As a form of self-expression, writing is naturally a therapeutic medium, in much the same way recovering alcoholics might be encouraged to take up art to help them work through their issues. Writing, by its very nature, helps get whatever is in the mind, potentially eating away at the psyche, out onto the page, where it can be dealt with, even if how it is addressed ends up being a purely “fictional” exercise.
“A problem shared is a problem halved,” as the old saying goes, and while writing is typically a solitary art, the sheer act of putting one’s thoughts down on paper can go a long way to limiting some of the potential emotional turmoil in our lives. This is often the reason why people keep journals of their everyday events, as it helps them process and deal with whatever might be frustrating them.
Of course, a writer generally does not actively sit down to write about their problems, but anything that is eating them up inside may find itself expressed in words, even if the issue itself is deep-rooted and not even recognised by the author. Likewise, people who keep diaries often don’t take up the pen as a form of therapy, but the end result can be extremely therapeutic.
An author has a distinct advantage when dealing with characters in a book, because he or she can live the characters’ lives vicariously, experiencing their ups and downs while still being able to step away at the end of the day and not become so emotionally attached that it becomes a problem (though obviously this differs from author to author). This allows an author to gain insight into a potentially harrowing experience without having to go through it directly, while those authors who have had painful experiences can begin or speed up the healing process by addressing the issues in what is, or at least feels like, a safer environment: the realm of fiction.
The same can be said for readers, as they equally get to experience the lives of others from a safe distance. They might be able to feel the love, anger, joy, hurt, or pain of a character, which can tap into their own empathy, or perhaps their own issues, and yet they can close the book and step away from that world, giving a kind of safety mechanism for working through problems.
We like to think of people as having one personality, but the reality is often much different. Who we are to our spouse is very different to who we are to our boss, our friends, or our kids. We act differently to a parent than we do to a peer, sharing a different facet of our personality. In many ways the characters of a novel could be seen to be the many facets of an author’s personality, or at least how the author views certain people or issues, as a character in a book can never be crafted without it coming through the prism of the author’s mind. Thus each character and what they go through can give greater insight into an issue, or perhaps work through it on a subtler, perhaps subconscious, level.
I will finish with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, which helps highlight not only the multi-faceted nature of authors, but of human beings in general, and how the written word is such a powerful way to actively engage with, communicate with, and showcase these aspects, that they might, in some manner, be addressed.
“Writers aren’t exactly people … they’re a whole bunch of people trying to be one person.”
THE DYING BREATH. THE DYING WILL. THE DYING HOPE.
After the catastrophe of the Call of Agon, Ifferon and his companions find themselves in the unenviable situation of witnessing, and partaking in, the death of another god—this time Corrias, the ruler of the Overworld.
With Corrias locked inside the corpse of the boy Théos, he suffers a fate worse than the bonds of the Beast Agon. Yet hope is kindled when the company find a way to restore the boy, and possibly the god, back to life.
The road to rebirth has many pitfalls, and there are some who consider such meddling with the afterlife a grave risk. The prize might be life anew—but the price might also be a second death.
The intellectual prowess of Artemisia overwhelmed and excited the young poet, whose engrossment with the workings of her mind was such, that any enquiry as to her domestic arrangements was overlooked.
It is true to say however, that during their parting hours he did wonder about her private life. But whenever the two met, these curiosities were often superseded by matters more engaging and fascinating. For, her beauty was matched by an incisive and far reaching mind. That would often wax lyrically on a multifarious range of topics, rendering the absorbed young man helpless to enquire over more mundane matters.
As in the case of all developed intellects, an inquisitive nature was handed to Artemisia from an early age, setting in motion a life time appetite for knowledge. Amongst her many virtues, was that of a linguist, which meant that she was able to communicate with David in his native language.
And so it seemed that life had only just started when this pair met. Therefore it was of no great surprise to learn, notwithstanding the immeasurable anguish generated, that she was in fact already married.
