Acari [graphic novel]
SYNOPSIS (Note: First third only, limited to protect story until final publication)
The story begins with Derek being informed that his best friends, which are also his roommates, have been in an automobile accident. One died at the scene and the other is in the hospital, in critical condition with brain damage and disabling physical problems which are likely to be permanent. Diana, who is Derek’s girlfriend tries to be supportive at first, but is unable to understand Derek’s anger. During an out-of-town trip to clear his mind, Derek takes a walk down railroad tracks that he walked on as a child. His confrontation with a dead dog on the tracks causes a dramatic change within him. After returning from his trip earlier than expected, he discovers Diana is cheating on him, though she is unaware that she has been caught. With the grief over a dead friend, the rage over a friend who will never be the same, and the betrayal from his girlfriend, Derek becomes unable to successfully cope with the stress, and has also fallen behind with rent payment. When Derek meets with psychologist Dr. Tara Hollander, she is convinced he is seeking help for himself, even though she has agreed to assist him with research, which he has presented as being strictly business related. Dr. Hollander takes steps to prevent what she sees as an inevitable disaster, and in doing so, sets off a chain reaction which no one could predict.
The surreal and abstract illustration style was chosen to match the qualities of the dark fiction. A common theme throughout the story is that of psychological testing. A few of the images directly reference the popular Rorschach test (a test in which the patient describes to a doctor what they see when they look at abstract ink blots). The story has a concrete and sequential plot, but also hides a riddle regarding the nature of the main character’s distress. Visual ambiguity is a device used to convey the sense of confusion that is experienced by the protagonist and to allow room for the reader’s imagination. The images are intended to be presented along with text, but there will be no treatment of type in traditional graphic dialogue boxes or thought balloons. In some cases, the images are literal translations of story events. In other cases, the pictures provide important clues to the deeper meanings of the text which cannot be fully understood when removed from the context of the story. The story is strong enough to be presented without pictures, but when combined with the art, it becomes an emotional experience that leaves a lasting impression.
GRAPHIC NOVEL TEXT SAMPLE
I was staying at my relative’s house. I used their town like a place of solitude. It was only two hours away but it felt different. It smelled different. It wasn’t a pleasing smell, but it reminded me that I was breathing. It also reminded me of my childhood. A happier time. My dad, my cousin, and I used to walk along the railroad tracks on the way to see movies and play games. I sat at my aunt’s dining room table, drawing pictures and listening to the family sing. I ate blackberry jam cake and stayed up late playing cards. I was thinking about those times on my way to the bakery. I knew I would throw my food away after the first bite. I wasn’t even hungry, but at least it gave me something to do. It was an excuse to walk by the same railroad tracks I did when I was a kid. My dad and cousin told me stories of vagrants who would wait for the trains to come by so they could jump on them and get free rides across the country. As I was pulling up memories, I stumbled over what I thought to be a piece of soggy wood. Then I noticed I was tracking blood. When I turned around, I saw that what I had really stepped on was a dog’s foot. It had been cut off, probably by a passing train, and the hair was matted down like bark. Blood was seeping out from under it. It was still fresh. Now, other memories came flooding back. Seeping back. Still fresh. My dog was my favorite thing. He died in this city. He got ran over by a car. My parents knew how much I loved it and were too scared to tell me. They just handed me the empty collar. I looked up at them, not understanding what had happened. When they remained silent, I knew. It felt like something was stuck on me that I couldn’t shake off. And I was ashamed for showing tears to the family.
The dead dog’s paw lay still as I continued to stare at it. Then came the memory of the carcass. My dad tried to hurry me past it, but I saw it anyway. A black dog, spotted with brown blood and half its stomach missing. Brown is inferior to black. Flies were crawling in it, and it stunk. It bothered me then, but my dad was there to distract me. No distractions this time. I continued to stare at the paw that lay in front of me now. It was forcing me to remember the bad things. I didn’t need to think of another child with an empty collar. I turned around and there it was, lying across from me on the gravel. The rest of the black dog’s body. I screamed at it from my gut. I owned those tracks and it was my place to remember. It caused me to hurt and I envied it for not having to think or feel anymore. Out of anger, I kicked it as hard as I could. My foot sank in and blood splashed back on me as the body flipped over. That was when I heard the dog whimper. It was still alive. I was flooding with unbelievable remorse for adding to its pain. I thought I was going to kill myself right then. I didn’t even feel in control of my own body. I picked up a loose railroad tie spike. I was trembling as I closed my eyes and dropped to my knees. With my left hand, I felt around the dog’s throat until I found the collar. My right hand sunk the spike in. As I pulled it out, I cut the collar and threw it and the bloody spike behind the trees beside me where no child would find them. I sat down facing away from the body, put my head between my knees, and began to dream.
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