The Shadeland Sorrows

This is the first half of the prologue of a novel I’m working on. I have more complete, but i wanted to put a small sample out just to see if any interest was to be had. The plan is to finish it by the middle of next summer. This is an unedited, unproofed, untitled copy. Any and all feedback is highly welcomed and encouraged.

 

The Shadeland Sorrows [Working Title] (Prologue Pt. 01)

 

Prologue

 

John, staying low, stepped out of the doorway. Through the fog he could just make them out; tall, thin shapes, gliding his direction. He remained crouched and scurried around the edge of the building keeping close to the wall. Carefully he peered back around the corner. The things were moving at the same stately pace as before and they appeared not to have seen him.

He was a skinny fellow, middle aged, flirting with old, his short brown hair unkempt. He was wearing a tattered brown coat that would have looked quite fashionable a decade or two ago and plain pair of jeans. He also looked long overdue for a bath. Months of hard travel could do that to a person. Weeks of constant pursuit would do that to anyone.

 

Moving quickly John started down the street, his eyes constantly probing. The tall ones weren’t the only thing to worry about. He stayed perpetually hunched over, keeping as close to the shadows of the buildings as he could, leaving nothing to chance. His long, tattered coat flapped behind him. It was the edge of dawn and this part of the city was late to rise. There was no one to ask him his business, or enquire why a man of his age would be moving with such haste; a blessing and a curse with those tailing him so close.

 
He’d have to risk it, John decided. He started going car to car, trying the driver’s side door at each. At each locked door his spirit continued to sink. He began to think he would have no luck at all but after trying more than a dozen he finally found one that opened. He leaned in and his luck held; the keys were in the ignition. A ghost of a smile passed his lips, the first in weeks it felt to him, as he slid behind the wheel.

 
John looked back up the street in the direction from which he’d come. There were no sign of his pursuers, though that didn’t mean much. They weren’t the smartest of Daniel’s Gunstelings, but they could be clever. John glanced around for witnesses. Not that it would matter; his options had run out, his course was set. He fastened his seat belt, started the car, and made a wide, looping U shape in the street. He was going east. After what felt like years he was going home.

 
The car gave a savage lurch as something with an immense weight crashed on to the trunk of the car. The front wheels momentarily left the asphalt, before bouncing back down, jerking the car sharply to the left. Cursing John gave the wheel a sharp jerk in the opposite direction, overcorrected and sent the vehicle into a barrel roll. Screaming metal filled John’s ears, and something else. Faint, barely audible under the sound of the cacophony of twisted metal and crunching asphalt was a child’s laughter. No, laughter wasn’t quite right; it was more of a giggle, full of mirth, as though what was happening to John filled the child with pure delight.

 
The car flipped four times, five, then finally settled landing on its wheels. The roof was smashed in quite badly but mostly on the passenger side. John was bleeding badly from a cut in his head, his left leg felt broken. Fortunately the airbag and safety belt had done their job and cushioned some of the blow. Several people were coming out of an apartment building nearby drawn, no doubt, by the commotion. John shook his head, trying to clear it, his vision swam. The world was trying to go dark; blood ran into his left eye, he reached up to wipe it away. The giggling sound had stopped and John wondered if perhaps he had imagined it.

 
“Are you okay?” A young man asked. He was standing near the passenger door, trying to open it. He was pale, his voice full of concern. The door was stuck, too badly damaged from the crash.
“I’m fine.” John said and gave the fellow a weak smile. The young man stepped back. John reckoned he must have been a gruesome sight, all that blood pouring from his scalp the way it was.

 
His head was beginning to clear and he looked around. There was no sign of whatever had caused the crash. That was good, there were too many innocents around for a confrontation, and he couldn’t afford to draw any more attention to himself than he already had. Hell, he thought, if I’m going to have any chance of getting out of this one I better get moving.

 
He freed himself from the safety belt and ran his hand over his left leg. He didn’t think it was a break after all, just sprained at the knee quite badly maybe. He could move on it but running was likely out of the question. He felt his head. The cut was bleeding quite badly but seemed shallow. He tried his door and found it jammed. The window was shattered; shards of glass poking from the frame, but it seemed the only route to go. He pulled the sleeves of his jacket over his hands as best he could and began to hoist himself up through the window frame.

 
“Hey!” a woman shouted, “you shouldn’t do that! You should wait for an ambulance, you could be really hurt!” She was walking around the car. Unlike the young man she seemed a little surer of herself. She was close now; John gave a heave and rolled himself out of the window onto the ground, winding himself in the process. The woman, a young brunette wearing a hand me down cardigan, knelt beside him.

 
“Hey, hey just take it easy. I think maybe you’ve hit your head harder than you think. You need to lie still.” She reached for his shoulder and John rolled to his side, gasping for air. He hauled himself onto all fours and paused to catch his breath. In the distance sirens were approaching. John placed a foot beneath him and stood; the world swimming. Shaking his head to clear his vision he took a slow tentative step forward.

 
“Sir? Hey, you really need to sit down or something. You can’t just leave! You need to go to the hospital and what about your car? Insurance? Where are you going?” The woman grabbed his arm. John tried to pull away but as week as he was, not just from the accident but from the weeks leading up to it, it was no good. Her grip may as well have been a bear trap. He turned to look at her.

 
“I’m fine, trust me.” He said softly and gave her the best smile he could manage. In his mind’s eye he could picture it. Blood covered madman, barely able to stand, telling you he was fine; the picture of health without a doubt. He didn’t like what he was about to do but his options were limited. He reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a small revolver, showed it to her and returned it but left his hand on it.

 
“I’m right as rain, and I hate to do this, but please you are going to have to let me go.” He said. The woman quickly let go of his wrist and stepped back, suddenly not looking so sure of herself. Her eyes widened, her hands lifted to shoulder height and hovered there; her mouth formed an “O” of surprise. Without taking his eyes off of her John half walked, half shuffled toward the sidewalk, his eyes darting between her and the small gathering crowd.

 
When he reached the sidewalk, he forced himself to pick up the pace though the pain in his leg screamed against it. By now there were more than fifty people in the street and the sirens were alarmingly close. The mouth of an alley was two buildings down; it was his only hope. People were shouting for him to stop but he paid them no mind; face set he shuffled rapidly on towards the alley and went in.
John took a few steps into the alley and turned. Though what he was about to do wasn’t technically allowed there were provisions in place that allowed the use of magie. The main exceptions were in the protection of innocents or one’s own life. John felt this was a case of both.

 
He reached into his coat pocket and took out a small metal medallion. He focused intently, muttered under his breath a moment, and gestured towards the mouth of the alley. The asphalt convulsed beneath him, windows rattled in the frames of the buildings nearby and a few loose bricks fell from above, one scarcely missing his head. The asphalt near the mouth of the alley cracked and began to widen creating a fissure in the street that stretched the length between the two buildings. John watched for a few more seconds until the crevice became nearly six feet wide. Good enough, he thought, should keep the humans a bit at least. And turned to go. He returned the medaglia, now useless, into his pocket and hurried as fast as his leg would allow up the alley.

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