The Contessa de Luce resided with her substantially older husband, the Count Giacomo de Luce in the opulent confines of Palazzo del Oro. The couple met in Venice, Artemisia’s birth place, five years prior to her encounter with David. It was at one of the lavish balls, hosted by the Doge, that the sixty year old count met his wife, Artemisia, who cut a fine and graceful figure as she danced sinuously around the grand Venetian ballroom.
Instantly struck by her beauty and carriage, the count assumed her to be from a grand family, which was very much not the case, for this exemplary figure of refinement was in reality, a courtesan.
A fact well obscured by a personality that combined gentility and restraint, the later trait being quite unfounded in a typical coquettish concubine. Therefore it was not due to naiveté that had led the Count de Luce to believe otherwise. It was this innate aura of elegance Artemisia exuded, that belied any hint of the licentiousness, invariably connected to this most ancient of professions.
It was through a distant aunt, that she had been introduced to this work early in her years. Therefore as an adolescent, Artemisia met with her destiny in a house famed for its training of young women.
The House is an adult fairy tale rich in mystery and intrigue.
Here is a tale of a woman so absorbed with historical novels that her own reality ceases to offer any hope of romance and beauty.
Until one day this dreamy idealist finds herself in a mysterious forest. How she arrived there is unknown. Soon she encounters a dilapidated house, within whose ancient walls magical rooms that transport to parallel worlds lie in wait. There she is transmigrated to 18th century England, where our heroine interacts with an odd mix of characters whose dysfunctional lives become immediately apparent.
Her first tribulation involves a nefarious lord, an archetype of the monstrous characters one encounters in fairy tales. The ramification from this confrontation sets the tone for the narrative.
A magic portal finally enables escape from the austere Georgian dwelling. She is then spirited back to the enigmatic house, and a journey to Regency London follows, where a large cast of eccentric identities present themselves.
Late one night, following a long stay in Florence, a young, heart-broken poet arrives. His introduction to the beautiful time traveller offers promise of restoration and love. But there are several more obstacles ahead before her destiny in this curious adventure is made apparent.
In the end an unexpected twist is revealed. But like all good fairy tales, this surprising conclusion is pleasing, even though the means of getting there are dark, and at times sinister.
Breakfast was a mash of overly bright post-dawn light and harsh jarring sounds. He’d choked back some dry white toast, using black coffee syrupy with sugar as a chaser. After he kept that down, he brushed his teeth twice before leaving the house, jacket slung over his shoulder. He was already sweating through his shirt by the time he almost made his bus, watching it pull away from the stop as he rounded the corner.
The driver of the next bus was a man sitting proud behind the wheel, stamping with binary control at the gas and brake pedals, lurching and cursing his way through the crowded morning streets with nausea inducing irregularity. The only blessing was that no one wanted to sit next to him — even Val could smell the Bacardi sweating through his skin.
He spent his time before his meeting surfing the Internet and drinking bad coffee and stale water. He avoided his co-workers, taking refuge in his cubicle. The office hummed with the gentle background of cloistered productivity, phones and conversations overlaying each other into white noise. All except Werner in the cube next to him; that man shouted into his phone like he was trying to raise the dead. Maybe he was — he worked the marketing angle of the project they were on.
By the time he had his meeting with Davies, the shaking in his hands had stopped, the world returning to normal levels of brightness and colour. He was still sweating through his shirt.
“Sit, Val.” Davies’ tailored suits were a thing of office legend, fitting a frame that spent a lot of time eating healthy food and doing whatever it was they did down at Gold’s Gym. He stood behind a baroque desk, a screen, keyboard, mouse, and cellphone laid out just so.
Val’s personnel file was open on the desk too, a couple pages marked with cheerfully coloured Post-its. A gold pen, Cross brand embossed on the clip, sat ready on a legal pad.
No notes, yet.
Val shut the office door behind him and settled into a chair designed for thinner men. “Hey, Pete. Look —”
“Hear me out, Val. It’s not what you think.” Davies shuffled a few of the pages of the file, as if he hadn’t already read each page twice. “You’ve been with the company a while.”
