embracing my dark side

Ha, who am I kidding? I am about as dark as Mary Poppins…

although…as a teenager I became obsessed with the dark times in history. The Second World War, the Russian Revolution and the brutality of the Khmer Rouge fascinated me. I grew up in the protestant church so I’d say that interest came out of stories of missionaries. If our particular strain of religion had had martyrs I would have been all in. 

Combine a bit of a dark side with voracious curiosity, you get an obsession with tyranny and malevolence. ~ Dr. Jordan Peterson, when asked why he studied the darkest periods in history.

I get a bit nervous when I am writing something angry. I’ve learnt to push down my anger and sadness over the years and I guess I am worried it’s all going to erupt out of me like projectile vomit. All the journaling, meditation and yoga comes in handy here. I can write angry scenes without internalising them but more than once I have read back over a scene and thought ‘oh that’s a little close to home, I might re-write that!’

How much do our characters resemble us? I named one of my characters in Hotel Deja Vu Rachel after the name I was given at birth. It fitted the character and while she is only 1% biographical if that, I have given her a life that I might have had if I’d been Rachel.

My current characters Shelagh and Gallice are like the light and the dark side of all women. Gallice is all woman, Shelagh is just a shell. It’s the story of her redemption. Gallice is all light, Shelagh all shadow.

Here’s another snippet…

The cast and crew enjoyed a sumptuous meal and grannie had invited many of the local villagers to join them. It was a fun relaxed night but after the busy warm day they had had and the emotional and exhausting lead up to the filming, the cast and crew wandered off slowly to their rooms, the camera crew bedded down in their campers ready to head off early for the sunrise shots.

Normally Shelagh would sleep like a baby while at Grannies’ but on this occasion, the two women sat up half the night talking excitedly about the finds Shelagh’s team had made that day and what lay ahead if their suspicions proved correct. The idea that the henges were the cathedrals of their day, while the embankments and ditches were processional, the outer rings then, were the graveyards.

‘Perhaps we’re breaking the first rule of anthropology, Gran, filtering this ancient culture through our own lens?’

‘I have always wondered where the idea came from. Why did the church of Rome build in that configuration? They notoriously built on what came before them. The Romans were nothing if not adaptive. You know I have always believed that thestone circles were forests built to last.’

‘Yes Gran I know, the Forests of Stone, I’ve read your paper on the subject.’

Shelagh felt as though she had just fallen to sleep when her grandmother entered the room with a tray of breakfast.

‘This is the best B&B around this area, you know,’ Shelagh said.

They enjoyed a quiet breakfast and Grannie accompanied her as the caravan wound its way back to the site.

The tent was a little more crowded on Day 2 as unexpected rain poured down outside. The trenches had yielded hundreds of finds; pottery, jewelry, tiny bronze charms in the shape of deer and birds and dozens of ring coins. The trenches had been hurriedly covered as what felt like a summer storm came down out of nowhere.

To keep the show on schedule, Shelagh spoke into a hand-held camera describing the finds as the team worked behind her in an adjacent tent. Finally, the camera crew arrived after their early morning shoot. They had experienced a dramatic sunrise it was as though someone had had painted the sky. The director and camera crew showed Shelagh the footage like schoolboys trying to please the teacher. They were relieved when Shelagh gave her thumbs up and said she was ready to work on the ash samples. The director set up the shot and then zipped down the tent. Anyone not crucial to the shot was asked to find another dryspot to wait out the rain.

Shelagh had chosen a new sample to work on just as she was about to finish for the night and the sample lay in the tray, it’s silver casing locked with the tiny Allen key. She waited for the nod from the director and began to unlock the sample.

‘The sample was taken from hole number nine her at the New Henge. Over at Stonehenge each of the Aubrey holes had been investigated but 10 years ago we didn’t have the technology that we have now. Even if we find the smallest fragment of bone, we can investigate it for potential DNA. We have 11 bone fragments from the previous 8 holes and we still have 15 further holes here to look at. It’s very exciting and yes, we have high hopes for what we might find here.’

Shelagh began to gently pry a small amount of ash from the cylindrical sample but unlike the previous 8 she had worked on, it crumbled as she applied the slightest pressure with the sharp blade. The room held its collective breath and Shelagh found herself taking the smallest of involuntary steps backward. She looked over at her grandmother who was standing just off-camera, eyebrows raised at the look on her granddaughters face. Shelagh signaled to Jim to bring in the camera.

‘Well, we have made quite a find here today, and not one we have been expecting at all. We seem to have found a finger in the ash. Just a finger, and oh, see here, Jim bring the camera right in, it has a beaten gold ring that would once have fit it quite well I would say, but now the,’- Shelagh gently lifted the ring with a fine skewer a fraction to show that the ring indeed was around the finger. Her heart felt like it was pounding visibly in her chest. – ‘the withered flesh that once belonged to a living, breathing human has somehow ended up buried with ash here at Stonehenge.’

The camera held its position on the finger and the director called ‘cut’. His face was red before he began yelling.

‘Okay, who’s the fucking prankster? This, just in case anyone here is too stupid to know, is not funny. Not fucking funny at all.’

Shelagh stood in front of the sample, the cameras, lights and every eye in the place trained on her. Her hands raised as if in surrender. She was shocked that someone would sabotage her work, that someone in her trusted crew would contaminate site that was so sacred. Unless it was a joke, a fake sample thrown in for alaugh, a fake finger made by the experimental archaeology team, pranksters thatthey were.

‘This better be a fake sample,’ Shelagh said.

‘Fake sample or not, it’s still a bloody waste of time and resources.’

The director was seething. The gathered cast all looked around at each other, silently waiting for someone to start laughing, to admit they had slipped a fake sample into the batch.

‘Shelagh, I… I don’t think this is a hoax.’

Her grandmother was examining the image in the monitor.

Everyone in the tent swiveled towards the legendary Dame Isobel Lane whose own hand was almost reverently touching the on-screen image of the withered finger.

‘I’ve seen this kind of thing before. Shelagh, remember Carnac?’

Shelagh nodded dumbly at her famous grandmother.

‘Dear, I think I know to whom this finger belongs.’