“All Alone Here” – Chapter 1 (Sampler)


I had three good reasons for taking the job.

The first one was, of course, that I was unemployed, and this particular fact used to start a number of arguments with my parents every day, to the point that I started to wonder if they would eventually get tired of it and just kick me out.

The second one was my long friendship with Jacobo, and all the years I had known his parents, Mr. Sierra and Mrs. Echeverría. And their house, obviously. It had been Jacobo who had come up with the idea of volunteering me as a candidate for the job, and as I understood it, his parents had accepted without giving it much thought.

The third was that my sedentary lifestyle had started to become boring. There were only so many things I could do at home. Even with the power of the internet within my reach, my list of interests wasn’t particularly extensive, so it all had come down to binge-watching shows or learning useless trivia from long-winded articles on pseudo-intellectual websites.

I had, however, one good reason for not taking the job, and that was my crippling anxiety.

“Crippling”, granted, might be a bit of an overstatement, or so Dr. Magaña would say. But a lifetime of panic attacks and worst-case-scenario mentalities had led me and those who knew me to describe it as such. Medications did help, and so did my once-a-week sessions with Dr. Magaña, but I still disliked and avoided any situation where I was forced out of my comfort zone.

Dr. Magaña heavily influenced the job taking decision. While talking to my mother she said that at this point in my treatment, given my age and my particular set of “skills”, taking this job would be very beneficial for me. My mother immediately called Jacobo’s parents and accepted on my behalf.

When I learned this, I felt a heavy weight form in my chest, and this reluctance also made me feel incredibly guilty. But then, the more I thought about it, I started to see the whole situation in a more positive light. Yeah, this might somehow be good for me. It would be something to do, it would prepare me to move on, and it would potentially keep me from being kicked out of my parent’s house in the long run. Dr. Magaña would be out of the country during the first week of my employment, since she had engaged in some sort of spiritual retreat in the Himalayas or somewhere of the sort, and she would not be able to answer her phone. My good mood wasn’t affected by this fact, and she was proud of me when I told her that I would be fine.

So, that’s how I ended up taking the job to house-sit the Sierra-Echeverría household, in my old hometown of San Felipe, while Jacobo’s family was on vacation. It would be a fifteen-day ordeal, but my tasks didn’t seem overly complicated. At least from the quick read I gave to the e-mail Jacobo sent me a few days prior.

Plus, I would get to drive there in my mom’s old Chevy, and driving was one of the things that my anxiety did not interfere with, oddly enough. So, whenever I got the chance to drive long distances, I enjoyed it a lot.

I remember the drive there, that night.

Nights like that reminded me of the times I spent driving on the highway with my dad. We’d be surrounded by darkness, the stars blinking high above us, the odd light from a remote town shining in the distance. Every now and then the radio static would give way to a random classic 80’s rock station from up in the States, and we would both hum to the music, until it died down again.

My dad has always been a great storyteller, and when I was a kid, during those trips through deserted highways, he would tell his scariest stories. He would tell me about the old lady whose son chopped her finger off after she died, just so that he could sell her ring; and how she came back from the dead to scare the life out of him for being greedy.

He told me about the ghosts that haunted his aunt, and about the nahuales, shaman shape shifters who could turn into any animal they desired and use their powers for whatever they wanted. He frightened me, telling me that Don Pedro, the security guard at his office, was a nahual, given his otherworldly ability to control dogs. I never looked at that man the same after, and always tried to stay on his good side.

After the stories, though, he would often be silent for several minutes before speaking again, and when he did he would talk about deeper topics, things that, maybe, kept him awake at night. Maybe it’s because I am his only son, maybe the night and the quiet and the road made him feel a need to talk about these things, and he felt he could confide in me. He would talk about life, and death, about his family and his relationship with his own father, who had passed away around that time. He would get philosophical and ponder the accuracy of the religious beliefs he had grown up with. He wondered about life’s meaning, and about his place in the world. He would tell me about his childhood, his fights, his victories and his every day in a town and country so different to the ones I knew and know now.

I was a nervous kid, probably an early indicator of what would eventually become my anxiety, and I had been painfully aware of my own mortality from a very early age. Therefore, whenever the conversation would turn to our time on this earth, or to how long we actually got to enjoy living, an uneasy feeling would creep up inside me, like a pit of blackness growing in my stomach. I would want to ask him to stop, please, stop talking about these things that make me so nervous, but I could never find the words. Instead, I would pretend to have fallen asleep. He would eventually notice my silence and my closed eyes, with my head leaning against the window, and he would stop talking, maybe disappointed that he couldn’t actually confide in me, or that I could not hold a quality conversation with him.

