Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Shea Berkley | They Aren’t Real

July 31, 2011

Shea BerkleyTHE MARKED SONI was talking to my critique partner the other day, discussing my characters (I was having a crisis or more to the point, my character was), and when I paused, she said, “You know they aren’t real, right?”

“Who aren’t?” I asked.

“Your characters.”

I hyperventilated.

Was she kidding? No, she wasn’t.

I live a very strange life. I interact with people who really don’t exist, not in our tangible world, but I have to believe they exist in order to create a believable story. Yeah, wrap your brain around that one. So yes, I know they don’t exist in flesh and blood, but they do exist, are real in my head. They have to be. Their worries and loves and troubles and triumphs have to matter to me. I have to want the best and the worst for them otherwise they’ll exist in a boring, staid story that I, let alone anyone else, won’t want to experience.

That is the entertainer in me talking. It’s this little voice in the back of my brain that giggles when I come up with a sick idea that will cause my characters no end of torture. It sighs with pleasure every time my characters finally get what they want.

In my debut novel, THE MARKED SON, my main character, Dylan, has serious issues he’s dealing with. A messed up mom, being dumped at his grandparents’ house, no friends, a haunted forest…

Here’s a quick excerpt:

THE MARKED SON by Shea Berkley

I was eight the first time I saw the girl.

Mom freaked when I told her, said I was letting a girl terrorize my dreams, but I didn’t get it. They were dreams, not nightmares. I don’t remember ever waking up afraid. Not back then. So when the dreams kept coming, year after year, each one more vivid than the last, I held onto them like a skydiver clutching his ripcord. No way would I let Mom take them away from me.

It’s been years since she’s asked me about the girl, but lately Mom’s been curious. I tell her I haven’t had a dream in awhile. She eyes me like I’m lying.

So what if I am? I may not remember everything about my dreams when I wake up, but I do know when I’m about to have one. My scalp tingles, like tiny bugs zap, zap, zapping along my skin. The darkness behind my lids turns smoky. I’ve tried to pull away at that point but it’s no use. I don’t fight it now. Instead I sink into the thick air and come out the other side into a world that is nothing like the one I know…

Yet, it’s familiar.

Tonight, the smoke fades, and the girl appears in a thin, white gown. I’m lying in a meadow surrounded by deep woods, one hand tucked behind my head—shirtless and shoeless and wearing a pair of old, ratty jeans. I can hear the TV I left on fading in the distance until the sound of the meadow fills the air.

She’s suddenly beside me, beautiful beyond words, her long, dark hair spilling over her shoulder as she bends to touch my hand. Her cool fingers rest more like mist than flesh in my palm. The rough corset she’s wearing cinches the fabric snug to her hips. She’s got a definite Victorian vibe going, but it suits her. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it.

Her violet eyes darken, revealing the silent plea that carries a hint of desperation, and she tugs, urging me to get to my feet. She wants me to run, to escape. In the last two weeks, we’ve tried, running so long and so hard that we’re sure we’ll never find our way home again. We’ll be lost together forever. It’s what she wants. It’s what I need. But it always fails. We eventually wind up back at the meadow.

Tonight, I’m content to pull her down beside me, lie in the soft grass, and stare at the sky. Our fingers intertwine, our shoulders touch. We’ve both gotten older since the first time we met. There have been years when we rarely saw each other, but lately, our time together has intensified. There’s a feeling of impending doom that wasn’t there when we were younger, as if this perfect place of dreams is about to shatter, and we’ll never see each other again.

There’s so much I want to know. Why do I only dream about her when I need her most? Am I insane? I don’t ask. I’m afraid to. I want her to be real, just a few months more, maybe a year. Then I’ll grow up and cut this strange, imaginary cord. I can’t lose her smile, not yet, or her lips against my cheek—one of her butterfly kisses that’s gone before it’s begun.

Her silence has never bothered me before. Tonight, all I want is one word.

My name.

I hope this small taste of Dylan’s story intrigues readers enough to go get the book. Really, I loved creating Dylan and I want people to meet him, and cheer him on. Poor guy needs some friends on his side.

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