(The estimated reading time for this is 4 minutes)
My first exposure to the drug known as ‘Devil’s Breath’ was through a documentary I saw that followed a filmmaker into South America, where he found the drug, talked to those who dealt it, some who had been victimized by it and some who victimize others with it. All the things The Devil’s Breath was able to do to human beings was astonishing, and seemed like something that could only exist in fiction. But the Devil’s Breath is not fiction. It is horrifyingly real. And once I’d researched it, I knew I had to use it in a novel. The concept was too good to pass up, and while initially I wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted to use it, I knew immediately how I wouldn’t. The obvious move was to tell a story about someone being victimized by this strange drug, taken over and abused, or to tell a story about someone doing this to others. But I wanted something more from a drug as exotic as the Devil’s Breath. And so, the novel began to form in my mind. I felt the drug, and what it stood for, in a sense, could tie into much deeper layers not only within the characters but the storyline as well, and be a piece—a very important piece but a piece nonetheless—to something much greater. It could open doors to those who might use it for nefarious purposes, sure, but it could also go beyond the criminals robbing and sexually abusing people with it, or some megalomaniacal villain using it to build an army of mindless followers or victims. That was all too cliché and easy. For me, it became a portal to other concepts and ideas, like self and identity and belief and control from some ‘other’ outside force or material, and how all of those things can alter the way we not only see ourselves, but the world around us as well.
Because of the conspiracy theory aspects found in Devil’s Breath, this idea of a shadowy but very powerful group using the drug to bring people to their evil dogma and to reveal to the protagonist, Stan Falk, what he’d really become involved with, worked on a lot of different levels. Stan is so flawed and tortured by his violent past that he’s given up any hope of true deliverance or salvation, and no longer believes such things are possible for him because he can’t even forgive himself. Through discovery, Stan comes to understand that reality is far more complex and malleable than he could’ve imagined, and that this horrific drug is only the beginning, the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It becomes the catalyst for allowing him to find the truth not only about what’s been done to him, but why and how far reaching it all really goes.
One of the recurring themes in my work is that things are seldom as they seem; that there is a world behind the world and concealed within the shadows of our daily lives. Devil’s Breath is no exception, as Stan’s journey is not only about what lies beneath the surface of his otherwise sad and mundane existence, but about those things within him—and by extension all of us—that often remain hidden, even from ourselves.
Originally, the character of Stanley Falk had been conceived and planned for an entirely different novel, but as is often the case, it became evident to me as I was putting together my notes for Devil’s Breath, that this was his story, because both the drug and his struggles in life were largely about a loss of control. The question is, when we lose control, is it simply lost or has it been turned over to someone—or something—else? What does that someone or something look like? Is it some monster from a horror movie, a demon or a ghost, or does it look just like us because it is us, a part of us we don’t know or don’t like to admit even exists? Is there some greater enemy ‘out there’ or is that enemy much closer to home, living and breathing within all of us?
What would you do, if you were being haunted, and came to realize that you were the perpetrator, you were in essence, haunting yourself? But not alone, with the assistance and guidance and evil motivations of others hiding in the shadows not only across the street but inside your own head? And what if those things were all part of the very fabric of a greater, broader reality?
That is exactly what lies at the heart of Devil’s Breath.
Who knows what any of us would do for sure in such extraordinary circumstances? All I can tell you is that I know what Stanley Falk did. Devil’s Breath is his story, and I think once you delve into them, you may just find that his nightmares aren’t so farfetched after all. In fact, next time you’re alone and it’s quiet, think about it, you might realize there’s something disturbingly familiar about those nightmares, and that maybe that chill along the back of your neck really is the Devil’s breath.
Look around. Evil hides in plain sight.
Greg F. Gifune,
July 16, 2015
New England. Night.
© 2015 – 2016, DarkFuse & individual contributors. All rights reserved.