Let me tell you about the first time I saw Fairchild.
I was working at Papa John’s — the day shift. I had just moved back to Athens after a blurred year away, and it was the first job I found. It was terrible money, and ultimately destroyed my car at the time — but hey, free pizza.
One of the big tasks that I had to do everyday, was food prep. All of the various pizza ingredients had to be carted out of the walk-in freezer. The cheese had to be fluffed [no-shit technical term], the meats had to be sorted — and all of the vegetables needed to be prepped fresh each day. The tomatoes were chopped, the onions were diced [pure misery], everything sliced and prepped with a big steel knife.
I hated it, but in a mute sort of way. It was systematic and mindless. Plenty of time to plot my escape, or let my mind wander.
For some reason, I really did enjoy cutting up the green bell peppers.
For the uninitiated, here’s the process. You cut off the cap [stem part] with a knife, then scoop out the seeds and guts inside. Then you would toss the whole thing into a big chopper with a crank, a few spins and out would come eviscerated vegetable.
It’s hard to explain exactly what I enjoyed about it. Other than the wanton destruction. The peppers were always nice and cool, and pleasantly crisp when you sliced into them. It was neat and self-contained, a little green world — protected by a thick barrier. Chop up onions, you get more onions — chop up a green pepper, you are Galactus.
One day I cut the top off of a bell pepper, and found something new.
The pepper looked completely normal on the outside, maybe just a little twisty at the bottom — but inside was a tiny green growth, a nub of another pepper growing inside. It was a much brighter green then its host, almost fluorescent green, twisted and strange growing in the center of things.
My immediate thought : “This is what cancer is.”
Because it wasn’t a blight, or a bug — it was something that grew from within the little world, innocent and merry and green, green, green. All it wanted was to grow, and was blithely unconcerned with what that meant for rest of the pepper.
I’ve scanned the internet for a good picture of one of these things, and I absolutely cannot find one suitably impressive.
This is a red pepper, but you get the idea.
It was just so pleased with itself — that’s what struck me. So vibrant and wicked and sure of itself – it almost waved in delight to be discovered.
Look what I am doing, it said. It’s so very nice inside of here, would you like to pull up a chair? Things are going so well!
That image sticks with me. And so when it was time to create a villain for the last act of Lodestar — the green, green cancer sauntered into my mind, as blithe and merry as ever. A devil, a prince of devils dreaming of being King. A trickster and a manipulator — one so very, very sure of his success. Fairchild, the King of Glass. He had appeared in bit parts in other stories, but it was time for him to take center stage.
And if the heroes of Aufero aren’t most clever and potent, he will sit on the throne of my little world until the end of days.
But even if they succeed, I know the image of the green pepper in my mind will survive — so Fairchild will too.
A short story that features my green devil – The Cost - if you care to peruse.