I started writing The Uninvited in 2001. I’m not sure of the actual date I started writing it, but my writing log has “~September 20, 2001 (not sure of actual ms start time)” listed. I do remember I was hit with the idea while mowing the lawn. The manuscript went through three name changes, starting out as Awakened Souls, then Souls Harbor, then the current title. Things change as you work on a novel, especially when you work on one for 12 years, but I’d work on one scene in particular that involved the World Trade Center. I researched into the buildings, and part of my inspiration for the story was to try to explain the heinous activities that befell the WTC, but as time wore on, I found that my plot’s timelines grew ridiculous. That to have some of the characters to be “on the loose” for 12 years was asking just a little too much…so I had to rewrite the scene (I had to also do this with the Hockers; I’d originally had them “originated” in WWII, but that also became untenable).
So, what I’ve done is post the WTC scene as I’d originally written it. If you’ve read the book, you know I now have what I call, “the Teterboro scene” in its place:
“Sarasota County’s newest inmate, number 5943667, otherwise known as Susan Sibley, housewife and volunteer worker, always considered herself a strong woman, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually, as well. In her late forties, she’d already raised her three kids, Polly, Ben, and Wendy into well-adjusted members of society and the college scene. All were intelligent, none of them did drugs, but Polly and Ben already had, unknown to their mother, their first college sexual encounters, while Wendy, the oldest of the three, and also unknown to her mother, was struggling with emergent lesbian tendencies. They’d all written home, called home, and sent those special-occasion cards and flowers on time. For what more could a mother ask? Susan had the perfect husband in Andrew Sibley, who was, admittedly, a bit on the workaholic side, but who paid her as much attention as possible, and frequently called from work, or left humorous, loving, text messages on her cell. They had a beautiful home, though it was now an empty nest, and Susan had gone back to school herself, studying art. She’d always been particularly interested in Dali, and had always wanted to study art ever since she’d discovered, with her first child, that she could, suddenly and unaccountably, paint. She was, however, drawn to barren landscapes…prairies, plains, and deserts…all things remote and desolate…which she couldn’t explain—but no less ignore. It was just what emerged from within. She’d sought the help of other artists, entered therapy, and even consulted psychics to try to understand why it was her sketches and art work were all so sullen and barren. She never felt that way at home, or with Andrew—just in her art. All the Rorschach tests, all the psychoanalysis, and all the Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew shows had told her that she was, unequivocally, happy, and should, by all rights, be painting and sketching sunrises and sunsets, glorious seascapes, and fields of plenty and happiness….
So why all the artistic desolation?
Susan had no answer. She just chose to ignore it and went about life as she had for the past twenty years, painting what came to her, and living life to its fullest. She took up biking, weight training, even taught cardio classes—all in an effort to maybe, she and the professionals thought, release any possibly unconscious, pent-up, angst. Abandonment or lack-of-attention issues. She didn’t have any, she insisted, but they (those darned professionals) insisted try it, it couldn’t hurt, could it? Look at it this way, if there were any unconscious issues this might release their orneriness, and if not, look at what great shape she’d be in! She’d be so buff she and her hubby won’t be able to keep their hands off each other (not that they did already). Well, who could resist that argument? Buff and more sex? Woo-hoo, America….
So, Susan made the gym and running her daily routine, and, indeed, created quite the conditioned physique. And, yes, the results were just as the professionals had envisioned…but still, there had been no “rage catharsis,” no internal psychiatric purification, because there just hadn’t been any pent-up anything.
No harm, no foul. Life goes on.
