It’s no secret how fond I am of Ocean and Bosley, my protagonists in The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People; however, there are lesser known characters I’ve written about who also tend to provoke a strong emotional reaction in me. So I thought I’d just take a moment to recognize these imaginary friends of mine … though some of them I would be hard pressed to actually call friends.
Owen from “Tiffany Shepis and the Fanboy of the Apocalypse”: I’m intrigued with Owen simply because he’s bat-shit crazy. What’s not really told in the story is that before the undead apocalypse went down, he was a pretty normal guy. He went to work, paid his bills, had meaningful relationships, and really loved horror movies. The stress of witnessing this shock-and-awe campaign of the living dead, however, caused him to snap. He’d seen so many atrocities and felt such desolate pain that he grabbed onto one thing like a drowning man struggling for a life preserver. That thing was his autographed picture of Tiffany Shepis. It was the last link to a normal world and simpler time. He just happened to turn to that defense mechanism more and more until his desperation grew into psychotic obsession. His issues ran so deep that he even peppered his conversations with her movie titles without realizing he was doing so. Not just throwing the names out there, but subconsciously working them into the context of what he was saying. The sentence still made sense. But here was this movie title that had worked its way in. One more little connecting line to the way life had been. Which is why I really see him as a somewhat tragic character.
xxxBuTcHeRxxx from “Cooking with Grace”: I find this guy genuinely creepy. People sometimes ask dark fiction authors if they’ve ever written anything that’s scared even them; for me, the answer to that question is xxxBuTcHeRxxx. I’ve thought a lot about this guy as, for a while there, I’d considered expanding this short story into a novel. But even without that additional information, the last two lines of the story really disturb me. There’s nothing tragic about this son of a bitch.
Chase McGowan from an untitled novel idea I haven’t entirely given up on: In his youth, Chase thought he was a serial killer. The dude would see attractive women on the street and would think of them as good victims instead of sexy or pretty. He had some pretty serious anger issues going on inside him and spontaneously had some pretty fucked up fantasies. After picking up a hitchhiker one night, he made that leap from fantasy to reality. Once the woman was dead, however, he was torn apart by guilt and remorse and realized that he couldn’t just callously take a life. But he’s still a bit of a sociopath, so turning himself in was not an option. Instead, he takes her into the woods and buries her in a clearing, near a small stream. Twenty years later, he still visits that spot in the woods. He lays on the ground with his ear pressed to the gravesite and talks with her. He hears her replies, but I’m not really sure if it’s actually her spirit or simply Chase’s own guilt trying to convince his apathetic side to do the right thing after all these years.
Memory Wilkes from a novel entitled Nowhere Fast that I haven’t entirely given up on: Memory grew up in a poor, backwoods town in West Virginia. Her father is the town drunkard and spends more time at the local bar, The Smoke Shop, than he does at home. Her mother suffers from schizophrenia but has never been treated or institutionalized for it. She stays at home and her disability checks are the only real income the family has. However, this also means that 17 year old Memory is stuck with caring for her little brother and sister and running the household. In a town where pretty much everyone is poor, her family is considered trash. Parents warn their kids not to befriend the Wilkes children and any time a petty crime is committed, the suspicion automatically falls on them. Though she’s still a virgin, she has the reputation of being a little whore who will put out to anyone, anytime. All Memory wants is to fix the old pickup truck her uncle left for her in his will and leave all of it behind. She longs to move to Charlotte, NC where she can be just another face in a teeming crowd, anonymous and nondescript. In an attempt to earn the money needed to make her fantasy a reality, Memory makes a very bad decision, leading to a chain of events that only get worse with every turn.
Agent Meat: Named after on online buddy from the early nineties, Agent Meat is an interdimensional creature who is part of the ruling elite on a conquered Earth. He’s humanoid, but his lipless mouth is lined with needle like teeth and he has a bifurcated tongue. His ears lay flat against his head and his nose resembles a head of cauliflower. He favors dark, expensive suits which contrast with his ashy-gray skin and felt fedoras. He comes from a caste-driven society, with the true upper echelon being those in the Guru class. He was born into the Agent class and is a couple rungs lower on the social ladder than a Guru. But, as an Agent, he is as feared as he is ruthless. When an Agent dies, their “soul” must spend an indeterminate amount of time in a type of limbo as they prepare themselves for the transition. During this period, they continue to work for the agency in various forms. Agent Meat’s partner, for example, is Agent Brass, who only appears in reflective surfaces. Together, these two agents root out dissidence among the enslaved, human drones who are forced to manufacture a drug the overlords’ society depends upon. A drug in which humans are also the main ingredient. While definitely a hard ass, Meat considers himself to be more liberal than Brass in that he has no quandaries about members of his species, called The Party, using humans to satisfy their sexual desires, even though it is forbidden.