Today is release day for a book I wrote called Beacon, book one of the Nation of Five series. The book is about young men and an impossible task they set before themselves. Well, I know a lot about impossible tasks. I’m a DID survivor who suffers from hallucinations. I have bipolar and Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder. Getting through a day where I make dinner, hang out with my kids, be a husband to my wife, and not end the day screaming, is the completion of an impossible task. Well, it may be an impossible task that’s undertaken in the book Beacon, but it’s only even considered because of the friendship between four boys. Four teenage boys attempt this daunting feat. Got me thinking about the boys and men in my life. And so today to celebrate the release of Beacon, I will be dropping upon you chapters from Reality of the Unreal Mind. These chapters are from the unreleased third volume, titled The Keep. I start at 7:30 in the evening on Friday, and will end at 9 at night on Sunday. So follow me now into the story of the men who made me possible.
Call backs for Dracula. I’m up for… I’m doing this wrong.
We played Vampire the Masquerade. The game glorified vampires and werewolves and Teddy, D, Spider, and I were obsessed with it. I was the Storyteller, which is the guy who runs everything in the world and makes the plot. The idea is that the modern world is infested with vampires but they have to hide. They once ruled everything openly, but the Inquisition hunted them down en masse and they had to go underground. The player makes a vampire character and runs for their life.
See, every big city has a Prince. This is the guy who runs things. He is the boss and is supposed to be the most powerful vampire in the city. Most Storytellers choose a city and slowly, over the course of their games, detail it out. My city of choice was LA. I knew dick and nothing about the city itself. I made my own thing, and of course missed the greatest things about the place.
There was no Hollywood. There was no wealthy. There were no earthquakes or even a port. In fact, it was LA in name alone. But it was the hub I used, and Cork was a problem.
His name was Cork because one of his fangs was shaped like a corkscrew. He was vicious, more lunatic than level-headed ruler, and he instantly hated every character that any of my players made. I would like to say it was because he despised young, new vampires. I would like to say it was for political reasons, but the truth was, I loved scaring the hell out of my players and Cork was terrifying. The mention of his name still brings a shiver to those who played that game with me my junior year, and when we got into it deep, we heard the Drama department had chosen Dracula as its next performance.
Me and Teddy and his brother Jacob were all in, and we signed up and stumbled our way through auditions. We did not prepare a monologue. We didn’t even know to. We came to the audition completely unaware of what we were supposed to be doing, and by a miracle, or just because we knew vampires so well and wanted it so badly, all three of us made call backs.
I’ve touched on this frustrating day, but let’s come back. There are so many great things happening at this show.
Bootheel was up for Jonathan Harker and Dracula. Teddy was up for Renfield. Droll, Dr. Seward. Jacob was a cinch for Dracula. Chalice was up for everything. So was I. Teddy was asked to go batshit crazy first. He stepped up to hit Renfield, and I knew I was next. I stepped in the corner of the performance hall and slapped myself. I began to mumble, and I curled my fingers into talons and flickered them around like a candle in a wind. I started talking to myself. “No, no, because well, yes and she is right. He can’t be, and yes, no, if I can just, it can’t be. Maybe ’cause God’s watching. The Devil chews tobacco and she has to be right.”
The director called me up and gave my lines. I started by clawing my face, then I read shaky and twitchy. My voice cracked and I shook my head.
I do crazy well.
I turned to leave, to step aside and let the next guy up, when the director said, “Now Dracula. Turn to page 20 of the script. Read. Start at the line, ‘Do you hear them? What beautiful music they make.’”
Now there have been hundreds, maybe thousands of people who have read for Dracula in so many plays and TV shows, so many movies that the number is impossible to guess. I can tell you this. No one has ever read Dracula worse than I did that day. My Dracula was trembling. My Dracula was looking around paranoid. My version of this powerful, immense, and awe-inspiring character had a warbling voice and was near the point of tears.
“Okay?” the director said. “Can I see that again please?” He tried to give me a bit of instruction on the kind of character Dracula was and told me to go.
A bit better, but now I was nervous, trying to redeem myself, and my voice kept cracking. My dyslexia hated my guts and it all came out a stammering, stumbling mess. Lugosi would have clawed my eyes out, maybe had me killed, I don’t know, but it would not have been pretty.
After my third read, I was ready for a fourth, and he told me to turn in the script to page fifteen and read Harker.
Harker is a buttoned-up stiff with a heart for one woman that he keeps tied up in his English personality and his quiet exterior.
Not so much.
My Renfield and Dracula had killed all the Englishman I have locked inside of me. It came out an arrogant, insane, rambling atrocity that stumbled over his words and twitched.
Not so much.
“Thank you,” he said, and called out Bootheel’s name.
When I looked at the corner of the stage, I saw Teddy mumbling to himself, bent over, slapping his face and twitching. Well I beat myself into Renfield again before being called out to read Dracula again. And again. And again. And when the director could not watch it anymore, he sent me to sit down.
We all left the auditorium and went out front to wait for our rides.
“You did great.”
“Your Dracula was right on.”
“No, you got the part. I know it.”
We all paraded our false praise, but inside, every one of us wanted to stomp the other into the ground.
Teddy, Jacob, and Bootheel were picked up first and I was left alone with the freshman.
When I turned to look at him, I almost gasped. Chalice was a beautiful boy. His hair was thick, black and gleaming. His face bright and perfect, without a blemish and with a smattering of freckles that made him look just shy of childish, impish, devilish, all the ishes. His eyes were crystal blue and he had a smile that would shut a girl down.
He had read for every male part. Had been good, too. And he looked at me with a smile and said, “There is no doubt you got Renfield.”
“No, it went to Teddy. I was confused by the second time I read him. Teddy was ramping himself up. He does mad well. He got the part.”
“Don’t cut yourself short. You’re insane.” He laughed. It was an easy laugh and his entire body shook with it. When he laughed, he looked like a mischievous child. He was impossible not to like. And as soon as I saw him laugh the first time, I was pretty sure he was gay.
We talked for a few more minutes before his mother came for him and they eased away.
Artist slumped. He knew he had thrown the roles away. He would not be on set and he would lose time with Teddy. It was an absolute disaster, and when my ride showed up, I slumped against the door and my face hung off my head.
Well, I did get a part. I managed to get Wesley. I’m sure you remember him from the movies and all of the shows. He is quite unforgettable. He is the one who walks on stage or on set, takes orders from Dr. Seward and yells, “Righto.” Then runs off to perform his duties. He walks on stage with a duster and dusts the clock until he turns around and sees Dracula looming over him. He stammers out a word or two and runs off. I’m sure you remember him.
Chalice got all of the parts. The curse of a great actor is that often they are too good to nail to one role. If you can spare them to understudy, you do it. When Chalice read all of the male roles, he did so with a showmanship that has only gotten stronger with age. He is a performer now. Showstopper. His voice and his presence are undeniable. But now I am getting ahead of myself.
Chalice took Understudy, and in two weeks had not only the men’s roles but the women’s memorized as well. Occasionally he was called out to perform a part just to see how he was progressing. That ended soon when the director figured out that he had it in hand. He never took the stage. He never got to stand under that particular spot light. But watch this guy. He will be back.
Chalice is unstoppable and he will teach me about love, and fuck me over, in a way that few other forces ever have.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.