Monday, January 30, 2012

Guest Post | Opening of Within This Garden Weeping (Division mythos) by Lee Thompson

I'm very excited to welcome Lee Thompson to Book Den today! Before Leonora Wakes was one of my top favorite reads of 2011 so I'm super stoked about his post today.

A big thanks to Jennifer for all the support and faith, as well as so many others. In thanks I wanted to offer up a little treat. In the first Red Piccirilli book Before Leonora Wakes (which is also the start of my Division mythos), Red had to find the strength inside himself to overcome something much larger than himself even though he feared he had little strength to begin with. And near the end of that first book he received both a blessing and a curse from a dark princess that he comes face to face with again, amongst many other wicked creatures, in this book Within This Garden Weeping. So, I present to you the start of the second Red Piccirilli book which will hopefully see publication within the next year or so. It’s a fun coming of age story but there is also a lot of danger, lessons for Red to learn, and more strands added to the reality supporting other realities. Enjoy.


Two summers ago, when Red Piccirilli was in the seventh grade, everyone thought he and Amy Lafond were kidnapped by some sicko-pervert, and Red let them believe that because it was so much easier to accept than the truth.

In his new bedroom he sat on the toy chest he’d always had, the one from the house in town where the magic happened and tragedy unfolded. It was very different here than it was in Kingston. English Road dead-ended, right where the little dingy trailer sat up on a hill with an oak tree in the middle of the turnaround, the trunk as thick as his dad’s Buick. He toyed with the band-aid on the top of his left hand, fingers flicking back and forth over the edge of it because he wanted to look at what lay beneath it again, but he didn’t believe he had that much courage, no matter how brave Amy, Maggie, and the missing Mr. Blue had told him he was.

Outside, the sky burned bright over trees shedding leaves, and beneath the sound of his mother bustling in the kitchen, beyond his closed bedroom door, something hummed in the swamp at the back of their new property.

The sound of a car jostling through the ruts in the washed-out road broke his discontent. Red stepped to his bedroom window. A plume of dust hovered around a beat up maroon Impala that looked as big as their new home clamored and spit black smoke as it pulled off the road and took a hard left into the drive. For some reason the rundown beast made him think of Mr. Blue, the missing angel. The car stopped between the oak and front porch and Red’s mom yelled something back to him but he didn’t hear her because the car hissed and growled.

Red studied the car but its shape up close blurred.

Sunlight glared off the windshield.

A dark shape moved behind it.

Red left his room and walked to the front door and looked through the screen. A tall, gangly man stepped from the car, his clothing battered and wrinkled, slightly frayed at the edges of his arm cuffs. The stick-like man stepped slowly around the bumper, his dirty black boots kicking up dust. He had the shine of the vagabond about him. Red could picture a door to door salesman lost in this age, displaced, useless, seeking one last trip across country to find out if his life held any real meaning anymore.

As he approached, Red noticed the man walked with a slight limp, dragging his left leg behind him, drawing a line in the driveway. He grimaced with each step, but when he saw Red standing behind the closed screen door, he smiled, his yellow and black teeth glinting in the sunlight that filtered through the oak’s branches. A bird called from somewhere and made Red think of Mr. Blue again, how the ravens that grew from his shoulders cawed bittersweet melodies in his dreams, all of them only wanting truth and goodness to win, but only becoming more lost in their fight for it; because to give all of yourself to something was to give it absolute control of your life.

As if reading his thoughts, the man smiled wider and Red shivered.

From somewhere faraway, Red’s mother mumbled under her breath, “Dear God.”

The traveler nodded his head in a sharp, quick movement. Red stepped back, his voice caught in his throat as the man raised his hand like a gun and dropped his thumb as if firing.

Red jumped as his mother’s hand closed over his shoulder.

She frowned at him.

She said, “Great. Like we didn’t have enough problems.”

Red whispered, “Who is he?” because the man was nearly to the door, the shoe on his bad foot making an awful scraping sound as he climbed the steps.

His mother rubbed a hand through Red’s hair and he flinched and ducked away because she pressed down really hard.

The air smelled of burning paper. And when Red glanced at the man’s eyes he saw a fire consuming his pupils.

Red inched into the kitchen, ashamed of himself for hiding. He considered grabbing a knife but he knew how ineffective steel was against things like this.

