Grim Curio Preview – The Story of How The World Ends

It’s been a while since I shared anything from Grim Curio. There have been some significant updates since the last scene I shared a couple of months back. My dad is about to head out on a three-week business trip for Boeing and before he left he asked if there was anything ready to read yet. So I figure now’s a good time to share something. This one’s for you dad, the first scene from Grim Curio.


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This is the story of how the world ends. It’s not pretty or even necessary, but it happens and so it will be told. It begins and ends with James, who walks along the narrow empty streets of Refuge, the last city on earth. He breaths through a filter on his mask, the sound rushing in his ears, mingling with his footfalls against the disintegrated road. Black lenses block out his eyes. On either side of him are patchworks of rusted steel walls welded together with thick seams like veins. On some walls, groaning air filtration systems struggle and cough. On others, the systems aren’t more than dead metal boxes, tombstones.

James marches a fixed path toward Grievances with a few ill earned dollars in his pocket. He never set out to con anyone, not originally. But things happen and a guy’s gotta make a buck. Guilt isn’t an emotion he feels anymore, or so he lies to himself, hurrying his pace.

At night, streets are usually empty, so when he passes three figures — each masked, carrying heavy duffel bags — he passes on the far side of the street. The black, emotionless masks follow him as he passes. Before rounding a corner he pauses, looks over his shoulder. They stare intently. What mischief are they up to? Doesn’t matter. Not tonight. Tonight he has only one goal, to drink and forget for a little while. He continues on.

He arrives. A hand drawn sign next to the entrance chamber reads “Grievances”. The last few letters are squished together as the artist ran out of space. Below a smudged charcoal sketch of a masked stability officer pointing a sting box at the viewer has been ineffectively erased.

James knocks against the thick steel door. It clicks. He spins the hatch, pulls it open, and enters. Air is sucked out in a rush and his ears pop. A fine mist coats his clothing for a second, then the next door clicks open. Entering anywhere is always uncomfortable.

The room is dim, the air thick with fungal smoke rising off steel pipes. Sweet sounds of the beautiful Astira Lockhart’s crooning makes James smile. He removes his mask, takes in a deep breath and sighs. Graying stubble, wrinkles around his eyes. He’s not old, but he looks it. Sometimes he feels it. He takes an empty seat, places a couple bucks on the table, and watches Astira sing.

“Drink?”

James nods. A cup of frothy brown wine is set before him. He drinks, savoring the mossy flavor. He listens and time melts. The mild hallucinations make his brown and gray surroundings shimmer at the corners of his eyes.

Mal takes a seat next to him. Light brown-red hair and skin off-white with freckles, and a hawkish nose. She’s cute if you don’t know better. But James knows her, so he tenses and ignores her. She looks at him, savors the discomfort for a second. “Haven’t seen you in a while, James,” she says in a matter of fact way. James nods. “Things must be good for you lately.”

“Yup,” he says humorlessly.

“I bet. Guy with your credibility, you’ll be doing well for yourself by now. Business treating you well?”

James lets the question hang, tries to focus on the way Astira swivels her hips and winks from time to time as she sings, but Mal lingers like a cancer so he turns to her and says, “Is there something you want?”

She smiles, leans back and puffs on her pipe. The smoke is thick, rising to mingle with the rest of the haze. “Solve any doozies lately?” Mal holds a straight face for a few seconds before she snorts. “I have a hot tip for you. I hear North Commune has ghosts. How much do you charge to take care of ghosts?”

“More than you can afford.”

“Ha, I bet.”

“Look, you need something or are you just here to be a nuisance?”

“Yes actually,” she replies. “You owe money to Silke Thomas.”

“So. What’s that got to do with you?”

“A lot actually. Hired me last week to settle his debts. Your name’s on his list. You might be a small fry compared to some of the communes, but you know me. Thorough. Lucky for you I’m off duty. I’ll give you another day before I collect.”

“If?”

“If you buy me a drink.”

James laughs, looks at her sideways. “I’ve got two bucks and change.”

“Put it on the table, I’ll cover the rest.”

James shakes his head, unsure if she’s extorting him or coming on to him. Either way, he’s not in the mood for a fight. He puts the money up, she tosses a couple more dollars down. Wine comes and she raises the glass. Mal talks occasionally, and James answers when prompted, but the conversation is stilted. He can’t remove that barrier he’s built up over the years, that distrust. Eventually she quits and they both just listen to the music with tension between them.

She leaves and James grows agitated. Did he want her to stay? Not really, but he didn’t want her to go either. He downs the last of his wine, then rises, puts on his mask, and exits in a bad mood. Outside, the wind blows, the gusts cut through his jacket. He curses his rotten luck as he walks back in the direction of home. His eyes adjust to the night and soon he see’s them again, three masked figures with duffle bags hovering around the walls of Grievances. They pause, watch him, and this time a shiver runs up his spine. He ignores it, continues on till they’re out of sight.

Then it hits. From a quarter-mile away, James hears the boom! He spins around in time to see the glow, a plumb of smoke. Eyes wide behind his mask, he stumbles, breath caught in his throat. He rushes back to Grievances, see’s the twisted metal, the still standing hatch, rubble strewn about his feet. It’s eerily quiet, only the sound of flames.

