Not A Horror Novel This Time
by Kristoffer Gair
“You do psycho a little too well.”
I laughed out loud when I read that comment from Martha Davis in her e-mail to me. She’s just finished reading Chapter 18 of Falling Awake III: Requiem and decided to drop me a little note. There’d been chapters of buildup, and when it finally came to this one, I felt unleashed. The crap had to hit the proverbial fan in a big, big way. Writing the main characters (Daniel, Tam, and Alex) meant keeping true to their personalities as they fit in with each other and their families, plus their inability beyond gut feelings to know what they were up against. But when the bad guys make an appearance? All bets were off.
I wrote a couple of villains in the comedy, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell (under my old pseudonym, Kage Alan), and they were borderline stock characters because that’s what the story called for. The focus wasn’t on them. It was on the heroes. The same could be said in the Falling Awake novella. We didn’t get to know the antagonists then other than they were mentioned in passing. That seemed enough for the story. Then came Falling Awake II: Revenant.
Instead of picking up where the novella left off, I decided we needed to take a little trip backwards in order to see just what Daniel, Tam, Alex, Larenz, and Amanda were truly up against. It’s easy to say characters are bad or evil. You’d have to take my word for it, though, right? Not much of an impact, is it? But if I show you the horrors these characters inflict, and also that they’ll never stop? That’s a whole different matter. It’s this sharing of our antagonists that turned Revenant into a horror novel. I never meant to. I didn’t set out to. The story turned out that way organically.
The character of Andrew in Revenant lived a nightmare. I wrote that nightmare. Readers consumed alcohol after reading this nightmare.
There is such a thing as overdoing it, though. I didn’t want to approach Falling Awake III: Requiem as a continuation of a nightmare. Yes, there are some horrible things that happen, but we now already know what could happen because of the previous book. Will it happen again? Will things go in a different direction? That’s the suspense of it. Do I need to duplicate the second book with a horror show at the end? No. The third book can be its own entity. Yes, all three books are completely connected, but each is unique and different from the others.
I once joked that the second book was my Empire Strikes Back. If so, and I’m about to jump franchises here, then this is my Search For Spock. You have the characters you’ve grown to care about, there’s loss, there’s a little adventure, a little humor, a little philosophy, and an ending that gives us a taste of what we’ve been searching for all along: hope.
Incidentally, Martha Davis e-mailed me again after she finished reading Falling Awake III: Requiem. She said, “You do love better than psycho (thank god!).”
They targeted him before he was ever born. They will hunt him. They will execute anyone around him. They will rip his innocence away, corrupt him, and twist him into an instrument of terror. He will give the world reason to fear, fear the unknown, and he will do this lifetime after lifetime after lifetime.
Except this time, Daniel Davis hasn’t come back alone.
Four souls have returned with him, would-be protectors who’ve vowed to shield him from this fate. If they succeed, Daniel will turn what is into what can be. And if they fail, his light will dim and fade…forever.
Available at: Amazon
An Excerpt from Requiem
“It’s okay, baby. It’s okay.” Amanda grabbed a blanket from the inside of the vehicle and wrapped it around Daniel, then took a clean cloth and held it up to his chin. He’d need stitches and there’d be one hell of a scar. “Look at me.” He did, still shaking.
She’d almost been a moment too late. A second of hesitation and he’d be dead. What did the intruder want? What had he been looking for? And why did he scream what he did at Daniel?
Let me see your eyes. It’s in there, isn’t it? Deep down you can feel it.
The intruder’s words. Why the eyes? What was in them? What had he looked for? And why would Daniel feel it? Why did all of this feel so familiar to her? She knew the answers somewhere in the back of her memory, just out of reach. Why couldn’t she remember?
You can’t hide from us! We’ll find you again and again and again!
This had happened before. It happened now. It would happen again. Unless…
She studied the young boy’s face, the remains of a kind of innocence now lost and something new dawning. He’d never be the same again. Ever. Nobody prepared him for this. Not this young. How did one recover? With time? Without his mother or father?
Daniel began sobbing anew, as if reading her mind about his parents, whom she was sure he already missed.
“You’re—” Her voice cracked and she struggled not to break down in front of him. He didn’t need that. He needed strength. “You’re safe, baby. You’re safe now, Daniel.”
He stared into her eyes now. Was he searching for truth, or to see the depths of her own demons compared to his?
She met his gaze with her own and peered into his eyes. Blue. The blue eyes she’d seen in her recent dreams when he’d appeared much older. Still there, but… She felt her head tilt to the side as she searched even deeper. Beyond the blue. Something else. Something new. Foreign. Fear? No. Fear was on the outside, on the surface, but below the fear in a place he couldn’t feel or know existed inside himself? Shadows. Something that didn’t belong. A blackness, a blackness that swirled around in its infancy, as if waking.
The intruder is responsible for this. He woke this thing.
The blackness stopped moving for a moment. Did it sense her? She stared at it and some part of it intuitively stared back at her. The blackness knew her. They were old acquaintances. And if the thing, this entity or presence…whatever the hell it was…could have sneered at her, she knew it would have.
Have you ever heard a child scream as if their soul was being ripped apart at the seams? Like there’s no safe place in Heaven, Earth, or in-between that’s safe.
Where did these words come from? When did she say them? Part of her understood she never had, and yet another part, the part far back in her mind, knew she had. But when? How could that even be possible? Amanda also understood Daniel’s soul was infected and this thing inside him would take great joy in ripping him apart.
“You’re safe now, Daniel,” she repeated, mostly to reassure herself, only she knew deep down it wasn’t true.
The darkness in Daniel’s eyes began its dance anew.
…it’s going to eat him from the inside out.
Her words again? When did she say this?
“You’re not going to get him,” she muttered.
The darkness found an opening and began to disappear behind Daniel’s eyes, hiding beyond the physical, beyond reach. Beyond her reach.
He’s already ours.
Daniel began to shake.
About Kristoffer Gair
Kristoffer Gair grew up in Fraser, MI and is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He is the author of 7 novels—some written under the pseudonym Kage Alan—been a part of 6 anthologies, and currently lives in a suburb of Detroit.