Huwebes, Disyembre 15, 2011

The Suspense Novelist

by Pandemic

Hi, I’m Ned Santiago. I’m thirty years old and a suspense novelist. And so far since I started writing three years ago, I’ve published four books, and I’m working on my fifth now. And so far, I can already consider myself a successful writer.

Some critics said my novels are “epic” and “game changing”. Not that I’m bragging, but I really do believe that my works are both epic and game changing. Here in the Philippines, fiction books rarely enter the top 10 bestselling local books of all genres, and all of my books entered the hot list.

My first novel titled “The Smell of Blood” has been a #2 Bestselling Local book in 2002 three months after its publication and enjoyed being in the top 50 for the next two years. Three big film outfits tried to persuade me to sell the rights of that particular book to be adopted in a movie. But I always say no, believing no director or scriptwriter or movie producer can ever give justice to my debut novel.

“The Smell of Blood”, according to a funny movie critic from a men’s magazine, “..was almost a step by step instruction book for an aspiring murderer.” I literally laughed out loud when I read that crazy yet accurate (at least for me) review. And that explains it; how can an “almost step by step instruction book” be ever adopted into a movie? You know, when you like to read books, there are certain parts of it that can never be felt or seen in any other form of entertainment..only in your head, exclusively in your own imagination. That’s why I always say no even though their offer is, to be honest, mouth-watering.

Anyway, I’m going to share with you one of the major elements that made my first novel “The Smell of Blood” be liked by critics, suspense-horror fans, and ordinary readers. The story revolves around a man named Santi. Saintly by the name, but as fiendish as a devil by persona.

Santi obsesses on blood, the smell of it, the warmth of it, and the rosy redness color of it that’s just irresistible and lustful. He literally bathe in blood after every successful murder of his.

One of the most loved parts of the book basing on the fan emails and snail mails I’ve received was the murder of Janice, a college girl. Her part was somewhere in the middle of the book, the “most evil, gruesome, and sinister part” according to a particular fan. And I can tell, of the four books I’ve written, Janice’s part is one of the most noted, favored, and critically acclaimed. Although almost every murder scene in a book I write is noted, Janice's is stand alone.

The chapter goes, not exactly, but similar to this. Janice is a supreme student government president and that demands her extra time in the school. It was already five minutes past six and she was still in the SSG office, finalizing some paper works for the upcoming college week. What a very dedicated student leader, Santi thought as he watches her from a distance. He was watching her from a small opening in the jalousie window of the office. His body shivers in excitement from the thought of having Janice’s blood spilled all over a closed area, smell it, feel it, devour it like a hungry tiger eating his prey.

Janice on the other hand somehow felt conscious, she feels as if someone is watching her carefully. She can’t understand the feeling. She looked around the office and in the door, no one’s around, she’s alone. For Santi, he really feels like a tiger, hiding in the tall wide grasses, watching his potential prey carefully and lustfully, waiting for the best time to attack and win its prize for being patient.

Janice managed to pull herself back together and continued working on the documents needed for the nearing college week. But after a few minutes, she felt that sharp staring eyes again although she haven’t even confirmed that someone scrutinized her a few minutes earlier. That’s when she called it a day. It was six thirty already. She knew that she was alone in the first floor of the college building….or was she? Albeit in the upper floors, some few classes are still going on. She started packing her things in her small handbag, that’s when she felt someone walked by behind her. She turned around, she sees no one. Her back was turned on the door when she felt that someone passing, there even has a narrow and vague reflection on her white coffee mug. She shivered a little, but she didn’t dwell on it. Too much things have happened that day and she’s feeling very tired, exhausted, and worn.

The corridors in the five-storey Arts and Sciences Building are L shaped. She went to the girls’ comfort room, and it was on the other end of the long corridor and which you’ll reach after turning to the unlit part of the hallway, the seemingly base of the L in the corridor.

She already motioned for the school to replace the nonfunctional bulbs, not only in the first floor, but all over the college. Fortunately, the lights in the comfort room weren't broken yet, allowing her to see herself in the mirror…but it flickers a little. Then she gently combed her long black hair. Everything was on a peaceful and normal pace. Until Janice saw a man’s face sneaking up from a cubicle, grinning at her like a mad man through the mirror.

