Re-Imagined: The Red Book

The Red Book focuses on the lives of ten individuals (Miranda, Mitchell, Clint, Elizabeth, Robin,  Simon, Sam, Susie, David and Jake) living in (or originally from) the same Northern American University town.  They all began life as secondary characters created by another author (except Miranda – given someone had to start the chain) and as such, belong to a much larger cast of characters who exist in the periphery of the main narrative arcs, on the fringes of the lives of the ten main characters.

Each author had their reason for choosing the character they pulled from the side and put centre stage. You can read some of the reasons in the blog posts running at the Chinese Whisperings site this week.

What if I had my time again?  Looking at the ensemble of characters – who would I chose to follow? Detective McNally, the police officer investigating the attack of Dr Mitchell Slovosky in Jason Coggin’s Something Mean in the Dream Scene, or Ronnie – Sam’s girlfriend in Jasmine Gallant’s Not Myself. What about Caleb Jones, the dead cleaner in Emma Newman’s Heartache.

No. If I could, I’d take up the siren call of the malevolent entity we christened ‘The CW Fairy’.

We’re introduced to her in Something Mean in the Dream Scene (though she’s a ‘presence’ – never specifically referred to as a ‘she’ by Mitchell) and a version of her is recognised by McNally on the front cover of a book in Slovosky’s office. She appears in Annie Evett’s Kraepelin’s Child as a pissed of female entity which only Brandon can see and is perhaps the ghost of Miranda which Clint sees lingering by the fence in the back alley at the end of the story. She returns as the beligerent entity in Paul Anderson’s One in the Chamber, possessing Kate and badgering P.I. Jake into the darkest recesses of his mind.

What I realised about The CW Fairy, is she attaches herself to men who are on the run. If you think I’m nuts, she actually comes out and accuses Jake of running away!

“She said you’d turn away. Even if you felt her, you wouldn’t believe me, you’d run away. You always do.” (Page 109)

Mitchell, in a way, is escaping his feelings – running from something so deep in his past he doesn’t remember why he’s numb (and no, I don’t believe its just the sleep paralysis robbing of him of his ability to experience and express his true emotions), Jake from his secret past and it is any one’s guess what Brandon and Clint are running from, one in his quest to stay perpetually high and the other for notoriety through violence. We never see what McNally might be on the run from – but as a police officer you could probably take a pick from several dozen gruesome things.

As such I wonder if she is also lingering on the periphery of the stories of Sam (on the run from his past and specifically people smugglers), Robin (on the run from a crime he lied about and the man who covered his lie), Simon (who is briefly avoiding facing up to remembering what made him stop sleeping int he first place) and David who is literarally escaping his old life.

I’d love to look behind these men’s lives through the eyes of the CW fairy and find what is actually there – especially those characters we only catch glimpses of, like McNally.And why she choses one man over another!

I always thought The Red Book was about staying sane in insane places – but looking at it through other eyes, I see characters all trying to escape from something (male and femal). Perhaps that is one of the factors which defines staying sane when the rest of the world goes to shit. Just trying to get the hell out of Dodge.

But at the end of the day, I’m more fascinated with who the CW Fairy originally was. Created out of the aether, or someone trapped in this state… feeding from these men. I have no idea. She still taunts from the outer reaches of comprehension with brief insights and nothing more.

Enough from me though. I tag Dale Challener Roe, author of Not Myself and ask him, who on the sidelines interests him? Given the chance to write now, who would he write? You can read his response: If I Had To It To Do Over Again.

Mercurial

A few years ago I wrote a little story called MERCURIAL. It started off as a [fiction] Friday short, based on a prompt where the main character in the story had become obsessed with something. In my story the MC was self-obsessed.

That story ended up being the very first story penned for CHINESE WHISPERINGS: The Red Book. Writing it out to its natural conclusion set the word limit for the stories – 3500 words. It is a little odd reading MERCURIAL now. My writing has moved on quite a bit since then. But I still have a soft spot for it because of the place it has in CW history.

