I was invited by Crime Book Club to take part in this blog tour. Below is an extract from ‘Hellbound’ which David McCaffrey has given me. I hope you enjoy reading it.
‘All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible’
He felt empty. Emptiness he had never before experienced. And it filled him with another feeling he had never known. Dread.
Obadiah had no idea where they were going, only that Eva had said this morning that they needed to get away. He needed to get away. She believed wholeheartedly that his seemingly flashpoint aggression and descriptions of murder were simply the end result of a man trying to come to terms with a terminal illness. And though Obadiah had allowed her to believe that, he knew his eruption of anger was due to the conflict going on within him, a conflict with the prize his very soul.
He glanced over at Eva in the driver’s seat before pulling down the sun visor and flipping open the mirror. He saw himself; his emerald eyes seemingly alight with crimson flames as though the battle within him were reflected there. The monster that was Obadiah Stark – or had been Obadiah Stark – felt lessened somehow, as though every breath he took expelled one more part of who he had been.
Before he found himself here, the shadowy corners of his heart had been sated with his desires and projections of strength and power. Now, in a place where he was powerless, with those wants and desires taken from him, he no longer knew how to fill those empty spaces. Even if what he thought he felt for Eva and Ellie was something abstractedly related to caring or even love, he had no concept of how to use those emotions for anything other than manipulation and suffering.
“Where do you want to go, Obi?” Eva flicked on the windscreen washer, scraping away the dead insects that had accumulated on the screen.
“I don’t know,” he replied distantly. “Where could we go?”
“Well, we could check into a hotel for a few days while we work out what we’re going to do,” she replied, trying to be cheerful. “Or there’s my parents cottage on Beginish. I mean, you know there’s not much to do for Ell’s, but she loves the grey seals and the Artic Terns, so she would be okay for a few days. I don’t mind sweetie, it’s up to you. Whatever you want, we’ll do. I just want to understand what’s happening.”
Obadiah remained expressionless. “You and me both.”
Staring out the window, he tried to focus on the images rushing past, their inherent images blurring into one, coalesced backdrop that seemed almost painted onto the window. Ellie sang a Disney tune in the back of the car that Obadiah recognised as ‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin.
It most certainly is, he thought, turning to look at her.
She stared back at him, beaming a huge smile that threatened to split her face open. Obadiah tried to remain stoic, expressionless. Over the years he had perfected the art of a crocodile smile, able to produce a perfect image of kindness and compassion that ultimately served his goal of manipulation. Yet here, in the back of a car in this ethereal no man’s land, he found himself unable to stop the genuine response that was forming on his face. And he felt discomfort at the fact it didn’t feel unnatural. He knew he shouldn’t be having these reactions to such basic stimuli, but Ellie’s genuine look of love and adoration was a force more powerful than Obadiah had ever experienced. His smile quickly faded as he caught himself unconsciously enjoying a human moment, Obadiah quickly turned around and back towards the window.
“Obi, I think maybe we should speak to someone else,” Eva announced with a sigh. “The things you said, maybe they mean you’re getting worse. It’s something I don’t even want to think about, but we have to face that possibility.”
Obadiah nodded, but remained silent. That’s a fucking understatement.
“Obi,” Eva asked gently. “Please talk to me.”
“You want to talk?” He asked quietly without facing her. “Okay, we’ll talk. Did I ever tell you that when I was young I was always bored. Nothing really held any interest for me; girls, skipping school, smoking, none of it. The only thing I found could control my boredom were the holidays we used to take. We used to camp in the Black Valley near Lough Leane. I would spend a lot of my time climbing along the Hag’s Glen and then up Devil’s Ladder to the col between Carrauntoohil and Cnoc na Péiste. The lake there was home to hundreds of bullfrogs. I used to spend hours stabbing them with a pair of scissors or catching them in nets and lying them on their backs, stabbing their little bulging stomachs and turning them over to see their jelly eyes mist over as they died. Then I used to see how far I could throw them into the lake.”
“What? Obi, you’re not making any sense.” Her voice trembling slightly, Eva briefly glanced back at Ellie as though seeing her would make her feel secure and safe.
“Just listen,” Obadiah said, turning to face her. “Later on, I learnt that fireworks strapped to their backs made the most amazing sight, blood and lights all combined, flowerlike shapes in the sky. And do you know how that made me feel?”
