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Thursday, December 10, 2020

Guest Post: Creating a Sociopath by Dom Watson

 CREATING A SOCIOPATH

A BREAKDOWN OF HEIRONYMOUS XINDII



Order Xindii: The Boy Who Walked Too Far over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)
Read FBC's interviews with Dom here (2020) and here (2018)
Read FBC's review of The Boy Who Walked Too Far

Oliver Twist on acid.

That’s how I sold the book over two years ago when someone asked me about the publishing world, and the high intensity pressure of banging my book out. I swear, no one understands the pressure us Self-Published authors are under. This is high rolling business. The biscuit tin must be crammed full, tea in plentiful supply. And for Christ sake, back up, back up the backups . And remove those wine bottles from the table, it makes you look like some kind of irascible laureate. (Exclusive. That was the look I was going for. You should see my hair – It’s Wolverine’s lovechild).

That was the gist anyway.

I have never been a fan of heroes. I like my protagonists oozing doubt and danger. Xindii – is really a bit of a bastard. Even in childhood we observe his misgivings about his mother, which is borderline narcissism. A selfishness that is untethered, in which it gets his mother killed. And it is through this deed, this awakening where he falls into the clutches of the Fagin-like Hadigan.

Through flashback we see him as a rather narcissistic child, his inner thoughts concerning his mother almost off-putting. I didn’t want to show him as some Potter-esque cliché. This is the end of time, darkness soon will swallow creation. His mother is essentially a whore. Who wouldn’t have misgivings? But this child is off an almost bizarre lineage – which of course you will discover – so there is an aura of superiority in his manner, though he resides within the poorest part of Testament. This was the very anthesis of Harry Potter

Oliver Twist on acid. Harry Potter with bi-polar. I wanted Xindii to cry and shout at the world because he was a bit different. And here is the crux of the issue. I didn’t want him to be the chosen one. I wanted him to be clever and dangerous, of course, I wanted him broken and crushed on the inside before we got anywhere. I didn’t care about Harry Potter, I wanted to know what made Snape tick.

That to me is more interesting.

Heironymous Xindii is the quiet one at the back. The one the teachers forgot about ( and they do, trust me). The one who could change the world by whispering to a bird. The kid who nobody knew nothing about. The one who wanted to be left alone and was a little bit alien to the world.

But we grow up don’t we? Well, we’re supposed to, the jury is still out on me, according to my fiancé.

Xindii has a duty. But he’d rather get sloshed in the cloisters of his college. There is no butter beer here friends. Sherry, sherry and weed to knock your arse off. But why does he dilute the memories of old? Perhaps because they aren’t very appealing. What madness echoed his genesis?

 

A slice . . .

Xindii turned about and walked to the window overlooking the beautiful, vast city. His home for over a hundred years. His eyes followed a flock of bratternicks drifting to the east. Over the Lillius and into the Isle of Jeppa, a housing estate for the short of pocket. Once his home and old stomping ground. On a cloudless day with an eyeglass he could see his old bedroom window, where - once upon a time - the unlikely union of a lonely time traveller and a beautiful woman culminated in his existence.

He never knew his father but what tales and titbits he could gain from his mother made for fascinating speculation. Or fictions, depending on her sobriety. A deep loneliness followed her like a shadow. And in the company of darkness she would take to a bottle or three of Miaz. A heady concoction of distilled topaz fruit and bramble weed.

 

 

 

Some things aren’t as they seem. It sounded quite romantic, a time traveller and a beautiful woman, but beneath a forbidden love there was heartache and malice – Xindii’s mother, lobotomized into a feral shadow of her former self.


There are scars here.


Within a couple of chapters, we see Xindii as the tutor, the entertaining erudite mentor, by the start of the fourth he is reaching for a glass of unctuous sherry, his cage rattled. His soul is a tsunami ready to lay waste. He needs to command the room, be the focal point. He knows he is a mess.


Aren’t we all.


So, where does this all stem from? He stems from me. When creating Xindii I looked into myself. Into childhood. I was petrified growing up. It’s bloody hard. There are feelings and warning signs that you are not ready to face. Critique upon which you can be lambasted, even for wearing a jumper others deem, ridiculous. I dreamed Xindii into being to face – head-on – the woes of childhood and close the book on them. A stepping stone – for me – and Xindii to grow. He is my mirror and companion. A literary ghost of myself with fictional make-up.

 

a slice . . .

 

Professor Xindii opened the door to his chambers and immediately made his way to the ornate decanter and poured himself a modest measure of Cobalt sherry, which he quaffed with a certain relish. The Gob had a way of getting beneath your skin which was never a pleasant experience. It left you wanting to shower for an age, drink heavily and shower again till you wrinkled and perished into a shadow of your former self.

