Danica Straughn


Danica is a character I created for the novel Chaos Flux (on hiatus until The West Queen, The Returned Prince and The Fallen King are finished). She grew out of a series of questions and as a solution to a couple of problems that arose from The West Queen. I found I enjoyed writing the female characters in The West Queen so I decided I’d have a go at another one. She has a troubled past and continues to drink too much and occasionally indulge in whatever comes in pill form. She realises just how troubled her past was when she goes into a psychiatric hospital to gain a patient’s eye view on insanity and finds her old therapist as her first interviewee.  The following has not undergone extensive revision.

The Eye of the Beholder

When did it happen exactly? When were the stern, comforting walls of orthodox science revealed as ephemeral, stretched membranes of hope? Dani looked into the dark rum swirling at the bottom of her glass. Henry, Doctor Henry, had been her psychiatrist when she was just ten. He had reassured her that monsters didn’t exist, that they were a projection of her inner turmoil. Now it would appear she was the one desperatly trying to tell the him what was real and what wasn’t. He’d said something and tapped her forehead. It had seemed as if he’d turned the contrast up in her head. Like an old tube TV with severe burn-in, everything gained a bright outline. Sparks had leapt and crackled from the halo around him. The sky outside the hospital window had sizzled with sheets of lightning and swirls of colour danced along the edge of the window frame.
“Welcome to the real world,” he’d said.
Dani washed the words away with the last of the rum in her glass then poured another. He’d taught her the trick, the way to see in “flux vision” as he’d called it. It was the other side of existence. The side of nature that powers the everyday. But conversely, what she’d always thought of as normal was the spice and flavour of the flux. Some things belonged solely in this world and some in the other, but most were somewhere in between. The complement and inverse of humanity were the monsters. They, all of them, fed off us in some way. Henry also claimed that in some ways we fed off them, but not so literally as they did off us. The monsters each had their own diet. He’d met one who fed off relief from pain and distress. It stalked the halls of a hospital inexplicably curing patients so it could feast. That hospital had an improbably high rate of cancer remission and a record number of quick, trouble free births. It was the flip side that drove Dani to drink. The monsters that fed on misery, on pain or just plain old human flesh that brought goose bumps to her skin.
What the hell was she supposed to do with this knowledge anyway? How would it help with the monster that stalked her?
“It’s your blood line he is interested in,” Henry had said as if it explained everything.
The monster that had driven her father to suicide, had chased her mother away. It chased her under a truck eventually. It fed off anguish of some kind and now it had tracked her down.
“Why would it care about my family?” she’d asked.
“Any number of reasons. Some of them we probably don’t have the physical brain structures to comprehend.”
“Try some of the normal ones then.”
“Normal?”
He’d grined and stared into space for a while, clearly amused by my choice of words.
“Henry,” she’d interrupted his daydream. “Try to stay focused for a bit please?”
He’d nodded and pursed his lips before continuing.
“Firstly it could be revenge. Some ancester of yours may have offended a powerful monster who then took out a death contract on your bloodline.”
“What?” Dani had raised her eyebrows. “They ordered a hit on my family’s entire bloodline?”
“Oh yes. They often live for a very long time and believe we humans do too. That is they see our flux selves more so than our physical bodies. The flux travels down family trees. Sometimes it pools more strongly in one than another. You are the last of your family aren’t you? No cousins, uncles, aunts or anything like that?”
Dani had shaken her head.
“Also, the monsters have a religious group amongst them. They have various prophecies and what not. You might fall into one of them.”
“Are they true?”
“The groups or the prophecies? Because the religous groups are real but prophecy is hogwash. Not to say someone couldn’t lay down a plan for what needs to be done and when for a given outcome and then lace it with religous meaning and call it a prophecy, but foretelling the future is nonesense.”
Dani had laughed then and she laughed now. She tossed back more rum as if to underline her incredulity. Foretelling was nonesense but foot print eating monsters was not? She still wasn’t sure about how a monster could eat foot prints despite Henry’s claim.

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About sjohnhughes

Author, nerd, father, runner and more View all posts by sjohnhughes

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