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Book excerpt

Who Am I?

When I was 15 years old, I began studying philosophy: Theology, Logic and formal argument, Socratic Method, Psychology, Karl Jung, a complete history of, and Existentialism. While Logic became the backbone of my existence and Theology ends off prejudice (Yes. I studied Theology of all things, to end prejudice), nothing quite helped me identify who I am like Existentialism: the study of why we exist.

I’m not doing this for you. I have too much Ayn Rand in me to ever write for others. I’m doing this for me. Because, for the first time in twenty years, I don’t know who I am anymore. And I can’t find me.

I was recently challenged with the question, “why do I exist”. I like to think I put up a hell of an argument, though he may disagree. In all honesty, it’s a question I haven’t stopped thinking about since. I knew the answer once.

I exist to conquer Death. Death has it in for me and I for Him. We never quite learned how to get along. I think He’s determined to take me. I, on the other hand, have different plans. So I run from Him. I hide. We’re waiting it out to see who wins.

But, I live knowing He will win and some day He will defeat me. For me, there is no after life. There is no second chance. It’s why I live life to the fullest now. It’s why I smile and laugh and love and live as deeply as I know how because this…this is all we have. Every choice I make is with this in mind that this life right here, right now, is all I’ve got. And I could never live with myself if I squandered this. Yes. This mind set has shaped my morals and ethics, but that is for another time.

It isn’t fear of Death that keeps me running, certainly not fear of the End. It is simply fear of being forgotten. I am terrified I won’t be remembered. For if we are not remembered, what lives have we truly lived? I can’t help but think about this. This fear drives me in every choice I make. So many people like to say their children are their legacy, but how many of us can recall the names of our Great Great-grandparents?

Let’s face it. Your legacy will forget you. And in three generations, they won’t even know that their dislike for mixing foods came from you, which came from a long line of grandfather’s who didn’t like mixing their peas with carrots (I mean really why would you do that!? Green and orange don’t mix!) or that their incessant impulse to lie stems from a multi-generation legacy they never knew. I have dedicated my life to the truth to compensate for the generation of Liars I have stemmed from. If there is one truth I am certain of in me, I do not lie. There’s been enough falsified records throughout human history. I refuse to contribute to that.

We strive to record our history books so that we will know where we came from and so we can learn from our past. *laughs* We never learn. I have studied more than six thousand years of human history. All I see is the human race making the same damn mistakes over and over again.

1.   Rule – You don’t burn the books

2.   Rule – You don’t destroy the art work

Hopefully, we will try to remember that when next we imperialize a nation. After six thousand years, you’d think we’d learn that lesson.

So back to my point. Why do I exist? I don’t live to preserve the human race or contribute to our culture. I don’t exist to please a deity who may or may not approve of my choices so that I may have a chance at an afterlife or a happy ending. I exist to be remembered. I write so that I may be remembered. I wish to say to the world, “I am someone worth remembering because I am. And what about me is worth remembering? Well, that’s my story now, isn’t it?

Prologue 

I opened the red door of my cottage and peered through the crack into the early morning and at the stranger who approached my door. My home was out of the way of everything. Those who came to visit had to make an effort, and almost no one made the effort. I liked it that way. 

“Miss Lundy?” the stranger said nervously. “Miss Elizabeth Lundy?”

Like a sniper staring through the scope of a rifle, I assessed the youth, determined the level of threat he posed, and punched out the stats in my head: Male. Twenty-two years. Five-five. One twenty pounds. Thin arms. Wide shoulders, straight back. If he worked out, he could turn more than a few heads. Pity he didn’t bother.

He smiled a bright smile that exposed a decent set of teeth. Everything about his composure exuded relief and elation once he saw that I hadn’t slammed the door in his face.

“Good morning,” he said and it truly was. The sun bathed the deep greens of the forest and hills despite the white clouds that streaked the Irish sky. The stream that cut through the land behind him caught the light and glistened like crystal glass. The rains would be here by evening, but for now, it was a very good morning.

