It occurred to me this morning that I haven't supplied my dear readers with a novel update for a while and people are possibly wondering if the damn thing is still in progress or lying gathering electro-magnetic dust on a hard-drive somewhere.
Well the good news is that it is still very much a work in progress. I'm chugging away at it steadily and am currently up to Chapter 8 - a grand total of 45,116 words to date.
Here, for your dubious delectation, is an extract from Chapter 6:
When I open my eyes the light has changed. The sky is the colour of luminous iron and the car has filled with the tips of long shadows. A blue light pulses somewhere from the back of my head. My eyes are blurry and sting when I rub them. I grimace as the smell of the car comes back to me. Caustic and bitter with an unpleasant twist of organic rot. I breathe in carefully through my mouth trying to bypass my nose. It’s getting dark outside. How long have I been here? I check my watch. 6.30. Christ. Cass will be home and wondering where the hell I am.
Next to me Trevor is unconscious in the driver’s seat. His head is tipped back onto the headrest and his mouth is wide open and loose looking, slightly moist around the edges. He reminds me of a drooling dog. I reach out and shake his shoulder. I’m groggy and move without any finesse. Trevor’s head jolts violently as I rattle his shoulders.
“Trevor. Trevor, it’s late. I’ve got to go.” My voice comes out in a dry rasp. I sound like I’ve spent the afternoon smoking weed. “Trevor!”
“What? What?” Trevor opens his eyes and regards me balefully. His eyes are bloodshot and red around the edges like an albino. He peers at me and frowns. It takes him a second or two to recognize me. “Mike...?” He peers in closer and then sighs. His breath smells like old mould. “Yes...” He nods. “Mike.” He looks exhausted. In the half light I can make out beads of sweat on his forehead and his hair darkened down with moisture. He rubs his face with one hand while the other remains on the book lying across his legs. It looks like a huge chunk of freshly quarried Yorkstone and Trevor a pre-Restoration peasant crushed to death for witchcraft.
“Trevor, I have to go – it’s late.” My head is spinning. How has it got so late? Where has the entire afternoon disappeared to?
Trevor nods vaguely but I see a sharpness returning to his eyes as he regards me. “Yes. Yes, of course. You may go, Mike. I’ll call in on you again soon. You’ll have the proof you need. We can discuss terms later.” He waves me off like a lord releasing a servant but I’m too out of sorts to react to it. “You go, Mike. Get yourself home. You can walk from here, I’m sure.” His head lolls back onto the headrest and I hear his breath hiss unpleasantly in and out of his throat.
“Yeah, whatever. Let’s just leave things for now, shall we?” I turn away from him, eager to be out of his presence, and reach for the door handle. I feel like a drunkard. It takes me three attempts to get the car door open and when I haul myself out I have to cling to the roof of the mini to stop myself dropping straight down onto the tarmac. My breath steams cloud patterns onto the metal roof as I labour to get air into my lungs and blood into my legs. I couldn’t feel worse if I’d sat through a long haul flight to Australia.
I stamp the blood into my feet and make an attempt to let go off the car roof. I wobble precariously for a few seconds but I don’t fall. That’s good enough for me; I’m desperate to be away. God knows what’ll be going through Cassie’s mind. I push the car door closed and without a look backwards push myself off. I aim roughly for the pavement and just about make it, my feet nudging each other like a pair of dodgems. Another drunk wending his way home. Up ahead of me, on the other side of the street, I spot an ambulance and the green and yellow uniforms of paramedics kneeling on the ground. The cold air on my face is wonderfully revitalising and I pause for a minute to suck it deep into my lungs. I feel cleansed by it and inexplicably healed. Slowly I feel the dull pressure of a gross headache lift from off the top of my skull and disappear up into the darkening ether. It’s like having a rotting mask removed by a crane. By the time I walk parallel with the ambulance I feel almost back to normal, just the running panic of being unbelievably late and the distant instinct of approaching trouble because of it.
As I glance over to the other side of the road the crowd of onlookers part briefly and I spot the tramp from earlier this afternoon lying on his back on the pavement. His limbs are strangely twisted as if he’d thrashed violently around him as he fell. Even in the dulling light I can see the whites of his eyes glisten flatly like clammy mushrooms. One of the paramedics is calling a report through on his radio but nobody seems to be in a rush to get him on board. I take that to be a very bad sign. I shake my head dourly but without any sense of true feeling. So long, Fagin... I don’t let it touch me. I’m comfortably numb. Insulated by the after effects of some kind of inebriation. Instead I push onwards through the evening light and navigate the familiar strangeness of the streets, my heart pulsing covetously. Heading home.