ghost ship docks at dawn
no one boards and no one leaves
sails on in darkness
ghost ship docks at dawn
ghost ship docks at dawn
no one boards and no one leaves
sails on in darkness
A gun, while classic, would be too messy, he thinks as he selects today’s suit and tie.
He considers asphyxiation as he slicks back his hair, but it would be difficult to make it look like an accident.
Stirring sugar into his coffee, he wonders about poison, a possibility though traceable if done incorrectly.
As he picks up his briefcase he toys momentarily with blunt force trauma, but once again that one’s difficult to disguise unless stairs are involved.
“Goodbye, dear,” he says as he kisses his wife on the cheek and heads out the door.
In the car he lights a cigarette, briefly entertaining fire but tossing aside the idea as too grandiose and liable to get out of hand.
The parking garage makes him think of carjacking and he wonders if he could fake a robbery-turned-murder, though it might require some self-harm for believability.
“Hello, darling,” he says as he walks into his office and kisses the handsome young man who waits there.
Poison or strangulation or gunpowder, it doesn’t really matter; he’ll think of the perfect solution in time. After all, he did promise til death do us part.
[ Tanim has loved this song for years. It gives him… ideas. ]
The first time Tanim enters the house he is bombarded by the voices of the dead, so many speaking at once he can’t even determine their number. But it’s what isn’t being said that sends ice crawling down his back. Amid the emotional cacophony of the spirits around him, there is one presence inside the house which does not speak. He cannot see it; he can only sense it like the weight of a storm front looming somewhere in the distance.
The entity never makes itself known during his first session in the house, though Tanim can feel its awareness of him as he moves from room to room. He doesn’t acknowledge it, instead focusing on the other spirits clamoring for his attention. They are a startling range of ages, genders, time periods, and tragedies unlike anything he’s experienced. Yet beneath individual anger, sorrow, and confusion they share one common emotion – terror.
Records show no deaths associated with the property, though Tanim’s heard rumors about a suicide so long ago the details are lost. Why, then, the amassed dead? Tanim digs through archives, basements, attics, local myths and legends, but nothing explains the presence of so many dead. Even the findings of past mediums make no sense; no one seems to have encountered the same spirits twice in the house, and no one else has reported sensing the unknown entity which watched Tanim so closely.
The second time Tanim enters the house, he tunes out the noise of the dead as he passes methodically through each room. Beneath their racket he can still sense the unseen entity, its presence growing in strength as if it laid a trail for him to follow. And perhaps it has; Tanim feels himself pulled ever higher, up to the base of the attic stairs. There are no dead on this floor, which explains their density down below – they’re too afraid of what waits upstairs to venture closer.
Tanim climbs the stairs into a dim, dusty attic. Nothing stirs, yet he knows he’s not alone. The storm front sensation builds until the pressure tightens around Tanim’s chest, making him sink to his knees as he struggles for breath. Then the pressure lifts like the storm breaking and Tanim raises his head to see a man standing before him. He has just enough time to register pale skin and white hair, dark clothing and narrowed black eyes, before the figure vanishes again.
A single word accompanies the vision: Daren.
Tanim retraces every step of his research, yet still can find no physical records of the suicide or even anyone in the town named Daren. It makes no sense; other death records for the area go back to the founding of the town, certainly long before the house existed. Why, then, was this one death never recorded, if not in a newspaper then at least by the medical examiner?
Unless this death was meant to be wiped from the collective memory.
The third time Tanim enters the house, empty rooms and silence greet him. The dead who packed the house like frightened refugees are gone; only the single entity remains like a spider at the center of an empty web. Tanim can feel it waiting as he climbs each staircase and once more enters the attic’s oppressive gloom. Though he longs for the spirit to show itself again, fear makes him hesitate to call it out. He’s encountered entities that feed upon the energy of others before, but never one so powerful it could pull other dead from miles around and trap them in one place. This isn’t a normal haunting and he must tread carefully.
As Tanim takes a step forward, the entity appears. The spirit’s form is that of a young man, possibly Tanim’s age, with an angular face and thin, sardonic lips. It wears black clothing of an indeterminate time period, the color melting into the dark attic so only the figure’s face and hands are entirely visible. Those same hands twitch periodically as if the entity wants to attack Tanim, yet holds itself back.
“You must be hungry,” Tanim finally says as he watches its fingers’ slight spasms. “You’ve drawn everything in the area to you, haven’t you? You’re running out of prey.” The spirit says nothing, but that doesn’t surprise him. This one clearly doesn’t like to talk. “If you remain in this house, your power will eventually dwindle. You’ll become just another shade trapped where it died.” He approaches the entity, pleased when it neither moves nor disappears, only watches him with wary curiosity. “Of course, if you attach yourself to me, you could leave this place and go anywhere. We could find all sorts of things for you to eat.”
