THE NOVEL THAT KILLED ME
You can’t sleep on a shuttle flight from Boston to New York.
You might experience something vaguely close, but it’s just a sad tease. You blink, and next thing you know a voice is saying put your tray tables in an upright position. So, you get off the plane, one hour and fifteen minutes later, in a worse state of delirium than you got on.
As I was about to learn, this was perfect for doing something utterly surreal, like appearing on a TV show in the middle of the day with everyone pretending it was midnight, while you pretended to be the author of a book you didn’t write.
Four o’clock in the morning. That was the time I had finally gotten to bed the night before. The alarm had gone off at six, which was when Tigris arose to get ready for work, and I always got up at 6:20 to have breakfast with her and Oscar, our son.
Soon as Tigris opened her eyes, she scratched at the stubble on my jaw and asked where I’d been the night before. Her touch usually comforted me, but not this time. I told her how much of a nervous wreck I was about the TV thing and how I couldn’t sleep, so I’d driven out to the reservoir for a run. That was my first lie of the day, a nice fairly harmless, almost quaint one to get warmed up for the many ugly and twisted ones to come.
THE MYRIAD ERA
The Myriad kicked his head and a flurry of stars spilled out, shimmering.
The impact had gashed a hole in the side of the universe and its guts were flowing.
A bright red tsunami rushed towards him.
In a panic, he tried to yank the device off, but his arms were frozen in place.
He would drown in blood.
He screamed, heard nothing; desperately tried to open his eyes, to escape this nightmare.
But they were already open.
Then, as if to taunt him, there was a flash, and he saw his father, all those years ago, laughing, pouring gasoline...
Now he remembered. That’s how it was supposed to end, for both of them.
But it didn’t turn out that way.
He realized that what he was drowning in wasn’t blood, it was guilt.
Suddenly some sort of massive gear clicked into place.
The darkness doubled.
There was a green flare.
Then, visions started rushing by, like he was being fast forwarded through a vast film of his entire life at hyper speed.
They’d warned him something like this might happen.
Mostly what he saw was a blur, but every now and then, something stuck out—his father’s cockeyed snarl, the piss-yellow Jetta careening off the road, vodka spilling everywhere, Em holding a note on her bass with that piercing stare and shooting him the finger…
He swore if he could get out of this, he would make everything up to her.
But right now the Myriad seemed to have other ideas.
FALL OF WATER
There is only one memory I have from the time before I was blind.
It starts with me walking down a foggy path. Someone is ahead, and I can see them as a dark silhouette. In some sort of strange illusion of scale, they seem to be moving away from me and towards me at the same time. I start to run, but the distance between us doesn’t change. Suddenly, there’s a flash of lightning and she’s there in front of me. Her hair is long and blonde with a wisp of pink down one side. I can make out a beauty mark on her pretty, roundish face, near the edge of her left cheek. She’s short, with small shoulders and arms, almost waifish.
“It’s hard for you to understand this now, honey,” she’s saying, “but in the future you won’t remember me. You’ll forget my name, even what I look like.”
“But you’re Mom. How could I forget that?”
“I mean my name, silly. Merilee.”
“I don’t believe you.” Fear wells up in my gut.
“It’s true. That’s part of the process. But whatever happens, I hope you’ll still remember two important things. The first is that your mother loves you so, so much.”
“And what’s the other?”
“That you have something vitally important to do.”
“What do you mean, important?”
“You’ll be called on to make a sacrifice. I can’t tell you more than that. I’m so sorry son. I know you never asked for any of this.”
THE BOOK OF ENEMY
When I was very young a part of me went missing.
A lot of years passed and a number of really incredible things happened before I finally realized it. In fact, were it not for an organization called Engine, I might have gone an entire lifetime without knowing.
Then again, Engine fucked me up but good, so these things do tend to balance each other out.
But there’s a lot more to it than that. This isn’t just about me. It’s about something so big and so terrifying that I struggle to find words for it. It has to do with why we’re all here, and what we’re really supposed to be doing with our lives. Engine was created to deal with this thing, but like I said, they have problems of their own.
Look, I know. Maybe you aren’t the sort of person who goes in for strange mindreading cults or outlandish concepts about the planet being alive, and actively trying to kill us. Believe me, I wasn’t either.
I didn’t ask to have a crazy story to tell.
If it’s going to make any sense though, I will have to begin it at a time before I knew about any of this, when powerful unseen forces were coming together at once, rushing towards a single point in space and time.
Just as with the universe itself, there was an accident.
