The push for Mike Robinson’s latest, Negative Space continues on. Today we bring you an excerpt from the new novel. It’s already got the feel of something deserving of a read. I won’t hold you back with my babbling, read it below!
“Get away!” his mother screamed. “Get away from my house!”
The face stared in from the window, a horrible face slicked by rain and shadowed by a night allowing only glimpses of its distorted features.
The candles jerked and flittered, apostrophes of flame in the storm-darkened house. Shadow-patterns on the wall, bobbing. Images and sensations for which the potent nightmares of Max Higgins’ seven years had ill prepared him.
“Mom,” he uttered.
No answer. Cynthia Higgins threw frenetic glances at the window.
“Mom…can you call people?”
First thing he had said in an hour. It felt weird to speak. For much of the storm he’d been immersed in the drawings now scattered about him.
“Phone is dead,” said his mother. “Phone is dead but baby God is here with us and we need no one else.”
God is here. God the face in the window? No. God was comforting and not this demon of the watery darkness.
A crack against the window, spidery. Something thrown. A voice.
In one of the sleet-covered windows a figure emerged, as if sired by the storm itself. Rapping on the glass. Firmly.
“Max—take my hands.”
“Max, just do what I say. Take my hands.”
“Hey we’re home!” the man shouted outside. “We’re fucking dying out here!”
Things would only get worse. If his mother didn’t open the door, then the man would surely find some other way in.
“Dearest Lord Jesus,” his mother began. “We pray, in this time of fear and desperation, for you to comfort those in need, to guide them….”
As she prayed, Cynthia closed her eyes but Max could not. He worried that the darkness might grow hands to strangle him if he took his eyes off the world, or however much of the world was left to see.
The man moved to another window. Rapped harder. Banged.
“….give us your love, oh Lord, and sweep these devil waters and their devil spawn back to the rivers of Hell….”
Max clutched the gold cross, hung there for the first time when he was three.
How many more out there? Were they bothering other people? Mrs. Olsen next door? Were they supposed to let them in? Would God be angry if they didn’t? That which you do to the least of my brothers so you do to me.
Max’s gaze fell to one of his drawings, one of his many Lone Ranger sketches, then moved up to a crucifix hanging on the far wall, scarcely illuminated by the candlelight.
His mother squeezed his hands.
“You remember the story of the Ark, don’t you?” Cynthia asked. “Noah’s Ark, and all the animals.”
Slowly, Max nodded. She tried to smile.
“This isn’t much different. God is washing the world of its sinful creatures.”
“Is that what happened to Dad?”
“I don’t know, Max, but if the Lord had a good reason for taking him away from us, then we mustn’t question it, mustn’t give it too much thought.”
The weather continued its assault.
Suddenly, glass shattered. Max felt the merciless cold of the storm winds on his face. A window. A window had been broken.
Another shatter, on the other end of the house.
“Get out of here!” Cynthia shrieked. She turned to Max and started to move away, keeping her eyes on him. “Honey, you stay put, you understand me? Don’t move.”
“Where are you going?”
She scurried to the kitchen. Max ignored her request and followed her, watched her shuffle through dark cupboards. Clatters of dishes and pots and pans. Prayers dribbling under her breath. Somewhere close he heard voices, deep and grumbling.
“Max, get over there.” Frantically, his mother pointed behind the counter.
This time, he obeyed. He peeked around the corner, one eye cast toward the shadow-dance of the rest of the house.
His mother sidled up against the wall, beneath the Felix-the-Cat clock, next to the archway leading into the living room. The frying pan trembling in her hands.
Over the sound of the storm, Max could hear the movement of strangers in the house. Toward the dining room. Cynthia heard it too and moved accordingly, huddling over to the kitchen’s entryway. Max watched. From the blackness emerged a face. Dirty. Wild. Something about it reminded him of soiled laundry. Unclean. An uncleanness beyond the intention, even conception, of the rugged elements. God’s discarded scraps. He thought of the stories his mother had told him of lepers. Of demons.
The face was smiling. Delirious. The figure drifted closer, drawn from the murk.
Shuddering, Cynthia Higgins wrenched from her position and sent the pan with a metallic crack straight into the man’s primal grin. A cry overtaken by thunder. In the white disclosure of lightning, Max saw the man on his knees, hand clasped over his gushing face, eyes fast-shut in agony. Blood and drool rappelled from his chin.
And there was Max’s mother standing over him, her breath stertorous, her skin no longer the home of Cynthia Higgins but of something as wild and unclean as the man upon whose head she now unleashed strike after strike. Pummeling. Max could see the pulpy chunks fly, could see the dark liquid rush toward the linoleum and he tried not to think about what it was.
More lightning, and the shadows were there. There were more of them, a black and tattered battlement.
“Get out of my house!” Cynthia screamed.
He had no idea how many there were, but there couldn’t be as many as he first saw. His imagination had exaggerated their numbers. Yes. That was it.
They closed in.
“We’ll be gone in the morning, lady,” one said.
It all happened so fast. When he would look back on the incident many years later—something he tried not to do—he found his vision of it to be fast and blurry. His mother flailed with the pan but missed. One of the men’s hands caught her wrist while another took her around the neck. Yet another went for her legs. There was a tearing of fabric as they engulfed her. She shouted at Max.
“Max baby get out of here please oh please—”
One of the men lunged toward him but Max eluded him, tore through the house. He burst from the back door and into the yard , clambering across the lawn, past the fence and onto Clover Street and beyond, the wind and the rain slicing into his skin, whipping him as he ran and ran, soaked and directionless.
Eventually, the clouds moved on, like muscle-bound bullies satisfied with a job well done. Surrounded by wet brush, squatting in a cushion of mud, Max waited, shivering, wondering if he was going to die, a concept he had barely begun to grasp, and if he was going to die did that mean he was going to meet Jesus? He wondered if Jesus had created all this, the massive trees, the gross bugs scuttling on his arms and shins.
But he didn’t want to move. Mom had once told him that if he got lost not to move, because that would only make him more lost. He said nothing, too, as he heard his name bouncing through the woods, issued over rain-darkened pathways. He heard the voices and he heard dogs barking. Somehow, he’d forgotten how to speak. Too afraid to. Too much other-ness haunted this forest. Even though, far down in his young mind, it actually seemed like home.
His name and the voices drew closer and closer. The dogs barking loud and raucous.
Footsteps. Crunching. Closing. His teeth chattered. His lips shaking he thought they might detach and squirm away.
Then the brush parted, and he saw them: police officers, wearing wet raincoats and drenched hats. The foremost officer smiled, and breathed.
“Hey there,” said the man, extending his hand. “Got a little wild man here.”
Grab the novel right here.