Saturday, April 13, 2013

I: music for a character in a dark place

Because (despite my son's assurance that our house is "quiet, too quiet") my house is full of the sounds of Minecraft mood music, cats knocking porcelain things from high shelves, imaginary light saber battles, etc., I find that I often have to plug up my ears with music that will inspire writing rather than interfere with it. In a perfect world, I'd write in perfect silence, but as it is, I find one song that helps me to picture a scene or feel a mood, and I play it over and over until it becomes a suggestive silence of its own.

Andrew Byrd is perfect for that sort of thing, and his song I was a go to for me while working on sync in November. I was the song that helped me to experience my protagonist's sense of isolation and fear in his most trying moments.

In this scene, Charlie's been dropped into the House of Darkness, the Sumerian afterlife:

If Charlie had feared the consequences of such a long fall – he could not see a bottom to the pit – his fears were soon replaced with fears of a different sort. Around him, he heard the rustle of wings flapping against the blackness, and he felt a presence nearby that he couldn't see. In the next moment, his arms were seized by what felt like talons, biting into his flesh. Something large had captured him and was pulling him through the air, in what direction Charlie couldn't tell.

At some distance, Charlie could see a faint flickering of reddish hued lights, and a shiver went through him. He was approaching the House of Darkness. His eyes had somewhat adjusted to the gloom, and the trickle of light afforded him a view of the creature that had captured him. He looked up and saw that he was in the claws of a beast with the body of a lion and the filthy wings of some giant bird. The face, though, brought a cold chill to Charlie’s heart. It was the face of a man with glowing eyes and the sharp teeth of a vampire. The creature was intent on whatever path it was on and ignored Charlie, and Charlie was glad of it.

The lights of the House of Darkness did not grow brighter as they neared, but they did grow. As the assembly of the gods had been built of a white marble that seemed to stretch in all directions, the House of Darkness must have been built of infinitely dark matter. Though Charlie sensed a structure, it was invisible in the darkness. He felt the floor when the creature dropped him, but he couldn't see it, and so he seemed to walk through nothingness, and his body jerked repeatedly, instinctively, to catch him from falling.

Amber flames flickered here and there, and Charlie, drawing near to one, saw that there were souls or demons, he wasn’t sure which, trapped in these, gnashing their teeth at him when he came too close. He backed away towards what felt like the center of the space and continued walking through the great room of the house. He wasn’t sure where he was going, but he continued moving forward.

He wasn’t alone in the House of Darkness. He heard moans and whimpers, whispers and groans around him, and when he strained his eyes against the darkness, he vaguely saw the shapes of men and women who were covered in matted, gray feathers, some sitting, some lying prone, some pulling up clumps of dirt and shoving it towards their mouths ravenously, some scurrying about carrying baskets and earthenware bowls in the pitch blackness. He could make out hills and mountains rising in the murk, and upon close inspection, he saw that these were built from the relics of the inhabitants of the House of Darkness. One mountain was made entirely of crowns: gold, silver, platinum, tarnished, encrusted with jewels that did not sparkle or glitter in the darkness of the underworld, whose royal lights had been dimmed. Here, all men were the same, thought Charlie. No wonder Gilgamesh went in search of immortality.

Ahead, Charlie saw a conflagration of the amber orbs that cast just enough dim light to allow him to make out the rising of a great throne.

“This must be the place,” he said aloud, just to hear his own voice. In the utter darkness, he had begun to get the sense that somehow he didn’t exist. He felt bodiless, and therefore voiceless, and he wanted to reassure himself that such was not the case. It was an entirely different sensation than what he'd felt on the mountaintop. Then, that bodilessness had made him feel a part of all things, now it made him feel a part of no thing.

He drew near to the throne, which was constructed of an array of bones faintly glimmering with a golden hue under the orbs, and he could see the figure of a woman seated upon it. She had wings that grew from her back, enormous and black and widespread like a vulture sunning itself in the early morning. She wore a crown of gold-tinted bones tangled in her mass of black hair, and her feet were the feet of a great bird with long, pointed talons. Sitting at her feet, her legs crossed, was another woman who held a tablet of gleaming black stone and read from it to the Queen of the Netherworld.

The two raised their heads in unison when they saw Charlie approach, examining him the way that he had seen his mother examine cuts of meat at the grocery store.

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