Tuesday, 6 October 2009

teaser tuesday

Teaser from my urban fantasy, THE INFERNAL FAMILY. Protagonist Johann is back in the wreckage of his home to pick up the body of his murdered son.

(Here be bad language.)


By night the hall glittered with broken glass, smeared with blood gone black, the carpet stiff underfoot. It looked unreal enough that he could pretend not to recognise it. Must have been somebody else who’d let his son die here.

A trail of black footprints led upstairs.

“You put him to bed?” Nicholas said.

“I couldn’t leave him there.” His voice cracked for some stupid reason. “Not on the floor.” Like an unwanted thing, a toy Johann’d ditched when it broke.

He went upstairs. If he didn’t touch the footprints it wouldn’t be the same as before, as the weight of his son curled in his arms, fingers slipping from his shirt. So he could look into Marcus’ room and not see --

Johann stopped, feet stuck, couldn’t take another step. Nicholas said “What?” and looked over his shoulder, and went silent.

The body lay curled under the duvet, hair fair against the pillow. Johann couldn’t look at it, but it kept dragging his eyes back, displacing his memory of cradling his warm living son. Marcus couldn’t be a huddled thing under a duvet, dead long enough to stiffen, he’d been bright and brave and alive and this wasn’t real, Johann refused to let it be. He wanted Marcus back.

“When I first took Marcus in he, he wouldn’t sleep in the room I gave him.” The words spilled out, even though it was a stupid story and Nicholas hated personal stuff. “I’d find him curled up in a chair in the morning looking miserable. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong, maybe he was scared of me or something -- But later I found out his dad walked out on him. Just left one night and never came back. So he only wanted to sleep somewhere where I’d wake him if I left.”

God, Johann’d been so scared back then. Scared of hurting him. Scared of him leaving. Scared of this fierce need to protect him. It didn’t make any sense that Marcus would want to stay, and every time Marcus crept sleepily under his arm and tucked his fair head under his chin Johann thought it’d be the last.

“He never does that any more. Did. And I left him today. I left him while he was sleeping. What if he wasn’t really dead yet, what if he woke up and I was gone, and he thought I walked out on him, I didn’t want him any more --“

The words were running down into useless babble, so he stopped. It wasn’t right that he’d survived.

“Stark,” Nicholas said awkwardly behind him. Johann reached out and took hold of his arm without looking, grip too tight but not caring about hurting him, and just -- focused on what was real. What mattered. Not this thing that wasn’t his son.

“Let’s just get this over with,” Johann said.

Something moved downstairs.

Both of them froze. Streetlights poured between the open curtains, a tide of orange creeping across the bedcovers, Johann felt trapped in amber.

The silence resounded. Maybe he’d imagined the sound. He was already losing his mind, it wouldn’t be a big leap from there to hearing things --

A door shut.

Hunters. In his home. Where they’d murdered his son.

Everything else slipped through his fingers. Fury fired up, hot and savage, settling in the pounding of his blood and the curling of his hands into fists.

When he went for the stairs Nicholas barred his way, knife already drawn, light jumping along the edge. “Could be anyone. Neighbour. Police. Drunk idiots who --“

Johann slammed him aside and took the stairs three at a time. Empty of people, the skeleton of the house passed by in a blur, the walls its bones, doorways gaping like sockets. A shadow moved in the kitchen -- Johann burst into the kitchen feeling alive and full of fire, smashed aside the hunter’s pathetic attempts to defend himself and threw him into a kitchen cabinet.

Wood splintered. Glass rattled in its frames. The hunter fell onto the counter in a cascade of cabinet wreckage, rolled off the counter clutching his ribs, slid to the floor. Johann flexed his hands and the fresh cuts on his knuckles stung; he liked that, proof that he could still hurt people.

The kitchen was a mystery now, shadowed and streetlit, no longer home. “Marcus and I used to cook here,” Johann told the hunter conversationally, hauling him off the floor. “I was never any good at it, but Marcus enjoyed it. Flour everywhere.” Marcus used to sit at the kitchen table and reread the recipe with furrowed brow, ticking off with mathematical precision things he’d already added. For a moment Johann pictured him there, real enough to reach out and touch.

