Friday, 29 June 2018

Absolute Darkness by Tina O'Hailey

A thrill ride through time that will make you hold your breath.

Sitting by the campfire, Brandy admitted a secret to her friends. She swore she saw a ghost when exiting a cave earlier that day. Was she seeing things? Did they believe her? The next day, breaking a cardinal rule, she snuck back to the cave alone. No one knew where she was. What if she fell or was trapped? There would be no rescue.

For ten thousand years Alexander had kept the time streams of this universe safe from an eternal destructive force that continually threatened to tamper and destroy all. Locked in an unremitting battle, the two foes become sidetracked by an unexpected visitor. An entangled journey begins with chilling twists and turns until becoming locked into an inescapable death in a submerged cave.
Who will come out of the watery depths alive?

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Introduction: Susan and Brandy are on a secluded weekend getaway. Brandy has met Alexander but he has disappeared and she hates that she is thinking about him and coming up with reasons why he would disappear.

         “Why doesn’t the pizza guy deliver here, Brandy?”
         “Used ta” Brandy, who tried to hide her central Florida twang, easily slipped into the accent of her youth.
         “What did you do? Piss him off with your girlish charms?”
         “‘Gater got ’im. That pepperoni will drive ’em wild.” She picked a few pepperonis off the top of the lonely last piece. It was nearly naked.
         “Was that before or after the mosquitoes ate him alive?”
         “Prob’bly after. They were just tenderizin’ him for old Fred, don’t ya see. He’s gettin’ a bit old.”
         Susan broke character first. “Have you really seen that gator or are you just fooling?”
         “Oh yeah. You don’t want to go off that way in the swamp.” Brandy motioned towards the north of the shack.
         “They’ve been dumping alligators and snakes and everything that was getting in the way in suburbia out here. It’s like something out of a horror film. Daddy tried to go boating up that way one day, ’bout ten years ago—just to see. Said the gators he saw out there made his legs turn to water. He turned back and no one else goes out there.” She poked at the naked piece of pizza and settled for a bite of the crust. “The bigger animals don’t come this way, except for Fred. Guess he likes being alone. He stays out here.” Brandy pointed to the south of the house. They were facing west—behind the house. To the east was the driveway out.
         “You don’t feed him or anything do you?”
         “Golly no! Don’t want him to confuse the two topics—me and food.”
         “Surprised we don’t see more alligators when we are diving in the pits. Did you see any yesterday at Devil’s Eye?”
         “Only some littler ones further out along the river.”
         “I never see any big ones. What happens when the little ones grow up?”
         Brandy pointed back to the north of the shack. “Out here—or Gatorland, unless they are killed. They eat good.”
         Susan wrinkled her perfect nose and made a face.
         They finished picking at their non-delivery pizza and languished on the back screened in porch. A bottle of wine sat between them. The night crickets sung in the thick air. Frogs croaked. Friends talked.
         Brandy sunk into her chair dreading going back to work, back to civilization where there were real schedules and goals and things that had to be done. At least out here it was her schedule, her goals and if she wanted to change them she could and would. If she decided to throw the whole day’s plan right out the window just so she could watch a thunderstorm come through, no problem. But there, back there—that was the real world. She didn’t want to go back. Especially now that she had to face Mark every day. The thought of not wanting to see him flushed her full of guilt. She pushed the thoughts aside, not wanting to ruin a perfect evening. She tried to replace the guilt with the excitement of Alexander returning soon. She frowned instead. Not only five kids, but three ex-wives. She was sure of it.
         Susan came out of the kitchen door with bowls of ice cream and interrupted the thought.
         “Mmmm, lovely,” Brandy crooned.
         The evening was perfect and peaceful. Unknown to them, the next time they would be at the shack it would not be so perfect and not so peaceful. In fact it will be the most terror filled day of their lives.

Author Bio:

Tina O'Hailey (author of animation text books “Rig it Right” and “Hybrid Animation”, professor in animation, visual effects and game programming, caver and occasional mapper of grim, wet, twisty caves—if she owes a friend a favor or loses a bet—whose passion is to be secluded on a mountain and to write whilst surrounded by small, furry dogs and hot coffee) was struck by lightning as a baby.

Guest Post by Tina O'Hailey:

A Day in the Life of Tina O'Hailey

There are so many hats that I wear—every day is completely different: different states (sometimes countries), different desk, different responsibilities. Yet, underlying it all there is a routine and this routine has been the same for over a dozen years. During the academic school year, I pack my suitcase on Sunday night with the help of my noble, long-hair Chihuahuas. Please be careful of them, they are ferocious beasts trapped in forever-puppy-bodies, the indignity of it. Monday mornings, I arise at 4 am in the morning to travel to a different state to work for the week. There I tend to my responsibilities in a highly creative environment (a university dedicated to creativity!) and am surrounded by all manner of extremely intelligent, creative, inquisitive, individuals who shape and inspire my every day. Depending on my role for the day I either am at a desk scheduling and doing managerial tasks or teaching in the classroom (my favorite subjects being animation and all things programming). Sometimes I can be found at admissions events for the university or helping with the latest Festival or signature event that is happening. These amazing opportunities have included interviewing Warren Beatty for an hour Q&A session on stage where he played the straight man and expected me to deliver funny lines to him—and I did. What an honor and a blast. Other moments have been nearly being killed by a horse who played chicken with our taxi in Punjab and flying over a riot to visit perspective students in India and give them a workshop on coding for the arts. (I did not fly the plane. That’s a different story for another day.) All in all—there is something challenging and new to learn each day. I thrive in that type of environment.

The hallways that I walk through are indescribable. I could explain to you that all corners of my work place are fabulously decorated and intentionally designed, but you could not picture it without seeing it yourself. I could describe the fashion museum where I can wander and find inspiration for a character, but your imagination would fall short of picturing the splendor. There is no boring spot, nor colorless wall, no place where creativity has not spontaneously combusted. To be surrounded by a place like that which is in turn filled with a vast group of eclectic and energetic people presents one with a daily challenge to be unique, creative and to dream large. In surrounding oneself with people who achieve such creative heights and in turn urge you to succeed as they do—with that support—one finds themselves reaching goals with confidence and surprising oneself with what can be achieved. Daily. Confidence and creativity are contagious.

The writing, which must take place lest demons crawl from my eye sockets, mostly takes place in the evenings, or on the long plane rides to visit the university’s Hong Kong location, or when on admissions trips to far lands (and some near). I carry a backpack with my laptop at all times so that any moment can be the perfect moment to write.

When the work week is done, I pack again and return to the mountain where I sit and write on my back porch over looking a wooded valley—again cheered on by my faithful, small, furry fiends…friends. If it is a lucky moment in time where I can sneak away and have some unplugged fun, I crawl into a cave with my best friends and see where the darkness goes. My other favorite getaway is riding motorcycles with my husband. Having grown up on a dirt-bike, I have continued to ride street bikes since the age of 18 when our first valentine’s present to one another was a motorcycle.

Every day is filled with texts between my grown children, my husband, and myself (mostly memes), coffee conversations, movie dissections, art projects and diving into the latest research obsession. I’m constantly curious and enjoy digging deeply into digital media techniques such as rigging for animation. Those dives result in textbooks.

My favorite moment is to sit on the back porch and watch the sun set over a blaze of lightning bugs while the insect orchestra begins.

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