Hey, everyone! I want to thank Alan Spencer for allowing me to hijack his blog for a day. He’s one of the newest and most exciting talents at Samhain Horror (which is one of the newest and most exciting places in the world for horror), so appearing on his blog is a real treat.
My second novel is called HOUSE OF SKIN (http://www.amazon.com/House-of-Skin-ebook/dp/B0080KASHC/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1340758143&sr=1-2), and to give you a glimpse into the story I thought I’d begin with a question.
You ever drive while tired?
Me too. I’m not proud of that, and I’ve never been quite as tired as Paul, the protagonist of HOUSE OF SKIN is in this scene, but I’ve been close enough to feel his pain. Here’s a moment from early on in the novel. Paul is driving toward his newly inherited home and his new life. But something is about to delay him…
Paul’s head jerked up, his lungs sucking in frightened breath. He gripped the steering wheel, shook the sleep out of his head. Stifling a yawn, he checked the digital clock.
He’d sue the pill makers. Who the hell heard of a guy falling asleep after a handful of caffeine pills?
He thought of checking the map, though he knew he was nowhere near his destination. He’d be lucky to make Shadeland by dawn. What had possessed him to drive at night? In retrospect, didn’t it make far more sense to leave early in the morning and arrive in the afternoon?
Too late now. He was already most of the way there and he wasn’t about to turn around. It occurred to him to pull over and catch some shut-eye, but that would be conceding defeat. He’d finish what he’d started if that meant driving all night.
He jolted. He’d been dreaming again. Good lord, what was the matter with him? How long had he been out? Ten seconds? Thirty? He imagined himself cruising along at sixty-five miles per hour with his mouth open and his hands dozing on the wheel, a rolling missile careening toward whatever poor son of a bitch happened to be in the other lane.
He had to keep awake. If stimulants couldn’t do it, maybe music would. He opened up the storage box under his armrest and plucked out his CD case. Most of what he had was either country or classical, and Paul trusted neither to keep him alert. Finally, he flipped to Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. If that wouldn’t do it, nothing would. He thumbed in the disc and fast-forwarded to “Creeping Death.”
Paul’s chin bobbed. The situation was growing dire. He checked the clock.
He’d never make it there alive. Desperate, he rolled down the window and let the wind blast his greasy hair. It didn’t help. The fragrance of the pines bordering the road lulled him deeper into that soft, tranquil place. Paul whipped his head to stay awake. He’d never been this tired before. His fatigue was an undertow sucking him toward the comforting blue depths of sleep. His blood was suffused with caffeine, his ears assaulted by heavy metal, his skin pelted with frigid air; yet the combination of these things only underscored the futility of his resistance. Sleep, an inexorable crawling glacier, plowed through every barrier, freezing his blood and flattening his defenses. The road seemed a million miles wide. For as far as his dimming eyes could see there were no cars, no houses, nothing but a measureless wasteland spreading out in the darkness.
A jarring thud and a high-pitched scream. Shocked into wakefulness, he threw a puzzled glance at the road, then at the clock.
Had he been out the entire time? Surely the car couldn’t have steered itself for five minutes. For some reason, the sight of the overhead mirror made his stomach feel loose and quivery. He spotted nothing in the road behind him to confirm the sick fear backstroking in his belly, yet he wondered what he’d have seen had he checked the mirror immediately after the thud, the scream.
The bile in his throat demanded he slow the car and turn around. Paul made a u-turn with hands he couldn’t feel.
His racing thoughts conjured a hitchhiker’s limp body, bloodied and broken, balled into a lump in the middle of the highway. The Civic would arrive there just as another car pulled up and discovered what he’d done. The police report would show that Paul had veered onto the shoulder and clipped the man, sent his shattered body skittering end over end. His dream of beginning a new life as a writer with money in the bank and a large estate would be replaced by a decade in prison for manslaughter.
His headlights splashed over a dark shape in the opposite lane. He glimpsed something large and motionless surrounded by two or three smaller moving shapes.
Then he was closing his eyes and whispering thanks, for the large shape was a mother possum and the moving objects around her were her surviving children. Under normal circumstances he’d have felt terrible for orphaning these baby possums, but the sight of them now made him feel like opening a bottle of champagne.
Delirious with adrenaline and relief, he pushed open the car door and moved toward the carcass. Swollen from her recent pregnancy, the mother’s stomach loomed white and large in the headlights’ glare. Scattered about her broken body lay four of her dead children. Three looked peaceful and intact, as though they’d lain down in the road for a moonlit nap. The fourth was torn in half, the two sections of its body connected only by a shiny string of intestine. The eye-watering scent of fecal matter enshrouded him. He shielded his nose with the side of his hand.
Three more babies were crawling about in a daze. All three were slathered in a patina of blood, yet Paul couldn’t tell whether it belonged to them or their mother. The giant possum lay unmoving inside a spreading pool of blood. Sickened and fascinated by the mother’s enormous body, Paul sidled around to get a better look. He felt his gorge leap.
Two little legs, besotted with blood, kicked and strained, flicking little droplets on the highway. A surviving baby possum was digging into its mother’s stomach. Transfixed, Paul watched the little blood-covered baby worm its way through cartilage and sinew as it tried to burrow inside the corpse.
At first he didn’t want to credit the smacking sounds for what they were, yet the sounds and the frenetic twisting of the baby possum’s body could only be the little devil feasting on its dead mother. Buried as it was from the shoulders up, it was inching its way to the heart.
Appalled by the burrowing cannibal and forgetting his revulsion, Paul endeavored to yank the baby out of its mother’s corpse. Try as he might to get a finger hold on the kicking feet or the twitching tail, the baby eluded him. He didn’t want to get too close, lest its crimson head appear and bite his finger. At this thought, he felt the mother’s body shift.
Paul cried out and stumbled away as the mother’s face rose and snapped at his arm. He landed on his rump and stared at her in shock. She bared her teeth at him and hissed. Then, instead of batting away her feasting child, she lay back and appeared to rest. Soon, two more surviving babies were swarming over the dying mother and digging out scraps of flesh on which to feed. The smallest possum chewed on one of the mother’s teats and drank the blood that sluiced forth instead of milk.
Paul looked down and found that his heels were resting in the pool of blood. He shivered and scrambled away. Then, hearing the sounds of lips smacking and voices chittering, he drew himself to his feet and scuttled back inside his car. As he drove away from the scene of the accident, he found that he was fully awake.
I hope you check out HOUSE OF SKIN, and I hope you enjoy it. I hope you hate the detestable characters, and I hope you care about the good-hearted characters ones. Most of all, I hope you have fun.
Thank you very much for your time, and thank you, Alan, for having me on your blog.