Santi thought it was already the time for the tiger to reveal itself to its prey. Janice screamed at the top of her lungs and ran out of the comfort room hysterically. Santi let her, and he just smiled. He perfectly knows that there’s no where for her to go, he made sure of that. He felt his hands and whole body shake in excitement, he’s going to taste her fresh warm blood, devour it, enjoy it, feel it, smell it, like a child with a wondrous lollipop on his hand.

The exit is just on the left of the girls’ comfort room. But before the stairs in every floor and before the exit, there are grill doors. Janice froze in terror to find that the grill doors were locked. She screamed and beg for help. She believed that some people upstairs should hear her…but she realized the real thing. Of course, classes have been dismissed early because every participating student (and there are bunches of them) is busy preparing for the college week! “Oh my God” she muttered.

Then she ran very fast, almost flying, to the other end of the corridor. Sure, the emergency exit is there. But when she reached it, it was also locked! Why, for heaven’s sake, did it happen that every passage from the building is locked? And why, for heaven’s sake, was she locked here with a grinning psychopath? Tears started to fall from her eyes now. And yes, she’s dead scared.

She almost fainted. She can’t move because of the utter terror that she was feeling. Then she started hearing the slow but heavy footsteps of the mad man. (As I’ve told you, this part was somewhere in the middle of “The Smell of Blood”, so characters might have heard of the previous murders already). Is he the murderer? Is he the blood obsessed, soulless creature that has been killing people lately in this small provincial town? She asked herself. Am I going to be the next victim to be found drained with blood? Hell no. I’m going to do anything to save myself.

Santi was now walking slowly towards her, his next prey. He couldn’t help feeling his veins and pulses beat heavily because of his overwhelming excitement. The keys on the passages from the building was in his possession. He started playing with it in his fingers now.

Janice heard the keys dangling. Now she concluded that the murderer was the college janitor. But that was impossible! She has never seen that mad man before! But how did he get the keys?

Then, finally able to get herself together, she noticed there is a door in her right. Above the door, a sign says “School Records Office”. Half expecting it to be locked, she tried to open it. And thank God, it was open! There’s nowhere else to go. The footfalls of the murderer and his creepy humming are now dangerously near. She expected the office to be small, but it was huge. The shelves containing boxes of school records were towering high. It was her first time to enter this office. A good place to hide, she thought.

While the man hadn’t got hold of her yet, she ran deep into the towering shelves, looking for the perfect place to hide. It was dark inside; only the light posts from outside the windows give a weak glow inside the office. She thought on breaking the glass windows, but it will be of no use, she realized, because just like the passages, it was also grilled.

The school records office is the biggest office in the building. The ceiling was made of plywood, but now it’s already peeling and was withered by time. It was also dusty and studded with gigantic spiderwebs.

As she ran deeply into the shelves, she felt her heart pounding heavily, she can barely hear anything. Her mind keeps telling her nothing but only “You’re going to survive.”

Santi reached the wide open door of the records office, still relaxed and taking his time. He was surprised by the towering shelves containing piles of dusty records. He can hear the low, careful breathing of Janice, even though he approximated that she’s quite far away from him.

And, stopping his fingers from playing the keys, he dropped it in his jeans’ pocket and drew a new, stainless butcher’s knife from his coat’s pocket. “Janiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice!!! I’m comiiiiiiiiiiiing!!!” he called and let out a very strong mad man’s laugh.

Janice crouched in the lowest level of one of the biggest shelves in the middle of the office. Sure, it was dusty and dirty, but she didn’t want to die either. She was hoping that whoever that mad man was wouldn’t be able to find her and he’ll just go and accept the fact that he failed. But this hope took a step away from her mind when she heard the mad man’s laugh, a relentless and fiendish laugh that tells her that he wouldn’t stop till he get hold of her. She can’t help but think of how sinister her death might be. She started crying again.

The footsteps of the mad man sounded to her as if it were big speakers on its maximum volume. It brought great terror to her. But she needs to calm down, because sometimes, being calm is what will bring someone from grave danger to definite safety, her sociology professor once told her. She tried to not make sound at all. But to her, the sound of her heart beating is deafening.

She can still hear the footsteps of the mad man; she thinks he was rounding the office, looking at every corner to find her with a terrible murder weapon. Oh, please, God, no, she muttered lowly.

“Janiiiiiiiiiiiice!!! Where are you? Stop hiding from me now, because I’ll tell you, I won’t stop ‘til I get hold of you.” Santi said. “You’re just exciting me. I might end up draining every bit of blood from your body because you’re making me real hungry!”

