Getting to Know Ash Caine, Part 1

From time to time, I like a more extensive study, in order to get used to being in my characters’ heads, particularly if they’re stubborn and being quiet in my head. This way, I force them to talk when their image isn’t enough to spark my imagination. The other day, my PA sent me a long list of questions for Ash Caine from The Long Fall of Night, and I’ve decided to share some of the answers. There are a lot of questions, though, and more for a single post, so I’ll probably have another post or more depending on the length of the answers. Here’s the first few.

Describe a summer day with Uncle Marvin from when you were growing up.
Well, he’s not my biological uncle, so I don’t have memories of him at 4th of July picnics or Christmases, and he wasn’t a greater fixture in our lives until after Dad died. Charlotte wanted nothing to do with him at first, so it was just him and me. I’d take him around the Lakes and he taught me things about surviving in a forest setting, how to trap, how to live off the land. I refused to fish though. He once tried to talk me into noodling, but if I couldn’t make myself unhook a catfish from a line, he wasn’t getting me to stick my whole forearm down a fish’s throat. No fucking way.

We know Elliot’s music tastes; what are yours?
The harder the better, though Elliot’s tastes are refining mine, I guess. I can appreciate how good some of his symphony stuff is. Before that, it was mostly Black Veil Brides, Fall Out Boy, Three Days Grace, Shinedown, Seether, Rise Against, Placebo, DeVotchKa, Paper Route, Kidneythieves. Mostly dark stuff and some old school. Metallica, Skid Row, Guns n Roses, that kind of thing, though not as much of the glam shit from the 80s.

What superpower would you want and why?
Definitely not invincibility. I don’t want to watch my loved ones die around me for eternity. Flying seems cool, but it doesn’t do all that much for anyone but me. Invisibility would be cool, but so would shapeshifting, or… Oh, I know. I’d like to be able to manipulate matter, so I could turn one object into another. Like if I need a knife and don’t have one, I could turn a flashlight into a knife just by thinking about it. No, just by touching it. I don’t want to wish for a burrito only to have the book I’m reading turn into one.

Who is your biggest role model?
Most people would expect me to say my dad, because of how much he’s influenced me, but there’s someone who’s done more: Charlotte. She taught me about keeping my chin up, that it’s okay to be human and have flaws as long as I stand up and be responsible for my actions, and that there’s nothing more important than my word. Family is a close second, and I can tell you why it’s not the other way around. I would die for her and Riley and even Uncle Marvin in a heartbeat, but my word has an effect on more than just my family. Other people can become family based on my word, and how much I stand behind it. Take Elliot for instance. When I stopped pretending the words out of my mouth about keeping my distance matched the words in my heart, he became family. I have influence over more than a small sphere of people, and each of those influenced deserve my best, too. It sounds idealistic, but if more people stuck by that rule, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten into the blackout mess to start with.

When have you been most satisfied?
The day I got my scholarship offers for NYU. It was the first time someone with real power to enable me to change my future took an interest. Sure, my science teacher in high school, Mr. Libby, wanted to help, but there was only so much he could do. I know I don’t exactly help myself looking like I do, with the long hair and tattoos, but those things shouldn’t matter. I have a brain and someone finally recognized that fact outside my family.

What would your former teachers say about you?
The majority of them would say I didn’t care or that I was a smart ass. They’re not wrong, but most of them didn’t recognize I acted out because I was so fucking bored. The shit they taught in high school were things I’d already learned on my own during middle school. Mr. Libby was the only one who recognized that I wasn’t some scab just trying to ooze trouble, but that I needed more from my education. He tried to do his best, and if he hadn’t, I don’t know what would have happened with NYU. He’s the one who wrote the recommendation for the scholarship board, told them about our extra credit work, and assured them I wasn’t a mess, but a kid who needed a challenge. Mrs. Kostova would probably say she’s surprised I’m not dead yet. Then again, she might be dead now, for all I know.

Any scars? From what?
I have a couple. There’s a through-and-through scar on my left foot from a nail I stepped on at a construction site when I was eleven. I wanted to study how they wired a building, and one side was ready for the plumbing and electricity while another part was still in the interior framing stage. Security guards saw my flashlight and chased me out, thinking I was there to steal copper piping or some shit. At least the nail wasn’t rusty. I have another one above my eye from falling off the roof when I was seven. I had an idea for a drone, but there was something wrong with the controller handling pitch and yaw, and it landed on the roof. I didn’t plan on the climb down being one-handed, and when I slipped, I tried to catch myself on the gutter. Landed okay, but the gutter fell with me and cut my face. Then there’s this one on my left middle finger. Drawer front on the silverware drawer came off and I accidentally glued it on upside down. Tried to pry it off with a chisel, but the glue I used had already set. Chisel slipped and cut to the bone. I think I was seventeen? It was after Mom died, I remember that much.

How do you work out aggression or anger? What calms you?
Loud, in your face music pumped straight into my brain and either a session at the gym with a body bag or a good long run pounding the pavement. Given my new living arrangements, I’ve had to adapt somewhat. I saved my phone, and the camp has a couple communal chargers that are hoarded worse than gas and water, but I can still listen when I need to. Hiking helps, I’m learning. I never hunt when angry. Handling weapons while my judgment isn’t the best is a bad idea. Though to relieve stress, I’ve been going to the camp shooting range with the bow and arrow they let us keep in the arms locker. It’s repetitive, useful, and the sound does something to break my tension far more than firing a gun.

Have you ever had your heart broken?
Yes. When my dad died, and then later, my mom. But if you mean romantically, no. I haven’t put myself out there enough to get my heart involved… until now anyway. God, that’s kind of an uncomfortable thought.

We all develop bad habits; what are yours?
I’ve started biting my fingernails. I’m also really paranoid of new people now. My trust in humanity took a big hit, given all that’s happened. Yeah, I know I said people outside my family deserve better from me, but I find it really hard to expect them to reciprocate. I waffle back and forth between thinking fuck it, I’m going to start a compound and keep me and mine safe and everyone else is on their own, and thinking if we’re going to get society back on track, let’s reinvent ourselves to be better.

Has anyone ever said anything that has stuck with you? If so who was it and what did they say?
My dad, when he told us he wasn’t retiring from the marines after 9/11 and why. He and Charlotte got in a huge fight about it. His exact words were, “Who’s going to fight for you when you can no longer fight for yourself? The military, that’s who.”
Then she said she’d be dead before she stopped fighting for herself, because she was the only one she could trust, since even her daddy was leaving her to go it alone. She was so convinced we’d never see him again. And we didn’t.
But I decided then and there she’d never go it alone, whether Dad came back or not. She was an idiot, thinking she’d never be vulnerable, but if I had her back, and she had mine, we’d be a lot less vulnerable.

to be continued…

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