I find it to be a fascinating thing when novel series grow darker the further they get into the story/series. This usually happens right before 'good' comes in and saves the day, the darkness being used as a heavy contrast to light.
And so as I sit here and pen my latest WIP (Work in Progress), Black Earth: Dark Masquerade, I can't help but notice that the series/storyline is definitely taking a darker approach then the two books before it...figuratively, narratively, and literally.
In Black Earth: The Broken Daisy, Legion - an alien species that has enacted a pact with the forces of Hell to destroy all of creation - has covered a good percentage of Earth in darkness. Suffocating, maddening darkness.
Dark Masquerade opens up weeks after the unfortunate events of The Broken Daisy, with darkness plaguing most of the land, the President of the United States asserting her wayward ideals on a crumbling world, and strange - albeit alien and demonic - creatures roaming the planet. And we find our hero, Nathan Pierce, taking refuge within an abandoned mall in California with his soul mate, Pearl, his deceased father's friend, Macayle, and part of Absolute's Rebellion. The location of his sister, Daisy Pierce, is still a mystery at the beginning of this novel, but Nathan has already made it his life's mission to find his sister, save her from the execution the President is attempting to enact upon her, and get off the planet somehow - all before Earth is destroyed by the darkness.
It has been a supreme challenge trying to progressively take the novel series from the high school graduation at the beginning of End of the Innocence, into a land riddled with darkness and demonic activity by the time Dark Masquerade comes around. Crafting the third novel in a series is not something I am experienced with and it is a somewhat difficult task to draw the reader into darkness and give them a reason to stay there.
We'll see how well this novel turns out. I only have a month and a half from now until I have to have it finished for my editor, before I move on to the final book in the series - Black Earth: Bridge to Eternity.
In the meantime, I thought I'd post some of what I've been writing here for you to consume. This scene is from a new setting I created called Hortus Tenebris, or The Dark Garden in Latin. This is a surreal and terrifying place Daisy Pierce finds herself in after the man in the red suit shoves her through a mysterious doorway into pure darkness. I'm still not entirely comfortable with posting rough work for my readers to see, I just ask that you keep in mind this is part of a draft and hasn't been completely and fully edited yet. The details found herein may also change as I complete more of the novel.
*** By the way, here's my disclaimer regarding the content of this excerpt - probably not suitable for kids.***
Excerpt from Black Earth: Dark Masquerade -
Moisture settled upon Daisy’s bare flesh, waking her slowly and gently from her dark slumber. The air, thick and brumal, pushed its way against her like a rude host shoving an unwelcome party guest out the door.
It was raining, and the water descending from the dark sky above felt like icicles dropping against her skin. Daisy sat up and took in her surroundings. The last thing she remembered was being pushed through a doorway and into darkness. Horrible darkness.
Now she found herself in front of an iron gate, beyond which looked to be a park or garden of some sort. The black asphalt underneath her felt warm, strangely warm considering the cold wind and rain.
Daisy struggled to stand, her legs feeling like saltwater taffy, her muscles stretching and pulling in ways she felt they shouldn’t be able to. It occurred to her that she was naked, but her nudity didn’t seem to be the issue.
Where am I?
She remembered the man in the red suit stripping her of God’s blanket and pushing her through the doorway into black. That was all she remembered. He had lied to her, tricked her into believing she was going to get another chance to see her beautiful garden, her piece of Eden, once more before her life ended here on Earth.
But am I even on Earth anymore?
Something in the air…the scent of roses…triggered memories of her youth, when her father would bring her a dozen roses each year for her birthday. With the scent of rose, she caught a hint of something faint, but foul. Like putrid trash in a dark alley.
Before her stood the iron gate, surrounded on both sides by tall hedge walls covered in unusually thick thorns and stunted rose buds. Behind her stretched black asphalt into nothingness. An exotic gas lamp with black and red ribbons hanging from its iron framework stood in the middle of the lot, shining light across her and the entrance to the area beyond. But where the light ended, where the edges of the soft orange glow struggled to stretch, the darkness took over. Deep darkness, blacker than black, into which Daisy felt an overwhelming fear to tread.
The only way to go was beyond the gate. But even that direction didn’t feel safe.
Where am I? She asked herself the question a few times with the hope that her mind would conjure an answer. Nothing.
I could be in Hell. But God wouldn’t allow me to go to Hell. What if I’m on another planet? What if I was transported here by a SilverTech shuttle? Don’t be ridiculous, she scolded herself. I fell into darkness, into space. I could be anywhere. Anywhen?
Maybe I’m dead.
The very thought of parting ways with the world she knew and entering the Beyond both frightened and fascinated her. But she knew she couldn’t be in Heaven…this place did not resemble God’s dwelling place, at least not what she imagined God’s dwelling place to look like.
The rain began pouring down harder, soaking her long brown hair, chilling her flesh and bone. She suddenly desired clothes above anything else. Warm, dry clothes.
She glanced up to the iron fence and saw words running across the top: Hortus Tenebris .
Voices, whispers, echoed her words in the darkness. She spun around, peering beyond the soft glow of the gas lamp, but could see nobody, nothing. Chills screeched across her dripping flesh, and she suddenly wanted, needed, to get dry, to get away from the darkness.
For the first time since arriving wherever she was, Daisy looked up at the sky. A multitude of colorful planets hung from the dark, starless tapestry like a child’s universe mobile.
I’m definitely not on Earth. Maybe this is a nightmare.
