her feet. Before I realize what she intends and can stop her, she falls into me, wrapping her arms around my torso in a thankful embrace. My initial instinct is to push her away. The only physical contact I’ve had in months is in the manner such as the one with the kid a few minutes before.
Her scent makes its way to my nasal passages. The intermingling of her perfume, sweat, and fear tantalizes my mind. I wrap my arms around her, pulling her into me. I sniff her hair, inhaling her intoxicating aroma. It’s been far too long since I’ve had the scent of a woman overwhelm me so.
Imagine the taste of her skin on your blade. Cutting open her flesh. The warm blood on your fingers, the voice says trying to seduce me. Though I’d like to imagine that we are separate entities, dueling it out for control on the astral plane, I know that I do not suffer multiple personality disorder. Everyone has a voice inside their heads. Mine is just more warped and pronounced.
I am not my thoughts, nor my past transgressions. I am who I choose to be today. In this instant. I am my actions in the present. I can be a better man. I will be better, I tell the voice who is essentially myself.
Realizing that I’m beginning to recidivate, I push her away and stretch out my arm that’s holding the purse. “This is yours,” I say.
She wipes the tears from her face, and finally she is in such a position where what little light is able to penetrate the alley, illuminates her feminine features and face.
“Thank you,” she says, taking back her belongings.
I’m fixated by how there is no mascara or other makeup marring her beautiful skin. She isn’t the most attractive woman I’ve seen, by far, but she most definitely is not unattractive, not in the least. I’m drawn to the fact that she doesn’t try to make herself into something she’s not, like so many other vain women in this world that I see. To me this is beauty; to accept who you are and to be proud of it. The few women whom I’ve murdered all tried to alter their appearance through manipulation. I altered it permanently in response to their vanity.
“I thought he was going to kill me,” she says, breaking my preoccupation with her simplistic beauty. I realize that I’m smiling, and not the normally sadistic smile that adorns my face in times of disturbing pleasure, but that of a smile derived from basking in … well, I’m not entirely sure anymore. There is only a hint of recollection of ever having felt this feeling before. But, it’s been so long that I cannot properly classify it.
I notice that she’s beginning to look at me quizzically. I’m sure that I appear odd. Smiling in this way is unnatural to me. It must be disturbing.
“Doubtful,” I finally say in regards to her fears. In a few years maybe, had I not intervened, I think to myself.
For the first time in my presence she smiles. “Will you walk me home? I only live a few blocks away.”
Go! She wants you to kill her. She’s inviting you to, the voice tempts.
“I should go,” I say instead – before the temptation becomes too great.
She stretches out her arm and places her hand and on my bicep. It takes every ounce of willpower to not reach out and break her wrist. “Please. What if he decides to come back?”
Her touch sends waves of anxiety through my system.
“He won’t,” I say, turning to leave.
She grabs hold of my sleeve. “Please, it’s just a few blocks.”
Underneath her cowering frightened exterior, I can tell there is a well of strength and determination that resides within. Just one more thing that transfixes me.
“Lead the way,” I say, caving to her desires.
She takes my arm, squeezing it tight. Deciding it would be pointless to resist her any longer, I let her lead me out of the alley and down the various streets. Several blocks away she stops us in front of an old apartment building with internal access to each individual abode.
“Would you mind seeing me to my door? My roommate is gone for the next couple of days,” she says, looking up at me with puppy dog eyes that remind me of the beagle, Rascal, I had as a child – my only friend growing up. Thoughts of my dad shooting him dead in front of me for disobeying something I no longer remember, makes me want to go back and find the young man to re-enact the vengeance I wrought upon my father many years later.
“Please,” she says. Her voice is like a tornado, whirling away my thoughts of ill intent.
I nod and she leads the way once again.
With each step forward, moving ever towards the front door, my heart beats faster and faster. She unlocks the door to the building and then when we enter, she stops and checks the mailbox 2F, before we begin our ascent to the second floor.
She stops in front of the door that has the same alpha-numerical designation as the mailbox.
“Would you mind going in first?” she asks with a nervous laugh. “I know I’m being paranoid, but I can’t help it. Not after what happened.”
She hands me the keys and I unlock the door. Stepping inside I’m overwhelmed by the smell of some sort of flowery fragrance. Women definitely live here. I fumble around for the light switch and finally find it to my right. Flicking it, the room becomes illuminated.
Seeing nothing out of the ordinary I say, “Looks safe to me.”
“Will you check the rooms? Just to make sure,” she pleads.
Do it! She’s begging you. Kill her, the voice says.
NO! I reply with a strange conviction I have not felt before.
I turn to leave, but she’s blocking the entry/exit-way. She falls into me again, just like before in the alley, and begins to cry. Between the sobs she says, “Please stay, just for a little while. I’m too awake to sleep. I feel safe with you.”
If only you knew the truth of your supposed savior, I think.
Conceding, I make my way around the apartment while she makes some coffee. In my investigation I come across two bedrooms. The first is messy, at least in regards to my standards. There are clothes lying on an unmade bed with dirty laundry spilling out of a hamper. The room smells musty, like no one’s been in it for quite some time. I turn off the light and close the door – disgusted. The second room is immaculate. There are plants and flowers everywhere. This room smells like the woman in the kitchen. I feel the unusual smile reappear upon my face.
An epiphany suddenly explodes like a Fourth of July fireworks display inside my head. I know what to do. I will instruct her. I will teach her how to defend herself. There are various reasons for my sudden motive. One of them is to create a connection. You don’t kill those with whom you have a connection. That was the first rule I established. Unfortunately, I learned it after the incident with my father. But that was oh so long ago, and I cremated the corpse. Others like myself have been caught due to killing someone with whom they can be connected. Another motive is that is it unwise to attack those who could pose a serious threat to your own continued existence.
Yes. I will teach her everything I know. I will make her my equal.
Satisfied that everything is as it should be, and pleased with my new outlook on the future, I make my way back to the kitchen. Back to her. I can smell the coffee brewing now. Are these feelings that I’m feeling, that which they call love? How am I to truly know? It is an appreciation, of that I am fully aware and certain of. There is also most assuredly a level of respect. But love? How can one be sure of something they’ve never felt, especially in regards to something so abstract as a notion of love.
Turning the corner I see her, for the first time fully lit and unobstructed. Her hair is a little disheveled and the area around her eyes is a little puffy from all the crying, but other than that she looks radiant. I can’t recall when I’ve ever seen such an unabashed beauty. In that moment I know it would be wrong, the greatest of sins, to remove such a radiance from this world.
Something has changed within me. I can feel it. I am not who I once was. The voice is suddenly silent for the first time in years. Caught off guard, I don’t realize she’s holding a gun until I fall backwards from the blast.
She stands, hovering over me, gun in hand. The door to the apartment opens and I see the man from the alley.
“This is for my sister,” she says.
Another shot sounds – this one I notice. My head feels heavy and falls to the side. On an end table I see a picture of the woman and another – a woman that has haunted my conscience for years. I can see the resemblance in the two now.