He was American. New England. His hair was sandy, short, and brushed back. Eyes were hazel and clear. Skin, pasty pale. Not the fair Irish pale I had grown used to seeing, but an unhealthy sickly complexion one can only get from living in an office too long. Desk jockey, I concluded. Pencil pusher. Virgin. I could take him. I could teach him a few things. I would break him.

“Dia Duit,” I answered softly and waited for an explanation.

“Miss Lundy. I’m William D. Shaw from the university.” He nervously shuffled his bag then freed and extended a long, slender hand. His fingers were strong, almost pianist quality and I felt my blood rise when I slid my hand into his. Strong shake. Confident. Not feeble or limp. I imagined his hands on me. Sliding up my neck, through my hair. If he knew what he was doing, that was. He didn’t look like he would. He was shaking, but doing a decent job keeping it together all things considered.

“We spoke on the phone,” he said. “Well…we didn’t speak on the phone so much as I left you a voice message. I…May I come in?”

I released his hand and noted the warmth. His blood pressure was high, but no sweat. That was a plus.

I pulled my cell from my pock and woke the phone. Yep. There was the message I didn’t want to listen to yesterday. I hated checking my voicemail. I associate it with matters of importance and nothing ever was. Such a pain. I also hated guests, change, interruptions, and the feeling I got when someone came to my door. Anxiety, terror, then the arousal. I wanted him to leave and afterward I would indulge in a bit of fantasy. The anxiety always won and I rushed them out the door. I never invited them in. Never asked them to sit down. They were not welcome. They needed to know that. But I had promised myself I would do better. I had felt myself regressing again. Two months was too long to go without contact. Even I knew this. I could invite him in or don my coat and go out. I felt sick at the thought of a crowded room.

“Yes. Come in,” I said and pushed the door open, giving him room enough to enter my domicile while granting myself the space for my own comfort.

Mine was a small domicile with one floor, perfect for just me. Aged rich planks made up the wood floor and whitewashed stone formed the walls, which were dressed in moss, roses, and ivy on the outside. The old kitchen that greeted guests, if ever I had any, extended into an eatery that turned a sharp corner around the only bathroom and into a quaint living room I had converted into a greenhouse years ago.

Aside from a plain but comfortable sage couch, a rocking chair where a faux fur blanket hung on the back, and a bookshelf containing my most prized possessions, the room was dripping in plants. Floor plants, hanging plants, and floral potted things all strategically positioned to bask in the morning light that poured in through the giant bay window where my tabby cat, Cookie, spent her days watching the birds. That room gave the same feel as an old forest. I loved reading in that room. A Steinway electric piano graced the corner and provided a gracious view of the forest outside when I played. My bedroom was accessible only through the green room.

Mr. Shaw stepped into the small part of my kitchen reserved for dining. He studied the converted living room/greenhouse across from the dining table. Cookie flipped her long, plush tail and stared at the birds through the large bay window where the morning sun seeped in.

He appeared surprised at the simple accommodations and inhaled the scent of Irish stew simmering on the stove. Directly left of the red door was the only fireplace I used to dry the air on the dampest of days and coldest of nights.

“What can I do you for, Mr. Shaw?” I asked.

“Thank you, Miss. Lundy, for seeing me,” he said. “Please, call me William.”

I gave him a disapproving stare.

“I was wondering if you would be willing to do an interview with me? I’m a big fan. Longtime fan, actually, and your work with the Druid Series was astounding. Ian was…”

I said nothing, unimpressed with his compliment, but forced a smile. I was still too annoyed at the interruption.

“I’ve been following you for quite some time and…well, nothing is known about you,” he said. “Nothing, really. It’s all so limited.”

He saw I wasn’t impressed and was eager for him to get to the point.

“Right,” he said. “So I was wondering if you would be willing to do an interview…”

The tension was unbearable. I watched the way he rubbed his thumb on the strap of his back pack.

He was still rambling when I zoned back in and hadn’t heard a word he had said. I took great delight in watching him squirm. Maybe if he was as anxious as I, he would get the hint and leave.

“My dear Mr. Shaw,” I said and raised my chin so that he could see the sunlight graze my neck. “Please, speak plainly,” I said softly.

