The Scream of years


Volume 1: Shine and Shadow
Here you can find samples of what I am currently working on. The content of this page will change periodically. Today's excerpt is from "Shine and Shadow", the first volume of a projected time travel/horror series, "The Scream of Years". More excerpts will be posted soon.

The stench of blood hit me the moment I opened the door.

It had been a long day, full of the usual trials of a high school teacher at the end of the week. Now I stood and gagged at sight of my wrecked apartment, keys dangling from my hand, laptop bag still over my shoulder.

Someone had died in here, and whoever it was had put up a struggle.

The trail of carnage started in the lounge. The television was smashed and upturned; the sofa pillows hacked open so their stuffing spilled out; cracks had appeared in the plaster of the walls; a vase of roses, a gift from my mother, was broken into a hundred fragments, the flowers scattered across the grey carpet. A blood trail began near the upturned coffee table and led in thick red drops to the kitchen.

In there, it was even worse: a wide pool of wet blood on the floor, and splashes of blood up the walls, and smears across the laminated surface of the benches. The refrigerator door hung open, the contents disordered. A jar of mustard lay smashed in the middle of the blood pool. Knives from the cutlery drawer were scattered. Above the sink, that was full of unwashed dishes from breakfast, the cabinet doors had been hit by some heavy object, wrenching the doors half off their hinges.

The reek of blood made bright flashes of light before my eyes. Shaking my head to clear them caused the laptop to slip from my shoulder onto the floor. The dull thud rattled broken crockery on the counter.

There was no body. But there had been one. Who? Someone with access to the apartment, obviously. I hauled out my phone and opened the list of contacts. My brother Robert had a key—oh God, not him! One of my parents? No, it couldn’t be them, they were on a holiday in New Zealand. The phone’s screen grew misty through tears. My breathing became laboured. I brought up Robert’s details onto the screen, and pressed the speed dialling.

There was no answer.

That could mean everything, or nothing. Robert sometimes ignored his phone, no matter who it was. The answering service came on.

“Rob! It’s April. Give me a call. As soon as you get this message. There’s been a…look, just give me a call, will you?”

The phone wavered in my hand. Everywhere was more devastation: books pulled from the shelves, pictures wrenched from the walls. A quick look at the other rooms in the apartment revealed nothing in them had been disturbed. At least the destruction was limited to the lounge and kitchen. In the bathroom I splashed cold water on my face, which stared back from the mirror as drops fell from chin and hair.

I wandered through the flat again. Nothing was missing, not that there were any valuables worth taking apart from my cello, a good quality Bellfina that was more expensive than it looked. It was still in its case. There were no visible signs of a break in, no broken windows, no smashed locks.

Why hadn’t the neighbours heard anything? What about Mr Horton next door? But the old man was deaf, and in any event always visited his son on Fridays.

Call the police, obviously. I hauled my phone out again and started to dial, but stopped when a chill ran through my body.

Someone was approaching me from behind.

I spun around, but there was no one there.
The feeling of a presence continued, and the prick of something sharp at the nape of my neck, as if someone was holding a knife point there. I rubbed my hand over the spot and felt a coldness.
Someone behind me,,,,someone in my head…

“Who’s there?”

Sound is colour to me. Music is patterns and tones of light. There was an approaching sound, and flashes of red and orange in my eyes. But the sound wasn’t in my ears, but a steady rumble as of distant thunder in a certain place in my brain. I’d experienced these things once before at the age of thirteen, the flashes of light, the growl of bass frequencies in a slow crescendo. It meant—

Dear God, not them!

Had they done this? Were they coming for me? Automatically I looked about for somewhere to hide. A stupid gesture. There was no way to hide from the Maegri.

It had to be them. They were approaching out of the Now, coming for me, perhaps to finish off whatever was started here.

I stood helpless, trembling, the sound growing louder and louder, the scent of drying blood filling my nostrils, the taste of the saltiness on my tongue, the red/orange/red flash of lights…
Somewhere very close outside lightning struck the earth. In the same instant there was a crash of glass in the bathroom, like the mirror had shattered. It was an accurate arrival, right down to the second.

Well-timed or not, whoever it was might need help, might even right now be bleeding from the broken glass, but I didn’t go into the bathroom. The lights and sound vanished instantly.

The bathroom door opened; footsteps down the hall. A man entered wearing nothing but one of my bath towels wrapped around his waist. He did not appear to be bleeding. An old man—old even for a Maegri: grey hair, worn in a tight ponytail, wrinkled skin with a lot of scar tissue, particularly across the stomach. He had the jade green eyes of the Maegri, the same as mine. He shivered uncontrollably, even in the warmth of the flat.

“Sorry,” he said, “I seem to have broken your bathroom mirror.” His voice was old too.

I stood up. “Who are you?”

He smirked. “Yes, fine. Thank you.”

He seemed to notice the destruction of the apartment for the first time, gazing open-mouthed at it. Then his legs gave way.

I helped him to sit up, cast a throw-rug off the sofa around his shoulders and fetched a couple of blankets from the linen press. He was still shivering as he wrapped himself in them.

“This is my epoch,” I repeated, just to remind him who was in control.

He looked up at me, big liquid eyes that had seen too much, perhaps; the corners were shot with blood, but that could be from the time travel. Screaming was a bitch: the lightning, the bitter cold, the feeling that one had been beaten senseless by some huge brute. All part of the cost. He would recover from the cold soon enough, but needed something to eat, since even undigested food didn’t time travel when a Maegri did. There was some cold pasta salad in the fridge. I fetched it and put on the electric kettle to make coffee, stepping around the blood on the floor. He ate a plate full of pasta ravenously, and didn’t speak until he was finished. When he did, it was just, “Thank you.”

“Coffee?” He nodded.

Fortunately, two cups had been spared the carnage and escaped the spray of blood that had decorated the rest of the kitchen. I rinsed them under the tap just the same.

What am I doing? This is a crime scene for God’s sake. I’m making freaking coffee in a freaking crime scene.

On my return, the man was still on the floor, back against the sofa. He slurped his coffee, wrapping both hands around its warmth.

“I hope you recover soon.” There didn’t seem any particular need to be friendly.

“You don’t recognise me?”

“No.”

“My name is Griffin diAngelo. I know you’re April Tooms. Or is it something different now?”

“No, it’s still April. Always has been.”

He nodded and slurped his coffee and we drank in silence for a while. Was I supposed to feel more surprise than this? He wasn’t the first Maegri to enter my life, but he was only the second. About seventy years old, perhaps. Under that skinny frame there was a sense of muscle. The scars that covered his lower body looked vicious, but old, healed white and hard. It looked like he’d literally been sliced open and stitched back together with string.

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