After reading through this chapter again after many years I realize it is really long and I don't think it is long in a good way. The purpose of the chapter is to let the reader get to know the main character and what her daily life is like before all the craziness starts. I'm worried that it is boring and should be cut down significantly or cut completely. I think it needs to be cut down to only the parts where she is afraid she is being watched.
Readers now a days don't seem to want to get to know characters anymore. They just want to get to the plot and the action. Let me know what you think.
Cosima ushered her son, Logan, into the house, his hands full of random gifts he acquired at his grandmother’s home. Logan grumbled as she forced him through the door. She didn’t want to be outside in the dark. Her body still shook from the attack. The equipment from the wedding shoot sat in the back seat of the car spewed about and unprotected. She wanted to leave the equipment overnight and retrieve it in the morning while the sun was up, but the neighborhood she lived in wasn’t the best. She had to bring the equipment in tonight.
She walked down the wooden steps watching everything around her. Dogs barked in the distance but no other sound penetrated the dark trailer park. Something still watched her from the dark. She couldn’t see anyone, but she felt them staring. She clicked the button to unlock her car doors and propelled herself into the back seat. She grabbed all the cameras and the canon backpack leaving the batteries behind. If someone stole the batteries, they would be cheaper to replace than the lenses and bodies. She relocked the car doors and darted back up the wooden deck stairs.
Paranoia took over and Cosima dead bolted all the doors, checked if every window was locked, and shut all the blinds in the house. Logan watched from his bedroom door an expression of confusion on his face. She should’ve called the police while she had the chance. Cosima would feel safer knowing they were out there looking for the man.
Cosima dropped on the couch by her son and sucked a few deep breaths into her lungs. Logan continued to stare, his eyes questioning her actions. She grabbed a brush off the coffee table and stroked her long brown hair knotted from the wind, rain, and hairspray. She smiled at Logan pretending everything was fine. Her muscles ached as she pushed the brush through; a side effect of holding her camera up to her eye all day.
Logan left the couch and sprawled out on the living room floor dumping out Halloween candy from an orange plastic pumpkin. He excitedly talked about his night with grandma, and presented his Halloween loot to impress her. Cosima tried to listen, but her mind kept wandering back to the alley, to the shadow man, and the feeling of being watched. She smiled and nodded at the right times, and Logan continued his story in great detail, more detail than she could concentrate on. Stop thinking about the attack, let it go, its over.
The Great Pumpkin hummed to life in the background as she turned on the TV for Logan to watch. The familiar sounds helped her feel normal again and let the strange events of the night fade away.
Besides Halloween candy, her son had also brought another surprise home from grandma’s house, a deer pelt his grandfather killed. He proudly hauled the skin from its hiding place in his room, snapping her back to the present. She hadn’t noticed him carrying the skin in the car; her thoughts still stuck in the alley as they drove home together.
“Don’t worry mom it doesn’t smell or anything, pap said it’s been tanned and treated.” Cosima grimaced at the animal skin lying on her living room floor, and sighed. She was a vegetarian and a Buddhist and hated the death of any animal. Unfortunately, she lived in the wrong state, West Virginia, where everyone seemed to hunt and own a gun.
“What do you plan to do with it, bubby? You’re not keeping it in the living room.” She hated when his grandparents on his father’s side gave him strange gifts. Logan lay on the floor beside the pelt lovingly petting its fur forgetting about his candy.
“I’m going to decorate my room with it, and don’t worry, mom, every part of it was used, even the bones I think. Grandma’s cats ate them!” he said, trying to make her feel better about the deer’s death.
Logan loved animals as much as she did, and she wondered if he would be able to pull the trigger and kill something living himself. Existing in two worlds so different must be hard for him, one where his mother was Buddhist and against eating meat, and another where both his grandparents hunted and killed animals on a regular basis.
Logan gathered up the pelt in his arms and walked back to his room, rubbing the fur against his cheek. After a few seconds he returned to the living room and sat next to her on the couch. The Great Pumpkin ended, and Cosima switched to the Travel Channel’s show, Ghost Adventures.
Greg, the Disc Jockey at the wedding, had told her the show would be live at the Allegheny Insane Asylum in Westin, West Virginia. Just two weeks ago she had shot a wedding in Weston and drove by the asylum. She had never heard of the place before, but when she drove by on her way to the rehearsal, the asylum definitely impressed. The building’s gray lifeless walls and gothic style construction spread across the landscape engulfing all color surrounding the area. The center of the structure stood the tallest and loomed over the grounds projecting menacing shadows. The asylum ate the surrounding life and light sucking it all into its dark crevasses. The place creeped her out as she passed and she couldn’t shift her eyes away. The TV didn’t do the location justice. She would have stopped to take pictures of the asylum, but she was there to shoot a wedding. She would never be in Weston again; even so, she had to let the opportunity go or be late for the rehearsal.
“Look, Logan, mommy passed by that building on her way to a wedding.” He stopped his candy eating and glanced at the T.V. He shrugged unconcerned and continued eating candy.
“Did you go inside like they are?” he asked, after a few minutes. “What are they doing anyway?”