I felt myself doing it again. Already my defenses were up. If I could coerce him into thinking about sex, I would be safer. I needed to calm down. He was no threat. I had already assessed that. Good God, I missed my swords.

“Beggin’ your pardon ma’am?”

I watched him glance at the slender lines of my neck. It was working. He would calm down soon enough.

“There is something else you wish to ask me,” I gently declared. I watched him relax and I smiled. I knew the light gleamed in my eye and I tipped my head ever so slightly. I had this routine mastered. “Instead of winding your nerves into all sorts of knots, please just ask what you will of me.”

I could feel the smooth coercion in my voice, the way my words rolled off my tongue and soothed him like a charmed snake heeding the words of a succubus. He inhaled and I waited patiently.

“I had hoped to wait until later to ask this, you being a recluse and all. I…” He nervously glanced away. “I wish to do a full biography on you.”

The room fell quiet. The boy was holding his breath as if afraid my answer hinged on whether or not he breathed in the next two minutes. I toyed with the idea of delaying an answer for ten minutes just to watch him squirm.

After three minutes, I put him out of his misery. “You wish to write a biography.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“About me?”

“Yes.”

“So…” I grinned. I could see his jaw line twitch. He still hadn’t breathed. “…you’ve come to descend into the bowels of my psyche, have you?” I took up the coffee pot and poured myself a cup. “And what is it you think you’ll find there, Mr. Shaw?”

“Uh…”

I added a tea-spoon of sugar and opened the fridge.

“Why a biography?” I clarified.

“Well, you’ve been strangely quiet about your life,” he said. “Your past. Almost no one knows anything about you prior to your thirties. People want to know. I know some who have started a pool that you’ve killed someone. They think you’re a serial killer hiding from the law.”

I leaned out of the fridge, arching my brow. I permitted a smirk.

“It’s the eyes,” he said. “They…”

He caught the look, my posture. Nothing he was saying impressed me and he knew it. For a moment, there was a hungry flash in his eye and surprising even me, he dumped his bag to the floor.

“Miss Lundy…” He took a step and I straightened my back, my hand went up and before he knew it, I was holding a knife to his throat. He didn’t move.

“Miss Lundy?”

I blinked and realized he hadn’t moved. There was no knife. There was only me and him in my kitchen. The fridge door was wide open. The coffee creamer in my hand. The look in his eyes was enough to know I had my boundaries and he was on them.

I knew where I was. It had been too long. I blinked back the image and tried to clear my head. I had to remember which world I was in. I put the creamer back in the fridge and reached for the Baileys I kept with my whiskeys and wines on the top of the fridge instead.

“This isn’t just about your books, Miss Lundy,” he said. “This is about you, the author. People want to know about you, the woman behind the books, and you’ve told us precious little.”

“That was no accident,” I said, pouring two shots into my coffee. “Do you want coffee?”

“Please. Black.”

My invitation for coffee was enough to urge him to slide off his coat and drop it on the back of the chair nearest the door.

I let the silence settle between us while I poured a second cup then walked to the table beside my guest. I set the coffees down and extended a hand, directing him to sit.

“So,” I sighed, taking my seat as he scrambled eagerly to take his. “You wish to write my biography.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “People want to know who you are. What you are. What made you write the books that you write. They wish to know your schooling, your loves, your struggles. What challenges in your life made you what you are. They want to know your lows, your highs. They want to know…” He sighed. “They want to know what struggles shaped you to write the macabre you portray in your books.”

I clutched my coffee. I felt sick. The challenges in my life? I held my cup steady against my shaking hands. I didn’t trust myself to move. I knew what he asked. The poor whelp didn’t. My hands went white.

“Get out,” I said darkly.

William stared at me stupidly, and I felt the anger surge. He didn’t move. Nor did I.

Perhaps I needed to tell my story, to talk, to not be alone. I knew where I was. If I were alone right now I would descend into the bowels of my mind and, this time, I wasn’t certain I could come back. There was less and less reason for me to.

I heard William shuffle and take up his bag from the floor. I thought of Jacob and Isaiah. I thought of my Raven. Oh, how much I missed Raven. So much. So…so much.

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