It’s tentatively that I release this first fragment of the next instalment in the Coals of Fire series. I’ve done my (albeit rough) planning, and I know where we’re going, but I’m still in the early stages of writing, so my uploads may be sporadic.
However, with my NaNoWriMo aim under my belt, and a bit of a cheaty head-start by getting going in October, I think I may be able to make it.
As previously stated, I’m writing Coals of Fire: Kindling in three parts (probably): The Golem, The House on the Hill, and Something Else The Title of Which I Haven’t Yet Decided.
With The Golem, I’ve planned a very specific 10-part story, with all of the parts interlocking. It has a nonlinear structure, with (hopefully) a small kick at the end. You may be able to spot some quite blatant influences as we go on — I happily admit that I have *ahem* ‘borrowed’ from other stories I admire, in the greatest and oldest tradition of storytelling. But I have made all of the parts my own, and so this story should come out as something in its own right.
So, without any further ado, here we go on the first part of The Golem.
Oh, and I should probably mention that, owing to the needs of the story, this definitely isn’t for the little ones …
* * *
Coals of Fire
The Golem: Part I
He wondered, briefly, why the alarms had not gone off; but by then it was too late. The muzzle was already cold against the folds of his neck, his bladder loosening as he knew it would, the silk sheets suddenly warm and clinging.
“I knew you would come,” he said in the hushed darkness. “Not you in particular, of course. But one of you. One of Theirs.”
“Thomas Eleutherios Skopos?”
There was no aggression in the voice; none of the menace he had expected. It was rather like being called in the doctor’s waiting room: there was that quiet, precise professionalism about the voice.
He sighed. “Do you know just how much money I have? I could make you … the tenth richest man in the world, maybe? More than enough to buy whatever protection you might need from them.”
A pause. Then: “Thomas Eleutherios Skopos?”
He laughed, as best one can laugh when one’s face is half buried in an orthopaedic pillow. “Are you going to keep asking that question? Will you only kill me when I answer it? Then I think you know as well as I that I will not answer.”
Another pause. Then the muzzle of the gun pressed harder against his neck, making him gasp.
“Thomas. Eleutherios. Skopos.”
“Yes! Yes, that’s me, damn you! Why do you have to ask! Who else would be living here? Now do your work and get out!”
The shape standing over the bed turned its head. The night scope over its left eye whirred softly. There were six cameras in the room, and listening devices planted beneath the desk, the dresser, and the bedside table. It had disabled all of the household staff, some in their beds as they slept, but it knew at least one of the microphones was hard wired to the local police station. That was the one wire it had not cut. It calculated that it had five minutes before the police arrived. It turned back to the man on the bed, shivering in his soiled sheets.
“Where are the files on Project Lamp-post?” it said.
Skopos laughed again. “You really think I’d tell you? You’re going to kill me anyway, so why should I talk?”
The shape lifted the pistol away from his neck, adjusted its aim, and fired.
The silencer suppressed the sound of the gunshot, but not Skopos’ scream as his left knee disintegrated in a mess of blood and cartilage. The shape let Skopos scream for ten seconds, until the shock kicked in, then pressed the gun against his cheek.
“Project Lamp-post,” it said, and through the red haze of pain Skopos realised: Not precise. Not professional. Dead.
“I don’t know,” he gasped, shivering as his body struggled to cope with what had just happened.
The right knee. This time it was less a scream and more a whine, like a dog being tortured: an animal sound, not the sound a man should make. Skopos writhed on the bed, crippled, bleeding.
“I don’t— I don’t—”
“Project Lamp-post. Tell me.”
“I don’t know, damn you! I don’t know! Just kill me, for pity’s sake!”
“Just listen to me! I don’t know anything! Please! Just listen!”
The right hand.
“Please! Please!” Crying now, sobbing, pleading, mucus running from his nose and mouth.
The left hand.
A strangled howl, inhuman, unnatural.
Skopos broke with fifty seconds remaining. By that time he was no longer a man, no longer anything except a quivering heap of flesh and bone. As the sound of sirens wailed nearer and the reflections of blue lights turned the red to black he parted bloodied lips and asked the final question.
The shape holstered its pistol, then leaned down so that its lips were level with the microphone mounted underneath the dresser.
“My name is Colin Michael Ashwood,” it said.
And then it was gone.
* * *
Enjoy your day!