Friday, October 05, 2007


Edge of the Woods,
Chauncey Foster Ryder (1868-1949)
oil on canvas.

The following excerpt is a first draft scene from the St. Claire Chronicles - likely from A Malignity of Ghosts.

Lillie St. Claire ( who appears in Weirdly) -- a full-spectrum Talent and official Freak -- is hired by the municipality as a psychic exterminator. Her job is to dispatch any paranatural entities -- the Godforsaken -- who endanger or otherwise disturb the public. She is also employed by the police as a body-finder and as a contract consultant for incidents of psi-crime.

Inevitably, some segments of society protest that elimination of such "non-corporeal intelligences" is a form of genocide.

I stood at the edge of the pit and looked down.

Bodies are very bad when they are fresh and raw with blood. When I can hear the screams ripped from bone and the mouths of butchered flesh. There's a mental identification, an agony of empathy.

Bodies are very bad when they are crawling with carrion beetles and fly maggots and puffed with liquifaction. That's physical.

Bodies are also bad when they are desecrated in a grave. That's a spiritual pain. An offense to decency.

This one, partly disgorged from its coffin in a tatter of satin lining and rotting clothing, had a stake driven through the remains of its ribcage.

I watched a wet clod of yellow clay slide down the pile of excavated soil, split on a broken root, and slop sodden on the remnants of a long skirt. The stake was new and the skull was gone.

Someone had scoured away the lichen and chalked the grave marker. A name, a partial date, and a single benedictive word stood out on the face of the faded marble, above the plinth, below the celtic cross.

Lillie St. Claire...1868...aibhinn.

The frisson that chilled the nape of my neck had nothing to do with the drip of rain water from the massive oak above.

Groaner Q & A:
The last one.
Q: Why don't blind people like to sky dive?
A: Because it scares the dog.


Vesper said...

Oh, Bernita, I liked this one... I felt the frisson too. And the painting - perfect!
Is this from a short story you're writing, or from a longer piece?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Vesper.
Right now it's attached to the novel - but might emerge as a short story.

Amy Lavender Harris said...

Grippingly well written!

Jaye Wells said...

"Bodies are very bad when they are crawling with carrion beetles and fly maggots and puffed with liquifaction."

Nice description, just wish I hadn't been eating breakfast when I read it.

I think that was my favorite joke so far.

Church Lady said...

I like this a whole lot. I was hoping you'd eventually post something about Lillian!

Well, this isn't Jaye's blog, but she did say that if you post writings, people will be tempted to offer comments. I have one comment (which is only one reader's opinion!)

Perhaps make the distinction more stark between 'normal' people, who cower when they see dead flesh, and Lillian, who sees beyond the maggots and only sees/feels the dead person's pyschic pain.

Crudely adapted example:

People think bodies are very bad when they are crawling with carrion beetles and fly maggots and puffed with liquifaction. That's physical.

My concern lies with bodies that are desecrated in a grave. That's a spiritual pain. An offense to decency.

....just an idea. I LOVE this, Bernita! I'm so glad you're posting some of your writing again!


Bernita said...

Thank you, my Child.

Give you a CSI flashback, Jaye? I'm sorry.

Chris, thank you.
But Lillie's reaction and revulsion ARE normal in all three cases - her psychic Talent merely adds intensity to the experience.She doesn't "only" see psychic pain - that's an extra burden.

Charles Gramlich said...

It's always good to see samples of your writing. I like this a lot. Definetely a bit more gory than "Stone child." Unlike Jaye, I like a little gore with my breakfast.

Great painting too. Love these country scenes

Bernita said...

I do too, Charles, especially ones with roads and paths.
Thank you.
But is it actually "gory?"

Ello said...

Thank you Bernita for teasing me with more Lillie St. Clare. Do you know I re-read Stone Child last night because I so love her character? There I was trying to decide which of the many M.E. Ellis stories I would read next and then I said, nah, I want to reread Stone Child even though I need to finish Weirdly! I don't know why I love the concept of it so much. I must have gotten an inkling that you'd post another tidbit Lillie!

I only have one small comment. I had to read "slop sodden" twice because I didn't seem to be reading it correctly the first time. It works, but it did throw me a little off.

That's it! I'm with Charles, I like blood and guts with my morning tea. I would like some more, please.

