“Dystortions: 100 Hues of Purple” is a tale of mystery, murder, and love in a parallel universe, with a bit of humor. Addy O’Malibul is a former journalist who is convicted of murder and imprisoned on a planet called Malaprop, strikingly similar to Earth, but with a few twists and many Dystortions in translations of data transmissions from a planet known as Hearth. Glitched up radio communications are bombarding Malaprop – a world where fearful national security analysts, politicians, and P.R. flacks re-write history and distort facts to recreate their reality in Hearth’s image. The Dystortions in those radio communications sometimes appear to twist words backwards and create opposite meanings, but maybe also reveal underlying truths. There’s just enough good science and wacked-out myth-busting to make the story hauntingly credible – and enough saucy romance to keep things hot. It’s much warmer and more colorful than any shades of grey.
*DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY FOR A PAPERBACK COPY OF DISTORTIONS: 100 HUES OF PURPLE HERE!
There’s nothing like the sound of a cold hard jail cell door thundering shut behind you.
The now 43-year-old Addy O’Malibul had been there before, but time after time had refused to ever listen. This time she heard it like a large-toothed dull-bladed power saw ripping through her brain, shredding every self-delusion that had fed her inadequate ego since childhood, well, except for those first few months of marriage to Sean. The pieces never could be re-assembled in quite the same manner again. There always would be something missing, a connection never made in quite the way it should. Not even memories or dreams of her dear sweet Sean could assuage her anger at the world right now. The jagged edge of her personality was beginning to take hold.
Stripped bare of all pretense of self-confidence, and eviscerated of the last vestiges of what she – until this troubling chapter of her life began – thought was once a good-hearted soul, now she knew. The message was stunningly clear. Her life was a completely worthless, stupid, embarrassing waste – a disgrace to all her family and friends.
Or, at least, so she thought.
And why not think the thoughts of so many others who had been down this path before? At this point, walking into the confines of a prison cellblock the likes of which she now imagined she never would leave, at least not as a free person, she did not think a little self-deprecatory reflection on this catastrophic turn of events was too melodramatic. At this point, she was lower than low, a menace to society.
But, in Addy’s current state of mind, nothing she knew was ever right.
As the television dowager in her mind seemed to be scolding her, she was just middle class enough to be defeatist.
The judge had been a pleasant, fair-minded sort, someone who had helped her before. And the diligent jury of dutiful citizens methodically, painstakingly sorting through the alleged facts on their mission of perceived justice was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. They had to find her guilty. They had to inflict the ultimate punishment. That is what they thought the law forced them to do. The law was clear. And the law, as written by the wisest in the land, under the divine guidance of God, could not be wrong.
That was the cold, hard reality.
Nothing could beat the evidence presented. It was seemingly overwhelming. Everything the jury had learned about the facts of the case pointed to the unmistakable verdict of Addy’s guilt. There were no glitches in this case. A 38-caliber recently fired revolver had been found planted beneath the rose-colored rhododendron bush in the backyard of the O’Malibul’s suburban townhouse, the one Addy owned before meeting Sean. The ballistics matched. Her fingerprints were on it. The motive was clear. Addy admittedly was in the neighborhood when the deed was done. She had no alibi. She had shown no remorse. Worst of all, she had expressed a disturbing glee upon being told of the victim’s death during police questioning.
All the circumstances and evidence pointed to Addy, and to murder in the first-degree – capital murder.
So Addy O’Malibul was going to die, at the hands of the state, in “Old Sparky,” the well-worn wooden electric chair. The one with the creepy fingernail claw marks on its arms, remnants from all the scratching of smoking, scorched soon-to-be corpses defiantly grasping at one last gasp of life. Or, maybe, they were the track marks of a resigned but tortured soul just trying to bear the pain until the inevitable infinite darkness came; there would not be much hope for miracles at this point.
Whether facing heaven or hell, darkness or the bright light of salvation – or something else entirely – the struggle would not be easy for the ultimate sinners, repentant in a newfound faith or not. And, in the minds of the living, those splintered gashes from that last grip on life would be indelible to any who ever had seen them, whether in the light of gruesome revulsion at the thought of state-sanctioned killing, or a darker resignation or even vigilante passion for the necessary evil of symbolic retribution.
