After I published A Human Element, the story before A Hidden Element, I couldn’t let go of the characters. Readers wanted a sequel but I always felt it was a single tale to be told. And yet, the characters in the first book wouldn’t let me go.
And one morning I woke up with a vision for book 2, A Hidden Element, and I wrote that. Now book 3 in the Element Trilogy simmers inside me…
Even after writing book 2, I couldn’t let these old and new characters go. I wanted to know more about what their dark lives were like before their stories in the books, and so I wrote a short story collection about them, appropriately called, The Dark Inside.
I’ve always been fascinated by the terrible things we humans can do, and what stops us from crossing that line. Many people don’t stop, but thankfully many more people do. Writing about characters that cross the line lets me feel what it might be like, in my imagination. How easy it would be to pick up a knife and stab someone? How easy it would be to jerk the car to the left and hit someone on the road? Of course, I never would! But I want to feel that passion to do it – for my character’s sake. Read my post about how we writers are saving the world, one book at a time, with our dark fiction.
In A Hidden Element Laura Fieldstone, who fights to get her son back from an evil force, worries he will succumb to the dark side. “Light and dark reside side by side,” she says. Just like love and hate walk the same line, they both come from the same place. A place of passion.
To me, writing is all about passion – feeling the good and feeling the bad. And I want to feel it all. To explore the twin sides of our human nature: the good inside us, the dark inside us.
In A Hidden Element we begin with Caleb, the son of Adrian, forced against his will by his father to a new land. We watch, through his eyes, as his father wields his evil power over innocent folk and how Caleb vows to never become like him.
I originally wrote this scene from Adrian’s point of view, until I realized the story was Caleb’s story to tell. In my short story collection, readers can read this scene written from Adrian’s eyes.
Here is an unedited excerpt from the story The Beginning in The Dark Inside as originally told in the voice of Adrian. Read A Hidden Element to read this first chapter from the perspective of the main character, Caleb!
After They Left
The silent dark hung under a star-filled sky. Adrian picked up his bag and scanned his crew across the field, counting quickly. Seventy-five. They understood their duty and accepted it. They were chosen by him in secret. None would return. There was nothing to go back to except death.
His son, Caleb, stood across from him, waiting as the others did. Their pale faces glowed like orbs within their gray hooded robes. It was too dark to see if his son’s face held scorn or doubt. It was usually one or the other. Especially since he had deceived Caleb about this mission–and his own intentions.
The group waited for his instruction. “We head toward town.”
Caleb opened his mouth as if to say something. His black hair, like his face, was a constant reminder of his mother. Adrian frowned and his son shut his mouth and nodded, stepping in behind him. Rain fell soft, cold and lifeless.
The dark deepened as they headed into the forest. Ancient conifers towered over them, blocking out the moon. Adrian allowed his senses to guide him. The nearest town of Benevolence was five miles northwest. He smiled to himself. It was the perfect town for a stolen new beginning.
He stopped after a while and opened his mind’s eye for guidance on which way to go.
“Father, how much further?” Caleb called. “Some of the younger females are struggling.”
Caleb’s dark eyes stung him through the mist that rose up from the forest floor. How he wanted a son like himself, instead of one so like his wife. All that sadness and longing in her eyes, the day he’d left her to die in the well. That pity.
“Two more miles. Arrange for some of the others to take on the baggage of those in need.”
“Can’t we stop for a bit and rest?” His people grumbled audibly. They looked wet and tired, a sea of gray flowing down from him. Such weakness. He would have to drive that out.
And he would breed another to take Caleb’s place. He already had a female in mind for the job. She smiled at him in the crowd, holding the promise of submission. But time was running out to groom a new son.
“We do not stop.” Adrian’s voice rose over the line of people before him. “You all took the oath to come here. Hard work lies before us in breeding our new community. Understood?”
He didn’t wait for a response but turned around and plunged faster through the woods. His people followed in silence, as he knew they would. If they didn’t they knew the consequences. As did Caleb. His son had no special privilege here.