He looks for anyone. Beyond the flames, a glint catches his eye, and there they are slinking away. He’s alone with the wreckage, the too afraid to see the bodies inside but he steps forward anyway. He stops short when he realizes what will happen if he’s found here by the officers. Stability must be preserved, the city survives on a knifes edge, and he’ll feel the edge of that knife if he’s implicated with this. He turns and hurries back towards home.

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Themes of Grim Curio – Nihilism, The Absurd, and The Sacred is Dead

Themes are the underlying identity of a piece of fiction. In fairy tales, the prevailing theme is usually summed up in the final paragraph of the story. But in most fiction the theme is more of an underlying current, directing the reader to focus their attention of certain details.

Ambitious works may use their themes to try and persuade the reader to accept new ideas while others may seek to hide their themes in subtext.

I never set out to write with a message in mind. I have a story to tell, and a way I want to tell it, and themes arise naturally through the process. When these themes show their ugly head, I’m often caught off guard by where my themes land. But once I discover a theme, then I’ll hone it without judgement.

Discovering the Themes

There are a few themes surfacing in Grim Curio, and today I’m going to talk about one. Namely nihilism, the absurd, and the sacred is dead. Believe me, the prevalence of these themes kind of took me by surprise, as these are not topics I tend to dwell on, nor are the necessarily deep held beliefs of mine.

You might suspect that I’ve read lots of Friedrich Nietzsche (the dude who claimed God was dead), but in reality I haven’t. I’m aware of his philosophies enough to hold a conversation about them, but that’s it. Honestly, I don’t care about philosophy enough to study any viewpoint, I tend to fall in the ‘it’s a waist of time’ camp. BUT, when I write philosophy has a way of sneaking in, and all of a sudden I’m a part of the conversation. I’m going to touch on a couple of those themes. Let’s get started.

Nihilism, The Absurd, The Sacred is Dead

In a recently written scene, James (the protagonist) sneaks into a villagers house. A professor who’s been studying these villagers for years tells him not to enter the rear rooms, they are sacred to the villagers. To this James remarks, “All that’s sacred died centuries ago. All this (referring to the rooms and the hedonistic village ceremonies) is simply absurd.”

Grim Curio takes place during humanities last days on earth, and what remains is a constant struggle to maintain order despite the meaninglessness of simply surviving. There are varying degrees of this nihilism, from James’ simple uncaring to Nat’s (antagonist) outright disregard for human life.

Since The Calamity, a series of cataclysmic events (water, fire, radiation), religion as we know it has died. What remains are the beliefs in order, in a return to nature, in the progression of science, and in giving in to the end of the world and just dying already.

In order to maintain stability and allow the human race to survive a little longer, those who cling to the new warped version of nature live in ‘the fringes’, the edge of livable space, and their bodies have evolved to deal with their new environment. And those who strive for scientific progress believe that technology will eventually save humanity, despite the fact that it was technology that led to humanities destruction in the first place.

So what we’re left with is the absurd world of Grim Curio where everyone is right, everyone is wrong, and no one can see the other side’s point of view. Hey, kind of sounds like the 21st century to me. And then there are the hardline opposites, the nihilists, who delight in the end of the world and the eventual removal of humanity from the earth.

Conclusion

So that’s it for today. There are of course other themes that are showing themselves: man vs. nature, order vs. chaos, but they aren’t nearly as interesting to talk about as the ones above. If you enjoy these peeks behind the scenes of Grim Curio, I would love to see you share them. This blog is only a few months old, and readership is growing slowly but steadily. If we could give it a shot in the arm, that would be super duper. But if you hate these posts (and why are you still reading? weirdo) then don’t share, and go sit on a tack or something.

New Chapter – Read the Latest from Grim Curio

As of today, nine scenes now are available to read from my novel in progress Grim Curio. Read from the beginning, or start at this weeks new scenes. Ready to read the best dystopian novel of all time? Skip it and read Grim Curio instead!

Blurb

The world never ended. 500 years after three cataclysmic events, the last city on earth struggles to survive. Now it’s time to find a new home, on another planet or in another dimension, before humanity is gone for good.

Grim Curio – Two New Scenes Just For You

If you haven’t had a change to dive into my work in progress, Grim Cuiro, now’s your opportunity. Three scenes are up on Wattpad. Stop on by and leave a comment 🗨. Read it here.

About Grim Curio:

The world never ended. 500 years after three cataclysmic events, the last city on earth struggles to survive. Now it’s time to find a new home, on another planet or in another dimension, before humanity is gone for good.

Grim Curio on Wattpad - A post apocalyptic novel

Grim Curio Working Copy Moving to Wattpad

For the last month I’ve been maintaining Grim Curio The Working Copy, a Google doc where I share the current readable chapters of Grim Curio with you. Well, it’s now time to uproot and move to a better environment. Now that I’m neck deep in the writing process, I feel like Grim Curio The Wroking Copy is better suited for a platform designed for this sort of thing. Enter Wattpad.

