Well, I’ve been very quiet, I know. It’s been a busy summer for good and not so good reasons and I’ve been working very hard trying to put myself in the best position as I study. That being said, there’s the whole matter of Aeron’s series, isn’t there, and the fact that lots of you want to find out what I’ve been doing to rework her stories… and just where are the books!
Now… hmm… what was that bit I needed to speak about… *chuckles* … Oh, that’s right… Aeron! I worked on her rewrite earlier on this year but, however excited I am, it was important that I took my time and gave you the best version. I needed to let the story settle for a while then go back and read through. I’m delighted to say that I really feel it works and that what I’ve done has improved the books and series as a whole. So, I am happy to make sure that I get the new version out for you by Christmas.
As I’ve been doing with a lot of my releases, I like to give you snippets so I wanted to post some of the chapters as we go toward publication and talk more to you about why I have made changes.
The Empath, was written ten years ago and released eight years ago as my first ever published novel. I was immensely proud of my little Missourian but, with a lot of writing under the bridge and an awful lot more chocolate consumed, I wanted to bring Aeron’s voice more to the fore because it wasn’t as strong. It missed the familiar inflections that I came to love and I needed to resolve some of the bumpy parts in the overall series.
I felt that I skimmed over scenes when I could have put more depth into them and there wasn’t enough of Aeron’s buddies but the major part I needed to work on was showing more.
I hope that you’ll agree, the newer version’s chapters are much improved but I’d be keen to know what your thoughts are!
Big, beaming smiles,
Copyright © 2004, 2022 Jody Klaire
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher/author.
My problem is that I know too much.
You see, I’m different and for some folks being different is what makes everybody love them. They got talents and a life that other people want. You know those kinda folks? They can do pretty much anything and get called a genius.
Now, I ain’t that lucky and I got burdens that mean I get called a freak or a crazy person an’ I been hauled up in Serenity Hills Maximum Security Institution for the Criminally Insane since I was sixteen.
It’s ‘cause my burdens mean I see more than folks think I should: I relive a person’s memories through their jewelry; I can read folks like you would read a novel; I can displace ailments, heal… and sometimes wound, but I swear none of it is voluntary.
My name is Aeron Lorelei which I guess is as different as me; My dad had fixed on naming me Aaron ‘cause right up until birth, my family thought I was gonna be a boy… and my dad was real hoping on getting a boy so everybody was real disappointed when they got me instead. My dad went and switched the ‘a’ to an ‘e’ and so I got a name that stuck out as much as I did.
Talking of my dad, my folks don’t even acknowledge I exist anymore on the account that I got convicted of manslaughter. That’s what they say, but even before then they weren’t real happy ‘bout me. I’d been the little runt who went around talking to animals and telling the folks in town stuff about them they sure didn’t want said out loud.
So, Serenity Hills is home and I have friends here that don’t care too much ‘bout my burdens. I had a buddy who shared a cell with me for the longest time and she taught me how to take care of myself but she got taken away by the guards not long ago and so I have a new cell mate that I ain’t so pleased about. Her name is Lori and she’s a bulky lady with mad-professor hair who murdered her whole family while they slept and I don’t even think she knows why she did.
She got this real nasty cloud over her head and its slimy tentacles are leeching away what’s left of her sanity. In my heart, I want to get rid of her ailment but I don’t know what I would do with it and its been attached to her for so long, that if I tried, I’m sure that its gonna leave a big crater in her mind. I know it would help somehow but my worry is that they’ll go and free her and then maybe another leech, a bigger one, might attach itself to her and she’d go and hurt somebody else… then it’d be my fault, like always.
I ain’t able to nothing but sit here watching her get fed on by the leech and I feel sad and cold, real cold. When I tried to help before, I found myself here, so it’s better for everyone that I ignore what burdens I have and I stick to what I learned: no one should go messing ‘round with other people’s lives or meddling with their ailments. Nobody should interfere even if they are trying to help.
So, like I said, I know too much and I ain’t banking on interfering with nobody; meddling in nobody’s business, or trying to go fixing what it ain’t my place to fix. Nuh uh. I’m keeping my burdens to myself ‘cause I don’t want no more blood on my hands.
At lunchtime, I sat in my usual spot on the bench in the large cavernous canteen with my buddies. We were some of the longest serving inmates apart from the few who I swore had been playing checkers on the bench over from me since the place was built.
A place like Serenity, which housed the kind of offenders you don’t wanna even think on, meant my buddies and I had stuck together for safety and, to me, Aimee, Nora, Yasmin, and a girl we’d called Tiz—were my family.