At last Adrian stepped out onto a paved road. It stretched far into the distance, where welcoming lights beckoned them across the final mile. They reached the main intersection of town. A car flashed by, radio blaring. Faces stared out at them. He realized how out of place they looked, this robed group out late at night. He motioned for his people to follow him single file down the sidewalk. A handful of people sat behind windows drinking. They pointed at Adrian and his people as they walked by. “Gillian’s Bar” flashed in neon green above the doorway in the late evening hours. A man and woman, heading into the bar, stepped back from the sidewalk to watch them pass. Freaks, he heard the man say. Adrian erased the memory of the encounter from these strangers’ minds in the seconds it took to pass them.
“Father,” Caleb hissed in his ear. “Where are we going?”
A large building rose at the far end of a parking lot. “Ray’s Lots” blinked over and over.
“Here is where we go.”
A fat woman pushed a cart filled with bags to her car, the only car left in the lot. She stopped and stared at them. Her hair framed her face in tight curls. A blue and white striped dress strained to contain her breasts and belly.
“Good evening, brothers.” She nodded to them.
Adrian motioned for his group to stop. He smiled at the woman’s assumption that hidden in these robes were church folk. She smiled back.
“Good evening, madam,” Adrian drawled.
“God bless you.” She grabbed his hand. Repulsed by her bloated, clammy hand he forced himself not to pull away. Perhaps he could use her for those who did not obey him by forcing them to breed with her. He almost laughed and then looked at her with a serious face.
“And God bless you, my child,” he said.
“What church are you with? Are you having an event in town?”
The woman fingered a cross at her neck. A church. It hadn’t occurred to him until then what a perfect word this was for their procreation. “It’s the Church of Elyon.”
The woman frowned. “Never heard of that one. You’re not one of those crazy cults are you?”
Caleb stepped to Adrian’s side. Let me work her mind, father. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Caleb.” He smiled at her and shook her hand, taking Adrian’s cue. “We’re just folks who follow God and Jesus. We seek food and a place to stay nearby. Our bus broke down outside of town. Can you help us?”
“What a nice young man you are. Of course I can help you!” She abandoned her cart and pulled Caleb toward the store. “My cousin runs this superstore and can stock you up with food. And the Mercenary Motel is just down the street.”
Impressed with Caleb’s mind control of the woman, Adrian followed them into the store. His people streamed in behind him. Sally dragged Caleb to a counter where a short red-faced man scowled at them. “Ray, these folks are here in town from a wonderful church! Their bus broke down and they need food.”
Adrian probed Ray’s brain, took easy control of it, and within seconds the man’s frown changed to a wide grin. “Come in, come in! I was just closing up anyhow.” He flicked the sign on the front door and shut off the lights outside.
“Thank you,” Adrian nodded. “I need food here for my flock before we find a motel.”
“Help yourself to anything you want.” Ray ran his hands over shelves. “Pretzels, baked beans, cereal, Ding Dongs.” Sally and Ray beamed at them.
Adrian quickly directed everyone to gather snacks and drinks then set about his first experiments in Benevolence. Sally and Ray stood by the counter, their minds blank except for what Adrian put in them.
“Ray, I need all your money now.”
Ray clapped his hands together. “Of course!” He pulled out a bag and money from a nearby cash register.
When Adrian’s bag was full he smiled at Ray and Sally. “Time to go now, my new friends.” He motioned his people out the door. Ray and Sally stood with stupid smiles on their faces as the group filed out into the parking lot. All except Caleb.
“Come on, Father.” His voice held a warning. “Our job here is done.”
“Not quite.” Adrian moved toward the smiling cousins. “Ray, isn’t Sally lovely? Look at her.”
Ray turned to Sally. His pants bulged and Sally’s eyes widened. She tugged on her dress top.
“Have your way with her Ray, you know you want to.”