Content below is not PG-13.
Turn On The Light; It’s Dark In Here
Turn On The Light; It’s Dark In Here
by Grinelda Markowitz
First posted as a guest blog to Anthony Beal’s blog August 2012.
When the writing takes a darker turn, things can get interesting. That edginess in storylines which are spawned from darker origins can keep the reader squirming in their seat, white knuckled, and wishing they’d not let the kids out for the evening.
Now, when I refer to dark writing, perhaps my understanding of literature of ombre tone doesn’t conform to academically defined styles, but I do mean shadowy, morbid, violent and with a dollop of the macabre. Let’s explore the gray scale of writing hues. Take, for instance, the following three scenarios:
1. Johnny walked down the street, his well-shaped ass deliciously outlined by his designer jeans. With a sports jacket slung over his shoulder, he whistled a cheery tune accompanied by the twittering of birds in the trees under which he walked. He sauntered care free on an afternoon following a first over-night stay with his latest love interest. As he passed from beneath the shade of the trees and into bright sunlight which marked the spaces between, his sunny blond hair shone. The bright colors of women’s gaily patterned summer dresses were seen everywhere. The occasional flower stand on the other side of the street caught his eye, but traffic prevented his crossing to purchase a bouquet for Charlotte.
2. Johnny strode down the street beneath trees shrouded in shadow as the afternoon sun gradually descended from its zenith. He looked neither left nor right as he continued to his next destination. His blond hair was cropped closely in high-and-tight fashion and his well-muscled thighs strained at the fabric of his pressed and creased jeans. Shifting his sports coat aside briefly to adjust his shirt, a holstered weapon was visible. He scanned both sides of the street with deceptive disinterest. As he turned the next corner, he glanced quickly down the street from which he’d come.
3. Johnny strolled down the deserted street. There were no noises except those of light traffic on the next boulevard over. The late afternoon sun passed behind a cloud as he walked with purpose beneath the trees of the abandoned neighborhood. He paused long enough to wipe the knife in his hand across the leg of his well-worn jeans before sheathing it. The sack he carried in the other hand was stained black at the bottom. He didn’t allow it to touch the pavement as he pushed the blade into his boot. His denim jacket shifted as he stooped, revealing blood stains and tears on the back of his shirt. The muscles of his thick thighs flexed along with those of his ass and were evident through his skin-tight pants as he continued down the street. The tattoo on the back of his bald head was that of Clan Kali.
So, in the above scenarios the reader traipses from Pollyanna sweetness and light to grayer leanings and then to something that is obviously devoid of light. There are more questions to be answered in scenario three. When blood is found anywhere outside of a living organism (when its not a steak cooked rare on your plate), the suggestion of murky dealings is not unlike the elephant in the room standing right in the center which no one sees, except there’s no missing it – the elephant – in writings of darker fiction. One can ignore the elephant and pretend it’s not there, but when reading a story, one wants to know whose blood. Why blood? And, who the hell is Johnny, anyway? See, the interest level intensifies the more the scene is not of the norm, not following comfortably well-traveled avenues. At least in my neighborhood, it’s not the norm for someone to walk down the street, sheath a blade while carrying a bloody sack with blood stains on their shirt. As for the tat, that’s more common place, especially in urban areas where gangs are prevalent.
In the first book of The Kalaydan Chronicles, The Moon-Kissed Chi, the story is erotic and sensual while campy and very tongue-in-cheek throughout its pages. There are shadowy leanings as well. One of the first allusions to trouble in the world of the chi is Bezhyanya’s revulsion to the possibility that Grayt may be Banasheen. Grayt later mentions the death of her parents in the battle between the Banasheen and the Tertaën. The next hint there may be trouble moving in the direction of the City of Kalaydan specifically is a glimpse of a possible future Gayadnae is made to see. This scene is set on a more somber stage and the tones are ominous, brooding, and bordering on morbid. The Banasheen (Fehyratuë) and the Black-Haired Women are at the center of the conflict. Finally, we have one of the accursed women skulking about in the forest unknown to Muntaën and Gayadnae between whom affection and perhaps more is developing.
In the City of Kalaydan, Arrinay and Bezhyanya, the senior members of the ruling family, are faced with the early maturation of their daughter, Gayadnae. She must start the training. It’s Kalaydan law. Their daughter has other ideas. After concocting a plan to avoid responsibility and almost succeeding in carrying it out, Gayadnae’s life takes an unexpected turn.
Grayt, the ever-present serving woman to Arrinay, fills many roles and has her fingers in a number of pies. There’s definitely more to her than is apparent on the surface. Besides coordinating activities in the Main House, keeping the young mistress in line, and talking to horses, Grayt seems to have a more secret mission along with a few more grave responsibilities.
A hint of trouble on the horizon and other darker activities weave their way through the backdrop of this delightful tale of the city of Kalaydan. Buy The Moon-Kissed Chi at Smashwords.com.
The noise of dogs barking in the distance pierced the morning hush. A hunch-backed, old woman, caked in filth and wearing rags, turned in the direction of the sound to listen before moving forward. She wrinkled her nose and tilted her head back , sniffing the air as she did so. The wraith-like shadows of dead and decaying foliage, shrouded in morning mist, drifted around her. She picked her way in the gloom towards a destination of which only she knew. The whisper of hushed voices gradually became louder. Slowly, the mist parted and a cluster of yurts rose to greet her as she drew nearer.
