Focus (Shadeland Excerpts, Draft)

Sharp and clear he sees it.
Burning with his own sick confidence he steps forward, hand outstretched, a grin of agony upon his face. Expectation etched upon his brow. At long last the prize is within reach! Closer he steps, fingertips hovering mere inches away crackling with an electrical sensation. They shimmer in and out of view, seemingly unnoticed by this man, this… thing.
Curious.
He reaches to grasp, sure of his triumph in this moment, an exuberant cry upon his lips. The scene darkens, he grasps only air. Confusion, uncertainty, dismay, and, in the end, DESPAIR claims his mind. Everything goes black.

                 *Focus*

 
In the distance, through the dense foliage, through the lush canopy of trees I search. The colorful boughs and blooms, vines as thick as my biceps whip past my face. Drenched I shiver, the days when I had a warm bed and an office in New York are long gone.

 
The days when there was a New York are long gone.

 
A cry erupts from the thick brush on my left. Something ancient, something primordial, something I would have scoffed at had I been informed of just a few short years ago. In my world creatures that made sounds such as this either didn’t exist or were gone, long before man had left his cradle.

 
I ready myself, the sweet smell of the Gladionas filling my nostrils, and await the beast. If I’m to meet my death, I’ll stand ready.
I see a bit of movement from the brush. The leaves explode outwards in an impressive wave there it is! I leap to the side just as…

 

 

*Focus*

 
“Tyler! Hey Tyler, wait up!”
I turn and see my old friend David hustling to catch up with me, briefcase tucked under one arm, a Styrofoam cup in each hand. I can’t help but smile. Sometimes it seems some of my best memories start with Dave playing a game of catch-up.
I pause before the elevators, let one group go before me, co-workers, some I know, some just faces in a crowd. All of them rushing about their day delivering important documents or the next big stories. The glamorous life of a high-profile tabloid publication.
Dave finally catches up and holds out a cup.
“Hey, your favorite, coffee, black and cheap. Living large, just like we always knew we would.” He smiles.
Tyler gives a nod of thanks and takes the offered cup. He pretty much hates coffee but needs the energy so he doesn’t turn it down.
“Thanks Dave, you know me so well.” he says.
The elevator doors open and the two step inside. A minor miracle occurs and, for the moment, just the two of them share the car down as they depart the 23rd floor.
“So, does Bosman still have you writing up the Five Killer?” Tyler asks.
“Nope, you didn’t hear? They found him. Ended up being an EMT that worked over at Jacobi. Sick guy. He tried out some of his handiwork on a fella who was a little livelier than his other victims. The instead of his usual easy prey the guy fought back, overpowered him, and was able to hold him down until rounds came through.” Dave shook his head, “Real Shame. A few more bodies and I would’ve had the cover.”
Tyler gave him a reproachful look and shook his head.
“Hey, I’m joking, I’m joking! Relax, I’m glad they caught the guy. Still, I could’ve used the bonus.” Dave shrugged.
The elevator stopped to let a couple of people on then continued its steady progress.
“How about you? Anything good coming up in The Quarter lately?”
The Quarter. This was the nickname employees had given to a small section on page three near bottom right. It didn’t quite take up a quarter, but “Quarter” had a better ring to it than “Two-Fifths”.
In The Quarter you could never be sure what you would find. News about a “Miracle Cure” for whatever had you down. Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Erectile Dysfunction. Hell, the Quarter had solved those years ago, multiple times. Sometimes you’d get a story about a heinous murder, complete with a one inch grainy black and white photograph. Every so often you would get a history lesson on some schoolyard tale that just wouldn’t die. Cannibals that called the city home. There were murders, rapes, arsons, burglaries; the only requirement for The Quarter is they couldn’t be easily proven cases, or they had to be especially heinous. The more odd, shocking, and bizarre, the better. The Quarter focused on the fatal and fantastic, the grand and grim. With The Quarters one never knew quite what to expect but Tyson liked it.
“I’m actually on my way out to the next big story now,” Ty said “apparently, some asshole crashed his car, pulled a gun on someone, then caused a miniature earthquake in an alleyway.”
“Perfect man,” Dave laughed, “been a while since you’ve run a crackpot piece.”
The elevator reached the lobby, the few remaining passengers departed but Tyler held Dave back.
“This should be a little different. Multiple witnesses, in broad daylight, and the spot where the earthquake happened is still there.” Tyler tilted his head back and finished the last of his coffee. “I can’t wait to find the magician that pulled this one off.”
*Focus*
Screams reverberated down the dimly lit halls. Male, female, young, old, Tarvin couldn’t tell. Too many twists and turns, the walls themselves, crooked with age, unnatural in their origin, didn’t help matters. He kept low, pausing by each door, listening, careful not to make a noise. The lighting is the dirty yellow of an aging, near dead, fluorescent bulb that seems to seep from the walls themselves. It isn’t steady, but seems rather on the verge of extinction, dimming and brightening with an irregular pulse. Tarvin, though tired, is alert. The Gunstelings do not know mercy.
It’s been twelve days and nights since he’s entered the manor. So far, it’s been one never-ending corridor after another. The one door he had dared open contained but a single table, with a telephone on it. When he approached it began to ring, each clash of bells louder than the last. Try though he might he couldn’t reach the receiver, it seemed further away no matter how much he moved towards it. This was a place of enchantment and illusion. He knew what he needed was in here, he had the clues, but so far, the answers had evaded him. His supplies were low and soon he’d have to resort to guessing.
If it came to that blind chance was all that remained.
Another door, silence.
And another.
A dozen more.
Crossing corridors. Again, he held out his Stok, and let it choose the way. Straight this time.

After an hour he sees a door that is somewhat different from the others. The first of its kind, unique in hue and shape. Cautiously he approaches, pulling his pack from his shoulder. He listens and hears a quiet scraping sound from inside. The sound reminds him of tree branches scraping metal. He steels himself, grabs the knob and eases the door open.
*Focus*

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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.