That was a bit unexpected. “Uh, sure. Since —”
Davies held up a hand. “Almost five years. Done some good work for us. Really saved our asses in that coding war with Unisys.” He chuckled to himself, as if it was some beachhead victory they were remembering together. “Top performer three years in a row.”
Val shifted a bit. The padding on the chair was worn thin, and he felt like was sitting on raw plywood with sackcloth nailed over the top. “…Right.”
“There’s not really a delicate way of talking about this.” A smile that was more a grimace sat on Davies’ face. “Since Rebekah passed, well, we’ve noticed some changes.” Davies looked at Val’s gut, then picked up the Cross, tapping it on a paragraph in the file. “Fact is, we still need you.” The clock on the wall ticked by a few more seconds, the sounds of the city outside the open windows gentle. “But we need the old you. You’re a wreck —”
“Hey Pete, c’mon. I crank out the code like you need. I’m the first guy to punch in every morning…”
“And the first guy to hit the Blues at lunch. After lunch, you’re back at your desk, but you’re thinking about your next drink. When was the last night you didn’t knock back even just a few?”
“Everyone has a pint after work, Pete. Be serious. We work in computers. And our clients are assholes.” Val tried for some easy camaraderie. “Who wouldn’t drink on a government contract?”
“It’s not like we work in the ER, Val. And if it was the work that was the problem, we could fix that. You work in a team of what, ten guys?”
“Yeah, and they come down for a beer at lunch too!”
“They don’t all go down. With you.” Davies examined a perfectly manicured nail. “At the same time. Fact is, they’re going down to make sure you’re ok. A few of the guys — and I’m not naming names, it’s confidential — are worried about you. They said they want to keep an eye on you. They’ve come to see me, to ask me to … intercede.”
He grabbed a sheet from the file — this one suspiciously laid out in corporate style — and spun it on the old wooden surface towards Val. “It’s a leave form, Val. It’s on the house. But it’s got conditions.”
Val didn’t lean forward to look at the form. “You’re getting rid of me. Gardening leave. I don’t know if I should be flattered or pissed off.”
Davies tapped the paper again. “Maybe you should just be… Well. I think we both know ‘happy’ is a bit of a stretch, considering. Get your house in order. Drive up the coast. See some friends.” He paused, as if the idea had just occurred to him. “Get some help, Val. See someone.”
Val reached forward to get the sheet, seeing his hand shaking with either anger or the memory of the hangover. Maybe a heavy salting of both. The form was straightforward — a month of leave, but with a small catch.
“The company wants some return, of course.” Davies looked down in carefully constructed abashment. “We want the old Valentine Everard back. We want you a productive member of the family again. We’re going to … invest, shall we say … a few weeks. What’s a few weeks? That’s on us.” Nodding, Davies replaced his expression, looking Valentine right in the eye with an affable smile. It was like watching a super marionette, as if all those management courses had taught him which emotions to try and fake, and when. “But you’ve got to do your share. A part of the bargain.”
It was there in black and white. They’d even helpfully supplied a phone number and a website — probably one of the narcissists in HR. Those fuckers thought of everything with their saccharine sincerity. They wanted him in an alcoholics group of some kind.
“If I don’t sign?”
Davies swapped the grandfatherly smile for a look of grandfatherly reproach. “Well Val, then things might have to get formalised. You know how it is.” As if it was out of his hands. Just one of the boys, Val and him in this thing together. “But we — well. I don’t want it to get formalised.” He handed the Cross to Val.
After he’d signed — like there’d been a choice — he walked out to collect his jacket. He felt as if the entire office watched his walk from Davies’ office to his cube, the air heavy with the silence of funerals. The hessian partitions were covered with the same old crap, charts jostling for supremacy next to Dilbert cartoons. The odd slice of fake humanity was shown with photos printed in cheap colour on the office laser — corporate functions, team building. Outside his own cube, he saw a photo of himself peeking out from under layers of project charts and productivity estimates. It was like growth rings on a tree, those layers — the closer to the heartwood of the hessian backing, the older they were.
