Published by Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: March 7th 2017
Purchase Links Amazon
Killing isn’t supposed to be easy. But it is. It’s the after that’s hard to deal with.
Nate grew up at The Fort, a white supremacist compound. He was eight the first time he stabbed someone; he was eleven when he earned his red laces—a prize for spilling blood for “the cause.” And he was fourteen when he murdered his father (and the leader of The Fort) in self-defense, landing in a treatment center while the state searched for his next of kin. And now, in the custody of an uncle he never knew existed, who wants nothing to do with him, Nate just wants to disappear.
Enrolled in a new school under a false name, so no one “back home” can find him, he struggles to forge a new life, trying to learn how to navigate a world where racism is not acceptable. But he can’t stop the racist thoughts from popping into his head, or help the way he shivers with a desire to commit violence. He wants to change—he just doesn’t know where to start.
And then he meets Brandon, the first person to treat him like a person instead of a monster. The person he would have made pay for the color of his skin in his old life. Brandon could never understand Nate’s dark past, so Nate keeps quiet. And it works for a while. But all too soon, his worlds crash together, and he must decide between his own survival and standing for what’s right, even if it isn’t easy. Even if society will never be able to forgive him for his sins.
Like a teen American History X, S.F. Henson’s Devils Within is gut-wrenching, thought-provoking no holds barred look at racism in contemporary American culture that may have you examining your own soul.
First off, hi, everyone! Second, thanks to Nori for featuring 17ers, and for having me on the blog. I’m SO excited for this post—y’all don’t even know! Writing is my life, but music comes in at a close second. Putting them together = magic.
As a kid, I’d heard that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (my favorite album) synced with “The Wizard of Oz.” So when the movie came on TV, I sat in the floor with my stereo, playing and pausing the tape during commercials. Twenty years later, I started writing the book that would become my debut and all these songs came to mind that captured the main character, Nate, and the entire novel so perfectly. Before I knew it, I had my own “Dark Side of Oz.”
So, today is a day of excerpts. From the second chapter of my debut, DEVILS WITHIN, and from its playlist. You can get the whole book next spring (or preorder on Amazon now!), and you can listen to the whole playlist on my website.
I hope you enjoy, and I hope this motivates you to blend words and music and create your own magic.
Killing isn’t supposed to be easy.
But it is.
Squeezing a trigger is the easiest thing in the world. One firm press and BOOM, a life isn’t in this world anymore.
It’s the after that’s hard to deal with. After you take the step that can never be taken back. After a single pull of the lever rips a person from his soul—although, to be honest, I’m not sure he ever had a soul. If he did, it left a long time ago.
It doesn’t matter that the person I murdered was the most miserable excuse for a human being ever to walk the earth, shy of Hitler. It’s knowing he didn’t have a chance for his soul to return, that I took it from him. It’s knowing he was the bad guy, but I’m the one who has to suffer for the rest of my life.
Even remembering the things he did—to me, to Mom, to anyone who looked different or talked different or acted different—even then, I can’t escape the guilt. Every time I look at my hands, that cold pistol drags them down like an anchor in thick creek mud. When I see my reflection, his face stares back. The face of a murderer.
Although the jury said I’m not. Not according to the law. The law says self-defense doesn’t count as murder.
But it does to me.
Because—and this is the hardest part—it felt good. Killing him was a relief. Finally, after years of abuse, of hearing his voice crack mid-scream, of the snap of the belt, the slam of his fists, finally I had quiet.
Not that it lasted long. Every day since, all 588 of them, his deep voice fills my head with hate-filled words. I don’t share his hate. I really don’t. But that doesn’t stop the thoughts from entering my mind.
Maybe his words got to Mom too. And no matter how far we ran, she couldn’t escape them. Maybe I’m beyond hope, regardless of what I do.
Traitor thinks so.
He gave me the room on the second floor farthest from the stairs. I have to pass his room to get out. I guess he thinks I’ll sneak away and kill again or something.
Not that anyone could sneak anywhere in this house. There’s no carpet here, only bare floorboards that groan like I’m hurting them when I take a step.
I don’t think he knows what to do with me. We drove for pretty much a solid day, all the way from West Kentucky to Northwest Alabama, stopping only for food and to buy me clothes at a thrift store.
When we got to Traitor’s cabin, he fed me a fried bologna sandwich and chips and sent me to bed without saying more than ten words to me. Not that I got much sleep. I never really sleep. Or maybe I’ve never really awakened. I live in that blurry space between awake and asleep, never fully in either world. Every night, I just lie there, reliving it to the point when I escaped.
*~~About the Author~~*