“Bocchae. Come. You are late.”
A man with dark, curly hair drew his cloak tightly about his lanky frame and ducked into the opening of the nearest yurt. Familiar voices reached her acute hearing before the flap to the opening into which he’d disappeared unfurled. She pulled the hide aside when she was close enough and entered. The smell of brewing chai and burning wood greeted her.
“Hands touch, everyone. Bylgue. Phalro.”
She nodded to both of the men who sat behind the brazier which warmed the inside. They were both well built and their hair completely gray. She nodded to the two women who sat on either side of them. Before she sat to the fire she met the curly-haired man in an embrace which spoke volumes in the tense mood which permeated the group. She ran her delicate fingers along a scar which ran from the corner of his left eye to the spot where an earlobe should have been. He returned her embrace with a passion and affection which belied his harshness only moments ago. He took no notice of her appearance.
“I’ll be back in a moment. We should start breaking camp. Bed-Sworn, our bed is cold. You’ve been missed.”
He disengaged from her arms and turned to go but stopped when she replied.
“The scarcity of untainted chi makes it easier to bear. I rarely stopcock these days, my heart.”
He turned and left without a response. Bocchae sat to the fire and warmed her hands. She didn’t move when she heard the tent flap furl shut. She reached into the folds of her clothes and pulled out a pale yellow crystal. After holding it tightly in her hands and squeezing her eyes shut in concentration, her image shimmered and a young woman with straight, brown hair and light-brown eyes emerged in her place.
“Sandrae, Troot; I’m glad you’re back safely from scouting.”
“Our hearts grew lighter when Nealtha first sensed your return to us. Hands touch sweet sister.” Troot made the gesture of greeting then turned to Phalro on the right.
“What news have you,” Phalro asked.
“The Black-Haired Women have filled the woods, completely surrounding Kalaydan City. Many of the people remaining in the city proper are under thrall to the Fehyratüe and more fall each day to their control. It has become very difficult to get the few remaining, untouched Kalaydans out of the city and to safe haven, but the resistance presses on.”
After throwing a few dried pods into the brazier, Sandrae poured a cup of chai and passed it to Bocchae. Her brown hair was cropped close except on the top where it was spiked. Her strong hands bore signs of a warrior’s use. The smell of sweet spices filled the dwelling.
“It is becoming harder and harder to use chi. The Women have been working their magick and its resulting poison has made the chi blacken and withdraw from the surface. I’ve had to forage and consume food more frequently with each coming day. Speaking of which, I’m hungry.”
“This is all we have for now.” Troot passed her a small pouch.
“Thank you, Troot,” she said. “You know, I saw old Cook and his wife. They are favored by the Fehyratüe. Because they weren’t ones to use chi, thus fat, they have become a Banasheen delicacy.”
“There’s a reason why the chi is so much a part of our existence and the environment. I have always believed it against nature to not use it,” Bylgue said. “What other information did you gather?”
“The Faerhën are holding ground in shielding the Daichi as best they can. Muntaën does what he can without access to the Chamber. The corp of Matrons from the four cities surround him to provide filter as best they can, but he’s unfiltered more than not when he’s able to connect to the Daichi. He is blacker than the eyes of the Black-Haired Women and his hair has gone completely silver. He’s the first man to attain so complete a connection with the Daichi. He cannot fight the combined poison of the Banasheen and the women much longer. It invades the Daichi more deeply each day. His use of pawpi juice has gone beyond alarming. He chews the seeds directly from the pods and his pawpi juice chai is only pawpi pulp and mead.”
“I fear it’s inevitable we will lose him. His Faerhën blood stands him well but it doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. Not even the Great Bezhyanya could have lasted so long,” Bylgue said. He whispered the befay kayla as he reached into his pocket. After a few seconds, he withdrew a scarred hand and gave her a few pieces of dried firetree fruit.
“Thank you. These will warm me through.”
She nibbled on the fruit for a minute, then continued.
“Some say it’s Muntaën’s love of my sister which has kept him going this long. When she was killed by the accursed women, he no longer wanted to live. While she lived he still held hope to be her Bed-Sworn. He seems to seek self destruction now in every contact with the Daichi.”
The sounds of others stirring beyond the yurt were heard. While the group sat in silence with only the crackle of the brazier to break the silence, Nealtha returned and filled in the space between Bocchae and Sandrae.
“Your blades, Bed-Sworn.”
“Thank you. Am I still unforgiven?” She asked after accepting the hide wrapped parcel he handed to her.
“Let’s speak of it, Bocchae, when we are alone.”
The stark silence inside continued in contrast to the hushed noises outside. Each person in the small group sank deeper into thoughts which were mirrored darkly on their faces. Suddenly, Bocchae slammed her empty cup to the ground and swore.
About Grinelda Markowitz:
Grinelda Markowitz resides in a galaxy far, far away with a trusty pen, a never-ending supply of paper, and a fertile imagination.
I will give away one copy of The Moon-Kissed Chi (Amazon.com version) by random drawing. Please comment in a reply to this post with your email address to enter.