If you’re unaware, Wattpad is a website where authors can share their works chapter by chapter and readers can follow along. It has tools that let you favorite stories, get notified when a story is updated, and comment. So after you read it, be sure to make your voice heard in the story comments.

Once per week, I’ll share a new scene on the Grim Curio Wattpad page.  If you want to follow along (as you should 😉 ) then read Grim Curio on Wattpad and click the star and the plus. The plus will add it to your reading list, the star will let others know its a book worth reading.

Have you ever released a story on Wattpad? Share a link and description in the comments. If you’ve read a story on Wattpad that you loved, share a link and description to that instead. In the meantime, be sure to subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the box to the right, and my sultry voice will find it’s way to your inbox.

Grim Curio Cover Reveal

For a while I’ve been of the mind that Grim Curio needs a decent cover. I know it’s still a work in progress, but I wanted an image to go with the name. So after a few weeks of playing around with cover design, I created something I think works to communicate the themes as well as catch the eye. Take a look.

I designed this cover using Canva, a fantastic on line image editor that I’ve used for years. It makes designing pretty straight forward, especially for non-designers like me.

I ended up using their cover theme called “Coming Out” which was designed for gay fiction. I replaced the image of the two dudes delicately holding each other with an image of a dying city-scape, and played around with font and color. I got the image from PixaBay which provides free to use stock imagery.

I played around with a few other images, I wanted to get a spore on the there somehow, but it just wasn’t working. Maybe a professional could work it in, but not me. Anyway, I’m happy with the result so far. Of course it’s early days yet, so if you have a critique for this cover, or a suggestion, be sure to let me know in the comments.

In the meantime, if you want to get notified whenever I release a new blog post, be sure to put your email in the box to the right.

The Layered Universe

Production Note

I’ve been talking about my novel in progress for a couple of weeks now, and there are some topics that I’ve brought up that need some fleshing out. Grim Curio is a kind of Fantasy/Post Apocalyptic hybrid, so there’s a fair amount of world building in the subtext.

Today I want to talk about one probably the most prominent piece of subtext, The Layered Universe Theory. The Layered Universe is James Bartlebee’s working theory seeking to explain the many phenomena he’s witness through the years.

The Many Layers

The theory states that our reality is actually one of many. These realities exist on a plane stacked on top of each other. The idea of a stack is very important, realities piled up like a deck of cards. In fact, these realities are so tightly stacked that they almost inhabit the same space: often things from one reality can influence the other.

The Veils

Between each layer of reality is a thin substance known as a veil. This matter acts like lubricant between realities, allowing them to coexist without too much friction. Certain actions can put stress on the veil, for example attempting to punch a hole through the universe. As the veil hardens, veil sign is produced.

Veil Sign

Veil sign can be many things, but in all cases it is an observable manifestation of stress on the veil. Often this will appear as a burnt smell or an optical illusion that distorts reality.

Veil Residue

If the veil is stressed enough, the result is veil residue. This is the flaking of the veil where literal flakes of reality will appear in our world as the veil attempts to repair itself.

Base Layers

A base layer is any layer of reality that exists “below” our own. As you travel down the layers, life becomes more primitive. If we were to visit the layer directly beneath our own, the most complex organism would be like the simplest in our reality.

They’re behavior, however, might be incredibly beguiling to us. Some organisms might be driven by an urge to no longer exist, others might invade empty spaces and attempt to build a consciousness into them. There are some, though, the may present a truly great threat to our world with their insatiable drive to multiply. 

Go past the first base layer to the next and what you find will be truly mysterious and unfathomable. The laws of the universe shift as you go down, with forces that behave one way in our layer of reality (like gravity, dark energy, dark matter, etc.) behaving in quiet different, unpredictable ways in another.

Higher Layers

As you might guess, if you were to somehow go up a layer in this stack of universes, organisms get drastically more complex. Consciousness behaves radically different, and a creatures ability to manipulate things like matter, time or space would be considered god-like to us.

James even extends the Layered Universe Theory to include the possibility that gods as we know them live in this layer. Any god who may have affected our world could simply be a being from a higher plane who’s pressed up against the veil and greatly affected our world.

Move up more than one layer, and the complexity will become so great that your mind could not comprehend it.

Concessions

There are some concessions in the Layered Reality Theory. For example, James has only collected evidence of two layers apart from our own. Those may be the only layers in existence, but it’s impossible to say unless we were to visit a layer up or down and seek evidence for the next layer there.

Also, layers beyond our neighbors, if they exist at all, may not continue to follow the pattern of Baser things going down, and greater things going up. No way to know without going there.

Theory’s Acceptance

One thing to remember, this is just a theory proposed by James and it is not widely accepted in the world of Grim Curio. In fact, many groups (such as the Naturalists and the Nihilists) are hostile to this idea because they see it as a threat to their own beliefs. Many scientists scoff at the idea, reasoning that if such layers existed they would have been fully discovered by now.

So that’s the Layered Universe Theory in a nutshell. I love it because it opens up a universe of possibilities for Grim Curio. What’s going to happen when Simon pierces the veil? You’re just going to have to wait and see.