When sixty-two-year-old Malachi Walmsley learns that his mother has died, he travels from his residence in Flagstaff , Arizona, to his boyhood home in Covington, Louisiana, to settle her estate-and it's a large one. Estranged from his mother for forty years, Malachi wonders how authorities even knew how to find him.
As Malachi makes his journey, he tells his story and communicates via e-mail with the important people in his life: his wife, Amanda Greene, from whom he is contemplating divorce; Winifred Hauser, a childhood friend with whom he shares a special connection; and his psychiatrist, Cletus Hardin. Malachi fears this return trip to Covington will open old wounds that caused a deep depression and frightening nightmares.
The nightmares stem from a fatal accident when Malachi was just eight years old. His Uncle Buddy died, and his mother suffered severe physical and psychological trauma. The close-knit mother-son relationship was never the same.
Back in Covington, Malachi seeks counseling from Ruth Blanchard. As she delves deeper into the situation and the mystery unfolds, she realizes Malachi's problems are multifaceted. By the time Ruth discovers the full truth, she understands the true significance of Malachi's e-mail ID, fractal.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.42(d)|
fractala novel of chaotic suspense
By KATHRYN EBERLE WILDGEN
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Kathryn Eberle Wildgen
All right reserved.
Chapter One2 February 2004 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com
You'll never believe what's happened. My mother has come back into my life—by dying ... I got a call last night from the Covington police. She died of a heart attack and had apparently been in precarious health for quite a while. The telephone and her medications were right next to her bed but there was no 911 call and no indication that she had taken, or attempted to take, her meds. Death wish maybe ... I'm leaving Flagstaff day after tomorrow to check out the situation. I don't know how they found me. I didn't think Mother thought or cared about me any longer. They must have found my number in her house somewhere. Dad's so out of it I don't know if I should bother to tell him. I probably will. Even if he understands, he won't give a damn.
I was really interested in your find at Autun and hope you can get back online soon. Have you dated the skeletons yet? Write as soon as you can.
4 February 2004 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com
Sorry about your mom. Even though you weren't close, those blood ties are strong no matter what the circumstances. Take care of yourself and watch out for relapses into old problems ...
Finally found an internet café so will be back in contact with some regularity. Project director realizes how hampered we are by lack of regular access to 'net and plans to get a community laptop to address the communications problem. We'll see ... To answer your question first, no, the skeletons have not been dated with any certainty. We know they are 12th-c. because of certain aspects of artifacts (won't bore you with details) at the site. We have much more to do before getting this find into the public eye. The site is so secret I can't even tell YOU the details. The flics are guarding it zealously but also trying to appear casual about it so as not to arouse suspicion or curiosity. We really have discovered a gold mine. For once, my sign-in ID is more than just an expression of hope. Later ...
Please send more info about previous e-mail; also your whereabouts.
Kathryn Eberle Wildgen 6 February 2004 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com
I hesitate to write a lengthy mail because I know your on-line time costs many euros but the story is so grotesque, like everything else in my family, I have to fill in some background. You already know I've had to have extensive therapy—for depression, horrendous dreams, etc—involving the death of my uncle Buddy and the changes in my mother after the accident in 1950. When we were kids, I didn't say much about this part of my life—too fresh, too painful. I spent most of my time in high school making up stories to explain my weird parents. I was especially concerned about you, what you'd think of me. I didn't want to lose you as a friend and I thought if I told you what my parents were like, you'd find me and my family pretty repulsive. Remember how seldom you came to the house? I still see far too little of you. Amanda remains adamant about my avoiding contact with other women, especially ones she suspects I'm in love with. Irony on the way—I'm playing a CD as I write and Fred Astaire is singing "The Way You Look Tonight." I recall so vividly the way you looked the last time we were together. Enough ... I'm trying to behave.