Johann slammed the hunter onto that table so hard something broke, wood or bone, he didn’t care. The hunter choked and couldn’t scrabble out of his grip. “Doesn’t happen any more. Since you killed him.” He flung the pathetic human down with a snarl. “My boy was smart. Aced all his exams, he liked studying, he wanted to go to university. He could’ve done, I would’ve figured something out, I -- He used to sit right here.” Johann broke that chair with his hands, sudden bunch of muscles, satisfying smash. Another memory broken.

The hunter gripped the counter and pulled himself off the floor. His other hand skittered out for a kitchen knife.

Johann didn’t care. “Go ahead. You should have killed me instead, I would’ve let you, why would I care, he was just a kid, he was my son --“

The hunter smashed a jar in his face. It spilled white, the stuff got in his eyes and burned. Salt. Then the hunter slashed him across the ribs -- shocking cold at first, then the cut burned, warmth seeping through his shirt.

Johann hit the bastard in the face and rocked him back against the counter. The bloody knife Johann ripped out of his hand; he wanted to stab and stab but that would be too quick, Marcus had suffered before he died. Johann slashed him instead, going for his face but catching his upflung arm, cutting and cutting, red lines running down and blood smearing everywhere, the taste of salt in his mouth and stinging his eyes --

“Stark, what the fuck are you doing?”

He spun and Nicholas stood in the doorway, cold and stern and out of reach, and for a second Johann choked on the red urge to hurt him.

“What is wrong with you?” Nicholas demanded, his accent sliding into a vicious extreme. “You can hear him screaming from outside the house. So can all the neighbours you just woke up, and so will all the police they just called, who will find us in a ruined house with a corpse!”

His heart hammered, the knife slash stinging, hands slippery with blood. Nicholas always talked too much, stupid words that meant nothing. “Scared?” Johann threw back at him.

Nicholas narrowed his eyes. “Give me that knife.”

The hunter slipped as he tried to get up. Johann stamped him down, fury hot and blind, wanting to smash him into a red pulp he could squeeze through his fingers. “No.”

“Then I’m taking it off you.”

“This is what you do to things that scare you, isn’t it.” Johann lifted the knife, liking his sudden tenseness, not quite a flinch. “You get in their faces and dare them to hurt you. Like you did to the angel.”

“Go ahead.” Nicholas stepped right in, startlingly close. “Dare you.”


  1. I don't get why you have so many doubts about this book, missus, I really don't.

    It's fantastic. Yes, it's a difficult subject, but you handle Johann's grief and anger so beautifully. I think, if I were in his position, I'd be feeling exactly the same.

    Excellent. You really need to post more teasers.

  2. I'm with Sue: this is great stuff, very gritty and visceral and raw. The way Johann keeps flipping back and forth betewen frozen grief and killing rage is really quite riveting.

    Stop worrying!

  3. Para--this was awesome, tense, gripping stuff! I had a total gut-clenching reaction to when he goes upstairs and sees the body. It was heartbreaking. And then the tension later--so good!

  4. I can only echo the two ladies above! This is a great scene and you've done a great job with the feelings and everything!


  5. It's fantastic, as I thought from the beginning. Tense, gripping, and a totally awesome POV.

    Edie :)

  6. Fantastic scene! The way Johann switches between grief and rage is really powerful. Stop doubting yourself!

  7. Heart-breaking. In a good way.

  8. This is fantastic. It made me cringe and feel twisted with his grief, yet I couldn't stop reading and wanted to know more. Wonderful display of emotions.

  9. I'm really almost sorry Nicholas intervenes. You're building up to some serious catharsis, going to a dark, dark place. Yeah, stop worrying.

  10. I think this is great. You're really in control of the writing, the emotions - I don't know the backstory on the doubts you're having, but along with everyone else i'd urge you to finish it.

  11. This is excellent writing. It felt like I was there because of your description. It's all really vivid, and even though I haven't known these characters, I can already see what sorts of people they are. I'd love to read more.

  12. So I'm not entirely sure how I stumbled upon your blog, but I've been really enjoying the writing advice and this - this is awesome! I don't know why you're worrying; I've already gotten a great sense of the characters from this short piece and the prose is utterly lovely. I hope you post more <3