A Snippet on Bats and A Dark Past Recently Remembered
This was taken from my newsletter: Hi lovelies, I know it’s been about a week or two since I said I was going to expand on my thoughts regarding Sinner Sharpe and his dark past/ancestry.
I’ve been writing about his dark past more and more as he gets closer to this elusive place he’s been sent to. On top of the tense and scary things he’s been through before the point you’re going to read about, mentally he’s been a mess as well, if you’ve read any of the posts about him:
I’m choosing, with this round of storytelling, to dive into ‘harder topics,’ and things I want to write about. I want to give my worlds more nuance, my characters more stakes, and hopefully more heart. I write for everyone but I cannot deny my experiences–Black experiences–are what have shaped me and should shape my writing.…
Exploring Darkness in Twitter Threads:
So, I said in the thread that this book is becoming very ancestral, very dark. Not in the typical sense of gore and what have you but a colder darkness, a gothic darkness. I took a lot of inspiration from my times in Trinidad and my father’s stories of growing up in Haiti.
This helped shape the nature of the dark story: Sinner is an outcast from this island. He has no magical ability, same as all from Othril, and when on the mainland, this lack of magical ability is apparent—he is ostracized not only because of his physical features, but his inability.
And on the mainland, magical prowess is class: The more you have of it—the higher on the social ladder you are.
Naturally, the story will open up to explore the larger themes of Black people vilified and demonized by other races, but I wanted to share a snippet of a chapter on Sinner’s dark memory of his home and how it’s being distorted, briefly, and his connection to these beings called “blood demons” is become a bit more apparent.
Long story short, Sinner has been dealt numerous dangerous blows/life-altering experiences and he is currently recovering from a wound but also getting closer to his destination – the dark cursed land of Mooria where it is said, vicious beings known as blood demons exist. Sinner has been seeing visions of blood demons whilst on this journey and has been remembering moments of his childhood on his homeland, Othril:
Somewhere in-between sleep and consciousness I started to hear the constant buzzing. It was during a nightmare with one of the winged monsters staring at me that realized the sound wasn’t the result of my dreams.
I awoke with a start, my mind a pounding mess. I only looked down at my pillow when I ran a hand across it to pull out the small pistol beneath it. I’d had Fern fish me one from one of the boxes. Didn’t know why it took me so long to remember we’d had ‘em crafted. I’d stopped my perusal when I felt the wetness atop the pillow’s face. Saw the dark red stains in the swinging light from the gas lamp on the other side of the bed.
Instinctively touched a finger to my nose.
Dried blood stained a nostril and dried against the growing mustache on my upper lip.
I cursed the air.
I wiped the remnants of it hastily with a sweat-laden shirt I’d fished out of my trunk the night before. It’d lain on the floor right beside me as I’d thrown it off in the middle of the night. I remembered feeling uncomfortably hot.
Now I felt cold.
The dried sweat that clung to my hair, neck, and back made me feel sticky.
I threw the used shirt across my bed and planted my feet on the ground.
I heard Dagger’s footsteps and I summoned a smile when he appeared in my bedroom doorway, hands already glowing their green color.
He paled when he saw me. “You look like you’ve seen hell,” he said.
I stopped smiling and looked down at my bare feet. Wouldn’t tell him the monster came to me in my dream and tortured me with its long, black claws. The pain, phantoms of its stinging across my body remained, and as he sat down in a chair that wasn’t beside my bed when I awoke, he dug a glowing finger in his ear and wiggled it.
“Ye hear that, Sin?” he asked while he made a face.
I turned my attention to the buzzing that had grown louder since I’d first woken. “T-That sound?” I asked carefully in case that wasn’t what he was talking about.
“Ye,” he said, gesturing for me to lay back down. He removed his finger from an ear, wiped it against his pants, and hopped the chair up to the side of my bed. “I’ve never been this far north ‘afore. Heard stories. Guess they’re true.”
I braced myself while he worked his magic. “What stories?”
“There’s a passage—narrow enough—where ships get stuck. There’s jagged rocks all along the passage’s edge and,” he hesitated on the next word, scared to say it. Then, in what seemed a sigh, he said, “Bats.”
I focused on the sound all around the ship that had grown louder. I thought of the furry, small animal I had known in abundance on Othril. They frequented our ancestral caves—places the youth were not allowed to tread.
I remembered standing at the mouth of one a few miles from my home. I heard the same sound that now battered my ship: The thunderous squeaking of the flighty creatures. I could not venture deeper into that cave.
Fear had held my feet, then.
I had not known what lay within it, only that I wouldn’t want to see it.