Today, we begin the roll out of stories and reflections at the official Chinese Whisperings site,  in the lead up to the books’ release on Tuesday 11th October. Here’s a little of MERCURIAL. You can read more about how it came to be here.

***

The alarm went off, sending an agonising wave of pulses through Miranda’s head. She gritted her teeth, fumbling for the snooze button. Seven minutes to decide how the day would progress.When did I finally fall asleep? Had the light been seeping in through the Venetian blinds? Or was that yesterday? The day before?

Easing back from the clock radio, she unclenched her jaw and rolled onto her side, remoulding to the body pillow. Miranda forced beyond the headache, to take stock of the rest of her body. Her arms and legs ached, no better or worse than yesterday, and her bowels felt weak. Nothing new there. She moved her hands with slow, meticulous strokes over her swollen abdomen which had once been washboard flat and hard from daily abuse at the gym, then examined her puffy fingers now devoid of the rings she loved so much. The effort exhausted her.

Pushing through the fog wooing her back into the release of sleep, she reached once more and wrapped her fingers around the small diary on the bedside table. Lying in a haphazard manner on her side and placing the diary on the elongated pillow, Miranda scribbled down the symptoms. There would be more as the day progressed.

Erratic mood swings.

Unusual sweating.

Cold feet.

There had been new additions in the last week—fevers and sore glands. Or had she just failed to notice them before?

This little book was her testament to the truth, not the rambling hallucinations of a hypochondriac. The notes in her shaky script were concrete facts. Even if she was the only one who believed it.

The alarm burst to life again. Miranda moaned, crawling back across the yawning divide, grabbing her mobile and turning the alarm off. Every fibre of her body screamed with the effort to drag her legs over the side of the bed and sit up. The room spun for a moment. She tried to focus on the list of ‘W’ numbers, until she came to work. It only took two rings to connect to the outside world.

“Good morning Eloise.” Her voice weak, rasped, devoid of the ray of sunshine she’d always believed rippled through it.

“Ringing in sick again, Miranda?”

“I’m not feeling so good.”

“Of course you’re not.” Eloise had once been her friend and the sarcasm cut Miranda deeper than the obvious lack of empathy.

She is sitting in my chair. Schmoozing with my boss. Imagining that my job is… her job!

“You will need to ring HR about applying for holidays. You’re all out of sick leave.”

Eloise’s been in my personnel file checking my sick leave?

“But my medical cert…” Her voice fell in on itself and the words were barely audible.

“Take it up with HR. Some of us around here have work to do,” and the line went dead.

It took a while for Miranda to register the strange sound as her own weeping. Every day she detached further from her somatic experience to cope. It didn’t surprise her she failed to recognise her own crying. Last night she’d been completely disorientated when her new neighbour appeared in the dead of night to ask if she was okay. She hadn’t even realised she was upset, much less loud enough to bring him to her front door.

Someone else’s pain. Someone else’s problem. Someone else’s world falling apart.

The doctors ruled out everything after a plethora of tests. She did not have the Epstein-Barr virus, ruling out Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the most obvious diagnosis given her symptoms. She wasn’t suffering from an autoimmune disease or an obscure tropical virus, compliments of the trip to Thailand earlier in the year. According to the tests she was a healthy young woman—who just happened to be wasting away while the world moved on.

Bad patient! Bad Miranda! Bad girl! Bad. Bad. Bad.

The collective agreement on her physical symptoms—psychosomatic in origin. Abandonment and mother issues from childhood causing her to will herself into illness. Self-hatred manifesting as self-punishment creating an imagined illness.

Psychobabble. Bullshit. Talking out of their asses. Not even I hate myself that much.

Chinese Whisperings Book Trailer

Alive and brilliant today – the trailer for The Red Book.

Kudos to Tina Hunter for her hours of work and patience with working with two people who didn’t initially know what they wanted, 10 writers who had different ideas about what they wanted as photographs to represent their work and then getting her head around the various movie programs.

Stellar job Tina… and thank you, very much! May the goosenbumps be with you…