Eric Albright is leading a normal life until a small red door appears under a train bridge near his home. Then a ghostly being wakes him in the dead of night, with a message from another world: You are Shadow.
In Levaal, the world between worlds, the dragon-gods grow restless in their sky prisons, and the Great Spirits struggle to contain them. Vous, the world's Friend and Lord, simmers in madness as he schemes to join the ranks of gods. He and the Arch Mage have almost won their final victory over the Free Cities. A dark age dawns.
But Eric and his friend Case are now Pilgrims, called to Levaal for a battle more ancient than the petty squabbles of men. And they will learn why some doors should not be opened... .
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A darkly humorous, insightful and searingly honest first-hand account of a journey through schizophrenia from a prodigiously talented writer.
"I've been to places that no one else on this planet will ever go. Me, I've lived for a short time as a werewolf. As a vampire. As a revolutionary. As a psychic. As a magician. As someone who cannot be hurt by physical force. As someone who can speak to the dead... I have lived as Jesus Christ. I have been he who knows all. You see, all this is true, because, for a while, it was all real. What hurts, what really hurts, is that I will never feel so alive as I felt the night I ran barefoot from hospital, hearing vampires rustle in the trees above, seeing a war zone around me, seeing battalions and guarded castles in the houses to either side of me, the air rife and thick with magic, crackling with an energy that exists on the far boundary of the human mind, which, once crossed, we're not supposed to return from. I made it back when I shouldn't have, so I'm lucky. But no matter what else happens in life, no matter what mountains I climb, no matter how close I come to death, nothing will ever again make me feel so alive as I felt that night. Nothing."
In 2006 Will Elliott had his first novel The Pilo Family Circus published. It won five literary awards and great acclaim, nationally and internationally. What nobody knew was that the young author of that work of terrifying fantasy had just recovered from a psychotic episode and been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. This is his memoir of that harrowing --- and enlightening --- time.
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Jamie's tyres squealed to a halt. Standing in the glare of the headlights was an apparition dressed in a puffy shirt with a garish flower pattern. It wore oversized red shoes, striped pants and white face paint. It stared at hime with ungodly boggling eyes, then turned away...
This seemingly random incident triggers a nightmarish chain of events as Jamie finds he is being stalked by a trio of gleefully sadistic clowns who deliver a terrifying ultimatum:
You have two days to pass your audition. You better pass it feller. You're joining the circus. Ain't that the best news you ever got?
Jamie is plunged into the horrific alternate universes that is the centuries-old Pilo Family Circus, a borderline world between hell and earth from which Humankind's greatest tragedies have been perpetrated. Yet in this place peopled by the gruesome, grottesque and monstrous, where violence and and savagery are the norm, Jamie finds that his worst enemy is himself - for when he applies the white face paint, he is transformed into JJ, the most vicious clown of all. And JJ wants Jamie dead...
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'Ain't no ordinary ham'
Published in the Griffith Review (September 2006)
Selected by Robert Drewe for publication in Black Ink's
The Best Australian Stories (2006).
Published in Black Ink's
"Best Australian Stories 2007".