 

 

People I loathe tend to leave a mark. I wanted to illustrate the point that no matter how strong the character, people are just people and the inner monologue is a fabulous way in which to describe feelings of abhorrence. That wriggling itch beneath your skin, that seething fury in which you want to shout at the world.


There are times within life where we stand at the crossroads. A choice. A decision. But you feel the subtle hand of another guiding you toward it. A friend? Family? A teacher? But in your meek confidence, you give in to the flow. Some sort out Xindii because of the power he could potentially wield ( sequel plug – Newsflash ). All Xindii ever wanted was to lose himself within stories. To be left alone to read and shut the coldness of the world out. None of us get to choose.


Xindii shone like a star in the darkest night, and others were willing to snub that out. Such concerns and demons continue in the sequel, A Stage of Furies. Where Xindii’s time in the army come to bite him on the arse. You’ll love the villain, Naidoo Sadoo. He is a Bond villain, essentially, in the world of Testament. I said this novel was Oliver Twist on acid, well the sequel is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy meets Godzilla.

 



The main course …

 

 

‘Hello.’

The ancient ink fell from the paper like a swarm of bees and infiltrated Xindii’s nose, buzzing; raucous. The dust inflamed his vision, blowing everything out of proportion, his brain acting like a meaty hive for the dust to call home. He passed out on the floor among the first loose pages of the revised Bastard Pete.

 

The dust was coarse. It clung to the insides of his mouth like old cake. It took a couple of deep and ragged swallows to realise the dust had a harder texture. Somewhere between boiled sweets and glass.

The meagre light of the candle created a diorama of silhouettes in the corner of his vision. A faint draft seethed through ancient brick work. Faint ripples of the draft flirted with his bare toes as he pulled the hessian blanket aside and rubbed his groin.

Xindii wondered where the draft was coming from and then he stared out into the dark and spartan room. A desk with bizarre and religious paraphernalia sat in the middle of the room. Old papyrus scribblings depicting ancient sea monsters and the equations that his young and fertile mind couldn’t even begin to understand.

The chill crept up his back and he noticed that he only wore a shroud of cloth that had repeatedly been wrapped around his waist and upper thighs. Xindii touched the fabric which he likened to silk.

He pulled the gown from the back of the wicca chair and wrapped it around him, stemming the cool air from probing any further.

A knock on the door shoved him back into lucidity and he answered the dull thump.

‘Yes?’

‘It’s time my lord.’

My Lord?

For argument sake he responded. ‘One moment, I’ll be along.’

‘Papaal.’

Xindii nodded, unsure of what Papaal was or meant. ‘Papaal.’

The footsteps faded and Xindii settled into the chair for a moment’s clarity, for what it was worth. Old black glass looked at him from the table and Xindii unearthed the pane from learned calligraphy and etchings. An old face looked back, not his. Another’s. Skin as black as night and the eyes as alluring as a taste of the forbidden. Milky pearls that gave way to an unending universe of possibility.

‘So, you are my witness,’ the face spoke.

‘Excuse me, sir?’

‘The one who found my message?’

‘In the book?’

‘Is that where it ends up? My message in a bottle.’

‘Ends up?’

‘Ah, the passage of time. Yet us folk who walk the surf of dreams see all that is and will be, Heironymous Xindii.’

‘How do you know me, sir?’

‘Now that would be telling, wouldn’t it? You don’t skip to the end of a book to see its outcome, do you? You take the journey.’

‘I don’t understand. I was just reading a book –’

‘You read my message.’

‘Yes.’

‘And you came willingly.’

Xindii looked deep into the glass. ‘It didn’t feel very willingly.’

‘Forgive me if my Reveries were brazening.’

‘Reveries? You’re a Mapper?’

‘Is that what they call us now?’

‘Now?’

‘Time is indeed a tricky commodity to tussle with.’

‘I don’t understand what is going on?’

‘My message in a bottle – or book – if that’s the case, brought you to me to bear witness.’

‘For what?’

‘To bring you fulfilment young Xindii, to bring the dreams back to man.’

‘Papaal.’

The door called out again, and the glass answered through Xindii. ‘I’m coming.’

Papaal leaned forward in the glass, the surface bulging, white eyes gazing into Xindii’s. ‘Be my witness.’

It didn’t feel like Xindii had any choice.

‘I will.’

The entity became one with Xindii and they left the dark cool of the room. Others like Papaal, skin like onyx and eyes as white as cold milk escorted Papaal through a village of stone, thistle and black slate, the sky bruised with red and green and clouds that spewed flame.