Then the events of September 11, 2001 came to pass, and Susan found herself in the middle of managing relief efforts for their small-town Iowa world. Susan had taken part in local and national Red Cross efforts, including several trips to Ground Zero. She had an only brother who’d worked on the sixtieth floor of Tower 2 of the World Trade Center. They’d always been close, and when the north tower’d been hit, he’d told her he’d seen it, having been daydreaming out his window at just that moment…noticing what a beautiful, clear day it’d been…while sipping his double-mocha extra latte with a cinnamon twist—when he saw the unthinkable. Saw that airliner plow straight on into the north tower like he’d had a front-row seat to the premier showing of the newest IMAX disaster flick. Felt the shocking impact translate itself across the 140-feet of airspace between the buildings, as well as down through ninety-three floors of New York skyscraper, across New York concrete, then back up the sixty floors of additional New York skyscraper, through the offices of Morgan Stanley, past the legs of that hot new investment broker, Sonia McGrath, four cubes down, then telegraphed through his leather-back throne, as he had it swiveled toward the plate glass of his corner office. Yes, brother Wallace Theodore Bryce had seen it, seen it all, all the fire, the smoke, the surreality, and, lucky for him, brother Wally had been quick to respond. He’d shot to his feet after the impact (double-mocha, extra-cinnamon latte splattered all over the carpet and portions of his leather highback, not to mention his slacks and shoes), and the words were flying out his mouth before he knew what he was saying: Oh my God! Oh my GOD! Tower 1’s been hit! There’s a huge hole—we have to get outta here! Now! Brother Wally had felt his legs grow wobbly, something he’d read about in books and saw in movies, but had never really believed until this very moment, then rediscovered locomotion, as he rushed out of his office into the reception area of Morgan Stanley proper, and boy, he wasn’t alone. Others had also witnessed it, also spilled their Chai teas and lattes, and were similarly screaming and yelling. Even beautiful Sonia was wailing strings of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and not to mention some rather choice expletives. So, brother Wally shouted for everyone to evacuate. He’d cleared out his office, but, as he was the last one out, found himself staring—simply staring—at the suddenly empty office, and the horror a small block of air space away from him, and had a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach. Not only wasn’t this right, on this beautiful, clear, Tuesday morning, at eight-forty-three a.m., but he had the distinct and first-ever wholly psychic event in his entire dull and droll life: it wasn’t over. In his mind’s eye, as clear as the gorgeous day he was experiencing, with the stark and harsh contrast burning before him, he saw another crash. Saw office papers flickering down from the sky like so much confetti, shimmering in the early morning sun, and desks, filing cabinets and people blown out exploded windows in another building. Saw a massive, running cloud of blackest black smoke.
And he was standing in the area of future impact.
He knew the towers were developed to withstand the impact of a 707 flying into them, but somehow that didn’t exactly comfort him. Had that been a 707—and had they upgraded their engines since the last crash-test analysis? And what of those inside the area of impact?
Brother Wally turned and noticed just how empty the place was in an office that, only moments before, had been bustling and busy, and realized that he was the last set of eyes to ever see this place in all its financial glory, in its time and space coordinates, here, high above the streets of New York. The last one to hear all the phones that were, even now, ringing; he was the last one to smell the coffee that was still brewing at various locations around the office, and see those rays of sunshine hitting the desks and potted plants just so. He was the last man on earth, at this moment, but he wouldn’t last if he didn’t get his ass out of there now.
So, cell in hand, Wally called his sister as he rushed out, and, adrenaline flushing his system, glanced at the Last-Man-On-Earth Time as he left the offices, which clocked in at eight-forty-six. He tried to take the elevator, but so was everyone else, so he began to hoof it down the stairwell with those unable or unwilling to use the elevators. Thank God for his five-mile morning runs….
Well, not that Susan knew all of the exact, intimate details of the last moments of her brother’s life, but she had talked with him ever so briefly on his cell phone as he’d evacuated. She still recalled hearing all the noise and screaming from the others around him, his labored breathing. In those few short seconds, Wally had told her what had happened, and what they were doing, but that was the last she—or anyone else—had ever heard from him. Over the many years since, Susan had had ample time and imagination to fill in all the holes she didn’t know about her brother’s escape, and what might have really happened up there. No one had ever found him after the next attack, which had slammed precisely into the floors of the offices of Morgan Stanley, at nine-oh-two that morning, and no one had been able to find his body—wholly or in parts—following the extensive relief efforts and door-to-door hospital searches. Susan had done all she could, but despite her best efforts, had not turned up anything on her only brother. He was simply and succinctly listed as “missing.” She had just chosen to fill in all the spaces by thinking and rethinking the scenario over and over in her mind, year after year. She doubted he’d gotten out, but preferred optimism to the alternative. And two facts remained: he had told her of his one and only premonition, and she—to this day—felt him still alive.
And that had been the single most defining moment of Susan Sibley’s life—except for today. Here, during the early morning hours where she suddenly, inexplicably, found herself in a Gulf Coast Florida detention center cell for committing a series of murders of which she had plenty of blood and other DNA all over her, as well as a load of partial memories and screams and pleas still echoing in her head that could only be attributed to the actions of which she’d been accused. If ever there had been a time in which she might have had any kind of unconscious, pent-up rage, this would be it, but it appeared as if all her therapy and cures had come years too early, years before the symptoms, and had all, long ago, fallen flat. Any problems she’d thought she’d had in the past of her short-but-sweet life had all been a joke. One huge, cosmic joke played upon a poor, meek soul that had actually proven to be more prophetic than anything else.
