Enjoy an exclusive guest post from Maul Allan Hewish, author of “Child Process,” featured in our ON TIME anthology.
“Child Process” was not an easy piece to write. In all honesty, I have never really felt super confident in composing short pieces. I always want to explore more of the characters, more of the setting, the relevant period in history, and what memories might lie in each little trinket on the mantle. Basically, I learned a while back that my strength lies in the ability to spin a longer yarn with the kind of self-indulgent obsession that can only fit in the world of a novel.
Short fiction, almost without exception is a wholly mechanical experience. It strips back the narrative to the raw cogs and springs. Almost to the point that you can visibly see the inner workings as they churn and grind, making the narrative move. But if the story is good enough, in theory, you shouldn’t be able to spot them. It should flow like water and every puzzle piece slot neatly into place.
With “Child Process,” I started with a concept; the unborn are essentially the closest thing to the dead. They are outside of time, and sit in limbo. In theological circles, the womb is where the soul manifests, but some believe there is a transitional point where they might still retain memory of where the soul had come from. So, following that rather interesting train of thought – what secrets of the afterlife might they divulge if someone was crazy enough to make a machine that could not only read their brainwaves, but translate those brainwaves into something we could understand?
It’s a piece I really like the concept behind, but on the first draft I wasn’t sure if I could get it working. I stomped around the house, pacing and thinking and going back and forth. In the end, it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. I’d had similar ideas before. But not the talent to execute them.
Time paradoxes are interesting thought experiments, but rarely induce the sort of 3 AM existential angst that I’m particularly fond of in literature and media; the rare sort that feels like the floor just fell out from under you, your heart has lodged in your throat and your guts are full of mice.
Even Kat, my dear wife and best critic, wasn’t entirely sure if it worked. But perhaps, we were both wrong, because others have read it and found what the story was trying to do, and helped prune the dead branches to get a healthier core. For better or worse, the story is as you have it, and has a very classic feel to it, harping back to Poe and Lovecraft’s wayward scientists and Occult magicians meddling in things they shouldn’t be. Time is the ultimate beyond; the final frontier. It is both larger than death, and encompasses it.
They say one of the most intense hallucinogenic experiences you can have is sensory deprivation. Just being trapping in the silent dark outside time with nothing but your thoughts for company. And maybe that’s true. I suspect the most intense thing about it isn’t merely the lack of any reality to latch onto, but the niggling subconscious voice that’s whispering about the possibility that maybe, just maybe – this time – the voice isn’t in your head. You are really hearing it. There’s something out there, and it’s trying to tell you something terribly important. Something that will change everything.
Maul Allan Hewish is a Brisbane-based author and visual artist, who dabbles in Sigil-crafting, Tarot and Western Occultism. His fiction, art and poetry deciphering the horrors of waking life, mirror his own experiences with mental-illness and childhood trauma. His works have been published twice in Grotesque Quarterly Magazine, and he has a story featured in the Transcendent anthology on dreams and visions. He lives with his loving partner Katya. They spend their free time having long discussions on the merits of bad horror movies, video-gaming, and collecting obscure miniatures. For more updates, check out his website: www.themaul.net