As Doc Brown would say, “Great Scott!”
My lovely, dark lady, Cadence Laurence, has had the first instalment of her tormented, dystopian future released today in ebook form (Kindle, Nook, online read, however you want it). Breaking Cadence is a love story, a rescuer’s tale and the account of a daring escape that pulls together zombies, giant spiders and the decomposed values of a society struggling to exist on their predecessors’ leftovers.
Already available on Smashwords (for any eReader device [Nook, Kindle, Kobo, etc], as a PC read, an online read & a mobile device in the following forms: ePub, Mobi (Kindle), PDF, RTF, LRF, PDB, Read Online) and on Amazon (Kindle & other devices), I will be updating its book page as the links filter to B&N and iTunes (iBooks).
And now for an excerpt….
It was raining the day we were outcast. And I blamed him.
I drove my car over to their house, windscreen wipers flipping in the heavy downpour as my headlights grazed the row of small suburban bungalows. This was one of the more populated areas but the street was quiet. Nobody was out.
A streak of white caught my eye. My brother’s car sat comfortably in their driveway, engine off. I pursed my lips together and tugged my eye patch a little further down. I would be unwelcome, but they would just have to deal with that.
My car pulled smoothly to a stop, barely any noise emanating from the wheels in the kerbside puddles. The headlights died, leaving the faded ginger streetlamp the only light source. I took off a glove and wiped the rain residue from my brow as if it was sweat. It dripped from my sodden hair, staining my cheeks and clothes. I’d been walking when she’d called over to me, all filled up with panic. A stroll to reminisce would have to wait now.
The box on the seat behind was still there, strangely reassuring me in the rear view mirror. It was white and well cared for even though the dress, once entombed, was no longer inside.
But these things change.
Heavy hearted, I swallowed, glancing up at the house between the shadows of running rain on the window. If it had been anyone other than Sera who’d asked I wouldn’t have gone, but I’d sealed all our fates when I’d said yes to her.
Yet, hesitation clawed at me. He should be old enough to look after himself and to follow the rules, but obviously that was too much to ask for. This was not somewhere I’d choose to go. The cold windows of the house stared back.
I still remembered the family inside. They despised the tainted ones.
Tainted one. There was only me, now, to claim that title. All others had drifted away or died. I established the knife in my belt, just in case, and then stepped out of the car. The rain had grown heavier. It hit my coat like a shower of lead shot, reminding me of long days in the Wastelands. It was always heavy there when it came.
My key checked the car door with a soft chink like locking it would really matter in a place like this. My shadow cut a dark line in the dull orange light. The neighbours were probably watching behind their darkened curtains, but the street remained eerily quiet all except for the sound of the skittering rain. The silence didn’t bother me any more. I moved past my brother’s car, hand sliding across the cold, wet paintwork as I passed.
He would be inside the house courting the girl, but that was no excuse for taking that thing from Sera. He was getting us all into trouble.
I stepped up to the door and instead of simply turning the handle, I knocked. An uneasy feeling unfolded in my stomach like the separation of haemoglobin and plasma in a bag full of blood. Crimson and ochre. You were always supposed to knock, but I hadn’t knocked in a very long time.
The door opened filtering out a cold light. She stood there with curlers in her hair, feverish rings under her too wide eyes like a ventriloquist’s dummy. If her lips hadn’t compressed I might have mistaken her for one of the Infected. Her shock died down, her eyes tightened to small holes. It didn’t take a genius to work out that she’d recognised me.
“I don’t want you in my house.”
It wasn’t really her house; it was just one of many things inherited from long dead inhabitants, but there was little to gain from arguing with her. To her and plenty of others I was already outcast.
What was going to happen would make no difference to that.
“He’s here and I need to see him.” I raised an eyebrow at her impassive façade. “Is Maurice inside?”
Her eyes flared for half a second, telling me all I needed to know. Diplomacy wasn’t usually my strong point where committee members were concerned. My hands tightened into balls and I tried to soften my tone, gentle but unyielding.
“Let me in, Wilma. I’ll speak to my brother and I’ll be gone.” She didn’t inch from the door, her pincers curled around the wood. My gaze levelled on her, cool and calm. “I give you my word.”