And then, there would just be silence, the static on the radio, the darkness around us, and nothing else.

Even though these conversations still took place when I was an adult, it was their presence in my childhood that really marked me; driving alone on the highway always brings back those memories. As an adult the thoughts that used to stir my dad’s philosophical side now plagued me, made me wonder more deeply about my life, trying to find some meaning behind choices, actions and events. It’s a peaceful kind of pondering, on the highway, and spacing out is far too easy when you’re alone, in a car, on a lonely road at night.

Maybe I was spaced out then, pondering a little too hard, being a little too absorbed in my own world when I was too late in noticing the figure running into the road. This made me too late in hitting the brakes, too late in stopping my car before the blunt impact that cracked my right headlight and put a dent in my hood. It was impossibly fast. My head was thrown to the front so hard that I bumped it against the wheel, leaving me disoriented for a couple of seconds. Everything felt disjointed, the night’s silence pressing hard against the buzz in my ears.

I got out of the car, my whole body shaking. The mangled, still mass on the asphalt stopped me from focusing on the damage to my car.

My breathing became faster, and I felt the panic starting to take over me. My first thought was to phone my doctor immediately, to look for advice, but I knew that would be pointless. I thought I would throw up, and somehow, I didn’t. I realized suddenly that I had not hit a person, but rather some sort of big, brown and gray dog. I laughed nervously and looked around. The highway was just as empty as before, just as quiet, just as still. I sat on the non-dented side of the hood and wondered what to do. The initial wave of panic was subsiding, and I started weighing my options.

Staying there much longer was not one of them. Highways at night are not safe.

I also felt bad leaving the corpse there on the road, where it could get run over again, and again, and again, until it fused with the ground and became unrecognizable, like all the roadkill on all the highways in México.

My fingers tapped uneasily on my knee, and I kept on looking around as I thought, looking at the corpse, at my car, at the road. Would my car even start?

I jumped in again and turned the key, and to my relief there was only a little protest, but the machine came back to life. Good old Chevy. No point in turning it back off and risking it changing its mind. I set the gear to reverse and started to back up. My headlights sat fully on the dog. It was a sorry sight, macabre and upsetting, twisted as it was in a growing pool of its own blood.

The guilt came over me faster and stronger than the nausea, and I found myself outside of the vehicle again, opening the trunk.

I had a bunch of old newspapers in there, and after putting my suitcase in the back seat, I started spreading them out until the bottom of the trunk was covered in them. Then I walked to the front of the car, took off my jacket and threw it on the dog. “I must be crazy”, I muttered to myself as I bent down and grabbed the corpse. The animal felt both mushy and rough to the touch; I grimaced, gathered my strength and pulled up as hard as I could.

The body was incredibly light. So much so that I almost fell backwards. Surprised, but in a hurry, I gathered myself and put the dog in the trunk.

I climbed back in the driver’s seat, shifted the gear to first and stepped on the gas, and was relieved to be moving again. A pair of headlights were coming towards me from the other side of the road, and as the other driver passed me, I tried not to look at them.

Just an hour or so more until I reached San Felipe.

That meant an hour or so in which I had to figure out what to do next.

© 2019, José Emiliano Carrasco Tena

The full short story PDF is available on Gumroad for $3CAD.


“The colour of Bee Larkham’s murder” – Review

This book reminded me a lot of The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (Mark Haddon, 2004) , due to it’s topic and choice of protagonist, as well as its portrayal of autism.

Adding synesthesia and face blindness into the mix, however, made this whodunnit a very fascinating read. I thought that keeping every character as a stroke of color made it even more engaging and interesting, and made the reader feel like they were truly experiencing the world through Jasper’s eyes.

The act of placing the reader inside Jasper’s mind was and experience that i found enjoyable but that also made me impatient. At various points in the book I grew slightly bored with the pacing, and annoyed with jasper’s obsessions about certain things. This never stopped me from wanting to know what happened next, however, and I think that that is commendable. I don’t have to fully enjoy or approve of a protagonist’s actions in order to be completely entranced by a book. At first it did bother me, but the more I thought about it the more remarkable I think it is that Harris’ book managed to suck me in to such an extent in spite of my mixed feelings towards Jasper and other characters.

I still believe that the book had some pacing issues, and it also felt like one of the core problems of the plot was somewhat overlooked (to mention it would be a spoiler, I think, but suffice to say that it has to do with Bee Larkham herself). A lot of it seems to be based on the premise that “hurt people hurt people”, which is true to an extent, but also a bit simplistic. I suppose it also could be part of the author’s intention, what with only having Jasper’s point of view and experiences as a frame of reference.

All in all, I found it a very enjoyable read, and would recommend it.