Cosima studied the screen, three men stood in the dark with cameras, and everything appeared green from the night vision. A strange glass compartment stood in the center of the hall with bolts of electricity running through the center. The men discussed how dangerous entering the compartment would be to humans. Pretty obvious no one should go inside, if anyone asked her.
“They’re looking for ghosts; it’s an old insane asylum where lots of people died, so they think ghosts might be in there. It’s all fake, there are no real ghosts.” Logan stared at the T.V. harder and wrinkled his nose and squinted. The face he always made when he was confused. He waited a few seconds, holding that expression.
”What is that glass thing?” He scratched his head covered in short blond hair like the answer would magically pop out like a Jeannie bottle.
“It’s supposed to be a ghost trap. I think they’re trying to get the ghosts to go inside. I guess they think they‘re real ghost busters like the movie,” she said. He laughed and started to sing the theme from Ghostbusters. After that, he lost interest and scuttled off to his room probably to pet the deer skin again and gobble down more candy.
Cosima watched alone, not really paying attention to the show. She regretted not finding time to take pictures of the asylum. The experience would have excited her. Maybe she could drive back again. Yeah right, who was she kidding? Finding the time, planning it out, saving the money, the trip would turn into more work. Staying home was far easier. She slumped back on the couch, her arms across her chest. Her life was plain and too routine. Every day, every week, the same; get up, shoot a wedding, edit a wedding, meet with brides, and shoot another wedding. She loved photography, but she needed something more. She was lonely. If she went back to the asylum, it would be alone.
She stopped her train of thought and traveled back through all the negative emotions she just created in her head. She made a crappy Buddhist. She couldn’t stay mindful if her life depended on it. She dragged her sore body into her bedroom and shut the door. A mess spread out in front of her. Luggage sat on the floor, still packed full of clothes from last week’s wedding in DC, and a giant pile of dirty clothes in the corner. Clothes hangers lay scattered everywhere and other random clutter like books and stuffed animals. The bed never got made and a layer of dust covered every surface. She sighed, some day she would get this mess organized. Someday.
Cosima found her black zafu in the corner and pulled it out into the center of the room after clearing some clutter out of the way. She faced the mat toward the statue of the Buddha on top of her stereo stand and sat on the little round pillow. How would she ever reach enlightenment in this mess, but it wasn’t going to stop her from trying.
Cosima worked on clearing her mind of the day, and concentrated on her breath, but thoughts about the asylum followed by thoughts of the shadow man seeped into her subconscious like a festering wound. She didn’t want to think about him or the fear would return, but a picture appeared of his silhouette standing between her and salvation and the image pushed all positive thoughts away. Her body shivered in response. She stood up to do prostrations, concentrating on the movement. Chanting would prevent her from thinking of him. She bowed to the ground and chanted…
To the Enlightened One I go for refuge.
To the Way to Enlightenment I go for refuge,
To the Enlightened Community I go for refuge
After the prostrations, she decided repeating the precepts would help clear her mind. Repeating the precepts always helped her feel focused, more clear…
I undertake the rule of training to refrain
from killing living creatures.
I undertake the rule of training to refrain
from taking what is not given.
I undertake the rule of training to refrain
from wrong conduct in sexual pleasures.
I undertake the rule of training to refrain
from false speech.
I undertake the rule of training to refrain
from intoxicants, which are the occasion for carelessness.
She repeated each one three times then lit some incense and placed it at the feet of the Buddha statue.
The radio clock by her bed read 10pm. The Halloween party started at the new Draft house at 10pm. The idea of going appealed to her. A band called Monolith was playing and the lead singer was a friend. The Disc Jockey from the wedding planned to go with his wife. But what if the shadow man waited for her? Ridiculous, but still. Earlier, she felt watched outside. She should stay home. She had a long day of editing ahead of her tomorrow. Plus, she would have to get Logan ready too, a real chore. Her body ached and her head still hurt. She had worked since eight forty-five this morning. As quickly as the idea had entered her mind, she killed it; thank you Mr. Shadow Man for ruining her fun.
Cosima walked into her son’s room to check on him. Five or six candy wrappers lay on the floor and he sat on the edge of his bed playing Xbox. His room resembled the towns in tornado alley except for a small area he had cleared for the deer skin.
“I’m going to bed Logan so keep your TV down. No more candy tonight. You know you’re not supposed to eat in your room, and brush your teeth now so you don’t forget,” she said.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah I will,” Logan mumbled not really paying attention.
“Do it now or I’ll make you go to bed now.” Getting Logan to do anything frustrated her. He never listened the first time or the fifth time. He sat a while continuing to play while Cosima stood in the doorway. Her face turned red as she fumed.
“Logan now! I’m tired and I want to go to bed. Brush your teeth now! I can’t go to bed until I know you’ve brushed your teeth!” He grumbled and tossed his controller on his bed.
“Fine.” He got up and pushed past her giving her an ugly glare from the corner of his eye, then went into his bathroom. Cosima waited a few minutes to hear the scrubbing start. In the past, he had pretended to brush his teeth. Sometimes she had to smell his breath to make sure he really brushed. Why was brushing such a horrible chore for him? After being put under anesthesia and having four teeth pulled she thought he would have learned his lesson, but Logan remained stubborn. That surgery cost her over two thousand dollars, money Cosima didn’t have as a single mother.
