Rasputin "Monk" Lowdermilk wanted to end it all. But when he is run down by a car on the way to his suicide, he finds that life is just beginning.
As he recovers from Chrysler-induced head trauma, he begins to discover strange new abilities. He can draw portraits so precise they look like photographs. He can remember with flawless clarity everything he's ever seen or heard, no matter how trivial. He can read strangers so well it verges on telepathy.
But with these gifts come strange visions tinged with menace. And the one thing Rasputin doesn't know is that his new abilities have been noticed, by ancient and evil forces who recognise what the gifts mean and what they will become. Unfortunately, his new life is only of benefit to them if he's dead.
When a young man sets out to give himself a "beautiful suicide" and instead gives himself superpowers, I'm curious. Throw in a resurrected Nazi with similar powers trying to hunt him down and I'm full-on fascinated. But Dark Matteris more than just an intriguing premise. It has everything I look for in fiction: intelligent ideas, surprising twists, and a dollop of mystery, all delivered within a steady matrix of confident, evocative prose. Smart writing that tells a ripping tale? Yes please. – Jefferson Smith
"All I can say is, 'Wow.' This has everything I look for in fiction: intelligent ideas, surprising twists, mystery, and all delivered within a steady matrix of confident, evocative prose. I somehow feel smarter for having read it."– Jefferson Smith, Author
"It's been a long long time since I've been addicted to a book like this one. I couldn't put it down. Adams' writing style is intelligent and brilliantly descriptive, yet the story moved at a pace that had me on the edge of my seat. Can't wait for Adams' next book!"– Tarihala, Amazon Review
"I could barely put it down and I am more than just a picky reader, I'm a total writing snob! … Brett Adams has just been added to my list of must reads and I already have his next book queued up…"– Trick, Amazon Review
"I loved the originality of Dark Matter, something I don't find all that often in stories. This is an intelligently and well written novel that is part thriller, part mystery, and even a hint of the paranormal (if that's the right word). … This is not mindless pulp — and the second chapter certainly throws a curveball at you. The reward though, is an excellent and intriguing story - one that will have you guessing wrong on more than one occasion."– Jeff Bilman, Author
A beautiful suicide.
It wasn't a phrase Rasputin had ever heard. He supposed it wasn't a deed attempted much either.
But tonight he would pull it off.
The idea had been simmering at the back of his mind for years, and now it had come to the boil. One minute he'd been eating sweet-and-sour pork in the foodhall of the cinema complex, his head a bucket catching every stray sound. The next he'd been treading the asphalt of the undercover car park, his body burning with the idea captured in those three simple words. He couldn't remember how one had turned into the other. It didn't matter anymore.
He would commit a beautiful suicide.
Everything necessary lay in his beat-up Datsun. The car would be his troubadour's wagon, holding both stage and props. In its backseat was a woollen blanket he'd bought from the Salvation Army for five dollars. In the car's centre console was a bottle of water, and in the glove compartment a small jar of opaque white plastic. The mail-order chemist's label wrapped round the jar said: Amitriptyline (150mg), take orally once a day at bedtime. And on his driver's license was stamped in indelible ink the all-important instruction.
He would wind the driver's chair back to sixty degrees, spread the blanket over his body, take the top off the jar, and with the bottle of water begin washing down the dusty pink tablets.
After as few as ten tablets (so he'd read) his eyelids would grow heavy and close. His mind would sink into unconsciousness. His pulse and breathing would slow. Then stop altogether. He would not so much shuffle off this mortal coil as sublimate from it. His being would evanesce like dry ice.
Above all, he would do this without violence. The mere thought of slicing open the flesh of his wrist sent a thrill of panic through him. No, he would close his eyes and float away with the clouds.
He hoped he wouldn't dribble, or fit and spasm out from under the blanket. That would disturb the tableau. But he could bear that. How he looked wasn't the beautiful part.
