Crossroads refers, literally and poetically, to the place where at least two roads (paths, destinies, or decisions) meet. For over 15 years, all of my blogs have been on writing, the craft, publishing, and the writing business. I’ve also posted a lot on basically how to handle this thing called LIFE when one is called to talk to their imaginary friends for a living.
I’ve never posted any of my fiction as a blog post. But, in the spirit (no pun intended) of Halloween and to celebrate my book release—TOMORROW—we, too, shall pause at a spot where more than one path converges.
Instead of Kristen Lamb the teacher, today, is Kristen Lamb the storyteller.
And I promise to stop referring to myself in the third person…for now.
This is the opening section of the story that kicks off a horror/noir anthology I’ve created with the wonderful and talented Troy Lambert. The similar last names are merely happy coincidence, as well as our similar writing styles.
Before anyone freaks out over the idea of “horror,” our anthology–What the Hell Did I Just Read? Volume One—is written in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock, Black Mirror, and The Twilight Zone, not slasher horror.
No chainsaws…so far.
Thank you for taking a moment to read MY fiction for a change, though I always enjoy reading works from YOU guys (finishing edits actually).
The ebook is only $4 so help a fellow writer out. Even if you don’t like scary stuff, feel free to buy for the weirdo(s) in your life who does.
Without further ado….
The boy was the product of a traveling bible salesman who’d fallen in love with a prostitute. Story was his mama’d run away from New Orleans still covered in bruises from her last beating, a beating so bad she’d swallowed two previously loosened molars.
Hitchhiked as close as she could get to Houma before the pig farmer who’d offered her a ride panicked when she’d started talkin’ to people that wadn’t there.
Didn’t wanna get mixed up in whatever trouble the crazy woman was in, injured or not. Forced her out onto the weed-choked shoulder of a country highway before speeding off, her cheap high heels forgotten in the floorboard of his truck.
That particular July day was hotter than any she could recall. The road shimmered with heat that reflected down from a cataract white bowl of sky. Heat piled on heat piled on more heat.
She didn’t dare walk in the tree line for fear of missing her chance to hitch another ride.
Plenty of cars passed, but no one stopped.
So, she’d walked. Walked until she’d heard voices again, only those voices was different from the ones she normally heard. Nice voices. Sweet and kind. Voices she thought was angels calling specifically for her.
Who’s that young girl dressed in red?
She stopped short and gaped down at her threadbare party dress that reeked of old cigarettes and sadness. Absently, she fingered one of the few glorious glass beads that still clung to the ragged bodice. The baubles snatched up sunbeams then shattered them into crimson sparks. Her dress had once been so beautiful. So had she.
Must be the children that Moses led.
More singing. She shook her head hard, but the voices remained. Either she’d gone fully crazy or was dyin’. Perhaps both, only now she didn’t care.
Wade in the water. God’s gonna trouble the water.
The music intensified, a riot of notes lifting over the treetops like birds taking flight. The song drew her into the cool shadows, into the piney woods which she figured was a better place to die anyway.
Better to die on a soft bed of pine needles than on the gravel shoulder of a highway to nowhere. She walked as far as her legs would carry her; walked until she collapsed in the doorway of a roadside tent meeting.
She went looking for Jesus and instead found a husband, the handsome salesman who rushed her to the closest hospital.
Annalise Curbow was her name. Curbow, originally Corbeau, was derived from the Old French word corb, which meant crow. The boy always found it interesting that a group of crows was called a “murder.”
They were also known for mating for life, but his mama hadn’t been that kind of bird and migrated far from their home near Shreveport two years after he was born. Left him in a Piggly Wiggly. Told the clerk she’d forgotten her purse in the car, asked if the clerk could hold him, then never returned. Left the boy, the old Pontiac and a hastily scribbled note with only two words.
This, however, was one thing the boy’s father could not do. His father insisted it had been the voices that had done it. The bad ones had returned and she drew her demons away, keeping the boy safe. She hadn’t left them, she’d saved them.
And for a long time, the boy believed him.
This was all the boy knew of his mama, other than his daddy would never give up trying to find her, propelled by a vision he’d received after a fast so long it nearly took his old man’s life before it gave him a word.
Forty days with only water. Madness. Yet there, at the edge of death, on the shoulder of the glory road, God gave him his answer. His beloved Annalise, wife and mother, would not be found in the world of men, only in the wilderness.
And they’d been wandering there ever since.
His daddy was good at hearing when he was called and following without question. He’d once been a top bible scholar, expert in the Old Testament and ancient languages, a distinguished man who’d walked away from a stack of teaching offers. He’d been called to minister to addicts and ex-cons, then to sell bibles, then to marry a hooker, and finally called to the wilderness to find her.
