A quick apology for my extended leave of absence from blogging. For those of you who are interested, I’ve been under the weather for a couple of weeks, and busy with work and other commitments.
The Endless Circle has been selling well on Amazon. I’m well into the next book by now, which has the working title of Coals of Fire. Just to whet your appetites, here’s a sneak peek at the prologue:
* * *
He was tired.
He had been walking for a long time, of that he was sure. What he was less sure of was exactly where he was. Not that it mattered. All that mattered was that he kept walking. He had to keep walking.
Before him the plain stretched out for mile upon mile, a flat grey wasteland featureless save for the mountain-range lying low on the horizon. Buildings rose all around him, their lights bright in his eyes, neon shades of red, green, white, blue, yellow. Horns blared, drivers swearing as they swerved to avoid him, and the silence of the waste surrounded him on all sides. Shapes loomed in front of him, bodies and faces indistinct, mouthing senseless words at him as he passed. They were not there, so he ignored them.
He was sweating. His clothes were drenched with it, his forehead slick with it. He trembled as he walked, weaving from side to side, tripping over tussocks and colliding with bollards. He looked over his shoulder, squinting through the haze, trying to make out the form pursuing him, but all he could see were indistinct shadows.
Shadows and air.
A sudden stinging pain in his leg made him stagger and fall to his knees. He clutched at the place, and something dislodged from his flesh and clattered to the floor. Someone spoke, but the voice was low and slurred and he could not make out the words. A hand fell on his arm; he started and lashed out, his knuckles connecting with bone, and the voice became a shout of pain and he was knocked down again.
He tried to push himself up, but he could not. His arms were like jelly. Hah. Jelly. He liked jelly. They gave it to him with tangerine pieces in it, but he picked them out and just ate the jelly. Rachel had the tangerines. She liked tangerines, but not jelly.
Something was happening. Darkness was closing in at the edges of his vision. He could not move now: not his arms, his legs, his head. He lay with his cheek against the cold pavement, nestled in the rough grass, watching the stems of wildflowers waving in the breeze as feet and legs clustered round him and voices jangled in his ears.
It was so quiet here. He had forgotten just how beautiful it was. Peaceful. Still. No noise. No pollution. No cars, no aeroplanes, no people.
Sirens wailed, there in the other place. He shut them out. He preferred it here.
He did not hear the paramedics asking him his name, or where he was from. He did not see the torch they flashed in his eyes. He did not feel the plastic muzzle they held over his nose and mouth, or the cold hiss of oxygen it delivered. He did not notice them lifting him on to a stretcher and sliding him into the back of the ambulance.
Instead he lay and watched the clouds float by overhead, and imaged that they were the forms of animals.
The man in the driver’s seat revved the ambulance’s engine, turned on the siren, and pulled away into the traffic. His colleague in the back checked the boy’s breathing, his pupil reflex, his pulse. A heartrate monitor beeped quietly in the background. After a few minutes she looked out of the window.
“Take Westminster Bridge,” she said. “Less traffic this time of day.”
She turned and opened a cupboard, took out a bottle and a prepacked syringe, tore open the packet, slid the needle into the neck of the bottle, drew out 10ccs of clear liquid, felt for the boy’s carotid artery, gently eased the needle into his flesh, and depressed the plunger.
The heartrate monitor began to beep faster.
The beeps became urgent, signalling danger. A light began to flash.
The beeps merged into a single continuous tone, and still she waited, for another whole minute, before she reached over and switched off the machine. Her face was set, her eyes distant. She checked his breathing again, his pupil reflex, his pulse.
The driver glanced back at her. “How is he?”
He nodded, then switched off the siren and slowed down. “Good. Call it in.”
She did not move. Her hands were clasped together, the knuckles white. He glanced back again.
“You all right?”
She nodded tightly.
“Don’t think about it,” he said. “It’s a job, that’s all.”
She nodded again, but still she did not look at him.
He gazed ahead into the central London traffic. “And anyway,” he said, “it’s not like they’re even human.”
Three minutes after the first ambulance left another pulled up. The paramedics clambered out and looked for their patient, but there was none. After questioning the onlookers they radioed their dispatch centre and reported the incident. The reply came back: No other vehicles had been dispatched to the scene. File a report with the police. Come back to base.
They looked at each other and shrugged. It was just one of those things.
As they climbed back into the ambulance and pulled away a man at the back of the crowd dialled a number on his phone and held it to his ear.
“It’s me,” he said a moment later. “Yes. No, I was too late. They got another one.” He listened. “Yes. Yes. All right. I’m on my way.”
He slipped the phone back into his pocket, then turned and walked away.
He did not look back. No-one noticed him.
* * *
That’s it. It’ll be interesting to see how much it changes as the revisions go by.
I’ll be back with more Endless Circle and Christmas Cat soon.