Title: Curse of the Ninth
Author: Ruthie Marlenée
Genre: Literary Fiction
In the music world, there is a superstition, Curse of the Ninth, whereby “a composer who produces a ninth symphony has reached a decisive landmark – to embark on the tenth is a challenge to fate.”
In the fall of 1930, even though Charley had not yet been born, he recalls vividly what happened to his father “Doc” as he lay dying. The fated son of classic pianist and composer, Phoebe, Charley is cursed by having to share the life of his father. As a boy, Charley discovers a book entitled Phowa: A Guided Meditation for Time of Death and after reading about the Eastern religious practice whereby at the moment of death, one may transfer his consciousness into a pure form, it makes perfect sense that Doc, like a changing of guards, transferred over his consciousness to his son. Charley is left with no choice other than to carry out his father’s plans, including taking revenge on his killer. But, there will be consequences.
A tragic character, Charley simply wants to be loved, but is tortured by a voice and a presence shadowing his life from birth. Charley is confused when he sees and has feelings for his mother through the eyes and consciousness of his own father. During his journey to escape this twisted Oedipal curse, Charley floats in and out of juvie, jail, and finally ends up in the U.S. Naval Hospital’s mental ward as a perfect candidate for the government’s “Project Chatter.” Once he’s released with a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia, Charley realizes the only way to get rid of Doc is for Charley to die also, but will he be ready to give up the life he was meant to have with the woman he was meant to love?
1930: Queen of Angels Hospital
Phoebe had gone into premature labor. I could only imagine what she might be experiencing and yet all the suffering she experienced and would continue to experience would be numbed by this incredible force rumbling inside her.
Do not suffer my dearest creature.
From somewhere deep within a warm, dark place, as if under water, I strained to hear the low sounds of a man and then he shouted at Phoebe. “Push, Phoebe, push!”
“The baby is breech,” Dr. Larson shouted in a frequency so loud I shuddered. “We need to prepare her for a Caesarean.”
The bones in my soft skull vibrated and then from somewhere even deeper, the warbled sounds of Beethoven’s First Symphony – the dawn of a new century – surfaced, becoming more acute. I knew she had to be hearing it, too.
Opus 21, considered by those at the time, a musical joke, a “comedy of manners.” Beethoven’s bold musical experimentation and advancement consisted of four movements. Phoebe once explained this all to me in terms I could understand as a man of science. The composition started with a sequence of repeatedly accentuated dominant-tonic chord sequences, however, in the “wrong” key.
Adagio. Queer, I thought I would have had more of a vacation, get to play the harp or something. At least I wouldn’t come back like one of those reincarnated cows Marie saw in India or a grasshopper. But why must I come into this world the wrong way — breach. This can’t be good.
With momentum, the second movement is considerably faster than the general concept of the tempo. I know this creature that is me has been submerged in warm water for months. I had felt safe and secure...
Andante. But then I heard a vast spectrum of sound all around me. The pounding of her heart, like a summer thunderstorm, coursed blood through veins and arteries connecting me to her. The sloshing of fluids enveloped me. Lightning struck again and I could hear her skin stretching, and then more lightning and the piercing of metal through skin. The sound of slicing, then tearing, then voices, more metal and beeping and footsteps on linoleum; steel doors opening and closing, drawers slamming open and shut; the zapping of electricity somewhere out there jolting me and lightning struck again...
Menuetto. Things sped up; a pace so lively, a Scherzo, not a new melody, just more of the same, lightning and rain coming faster and heavier until…
Adagio, the finale. I heard a suctioning of fluids and then a peal of thunder so fierce startled me out of my quiescence. Another crack of lightning jolted me from my serenity and I heard the violins beginning in the key of G. Gradually more notes and more instruments were added and suddenly…
Allegro molto e vivace. Some alien being clutched my foot and yanked me. I didn’t want to leave my warm world, but the music lured me out of my comfortable, wet darkness and carried me out toward the light; to the cold surface where I’m blinded. Is the world not prepared for me? I couldn’t open my eyes, but I could hear, “It’s a boy. Phoebe, you have a son!”
I scream in the key of C major.
Phoebe blinked repeatedly and then rubbed her eyes. One of the nurses attempted to hand me to her, but her arms dangled like limp pieces of rags. I’m all tucked down somewhere snuggly and warm when all at once I recognize the scent enveloping me. Confused, I sense things, but can’t place anything at this time.
She squinted, scanning the room. “Oh, Wesley! We have a son!” Her voice sounded hoarse. “Wesley, where are you?”
I squealed even louder. I wanted to say, “I’m here, my Darling!” But I only managed to let out a scream in the language of a frightened baby! Frustrated, scared and confused! What is happening? Where am I? My surroundings were so bright that fortunately I couldn’t discern the white masked creature lifting a knife toward me. I wailed and once again, I became disconnected.
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What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
So many, but one that stands out as a binge-worthy book is “Lust for Life” by Irving Stone. Written with raw insight and emotion, "we follow the artist through his tormented life, struggling against critical discouragement and mental turmoil and bare witness to his creative journey from a struggling artist to one of the world's most celebrated artists.”
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
“Curse of the Ninth” with its “beautiful description and engaging author writing style,” is a supernatural mystery, unlike anything you’ve read before. A compelling read with a strange mixture of the occult, historical reference, and poetic prose, it’s a haunting read you won’t want to put down.
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Runs August 1 – 31.
Drawing will be held on September 1.
Ruthie Marlenée is a California native and lives in Los Angeles with her husband. She is blessed to have her children and grandchildren nearby.
A James Kirkwood Literary Award nominee, she also earned her Writer's Certificate “With Distinction” from UCLA. She is the author of several novels: “Isabela's Island,” “Agave Blues” forthcoming from TouchPoint Press, 2021, and is currently working on the sequel to “Curse of the Ninth.” Marlenée is a ghostwriter, screenwriter, novelist and a poet whose work can be found in several literary publications.
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