For anyone reading this who doesn't know me I recently became a father which has taken up rather a lot of my time and left me more than a little behind in my writing.
I did however submit a story ("Boxed In" which appeared in the BFS Winter Journal 2010/11) to Escape Pod (a rather excellent podcast) not really expecting them to take it. Lo and behold they liked it. Not just liked it; they bought it! I signed the contract the other day and I am just a wee bit happy about it.
Hopefully this will create a little more traffic here so I really have to get posting again. To get me started I am posting my story "Soul Search" which was published in Abolute-X-Press' anthology "Thieves & Scoundrels". Give it a read and let me know what you think. There might even be another story or two for this universe in the future, who knows.
The first thirty-five floors of the building played host only to non-magickal humans, so I had no problem slipping by the security guard with a simple glamour. He smiled as I walked in and greeted me as if I was his best friend, even though it was the middle of the night. A quick scribble to indicate a signature and he was wishing me all the best. It’s always bad when the beginning is so easy; you tend not to pay as much attention as you should to the events that follow. A lesson I had learned the hard way. Still, the Cailn didn’t like the dark so I’d be okay.
I paused at the bank of elevators, closed my eyes, and felt nothing, which was strange; the elevators should have been warded up the wazoo. Reaching out to press the button, I felt it. A tingling across the pad of my finger made me hesitate; I moved closer and wrinkled my nose as I caught the sour stench of Yra magick. It was amazing. The wards were so tiny and intricate, like nothing I had ever seen before. Even if I could have made them out properly, it would have taken hours to unravel them. Hours I didn’t have.
With a reluctant glance back at the elevators, I headed for the stairs. I was definitely not as fit as I should have been. The seemingly endless flights of stairs were taking their toll, so much so that I nearly walked right through the barrier separating the thirty-fifth and thirty-sixth floors.
The wards here were much larger than those downstairs. The smell was different too, like spicy food and milk, with a touch of gasoline. Three types of magick combined: Cailn, human, and something from one of the lower planes.
Once my breathing had calmed, and my muscles no longer burned as much, I closed my eyes to get a better look at the sigils on the wall and stairs.
For the most part it was an organic flow of Cailn magick, a twisting neon green pulse, mixed with the bright red curves and corners of human magick. Woven through these were three brown slashes; they had the look of violence about them. Demon magick.
I let the power flow to my hands and carefully began to unwind the ward’s strands. I had to stop seven more times on my way to the sixtieth floor. I was amazed at how simple the magick used to protect this place was. Other than the marks smelling of gasoline it was pretty run of the mill stuff. After that first set, I had a taste of what they were using and was able to raise my own defences. As I did, the rich coffee scent of my magick wafted around me, comforting as ever.
The sixtieth floor had two sets of signs on its doors. The first, for the everyday human, welcomed you to MGen Labs Inc. and politely explained that entry beyond this point was for authorized personnel only. Thank you very much, have a nice day.
The second set was only for people like me. It was nowhere near as friendly and the
warnings weren’t quite as polite. Basically, it let me know that if I dared enter through these doors one of their pet demons would tear my face off. Pleasant.
I could already feel the cage they had set up within the door itself. I wasn’t sure what it was holding but I was pretty sure it might screw up my plans for the rest of the night. A look at my watch told me what I already knew; this was taking way too long. I had until dawn to get it done and get out. After that my power would be severely depleted.
In the middle of summer, dawn came early.
“Screw it,” I said. It was barely a whisper but the door seemed to hear. It began to writhe and I got a lung-full of gasoline.
Training kicked in and I could feel magick surging through my body. Without thinking, I unleashed a bolt of energy at the door, bursting the physical structure open before the creatures could haul themselves out of their cage. And then I ran straight into the lab.
Behind me, I could hear reality fracture as the demons forced their way onto our plane. I didn’t dare look back, not even to see what kind of being was after me; the twists and turns of the lab demanded my full attention. There was no point in fighting. If I didn’t get the vial before the sun poked its head over the horizon, I was screwed anyway.
Power still lay coiled in my body, barely held back. I couldn’t afford to let it go yet. They would be coming whether their demons got me or not.
I expelled a little power behind me, adding an extra burst of speed I knew I would have to pay for later.
The walls trembled as I ran past, the clinical white warping and twisting; they were trying to come through. I caught a glimpse of Gregan’s face, the plaster pulled taught over his angry features before it sank back into the wall. Behind me, the monsters roared like some kind of demonic tigers, but they weren’t close enough to catch me.
I found what I was looking for in Gregan’s office. The small vial holding Sophie’s soul lay cradled in a wooden stand; it had pride of place on the bastard’s desk.
The glass door shattered as I ran through. I didn’t stop as I grabbed the vial, just lowered my head and threw energy out before me.
The wall exploded, and glass rained down on the streets. I stepped out into nothing,
and wings burst from my back fuelled by the power I had stored.
I had her.
Behind me Gregan arrived on our plane roaring in fury. Sophie’s soul flared bright
in my hand and I felt her energy urging me home, to reunite body and soul.