They took him down to the black sand and the surf that glowed. Papaal’s tribe bayed to the sea and the almighty shards of slate mountains.

‘Behold Xindii, the Black Swell welcomes you, and the Krakens that reside.’

Xindii had never heard anything like it. The shrill of the Kraken made the bones of your body shake and raise gooseflesh in your lungs, the tentacles lunged from the water and wrapped themselves around the mountain. Lightning struck the beast and it didn’t flinch, absorbing the electricity and breathing fire into the swirling maelstrom above.

Papaal started muttering to himself. ‘Heironymous Xindii is my witness. The one to bid me farewell.’

Xindii felt the surf lap at his ankles and he went down with Papaal into the water. He took the phosphorescence into his self, imbibing the saltwater. ‘I take of your milk my god, to sate my journey.’

‘What the hell are you doing?’ Xindii asked.

‘Her milk will guide me.’

‘To where? What the hell is going on?’

‘You have so much to see, my little Mapper.’

Papaal’s robe fell into the breaking surf and he cut himself with a piece of slate across his chest, the blood falling into the water to arouse the Kraken. Xindii looked down onto his chest and noticed the gills forming in the cut. Papaal did it again on the other side and Xindii retched in the man’s body, more air poured into his body as the free-thinking gills manifested in his chest. The biology of dream had no limits.

Papaal ran into the water as his tribe cheered him on. He swam and then descended, into cobalt sheen. Things moved beneath, lumbering masses the size of cities looked up and relished in the devotion lauded unto them.

Papaal swam deeper, into darkness and cold and mouths that had no bottom.

‘Be my witness.’

 

 

Be my witness

It was a precursor really. That a book would lead Xindii astray. It had to be really. Many have so for me, or I wouldn’t be writing this. The Hobbit, Weaveworld, I could go on. But for those who have read the novel, it’s a slight foreshadowing of the main villain at the core of the story. An unreachable entity that is truly immortal, forged in story.

 

Xindii thinks he is mad. Well, he stems from the depths of my subconscious so I can safely say he is. Hadigan used him as a weapon, and in doing so fed him a corrupted drug to heighten his dreamurlurgy: the ability to form dream within reality. In his purification he heard voices that have stayed with him for years. Xindii borders on the cusp of madness, the only thing to tether him the pure unrefined milk of the Kraken, but even that panacea is slipping from him. The Boy Who Walked Too Far isn’t just Oliver Twist on acid, it’s a statement of storytelling, that what we create will endure, somewhere within those curious minds stories will be read and ingrained, forged into the subconscious, shining bright. I touched on certain aspects within the novel that needed to be streamlined down, for editing purposes. The mythology is grandiose, that goes without saying, and some will most certainly be elaborated on within the sequel . . . and this!

 

 

      dessert . . .

 

 

excerpt from SMOKER ON THE PORCH

 

 

Few things scare me.

Spiders, that’s standard. Plug-holes – yeah, I know, I’m weird. It’s just the thought of something scuttling beneath you in the wet grimy dark. It’s not right! Flotsam of loose hair and dead skin adrift; shipwrecked on the confines of a minuscule abyss. I dunno. Maybe it wasn’t that – maybe it was the long-standing memory of my little sis taking a poo in the bath with me in it. The alien flotsam bobbing steadily toward me – as threatening as the dorsal fin of a great white shark.

I haven’t had a bath since ninety eighty-three. I shower.

But all these pale in oblique comparison when it comes to the autumn of 89’, and that puppet master across the street, the smoker on the porch, Francis William Biggot and his House of Sweet Things.

Few things turn the stomach of a child. We are implacable, hardened by naivety, our experiences still malleable, like our bones. We are sterner stuff.

We understand violence and pain. We are kids, we have learned to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down. We are young, new, the thought that someone our ages could pass in their sleep filled our night-time thoughts with a passive emptiness.

Lyndsey Marsh was the first. A bright young girl one year our junior, a student poised with promise and decorum. No murder. No splaying of flesh or punctures to alabaster skin. She was clean, fresh, as sweet as summer linen.

The autopsy revealed no tumour or haemorrhage, no lesions or signs of distress. They labelled it as a teenage form of cot death. What things would she have seen in that night-time meander do you suppose? What would have made her turn her back on loving parents and her cat, Wisp.  

We knew.

The kids knew

We see all the monsters.

If ever the children dreamt too long and deep we would always see it through the murk, the house with chocolate rain falling from peanut brittle gutters onto soft dark cherry steps and soft sponge. The House of Sweet Things.

NOTE: Many thanks to Justine, Timy & the Storytellers On Tours for giving us an opportunity to take part in this tour. Here's the tour's full schedule.




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