He'd considered overdosing on Heroin, even tested it, but that ran the risk of throwing a red flag at organ appraisal. If you were sticking Heroin into your veins, what else was flowing in them? But Amitriptyline, an antidepressant, was the housewife's remedy. A nice, normal death. A work-a-day death that left all of your vital, and vitally needed, lumps of flesh in saleable condition.
Here was the beauty. Rasputin would cast his soul to the wind, but leave his body for who knows how many still-breathing folk.
And when it was parcelled out, what new sights would be seen through his corneas? What new aromas sucked into his lungs? What new toxins filtered by his kidneys? (A fleeting doubt: would Amitriptyline damage them beyond use?) He imagined a beneficiary of his largesse gazing at the Eiffel Tower, smelling the bouquet of a Château d'Yquem, and pissing it down one of those funny open-air urinals, a pissoir, found on the streets of Paris. And all of this courtesy of his hardware.
Perhaps portions of him would go all over the world, an inverse Frankenstein's monster. Today he was Rasputin T. Lowdermilk of 34b Bell Court, Riverton, Perth, Western Australia. Tomorrow he would be many people. Legion. It was modern-day magic.
That was the plan. Until he stumbled on a fly in his ointment.
The fly stood about six feet tall. It wore dirty Converse sneakers, black jeans, and a hood top that had a price tag dangling from its hem. The fly was bent at the waist, side-on to Rasputin. Its right hand was gripped around a screwdriver, and with that it was jimmying a car door lock.
The fly was attempting to steal his car.
A combination of irritation and disbelief loaded insults onto the back of Rasputin's tongue.
He was thinking that experts say we use ten percent of our brains. Leaving aside the question of what goes on in the other ninety percent, he reckoned this guy would be hard pressed to make a whole number. For starters, his car—the car this guy was trying to steal—was a piece of crap. It was one bill from the wreckers. Second, the guy was standing in the only pool of light for a hundred feet. Third, any minute now the cinemas upstairs would vomit clots of moviegoers into the car park. And to top it all, here was Rasputin standing at the rear fender and still the guy was working the lock.
In the end it was the disbelief that won out. He tried to lighten the mood: "If you crack the lock, let me know the trick. It's been dicky since someone jimmied it with a screwdriver." Funny but true.
The guy froze for a heartbeat, then pivoted on the dirty sneakers. (Now Rasputin saw the headphone wires snaking out of his ears.) Grit crackled under his shoes into the silence. The screwdriver was still grasped in his right hand, but now he was holding it like a knife.
Rasputin's brain picked that moment to inform him he had blocked the only route of escape. His car and the next were hard up against the wall and made a blind canyon of concrete, glass and metal. He saw, too, that the man was a boy, no more than sixteen, and for some reason this terrified him most of all.
His eye fastened on the screwdriver. Its rusty shaft was pitted like the boy's acne-scarred face. In his mind's eye, Rasputin saw the steel puncture his skin and slide between his ribs. He imagined its lancing pain, and his body reacted by dumping adrenaline into his bloodstream. But instead of propelling him to action, the drug thrust his mind backwards in time, through his memory of the evening. All of a sudden the reason why he had chosen tonight to attempt a beautiful suicide was the most important thing in the world. He dug in his memory for how he had come to be facing down a kid with a screwdriver instead of sitting comfortably numb in Cinema 5. He had wanted one version of numb or the other. How had he ended up with violence?
His memory of the night coiled away in his head like ticker tape. He scrabbled back along it looking for the moment.
What he found was the foodhall, and sweet-and-sour-pork, and, blazing on the hall's ten-foot TV screen, a quiz show called Temptation.
That's right. He had been attempting Temptation's questions. Testing his wits against the contestants. It must have been a question that triggered tonight's long-planned, long-delayed final act. But which one?
He wound along the ticker looking for the question that had sent him out of the hall, through the rain, and into the underground car park on a mission.
The first thing he remembered was just a fragment of a question. Something about Moscow. The answer had been Napoleon, to which the show's host had added the redundant, "Bonaparte, yes." (Must be nice to hold all the answers.)
