I posted an early excerpt of my new novel, “Dark Matter,” in this post here. It was a relatively humorous scene, focused on the police-procedural aspect but hinting at the themes of hard science and Lovecraftian horror that birthed the idea.
I’m at almost the exact midpoint of the novel and had an unexpected opportunity to wax poetic on these twin motifs in a way that reinvigorates me for the back half of the writing. The protagonist, FBI agent/single mother Frankie, finds herself (perhaps) wrongly committed to a mental institution after an encounter with a monstrous foe. Bound to a bed in a padded room (a development not in the original outline), she ponders several deep facts about the universe that this unusual investigation has crossed paths with … strange abstractions that, before the endgame, will start to feel all-too-real.
(I included Wikipedia links for further reading and maximum geekitude.)
She awoke with a scream and tried to reach for her back to brush … it … them … away, to push, to fight like she never had … but she could not reach her back, because she was still restrained, and no longer in the sterile surroundings of the hospital examination room. This room was white as well, but small and featureless except for a door with a tiny window and a flickering fluorescent light behind a plexiglass cage in the ceiling, and the door and all the walls were padded with square-shaped cushions upholstered with what looked like white leather but might have also been fake leather. Vegan-friendly padded cell, she thought wildly.
She tried to shout to get someone’s attention, but what came out of her throat was an inarticulate scream, perhaps a relic of the one that built up inside of her from the dream that was already fading from her memory. She arched her back, barely noticing that she was still wearing a hospital gown.
The scream subsided, and Frankie reflected on the hoarseness of her voice. Lactic acid pooled at her joints, making them sting. The muscle of her shoulder ached at the injection site. The fluorescent flickered intermittently above her, not fast enough to resemble a strobe light, but often enough to keep her mind from settling even into that disgusting off-blue glow. If she were epileptic, that flicker might trigger a seizure that could very easily kill her with no one to attend.
“Hello?” she finally found her words. “Can anyone hear me? Is anybody there?”
Noise began to register around her, the confounding wail mixed with the horn blast faded to dull amnesia. Doors clanged and echoed somewhere beyond her padded cell, but they sounded far away. Muffled, as if the sound had to travel through several walls, there came as Frankie’s only answer a prolonged and repeated female scream. It did not sound like the scream of acute pain or torture, but the burden of ongoing anguish that had lost its ability to be silent.
Frankie dissolved into weeping, unable to wipe her face with her restrained hands as tears poured down her cheeks, as mucus from her nose dribbled down her lips. She thought about Brooklyn. Brooklyn was safe with Howard, but how long had it been since she saw her mother? Did she miss Frankie? Frankie tried to send her love from her desolate circumstances, but she did not want Brooklyn to ever see her like this. She would be terrified. Frankie was terrified.
The female voice screamed again. The light flickered above her.
Minutes dragged by, and Frankie’s crying subsided. She thought about the minutes turning to hours. She thought about Dark Matter, clumping invisibly around stars, fat and benign like Santa Claus holding the galaxies together in a big sack. Her Uncle Billy used to dress up as Santa Claus when he came over for Christmas, jolly and full of joy that Frankie did her best to mimic, for her parents’ sake.
She thought about Dark Energy — unseen hands in the space between molecules, ripping everything apart at the seams, pulling more and more of the universe out of reach, the answers to God knows how many unanswerable questions with it, pulling cosmic history away from us like a weed, biding its time until it was our turn to be uprooted.
She thought about the Great Attractor — something titanic and unseen in the screaming void between galaxies, pulling everything nearby into its clutches with the creeping tentacles of its gravity. Scientists couldn’t see it … Could it see us? Could something that massive have eyes? A billion malevolent, lidless fiery unblinking eyes and as many hungry chomping mouths, awaiting the great feeding that gravity would haplessly deliver them unto?
She began to wonder if she really was going crazy, and she wept messily, clenching and unclenching her fingers and toes against the restraints.