The man’s fingernails scraped the screen. Laughter filled his voice as he said, “Marie. It’s been a long time.”

Red’s mother cleared her throat. “What are you doing here?” Hands balled at her sides, she leaned toward the screen as if studying an insect, her face pale, a slight tremor causing the muscles in her jaw to twitch.

Red didn’t think he’d ever seen her work so hard at keeping her cool, except for the time she’d told him what she thought of Amy’s family, how they were all drug addicts, a blight on society, and would never be anything more. Thinking about it angered him and he wondered how different this man was from anyone else. Sure, he had a crappy old car that wilted the leaves on the oak, and his clothes looked so bad that the Salvation Army would throw them right in the incinerator, but did that make him a bad person? He reasoned that what he thought he seen in the man’s eyes was nothing more than his overactive imagination.

The man stammered, “Been a long time, all right. A long time. You’re married now.”

Red almost said out loud, Did you used to date him? Before Dad? Or is he family?

He slid closer to the wall, wanting to get a glimpse of the man, to see if in that ragged old face he saw an estranged uncle or grandfather. He’d always thought it odd how little contact his parent’s had with their families. It didn’t seem normal.

The stranger yawned and said, “I’m so tired. I’ve been searching for so long.” His shadow stretched through the door, tendrils of near-night, and some of them lovingly stroked her neck while others probed deeper into the living room.

Red stepped back and held his breath.

The sun seemed to flicker with faulty light and darken as if the man’s shadow drew power from it. Red’s mother brushed her neck and straightened her back. The man scratched the screen door again but never opened it. They stood there staring at each other for a moment longer before the stranger said, “Who’s the boy? Your son?”

Red took another step back and the sound of his foot against the linoleum in the kitchen sounded to his ears like the breaking of a heavy limb. He ran a hand down the front of his shirt. The stranger said, “Can I see him?”

“No,” Red’s mother said, moving closer to the door as if to protect him from whatever plans the man had, and Red wanted to tell her: I can stand up for myself, you don’t have to always do it. But he sucked in a deep breath, let it still his mind, and said, not meaning to say anything, “I’d like to meet him. If he means something to you, I’d like to.”

His mother shook her head. She said, “He don’t mean nothing to no one. He’s a bum, a vagrant.” She turned back to the door and her voice mingled with the scraping of leaves along the steps, “Get out of here. You’re not welcome.”

The man simply nodded, old worn neck creaking as if someone had wrapped a rope around it long ago and left him to deal with the punishment. His shadow receded from the step though Red had the feeling he’d never moved.

A moment later the car pulled past, a blur of red and black as it followed the turnaround, and the large oak swayed in the coming storm’s building wind.


His mom told him to go to his room, that she didn’t want to talk about the stranger, so he did, grudgingly, irritated that she couldn’t just tell him who the man was, and why he was there, expecting her to talk to him like an adult since that was what she usually expected of him.

Red shook his head and thought, Christ, I’m almost fifteen. She can tell me things.

He opened the bedroom window and looked over the forest. Wind whispered through the trees, carrying a message that other boys, normal ones, might fail to hear but he picked up on. Red listened for a while then climbed out the window as his mother cranked the stereo in the living room to drown the sounds of her demons. Sinatra thundered against the walls.

Once outside, he looked over the rough lawn, not much more than twenty feet of it to the wood line and the swamp nestled in its arms. Water dripped in the swamp. Red’s dad had warned him not to play back there because years ago, when the Tuscola County Road Commission was building English Road, they’d come across quicksand and lost a lot of machinery and a few men in the bog.

The danger of it excited and scared him and it reminded him of things he’d have rather forgotten forever because to dwell on them only made his chest hurt. But he couldn’t help but thinking, Part of me still misses Pig.

He wiped his eyes, knowing that if anyone from school was around they’d have called him a girl for struggling with his emotions. But he thought they would have struggled too if they’d been through what he had.

He shrugged against the chill crowding the air and considered climbing back into his room to grab a hoodie, but something moved in the woods and shoved the thought away while he was still wrestling it.

The chill against his cheeks and hands deepened.

A raven flew through shadows beneath dark limbs, weaving around branches, its wings beating furiously, beak snapping at the air in what almost sounded like a child crying. A swarm of dragonflies zipped around the bird. He wanted to look away, to check his surroundings, but he worried that he’d glance to his left and the odd man who’d stopped in earlier would be sitting on a rotten stump, folding shadows with deft hands, smiling because they were alone.

