Brian James Freeman‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:
Description of The Painted Darkness:
The Painted Darkness: A Novella
When Henry was a child, something terrible happened in the woods behind his home, something so shocking he could only express his grief by drawing pictures of what he had witnessed. Eventually Henry’s mind blocked out the bad memories, but he continued to draw, often at night by the light of the moon.
Twenty years later, Henry makes his living by painting his disturbing works of art. He loves his wife and his son and life couldn’t be better… except there’s something not quite right about the old stone farmhouse his family now calls home. There’s something strange living in the cramped cellar, in the maze of pipes that feed the ancient steam boiler.
A winter storm is brewing and soon Henry will learn the true nature of the monster waiting for him down in the darkness. He will battle this demon and, in the process, he may discover what really happened when he was a child and why, in times of trouble, he thinks: I paint against the darkness.
But will Henry learn the truth in time to avoid the terrible fate awaiting him… or will the thing in the cellar get him and his family first?
Written as both a meditation on the art of creation and as an examination of the secret fears we all share, The Painted Darkness is a terrifying look at the true cost we pay when we run from our grief—and what happens when we’re finally forced to confront the monsters we know all too well.
“The tone and building dread reminded me of classic Stephen King. Great velocity and impact, and super creepy. Don’t go in the basement!”
— Stewart O’Nan, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Country and A Prayer for the Dying
— Richard Matheson, New York Times bestselling author of I Am Legend
“Brian James Freeman’s evocative tale about the dark corners of an artist’s imagination is elegant and haunting.”
— David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of The Shimmer
“The Painted Darkness is a dark, terrifying, and deeply moving gem of a novella. Brian James Freeman managed to both scare me and move me to tears.”
— Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Keepsake
“Wonderfully reminiscent of the quiet horror of Charles L. Grant, The Painted Darkness takes readers on a gently chilly walk through the forest of fears both conscious and subconscious. A very impressive achievement.”
— Bentley Little, award-winning author of The House and His Father’s Son
“The Painted Darkness delves into territory that fascinates so many of us — the fine lines between beauty and horror, faith and fear, art and the unconscious. Both a wonderful allegory and a gripping read, Brian James Freeman has written a taut, memorable tale.”
– Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of So Cold the River and The Cypress House
An excerpt from The Painted Darkness:
Just start at the beginning, Henry’s father once told him, and the rest will take care of itself.
These words of wisdom came during the waning hours of a beautiful March day when Henry was five years old, a day that began with a gift from Mother Nature and ended with the little boy running home as fast as his legs would carry him, bounding through the snowdrifts and dodging the thorny branches lining the path through the woods.
Once inside the safety of his family’s home at the end of Maple Lane, Henry fell to the hardwood floor in his bedroom, exhausted, his skin scratched, the wounds burning like they were on fire. His hands were bruised and bloody.
Henry crawled under his bed and closed his eyes and he prayed like he had never prayed before. Not the type of praying he did at bedtime every night as his mother watched, and not the generic prayers he said every week in church with the rest of the congregation. For the first time in his life, he was directing his message straight to God Himself, and Henry’s request was simple: please send a mighty angel to undo what had been done.
An hour later, the room grew dark as the sun vanished behind the mountains to the west, but Henry hadn’t moved an inch. Exhaustion and fear wouldn’t allow him. He still wore his yellow rain slicker; his clothing was soaked in sweat; his face was damp with tears. The snow melting off his winter boots had trickled across the hardwood floor, forming a puddle of dirty water.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, Henry heard the house’s front door open and close. A few minutes passed, but he didn’t dare move. He held his breath as he listened to the floorboards creaking through the house. The footsteps stopped outside his room and Henry almost couldn’t bring himself to watch as the door swung open.
A pair of heavy work boots crossed the room, every step a dull thud, and Henry let out a small cry. The boots stopped. The man’s pants were stained with grease and grime and bleach. He took a knee next to the puddle of melted snow and, after a brief moment, he reached under the bed with his weathered, callused hand.
Henry grabbed onto the giant hand and his father pulled him out in one quick, smooth motion. He hadn’t turned the lights on yet, but a bright beam of moonlight sliced the bedroom in half.
Henry stared into his father’s big eyes, which seemed to glow in the sparkling light. His father was a bear of a man, but he gently lifted Henry and sat him on the bed like someone moving the most delicate of antiques. Henry sobbed while his father rocked him in his enormous arms, but for a while this did nothing to make the little boy feel better.
His father whispered, “It’ll be okay, Henry. Just start at the beginning and the rest will take care of itself.”
Henry, still shaking, told his father what had pushed him to the brink of his sanity that beautiful March afternoon: a series of events so terrible he wouldn’t allow himself to remember them once he grew up. He did his best to describe what had caused him to run as fast as he could through the woods and to hide under the bed, as if the bed might protect him from the horrors he had witnessed. As if the monsters would leave him alone there.
“Son,” his father said when Henry had finished, “the monsters don’t live in the dark corners waiting to pounce on us. They live deep in our heart. But we can fight them. I promise you, we can fight them and we can win.”
Henry listened to his father’s words, which were soothing and comforting and wise. His father suggested Henry get a piece of paper and some crayons. He said, “I know something that’ll help you feel better.”
Henry did as his father instructed and before the night was over he would be repeating a mantra: I paint against the darkness.
Those words made Henry feel strong in a way he couldn’t describe. The words opened doors within his mind; they set him free and gave him courage to face the night.
But in the end would that courage and his father’s wisdom be enough to truly save Henry from the monsters he feared so much? Or had he just delayed the inevitable?
The answers to those questions wouldn’t be determined for another twenty years.
The Painted Darkness is available for purchase at:
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Author Website: http://www.BrianJamesFreeman.com
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