“You devil.” She muttered, more to herself than to the madman. "I'm not going to let you do any harm to me. I'll fight for my life, I tell you."

Seconds and minutes and hours have passed. Santi is still rounding the school records. “Damn you darkness. You’re taking her side, huh, don’t you?” he muttered. He’s feeling a bit frustrated now, but the thought of just leaving her here still alive and unwounded is a no-no to him. Didn’t even think about it.

“I tell you, Janice, when I find you, it will not only be your body that’ll hurt and bleed. I’ll reap even your soul!” he said now angrily.

“Do it if you can find me.” She responded, but sure she didn’t let her voice be heard. How great the peril shall it bring to her.

And then she felt her nose itch. “Oh, hell, no. Shit.” She feels like sneezing. Of course, who wouldn’t feel like sneezing in this tight, dusty place. She tried cover her nose to stop further itching and prevent sneezing…but she guessed it’s a little bit too late now. She let out a low sneeze. But it was enough, in the deafening silence in the records office, to be heard by the mad man.

“Great.” Santi said loudly. “I’m going to get you, Janice! How do you like having your body cut open? Hmmm..from chest to your stomach, perhaps?” he started walking to where the sneeze came from. “What do you think? But don’t worry, I’m not going to take your organs away. That’s just so awful. I’ll leave that job to the mortician. I’m just going to drain your blood, nothing more. I’m coming, Janice! Ha-ha-ha!”

“Shit no. Please.” Janice started shaking again, hoping the mad man wouldn’t still be able to find her. The mad man is approaching her hiding place now. She tried to make no sound by almost not breathing. He’s coming. Just the thought of it dreads her a lot. The thought of being cut open, of being drained with blood. “Shit no. Please.” The thought of seeing her body, damned, dead...Oh c'mon, Janice, stop thinking about it!

The mad man is now in the lane of shelves where she hides. She can see his dirty sneakers and worn out jeans. He was walking slowly. She was no longer breathing. He can smell the woman’s perfume. She was hoping he’d believe she wasn’t there at all. He knows she was in this lane of shelves. She’s readying herself on fighting til death. Oh no. Take that word “death” away.

“Hi there!” the mad man peaked down into the shelves’ lowest level where Janice is carefully hidden and has fitted herself with great effort. He was grinning like a little boy, with a mental problem. He raised his hand to show a bright silver, huge butcher’s knife. But instead of being eaten by terror, it has been hours since she had readied herself for this moment, she kicked the man in the crotch hardly. It was the strongest kick she has ever given in her life...and might be her last.

She got out of the shelve immediately when the man fell grunting and wincing. But the man was able to make her stumble by kicking her in the knee. She also fell. The man, still weak and still in pain, drag Janice’s blouse, then her hair. He has got a nice grip of her now.

“Argggggggghhhhhhhh!” Janice grunts. “You’re not going to kill me!”

“Oh yeah? I am now actually! You piece of shit!” Santi said angrily.

Janice held Santi’s hand and tried her best to claw it, to stab it with her “somehow” pointed fingers.

“Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh! You dumbfuck bitch! I’m going to kill you the slowest but the most painful!” Santi said angrily.

Both of them were wincing. The clawing didn’t do a lot for Janice because Santi can resist such minor pains.

When Santi fell when Janice kicked him, the butcher’s knife also dropped. Santi gained a little strength now to stand up, still dragging Janice by the hair. And now he started walking towards the butcher’s knife with great effort, because Janice is struggling really hard to get loose from him.

“I told you you’re going to die!”

“Both of us have goals! And I’m telling you, I’m not going to die—" realizing what he’s up to, Janice tried harder to get loose…he was approaching the butcher’s knife. She screamed.

“You’re scared now, aren’t you?”

Janice tried to stand up, and with a little success, she punched him hard in the stomach. His grip eased. She was almost ready to escape…when he said “Why use a butcher knife when I have a smaller, fluffy kitchen knife in my coat’s pocket?”

Before she could escape, he stabbed her in the back. Janice stopped. The wound was so deep it, the knife’s point almost went through out her body.