Red’s heart pounded. He glanced around but didn’t see anybody. Better safe than sorry, he thought. His nerves on edge, he crossed the lawn and stopped behind a birch tree, nervous and unsure why, other than that he sensed something in the air as the raven and insects made a circle in that small section of the forest.

The unease inside him worsened as the buzz of dragonfly wings grew louder. They passed and the leaves above him trembled. The insects rammed the raven, all at the same time, hitting it like a giant fist. The bird tumbled in flight and crashed against the earth, its collision vaporizing broken sticks and years of dead leaves. A cloud of dust hung in the air. Red gasped and scooted closer to the birch, careful to peek around it, wanting to watch and yet look away because he’d never seen dragonflies be so aggressive, or act of a uniform mind.

The buzz faded and then grew louder again as they flew off and came back in a sharp arc, all of them intent on making sure the raven was wounded or dead.

The forest hushed.

The bark was chalky and smooth to his touch.

The knees of his pants grew damp.

The dragonflies spun in a circle like a tornado of transparent wings, flying closer and closer until they all touched, merged, and their dimensions lost their individuality, all of their eyes poking out from the whole, looking every which way, casting yellow light over the forest floor until the creature stooped and rummaged through the leaves—its hands composed of many moving parts, the buzz of their wings soft whispers as they shifted around each other to produce grotesquely precise movements.

He held his breath. Sweat formed and stung his eyes. He wanted to wipe it away but he didn’t want to move, didn’t want to be seen by this strange creature hunting its prey.

The thing stood, in the form of a man, holding the damaged raven. One of its wings was clasped tight to its side, the other akimbo, broken, and pointed directly at Red.

The Dragonfly Man ripped the damaged wing free as it chattered and the raven screamed with the voice of a very small child.

Red gripped the birch tighter, wishing he could step from behind it, but he’d been in a situation like this before—when he’d first followed Mr. Blue home at the beginning of last summer and seen Leonora trapped in his shed.

The crow cried again as the dragonflies closed a squirming hand over its throat.

Something snapped like a twig.

The cries died suddenly.

Red looked away, ashamed of himself for it, and frightened too because if the strange creature learned of his presence, so close to the backyard, it could endanger his family. He wished Amy was there. She was smart, could think on her feet. And no matter what anyone else thought, he knew that she was much braver than he could ever be.

He thought, Amy would know the right thing to do.

Red shivered, imagining the Dragonfly Man turning its head slowly, looking right at where he stood and dropping the damaged bird that Red knew wasn’t really a bird, and neither one of them was from here, from this place or this time, and he saw the creature burst toward him in his mind’s eye, felt its hands close over his head and jerk him into the air, up, up, up, carrying him above the trees and toward the sinkhole and the dark water so far below…

He blinked as sweat stung his eyes and he wanted to move but his hands were slippery on the trunk of the tree and he didn’t have any strength in his legs.

Fearing that his mother would check his bedroom and find him missing, and then come outside looking for him, Red found what little strength he could and stepped back slowly, keeping the birch between him and the monster.

Every small twig breaking underfoot sounded like a storm tearing trees apart, but he made it to the edge of the lawn, the trailer right behind him, its shadow cool, chilling the sweat soaking his shirt. He shivered and drew his arms around himself and shook his head.

A whisper blew through the forest like a coming winter wind though fall had just started, and darkness rose from the trees as dragonflies claimed the sky, until the beat of their wings faded, and Red stumbled back hearing the old man scratching on the screen door, whispering with the voice of things lost and ancient.

Lee Thompson started selling fiction in early 2010. His novels include NURSERY RHYMES 4 DEAD CHILDREN (Delirium Books, 2011) and THE DAMPNESS OF MOURNING (Darkfuse Publications, 2012) both small but important parts in his Division mythos. He also has several sexy novellas available and forthcoming from Delirium Books, Thunderstorm Books, and Sideshow Press. He's not a productive writer of short fiction, but has sold to magazines he loves, like Shock Totem, Dark Discoveries, Darkside Digital and Literary Mayhem. You can visit his website but don't be a stalker:

Thank you so much for sharing, Lee!!


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