Thanks for hosting me this week, G.W.!
I chose this excerpt because we’re gearing up for Halloween here, choosing our costumes and trying to make ready for the big holiday. Chapter 28 of This Brilliant Darkness, Seaduds, takes us on an afternoon errand with longtime pals Dudley and Richard, two aging British academians raiding their local small town Indiana costume shop in preparation for the annual Alumni Costume Ball. Richard’s in for a surprise, however, when he discovers his old boarding school roommate still has a fiery temper and sense of humor–and they’d both be surprised by the appearance of an oddly glowing student at the hotwings bar–if either of them could remember what was going on long enough for this campus-wide paranormal activity to register.
From reader reviews:
“This is labeled as a dark fantasy. As such you would expect it to be dripping with imagery and poetic devices – and it is. There is horrific cleverness in the plot and in the characterization. You will find no better use of language and symbolism throughout the prose. It is well done. In addition to the dark fantasy, there’s a flip side to the coin which is that this could also be labeled Sci-fi. There are aliens, a new star, physicists, and “end-of-the-world” fanatics. All of this is done artfully well and is believable.”
“The quick, snappy dialogue moves the story fabulously, and with the many change of POV’s (each chapter), the story kept building in momentum into a tangled web of darkness, mystery, and paranormal terror. The fast pace was refreshing and I kept on reading, wondering what was going to happen to Christine and how all the characters twined into the bigger picture…The main character, Christine, is energetic and likeable. She is always trying to find out what’s happening to her and the people around her. She fights . . . right to the bitter end.”
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Seaduds
Dudley pulled a costume off the rack, the metal hanger making an antique squeak. He held it at arm’s length. The thin plastic veneer of the ancient garment bag billowed around it.
“Two angels, Richie?”
Richard gazed appraisingly at his overweight middle-aged friend. He imagined Dudley in angel wings, with a tinsel halo.
“I don’t think so, Dudders.”
Richard backed away from the costume rack and watched the street traffic outside.
Across the street, a band of pro-life protesters was taking an ice cream break. It was a gorgeous day, and Richard had wanted to spend it rollerblading with Christine and Tom, but he had promised Dudley to attend the faculty costume ball with him. The University President had obviously taken the promise quite seriously.
“Oh, I’ve got it!” Dudley cried out with too much delight for Richard to ignore. “How about two members of The Grenadier Guard?”
Dudley placed the bushy black trademark hat atop his round face.
Richard cracked a smile despite himself. “That is the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard.”
“Worse than flying monkey-men, or birdbaths, or whatever it is?”
“Maybe not that bad.”
“Come on now, admit it, you like it,” Dudley said.
“I suppose it beats Austin Powers.”
“Oh, Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery, why didn’t I think of that?” Dudley turned and creaked through the thick rack of costumes again.
Richard stopped him. “No, no, Dudley, that’ll do. What good is it, being two stranded British fops in the heart of America, if we don’t announce it on Halloween by wearing enormous fuzzy hats for the purpose of our own humiliation?”
“That’s the spirit,” said Dudley. “Are you quite sure you’ve no desire to head a major university?”
Dudley’s cell phone rang, and he paled as he examined the caller ID. He pulled his wallet from his inner jacket pocket and handed it to Richard. “Will you take care of these, Richie?” Dudley left the shop and took his call on the sidewalk, while Richard jostled two oversized Grenadier uniforms to the check-out.
A smiling young woman took the uniforms gently from him, straightening them and examining the tags. A very long metallic one-piece suit hung on the wall behind her. A pair of old-fashioned rollerskates hung with it, and a long blonde wig.
“Is that an alien outfit?” Richard asked.
“I suppose it could be, if you wanted—but I’ve got it paired up with a rainbow terry short set for a Boogie Nights look.”
“What are the roller skates about?”
“Have you seen Boogie Nights?” the young lady asked.
“Oh, it’s a classic. When you rent it tonight, keep in mind that these costumes are for the Roller Girl look, okay? You’ll get it. The silver one’s for a male Roller Girl.”
“A male roller girl.” Richard repeated. “Aren’t those the women who beat one another up on roller skates? The Bleeding Heartland, or something?”
