Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Road Seven by Keith Rosson

Release date: July 14, 2020
Subgenre: Magical Realism, Contemporary Fantasy

About Road Seven


Road Seven follows disgraced cryptozoologist Mark Sandoval—resolutely arrogant, covered head to foot in precise geometric scarring, and still marginally famous after Hollywood made an Oscar-winner based off his memoir years before—who has been strongly advised by his lawyer to leave the country following a drunken and potentially fatal hit and run. When a woman sends Sandoval grainy footage of what appears to be a unicorn, he quickly hires an assistant and the two head off to the woman's farm in Hvíldarland, a tiny, remote island off the coast of Iceland. When they arrive on the island and discover that both a military base and the surrounding álagablettur, the nearby woods, are teeming with strangeness and secrets, they begin to realize that a supposed unicorn sighting is the least of their worries.  

Road Seven will mark the third of Rosson’s novels to be published by Meerkat Press.




If you knew a little pop culture, you knew Mark Sandoval’s story.
You’d at least heard of him, or one of his books, even if you hadn’t actually read one. (But chances were that if you hadn’t read one, and you were in, say, an average-sized sedan, someone you were with probably had.) His was a name that came up as an answer during somewhat nerdy subsections of trivia night. Sandoval rested in the back part of the mind, a celebrity tumbled earthward, Icarus-style: famous, but with nowhere near the fervor of his earlier fame.
The story went:
When he was in his late twenties, Sandoval was assistant anthropology professor at a small but respected liberal arts university in Seattle. (He never named names in his book, hence the shock when Brian discovered that Don Whitmer had been involved). One morning he didn’t show up for a class he was scheduled to teach. Just skipped it. The head of the department (again, Don Whitmer, played by an earnest and affable Morgan Freeman in the film) was understandably frustrated. Pissed, even. This was not, after all, a new occurrence, Sandoval dipping out on his responsibilities. After multiple offers of a sympathetic ear from the school’s dean and more than one warning from Whitmer as to his tenuous footing regarding his employment, Sandoval and Whitmer had a meeting and Sandoval was removed from his position. It was something that probably could have been contested if he’d been of mind to do it. But long story short: he’d lost his job. He was fucking up big time.
Thing was, after that meeting? Sandoval just disappeared.
He was gone for thirty-four days.
Just vanished. Puff-of-smoke kind of shit. In The Long Walk Home, he wrote that his wife, who had admittedly left him just days before, grew frantic at his disappearance. His friends and colleagues were mystified. He was not, they say, depressed or in debt. He partied, sure, but not to excess. His position on campus, had he been able to keep it together, seemed almost assuredly tenure-track. (Again, this was via The Long Walk Home, and all of it strained through the colander of Sandoval’s heavy-handed and admittedly one-sided prose.) The police briefly talked to the wife but ultimately came to believe it was probably a kidnapping that, as the days continued to pass with no ransom demand issued, had possibly turned fatal. There were simply no leads to follow.
And then, thirty-four days after his disappearance from Seattle, Sandoval was discovered by an off-duty policeman in a phone booth in Middleton, Delaware, nearly three thousand miles away. Wearing only a pair of soiled boxer shorts, Sandoval sat curled and sobbing on the booth’s metal floor, rocking himself like a child. He was emaciated and dehydrated and initially appeared to have difficulty regaining speech. Not a heavy man to begin with, he’d lost over forty pounds since his disappearance.
Most notably, nearly the entirety of his body was now covered in a series of raised scars (circles, squares, trapezoids, octagons sutured together by an interconnected series of lines.) Only his face, hands and feet were spared. Though his language capabilities eventually returned, he purported to have no memory of the previous weeks. The scars, how he got them, and what they may or may not represent were, he claimed, a mystery.
Sandoval returned to Seattle as a strange dichotomy: both pariah and minor celebrity. Eventually he seemed to recover entirely. He was not evasive about what happened, but said he simply didn’t know. Claims by his wife that he had issues with drugs were fervently rebuffed. He did not return to his position at the university.
Within a year of his return to Seattle he’d written a memoir. It was sold to a major New York publisher after an extensive bidding war (rumors at the time placed his advance in the mid-seven-figure range). The bulk of the material was purportedly penned from memories unearthed after claiming to have undergone months of regressive hypnotherapy, though repeated media requests to name the therapist (titled only “Dr. X” in the book) were never answered.
And Mark Sandoval became famous. His memoir, The Long Way Home, became hugely popular. It became one of those books that was purchased by people that don’t often like to read, a book that stayed for years on supermarket shelves. A book that was gifted to people who were impossible to shop for.
And it was in this book that Sandoval claimed, as evidenced through his scars and his numerous regressive-hypnosis sessions, to have been abducted by aliens.
Brian remembered being a kid and watching the unending Saturday Night Live skits at that time, in which an alien was always bugging one of the cast members—arms and legs done up in pink makeup suspiciously like Sandoval’s scarring—about inconsistencies in that “dumb story you wrote about me.” (His mother had found these skits hilarious.) Sandoval cowrote the screenplay for the film adaptation. Brad Pitt nabbed an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a frightened, weeping Mark Sandoval, wandering Middleton streets with a brutal, unknown lexicon strung along his body.
Five books followed over the next couple decades, “nonfiction exposés.” All of them farting around between memoir and monster hunt. They were all well received, at least in terms of sales, though none were ever as successful as The Long Way Home. He remembered seeing Sandoval on Oprah: Sandoval had worn a leather jacket and a terrible goatee-mustache combo that was woefully, painfully indicative of the times. He’d looked like the sleazy older guy who’d try to pick up girls in a head shop.
Oprah, holding up a hardcover copy of the book, had touched Sandoval’s knee with her other hand and said, “Now really, Mark. Aliens? We’re supposed to believe that aliens came down and took you onto their ship? Did these things to you? These strange and confusing and sometimes hurtful things? I think some part of us wants to believe that there’s more than just us out there, but the things you write here . . . I mean, really?”
And Sandoval, without missing a beat, tucked his thumb under his chin and put his finger against his nose. Thinker in repose. (It was a gesture Brian would become intimately familiar with years later; it seemed one of the few natural, uncultivated things about the man.) Sandoval had nodded sagely, waited a beat and said, “You know, Oprah, sometimes? In matters of faith—and you know this better than most—just because we don’t understand it, doesn’t mean we can’t handle it. Or that it shouldn’t happen.”
“What do you mean by that?”
I believe . . . Well, I’m of the opinion that there’s a grand plan. Okay? And it’s one that we’re not always privy to. We can’t always encapsulate it into our understanding. But we still do our part, our tiny part, even if we can’t see the big picture at the time.”
“So things happen for a reason.”
“Exactly. Even if we don’t know what that reason is at the time.”
Oprah had seemed grudgingly accepting of that answer, if not exactly satisfied. She’d eyed him almost suspiciously. “That’s certainly a gracious way of looking at what happened to you, Mark.”
And Sandoval had smiled, a smile that disintegrated the foolishness of that goatee, the gelled hair. A smile that dissipated that huckster sheen of his. He leaned back, and viewers could see the scars peeking out of his sleeves.
“Well,” Sandoval had said, “I have been around the block a few times, after all.”
Cue the audience’s gentle laughter.

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About Keith Rosson:

Keith Rosson is the author of the novels The Mercy of the Tide and Smoke City. His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. An advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at keithrosson.com.


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About Meerkat Press

 Meerkat Press is an independent publisher committed to finding and publishing exceptional, irresistible, unforgettable fiction. And despite the previous sentence, we frown on overuse of adjectives and adverbs in submissions. *smile*

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