Some of my characters are lost and are looking for signs: a symbol, a person, or a supernatural time where the stars align and create a moment of transcendence. Rarely, does change come, at least not all at once, and if it does it may not last. The hurt and despair of the damned flows through them, shaking their world and forcing their decisions with the hope of a better future or a better self. The urge to escape their captors, real or imagined, drives them to quest as they follow signs and make their dreams, or nightmares, come true without regard to consequence until it is too late.
The influence of being an outsider has touched all my characters in one way or another. In Lane Bowden 1973, Lane and James, lost in their own issues, do not see the signs of evil in their neighborhood while they are slowly drawn into the dark web of a serial killer. Missing kids posters flap in the breeze, idling cars that follow on empty streets, and fast friends who are not what they seem are overlooked signs in the eyes of those dreamers. A totally different character, Daniel, is drawn to anthropomorphic beings and tries to become a wolf in a sea of sin in The Trouble with Furries. Daniel sees beasts throughout his world and slowly loses himself to the animal inside as he mistakes freedom to hiding behind another skin. The runaways of Escape from Dolphin Street, on the other hand, ignore every warning sign on the streets and become prey to the sharks, hustlers, that rule the night. Change does come for one of them, Jason, as he finds out what became of his brother in the most vicious way. In Wild Boys - A Peculiar Western Novel, Dusty loses his way, guided by pure vengeance, until a vision quest changes his priorities to on Jake, a cowboy like the one he lost. All of these arcs of single-mindedness change the protagonists, usually with the search for a sign whether it be an image, a desire, or a spiritual quest. Signs are guideposts threaded through each story to be ignored or followed. Like the which way adventures of old, a character’s choice changes their fate.
In Dark, a strange tale within Anarchy, Darren strives to change through the occult and visits a moonlit spot under the pines to invite the other side in. He desperately wants change, to be different and powerful. Nothing happens at first, but a ritual later takes him beyond. Aside from the magic, I used to go to a similar place and hope to change, to be normal and not gay. In my youth, I had not accepted myself and wanted to be a different person. I looked to the night sky and hoped for a sign. Change comes slowly in the real world and I will never know if I found exactly what I was looking for inside or out. Perhaps the quest is enough in itself.
Below is an excerpt from the short story inside Anarchy - Strange Tales of Outsiders.
Today was the day of reckoning. No doubt about it crossed Damon’s mind. He had waited long enough trying to decipher the signs. Sensing and feeling his way about the chaos, so many times he almost had it in his mind’s grasp, but like smoke it was unattainable and would billow away. Now the day was here, the stars said so and this time they would not lie.
Damon looked in the mirror resigned to see it through. Splashing water on his face, he caught the stare from his dark eyes and stood momentarily transfixed. A break away glance at his lean build was tossed aside for a hand to ruffle his black hair.
Time to go, time to go.
He slid on a dark gothic shirt touching Grandmother’s gold cross that felt strangely cold against his chest.
The pines are waiting.
He smiled at the thought of the coming. All the trials of purification, all the damn endless waiting was almost at an end.
Damn, it is fifteen till. How the hell did that happen?
A splash of cologne, the good stuff and Damon was out the door, fumbling the keys for a second in the lock. The outside was cool and he breathed in the seemingly fresher air.
Just a quick walk and this will all be over.
Picking up his pace on the deserted nighttime streets of suburbia, Damon became self-conscious of his breathing. The street lamps were dim ahead and the alley waited for him in darkness. It was the quickest way, but even in his veneer of self made toughness Damon disliked the way as much as his only friends Kevin, who would never admit it, and Diane. Damon smiled at the thought of her trembling black covered lips.
There is nothing here to be afraid of as long as I am fast.
The dark was deep, almost impenetrable with just enough light in the shadow to let the imagination run wild. Damon felt the tingling in his neck that signified being watched. Something moved nearby. The wind picked up blowing a stray paper across the path. He wished he would have brought a jacket, but there is no turning back now. The night sky energized him forward.
So far so good.
Almost at a jog, Damon increased his stride ignoring the closing shadows and echoing footsteps on the tarred pavement. Sounds of movements came from behind sending his heart racing and feet pounding faster. The street lamps ahead shone into the gloom. Not daring to look back, Damon forged on to the end. The park opened up inviting him. He continued on in reverence as the old church seemed to move aside to reveal a triumvirate of pines. The wind blew harder making a distinct whirring rustle in the pine needles above.
It is close just a couple of minutes till.
Nervously, Damon lowered on his haunches between the two prominent trees, one of which had been struck by lightening long ago bending it out gnarled but strong.
Surely this was a sign, enough of its own.
The third pine was away in the distance, but the triangle shape it formed with the others was there as powerful as the pyramids. The church sat quietly behind him watching something older than the Christian rites held inside unfold on its doorstep. The dark blue sky called out, stars seemed bright, and small wispy clouds sleekly flew by the full solemn moon. The craters and crevices were more visible than ever like they were magnified. Damon looked at his hands. He was still a boy, but the change into a man had begun.
This is it...all that is past will be forgotten. I will have a clean slate. I will do right by you this time.
Placing his hands together in a kneeling position, he closed his eyes to his shame. Darkness engulfed. Thoughts floated to the surface trying to distract with trivial worries.
No…no...got to remain clear.
A deep breath went out of him.
This is the time.
Damon cracked his neck and started counting.
A tingling sensation traveled from the solid earth into his lower body.
A head rush hit him more so than the first time he got high or even huffed Freon.
Is someone watching? Was that a light of a car... a police car?
Fighting panic he willed it away.
Sexual confusion came in waves of sex and shame intertwined.
The wind chilled him forcibly blowing his hair and clothes.
The cross vibrated in his palm that clasped it almost burning, but that is impossible. Damon opened his eyes and the world was — different. Space unfolded in clarity. He was uncertain if it was really changed or if he was actually seeing it without distraction. A shooting star sparked across the deep blue sky with other shades and swirls above.
Surely this is a sign.
Damon rose meeting the wind. In the moment, he pulled the cross free from his neck to push it to the bleeding bark of the stricken pine. Sap flowed freely and thick to hold the cross firm in its grasp. In amazement, he watched as his grandmother’s heirloom was covered.
No going back — it is done. Are the demons really gone?
Damon took a tentative step forward not wanting to leave the site of a possible miracle without more concrete proof. Proud, but tinged with slight doubt haunting the back of his mind, he walked away not daring to look back lest it find him again. Another star shot across the heavens as the wind gusted.
This is really it?
Resigned yet uncertain, Damon sighed softly and spoke in a whisper, “There is always the next time…”
Damon walked the lonely path home. The solitary, haunting sound of a far away train followed him back into the dark to wait some more.