I think I'm now ready to give up more information about the accident that defined my childhood and adolescence, and, to a certain extent, my self. Uncle Buddy and Mother were driving at night and Mother slammed the car into a tree. I was only eight at the time and asleep in the back seat, so I wasn't hurt too badly; Buddy died on impact and Mother was so mangled, it took three years and multiple surgeries to get her close to normal. Thanks to Daddy's millions she underwent extensive therapy, both physical and psychological, and when she finally returned, she was bizarre in ways I can't quite pin down. She spent sixteen months in California and returned to a facility in Covington for the rest of her makeover. To a child, that seemed like a lifetime. When she returned home, she was kept in a part of the house I rarely visited, so I saw her very seldom. Most of the time, she looked like a mummy, face and hands swathed in bandages. The curtains were always drawn and the lights were kept dim, so she really was the invisible woman, forgetful and emotionally distant as well. She and I had been as close as a mother and son could be, and she tried so hard to be that way for me again. But life with Dad and me was a constant struggle, as if she were trying to become again who she had been.
Uncle Buddy had lived with us since before I was born; but as far back as my memory goes, my parents fought about him constantly. I was too young to discern the details and they never quarreled in front of me, but I can remember hearing them fighting while I was in bed trying to sleep. All I could pick out of the conversation was "Buddy" this and "Buddy" that. I know Mother wanted him to leave and Dad wanted him to stay, odd because he was Mother's brother, in fact her twin. I also picked up hints that there was something wrong with him, something that made him incapable of coping. But that's it. I also wanted him to leave because I saw him as the cause of my parents' dissension and I was afraid they'd split up. So when he died, I was glad, which produced feelings of guilt as if I had willed him to his death. Once I got that fixed in my head, it took years of shrinking to get it out. After Mother came home finally repaired and refashioned, they STILL fought about dead Uncle Buddy and eventually Mother left in 1960. Dad moved to Flagstaff because he had always wanted to live in the west whereas Mother loved the south, and she then took the house as part of her settlement. She lived there until her recent death. She didn't seem to want me around, so I went to Flagstaff too. I got the parent who was rich, but missed out on the one I adored. Oh well, such is life. Actually, Mother died in that accident too because the pieced-together creature who came back from various clinics was not the mother who adored me in return but a stranger who looked vaguely like her and had her memories. Her soul was gone.
More of my saga after I've had a chance to revisit and explore my childhood home ... I'm in Flagstaff now and leave for NOLA 2/8.
6 February 2004 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: Cletus.Hardin@psychnet.org Dear Cletus,
It's been a while, too long in fact. I'm still on an even keel but miss our sessions. I may need you again; my mother has come back into my life in an odd way. She died and, after what seems like a lifetime of ignoring me, has left me all her worldly goods, including the house where I lived till I was eighteen. Even though the dreams stopped many years ago, I dread their starting up again. I just can't face sleepless nights, terrified of falling asleep for fear of reliving that horror. I still dream of Uncle Buddy once in a while and for a long time, I was afraid he wasn't really dead and would come back to blame me for his death. I have to go to Covington to take care of affairs and I'm almost certain I'll fall back into old habits of thinking and feeling. I expect the dreams ...
The bottom line is this: I can't come back and forth to Jerome for therapy and wonder if I can use the 'net as a lifeline so to speak. Just knowing you're a click away would assuage my fears, which are overwhelming at the moment. I can't even use Amanda's shoulder to cry on. She's been very distant and suspects an affair. Do emotions count in the fidelity department? I feel, frequently, that I ought to just indulge my inclination to tell Winifred how much I love her. Why bother with being faithful when I'm accused constantly of the opposite?
Thanks for reading and if the answer is no, I'll understand.
6 February 2004 From: Cletus.Hardin@psychnet.org To: email@example.com Dear Malachi,
Of course, you may write anytime. But treatment via e-mail is tricky at best. Assume that all will be well. If you expect trouble, you'll find it. No drugs of any sort except your usual prescriptions, NO booze. Use relaxation tapes to help you fall asleep. If I find you need treatment, I have some excellent connections in New Orleans, about forty miles from Covington. I'll give you a list of contacts with their specialties and some info that should help you choose. Do NOT seek hypnosis without asking me and without consulting one of my contacts. No voodoo, no crystal-gazing BS, no alternative stuff of any kind. In some ways, New Orleans is like Sedona, full of palm-readers and the like, eager to separate you from your $$$. Be careful. And stay positive. From age eight to eighteen, you lived in hell, perhaps even before that time span. Remember the endless parental bickering ... You are in no way responsible for what happened to any of the monsters that surrounded you in childhood. You can't repeat that to yourself often enough.
