Today is the turn of Melissa Groeling who has taken time out to talk to us about her book Lights Out…
So where’s that manuscript you wrote but don’t want anyone to read? Is it back in the bottom drawer of your desk? Maybe in some hidden file on your computer that’s password-protected? Or maybe you haven’t even written it yet—it’s tumbling around and around in your head, banging on the walls of your cranium, trying to get out.
Lights Out was definitely that hidden manuscript for me. I’m not sure why I kept it locked up for so long. I kept trying out different excuses that sounded rational on the surface but deep down, only came across as scared and self-doubting. When certain family members got the word that I had a finished story in the bottom drawer of my desk, it’s perfectly appropriate to say that all hell broke loose.
“How can you have a finished story and not do anything with it?”
“What are you waiting for? Send it in!”
“Don’t make me do it because I will.”
(That last statement came from my mother.)
So in the end, I took out the manuscript, dusted it off, ran it through some serious slicing and dicing and sent it in. Even now that it’s published, it still makes me nervous. I don’t know why. I think all of us have a book we’ve written that completely wrings us out, leaving behind our limp, useless husks. We all have that book that makes us question why we write in the first place.
But we don’t quit, do we?
Because really, what would be the fun in that?
Lights Out Excerpt
This was the core of it. This was where it was laid bare to anyone with the gift of sight. This was where monsters were created, where they destroyed, where they broke the weak. There were no happy pictures here, no fantasies, no dress-up. This was for the ones who knew damn well what they were doing and didn’t care. They didn’t try to hide it with gifts and toys and ice cream. This was where the darkness was, omnipotent and cruel in its entirety and judging by the darker stains on the floor, irregular-shaped, dried, and brown, almost black, very few could harness it. Very few could survive it.
He took an unsteady step back. Teetering on a knife’s edge, he howled, “Ethan!”
Rage pulsed, abrupt and loud, inside of him. He turned in an endless, frenzied circle, the need so great now to find him, to get him away from all of this, to get himself away from all of this that Paul nearly missed the small voice from behind him.
He spun wildly, almost blind with anger. His finger tightened on the trigger of the gun in his hand and he almost squeezed off a wild shot. Through his reddened vision, he saw the door in front of him, saw that the eye-slot was still open. It was a room full of fairies, the walls painted like a meadow. Little twinkling lights hung from the ceiling and he’d been pretty damn sure that the room had been empty when he first looked inside.
He hit the door with a soft gasp and peered in.
A little girl, no older than nine, sat on the bed, facing the door. She smiled at him, open and trusting. Her big brown eyes sparkled with youth and humor. Her brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail; wispy bangs hung in front of her smooth white forehead. She was dressed like a fairy, complete with shimmery wings, tights, and a dress that shone with blues and violets. The sight of her made him want to fall to his knees, the anger that had nearly consumed him just seconds before, crumbling beneath the weight of this small, fragile creature locked inside of a nightmare. She seemed to ripple as he stared at her like he was looking at her through plastic film. Paul wiped at his eyes, squinting, wondering if perhaps she was nothing more than a hallucination. Maybe she was something that his overtaxed brain had conjured up to keep him from making the wrong move. Her small, slippered feet swung freely above the floor, lightly bumping the side of the bed. The twinkling lights from above illuminated her smooth white arms. Her skin seemed to sparkle.
Fairy dust, he thought numbly.
He started to think that there was something familiar about her but then she asked him in a voice high-pitched, innocent and so fucking young, “Would you like to come in and play with me?”
He had to try several times to find his voice. “Uh, no, no honey, that’s all right.”
“But isn’t that why you’re here?”
He took a painful breath. “No. I’m—I’m looking for someone.”
She gave him a curious look. “Are you playing hide-and-seek?”
Jesus, God. Paul felt like his heart was about to break.
“Kind of. Listen, sweetheart, could you—”
“That’s my name. Melinda. You can call me Melinda if you want to. What’s your name?”
He swallowed. “Paul.”
She giggled. “Your voice sounds funny. You’re not nervous, are you?”
She nodded. “Good.”
The look she gave him was heavy and expectant. “If you want to come in, you’ll have to find Uncle Jack so he can unlock the door.”
Paul’s fingers bit into the small mesh screen covering the eye slot. “Uncle Jack? Do you know where I can find him?”
“He’s probably at the silo.”
“Yup. He always goes there before it gets dark.”
“What’s in the silo, Melinda? Do you know?”
She shook her head. “Only the bad kids go there.”
His heart lurched. “The bad kids, huh?”
“Why only the bad kids?”
“Because, silly, they don’t follow the rules.”
“What kind of rules?”
She swung her feet harder now. “You have to eat your food, do your chores, smile for everyone, and never, ever run away.”
“Yup. ’Cuz then you go to the silo.”
Paul leaned back, biting his lip. Then he said, “Okay, look, Melinda, I’m going to go to silo, find Uncle Jack and then come right back here and get you out. Okay? How’s that sound?”
A small frown graced her features. “Why?”
“You don’t have to get me out. You come in here. I don’t come out there.”
“This is where I belong. You leave. I stay.”
He blinked. “But don’t—don’t you want to go home?”
She flinched as if he’d struck her. “Home is bad. I get hurt at home.”
“Don’t you get hurt here?”
She brightened. “Nope. I get lots of ice cream here. Chocolate chip, too. It’s my favorite. I get it all the time because I’m a good girl.”
Her eyes were almost fever-bright as they drilled into his and Paul found himself backing away under the force of it.
He half-stumbled, half-ran back the way he’d come.
“Hurry up so we can play,” followed him down the steps and out onto the porch.
Bile rose in the back of his throat. He leaned over the railing and vomited.
Here are the links were you can find out all about Melissa Groeling and her work: