Kevin Lucia’s novella, Mystery Road, portrays something we all experience: turning points that cause us to reevaluate and ponder our lives. Mystery Road opens with the theme of crossroads—both literally and figuratively.
Kevin Ellison’s father had been fading away due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. His memory is sparked as he drives down a country road he was familiar with in childhood and sees a mailbox.
Kevin is taken back to the summer of 1990. He was 15 years old and headed out to play basketball with a friend. As Kevin rides along his usual route, he notices something he’s never seen before. Kevin thought he knew these quiet country roads like the back of his hand. On this summer day in 1990, he found out that he was wrong. Kevin sees a mailbox, and next to it, a narrow asphalt road. Kevin finds himself literally at a crossroads and decides that he has to see where this road leads.
He finds a house down that road. Even though he’s never seen the house before, Kevin can picture the inside. He’s never been in the house but has a clear picture of every room. He describes an odd feeling as if time froze there.
He meets a woman who makes remarks that he finds strange. She said that she had never seen a bike like his before. Kevin’s bike was bought at a local second-hand store and was 10 years old. When he goes into the house, everything seems to be from another time period. Then, she talks about her daughter and her boyfriend, who has the same exact name as his father.
The beginning of the story sets up a very interesting situation. Kevin is at a crossroads now that his father is dying. As he is on the way to see his father, perhaps for the last time, his mind returns to the point at which his life was just beginning.
The reader is drawn into the story by Lucia’s use of a very relatable situation and themes. Everyone has experienced milestones and crossroads in their lives. Most people have also experienced loss. The death of a loved one causes us to engage in serious introspection and contemplate our own mortality. It also brings on feelings of nostalgia as we look back at the memories, we have of the person we lost. It causes us to speculate about the present, the future, and to take a trip back in time.
After he tells his father what happened, he learns who the woman was who he was speaking to. Kevin slipped into a hole in time and met someone from his father’s past. She filled a very important role in Kevin’s father’s life.
In his story, Lucia’s character thinks about his love for The Twilight Zone and speculative fiction. Lucia’s story is like a revolving door, with each character experiencing a crossroads. Like The Twilight Zone, Mystery Road explores this by tearing a hole in reality that is subtly disturbing and plays with the reader’s fear of the unknown. However, Mystery Road is an original story that combines the eerie suspense of speculative fiction with suspenseful psychological drama. Lucia’s novella is poignant and nostalgic.
Like Stephen King, Lucia presents everyday people dealing with something extraordinary. With Mystery Road, Lucia spins an original tale and incorporates little-used concepts such as time loops and residual energy. He uses these concepts to explore themes anyone can relate to.
Lucia knows how to bring a story to life. Overall, Mystery Road is well written. Lucia’s dialogue is sparse but clever and witty. His prose is poetic and flows gracefully from page to page, making for a pleasant read. His novellas are brief but are multi-layered, deeply moving, and full of nostalgia.
Mystery Road isn’t filled with gory scenes and gut-wrenching terror. It’s a subtle type of chill, goose bumps down the spine as the fabric of the everyday normality we take for granted opens up from a subtle tear, a small rip. Lucia draws the reader into this scenario in a way that’s engaging, unveiling the story sentence by sentence and word by word. He draws the reader into a situation that is original and therefore unpredictable
As Kevin sees that mailbox, this is the small rip that opens up a hole in the fabric of everyday reality. He chooses the alternative path at that crossroads and faces a disturbing alternate reality. He experiences something completely out of the ordinary. But, as Lucia writes, as much as we can speculate on an extraordinary experience, we can theorize but never explain. However, these experiences, these crossroads are thought-provoking and are a cause for us to pause and contemplate our everyday reality. This alone can cause us to have a much-needed insight perhaps into our current reality. Therefore, is it important how or why something occurs—or just that it did? Experiences are what shape and change us, sometimes for the better or maybe temporarily for the worse before things can get better. It’s food for thought nonetheless.
While it’s not terrifying in a bloody, gruesome, or grotesque way, Lucia’s speculative novella is a subtle psychological disturbance that is thought-provoking as the reader may wonder where Lucia will go in the next sentence, next chapter, and next page. He brings the reader fully into what the characters in his novella are experiencing. Temporarily I was brought to that crossroads and left to wonder, what’s next?
Mystery Road includes another novella, A Night at Old Webb, which follows up with Kevin Ellison one year later. His father left him a bookstore which Kevin is preparing to reopen. As he and his employee, Cassie, are rummaging through files and books, he comes across a package addressed to him from his father. It contains an old notebook of his with a recollection from when he was 19 years old.
The Old Webb is an abandoned school where Kevin hung out with the rest of the local teenagers. One night, he meets a mysterious girl named Michelle. No one seems to know who she is or where she came from. She and Kevin have two engaging conversations before she simply disappears. However, one of his friends finds out who Michelle is or may be.
A Night at Old Webb is an entertaining and suspenseful ghost story with a meaningful message.
In both stories, Lucia serves up some supernatural horror with an original twist. Both stories are clever, engaging, and poignant.
Kevin Lucia’s most recent novella, The Night Road, from Cemetery Dance Publications, was published in April 2022. Crystal Lake Publishing published his first short story collection, Things Slip Through, in November 2013. Lucia followed that up with the collections Through A Mirror, Darkly, Devourer of Souls, Things You Need, October Nights. Lucia currently serves as ebook and trade paperback editor at Cemetery Dance Publications.
Mystery Road is currently available from Cemetery Dance Publications.