‘Everything Is Wonderful Now’ is the last book I completed and had edited. It means a lot to me because it’s based on my childhood going into my current life, and is unapologetically honest about various kinds of abuse, mental illnesses, and one of the more unfortunate experiences of coming out as transgender. It’s the book I am currently hoping to get published, and I can’t stop trying no matter how discouraged I get until it happens in some way. This book is too close to my heart to give up on it, and it’s the story I’ve always wanted to tell.
Here is another excerpt from it — the entirety of chapter two. I posted another shorter preview on this blog a while back. I made a playlist for it to help inspire me, and you can find that here as well.
“I don’t want to be here anymore.”
The young girl stared at the ground, long blond hair falling in her face. She couldn’t look at her mother, but she didn’t know why. Her dad always said she should try harder to overcome what was bothering her inside, but she couldn’t conquer something she knew nothing about. She wasn’t sick. Her mom, Cathleen, made absolutely sure her doctor told her that even if he seemed concerned when he did.
“What do you mean, sweetie?” Cathleen finally focused on her daughter. She’d been engrossed in Jerry Springer — a rare chance since her husband was on the road for another few weeks at least.
The young girl shrugged and bit her lip, sighing. “I don’t know. I just don’t want to be here.” She glanced at her mom to see she was giving her ‘that’ look. The look she hated more than anything because it put her on the spot, and her cheeks burned hot with shame.
Cathleen smiled affectionately and patted the green sofa beside her. “Come here. You want to watch a movie? Princess Goblin? That’s your favorite, isn’t it?”
Sera fell onto the couch and stared at the floor. She didn’t want to watch cartoons or go through the usual routine. It was the best way her mom knew to distract her from panic attacks, but tonight Sera was calm. The serenity she’d found frightened her in some ways, but she couldn’t piece together an explanation that would make sense. All she knew was that she wanted to go to sleep and not wake up.
Sera mumbled as her mom brushed some of her hair aside, “The Princess and the Goblin.”
“Alright. Sit still.” Cathleen stood to open the VHS cabinet while Sera stared listlessly across the room. Their dog, Bear, a Chow, came shuffling in with her purple tongue hanging out, her perky ears and soft fluff bringing Sera a sign of comfort. Bear stole Cathleen’s spot and the young girl laid her head against a sandy-colored warmth. The familiar sound of the VCR accepting the tape resounded in the quiet room, save for the clock that struck midnight.
“Hey, mom?” Sera slid off the sofa as her mom returned with a bowl of macaroni and cheese.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?”
“Can I just go to bed?”
Concern washed over Cathleen’s features. “You don’t want to watch your favorite movie?”
Sera shook her head and made her way toward the dark hallway. Memories resurfaced of the last time she’d sleepwalked down it. Dream visions of a beautiful field of flowers beneath a blue sky had comforted her before she regained consciousness. Her hands were outstretched to touch the slatted white doors of the hall closet, and she fell to the floor. Out cold.
The girl shivered as a familiar panic threatened to shake her. She didn’t like uncomfortable memories because they only brought the possibility of it happening again, which wasn’t an option. She hurried the rest of the way to her small bedroom and closed the door behind her. She waited to see if her mom had followed, but it seemed she was finally alone. Which was the way it needed to be.
A large double speaker tape deck powered to life. Sera carefully selected one of her favorite cassette tapes — ‘Beautiful Garbage’ by Garbage — and dropped onto her metal frame twin bed. She closed her eyes and waited for the woeful tones of Shirley Manson to lull her to sleep, but no such sleep came. The day had worn her down so much that she was too tired to sleep. Silly.
A slight breeze rustled her collection of Spice Girls dolls. Sera sat up from where she’d been contemplating the best way to stop seeing anything at all, and she noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe the wall shelves had come loose.
Another cold breeze. It was obvious that time.
The girl dived under her comforter and pulled it up to her nose. If she was certain of anything right then, it was that monsters did not dare to harm someone beneath the safety of their blanket. The closet door she made certain to always close creaked before a feeling of being watched alarmed her. Sera swallowed hard when the distinct sensation of a hand brushing over the comforter triggered trembling. Her blanket was yanked to the bottom of the bed and she was vulnerable. Left out for the monsters to consume.
“You’re pretty young, you know that?” A deep voice with a sarcastic lilt invaded the dark silence. When Sera sought out the source, a passing car’s headlights illuminated a reflective pair of golden horns.