As a young television reporter years earlier, just out of college, long before she had changed professions and met Sean, Addy had interviewed an admitted serial killer on death row. She had covered his execution. Now her thoughts fixated on this tenuous memory in the ethereal lifetime of a rapidly degrading, increasingly disconnected vision of her previous self.
Her world eerily had come full circle.
During the first big jolt of electricity, Addy had watched the condemned man’s glass eye pop out of his head and roll over the floor as if in a children’s game of marbles. It bounced and bounced until it hit a guard in the leg and then smoothly glided along the concrete. The brown iris kept turning round and round, until the guard finally trapped it with his foot, picked it up, and awkwardly jammed it into his pants pocket, presumably until it could be rejoined with the owner’s remains – but the market for macabre mementos also might have beckoned.
This vivid, all too real recollection was the prevailing image in the surreal haze of Addy’s whip-sawed mind during that long, slow walk from the packed courtroom back to the jailhouse – the eyeball rolling around and around with all that smoke from the writhing, dying body. This haunting, compulsively recurring vision was like one of those God-awful trade show exhibit booth DVD loops on plasma screen monitors that keep playing over and over and won’t stop. Not until the switch is turned, the plug is pulled, and the de-electrified screen goes black – when the images of life in the television box are almost cruelly extinguished in their startlingly abrupt death. Those ever morphing image pixels emanating subjective imitation could take on a life of their own in the ultimate existence for a culture of media and celebrity worship. The digitized replicas of life as most understood it thrived in a reality ephemerally floating on the distorted edges of the physical dimension, in the realm of memories and collective thoughts being broadcast throughout the universe.
‘Twas the eye never to be forgot.
Addy could not help but think soon, in an ironic twist of fate, the long-repressed image of a violently sudden lifelessness would be her reality – minus the glass eye – but with all the world watching.
Those were some of the split-second eternities of her personal “perp” walk, with television camera jockeys jammed in front of her, stepping backwards in their well-practiced, smooth-shouldered gait to keep the hand-held image steady. Armed with their battery-belt powered spotlights aimed at her face like a torture chamber interrogation, they were recording her every movement. Addy knew this walk well – from the other side.
Years ago, that gang-bang sensationalist approach to news coverage had contributed to Addy’s decision to leave the television news business. After a few years, she just had not had the stomach for the competitive repetitiveness and intrusiveness of it all. Not that high-minded principles were the only reason. This accidental reporter, who fell into the profession on a lark after never having taken a journalism or communications course in college, also happened to be stuck in a small market, low-budget afterthought of a news operation without much hope for advancement. The highly regarded talent agent who had taken her on noticed her young client was beginning to pick up the local backwoods accent, the kiss of death in the broadcast business. Addy just did not have the dedication to the time-honored but evolving trade of life’s here and now chroniclers to press on.
Life on the metaphorical precipice of death was familiar to Addy, but twenty years after her relatively brief broadcast journalism adventure, she faced it in a more literal, physical sense.
The grim-faced deputies roughly shoved the former police beat and courtroom reporter down the harshly lit narrow hallways with her legs, arms, and waist shackled. Addy could not help but think it was almost laughable to have her five foot three inch body being viewed as so threatening. If only they knew the real me.
Barely able to contain a sheepish grin pondering the absurdity of the hyped-up drama of the moment, she decided she probably better not laugh – or say or do anything except follow her keepers’ instructions. Better to maintain a stone-faced stare. Addy had done a stint in the public relations business after her television career. What might be perceived as a sneer would not be good for her image – not that she had much of a reputation left, at least not in a positive sense, but there were limits to how much damage she would inflict on herself and her family through infamy. Showing any amusement with the situation most likely would be misinterpreted – what kind of sick person would laugh at this humiliation?
The deputies seemed to be taking immense pleasure in exerting their power over her – and at this point, Addy did not particularly care about anything enough to challenge anyone. Whatever. Let them do whatever they want. She was almost relieved, or maybe just too numb to take it all in. There was an oddly empowering sense of resignation to her fate. Defeat was complete, but liberating. She now could sit back and watch the wheels turning round and round in the sputtering, cog-slipping machinations of bureaucratic execution while she daydreamed her life away. Free in spirit only, she could live within the confines of her mind until the next phase began, whether in a state of nothingness or eternal damnation, or maybe even heaven.
