Spoilers, yo. Don’t read on unless you’ve already read Strings.
In Strings, Barry is really the protagonist of the story, even though it’s told from Grey’s point of view. Sadly, Grey’s point of view is rather limited (I love him, but he’s a self-centered little thing), so we don’t get to learn a lot about Barry until it’s too late.
Thus, because I love you (and I want this wiki to rock), here are a few fun facts you won’t find in the book:
- He was Greek by blood; his parents immigrated to the United States after he was born.
- He was divorced; amicably enough, but he and his wife just couldn’t make it work. Which is hard, because he had two children, an older girl and a younger boy, who live in upstate New York with their mom. He saw them every other weekend and on holidays.
- He was moderately religious; not a lot, but enough to darken the door of an Orthodox temple a few times a year.
- He was rich; which may or may not have been obvious, but seriously. This dude owned his own bar in Manhattan. How did he get that way? Hard work, a lot of smarts, and some really good opportunities and partnerships.
- He was driven. Barry Ballas always wanted to do something really, really good with his life, but he never figured out how. When he was in his twenties, he invested in a lot of causes, but – disgusted with the way those causes were often mishandled – stopped doing that by the time he was thirty. He considered joining the police, considered joining the military, considered joining the Salvation Army, but none of these things ever felt quite right. It’s like he was called to something greater, but that something failed to leave its return address.
- He was strong in will and heart, but never honestly knew how much fortitude he had until the Slivers came and got him.
Slivers are a whole other monstrosity I won’t discuss here. Suffice it to say that once he found himself devoured, the imprint of who he was rose to the occasion in a way he’d never had the opportunity to do in life. Once the Sliver ate him, he knew this thing would go after his family, not to mention how many other innocents.
He didn’t really know how to beat it. He didn’t; how could he? He’d never even known monsters were real until this one slithered up and ate him one horrible night. So, taking control with his considerably stolid willpower, he went back to work, and tried to figure out what to do.
Barry got heavily involved in the Kin and occult underground in NYC, but he never found his answers; this kind of information just wasn’t available to the part-human crowd. He’d already avoided seeing his kids twice in a row when Grey stumbled into his bar. Why? Because he could feel this thing slowly taking him over – preventing him from ever sleeping, showing him people’s auras like tasty cotton candy, and stealing brief seconds of time. Even one second at a time was enough to scare the crap out of Barry; he wouldn’t risk his children’s lives for this.
He was actively considering suicide when the first Sliver came for him one tired Wednesday night.
He beat it; managed to kill it with a combination of fire and his own fortitude, though he had no idea the Sliver wasn’t really dead. In the process, he also met the small gathering of people who’d been hunting the thing: Josh (the “younger teen”), Andrew (the “older teen”), Paul (“camo”), Cassie (“short-shorts”), and Peterson (“pinstripe”), to use Grey’s nicknames for them. Barry and this small group got busy and got it done, and they managed to damage three Slivers by the time Grey showed up for the “death” of number four.
They really thought they were going to win. Barry even dared to think that maybe, once the last one was killed, just maybe, he could get his life back.
Learning otherwise when Grey and Notte came into the picture was devastation on a whole new level.
He had no hope of getting well. It also meant he’d have one chance, and one only, to end this horror.
In one of the weirder moments of his life, while Notte came to visit, Barry discovered he could hear words on the wind in Peterson’s apartment – and that the wind was carrying messages from Notte, back and forth. They had a whole conversation while Grey went through his mini existential crisis; and by the time Grey was ready to act, Barry had already made up his mind.
For the sake of the future –
For the sake of his family –
For the sake of these brave, bereaved people he’d fought beside –
He knew he had to die. But by hell, he was going to take the monster with him. Like Grey figured out just a little too late, Barry Ballas goes to show that the real hero isn’t always the obvious choice.
Notte was correct; Barry set up everything his family might need before he died. He wrote letters for his kids’ birthdays through age twenty-one; he wrote one long letter to his ex-wife, saying things he knew he should have said years before. He cleaned up his affairs and made sure all legal and financial details would land where he wished. He was ready to die; he made as much peace as it’s possible to make.
As Grey figured out a little too late, Barry Ballas just goes to show that the real hero isn’t always the obvious one.