Nuovo appuntamento con Open Circle, questa volta scopriamo un interessante romanzo di Tim Waggoner, Like Death, pubblicato per la prima volta nel 2005. Come sempre avremo occasione di leggere un'estratto dell'opera, in questo caso del primo capitolo del romanzo.
Like Death è un romanzo che transita dal genere horror al dark fantasy, sviluppando temi e caratteristiche tipiche dell'autore. Il protagonista del romanzo è Scott Raymond, sopravvissuto da bambino al massacro della sua famiglia. Questo forte trauma ha portato Scott verso l'ossessione del crimine, della violenza, tanto da diventare uno scrittore di polizieschi per guadagnarsi da vivere. Ma la violenza è imprigionata anche dentro se stesso, talvolta si mostra. Per questo la moglie decide di lasciarlo e portare con se suo figlio, minacciando il divorzio. Scott non vuole perdere il figlio e si trasferisce da Cedar Hill (omaggio alle storie di Gary Braunbeck) alla nuova città dove ora vive la sua famiglia, con la scusa di fare delle ricerche sul caso di una bambina assassinata da un serial killer, Miranda Tanner. In realtà sta cercando una seconda occasione per tornare con la sua famiglia, anche se lui stesso non riesce a leggere con chiarezza nel suo cuore, nelle tenebre che sembrano divorarlo lentamente. Tenebre che si manifestano con visioni e incubi, dove è lui il protagonista di varie violenze e efferatezze. Durante le sue richerche incontra un'altra Miranda, omonima della bambina assassinata su cui vuole scrivere un libro, e tra loro nasce uno strano e inquientante rapporto. Miranda diventa presto l'obiettivo di tutti i suoi pensieri, la sua "lolita", facendogli dimenticare la sua famiglia e i propositi di riavvicinamento. Ma Miranda sa molto cose di Scott, del suo passato, delle sue oscurità, e lo trascina in una realtà parallela, in una diversa dimensione. Un viaggio paradossale che rivelerà molte cose a Scott, di se stesso e della propria "anormalità", attraverso esperienze molto forti. Miranda diviene un simbolo dei crimini compiuti contre le donne, o forse è qualcosa in più.
Un romanzo dai contenuti profondamente surreali e fantastici che interpretano con originalità alcuni temi attuali, come la pedofolia e la violenza contro le donne, un ritratto psichedelico della realtà e della morte, uno specchio nero dove camminano e strisciano strane creature, una profonda palude in un territorio sconosciuto dove inabissarsi, una visione, una percezione distorta dell'abisso che è dentro di noi. La vera abilità di Waggoner è saper dosare con la sua scrittura tanti temi diversi, ambientazioni e visioni, senza mai smarrire l'autenticità della sua narrativa e la "bussola" della storia. L'immaginario dell'autore con questa opera si mostra nel pieno della sua compiutezza, un vero "parco giochi" per gli appassionati del genere, che sa però tagliare e far male con i suoi contenuti attuali e potenti, nei quali possiamo ritrovarci, nella furia della realtà e del destino. Tra le pagine di cronaca nera e i sogni più incredibili.
Huddled beneath the kitchen table, knees drawn to his chest, he crouches with hands balled into fists, jammed against his ears, kneading them as if he might cut off the screams by grinding cartilage and flesh to a pulp. It doesn’t work; the screams come through just fine.
He keeps his eyes open, doesn’t seem to be able to close them, even to blink. Which is too bad, because he’d give anything to shut out what he’s seeing. At nine, he’s too young to make useless bargains with God – If you take away the cancer I swear I’ll be faithful to my wife, I really mean it this time – and he’s too old to think he can make it never-was merely by wishing hard, hard, hard! All he’s got are those fists of his, grinding, grinding. . . .
A woman falls to the kitchen floor with a wet smack. Her face is turned toward him, and like his, her eyes are wide open. The difference is she’s never going to close hers again, not on her own. An image flashes through his mind, a composite drawn from hundreds of movies and TV shows: a hand (sometimes belonging to a cop, sometimes a coroner) passing over the open-eyed face of an actor pretending to be dead. The fingers are straight, and there is no obvious contact between the hand and the mock-corpse’s face. Yet when the hand has finished its pass, the eyes are closed, almost as if it were some sort of magic trick. The boy wonders if he were to reach out and pass his hand an inch or so over the woman’s face, if her eyes – those terrible, empty eyes – would close. He doubts it. Life is never as good as TV.
The front of the woman’s flower-print sundress is covered with blood, so much and so thick that it’s almost black. The dress itself is shredded, and he realizes that what he first took to be blood on the fabric is really gore smeared on her flesh. He stares at something round with a little nub in the middle, and he understands that he’s looking at his first naked breast. At least, the first he’s ever seen outside the pages of a purloined Playboy. It looks so much different than the pictures he’s seen; it sags a bit, for one thing. And of course, it’s slick with blood. Miss June after she’s been through a meat grinder.
