Regarding Dead Things on the Side of the Road, a collection of 15 short stories I wrote over a period of almost 20 years, doesn’t get much attention from me. As a matter of course, I’ve always focused on promoting Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors or finalizing/promoting Sketches from the Spanish Mustang. In addition, I often discuss various elements of the Indie author’s life, from marketing to emotional responses to . . . whatever.
However, Regarding Dead Things on the Side of the Road is still out there, languishing among other projects, hoping one day to be read as a work in progress. When I decided to publish the collection, I looked at it as a stepping stone, a way to show the reader of my work how a person changes over time. Using that approach, I added notes prior to each story. You can read more about the reason behind the collection HERE.
Regarding Dead Things on the Side of the Road is available in a smell-good paper version at amazon.com as well as a Kindle version. It’s also available at Barnesandnoble.com and Smashwords as an eBook for the nook, Kindle, Sony eReader and a bunch of other versions.
The following is an excerpted story from Regarding Dead Things on the Side of the Road. Although it started out as a response to a writer’s challenge, I used the opportunity to develop a specific voice. I knew I wanted to write from the point of view of a serial killer, but to me the time period was a big issue. For over a month, I read all of Thomas Jefferson’s letters and tried to write in the voice of the early 1800’s. This is not Jack the Ripper (although I can see where readers might think so). Quietus published this story in their April 2004 e-Book.
This is not a story for the squeamish, by the way. It is literary horror.
A LETTER TO ELISE
I don’t know if this letter will ever reach you; the post is never on time around here and I haven’t the strength nor the will to walk the steps and deliver it myself. I do pray, though, that should my words ever light upon your eyes, they find you in good health and once again as fresh as a schoolgirl in the summer. To say that you deserve so much more in this world would be a mockery; my dearest Elise, you deserve the world. Fate has found me locked in a world of stained eyes, watching me, I fear, and ever so inquisitive about the frayed garments and tousled face that I have been forced to wear like a costume from the wardrobe of Hell. I have not been well, nor do I believe I ever will return to the form of Adonis that appeared before you so many years past. As it sits, I am but a broken man, lost in a world I don’t belong in and subject to the whims of those I cannot say. It is never enough that I find food in the refuse bins; I can never find the sustenance to keep me from madness. The carriages crowd the streets and compel me to find sanctuary in the shadows, ever weary of those who would see that I no longer show the love that burns in my heart like the fires of Vesuvius.
Would, that I could undo the harm I brought upon you so many years past, I promise that the pains which afflict you now would be calmed by my love. Oh, how I long to be with you once again, to taste the sweetness of your lips and the salt upon your body! What I wouldn’t give to once again ravish you like I did on those blistering, summer days! Do you recall? Do you remember the erotic smells, the shades of red that bled into the grass around us? Can’t you still feel the obsession with which I thrust myself inside of you? I remember it all, so much a haunting that I can no longer rest. I still see your shimmering body against the backdrop of night. I still feel the pulsating rhythm of your heart, smell the scent of passion, taste the saltiness of your soul as it poured from inside you.
I must confess, however, there have been others. Having performed the last sad office of embarking you upon your journey into self-realization, I found that I walked more dead than alive. Oh, the guilt I felt each and every time I took it upon myself to love another woman, knowing that they were not—could not be—my dearest Elise! I cannot recount the number of sad flowers which would wilt under my touch, failing to feed from the nutrients I gave to their soul. So many would scream and thrash about as if I were committing an offense against them and not showing them the love that lives within me. Forgive me, Elise, for I must communicate to you the depths of my heart; it has become such a quandary to have given love to so many women and yet not come to find one that would replace you.
Allow me to present to you one gaffe, the most recent of so many blows to my poor heart. She was but a youth, boundless much in the same manner as you. I gazed upon her from the street corner, daily admiring her locks pulled back yet draped as a curtain down her back. She was every bit as lovely as you, her blue eyes absorbing the sunlight and radiating the same tenderness. I wondered if your mother gave birth to you, could she not have given birth to a sister? You have yet to tell me of your family, your siblings, your parents. Do they need the love that I gave to you, or have they found that love elsewhere?
Forgive me once again, for I digress. This woman—a flower new in bloom—passed by my corner of the street not too many days past. I caught but one whiff of her perfume and found myself needing to show her love. Without thought to the multitudes who crowd the streets, I pulled her into the shadows with the dispatch of a tiger on the Serengeti. She wanted to scream, and although I appreciate her reservation, at the very least it would have revealed to me then that she was not the one. Although she struggled at first, her demeanor was not that of so many others. My dearest Elise, she laughed at my disheveled figure and spit upon me as I threw her against the wall. What was I to do?
Without thought—yet feeling a rage burn within me the likes of which I have never felt—I plunged my blade into her chest. Her eyes no longer mocked me, growing larger as I twisted the handle. I felt so uneasy, Elise. I wanted her to understand, to appreciate the blade as you did—a liberation of self and of soul. I wanted to bind her as I bound you, like Christ at Golgotha, arms stretched out in an enduring display of love. Would she not have spit upon me, I know that I would even now be listening to her cries of ecstasy as I slowly cut small pieces of her flesh from her body. Did you not revel in that act? Did you not feel your soul caressed by my gentle touch as I slid my fingers across your flesh? I can remember letting you lick the blood from my fingertips, and how you cried tears of joy as if you finally found God or Heaven. I needed her to feel the love I have to give. My dearest Elise, she fell silent within minutes, conceivably seconds. The world around me closed in like the shroud of a starless night. I had failed once again to give the love that I have to another woman. I whimpered as I knelt alongside her, tenderly cutting free her motionless heart and cleaning it with my tongue, tears falling from my eyes to land upon her breast. I gently placed the heart in a small sack I fashioned from her dress: a prompt that there is no one else but you.
You were right to have cried for me the day I took leave of you. I still recall you tied to the barn wall, whimpering, and wondering if ever I would return to you. Forgive me, Elise, for I never knew that there could be no other like you. Your wounds have mended by now and I know we can once again find that ecstasy, reaching out toward God in concert, feeling the beating of our hearts against each other. I must leave these shadows now and journey south toward you. It will sadly take me months, and I pray that this letter finds you prior to my arrival. I feel the eyes of those who would prevent me from loving ever again; they are hunting me and I sense that they are close. These streets have given me refuge, allowed me to blend into the destitute that comprise more than half of this city, and yet I must find someone else to love in another place, another time.
I will return for you, Elise. I promise. You can rest assured that I will release you from your bonds and love you once again.
Your humble servant,
P.S. Please pardon the wretched indigo of my words; I could find no suitable ink for my quill save the blood of the last woman I tried to love.