Children of No One by Nicole Cushing
novella, 50 pages
novella, 50 pages
Sadism, nihilism, poverty, wealth, screams, whimpers, sanity and madness collide in Nowhere, Indiana
For Thomas Krieg, Nowhere is a miles-long, pitch-black underground maze in which he’s imprisoned dozens of boys for the past ten years—all in the name of art.
For two brothers, Nowhere is the only place they clearly remember living. A world unto itself, in which they must stay alert to stay alive. A world from which the only escape is death.
But for an English occultist known only as Mr. No One, Nowhere is much more…and much less: the perfect place in which to perform a ritual to unleash the grandest of eldritch deities, the God of Nothingness, the Great Dark Mouth.
Children of No One by Nicole Cushing is about an artist who has made an underground maze in Nowhere, Indiana. In this maze of complete darkness, he has imprisoned boys for ten years. All the boys know is the darkness and a bell that rings, signaling that the angels have left them food. One young boy may remember light or some previous life but his brother scoffs at him.
This surreal sadistic maze is a performance art project created by Thomas Krieg. Art Patron, and I use that term loosely, Mr. MacPherson, is willing to risk almost everything to be the first patron to experience this performance art project first hand. Working with Krieg is an occultist, nihilist artist, Mr. No One, who may have some other agenda for the performance of the art project.
Children of No One is creepy. It's not just "Oh, that's creepy." It's "OH! That is SO CREEPY!" It's Night Gallery Creepy. It's Twilight Zone Creepy. It's Tales From the Darkside creepy. It is the stuff of childhood nightmares creepy. And if that is not enough, it also has a message about art. If the art depends upon the misery and suffering of people and relies on man's inhumanity to man in order to exist, in other words, sadism, is it really art?
It is a very short novella at approximately 50 pages, and very disturbing. And did I mention creepy? If this were a television show I would have been cringing, covering my eyes and squirming, while saying things like "Ick....oooh... ugh... ohohohoh..."
Highly Recommended, and maybe even very highly recommended for those who enjoy being scared.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of DarkFuse via Netgalley for review purposes.
Two arguing voices echo off the walls of Nowhere, Indiana: the voices of teenage boys, one a tenor who sometimes crosses the border to a baritone, the other a baritone who sometimes crosses the border to a bass. The topic of their current debate: the possible existence of light. There’s no evidence of it to be found, at present, but one of them raises the possibility it may have been there, once. A long, long time ago. (Location 57-60)
“Now listen here, James. That’s crazy talk.”
“You wanna know what’s crazy? The idea that only three things ever existed.”
“The dark, the walls, the us. That’s it, until we make our way out of here and into Heaven. That’s where the light is. The only place the light is. You see any evidence to the contrary?”
“Sure. The food.”
“Food’s just part of us. We take it inside ourselves, dumbass.”
“But who brings it out to the Target Zone? Where does it come from?”
“No wonder you got kicked out of school. I reckon you failed your oral exam on the qualities and characteristics of angels. That’s, what, fifty percent of your senior year grade?”
“Lookit, it wasn’t even a real school. I mean, you have to remember what it was like before. We had a real school, before. In the light. There were big people there. Bigger than us, at least. Don’t you remember the bigger man who always used to say things like ‘bullcrap’? He lived with us.” No reply. “I mean, you have to remember. We made it into first and second grade before all the changes. I remember holding something in my hands. There were flat, thin things that my fingers used to flip through. It was how we learned. There’s something wrong with all this. I’ve always known there’s something wrong with all this. The best thing the Tutors ever did is kick me out. Let me go my own way.” (Location 74-90)
“You might be surprised by how much I already know about your project, Mr. Kitterman. There’s gossip afoot among us patrons of the arts. Whispers implying that you and Thomas Krieg have been at this for ten years now. Raising dozens of children in a pitch-black maze. Deciding how much food and water to give them, where to leave it, how to alert them to its presence. Calibrating the environment. Getting the details right. I hope you’ll understand that a man in my position doesn’t like to be kept waiting to see such a masterpiece.” Kitterman cleared his throat, took another drag of his cigarette, and cleared his throat again. Listened. “I’m aware Mr. Krieg is a perfectionist,” MacPherson said. “Don’t get me wrong, I like that in an artist. But he needs to be reasonable. He can’t keep his fans waiting like this. I think the last time I saw his work was in that Lebanese prison, back in ’85. His public has been patient long enough, I think. Don’t get me wrong, I admire his fastidiousness. But you should tell Krieg that, at some point, an artist has to stop obsessing over the perfection of his work and put it out there to be enjoyed by the audience.” (Location 124-134)
Kitterman scratched his neck. Then, for the first time during this meeting, he looked MacPherson in the eyes. “I can see you’re enthusiastic about all of this. And serious about this. That’s good news for you. I hope you’ll understand that Mr. Krieg will require you to undergo a few background checks before we’ll grant you permission to view the piece. For starters, we’ll need to verify your statement that you were in the audience in that Lebanese prison in ’85.”
“You’re not the only one with means, sir. If you attended the performance in Lebanon, we should still have the records. A precaution, you understand. We don’t like the idea of audience members enjoying the show, but then finding themselves afflicted with a bad case of scruples after it’s all over and providing anonymous tips to unfriendly branches of the government. By keeping thorough records of everyone who attends our shows, we protect ourselves. If Krieg goes down, then the audience goes down, too.” (Location 154-162)
It would mean a seven-figure hit from the tax man, but well worth the insights into Krieg’s method he’d be granted by the agreement. Well worth the apex of Behavioral Art. The suffering children—how he yearned to see them outside of his daydreams. Location (226-228)
And the bells keep clanging, telling the brothers they still have time to be fed by the Angels—all they need to do is negotiate the twists and turns. All they have to do is feel their way around until they reach the right alcove of Nowhere—the place where the Angels ring bells and give out food. The place where they and all the other boys from Nowhere gather and trade war stories about the misery they went through to arrive at the bells. The place in which they swap survival tips, and sleep. (Oh how deeply they sleep, even though they pass out amidst the chiming of the bells. Oh how they dread waking up to silence because that means the Angels have moved farther on into Nowhere; someplace so far away they can’t even be heard.) (Location 244-249)