He remembered that shot, pulling it out. The photo showed him sprawled on the ground, the thick rope for tug-o-war draped over him and his team buddies. He’d been thinner then, the grin cracking his face one of delight.
It was probably about the time when Rebekah had first told him she was pregnant.
Valentine’s an ordinary guy with ordinary problems. His boss is an asshole. He’s an alcoholic. And he’s getting that middle age spread just a bit too early. One night — the one night he can’t remember — changes everything. What happened at the popular downtown bar, The Elephant Blues? Why is Biomne, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, so interested in him — and the virus he carries? How is he getting stronger, faster, and more fit? And what’s the connection between Valentine and the criminally insane Russian, Volk?
Carl began to tell the story of his life after he discovered his powers. He first started experiencing strange occurrences during the summer of 1982. What he described was similar to what Neil had experienced in the first couple days that his ability manifested itself. He talked about objects falling over as he was reaching for them, things being thrown about his room after waking up from a nightmare, and breaking things when he was angry. He was 22 at the time, and still living with his parents. They convinced him to see a psychiatrist.
Finally, during a therapy session, Carl got fed up with being told it was all in his head and sent all the books on the bookshelf flying across the room. The psychiatrist was terrified, and refused to see him anymore afterwards. One day, a few weeks after he stopped seeing his psychiatrist, men in suits came to his door and ‘persuaded’ Carl to come with them. They said they were just going to ask him a few questions.
Carl spent the next two years as their prisoner. They tried to test the limits of his power, and also tried to help him control it. They would hook him up to machines and try to monitor his brain activity to locate the source of his power. Their goal was ultimately to turn him into a weapon. Carl’s abilities weren’t quite like Neil’s. He never gained full control over it. It happened on its own whenever he got emotional.
They tried repeatedly to ‘help’ Carl gain control over his abilities, but it was no use. Finally, they decided to take a different approach. They tortured him until he was filled with so much hatred that he was constantly in an elevated emotional state.
They had professional interrogators slice every sensitive part of his skin open with a knife. They squeezed every pressure point on his body that caused him unimaginable agony. They used every trick in the book to make him hurt in ways that wouldn’t leave any lasting injuries or broken bones.
This continued for months. Whenever he was able to demonstrate his ability, they just increased the level of pain. It worked, but not like they planned.
They pushed him too far one day.
Finally, he had enough. His rage manifested into an unbelievable surge of energy. Carl killed everyone in the testing facility, over two dozen people, and leveled the building in one violent outburst.
The facility was housed in the basement of an abandoned middle school. Residents in a nearby neighborhood heard what sounded like an explosion, and the police came to investigate. They found Carl surrounded in a heap of rubble, still screaming at the top of his lungs for the pain to stop.
Carl was brought to the hospital, but he slipped into a state of psychosis. He was unresponsive for over a year. He responded to basic stimuli like food and water, but didn’t speak a word the entire time. He abruptly snapped back into reality one night.
The nurses at the psychiatric hospital heard him screaming during the dead of night, the same way he did when he was found after the incident. It took a few minutes for him to calm down once he realized that he was no longer in the testing facility.
He was released a few weeks after he regained his sanity. The medical staff determined that there was nothing wrong with him, mentally. Carl said that his abilities had never manifested again ever since he woke up at the hospital. Whatever it was in his mind that had spontaneously turned on in 1982 had turned itself off three years later.
From that point on, Carl had spent his life trying to find other people like him. He created support groups for psychics, wrote articles in newspapers and magazines, and searched any records he could find for information, but he never found anyone in all of his years of searching. Everyone he had ever spoken to was unable to demonstrate their ‘abilities’ in front of him. Some tried to trick him by performing illusions, but Carl saw through those.
He created his blog in 2005 to try to expand his search. It turned into a community full of attention seekers and scam artists, all too stubborn to admit that they were all lying to each other. Carl said he received dozens of emails a day from people trying to find some way to turn their hoaxed abilities into fame or fortune. When he read Neil’s email, it didn’t give off the impression of a liar. Something about Neil’s letter convinced Carl that he was a man genuinely seeking to understand what was happening to him. That was the only reason he agreed to meet him in person.