The entity seems to consider the offer for a moment. Then a wolfish smile spreads slowly over its face and it closes the distance between them.
Every time Tanim enters a new house, he watches its resident spirits scatter away from his approach; they sense the predator lurking within him, though they can’t know its exact nature. “Have fun, Daren,” he murmurs to the man standing at his side. The entity’s only response is soft, hungry laughter.
Tell me, nameless one, do you long for those distant shores? Did I, in giving you the blood of an ancient race, also etch into your heart the longing of all your people for gray ships and white gulls and silver glass? Is that why you stand at the edge of the waves and gaze out to the horizon? Do you long for a time when you can set aside the burden of your charge and finally pass into the west, leave all this, your past and present, your battles and failures and triumphs, far behind in another age? Is that why you can find no home on this side of the water?
Don’t answer the call of those white shores. Not yet. I promise I will set you free one day. Until then, I still need you beside me on this journey.
Writing Realistic Aces, or: On Listening to Your Characters (March 2015 Carnival of Aces)
[ This is my first submission for Carnival of Aces! Hope I didn’t fuck it up. ]
I have been writing about the same two characters for almost twelve years now. When they first came to me when I was a wee teenager, Tanim and Daren were theoretically heterosexual. I say theoretically because even though they both had girlfriends (HAH!) they were very, very, very good friends. Suspiciously good friends. Like, “major homoerotic subtext” good friends. But I was young and inexperienced as a writer and didn’t really understand that your characters drive the story, not you. You’re just the scribe. So I kept on pushing them at these completely 2-dimensional female characters when they were obviously making googly eyes at each other.
What I learned from this experience is that you can’t tell a character their sexuality, just as you can’t tell a real person their sexuality. They tell you. And what Tanim and Daren told me, in excruciating slowness over years of angst and tragedy and dramatic professions of love, is that they were far from heterosexual. Neither, though, were either of them strictly gay, or even bi. They fell somewhere on a spectrum I wasn’t even aware of at the time (thank you, college Psych 101, for introducing me to asexuality!). For though the connection between Tanim and Daren was definitely romantic*, I knew neither of them would be interested in any other man – or any other person, for that matter. Likewise, though in certain story fragments they did engage in sex, I knew it was something Daren was often repulsed by, and something Tanim participated in for reasons other than physical gratification.
If I had to put my boys on the spectrum, I would say Daren is strictly asexual and aromantic, and most likely sex-repulsed to sex-indifferent depending on the story. Tanim, on the other hand, is possibly gray-asexual or demisexual and homoromantic (though he’s basically doomed to only fall in love with Daren). Tanim’s asexuality is complicated by his fetish, however*. He desires sex not because he’s sexually attracted to other men, or because he has a high libido, but because he craves submission. This leads him to frequently engage in dangerous sexual practices and definitely makes him seem like an allosexual character, but at the end of the day the attraction still isn’t there. So while my characters appear outwardly to be in a sexually active homosexual relationship, the reality is much more complicated. And don’t we all love complex characters?
I’m probably not making much sense. I hope I am. The point is, I didn’t tell these characters they had to be asexual. I didn’t set out thinking, “I want to write about asexual characters, and poof! here they are”. I set out to write about these two characters and they turned out to have been asexual the whole time (much like me, haha). I suppose you could call that accidental diversity, but maybe we need more of that; not diversity for diversity’s sake, but diverse characters for the sake of being true to the characters themselves***.
In short, writing realistic asexual characters is as simple as letting the character be themselves. If they tell you, “I’m asexual but when I meet this other character, I’m going to have sex with them,” then cool! That’s what’s going to happen. If they say, “I’m asexual and all I want is a queer-platonic life partner,” then awesome! That’s what you write. And if they say, “Wait a minute, I’m not asexual, what are you doing?” you listen and let them tell you who they really are. As an ace who thought she would never date and never have sex, but who now finds herself in a sexually active, committed lesbian relationship (that could be considered semi-poly if you count Tanim and Daren in there) let me tell you, life throws curve balls. Asexuals come in all shapes and sizes and flavors and colors. Don’t be afraid if your ace character seems to veer away from the stereotype – chances are, the less stereotyped your character is, the closer to representing real asexuals they are.
*Though their form of romance is rather… unique…
**I am forever grateful to the asexual people who discuss their kinks (especially BDSM) online; you have validated what I thought was possible but didn’t know for sure. Thank you!
***Which could be a great tie-in for what Michelle Rodriguez was saying about creating new POC superheroes instead of just changing the race of currently existing ones, but that’s a discussion for a different time and a different person.