Close but no cigar.
Horrifyingly precognitive, at best.
Boy, was the joke ever on them, wasn’t it boys! Susan’s life up til now had been a walk in a rose garden, and no one could even appreciate it…except for her. Susan had had no problems…you wanna talk problems? Talk Sunset Harbor, Florida, one-twelve in the a.m., when she found herself fourteen-hundred miles from home, with a much-used pair of stained grass shears in her hands, bloody and dripping.
In her hands.
In someone else’s bedroom. As she stood over two mutilated and quite dead bodies, still snuggled against each other in bed. Streetlight streaming in, the occasional thunder and lightning punctuating each act, of which she had little memory—even as she stood over the tell-tale corpses, her weapon of choice still hot with their unknown lives running off it and onto her slacks and shoes and soul. She’d then, mechanically, rolled the bodies up into the throw rug, rolled them all up into rugs—why, she’d hadn’t a fucking clue—then tied them up with electrical cords yanked from bedroom lamps, macramé, whatever, and stacked them atop tables, bookcases, and one refrigerator. Stared blankly at her handiwork, then left, actually left the homes, again in a haze, only to find herself suddenly standing before another bed, again with her True Value grass shears dripping with warm, unknown, blood on her Esprit pants, Mephisto shoes, and Lutheran soul. This time, her hands shaking, and defensive wounds covering her arms and face. Again, she left, in her now-trademark haze, but, yet again, found herself in yet another bedroom…until she found her face smashed down against the warm, familiar metal of a black-and-white Sunset Harbor police cruiser hood, flashing lights painting everything around her a blur of red, white, and blue, no longer that blinding white from the lightning, or those pleading screams tormenting her. Now, cuffs slapped on wrists already sore and cut up from pleas of mercy she’d ignored, hands covered in drying blood from people she didn’t know….
Yes, these were the last memories Susan Sibley, wife of Andrew Sibley, and sister of unaccounted for Wallace T. Bryce had, as she screamed and screamed and screamed in her holding cell at three in the morning. Pain and hot winds blasted through her soul as she began to remove her blouse (they hadn’t enough detention center jumpsuits to go around, she’d heard) in this tiny enclosure, after the officer had come in and again yelled at her to please shut the hell up. Vague images again blasted through her mind like hot sand as she deliberately began to tie her blouse sleeves in a knot, staring off into space. She may not have had pent-up rage in her life for the past twenty-odd years, but she certainly had pent-up something now, and she sure as heck wasn’t going to go through all those years of whatever was going to surely happen to her next. Certainly “insanity” would somehow be tagged to it this time, given her history. Or at least something involving “life sentence,” if spared the almost-certain capital punishment that awaited them all. So, Susan, having removed her blouse and holding it out before her, continued to stare ahead at her impersonal cell walls, and think how they so resembled much of her work on oil and canvas, and lifted the garment above her head, hanging it around her neck like a preppy college
(Wendy! Polly! Ben!)
co-ed’s sweater. She grabbed the ends of her sleeves in each hand, and looked to them. Good thing for working out, she thought wryly, tightly gripping and digging in her knuckles for a firmer hold on the sleeve ends. She stood up, and felt anything but preppy now. She really did love her family and three kids and hoped they’d only remember the good parts, the 99.999% of her life they’d experienced firsthand. There was no way she was going to drag them through a bloody trial—there was no need for any more blood, and there was certainly no need for a trial. She’d done whatever they’d arrested her for, and that was that. Open and shut. She was tired of being labeled repressed, depressed, pent-up, or quietly suffering, and, most of goddamned all, she was sorry for what she’d done.
Summoning all of her strength in a single explosive effort, Susan exhaled and did the only thing that needed be done to put everyone out of her misery and bring all those years of mis-diagnosed therapy to closure. She grasped a firm hold of her sleeve ends and yanked with the might and resolution of the insane, wrenching her blood-stained blouse quickly and brutally around her neck as she exhaled and crushed her own windpipe.
Her coup d’grace to all who’d helped her over the years.
Her final thoughts, as she spastically gasped for air and choked the life out of herself, were of Wendy, Polly, Ben, and Andrew.
I love you, my darlings….”
My hope is that all the lost souls are now at peace.