Neil stood silent for several minutes after Carl finished his story. Everything he described sounded so real. He was either an incredible liar, or he was telling the truth. Neil could see in his eyes that he had no intentions of doing any kind of harm to Neil. He was there to listen to his story, and do anything he could to help him if possible.
Superhuman Nature is Brandon Overall’s first novel. It was written and published during his first deployment to Afghanistan as a 2nd Lieutenant in late 2013.
Neil Hitchens was a senior ROTC Cadet in college. He was just weeks away from graduating and becoming an Officer in the United States Army, until a strange dream set off a chain of events that would twist his life into something he could have never prepared for.
In the days following his dream, several strange happenings occurred that he began to suspect were the result of his own actions. Before long, he discovered that he had the ability to control the world around him with his mind.
What started out as an unpredictable ability quickly evolved into an extraordinary power that had the capacity to change the world. It didn’t take long for the government to find out what Neil could do.
They knew having such limitless potential on the side of the US Military could give them limitless political influence, and they would stop at nothing to get Neil to do their bidding. They would find out what happens when you back a dangerous animal into a corner.
Neil spent his whole life believing he would amount to greatness, but he never expected how greatness could corrupt even the most innocent of minds.
The dim light of another gray, northern Indiana autumn morning dribbles in through the curtained window. I roll onto my back and sigh. Staring at the ceiling, I try to reconcile the fact that shortly, I will be heading back to the house where my sibling and parents are. Every part of me is resisting and I don’t want to get up. I turn over to see if Mandy is awake and find her looking at me.
“Hey,” she says with a yawn. “Want some food before you return to your cell?”
“Yeah, I guess I’d better eat something now. Who knows what they’re going to do,” I mutter.
At this point my friends have given up the idealistic attitude that maybe my family will change and have become resigned to reality, justlike me. I am angry that because of all this, my friends are suffering too. I bet this is why most people avoid me. It isn’t just because of how I look. It’s the thing they can’t put their finger on, but they know there is something wrong with the picture. Some people are civil to me, but won’t socialize with me. That’s how I know I’m right. I have good test scores and good grades. It isn’t like I’m a vandal or anything. I’m used to being treated like crap, so it usually rolls right off. But today that I pray no one starts in on me. Today I feel like I have no skin and that nothing can protect me from the certain pain that waits for me in my parents’ house. I feel like a walking, bleeding wound that leaves a trail wherever I go.
I scrub myself in the shower and throw on some junky clothes. They’ll probably make me clean the whole house with a toothpick or something, and it’ll save time if I’m prepared. I flop down at the kitchen table and Mandy brings me a stack of blueberry pancakes and sausages. She has a tin of real maple syrup, too. I pile food onto a plate and being snarfing.
The doorbell rings and I freeze in midbite. The color has drained from Mandy’s face and she speeds to answer the door. I hear a cacophony, and hear Max and Andy goofing around, “Jesus Mandy! It’s us!” “Put me DOOOOWWWWWWNN!” Mandy is hollering and flailing as Max carries her into the kitchen over his shoulder. He is grinning and poking her in the butt with his index finger. “I thought you were the Pillsbury dough boy,” he laughs, putting her down and raising his arms to shield the many blows coming from our petite friend Mandy slaps Max lightly around the head and shoulders. “You shithead! I’m on the rag and I could’ve squirted blood everywhere like a jelly donut!” she screams, smacking him hard on his arm. Andy starts making puking noises and gestures over the sink, “Blaaaarrrgh! Thanks for the visual, Mandy.”
Fasten your seatbelts for a white-knuckled ride on the looney wagon and trip down memory lane with a band of misfit teenagers. Kiera Graves and her small posse of true blue friends plot ways to escape their cowtown; and play a game of keep away with her Machiavellian family to help her survive high school and make it to college.
Courage under fire, the closest bonds of friendship and blossoming romance keep this tale of coming of age and survival buzzing with excitement, heart, and warmth.