7 February 2004 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: Cletus.Hardin@psychnet.org
Thanks. I'll keep you posted. At the moment, I'm restless, edgy, filled with nameless dread and eager to put this reconnection with Hell House behind me. I want to take care of business in Louisiana and return to AZ ASAP. I promise not to do anything foolish.
I'm not sure what I'll do when I return to AZ. Amanda wants to keep trying to hold us together and I suppose it's unwise to divorce after such a long marriage. But the phoniness of it all makes me want to gag at times. We just go through the motions. There are still good times, I suppose, hikes in the canyons, concerts, movies ... But I find myself wanting more and more to be by myself, on my own. I may have married Amanda too soon after Winifred turned me down. You know, the rebound thing. Perhaps separate vacations would help. I'd like to go back to Europe. Amanda and I visited there a few times, did a sort of grand tour as a honeymoon. But there are places off the beaten path that intrigue me. I'd especially like to visit Winifred in France. She's willing to allow us to be friends and she's in one of those intriguing places. What do you think?
7 February 2004 From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cletus has agreed at least to read my mails. He says he can't "shrink" over the 'net but will refer me to someone if need be.
I leave for New Orleans tomorrow and will keep you posted.
Any news from Autun? Let me know if you unearth any more literary gold. I know e-mailing is hard; just write when you can.
8 February 2004 From: Cletus.Hardin@psychnet.org To: email@example.com Dear Malachi,
I think a visit to your friend would be a good thing, but do be cautious. You're not certain yet if you want a divorce, are you? And you don't want yet another rebound thing. After you take care of business in Covington, see if you can manage a trip to France. You're resourceful enough to amuse yourself and stay out of Winifred's way if necessary. I think it would do you a world of good. As for Amanda, don't make any decisions until you return to AZ and the three of us have a chance to thrash things out. Expect her to be angry at the idea of your trip; perhaps it would be wise not to mention it. No harm in having her think you're in Louisiana.
8 February 2004 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com
Sounds like you'll get to NOLA in time for Mardi Gras! Wish I could crash. It's an anthropologist's dream. My colleagues here are very jealous! I can tell you now that the dig is at the Roman amphitheater at Autun.
It's just vaguely possible that we've dug up a guy who worked on the famous Romanesque church of St. Lazarus there. On the site there were tools of the sort used by sculptors and/or masons. One of the skeletons is decidedly peculiar and was almost certainly that of a VERY deformed person. IF the skeleton turns out to be such, and was somehow related to at least one of the other two, then we have a couple who harbored a wretch who would most certainly have died without the intervention of the couple. That explains why they were holed up in ruins rather than in a more conventional dwelling. The freakish person would have had to remain hidden. I don't know if we'll ever puzzle all this out. DNA tests may not be possible and will take ages, if we can get any material to test. The freak had a broken neck and one or both of the others may have killed him. Or he may have offed himself.
I'm really pleased that this project has taken me back to Burgundy, specifically Autun. I've been interested in the motif of the suicide of Judas as depicted on capitals in a cluster of churches in this area: Autun, Saulieu and Vézelay. I wonder why that theme was so popular here in the twelfth century. There's a Suicide at the cathedral of Strasbourg, but it's a restoration and who knows how well it reflects what was there originally? There's a painted version of the scene at a small church in Berry, brilliantly treated in a book by Marcia Kupfer. I doubt that I'll get a book out of this, perhaps a lengthy article. I've been thinking about titles. How about "Hanging around with Judas in Burgundy"? That's sure to get published in a really prestigious scholarly journal ;-))
Perhaps I can squeeze in some research in my spare time, of which I have almost none. Good excuse to come back ...
How's Amanda? Is she going to NOLA with you?
Back to the salt mines.