Nope. That wasn't the one.
Back in the car park, Rasputin saw the kid's gaze dip to the screwdriver and return to him. There was no mistaking what he'd been up to. His eyes kindled with an animal clarity.
Hurry up, dammit!
He scrabbled along the memory ticker tape for the next question. He had heard most of that one: "Who wrote: 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of—'"
A contestant had buzzed in. But Rasputin had been ready, and fired off his answer a split second earlier. "Red Saturn," he'd said.
"Jane Austen," the contestant had said.
He remembered how he had smiled a moment, thinking they had given identical answers, before the truth jolted him: Red Saturn wasn't the name of any author. Red Saturn wasn't even a name. He'd briefly wondered then if he had early-onset Alzheimer's. Or maybe it was astronomer's Tourette's, except he was no astronomer; his knowledge of the heavens didn't get beyond various things to say about Uranus.
Okay. That had been odd. But it wasn't his answer. He couldn't blame Jane Austen for flicking the suicide switch.
Down in the car park a flicker of motion caught his eye. The kid was moving—three feet away and closing.
And in that scintilla of time Rasputin realised his mistake.
It wasn't a question that had done it. It was something said by the hostess. One word that had blasted him like lightning from a clear sky. But what had she said? (scrabble, scrabble) He found the answer at last: "Warms the cockles of your heart."
That was the culprit. That one word had brought his mind to boil. Set his face to Eternity.
And, he discovered with a dip of the stomach, he had not the faintest clue why.
The flicker of motion swelled. A sense of urgency drowned his mind. He desperately wanted to know why, but knew it was the only answer he was going to get. He dragged himself back into the present, and the point of a rusty screwdriver aimed at his gut.
And found it moving fast.
On reflex he was already retreating when the boy lunged.
He saw the screwdriver flash in an arc. He traced its path high and wide of him and was surprised when a fist struck his face. His cheek lit with pain, and he caught only a blur of motion in his peripheral vision as the punch carried through, and the boy's chest shunted into him, knocking him backwards and sideways into his car.
Their bodies parted, and Rasputin took his share of momentum. He slid down his car's rear panelling and out into the throughway―straight into the path of an oncoming car. The boy disappeared, drowned in the darkness beyond the car's lights.
Behind the wheel of the gleaming Valiant '68, Eric Hewitt saw nothing. Nothing but the smug face of the teen at the movie ticket counter, and the image of the concession card Eric had left on his kitchen bench at home. He had fumed, run the sums, and decided there was time to drive home, get the card, drive back, scold the teen, and still catch the last trailers.
Rasputin, sprawled at knee height, saw straight into the Valiant's right headlight. His head collided with the car at the point where the headlight rim met the grille. The impact caused a cranial quake that created a new continental plate in the dome of his skull. Capillaries ruptured and spewed a mist of blood billowing over the surface of his brain.
The injury sparked off the natural response of the organism: COMA. The kill signal stormed through his nervous system, culling every non-essential activity.
But something else occurred while that storm raged. Deep in his brain, the most complex organ known to man―a few pounds holding more mystery than all the galaxy-whorled space of the Universe―a demiurge awoke.
Deep in the dark, quiet centre of Rasputin's brain, threads of electrical current waved and arced like fingers of a luminous hand. The hand lived between nanometres and microseconds. It reached from the city of lights that housed his memory and longings, and into a place that had been dark since birth, and blindly alighted on that dark matter. A finger, a tendril of flame caressed the dark place. The hand flinched back once as if stung, then dove forward and grasped flesh. The fingers swelled and became conduits of light. The barren place began to stir with life.
Before consciousness slipped away, he was struck by a random thought. Why his drowning mind chose this thought to leave him was a mystery. Perhaps it was like looking for meaning in the beating legs of a dying cockroach.
This was the revelation: Jane Austen was the author of Pride and Prejudice, true. Red Saturn was the imprint of his tatty old edition of Pride and Prejudice.
His answer had been right. His brain had simply judged the question wrong.