Mysterious Skin – Scott Heim. A review.

Mysterious Skin is certainly not a novel that is approached lightly.

 

Scott Heim’s coming-of-age story centres around two young boys who are connected through a life-changing event, and it explores the very different ways they are affected. Heim certainly doesn’t hold back in this novel, and chooses to explore some very dark themes in the protagonists’ journey to realise who they are.

 

The story begins with a young Brian Lackey being found bleeding in the crawl-space beneath his house, seeming to have lost five hours of his life. After years of strange dreams, he eventually he becomes convinced he is the victim of an alien abduction, and devotes his life to discovering the truth. The second protagonist, Neil McCormick, is fully aware of the events that led to this moment, and realises he is the only one who can help Brian deal with his missing time.

 

Neil is certainly the anti-hero of the novel. His life is centred around the events of his childhood, and the love he believes he has found in his baseball coach. Fast-forward ten years, and Neil, having come to terms with his sexuality, works as a teenage hustler with dreams of something more. He moves to New York with his soul-mate Wendy but eventually falls back into his old ways, landing himself in more trouble than ever. Some of the events that take place with the New York “johns” are genuinely some the most harrowing the book, and that’s saying something. Neil is a very complex character with an incredibly strong sense of agency, he knows exactly what he wants and is willing to manipulate anyone to get it. He also has a soft side however, taking his friend Eric and Brian under his wing to guide them through their own troubles. Neil is wise beyond his years, and loyal to a fault, and for me was the break-out character of the novel.

 

Brian however is a sweet kid. He deals with his experience by becoming introverted, and after his dad walks out on the family becomes rooted to his home town. His inability to move on from his supposed alien abduction forces him to become obsessed, eventually befriending another abductee; Avalyn Friesen. With her help Brian is able to uncover more details in his dreams, leading him to Neil. The closing scenes between the two characters are some of the most emotive I have ever read, and it is incredibly satisfying for Brian to finally find closure. Brian’s quiet obsession perfectly balances out Neil’s explosive voice, and their narratives are linked in complex and interesting ways. They are yin and yang, light and dark.

 

A special mention should be given to the supporting cast too; Wendy, Eric, the moms. It is with their help that Neil and Brian are brought together, and are able to move on from their traumatic childhood. Something from which they can all benefit.

 

I think this book can only really be summed up with my opening statement; do not approach it lightly. But I don’t say that as a warning, simply guidance. The novel deals with its themes in a mature and sensitive way, and is certainly thought-provoking literature. So if you haven’t read it, please do. And if you have read it, read it again.

Thanks for reading!

My First Short Story

Hello everyone! Hope you’re well.

I’ve decided to share my first creative writing assignment with you. It’s a short story, which is something I’m quite new to, but I’m very happy with the outcome. Enjoy, and please let me know what you think.

 

Swept Under the Rug

 

Julie clicked the Hoover off. She let out a frustrated sigh and pulled her hair back into a messy ponytail. She looked a state. Rosa hadn’t turned up this morning, she hadn’t even called. So Julie had decided to do the cleaning for once, mainly just to keep herself busy. She hated housework; that’s one of the reasons she chose to marry rich. Ben’s job kept him busy though, and she didn’t really have a lot to fill her time with while he was away.

 

Julie clicked the Hoover back on. The drone filled her ears and cut her off from the world. She made her way into the dining room from the large, open plan kitchen and ran it around the elegant acacia-wood dining table and chairs. Julie moved into the entrance hall and lifted the edge of the Persian rug that dominated the room. She had difficulty moving it to get underneath, it was far too heavy. It was a hand-restored antique, obviously incredibly expensive. She had begged Ben for it. Eventually he had given in, he always did.

 

She gave up and moved on to the study. It was easier to clean in here. The floor was a luxurious oak, stained dark and polished to a light shine. She got right into the corners and closed the door to get the dust bunnies behind. She began to open the door but paused. There was a bit of fluff stuck on the bottom. She bent down to get it.

 

Julie looked up. There was a man, standing in the doorway. She fell back in surprise and felt around for the Hoover’s switch.

 

The man towered over her. He was gruff-looking; dressed in a black turtle neck and jeans with an expensive looking grey overcoat. His leather gloves and black fisherman’s hat gave him the look of a Hollywood movie bank robber. Salt-and-pepper stubble covered his square jaw. Julie got to her feet and looked him in the eye.

 

“Who are you?” She tried to sound threatening, but it came out as more of a squeak.

 

“Mrs Carson?” He spoke with a strong accent. Eastern European. Russian maybe?

 

“No, I’m the cleaner. Mr and Mrs Carson are out for the day. Again, who the fuck are you?”

 

The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a small piece of paper. He held it up and the colour drained out of her face. It was a picture of her.

 

“Try again.” A sly smile crept over his face.

 

“Wh-What do you want?” Her heart was racing.

 

“I’m here on behalf of my boss, Mr Sokolov. Your husband owes us a lot of money Mrs Carson, and he has missed a few payments.”

 

“My husband isn’t here. H-He’s away on business.”

 

The man chuckled, but it came out more of a growl.

 

“Is that what he tells you? There’s obviously a lot you don’t know Mrs Carson.”

 

Then Julie realised. He wasn’t here for Ben.

 

“Mr Sokolov wanted me to give you a message to pass on to your husband.” He made a grab for her. She dodged under his arm and made for the door.

 

Julie ran out into the hall, aiming for the front door. She stole a look back to see if the man was following. She caught her foot on the edge of the turned-up rug. Julie tripped, and her head hit a side table with a sickening crunch. She slumped to the floor.

 

The Russian walked into the hall and surveyed the scene in front of him. He took a phone out of his pocket and dialled. He spoke in a low snarl for a few minutes and then hung up. He slipped the phone back into his pocket.

 

He crouched down and looked closely at her face. Blood was dribbling out the corner of her mouth. She must have bitten her tongue on the way down. Was she breathing? He couldn’t tell, and he wasn’t going anywhere near her face to find out. He couldn’t take that chance. He knew of people living through worse injuries and if he could get away with not being here, then all the better for him.

 

He had to make sure, somehow. He assessed the situation and decided on the best solution. He rocked back onto his haunches and placed his hands either side of Julie’s body. He carefully knelt on her back until all his weight was on her. He stayed there for a couple of minutes until he could be certain she was dead. Then the Russian stood up and made his way back to the study.

 

He looked around the room, admiring its grandeur. This guy certainly knew how to spend his money. He smiled to himself at the irony of that thought. He looked at the photos on the desk. There was one of Mr Carson shaking hands with some important looking man, and a smaller one of him and his family. The girl was cute, shame she’d have to grow up without a mother. He tried the drawers. Locked. Hardly a surprise, considering Mr Carson’s secrets. He decided there was nothing else to see here and made his way to the door.

 

He stopped in the doorway and turned around. He unplugged the Hoover and carried it into the hall. He lay it on the floor next to Mrs Carson’s body and trailed the cord to the nearest plug socket. He turned the socket on and dropped the plug on the floor. As he made his way past the body he looped the cord once around Mrs Carson’s ankle. He smiled at his genius.

 

The Russian walked through the extravagant dining room and into the kitchen, selecting an apple from the fruit bowl on his way. He paused at the back door and made one last check to make sure everything was in order. He took a bite of the apple, and left.