Rating: 3.8/5
Published by: The Borough Press, 2018

A couple of book reviews

The lovely bones (Alice Sebold, 2006)

This book is definitely an important one, given its topic and the raw depiction it has of rape, murder, and the way it can go unnoticed and/or unsolved. That on its own makes this book an important novel. I also understand its cathartic nature, given that the author wrote it based on personal experience.

As a novel, though, it has a lot of aspects that I don’t quite enjoy, and the more I think about it, the less I find I like this book, which is a shame.

The things that rub me the wrong way start with the the mom’s affair with the policeman. Not necessarily the way it happened, mind you, because I know that people deal with grief differently and cope with loss in different ways (though, let me interject that the affair did feel forced, and that both her and the policeman behaved like absolute terrible people given the situation, but I guess that’s the point). No, the thing that bothered me about the affair was the way the mom just abandoned the family for a decade or whatever and then she came back and met relatively little resistance from the dad and the sister (the little boy’s reaction was the most realistic one I think). Like, the dad is accepting her back just like that? Because of what, some warped concept of love in which it forgives even the unforgivable abandonment of her family in an incredibly painful situation? No, screw you, you made choices that made your family’s difficult situation even harder and a saintly dad character who forgives anything is not only unrealistic, but lazy for the sake of a pseudo-happy ending.

Then there is the idealization by a lot of the males in the book for the “exotic, mysterious, sexy-but-distant foreign woman”, who makes them fall in love with her just by looking at her. Don’t feel great about this sexist/racist trope either. It also never goes anywhere; the author kinda toys with the idea of the dad having an affair of his own, but no, he is too pure for that.

Then there’s the fact that the main character comes back from the dead only to fulfill a sex fantasy and does not in any way give her grieving family any closure or respite. What.

And the rapist/murderer is never caught, and dies a “karmic death” under a pile of snow, which fair enough, is somewhat satisfying, but nowhere near as good as him facing the music and paying for his crimes.

“Oh”, I hear you say, “but him not getting caught makes it more realistic”.

Yeah, sure, but my suspension of disbelief was already through the roof after the dead-girl-possession-sex-fantasy-fulfillment described above.

So yeah. This book is mostly well written, and touches on very important subjects that must have been REALLY hard to write about, and I commend the fact that they’re being talked about. But as a novel it’s so-so at best.

Rating: 2.5/5

The shape of water (Andrea Camilleri, 1994)

I had never heard of this series until my book club received a copy from BlindDateWithABook.com.

I don’t think this book was for me. The case itself was somewhat interesting, but the way the book was written failed to engage me. The dialogue seemed like it was written for a very cheesy soap opera, and there was a very surprising amount of sexism and racism that felt like offhand comments unnecessary to the story itself.

Then, all the characters seemed to have a very similar deductive ability to that of the main character, so all the answers sort of landed on his lap? That takes away from the fun of a whodunnit, in my opinion, but then again I haven’t really read many in the genre. Oh, and the fact that the ending had no real resolution, with no one facing justice or being confronted about the murder(s) really felt like the book was incomplete.

Rating: 2.2/5

“All Alone Here”, a short story


All Alone Here” is the story of Bernardo, who, trying to overcome his anxiety, accepts a job house-sitting his childhood friend’s house in his old hometown of San Felipe. Unfortunately, an accident makes him question his own sanity and his ability to finish the job.

It’s my second attempt at writing fiction in English, with Spanish being my first language, and it’s an attempt I am ultimately proud of. Thankfully, my amazing girlfriend, Emily Meers (who is a native English speaker), helped me revise it thoroughly and make sure it all made sense.

The studio I work at, Atomic Cartoons, holds a yearly convention (in May) in which we can sell and promote our own stuff, and I decided that I would like to participate this year. I will be bringing a few postcards AND a physical version of this short story, which I am printing through blurb.com.

I decided to put a lot of work into this. I made a bunch of drawings and digital paintings for the story, such as:

Illustration for Chapter 1

And this little drawing that is on the first page:

A Cempasúchitl flower

And a bunch more! I am really happy with how it turned out, and really excited for it to be read.

All Alone Here” is also now available through my Gumroad storefront in PDF format, for $3 CAD, and the first 25 people to click that link will get 50% off! 😀 I hope you enjoy it, if you choose to read it.


My part for ‘Rabbit of Seville Reanimate’

I participated in another collab, organized by @ZakWood, in which we set out to reanimate the Looney Tunes short “Rabbit of Seville” (1950). These are my rough keys:

And here the finished product with comp and all:

(I promise to next time export a few more videos of my process, not just bare bones and finished product… my bad).

All of it done using ToonBoom Harmony 12. Will update this post when the collab comes out. 🙂