Eva had pulled over onto the hard shoulder, her face one of incredulous shock at what she was hearing.
“Nothing,” Obadiah continued flatly. “I felt nothing. I realised I couldn’t feel anything, from that day onwards. And I never thought anything of it. Everything I ever did, I did without any consideration of the consequences, because, as far as I was concerned, there were none. But I was paying a concealed price for my actions. That was the tradeoff. I see that now. Everything I ever did required me to be emotionally bankrupt. I could never have achieved the things I did otherwise. But, now I wonder was the price to high? Was it a price I didn’t even know I was paying?”
Eva had shrunk as far towards her door as she could go, trying to place as much distance between her and husband as possible without leaving the car. She glanced furtively at Ellie, playing on her tiny laptop, the little girl unaware of what was being discussed before her.
“Oh my God, Obi.” Glistening tracks snaked down Eva’s face, her tears coming in slow intervals. “I’m trying to understand, but you’re scaring me. These things you’re saying…they’re terrible. I mean, you’re talking like you’re a monster.”
Obadiah dropped his head as he spoke. “I am.”
Eva reached out and touched his face gently. “No, you’re not. You’re sick, but we can get through this. You just need to let me in. Please, Obi, let me in.”
Reaching up, Obadiah placed his hand over hers and held it on his cheek for a moment before gliding it back towards her lap.
“You got in. You make me feel stronger than I have ever felt before, and yet I’m weak around you. And I should hate you for it, but I don’t.” Obadiah shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “You want to know the closest I’ve ever come to being afraid? Being here, with you and Ellie. And you know why….because you don’t see me. Everyone I’ve ever met, they all gave me a look, like they could see the real Me, the Me waiting to come out. The bad Me. The one not here with you.”
Tears in her eyes, Eva looked at Ellie, as though trying to get some comfort from seeing her daughter. “Obi, this is insane.”
“Just listen. Feeling that fear makes me relieved, relieved that someone can see something else in me besides evil. It makes me believe it could be real. It makes me believe that even someone like me can feel things. A little bit…a tiny piece of empathy. I always believed empathy was the greatest weakness mankind could possess, a vestigial limb, making people vulnerable. But I see now it isn’t a weakness, it’s your greatest strength. Where it makes you strong, my lack of it left a hole in my psyche that I know now I can’t fill. Where I should have had the most evolved of all human functions, I ended up with emptiness.”
Eva looked as though her world were collapsing around her, but Obadiah held his gaze, as though trying to burn Eva’s face into his memory before turning to look at Ellie. He saw she had fallen asleep, her head resting against the side of the window. He wanted to remember this moment and their faces, feeling sudden apprehension for reasons he couldn’t explain. He realised that right here was his opportunity to experience something that he had never thought possible, a chance to exist outside the dark life he had fashioned so carefully for himself over so many years. But he knew now that it would be something he could never accept as anything other than a distraction. Obadiah had made his peace with who he was a long time ago. How could he ever expect anyone else to do the same?
“Compassion, Eva,” he said softly, as he looked at Ellie before turning back. “That’s what I should have, where instead there was…is…nothing.”
Smiling softly at her, he opened the car door and stepped out. The evening air was bracing, a cold breeze washing over him like a sign of approval at what he was doing.
Obi, where are you going?” She gasped, moving hurriedly into the passenger seat.
“I have to leave,” he replied. “I know you don’t understand, despite what I just told you, but I do. It’s for your own safety, yours and Ellie’s. You need to leave me.”
“Because, if I stay…I’ll hurt you.”
About David McCaffrey
I am thirty-nine, live in Redcar in the North East of England and currently work as an Acting Lead Nurse in Infection Prevention and Control at a local acute hospital where I have worked for thirteen years. I have a Jakey, a baby Liam and a Kelly!!
I have always dreamt of writing a story and when the opportunity arrived I decided to put my money where my mouth was! Hellbound retains only one aspect of the story I originally had in mind, but through that and with some guidance from one of my favourite authors, I was able to craft my story into something more, something different. A serial killer story where lines of morality are drawn around the killer himself. Crafting the world of Joe O’Connell and Obadiah Stark was an exciting journey for me and I hope the reader finds it just as enjoyable.
Visit http://kdforsman.com tomorrow for the next stage of this blog tour.