THE RED RIVER VIRUS (published in The Huffington Post)
He doesn’t know how long it’s been since he first squeezed his eyelids shut to double the darkness. He’s been thinking about how the closing of eyes doesn’t close anything, just redirects the gaze inwards towards tiny drawn curtains of flesh and that this is what he will be forced to stare at until his stubborn brain gives in and shuts down awareness, and in that same thought he realizes that maybe what he’s actually fearing is oblivion itself, that this might be the final sleep of death, pulled under by the red river virus, and what excellent song lyrics those might be if he can survive and remember them. It doesn’t help that just before bed he’d taken a look at the infection moving from elbow to bicep, mercury rising up a flesh thermometer. It had marched right through his fading Motorhead tattoo like Hitler taking Poland, giving the gleaming skull and horns an angry glowing pink backdrop. He’d managed to get under the covers before Emily could glimpse it though, telling her only that he felt a little feverish. No way he’s going to any hospital, because man are they gonna ask questions. Anyway, if it’s really bad, he knows Emily will save him. She always has, always will...
The voice on the phone pulled me from a deep sleep.
“I hope I didn’t wake you.”
It couldn’t be.
“Wow. This is a surprise.”
It had been years, and it had ended ugly. Well, for me at least.
“We had some good times, didn’t we?”
There was something disturbing in his voice.
“I guess we did,” I said.
Was he being nostalgic, or was it something else?
“I hope you’re not calling ten years later to say you regret it.”
He let out his breath, which on my cellphone sounded like a flurry of static.
“I don’t like that word.”
“So what are you saying?”
“I’m saying…I fucked up. I mean; I’m fucked up.”
I couldn’t believe it. Everything I’d heard and seen had led me to believe he was living a charmed existence.
“Look, everybody loves you, man. I mean…you’re famous. You’re all over those TV commercials. Hell, after all this time you still look like Robert Plant.”
“And I bet you still look like, uh, that actor. Montgomery Clift.”
“You didn’t even know who he was until I told you.”
“Okay, but see? I remember those things.”
“Saw you just got married, too. It was all over the news. You had that shit-eating grin. I thought you looked happy.”
“Yeah, well that’s what everyone sees.”
There was a long pause, as if he was thinking something over. Then he said:
“Look, I’m still using, John. I have been all along. Only it’s gotten worse.”
Screaming Down the Highway
Music makes me see through walls. Gravity means nothing. I can lift up everyone around me. All things fall away, and a melody emerges.
Just minutes ago I was there, harvesting the moment; capping the creative spark. Now I’m back, piloting the van, playing it back in my mind as I drive. Gears grind up the ramp on this overcast afternoon. I’m suspended here, racing down the lane, with the ugly Boston sprawl far below. A gold Charger appears, trying to speed up and pass me, smug in its 84 horsepower buzz. It’s just like that Chuck Berry song, the one John Lennon borrowed for the beginning of “Come Together”, where flat top comes up behind, movin’ up slowly, so he puts his foot down and starts to roll, til he hears the cops coming, then he lets out his wings and becomes airborne. In Chuck Berry’s world he was always screaming down some highway, riding on a wild cloud of crazy electric energy. He discovered a strange life force off in another dimension and brought it back for all of us.
Sometimes, on a rare day, I’m allowed to have the tinniest echo of it for myself.
In 2007 this screenplay was optioned by the Lift Productions film company of Shreveport, Louisiana, who made "Factory Girl" and "Pride" but were subsequently raided by the FBI and shut down (although no wrongdoing was found). The screenplay is a thriller about a woman coming into contact with her filmmaker father who abandoned her as a child, and nobody turns out to be what they seem.
INT. CARLA AND MADELINE'S APARTMENT IN LOUISIANA - DAY
CARLA REDFERN, 28, blonde and attractive, wearing a
light sundress, sits at the kitchen table in front of a
large stack of mail. She begins to pick through it.
Piling up bills to one side, she comes to a handwritten
letter. Interested, she opens it and starts to read. Her
roomate MADELINE, 36, brunette with a few gray streaks,
New Orleans accent, strides in, wearing waitress
outfit,getting ready to leave.
Aren't you going to be just a
little bit late this morning,
(absorbed in letter)
Day off, remember?
I'm surprised you remember
anything after last night.
Pouring that director free
drinks like that. And did you
get an audition out of it?
Didn't think so.
Madeline notices that Carla isn't paying attention.
What's that, letter from home?
Carla is still engrossed in the letter.