Or, something else.
At least the mental anguish of the last few years soon would be over, although the thought of the pain of electrocution was almost too much to bear. Addy tried not to think about that – it was easier to focus on the humorous aspects of her situation with a cool, intellectual detachment. She chose to stay distracted, in a blur of oddly disembodied movement. It was emotional self-defense.
They really do have the wrong kind of bars in this place, she mused, recalling the wry wit of a writer known for documenting the low-life of society as a self-proclaimed pulp-fiction anti-hero.
For some reason wine and milkshakes came to mind, as if she finally must be living if she were experiencing the sense of going crazy.
But then the coarseness of reality returned.
The door closed. The cellblock door. The sound reverberated through her brain, exposing long-buried memories hidden in the deep recesses of a mind now conditioned to forget most of her personal past. Her past was all too painful, even thoughts of things that would have made most people feel good about themselves, which Addy considered further evidence of failure. In this pitiable state of insidious negativism, Addy could not disabuse herself of the notion she had not taken full advantage of positive opportunities afforded her throughout her lifetime. She did not want to remind herself of how she had screwed up her life to the worst degree imaginable.
Addy remembered how when covering jail and prison stories she used to put the microphone next to the cellblock door while it was being closed – sometimes even asked the guards to close it more than once to ensure she recorded just the right sound, or simply have a backup in case there was a worn spot or glitch in the flimsy videotape used back in the day. She was a perfectionist. Addy was obsessed with capturing the heavy-weighted echo of that infinitely clear, terrifyingly isolated resonance of harsh finality. Its reverberations could chill to the bone as they ricocheted off the iron bars, clanging like an ancient warrior gong signaling impending doom. The all-encompassing essence filled the air, coalescing in a suffocating sound wave twisting through the acoustically deadened atmosphere. Its invisible force of unforgiving fury could suck a drowning soul’s spirit into a dark and dense void, impenetrable to light or salvation.
Such a pure sound, in a place where so much is tainted, she used to think. Interesting juxtaposition.
Now, so many lifetimes later, Addy heard the full force of the impact of that mind-splitting, life-shattering closure – from the ignominious side, where nightmares thrived. She was descending into a black hole of humanity, where the rumblings of pervasive unrest rang eternal, inescapable in their screaming, angry silence, just waiting to explode in a roar of fiery Hell. Through that door, passing into another world, Addy entered a now disturbingly familiar zone of pugilistic purgatory, where she habitually pounded her psyche in a self-degrading mental routine of recounting all the mistakes she had made in her life. This was something she had been putting herself through for the past several years quite regularly after a series of bad breaks began chipping away at her once strong will to live and succeed. She couldn’t just go to Hell and keep going, she had to stick around.
There were legends of iconic leaders who had stumbled from failure to failure to achieve greatness, some amusingly embracing alcohol all the way. But with a congenital aversion to failure, Addy had tripped over herself once too often and lost her enthusiasm for the struggle. Now she felt compelled to punish herself for her own moronic incompetence for having allowed herself to be placed in this untenable position. There were a thousand reasons for her defeat, but no excuses for it – she had not been born a poverty-stricken orphan.
She was responsible for her fate. Addy had allowed herself to become enslaved to her perceived inadequacies. The cynicism and depression had taken full control of her faculties, welcoming a bombardment of disjointed negative thoughts.
Among them, it seemed as though for the past few years, no one really cared what she thought or what was happening to her, except for a few friends and family. And they probably were growing weary of hearing about all her problems. Addy herself was tired of talking about her woes. It probably was painful for family and friends to think of how her life had gone awry. Everyone had problems of their own to deal with, and, as a matter of self-preservation, Addy understood others could not let her situation drag them down and keep them from pursuing their own happiness.
There is only so much people can do to help one another, and there are always plenty of people in the world in far worse situations needing help from others, or so she had to keep telling herself.
If no one was going to join in on her pity party, maybe it was time she left it too.
Chelsea is a happily married mother of two who's love of mysteries can be traced back to her first Nancy Drew experience. When not reading and writing book reviews, she likes to drink wine in her jammies and pretend that she exercises.
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