“Oh my! You’re blood is now dripping! It’s so beautiful!” the mad man said. His voice now changed. It sounded now like a child who saw a very fluffy stuff toy. Leaving the kitchen knife still inside Janice’s body, he helped himself with the dripping blood and smelled it, he plunged his face in his bloody palm. Janice has fallen to her knees; blood started flowing now from her mouth. She was wounded badly. But now that he was quite busy, she thought she still have at least a percent chance to escape. She tried to crouch, but she’s too weak and in a dreadful pain now. She might be able to continue to move away slowly, but when the mad man notice this, it will be the end of her. Tears started dropping from her eyes and more blood poured from her back and from her mouth.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Santi moaned. He took away his face from his palm to breathe, his eyes closed. “Blood! Always blood!” then he opened his eyes. He saw that she’s a few meters away from him already, the kitchen knife still on her back.

“Haha! You think you could escape with that big knife in your back?” he said, still with the childish tone. Then he picked up the butcher’s knife. He always readies himself for contingencies. That’s why he always brings two knives. But he has never been in a situation to need to use the second knife, and it slipped his mind that he has indeed a smaller knife. Good thing he remembered it before the Janice girl could escape.

Now, the butcher’s knife is in his hand again. He walked slowly to the struggling girl. Janice continues to crouch, her senses started to get vague now. She has lost many blood. She heard him coming. “It’s my end.”

Sure, it has been her end.

Santi, like a mad man, indeed, cut her throat open with the butcher’s knife. “Blood! Blood! Blood!”

Janice fell down completely, can’t move, can’t crouch. She was trying to block the blood from her throat by her hands. But the wound is too damn big. Santi drew the kitchen knife from Janice’s back and it even gave a much more painful feeling to the dying Janice. To finally end her, he stabbed her nape, and she died, giving one final struggling breath. “Blood! Blood! Blood!” he said again.

“She’s losing great deal of blood! I can’t bring her to the comfort room now because she might be drained with blood when I reach the place! So I’ll enjoy you here, Janice!”

I’ll end the story there. Oh no, here’s a brief conclusion of the story. The next day, the record’s office smelled like fresh blood. And they found the spot where the murder happened. But the victim wasn’t there. A few minutes later, a girl screamed and fainted. In the comfort room, Janice’s body was found hanged. Her body was cut open (from chest to stomach, Santi has been true to his words) and drained with blood. She has a cut on her throat, a stab on the nape and on her back. She's so dead.

See how gruesome Janice’s death was? I pity her, but I don’t as well.

Anyway, continuing the story of my wonderful career, I have just received a text message from my agent; it came from the National Literary Guild of the Philippines. My agent informed me that I am to receive a Literary Juggernaut Award and a Filipino Novelist of the Year 2005 award for my works “The Smell of Blood” and my second novel, “Bloodlust”. I wonder why they are giving me awards for my 2002 and 2003 novels now that it’s already 2005. I’m a little bit offended, but I’m going to receive the awards, nevertheless.

Anyway, my four novels were all about bloody encounters with relentless murderers. Although “The Smell of Blood” was considerably successful, I never thought of writing a sequel for it. I don’t see the sense of creating sequels. None of my four novels has been a sequel of anything. My other three novels, anyway, were “Bloodlust” (the book that have just won me the Literary Juggernaut Award), “Devour”, both were 2003 novels, and my 2004 and most recent bestseller (haven’t reached #1, but still in the top 10 now), “No Pain, No Gain”.

I’m currently writing my 5th novel to come out next year. My agent kept on asking me when I will give him the manuscript. I guess he’s excited for it because he knows he’ll earn a great deal of money with my 5th novel. The inbox of my email is full of questions from fans as well, most of them asking “When will you publish your next book?”. I understand them; at least I believe I do. It has been a year since my last book. But patience is a virtue.

I consider the novel I’m currently writing my greatest work ever. That’s why writing it is taking too long. I’m on an enormous research. My mother even scolded me this morning because I wasn’t able to answer her call last night. If she just understands why. I’m on an important business.

I KILLED 10 people last night. This will be another turning point in my writing career. I’ve learned a lot. It will make my future novels broader and intenser. My readers will get a grip of my book and won't put it down until they finish it. I am still to do further research my doing more murders in the following weeks, but I'll be done soon.

My 5th novel by far is the most sinister work of mine. I’m just happy people think the murders in my novels weren’t real, because if they discover that it involves a hands-on and practical research from the author himself, I doubt if it will bring them any entertainment at all.

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