Someone else is screaming now. Or maybe the screaming has taken up residence inside his skull despite his efforts to keep it out, and it’s echoing in there, bouncing around, becoming louder and shriller with each pass, and soon it’ll get so loud that his head can’t possibly contain it anymore and it’ll explode, splattering the underside of the table with blood, bone, and brain.
He wants to look to see who else is screaming, but he can’t move (besides his fists, of course; those he can move just fine, still grinding, grinding), not even to turn his head, so he keeps staring at the dead woman’s face – name, name, name, he knows her name, knows who she is, but he can’t – and he watches as a pool of dark blood spreads out from beneath her, the leading edge of it sliding toward him slowly, as if he were sitting on a beach watching a crimson tide come in.
Gotta move. If he doesn’t, the blood will reach his sneakers within seconds, stain them, and his mother – that isn’t his mother on the floor, staring, mouth gaping open like a dead fish, it isn’t! – will get mad at him for getting them dirty. She just bought them last week. But if he moves, he’ll draw attention to himself, and that would be a Very Bad Thing, because . . . because . . . he’s not sure why, really. Just because.
So when the blood touches his sneakers, his legs tense, but he doesn’t move, and when it rolls on, touching the bottom of his shorts, starting to soak through at once, warm as fire against his skin, he grits his teeth and a soft keening sound starts deep in his throat, but he doesn’t move, doesn’t dare. Only now he’s punching his ears with fast jabs, left-right, left-right, left-right, and his head starts to ring, but it’s not loud enough to cover the screams, not nearly.
A shuffle of feet, and the table gives a jump. The sound startles him, breaks his paralysis, at least for a second, and he’s able to turn his head, sees a pair of hairy legs, men’s legs, feet in brown leather sandals. There’s blood on those legs, streaks and splatters, though they seem to be undamaged. Dripped from above, the boy thinks, the observation as cool and rational as any made by the cops in the TV shows he likes: Starsky and Hutch, Baretta, The Streets of San Francisco, and the coolest of all, Hawaii Five-Oh. Drums, that wave, Jack Lord’s hair.
There’s another pair of legs beyond the hairy ones; these are covered by blood-dotted khaki slacks, feet encased in crimson-speckled black shoes. Under those shoes are red smears, and the boy wonders how either of these men have managed to maintain their footing with so much blood all over. He hears the sound of what he guesses is a knife plunging into flesh – chuk, chuk, chuk – but it’s a terribly ordinary sound, like when his mother slices a cantaloupe (though he can’t see it from here, he knows there’s one on the counter, mother bought it before they left home, they were going to have it for supper, but he knows they aren’t going to have it now, no one’s going to have an appetite after this).
Those hairy legs buckle, the sandaled feet slip out from under them, and the man crashes to the floor, causing the table to slide back a couple of inches. He falls next to the wide-eyed woman, a hairy arm draped across her leg, almost as if he were purposefully posing for the crime scene photos to come. His blood pools, runs, mingles with the woman’s. The boy experiences an urge to reach out and try to separate the blood, smear it apart, because if it gets all mixed up there’s no way anyone’ll be able to tell whose is whose, and then how will the doctors be able to put it back? But he doesn’t move, keeps pounding his ears until he realizes something.
The screaming has ended.
He stops hitting himself, draws his fists away from red, raw ears. Listens through the ringing, hears harsh breathing, tired but excited. Looks at the khaki legs still upright, standing patiently. A hand hangs next to the right leg; it’s holding a wicked-looking hunting knife, metal coated with wet red.
“Come on out, Scotty.” This is breathed more than said, the words drifting forth when the speaker exhales. The boy tries to place the voice, almost can, but fails.
A pause, and he senses a smile accompanying the next words.
“It’s your turn.”
The boy sighs, closes his eyes (since he still can) and waits for the hands to reach for him.
* * * *
Tim Waggoner ha scritto numerosi romanzi, due raccolte di racconti e ha pubblicato oltre cento racconti, novelle e saggi nel genere horror, fantasy e thriller. Si è laureato alla Wright State University nel 1989. Ha lavorato come editor e reporter. Attualmente insegna scrittura creativa alla Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, e cura il corso di Writing Popular Fiction alla Seton Hill University. Alcuni dei suoi romanzi: Dying for It (2001) The Harmony Society (2003) Dark Ages: Gangrel. (2004) Nekropolis (2004) Defender: Hyperswarm (2004) Like Death (2005) Exalted: A Shadow Over Heaven's Eye (2005) A Nightmare on Elm Street: Protege (2005) Pandora Drive (2006) Darkness Wakes (2006) Cross County (2008) Last of the Lycans (2010). Di prossima uscita per Delirium Books il suo nuovo romanzo The Men Upstairs (cover realizzata da Daniele Serra) Web Site
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