Considering where we lived, my buddies and I were classed as ‘high risk’ even above the folks like Lori. That meant, if there was trouble of some sort then usually we got the blame… and by we, I mean me.
The head psychiatrist liked to say that we incited unrest but I’d call it standing up for human rights and not being treated like a human guinea pig, but whatever name you called it, that was us—well, me—but guilt by association and all that.
‘How’s the new girl?,’ Tiz asked, eying the silver necklace a guard nearby was wearing.
I glanced over at Lori and winced as the nasty cloud sucked at her. ‘Desperate… she’s thinkin’ on attacking Sheila.’
Nora eyed the guard, sat on the table in front of Tiz to block her view then started picking at her fingers. ‘She tell you that?’
I shook my head and tapped at her hands until she quit fussing.
‘Ah, so your third eye is on the case,’ Aimee said then stuck her bowl on her head and saluted the older inmates playing checkers who saluted back.
‘Somethin’ like that,’ I mumbled and tapped at Nora’s hands again. ‘I think she’s had enough.’
Aimee and me hadn’t always got on. In fact, we’d kinda disliked each other for a whole load for years right up until we’d been trapped in the laundry room with an inmate in a full psychotic rage. I’d hidden her in the dryers then grabbed the inmate and shoved her in one of the tall dumpsters ‘til the guards bothered coming to help. Since then, Aimee had taken to me but she didn’t always let on she liked me a whole lot.
‘You think so?’ Nora asked in her fretful tone then shifted around on the table. ‘Tiz… no getting twitchy.’
‘Yup.’ I glared over at the guard with the necklace on until she shifted away.
‘She’s crazy if she takes on Sheila,’ Yasmin said as she fussed with her hair and held up her plastic bowl like it was a mirror. ‘She won’t make dinner.’
‘Who are you to call anybody crazy?’ Aimee muttered at her, pulled her bowl off her and stuck that on her head too.
‘You think taking on a Fury Fiend is clever?’ Yasmin shot back, picked up my empty bowl and used that to preen herself instead.
‘Depends if they got silver on them,’ Tiz mumbled, gaze still on the guard with the necklace heading out of the canteen.
‘You’d need Aeron for that,’ Yasmin said as she dabbed her lips with left over ketchup. ‘You wouldn’t be able to reach.’
Tiz poked out her tongue then beamed up at me but I fixed on Lori. Sure I was six five and built like Samson but even I weren’t going nowhere near a Fury Fiend.
Lori’s fierce expression grew more and more intense as the cloud over her pulsated and my heart ached looking at her. I’d felt how tormented she was so who was I to stop her.
‘You don’t think the head peeker will be able to help?’ Nora asked, cuddling in close and picking at her fingers again.
I shook my head. Like I said, I didn’t think even if I took the cloud away from her that she could be helped.
Lori got up and strode over to Sheila who spent most days locked in restraints, howling or charging at her door in solitary.
‘Should we stop her?’ Tiz asked, gaze back on the guard with the necklace who had strode back in.
‘Are you kidding me?’ Aimee scowled at her and thunked her spoon to her bowl. ‘Sheila would skew you for getting close.’
Tiz weren’t listening though and her eyes started to narrow like it did when she was going to lose it; at the same time Lori picked up a plastic fork from the table beside her.
‘Aimee, get Tiz,’ I mumbled and got to my feet as Lori snapped the knife to make a sharp edge. I couldn’t let her attack Sheila no matter how much I wanted to turn away. ‘Lori, wait—’
‘Aeron!’ Nora yelled.
Tiz sprinted toward the guard, teeth bared, so I lumbered her way and grabbed for the scruff of her jumpsuit.
‘Aeron!’ Aimee yelled as I wrestled Tiz’s arms behind her back as she kicked and flailed at me. Her anger soaked into my hands until I winced from how much it burned.
‘Quit it, Tiz.’ I tensed.
I spun around. Lori plunged the plastic knife into Sheila’s cheek. Blood gushed out and Lori yanked the knife back, readying for another attack.
Sheila’s fury exploded out like flames toward me; the intensity of it burned through my heart.
‘Lorelei, do not let her go,’ the head guard, Val, snapped at me as she pulled out a sedative shot then waved at the guard with the necklace. ‘You, get over there and sort out Sheila.’
The guard grabbed for her shots.
Lori plunged the blade into Sheila’s shoulder. Pain echoed through my own shoulder and I grunted.
Tiz baulked as Val approached and kicked her in the chest.
‘Val…’ I muttered trying to hold on to Tiz as she flailed her leg. ‘Sheila, watch Sheila.’
‘Hold her still, Lorelei. I lost enough guards to her mood.’ Val screwed up her face and re-brandished her sedative.