The clerk took a deep breath and patiently explained the difference to the old codger. Finally, Richard and the clerk simultaneously abandoned hope.
“It’ll be $86.56 for the two guard costumes. Would you like the rollergirl suit, as well?”
“Of course,” Richard said. Just because he didn’t get the joke didn’t mean it wasn’t funny.
The door opened, its copper bells jingling on their string. Dudley was half-in, half-out of the shop, still on the phone.
“I don’t care who you have to get up there, we will put a stop to this!” Dudley shouted, before pivoting and returning to the sidewalk.
The protestors were filing by now on this side of the street. They swerved to avoid Dudley, who was gesticulating seemingly for the benefit of whoever heard his bellowing.
“I wanted this cleared up before fall semester started and I don’t want to hear another word about it!” Dudley’s voice was softened by the glass, but the girl behind the counter flinched at the intensity.
“Your friend’s getting pee-oh’d, huh?” she said.
“Tell you what, ring that silver suit up separately.” Richard handed her his debit card, setting it atop the mountain of fur that Dudley had chosen as his hat.
Dudley pried open the door, made a final remark, and slammed the phone closed.
“Some rubbish about a Sasquatch hanging around the Sample Gates.” Dudley glared at Richard the salesgirl. “A cross-dressing Wookie or something—how much pot are people smoking in this town?”
The clerk dissolved into giggles and disappeared into the back room. They took their costumes and left.
“What do you say we grab a pint at CeeDub’s?” Richard asked.
“Seaduds?” Dudley asked. “I don’t know of it.”
“No, no, CW-4U. ‘CeeDub’s,’ get it?”
“I’ll give it a go,” Dudley said. “You will show up to the party in costume, won’t you?”
“Unless I get a better offer, I swear on it,” Richard said.
Please, God, let me get a better offer.
“See, that is exactly why you have no social life, Richie.” Dudley smiled. “I wish a bit of your charm would rub off on me, is all.”
“I could give you lessons,” Richard suggested.
“Yes, I’m quite sure,” said Dudley. “Lesson one: take one stick and shove it up one’s arse sideways. Lesson two: sit on it and spin.”
Richard was quite taken by surprise. “Dudley Rollins!”
“What, you think you’re the only one with a sense of humor around here?”
“No, not at all, I’m just—where do you get these things?”
“Blame it on the Miracle Star, Lord Richard. Everything is backward from how it should be, since that thing got started.” They arrived at the bar, and went inside. “Wasn’t this the place a monk supposedly had an ‘episode’ recently?”
“I’m not sure,” Richard said. “Trying to focus on my research.”
“I thought your research included paranormal events these days,” Dudley said. He found a booth, and sat down. “Or is that all rumor?”
“You’re wanting an official update on my research?” Richard asked. He stuffed the costumes into his side of the booth.
“Sometime before the party, at least. I need to be in the know before everyone else. I’m sure the board will be pumping you for information, and I’d rather know before them.”
“If I don’t get a better offer,” Richard said.
The aura around Dudley shrunk, and Richard was surprised to realize he could see it. He looked around the restaurant. Everyone had a haze around them, glowing white and golden.
All but one young man, who glowed so brightly golden that Richard could barely make him out.
“Do you know that young man?” he asked Dudley.
“Mmm. Familiar-looking. Has a backpack, he’s probably a student,” Dudley said.
The young man approached Richard.
“She trusts you,” he said.
“Is that right?” Richard said.
“When it happens, go with it. It will be alright,” the young man said again.
“Are you the waiter?” Dudley asked. “I’d like the twelve piece appetizer to start, and a Guiness.”
Tristan reached out for Richard’s forehead, and rubbed his thumb in the sign of the cross upon it. “Do this in memory of her,” he said. He left them, shapes of wings and ribbons of light behind him.
“Did you hear that, Dudley?” Richard asked, too stunned to follow the young man.
“What was that? The waiter? No. Did you know him?”
“I—” Richard struggled to remember what he was going to say. Dudley would think him mad. “I’m—hungry.”
By the time the waitress came to take their orders, Richard had no memory of Tristan at all.
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