“What good’s your word?” she hissed, retracting from the entrance nevertheless.
I stepped inside, moving smoothly past her as she recoiled. Frightened rabbit syndrome scratched her gaze. Once upon a time, I might have sympathised, but now I didn’t care having been treated to her cruel words and unkindness more than I deserved.
The kitchen felt loveless, the kind of place where food preparation had no passion and eating was a task forced in silence. It was a graveyard to fine dining, the pale bulb sluicing everything in a jaundiced light.
Wilma still held the door ajar, her eyes burning into my back. Her disdain hardly registered any more. Instead, I focused on the voices in the other room. The girl’s laughter wrinkled my nose. Silly teens. I pushed through the door, soft browns and pale creams divining nothing but a washed out heart of a so-called living room.
They were on the sofa. My brother saw me first, rolling his gaze and wrenching his lips into a twist of disgust. “If they sent you to spy on me–”
“You took Sera’s pet.” The words were hushed. “You know what’ll happen if they find it.” My hem dripped dark circles onto the faded carpet, pooling around my boots. My brother’s mouth moved into a line. I could see the cogs working in his skull, preparing his angry excuse. “I need to take it now, before you get us all into trouble.”
“I don’t see what the big deal is–”
I raised an eyebrow and watched him stop. His defence was frail and we both knew it. Everyone knew what the big deal was. “I need to take it now.”
The girl peered over the edge of the sofa, big eyes and mousey hair. My brother sighed and headed for the stairs. We followed, me and the doll creature, her casting disconcerting glances my way. I didn’t blame the girl. Her parents had probably told her I would infect her with my wickedness or something.
I was the modern leper.
By the time we reached his girlfriend’s bedroom, he’d already dipped inside and retrieved the creature, stuffing it in my hands like a ragdoll. I bit back a snap for his carelessness and cradled it to my chest. White fur quivered, pads warm on my palms. He needed to think before he acted.
That was always his trouble.
We were halfway down the stairs, him grumbling, when Wilma’s gaze set on the large ears protruding from below my hand. There was no way for me to cover it up any more.
The older woman froze in her steps like she’d seen Death.
Her eyes pulled wide, rings of red expanding and trembling with fearful rage. Light glimmered on the unsteady knife in her hand, the sharp metal encrusted with butter and crumbs.
“You bitch! You rotting piece of filth! You brought that vermin in my house! Diseased! It’s diseased! Infected!”
Spittle collected on her lip, the brandished blade shimmying in the light as she pointed it towards my heart and the animal cradled beside it. I felt the creature stir in apprehension below my fingers. The rollers in her hair jiggled around her ginger curls, as loose as her mind.
I couldn’t reach my blade. Not with the rabbit too.
“Mum!” the girl called out over my shoulder, her voice vibrating against my skin. “Please mum! It’s just a rabbit. Alex brought it so I–”
Spit flecked from her lips. Red knuckles yellowed around the shaking knife, her face a putrid shade of purple. Stare locked on Alex now.
“I should have known you couldn’t be trusted with my daughter when your sister’s this- This–”
“Say it, Wilma, don’t keep us teetering on the edge of our seats here,” I said with dry disdain, lashes half-shuttered in disgust. Find an edge, keep her angry, make her do something stupid I could exploit.
Her nostrils flared, eyes bloodshot and round. Silver gleamed yellow in the sickly light. “This whore!”
Silence rang in the absence of her voice, fuelled by the puce vibrations that angered her face. The walls echoed with the raging chime.
Nobody moved, scared to even inhale. There was a battle for who would lend a breath to the volatile air first. The kids quailed in my shadow, but Wilma didn’t scare me. Not any more. I bit the bullet with dark derision, almost knowing what would come after.
“There you go…”
White fur bristled with the same chink of precognition that I felt a split-second before the crazed bitch ran at us. I dived away from the stairs, shins connecting with shoddy wood, almost crushing the rabbit into tatty chintz. The chair wheezed tobacco and sweat, Maurice’s stench. It rattled my stomach with nerves.
Wilma wobbled to her feet. Ginger frizz dangled on one side of her head, rollers gripping on for dear life. Crazed pupils fixed on me as she powered to her feet.