“I don’t hear anything!” She glanced passed the door of his bathroom. He stood in front of the sink with his toothbrush in hand staring at himself in the mirror.
“Fine,” he repeated and turned on the water. He squeezed some toothpaste on and brushed with an angry smirk. Cosima walked away satisfied and headed for her room. As she walked, a gentle touch caressed her leg. She glanced down and in front of her sat a gray cat with big, bright, green eyes.
“Meow,” the cat said with an expectant look.
“Hello Kitty, I won’t forget you.” Cosima bent down and scratched her behind the ear. Her hot skin returned to normal. Kitty always had a calming effect. Purring erupted from the cat’s tiny body. Cosima walked into the mud room and Kitty happily trotted alongside her. She paused for a moment staring at the window in the door. Fear grew inside her, fear of seeing something outside she didn’t want to see. She bent down averting her eyes from the exposed window and grabbed a bag of wet cat food tearing it open. Kitty spun in a circle meowing with delight as Cosima emptied the contents into the cat bowl. The food smelled retched. What did the nasty stuff smell like to Kitty?
“There Kitty, is that better? I didn’t forget you; I wouldn’t forget my darling little Kitty.” Cosima rubbed her a few times on the head while she ate, then got up and paused again staring at the window; the only window she couldn’t cover. Goosebumps rose on her arms and legs and she sprinted out of view of the window into her bedroom.
Relieved no one could see her in her room, she stepped on the button to turn on the heating blanket and climbed into bed. She fumbled around in the dark to find the remote and turned on the TV. The screen sprung to life filling the room with a green glow already turned to the Travel Channel. She watched the show until commercials came on then lost interest and grabbed the book sitting on her night stand. She left the TV on while she read. She preferred a little background noise. The sound comforted her. After about an hour of reading, she put the book aside and turned off the TV. She lay down and closed her eyes trying to keep nagging thoughts at bay, but the shadow man kept invading her mind. A few seconds later something lightly thudded on the bed. Kitty. She must have finished her dinner. She purred and dug her claws into the blanket to make a bed. Cosima pet her head again and wrapped her arm around kitty’s warm soft body. The purring vibrations traveled the length of her arm. Cosima closed her eyes and tried to sleep, but explosion sounds rumbled from her son’s room.
“Logan! Turn down your TV I can hear it!” She yelled across the house as she did almost every weekend. The yelling scared the cat and she jumped off the bed. She waited a moment but didn’t hear a difference. “Logan! Turn it down or I’m going to turn it off!” The volume inched down.
“Is that good mom?” he yelled back after a few seconds.
“Just a little bit more!” The explosions finally disappeared and she closed her eyes and tried to sleep again.
Her mind returned to the end of the night, the strange man standing in the alley like a statue. The more she thought about him, the more the room shrank in on her. She remembered the unexplained pull towards him. A statue couldn’t cause that sensation and neither could a human. What could cause a sensation of being pulled by invisible ropes? She shuddered again- here in her room alone, in the dark. She glanced around squinting to focus without her glasses. Her eyes hadn’t adjusted to the darkness yet and she could only make out the shapes of objects. She grabbed the bottle of water on her nightstand and the sleeping pills she kept by her bed. She popped two pills in her mouth and gulped a swig of water. The liquid tasted warm and stale as she struggled to make the pills go down her throat. The pills stuck halfway so she drank a larger gulp to force them down and gagged, nothing worse than drinking warm water.
She laid back. Would she ever be able to fall asleep? Every shadow in her room reminded her of him. She turned the TV back on to cast out the encroaching shadows. After a while, the sleeping pills kicked in and her thoughts about the shadowed figure faded, until she dreamed.
In her dream he had a face. Instead of running from him, she walked up to him feeling the pull of invisible ropes around her body. No control. Her equipment was gone and she glided up to him effortlessly. He stood a foot taller and wore black clothes covered by a black trench coat. His build was thin but strong and he appeared very young. Pale skin and pale gray eyes sunken in like he hadn’t slept in a week stared intensely at her. The eyes were a beautiful shade of gray with specks of blue sprinkled randomly throughout the irises. They had an alluring sparkle even in the darkness. She couldn’t speak. She could only continue forward until she stood in front of him. The salty, metallic smell invaded her nose and lungs again so strong she could taste it’s tanginess on her tongue. The flavor tasted familiar. She stared into his hypnotic eyes unable to break away. He lifted his hand, slowly and gently, and placed it against her cheek. Electricity and heat poured on her skin from his touch. Her stomach tightened. He glided his fingertips down her long ashy brown hair and smiled a warm inviting smile. He slid closer as if to kiss her, but instead moved toward her neck and…
“Mommy! Wake up make me breakfast, I’m hungry!” Cosima opened her eyes and jumped, still groggy and disoriented from the sleeping pills. The room shifted and spun while light blared through the window hurting her eyes. Her son stood over her expecting something. “Come on mom, breakfast, I’ve been waiting forever!”