And Bernita, if you ever need a fresh set of eyes to read for you. I would love to volunteer. (Purely selfish reasons, I hate waiting.)

Dave F. said...

Friday morning horror. Fun with cinnamon rolls and tea. Nice.

Bernita said...

~beams at Ello~
That is such a nice compliment, Ello! Thank you.
And you're likely right about "slop sodden" - too crammed.
Thank you. Sometime, perhaps, when you are not so seriously over-worked.

Quel horreur, Dave!
But is it really?

raine said...

Oh, this is yummy. ;-D

Three years ago I wrote a series about psychic sisters whose last names were St. Claire. This beats it all to hell, lol.
Yay, more Lillie!

Bernita said...

~darling girl~
" This beats it all to hell, lol"
Ha! I don't believe that for a minute, Raine! And three makes for a nice Macbethian/Norn touch.

The Anti-Wife said...

So glad I ate before reading this. It's rather chilling and well written.

Don't stop the jokes!

Gabriele C. said...

An inofficial Friday snippet? :)

You make even decaying bodies sound poetic.
I got that it's an additional layer for Lillie.

Her name on the tombstone is creepy. Ok, there has probably been more than one Lillie St.Claire, but if it's one of her ancestors, it's bad enough. ;)

Scott from Oregon said...

Yeah, you make maggots come elegantly alive as if backed by a Disney symphony soundtrack...

I don't know whether I am being grossed out or cultured...

Sam said...


Oh my!
I shuddered as I read it and got goosebumps. I think that's a good sign, lol.

Bernita said...

Thank you, AW.
Sorry, those are all I have for now.

Worked out that way, Gabriele!
You always seem to understand the way my characters' minds work.
I think one of these has to be an ancestor. The motives behind it are murky.

A little bit of polite perjury there, Scott?
Bodies can be pretty gross.

Lisa said...

This is so visceral and so riveting. There is an odd feeling of intimacy from a detached perspective -- which I know makes no sense at all, but it's my reaction. Love it.

Bernita said...

I hope it's a good thing, Sam.
There's chills and there's gross and creeped out.

Bernita said...

~beams at Lisa~
That was the compartmental effect I strove for, Lisa.
Because as Lillie comments a little later,"I had learned to control my reactions and my face in this business."

Lisa said...

I'm always so excited to get what an author means, particularly when it's so beautifully subtle. Bravo!

Bernita said...

Thank you,Lisa.
~an A+ for Lisa~

JLB said...

Hey Bernita - just swinging through to say howdy. :)

Congrats on Stone Child!


Jeff said...

I really enjoyed this, Bernita! You have a wonderful talent for description. I'm looking forward to reading more about Lillie and her special talent.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jade.
~yells after her~
Nice to see you!

Dear Jeff, thank you.
I hope you will.

SzélsőFa said...

so creepy, Bernita, I liked it. And I liked the name on the cross - I thought she was dreaming,a fter all, seeing her own fate.../or seeing an ancestor with the same name - as a threat... Despite some unfamiliar words, I liked it. *trots away for a dictionary to see things better*

Bernita said...

Thank you, Szelsofa.
I avoid dreams as a narrative device, but I can see how you might have thought that, as dream sequences often open with someone standing on some vantage point.
Yes, the choice of grave is definitely a threat, and so the plot thickens.

Charles Gramlich said...

Not terribly gory. Just a good whiff of gore. :)

Church Lady said...

Bernita, Finally I read Stone Child (Was able to download on my husband's computer. He was traveling for a while, so I hadn't been able to try this until now)

Such a beautifully-written story! The pace, the descriptions, the characters--all of it fantastic! My favorite line was "We met over zombies." Brilliant!!

Can't wait to see more of Lillie!

writtenwyrdd said...

I love your writing bernita. And I want a copy of that painting. Those untravelled roads leading into an intriguing landscape always grab me.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Charles.
Funny, I first read your comment as "a whiff of Gor"

Chris, thank you!
SO pleased you liked it - especially after all the aggravation with your PC.

Thank you, Written.
Me too - this one looks like an old tote road.

Scott from Oregon said...


Nah... I was thinking more along the lines of what an interestingly fine line you just walked...

Bethoven to the left of me...
Maggots to the right...

Bernita said...

Hee, Scott, now if I'd said wiggling with fly maggots....?"