Now, as I lay on my bed, thoughts of my past on that island returned with force. A darkness, a cold, replaced the warmth I’d felt back then. I lay there in a stupor, vaguely feeling Dagger’s green light on my abdomen.
I saw it as if I was there, my mother, a kind woman that always held a vibrant smile now appeared cold, her brown eyes now appeared black, and the head of thick black locs always held high up in a bun or loose from a hold now lay limp around her dark face. She stared at me, and in the original memory, I had just returned from playing outside with another youth nearby. She’d prepared my favorite drink in a tall glass, a cooling sweet drink that always chased away the sweat.
But in this perverted memory, the drink now appeared crimson. And as she handed it to me, her eyes lost their white, being completely black, and her face transformed to that of the winged monster.
I opened my eyes, unaware they had closed. I stared at Dagger, who had not noticed I’d faded. He still worked on my abdomen, eyes lined with concentration.
“What was it?” he asked, never having looked up.
I sighed, shifting slightly on my mattress. My wound still hurt despite Dagger’s work. “Bad dream.”
He hummed in response. Had the feeling he knew it wasn’t just a dream.
I felt like it wasn’t.
My hands shook at my sides and my heart beat fast.
My head thrummed with the constant pain I’d grown used to since we’d set sail.
All I saw was my mother’s black eyes and the glass she’d held.
The glass of what had to be blood.
Dunno why I thought it was.
Just felt it.
He eyed me against the green glow. Thought it strange his eyes didn’t glow green themselves. “Hm?”
“What’d y’know about the blood demons Goran mentioned back at Polania? Why are they called blood demons?”
He returned his stare to his hands. I had a feeling he wanted to continue to stare at me but thought better of it. The sound of the bats around the ship almost drowned out his next words when he finally said them:
“Only that they’re dangerous. Nothing else, really.”
I stared at him. “That so?”
“Aye.” He hesitated. “It’s not something one speaks about on the mainland. Besides, when I was doing what I was for Viron, there was little time to think about a faraway land.”
“So you knew they were there and didn’t bat an eye when I told you what the next job was?”
“I did have some reservations,” he admitted slowly, “but it’s you and me, isn’t it? We’ve been through it all—what’s a mysterious land—enemies called blood demons?”
I sat up. He cursed at me but I ignored it. “Dag—the monster I’ve been seeing—those are blood demons!”
He placed a hand on my shoulder, trying to force me down but I pressed against it, willing him to understand. “The winged monster—listen, damn it! Fern told me he’d seen one—on the border of Othril and Bilan!”
At this, he stopped trying to get me to lay down. His hands still glowed and the light almost blinded me to his features, but I saw the alarm in his brown eyes. “What?”
“He saw it—just as I’ve been seeing it—but in waking life! On the border—away from Othril’s cities. It must’ve come from one of the caves!”
“One of the caves?” he repeated, dumbfounded.
I sighed. Of course. I removed his hand from my shoulder, doing my best to ignore the heat from his spell. “On Othril,” I whispered, the thought unleashing the fear I’d felt as a child. I swallowed it down and continued. “On my homeland, there were—caves. These caves held…things…things I didn’t want to know about. There were bats, always, at the mouth of these caves, and—” The memory returned as though unlocked:
Every night I’d go to the mouth of the cave nearest my home. Drawn to it as though it were required of me. Every night I’d stand there, staring into that mouth of darkness, hear the bats, see them, sometimes, in the grace of the moon’s light—
I was seized with a new memory as well as a terrible jolt through my body.
It was a new night. I stood before the mouth of the cave. My bare feet dug into the soft, cold, black dirt, unable to move. And unlike previous nights where the bats would call and their wings would flutter, there was another sound that joined them.
It was louder, like the flutter of a much larger wing.
And then I heard the heavy thud of what I thought was the beating of a large rock against the dirt. When it continued, a dull, terse rhythm, I’d recognized the sound from the drums that would play when a person in our city passed on. But it was only when it grew louder that I realized this rhythm was footsteps.
True fear pressed against me, seizing me in its cold embrace. And shortly, by the moon’s light there appeared its head. It was similar to what I’d seen around the ship except its skin was black. Like the rocks that littered the island. Darker than my already dark skin.
Its black eyes were the same as the winged monster that haunted my waking and sleeping moments aboard the ship. I could not see a nose, but in my knowledge of what it looked like in the light, I was sure there were slits where the nose would have been.
It sniffed—I heard it—and looking back (I could not know then) I knew it smelled for my blood.
Upon locating me it opened its mouth wide to reveal, as the other one had, many sharp fangs.
You can read the full excerpt on my newsletter.
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‘Till next time!
With Blood and Love,