Today I am joining the blog tour for My Travels With A Dead Man by Steve Searls, and have the honour of sharing an extract of the book with you all. Many thanks to Steve for allowing me to share this, and to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.
Jane Takako Wolfsheim learns she can alter time and space after meeting a charismatic stranger named Jorge Luis Borges.
Inextricably she falls for Borges. Soon, however Borges’ lies and emotional abuse, and nightmares about a demonic figure, “the man in black,” nearly drive Jane mad. After her parents are murdered, Jane flees with Borges. Both the ghost of haiku master, Basho, and the Daibutsu of Kamakura, a statue of Buddha that appears in her dreams, offer her cryptic advice. Unable to trust anyone, Jane must find the strength to save herself, her unborn child, and possibly the future of humanity.
Context: Jane’s flees Minneapolis with Borges. She’s still the primary suspect in her parents’ deaths, even though Borges killed Marty Schneider, the lawyer who planned the murders and hired hit men to carry them out. At a motel near Buffalo, NY, Borges reveals Jane has the extraordinary ability to go “Elsewhere.” i.e., she can alter time and space to create alternate worlds to which she can travel. Jane dismisses this claim about her, but Borges insists what he said was true. To bolster his argument he shows Jane he can read her mind and predict the future. These disclosures shock Jane. Finally, he reveals when his mother told him not only the full truth regarding his father’s identity, but also why it matters so much …
* * *
“My father was a weak man, but a genius. Her words. Yet she didn’t identify him. I learned who he was when a high school language arts teacher mentioned I shared the name of the great South American man of letters, Jorge Luis Borges, and asked if my mother was related to him. It hit me then that this man was my father. That caused quite the fight when I came home from school, as I shouted obscenities at Mother for hiding his identity, while she, in a rage, threw expensive chinaware about the kitchen, which created quite a mess. It ended when she collapsed in a heap, sobbing on the floor amid all the broken porcelain. We didn’t speak to one another for a week after that.”
He turned his back on me, hands clasped behind him, thinking god knows what. Until now, my Borges denied any connection to the ‘Great Man,’ and yet, for the longest time, I suspected he was the son of the famous Borges. It wasn’t rational, more based on intuition. Now that I knew, I had a million questions, but I asked only one. “Why do you need someone like me?”
“Why? Because my mother told me that the things I could do, things no one else could, would destroy me unless I found a woman who could go Elsewhere like her, though she never used that word for her gift, as she called it. She always said when she chose my father it was the biggest mistake in her life. Only my choice of the right person could repair the damage. And you are the one, Jane, the key to my destiny.”
He turned to face me, but his hands remained behind his back. The muscles in his arms grew taut, and rippled, as if fighting with one another. “Her desire to bear the child of a great man was a mistake. She acted with an incomplete understanding of the consequences for her and for me. When she chose my father, she ignored his motives for wanting to be with her, or she assumed the usual motives, let’s say. Only after I was born did she discover the truth, but by then it was too late.”
Motives? Mistake? “What difference could it make what his motives were?”
“Because she chose him,” he said, as if that explained it all.
Confused, I said, “So?”
“She should have seen into his heart, for she is like me in that regard. But it’s not so simple. This knowing, it’s not as easy as I made it seem earlier. With you, it took months. My mother never told me how long she was with my father, when their relationship began, when she chose him. I suspect he disappeared from her life before she knew him for what he was.”
“And what was that?” I asked. When he hesitated, I added, “And what does any of this have to do with you needing someone who can do this crazy Elsewhere stuff? I’m sorry, but this makes no sense, even I if can do this Elsewhere thing. Why do you need me? You have your own abilities. Aren’t they enough?”
Borges gave me a look that bordered on deranged. “You can’t imagine how difficult my life has been,” he said through clenched teeth. “So many things you don’t understand. My entire existence depends on what you can do. Please, just have faith I’m doing what’s best for us both.”
“You’re right. I don’t understand.”
Borges tried to respond, but emitted only a strangled guttural noise. I saw desperation in his eyes and panic written on his face. His chest thrust forward even as his lower body held him back. In that moment, he struck me as the opposite of Bashō, lacking serenity, a man on the brink of some great explosion, capable of anything. Then, just when it seemed he was about to strike me or worse, the room darkened. Fast moving rain clouds blotted out the sun. Thunder shook the walls. Sheets of rain fell from the skies, forming a waterfall that poured off the motel’s slanted roof onto the tiny balcony outside. Both Borges and I stopped and watched the storm together, yet very much apart.
To me, the storm acted as an enchantment. Flashes of lightning pierced the downpour. Despite its fury, I felt calm, and something else no words can describe. I envisioned a vibrant green world, a magical place with thousands upon thousands of ferns, bushes, tall trees, vines and other plants of all kinds. A place where verdant mountains rose straight out of the ocean, and unimaginable creatures gamboled about, playful, happy, unafraid. Somewhere else, the storm still raged, and in that place stood a man I adored and yet who frightened me. A man I no longer trusted, but who I still loved, strange as that seemed. However, the reality where he existed was a pale shadow compared to the green world I gazed upon. It was my Borges’ voice that brought me back. I heard my name, like a whisper on the wind, but then louder, spoken with more force each time I heard it. Jane. Jane! JANE!
My green world vanished. In our room, Borges grasped my shoulders, his hands shaking me as a baby shakes a rattle. The rain still fell and the thunder still rumbled, but only as a faraway rumor. When I looked up, only then did he release me, stepping away, visibly distressed. “You were leaving me,” he said, not so much to me as to himself.
“I’m back,” I replied, though from where, I didn’t know. Yet I wanted nothing but to return there, so beautiful, so peaceful, a paradise.
“You were about to go Elsewhere,” he muttered, his voice quaking. I didn’t argue the point.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steve Searls retired from the practice of law in 2002 due to a rare chronic autoimmune disorder (Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Cell Associated Periodic Syndrome). He began writing poetry in 2001 and, using the pseudonym, Tara Birch, was the featured poet of Tryst Poetry Journal’s Premiere Issue. He’s also published numerous poems as Tara Birch in print and online, including the poetry chapbook, Carrots and Bleu Cheese Dip, in 2004. Steve was also active as a blogger posting under the name, Steven D, at Daily Kos (2005-2017), Booman Tribune (2005-2017) and caucus99percent (2016–present). Steve’s published essays on Medium include “Clara’s Miracle,” about his wife’s cancer and resulting traumatic brain injury from chemotherapy, and “My Rape Story.” Raised in Colorado, he now lives with his adult son in Western NY. My Travels With a Dead Man is his first novel.
Don’t forget to visit all the other fantastic blogs taking part in the tour for this book.