She felt somewhat comfortable with her theory that this could be a nightmare. Maybe the man in the red suit was casting some kind of illusion on her, another trick, another lie, this one made of strung together colors and objects to create the mirage of another world.
Hinges creaked and Daisy turned to see the iron gate had somehow swung open. An invitation into the area beyond.
She wanted to hesitate, to think it over, to find out where she was, but more than that she wanted to get dry and get dressed, and so she stepped past the threshold of the hedge walls. The gate creaked shut, the rain stopped, and her body was suddenly dried of the icy rainfall.
In front of her stretched a cobblestone path through a dark park. Trees and benches lined the path, basking in the soft ember glow of more gas lamps. Outside the path though, she could see nothing but darkness.
At least it’s not raining anymore.
Daisy still wished for clothes, and before she took a step along the cobblestone path, she looked down to find a black square box wrapped in a dark red bow. She glanced around, unsure if she should be moving forward deeper into this nightmare. She knew nothing of what lurked in the darkness, beyond the amber light, beyond the boundaries of the cobblestone path.
She stooped down and lifted the lid off the box. Within she found a folded red cloak of the finest silk. Without spending too much time wondering where it came from, she slipped it on. The silk was surprisingly warm, as if the material had just come out of a dryer. She pulled the hood of the cloak up over her head, warming her frozen ears and cheeks.
She briefly wondered if God had given her the robe, just as he had the blanket. The blanket the man in the red suit took from me. She had grown somewhat accustomed to that blanket, just as a child would to theirs. It’s gone, she told herself. Gone but not forgotten, she countered.
Daisy shook her head, startled that she had begun arguing with herself. She glanced up at the path in front of her, wondering where it led, where it ended. She couldn’t help but also wonder what lay in the darkness to the right and left of the path. She glanced behind her, at the closed gate, assuming it was locked shut. She was stuck here. Beyond the iron bars, she saw the rain descending in a violent downpour.
Daisy started along the cobblestone path. Her bare feet, though exposed, were warmed by the stones, which seemed to emanate a natural heat, as if they had been baking in the sun all day. She doubted the sun ever shone in a place like this.
Gas lamps were erected evenly every twenty feet, spilling enough light across the path to completely illuminate it. Some of the trees off to the side seemed to be wrapped in shadows, looking more like silhouettes than actual trees, and she dared not touch them for fear of what might happen. She felt as if this world, this nightmare her mind had somehow, someway concocted, was extremely fragile and terrifying at the same time. The slightest misstep, the slightest startle she inflicted upon this environment, she feared would cause it to scream out in terror, forcing her to scream out in terror as well. It was a hidden evil, a sudden fright that waited in the shadows, at the tip of her mind, at the shores of her darkest dreams.
Daisy stopped and closed her eyes, praying quickly and fervently to God to rescue her. She would have rather been back in her cell. At least there, she knew what to expect.: a beating and healing. It was not an environment she had any control over, but it was an environment she knew well enough to know how it was controlled.
When she opened her eyes, a light flickered ahead of her on the path, in the distance. She stepped forward, wanting to know where the light was coming from. In a place of such utter darkness and mystery, light had suddenly become a priceless commodity. She had a sudden urge, somewhat of an obsession, to come into possession of as much as possible.
Daisy hurried along, lifting the hem of her new cloak, her bare feet patting against each cobblestone with intensity. When she finally drew close to the light’s point of origin, she realized it wasn’t a light, but more a reflection off an amulet…held by a woman in a black cloak much like hers. As Daisy drew closer, she saw that this woman was within a standalone, glass display case. From her right hand dangled a silver chain, the twisting oval pendant on the end catching various light shards from a bright orb hovering near the woman’s feet.
Around the glass display case towered massive hedges, guarding the entrance to what Daisy assumed to be another section of the park. The woman behind the glass was thin and pale, her eyes sunken in, but her face beautiful, showing hints of the glamorous exquisiteness she held once upon a time. Her other arm hung at her side, her palm cupping the top of the white orb.
She knelt in the display case, dipping the pendent into the orb of light. The pendant sucked in the light quickly, feverishly, until darkness shrouded them and the pendant glowed a brilliant white. Daisy felt exposed under the blanket of black and her heart raced with feelings of claustrophobia and panic.
The woman in the case pressed the pendant against the glass panel. Daisy reached her hand up, and miraculously found she was able to reach through the glass into the display case. The woman dropped the pendant into Daisy’s hand, cupped her hand shut, and pushed Daisy’s hand out of the glass.
Daisy opened her palm to find the pendant gone. She felt something warm against her chest and tugged the cloak open to find the chain around her neck, the pendant nestled between her breasts. It gave off a warm sensation, like sunlight.
She glanced up to the woman in the display and almost stumbled over herself when she witnessed the woman’s body wilting like a black weed. The woman’s skin peeled back, exposing rotting insides, and flies and maggots burst out of her as she fell apart within the display case.
Daisy turned her head to the side and fought the urge to vomit. “Where am I? What is this?”
Daisy peered into the case, holding the pendant toward the glass to light up the inside, and saw only a pile of dust crawling with maggots and buzzing with flies.“Who were you?”
The towering hedges suddenly lit up in bright blue neon light, filling the area around her with a surreal glow. Angelic voices sang a hymnal tune in a language Daisy had never heard before, but swore had hints of Latin throughout. The light in the hedges moved with the grace of water currents. Daisy felt drawn toward them, toward the area beyond them, and before she knew it, she was already trapped within the dark labyrinth.