The guard with the necklace reached Lori as Sheila got to her feet. She ripped the plastic out of her shoulder, shoved the guard to the floor, and jammed the knife into Lori’s chest.
I yelped with the pain and fought to hold onto Tiz as she tried to bite Val’s arm. ‘Quit it, Tiz.’ I held the back of her head as Tiz lost it so bad she started trying to gnaw at me. ‘Val, Sheila!’
‘Lorelei, just hold her still.’ Val’s eyes were screwed up in concentration as she tried dodging Tiz’s legs.
‘I’ll go help,’ Aimee said and hurried toward the guard on the floor. ‘You got to take your necklace off.’
‘Out of my way.’ The guard got to her feet and pushed Aimee aside.
‘Aimee, you got to get clear.’ I tried not to pull the hair out of Tiz’s head as she jerked and snarled.
Sheila grabbed Lori and threw her over two sets of tables. The guard went to hit Sheila with the shot only for Sheila to slam her elbow into the guard’s face and send her backward onto Aimee. They collapsed onto one of the seats and sent the checkers board flying behind me.
Tiz twisted in my arms, eyes wild. She stuck her two feet into Val and cracked her across the chin with her heel. Val cradled her face as her sedative shot rolled onto the floor.
‘Sedative,’ Yasmin tottered over and picked it up. ‘I’ll give the sedative to Sheila.’
‘What, no.’ I held onto Tiz as she scrambled up me until she was hanging over my shoulder, snarling. ‘Help Nora.’
Two guards hurried over to try and stop Sheila but she barged them out of the way as Lori rolled off the table, her chest oozing blood.
‘Get the necklace off her,’ Nora wheezed as she and Aimee tried to pull the guard away from Tiz.
‘I’m trying,’ Yasmin muttered but the guard fought her like she was attacking. ‘It’s hard to give her a shot when she’s fighting.’
‘Don’t sedate her.’ I turned around as Tiz launched herself off my shoulder and caught her with both hands. ‘Give it to Val.’
Yasmin stared at me as Val shook her head trying to clear her rattling brain as the packed canteen started calling and jeering.
‘The shot.’ I grunted as Tiz booted me in the stomach. ‘Val, you gotta hit Sheila.’
Val caught sight of Lori and grabbed her radio. ‘Get in here, now!’
Lori laughed as blood dribbled from her wound, grabbed another fork off the table and snapped it sharp. Sheila narrowed her eyes and held up her knife.
Three sprinted toward Sheila and Lori but the inmates were fleeing out of the way and the got pushed back.
Tiz snarled and snapped as the guard punched Aimee in the face, panic in her eyes. I held on, numb, if I let Tiz go, she’d attack the guard; if I let her go, she’d attack Val too and everyone else until she had her shot.
‘Give me the shot,’ Val muttered as she glanced, with worry, over at Lori and Sheila. She didn’t have a lot of choices. All three were as dangerous as each other.
Lori and Sheila circled each other, as the inmates blocked the guards path, shouting and chanting.
Val snatched the shot of Yasmin as Tiz kicked at her then scowled. ‘Why you two attacking?’
Lori and Sheila circled, and circled, swiping blades, eyes narrowed.
‘She got silver on,’ Aimee mumbled as the guard smacked Nora with her baton.
Val’s eyes filled with panic. ‘What, get her out of the way or we’ll all get teeth.’
‘Trying,’ Aimee muttered as the guard kept fighting, her colleagues smacking their way through the gathered circle of inmates.
‘Hit her!’ Tiz smacked and kicked me as she got stronger and more wild.
Yasmin grabbed Tiz’s leg. Val hit her with the shot. Lori and Sheila charged at each other. I held my breath…
Lori and Sheila made contact.
The pain shot through my chest and neck. I yelped and stumbled with Tiz as my vision blacked.
The chanting stopped. A thud as Lori and Sheila must have hit the floor.
My vision was speckled as I stumbled around. Val spun and sprinted over to Lori and Sheila; Guards gathered around her and Aimee and Nora let go of the guard who followed.
‘You look sick.’ Yasmin helped me place a sleeping Tiz onto the table. ‘You get the shot instead?’
‘Feels like it.’ My hands shook and cold sweat soaked through my clothes. My vision cleared as Val stooped and checked Lori and Sheila’s necks.
‘No,’ Val’s singular word echoed out through the institution.
The guard with the necklace hung her head and I exchanged glances with Nora, Yasmin and Aimee. Even after ten years of being trapped in here with the tortured, violent, and unloved it still burned, it had never stopped burning.
The guard with the necklace glared over at us and I slumped back down into my seat.
Yeah. It was my fault. It was always my fault.