SCREAMERS - CHARACTER INTRO #5
There are a lot of things Freddy doesn’t know how to do.
He doesn’t know how to cook, for example. Baking is fine, with its clear instructions and precise measurements, but cooking, dashes of this, sprinkles of that, ambiguous non-numerical ranges for temperature and doneness – it’s a nightmare. It makes him feel anxious. Out of control. Sweaty and shaky and stupid. For similar reasons, he doesn’t know how to lie. Lying involves variables he can’t predict, instincts he either doesn’t have or has never bothered to hone; facts are not a malleable construct, as far as he’s concerned, and while there is, of course, somewhat of a gray area in defining the truth, in naming and claiming it, honesty will always be the most straightforward, uncomplicated approach to a problem.
He doesn’t know how to apologize.
Apologizing, much like cooking, much like lying, requires nuance. Understanding that’s rooted in emotional intelligence, not cold, hard logic. You can be sorry – Freddy looks at Brandon, always looks at Brandon, and feels almost nothing but the wrenching, stomach-turning pull of sorry – but it’s the expression of the sorry, the tangible offering of pursed lips and flattened tongue and stretched vocal cords; it’s that, it’s those, that matter.
The screaming is therapeutic, in some ways.
Freddy isn’t sure he’s ever screamed before, not so loudly, not so recklessly – not like this, at a horde of zombies, at a real nightmare – but there’s an aspect of it, of the screaming, that’s primal. Visceral. Instinctual. Like he can finally hear himself – think, breathe, scream – like he can finally let go of whatever it is inside of him that he’s so afraid of losing, of tarnishing, and it’s –
It’s not cooking. It’s not figuring out how to make a batch of Brandon’s mother’s famous arrabbiata sauce, the one her restaurant sells in jars online, the one Freddy wasted two whole summers trying to dissect, ingredient by ingredient; it’s not accidentally stumbling upon the correct ratio of spices to crushed tomatoes to olive oil and still never being able to duplicate the results. It’s not that. Screaming isn’t that. It’s not lying, either, slinking past all the sharp, jagged edges of a conversation, ducking and hiding and prevaricating. It’s not apologizing. It’s not heartfelt, it’s not confusing, it’s not painful.
Screaming is, for all that Freddy’s unfamiliar with the basic mechanics of it, easy.
Too easy, probably.
SCREAMERS is a Young Adult horror/fantasy novel that I'll be finishing a first draft of for NaNoWriMo this year. It features a motley crew of irreverent teenagers, several reminders that the concept of "survival" is always relative, and a century-old murder mystery that ultimately matters a lot more to the story than the zombies do. I will be posting six character intros prior to November 1st, as well as a weekly excerpt/progress update once NaNoWriMo begins. Thanks for reading!