“Mom!” The metallic bed frame knocked and clicked with the floral bulbs around the bars. Surely, that would’ve caused enough racket for Cathleen to come running, but it all came to a stop as the intruder leaned over Sera’s bed, his clawed hand wrapping around the metal frame to still it’s rattling.
“You don’t really want her to come in here right now, do you? I mean, the whole reason you’re here is to be left alone.”
Sera squeezed her eyes shut as the shaking caused her teeth to chatter. She couldn’t get a single word out to save her life, which was ironic considering her whole reason for seeking out a forever sleep.
“I’m not going to hurt you, chill.” The tall figure stepped back into the shadows to observe the shivering child. He hardly considered himself frightening, although to most humans, the sight of horns in the middle of the night with red eyes wasn’t exactly comforting. He was hardly the angel he once existed as, but he retained his shoulder-length blond hair and unearthly beauty. That didn’t matter to a kid, though. And that was why he never dealt with children. He should’ve never answered the call. “Alright, whatever. I’m not going to eat you, so go back to your self-destructive thoughts alone.”
As the being raised his fingers to snap, Sera found her courage. “Wait! What are you?”
The being sighed in frustration and twisted his hand in midair. The angst of Shirley Manson fell to a tolerable volume. “Aren’t you a bit young to be listening to that shit?”
Sera’s shivering slowed to a tremble as the sense of danger receded. Surely, this being would have harmed her by now if he’d meant to. “I — I like it.”
The figure spun back around to face the child who’d curled up with her knees to her chest. Her eyes were wide and her mind was buzzing at impossible speeds, so many thoughts turning into a cacophony that threatened to drive the being mad. It was another reason children were low on his list of humans to entertain. Their minds were wide open and they were too curious about everything. “Okay, whatever. Anyway, what’s your deal?”
“What…” The being sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Why do you want to sleep forever?”
“Oh. I want to just go to sleep and live in my dreams.”
The being quirked a brow. Something else was surfacing in that tiny underdeveloped brain. It intrigued him. “You know that isn’t possible.”
Sera took a deep breath and stared at her knees, her fingers squeezing light denim. “Since I can walk while I’m sleeping and still be in a dream, why can’t I just have that happen all the time? There’s a way to do that, right?”
Understanding dawned on the being and he sobered. The red in his eyes ceased glowing and he sunk down onto the girl’s bed, crossing his legs. Her expression told of her confusion when she laid eyes upon him. He looked like a very tall man adorned in a white button-up shirt tucked into a pair of faded jeans. If it weren’t for his horns and strange eyes, she’d think him nothing more than an average person.
When their eyes met, he was unwavering in his attention. “You want to die. Why?”
The word hadn’t crossed her mind. She knew death meant to stop existing, but was that how people went away to live in their dreams? She’d never known anyone who’d died. “I think so, at least.”
“Why?” the figure pressed. “You’re ten years old. You’re barely out of the womb. What reason could you have to want to die?” He huffed. “You haven’t even suffered through puberty yet.”
Sera’s face scrunched in confusion. “Puberty?”
“Oh Hell. Listen, you’re way too young to be feeling whatever you’re feeling right now. I doubt you have a reason that’ll convince me you actually want to die.”
Sera reached for the remote to the small TV on her nightstand and switched it on, the Munsters drifting over the now barely audible Shirley Manson. “It’s too dark and I’m scared.”
The figure squinted as his eyes were invaded with light and snapped to turn off the stereo, the loop of the child’s thoughts combined with all the artificial noise too much for his short temper. “You didn’t answer me. Why do you want to die?”
Sera grew shy and grabbed her comforter to pull up to her chin. Her Winnie the Pooh security blanket was in her hands and she chewed on the silk edge. “I… don’t know.”
“Yes, you do. Why won’t you tell anyone the truth?”
The girl glanced at the figure. “Because no one will believe me. I told the principal at school what happened but I got blamed for it. I’m the one who got in trouble.”
The figure’s patience was gone. “What did you get in trouble for? What happened to make you want to call it quits?”
Sera dropped the blanket and grew somber as the memories hit her, and it was clear in the way her eyes glazed over. “At lunchtime, the boy I had a crush on found out I liked him because my friend told him. I was happy at first because I thought we could be friends, but he told me I was gross. Everyone started laughing at me and I got really sad and started crying.”
