Today, we’re joined on the CC lounge by my writing pal, Keira McKenzie (member of critiquing group, Egoboo WA) and her favourite character, Ned. If we keep very still, Ned may join us on the lounge…sshh, he’s the timid type….
Let me introduce Ned.
Physically, he is a small man, spiritually he seems small as well: a downtrodden, woe-begotten, unhappy, unfortunate character, a thousand years the prisoner of a terrible man he only knows as The Painter.
Ned is a traveller in time and space, but he’s no Dr Who. He is one of the two major characters of my Work in Progress: A Fabulist’s Alternity, and it is these two characters who reveal the world, but their perspectives are from opposite ends of the dichotomy that is the one world: what Sin (the other major character, a young woman) sees as strange and terrifying, Ned sees as normal (possibly just as terrifying but still more or less expected), but for him, her everyday world is tragic and bizarre. What they have in common is that have been cast as outsiders, neither are ‘squeaky clean’ in regards the social morays of their times, but to contemporary eyes, neither have committed major crimes. But Ned is definitely the darker of the two.
This is Ned, in the dark, in the coat of leather he always wears, leather from some great beast on some world in some universe he doesn’t recall.
Little Ned Little ( he had the misfortune not to outgrow his name) is, or was a convict, transported to the Swan River Colony in the late 1850’s for either shoplifting, pickpocketing, or straight out stealing – he can’t remember and therefore, neither can I. But it was minor. He would’ve become a ‘ticket of leave’ man, being freed after a few years of penal servitude to help build the young colony, perhaps to marry and have children. It was his dream. But that dream was polluted when he was partnered with a horrible convict who carried with him a sack. He never found out what this man was convicted for, only learns his name: The Painter.
The Painter has a massive book with him and spends all his time reading aloud from it in a language Ned doesn’t know, but when the Painter vanishes from an island where she ship has anchored while undergoing repairs after a savage storm, Ned is left with the book and the certain knowledge that the Painter is – was – a powerful sorcerer.
Ned can’t read, but the book has pictures – terrible and wonderful paintings that transport him from his brutish existence, first aboard the ship, then as a convict labourer, messing with his mind. One night, Ned is snatched out of existence by the same demon that took the Painter, leaving the terrible book in the cold, damp cell. Not what the Painter has planned – he wanted it the other way around and therefore, Ned has to stay with the Painter while the old sorcerer searches for the book.
This begins Ned’s life of one thousand years to when the novel begins, but he remembers almost none of it. He is the Painter’s constant companion except for a century where the Painter left him in another place (detailed in another novel, working title: The Tree Thing Box). Ned’s life is now filled with non-humanities, his only certainty, his only continuity is the Painter who drags him across universes, through worlds, trampling entire civilizations into ruin while he searches for the Book, and something a man stole from him.
It is only when they enter this world that Ned learns the paintings in the terrible book didn’t only mess with his mind – the entities in the paintings live in his mind somehow, and the Painter is now using Ned to find the book and to restore something he lost in a long ago Ned doesn’t fully recall.
Ned is crushed by guilt – guilt for the things he can’t remember as well as those he does. He feels culpable for so much, but in fact, he takes on more than he should.
He feels he is no longer human, and perhaps he is right. I will leave readers to judge. But I am fond of Ned. His essential goodness shines out, even though he is mired in the inhuman doings of the Painter. He has empathy and compassion even for those least deserving and can also be wryly humourous and casts an ironic eye on the Painter’s antics.
He is always afraid. He never backs down, but is always afraid. He trembles through his long, long life, cowers in the Painter’s shadow, never stands up for himself, takes on the Painter’s sins until the pettiness that drives the Painter becomes too much.
Ned is flawed, neither light nor dark. Despite all his doubts, he is fully, woefully and wonderfully human. In some ways, he becomes the true hero of the novel, sacrificing much without apparent gain, allowing others to survive. He doesn’t know his own strength, looks blackly on everything yet always gets a laugh, so perhaps the blackness is a camouflage that enables him to survive.
Thanks to Keira and the artfully complex Ned for stopping by the Column! That last sentence does leave me wondering…who is Ned behind the camouflage, and will we ever find out? I hope he does…
About the Author:
Keira McKenzie is a little published author with undying dreams. This isn’t her first novel and will probably be as difficult to publish as many of the others, but it won’t be her last either.
As well as novels, she has written short stories, poetry & a couple of academic articles as she works on finishing her PhD.
She dabbles in painting and photography, concentrating on (but not limited to) the natural world and sunsets. She also has a love of drawing and illustrates her own and others’ ideas/stories, some of which are also published.
Keira and her many creative talents can be found at: