Well, here it is. My first serial novel.
The idea is not a new one. Dickens did it. Doyle did it, too, with Holmes. I think Le Fanu did it with his horror tale “Green Tea”. Most recently, Stephen King brought it back with his serialized The Green Mile, followed by horror writer John Saul’s novel in six parts: The Blackstone Chronicles.
I feel very close to Stone Marker. Yes. That’s his real name. He has parts of me in him. And, friend, he also has parts of you in him. He is, perhaps, all of us who write and read and live lost in the horror of words–in the horror that is their power, and their potential…for both good and ill.
I hope you’ll come back for installment 2 in late April, where Stone confronts not only “raghead”; but also his own past, well, some of it, anyway; and a message about his future, if he will listen to it. Stone is a stubborn man. We will also learn, along with him, what it means to bear the name: “The Stone that Marked the Monster”…its portent; and its power.
– Sanguine Woods
“I sit in the sky like a sphinx misunderstood; My heart of snow is wed to the whiteness of swans; I hate the movement that displaces the rigid lines, With lips untaught neither tears nor laughter do I know.”
– Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal
PART ONE: PAINTED ON THE SKY
In the way of a beginning…
Sometimes I wish life were less mountains and valleys and boulders and cliffs and climbing and huffing and falling and splatting and edges. And bleeding.
My name is Stone. Stone Marker. Yes. It’s my real name.
The Native Americans on the reservation call me The Stone Who Marks the Monster. That’s pretty cool, I guess. My lady always called me ‘hard-headed as a stone’. “Hey, ‘hard-headed-as-a-stone’ come over here and kiss your girl.” Growin up in the 1970s, my friends called me “Stoned as Fuck”. Cause I was.
But, my mama is the guilty party. Named me, she said, before I was born, before her belly took on the shape of a round West Virginia hill, sittin like a vine-crawlin burial mound on the lip of a holler she called Stoney End.
I grew up on the bit of land and wood shack and scrappy tree and dirty floor she called The Homestead. Cause “eekin out a livin here, a woman, all on her own,” she said, “is worse than hell on a high-wire.” I don’t know where in the hell that onr came from. But I know what she meant.
Mary Elizabeth Marker. My roots and my rock. And she named me Stone. After a goddamn West Virginia holler.
Sometimes I wish life were more of mile after mile after mile of flat road. Dirt road. Dirt country road. Straight-shootin road. Road I can set my feet down on. Road I can stretch out on. Not too wide; but not to narrow, either. Road that smells like Georgia clay cooking to powder in the sun. Bayou road that moves with each rain toward a delta fanning the cusp of the sea.
Road that takes me on and on; home again. And again. Wherever home may be. I see it now, banked on both sides by rolling hills, green with grass and sunflowers, and soft things like, I don’t know, bunnies or some easy shit like that. I could handle some fucking bunnies about now. The crags and juttings and needles and talons I dwell in—the highs and lows, sun and shadow, burn and freeze; these are stripping my soul bare.
Straight, predictable, country roads. I wanna see what’s coming, and I want to be able to see behind me, to safely turn my back on what went before. I wanna walk a straight line.
Words have weight. Words are the true conjurers. Here’s some more truth: I kill monsters. With words. Well, that’s an understatement. I obliterate the fuckers. And I like it. That makes me a monster, too, doesn’t it?
I’ve been called a poet. I’m not a poet. I’ve been called a witch. That’s funny. I mean no disrespect. Just that there’s no such thing. Witch is a word. Witch is a name. They were healers. Lone wolves. Word-spinners. But to conquer them—our fear of what they represented—to save what it was they threatened, we had to villify and name them.
Naming something gives you a definite power over it; a clarity about what scares you…helps you digest fear, and strike out at the unknown things.
I saw one, for the first time one night on the reservation; it was standing there, hunched over and naked and silver in the desert moonlight under an endless black sky pinpricked by stars. Blood was dripping from its mouth, claws like sticks or broken bones; it was munching on a full-grown man; head was already gone. And one leg; the other one half-eaten, torn—shredded at the bitten edge. I can still hear the slurping sounds.
There are things in this world that are very very bad. Don’t you ever doubt it. There are things in this world that want to eat you, taste you, lick at your soul.
Fuck what your Mama and Daddy told you about your closet or underneath your bed.
There are things that live behind, within, and on the edges of spoken words. I find them. Then, I kill them. I live, now, thrill by thrill. Kill by kill.
Fine. Call me a poet. Metaphor has dominated my life. Made meaning itself a monster. I am running from one now.
I’m not a coward. So erase that insult right out of your mind.
This one, raghead, I have seen her before. Faded rucksack head, strips of fabric for hair. She wears an old dress—no doubt white once before age yellowed it; caked with dried grime—pinched from a thrift shop, or from somebody’s long-dead Aunt Martha, yanked out of the fucking gravehole and donned in a “something’s not quite right here” semblance of humanness. A grotesque mockery of a human woman.
No hands. Some kind of stubs for feet. Face, a garish rendering of something I saw once watching from the corners of a freakshow in smalltown America.
And if that ain’t good old irony at it’s sharpest. Because these infestations happen without a sound. Silent resurrections that have been happening all my life. As far back as I can remember.
An Appalachian trail. A wisp of blue smoke. A broken step. Siding in only some places. A woman’s face streaked with dirt. She’s in a dress with small brown flowers growing all over it. Her feet are bare. Her toenails dirty. She is looking down the trail. Down the flat dirt trail. She is melancholy.
Hope has always been her monster.
I am a just over a mile outside of Stoney End. And when the wind blows, there’s something sweet on it.
Country roads take me home. To the place I belong. West Virginia, Mountain Mama, take me home.
All my memories gather round her. Miner’s lady. Stranger to blue water. Dark and dusty, painted on the sky. Misty taste of moonshine. Teardrop in my eye. ♢
Stone Marker (c) 2016 by Sanguine Woods. All rights reserved
(Lyrics from “Take Me Home, Country Roads” written by John Denver, Taffy Nivert, Bill Danoff, 1970.)