In the twelfth chapter of Blackout, I have never been so frightened or experienced such suspense from a scene involving parents in my whole life. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Blackout.
Because of the nature of this chapter and the Masons, I do have to talk about abuse (generally) and parents. Let this serve as a warning in case this triggers you!
I’m partially relieved that no one commissioned me to read this, though I will say that I really love reading aloud. It’s fun, it challenges me to think about words and diction differently, and y’all get the chance to see that I write exactly the same way that I talk. There is no dissonance there. But every so often, something I read or watch hits a little too close to home, and chapter twelve is definitely one of those things. (Actually, I think that’ll make chapter fourteen easier to stomach, since I’m already aware of where it’s going to take place.)
The Masons have always existed as this nebulous past for Georgia and Shaun, more so for Shaun than Georgia. Which is something Shaun explicitly mentions! I was impressed that Grant spent so much time analyzing what the Masons meant to each of the characters here. For Shaun, they’re people he despises. They abused him for ratings, they nearly took him to court after Georgia’s death, and he has no love for them at all. Georgia aspired to be her father, despite knowing what terrible parents she had; she actively wished they were different. And for Becks, these are the people she looked up to, and now, as she meets them, she has to cope with the fact that they’re not the image she has in her head.
Getting to finally meet the Masons was nerve-wracking precisely because we had rarely experienced them in the present-tense. They almost solely occupied flashbacks and anecdotes, so there was going to be a sense of anticipation surrounding them no matter what. Plus, I knew Shaun hated them, so any interaction with them was going to be awkward and miserable becauseâ€¦ well, Shaun doesn’t have much of a filter.
What I didn’t expect was how much this would haunt Shaun. The fact that Shaun and Georgia are both concurrently experiencing a “haunting” of sorts is not lost on me. In this case, though, I found a pit developing in my stomach as Shaun finally stepped into the house he once lived in. Here’s why:
Papers and clippings from the U.C. Berkeley student newspaper â€“ printed on actual newspaper, although it was hemp, not wood pulp â€“ covered the refrigerator. The urge to open it, grab a snack, and go up to my room was as strong as it was unexpected. Walking into that kitchen was like walking backward through time, into a part of my life where the biggest thing I had to worry about was whether the new T-shirt designs in my shop would sell well enough to justify their printing cost.
I’ve spoken openly about my teenager years, so it might be familiar for you to hear that I once had to do exactly what Shaun is doing in this chapter. I ran away from home just before I turned seventeen, and I did not step foot in my parents’ house for two years. I ran away to escape the endless torment of psychological and emotional abuse, the homophobia, and the stifling grip of my mother’s authoritarian hand. In those two years, I did not once consider going back home an option.
After I graduated high school, I spent a few months at a family friend’s house after my godfather’s family kicked me out of their house when I was outed by someone at my church. It got me thinking about how disorganized and chaotic my life was, about how I was going to leave town to attend college at Cal State Long Beach, and how I might not ever get the chance for some closure. So I told my brother a couple of days ahead of time to make sure my parents were home on a Saturday, and I walked three miles to their house to hopefully repair my estrangement or give it up.
I remember the exact same feeling when I stepped into that house after my father let me: the memories rushed back in, and I almost went straight into my room to drop off my bag. To this day, I cannot spend too much time in that house; I haven’t spent the night in five or six years. That house is haunted. It is haunted by the death of my father, the countless things that happened to me and flare up every time I’m reminded of them. I can’t look at the encyclopedias because they remind me of getting a bad grade on a test (anything that wasn’t an A) and having to read an entire letter’s volume in order to eat dinner. I can’t go in my room because all I think about are the terrible nights I spent there. I can’t go in the backyard because I remember accidentally breaking a window and the fear that settled in when I knew I’d have to face my mom’s wrath when she found it.
Memory is a funny thing that way. Painful memories seem so willing to bubble to the surface in this context, and though I’ve reconciled with my mother and we have a great relationship, those memories are still in that house. Reading this chapter was just like that, and I understood Shaun’s emotional response to being in that house.
Combine this with the relentless sense of tension that comes along with the dialogue that Grant writes, and I think you’ll understand how intense this chapter is for me. Shaun does not hold back here, letting the sarcastic and insulting replies flow freely. And who could blame him? Even in these moments, the Masons are performing. His mother is giving Becks the impression that there is no negative history between her and Shaun. When Mr. Mason shows up, it’s more of the same. I understand that Shaun’s dad is being polite to Becks, and I don’t fault him for that. But it’s the way these parents operate as if nothing is wrong, as if they didn’t try to drag their son into court over Georgia’s files, as if they haven’t used these two kids for ratings their whole lives that truly eats me up. Shaun puts this in such a simple, gutting way:
No wonder they adopted us. We weren’t just another way of bringing in the ratings. We were a living attempt at exorcism.
And while I understand the Masons for doing this, it’s deplorable that Shaun and Georgia never became more than this to them. This is clear when Shaun realizes his mother is wearing a camera in her ear, disguised as a camera, or when the Masons are excited about the prospect of getting Georgia’s files to help their “only living son.” I see through their facade, and it enrages me, too.
Alaric’s unpublished entry worries me, by the way. It’s stressful that After the End Times is split up because I have no clue what the others are doing. I really hope someone isn’t selling them all out, though. Things are bad enough as they are.
Mark Links Stuff
–Â I amÂ now on tour!!!Â I have 26 events spread out across the eastern HALF of the U.S. and Canada. They are all free and all-ages. Come see me speak about the Mark Does Stuff Universe and read terrible fanfiction live!
-Â Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsÂ is now published and available for purchase!Â It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
-Â Commissions are still open while I am on tour!Â There may be a day or two delay to get them done, but I am accepting them graciously to help fund my tour!