The figure’s attention turned to the hard floor that was covered by a decorative fuzzy carpet. “And then what?”
“Then I went to the principal’s office with my friend. I just wanted to go home, but the principal put me in a room alone with some tissues and said if I cried I’d feel better.”
“Human empathy at it’s finest,” the figure droned. “What did you get in trouble for?”
“I got in trouble because this girl in my class, Tracy, and some boys beat me up at recess. She bullies me all the time. My friend told the principal I started it and everyone lied and got me in trouble. So I got blamed even though I didn’t do anything. They believed my friends.”
“Those aren’t friends.” The figure stood and approached a white dresser with a large mirror. Beneath it was a row of small troll figures with gems in their belly buttons, their hair wild and in numerous colors. A clawed hand grabbed a green one that was supposed to be a costumed version of Frankenstein’s monster. The child certainly had an interesting mind full of strange curiosities from what he could catch, but there was a pain there as well that was underlying. It was more than a human of that age could be expected to carry, and there was much more than just being bullied at school and framed for it.
There were flashes of memories with a man’s face and a belt in his hands. Blackouts and irrational fears and illnesses — of the mind and body — and days spent in the hospital. He feared a different kind of hospital visit was looming, but he couldn’t be sure. He froze as he caught himself worrying over it all and dropped the troll doll. This wasn’t his problem. He had been curious and only meant to lurk because of the child’s call and her strange dark aura, but it hadn’t been so superficial. Her concerning wishes were real and she meant it with all her little human heart that hadn’t stopped booming in his ears.
The figure turned to face the girl who’d gone silent, leaning back on his hands against the dresser. “I don’t expect you to understand, but just listen, alright?”
Sera nodded, staring at the being with rapt attention and wonder.
It was endearing in an odd way. He continued. “I’m not a dream or a nightmare, or a bogeyman. I’m a fallen angel. Judging by your Bible over there on the desk, you already know a little bit about that, but I assure you it’s all bullshit.”
The girl’s eyes blew wide. “You’re a demon?”
“No.” The figure cut her off before she could continue. “A fallen angel is not a demon. We just hang with them because we don’t have a choice. I am a king of Hell, but I’m far beyond even that.” The figure’s ego shined brighter than the headlights blinding the room once more. “My name is Byleth. You’ll probably have better luck looking up Beleth since humans have spelled my name differently throughout the years. I can teach you more about this stuff, but you can tell no one I’m around.” Byleth was sure to emphasize the seriousness of the matter. “If the adults find out what you’re doing, judging by their spiritual alignment, they’ll try to stop you.”
“But mom knows what’s good and what isn’t–“
“No, she doesn’t. Not in this context, anyway.” Byleth approached the child once more and dropped onto the side of the bed. “I can tell you all kinds of things that you’re not old enough to understand that would shake your world, especially concerning them. I’m your ally right now, and judging by everything going on, I’m your only ally. Do you want help or not?” He couldn’t believe what he was considering, but the darkness that seeped from her wasn’t just from illness. It wasn’t something he saw in children, let alone one so seemingly pure. He’d considered its purpose the moment her mind opened to him and he could read her like a book. She was no ordinary ten-year-old.
Sera nodded as she remained transfixed on him. “Are you real?”
Byleth’s laughter lit up the room and would surely be heard by Cathleen, but it wasn’t the case. “Yes, I’m real, sweetie. But only you can see and hear me right now. I’ll make sure no one else knows unless it’s necessary, alright?” As the girl opened her mouth, Byleth held up a finger. “Ah-ah, no. We can’t tell mommy. Definitely don’t tell daddy. Definitely not him.” A low growl rumbled in Byleth’s chest like a tiger’s. “We’ll talk more about them later. For now, just focus on surviving and pay attention to what I tell you.”
Sera sighed as tears streamed down her cheeks. “What if I can’t do it?”
“Stop it.” Byleth quirked a brow and stared into Sera’s eyes until the tears stopped again. “You’re stronger than you think you are. Trust me, I know. You can do it.” A deafening alarm bell interrupted them both, Sera screaming in surprise as her heart boomed in Byleth’s ears.
Her shaking hand stilled the alarm bell and the tremors returned. “Can you walk me to the bathroom? If I wet the bed again mom will get mad at me.”
Byleth fell silent in a stupor and stared at the child, all emotion draining from him. What in all the Hells had he just gotten himself into?
©2021 Shane Blackheart