I twisted and rolled out of the way, rabbit cradled between arm and chest, just in time. She wrenched the knife backwards. White plumes kicked the air, a new memory added to the grotty cushion cover now yawning feathers.
The stupid young girl was screaming on the lowest step. Hands cupped her ears, shutting out the pitch of her own god awful screech. My brother tore from comforting her and pushed her aside to get to me, unsure and too inexperienced to know what to do. Inadequate, he remained motionless at the bottom of the stairs, mouth gaping like a fish.
Wilma’s blade scraped the wall a centimetre too close to my head. Words spilled from lips. Bloody threats and vindictive terms for what I was crashed against me, burning my skin. Ornaments cried out, throwing themselves in her path. I made it back to the stairs seconds before the door crashed open, startling us all.
Rain slanted in, black as tar. Wilma was still behind me, but I hesitated as the voice called out.
Definitely not Maurice.
I didn’t hear what he said but those tones smashed through my mind, ringing out a cacophony of memories that fluttered as moths in the dull shade of a yellow moon. I wouldn’t let that dim light get to me. It had to be a mistake.
Seizing Wilma’s distraction, I thrust the rabbit into Alex’s hands and drew my knife to the rabid housewife’s throat. Her blade thudded to the floor.
“Get her the fuck out of here!” I snapped at my brother, waving at the wailing creature with too much hair. “Go home and wait for me there.”
He stumbled, fumbling arm around the distraught girl as he juggled the rabbit in the other. Gloved hands retrieved the creature from him as he passed through the door. I didn’t dare to look at the figure’s face, only catching the glimpse of his gloves clasping and soothing the frightened rabbit beneath his fingers.
Car keys clanged amidst hysteria and the crunch of drowning gravel. The knife was almost too steady in my hand. Wilma’s breath hissed and bubbled, her anger still frothing madly away. She simmered like a too hot cauldron beneath my grasp.
The door didn’t close.
He stood there, the shadow of my past. And I refused to look.
Metal slammed, cutting off the raucous girl’s tears within the white vehicle. Pebbles plunked against the garage gate in a flurry. The car engine revved, my brother’s tyres spinning as he ripped back and roared down the rain swept street with the heavy ka-chunk of every gear change.
“Wilma, you listen to me,” my voice was stiff, hardened by his presence lurking in the doorway like a waiting reaper. “You know I have no qualms about slicing you up. So don’t you dare fucking move until we’re out of that door or I swear to god I’ll slam this knife right through your throat.”
She swallowed like she remembered the quality of my aim.
I glanced up, acknowledging his presence for the first time as a panel inside slid home to hide my feelings. He didn’t blink, just nodded, instinctively knowing what I was thinking. It was like second nature.
I let go of Wilma without warning.
Cream and cheap chocolate paint scraped the sides of my vision in a blur. Feet pounded the half-dead carpet, reaching for the door. She realised too late that we were escaping, but still I heard her sprint for the cabinet.
I snorted softly. “You expect me to believe that you came to town looking for a cure? I’m not stupid, Zander. There is no cure. There never will be.”
“Oh there is,” he assured, staring right at me. “There has been for years.”
Decontaminated. Deflowered. Defunct.
Cadence Laurence has suffered pain and humiliation at the hands of the town committee, but the saving grace of her torture means nothing when her brother, Alex, and his girlfriend, Kitty, break the rules for the last time.
Now the only place they have left to go is on the run in the unforgiving Wastelands, a place where sand spiders and the Infected become the least of their problems when Cady’s ex-lover escapes her darkened past and deepens their plight with an agenda of his own.
Dodging Wastelanders out for blood and Kitty’s father determined for revenge, can Cadence avoid a bite from the Infected long enough to save her two wards and escape or will her ex-lover’s plans destroy them all?
Warning: Mature content with reference to criminal, adult-themed acts that may serve as triggers.
Genre: Dark Fantasy | Action | Supernatural | Dystopian | Science-Fiction
Urban Fantasy| Alternate History
Published by Katarr Kanticles Press – April 4th 2014
Dystopian with apocalyptic elements, Breaking Cadence scratches in at 51, 162 words.
And if you read it, please leave a review – I’d love to know what you think!
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