Leave it all behind in search of a promise. No longer a salesman, he became part father, part missionary, and part something dangerous.
His daddy had taught him how to read using an ancient King James Bible–one with all eighty books–in a one-room trailer on the edge of a swamp. They lived a few miles from a collection of buildings too small to be properly called a town, but still they’d named it anyway. The town was populated with a strange mix of those folks searching and those folks praying never to be found.
They’d fit right in.
He’d never gone to a regular school. By the time the boy was ten, he could read and write Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. No matter how much the boy protested, his old man insisted one could only properly grasp God’s word by going back to the original texts to the original languages used by the authors.
It wasn’t all bad. His daddy also taught him more practical languages. Taught him French and Creole, since they often left the trailer and the not-quite-a-town and drifted off the map completely to dangerous places only good for hiding. Places with their own culture, residents unable to understand English, and probably unaware it was the unofficial national language of the country they lived in. Most of the time, they spoke in the dirty bayou patois like those around them.
The boy and his father would haul dry goods, sweets, and textiles out to isolated pockets of filthy people in homes accessible only by boat. They’d be half-devoured by insects by the time they tied up to docks banked by cypress and guarded by gators. Homes on stilts rose like specters out of the swamps, wood buckled with moisture, the air saturated with briny sulfurous rot that clung to their clothes and invaded their pores.
They’d dine on whatever unlucky critter made it into the pot—possum, nutria, snapping turtle, alligator gar, snake, or all the above. Supper likely consisted of some crawling creeping thing forbidden in Leviticus.
Not quite locusts and wild honey, but close enough. Had the boy known any other life he might’ve preferred to starve, but he hadn’t. He’d scarf down whatever meager meal was offered then go outside to play with children who toted shotguns and wore machetes slung across their backs.
His daddy might have formally been an expert in The Old Testament, but the old man read Revelations so much the sturdy linen pages were clean worn through in spots. His daddy was certain End Times were coming and soon.
Had seen plenty of signs when helping with missions in the big cities, witnessed first-hand humanity’s spiral into the darkest sorts of depravity. Dealt with more than a few dealers, pimps, and conmen. Though his father preferred peace, he was not entirely opposed to violence and had the scars to prove it.
He wanted the boy to be prepared for whatever came, because he knew something was coming. Insisted the boy know how to survive because civilization balanced on a matchstick. The boy eventually dismissed most of what his old man said, thought them the rambling thoughts of a brain par-broiled in the bayou heat.
Alas, when the boy turned twelve everything changed.
It happened shortly after his daddy dunked him in the shallows of Caddo Lake. Baptism. He’d broken the dirty water’s surface feeling much the same, save for being covered in mud and insect bites. There was no lighting of a white-winged dove, no sudden parting of the clouds, no grand transformation.
But after that, his daddy looked at him differently, began taking him even deeper into the darkness than he believed possible. Told him it was time to let go of childish things.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
His daddy finally was willing to take him beyond the boundaries set by innocence, places where spirits held more sway than Jesus. Dark disregarded realms of superstition and ghosts.
At first, the boy silently mocked these people with homes covered in bones and chalked symbols. He had no idea why his daddy would plunge this far into a place even God seemed to have forgotten. Began to wonder if God existed even though his old man heard God, talked to Him all the time, and saw Him everywhere.
But the boy did not.
All he saw was another day roasting in his boots and getting eaten alive by mosquitos big as birds. Another day in search of a sign that had not come in the twelve years since the promise was made to his father, and he was angry. They’d obeyed God and gone into the wilderness to find his mama.
Instead, they found…her.
TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS (at least as of tomorrow, October 24th)….
Grab a copy, HERE!
According to a study I just made up, “science” demonstrates people who buy and read Kristen’s books are 100% more good-looking and unusually witty and charming.
“Normal Posts” RESUME WEDNESDAY!
Thank you for indulging me, and I hope, if y’all ARE standing at the crossroads of whether or not you need another book? Yes…yes you doooooo.
Feel free to leave a comment if you like the story (so far). If you don’t like it? Don’t you need to organize something?
With NaNoWriMo looming in the near future, we’ll probably be talking tactics on how to prepare to actually write 50K in a month. For the record, when you write for a living, every month is NaNoWriMo, so it’s awesome practice.
I LOVE COMMENTS!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat.
I actually have landed agents for people who’ve won this contest. Agents like me because I make their lives easier.
If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice.
What do you win?
The unvarnished truth from yours truly (and maybe even time with an agent).
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). People with superlative writing, I (with your permission) have been known to pass you onto an agent.
Anyway, I look forward to reading your comments and your writing!