10 February 2004 From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com
You aren't the only one wishing you were here. I'm doing a sort of archaeological dig of my own. But first things first. The flight to New Orleans was uneventful and my rental car was waiting for me. If I have to stay for any length of time, I'll lease something. Apparently I'm suddenly very rich. The coroner is still curious, almost suspicious, about Mother's death but the cause was quite obvious and there was no hint of foul play. They're still curious about why she didn't call for help, but I can only imagine that death was so sudden, she didn't have a chance to do so. It's also quite possible, even likely, that she wanted to die. Celestine convinced them Mother was given to eccentricity—she was in her late eighties—and there was no way to figure out her motives for bizarre actions. The coroner decided that a more than perfunctory autopsy wasn't necessary, especially since she was under a physician's care, so he released the body for whatever. Celestine is an old black woman, a little older than mom, who had been living with her forever. I sort of remember Cel from way back when. Mother depended on her very much since her own mother died when she was very young. She was spooky then and she's spooky now. She was very upset that any sort of post mortem was done; she claims Mother instructed her to do whatever it took to prevent anyone from doing an autopsy, showed the coroner Mother's will, which did indeed state that. Mother was always prissy about nudity and always locked the door when she was in the shower. This was after the accident. I imagine she was pretty scarred up and didn't want anyone to see what she must have considered disfigurement. So Cel had a funeral parlor cremate her at once. I wonder what the hell I'm doing here! Claiming my inheritance, I guess ... I'll be glad when I can clear out. I'll have to decide what to do with the ashes.
I arrived at the house late in the day and, since Cel is still living here, all the utilities were on. She offered to leave but I could use some help going through the mountains of stuff Mother accumulated through the years. The house is fantastic in more ways than one. It's on the Bogue Falaya, one of Louisiana's more beautiful waterways, between the river and a swamp. Hence the name Mother gave the house years ago, Cypress Shadows. It's hemmed in by immense trees, mostly southern pine, but there are a quite a few cypress, water oak, magnolia, and river birch in the mix. I guess Mother thought cypress shadows were classier than pine shadows. She had notions about what was classy and what was not. Celestine tells me the land is subject to catastrophic flooding, hence the house is about eleven feet off the ground on pilings. Every inch of wall space is crammed with art: paintings, sculptures, candle holders, gewgaws. Some of the sculpture is miniature copies of capitals that look like the ones at St Lazarus. I can see much of Autun's art at art-roman.net and on other websites; visiting them is a way of connecting with you. Apparently it's quite a gem of a church. (In case you didn't pick up on this, I miss you very much.) In fact, I was thinking of coming for a visit once I get affairs in order. I promise to stay out of the way and you'll see only as much of me as you wish. I really want to see that church and as much of the dig as permitted. Be frank and let me know if I'd be a pest. Back to reality ...
Excerpted from fractal by KATHRYN EBERLE WILDGEN Copyright © 2011 by Kathryn Eberle Wildgen. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Estranged from his mother for forty years, Malachi Walmsley travels to his boyhood home of Covington, Louisiana, to settle her estate when he learns of her death. In the midst of various challenges in his life, including a pending divorce, Malachi fears his trip home will open old wounds that previously caused him to suffer frightening nightmares, which stem from a fatal accident when he was only eight years old that left his Uncle Buddy dead and his mother suffering from severe physical and psychological trauma. Once back in Covington, Malachi seeks counseling to help him dig deeper into the situation; however, as the mystery unfolds, it becomes clear that his problems are much deeper and more complicated than they appear. Fractal is nothing less than a stellar, all-engrossing read. Crafted entirely in the form of email correspondence, author Kathryn Eberle Wildgen’s standout offering is a dynamic example of masterful storytelling. Combining intriguing story lines with superb character development, Fractal cleverly intertwines the elements of historical fiction and psychological mystery, keeping the reader in renewed, sustained suspense with each fresh turn of the page. With Fractal as her debut offering in the world of fiction, Wildgen is sure to amass a legion of devoted followers for each of her subsequent works. Highly recommended. Tiffany Parker Apex Reviews
Ms. Wildgen has a unique and interesting format for her novel. It is a modern epistolary novel that uses e-mails and attachments to weave an intricate mosaic. The final image (when each mosaic piece is finally in place) is a shocker of the first water. The suspense builds throughout as a troubled man, Malachi Walmsley, whose e-mail ID is "fractal" seeks counseling to rid himself of nightmares that threaten to ruin his life. These nightmares were under control until the death of his mother, which stirred up old problems he thought were buried. His counselor, Ruth Blanchard, will not relent until she uncovers the root of all of Malachi's troubles, found in his complex relationship with a childhood friend, Winifred Hauser. The various "voices" and points of view in the novel give the reader a rich vein to mine for the truth. For those who love psychological thrillers, this book is for you.