Excerpt: The Sojourner Part 3

In advance of the publication of The Sojourner on September 30, here is a short excerpt:

I am sitting alone on the deck of our lodge, legs propped up on another chair, looking down the ridge at the river valley and the towering mountains on the other side, when a car pulls into the main yard by the office building. A man and a woman get out and linger by the door, which is locked. Neither of them speaks, though they share glances. They do not appear to notice me, and I go very still, blending into the background of the cedar planking on the deck.

Michael, the proprietor, appears on an ATV five minutes later, all smiles, no doubt having seen them arrive. He brings the couple inside the office, and I use the opportunity to slip inside our chalet, watching intently from behind the blinds of our kitchen window. My self materializes beside me, a blank look on my face.

Go away,” I say, not glancing at me. My self heads to the door to go out to the deck. “Not outside,” I say before the door is opened. My self turns and goes back to the living room, no expression crossing its face. Continue reading

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Excerpt: The Sojourner Part 2

In advance of the publication of The Sojourner on September 30, here is a short excerpt:

In my dream, I am Joseph Aurellano. Not the Joseph Aurellano who lived in the Vancouver of Aeida’s universe under Meredith’s supervision. Some other Aurellano. Though Aurellano never existed. He was a construct of the Acolytes, a simulacrum of a person, intended only to keep me imprisoned and hidden. I remember almost nothing of his thoughts, what he did during those months when I was imprisoned there. Only a few glimpses, shadows of things, came to me, usually when I was lost to myself, in battle with Aeida for command of this body and mind.

Those times I managed to return during my imprisonment, Aurellano was already gone. Aeida returned, though without his memories, which made him pliable. How many times did I come back and surreptitiously make contact with Morris, before being thwarted by Meredith? I never dared ask him that. Never asked him how long it had been since I was exiled. Though it hardly matters now; it is something I don’t want to know.

In this dream—for they are all different, these dreams of Aurellano—I am in what appears to be a small colonial town. Spanish, if I had to guess, though it could be Portuguese. I am near a square with a large Catholic church. Facing it is an official-looking stone building. None of the other buildings nearby has any of the impressive size or permanence of those two. They are all made of bamboo or other trees, with thatched roofs, some on stilts. There is salt on the air and the smell of fish pervades everything, but there is no sign of the sea anywhere. Continue reading

Excerpt: The Sojourner

In advance of the publication of The Sojourner on September 30, here is a short excerpt:

The sound of birds chirping outside my window awakens me. Sparrows or swallows, or some other tiny, dull species that covers the globe in endless numbers. I sit up carefully, having made the mistake earlier in my stay of forgetting how close the ceiling is to the loft bed. Several painful mistakes, actually. But then I am always forgetting where I am. It takes effort to remember, to fight through whatever happens to me when I sleep.

At least I am certain of who I am. That part of me remains stable. Aeida is gone. Suon assures me I have not taken to wandering and plotting in the night. I trust her, as far as that goes.

It seems she did not betray me when I was with her at Osahi’s fortress, and she was not lying when she said she loved me. She does, though I cannot fathom why. I am a lost and broken soul in a foreign body. A pitiful thing who has done terrible deeds. The evidence of my failures is still with us: Ana and my self. It is Ana’s presence that provides the window to allow me to finally see the truth of Suon’s feelings for me. She is jealous of Ana and how much I care for her. Continue reading

A Look Back: The Forgotten Part 5

With the coming publication of the final volume of the Sojourners Cycle, The Sojourner, on September 30, we’re revisiting how it all began with an excerpt from the first book in the series, The Forgotten:

Meredith is the first to move, releasing her grip on my arms and plucking the button from my neck. She returns it and the one she wore to her jacket pocket while I rub my throat, the cold gradually receding from my skin. I am giddy with relief at our apparent escape and have a thousand questions, but Meredith’s face is marked by a coiled sort of anger that warns me from asking any of them just now.

By the time we leave the apartment, nightfall approaches, the sun low in the sky and the shadows long. We slip out the back into a taxi Meredith has called. She sends the driver on a circuitous route, watching out the back window for the entire trip, with the same grim expression on her face. When she is satisfied we have not been followed, she directs him to an apartment building called the Ivanhoe, an older brick building in a neighborhood I think is near to my own. Each floor, I note as we ascend up the stairs to the fifth, has a slightly unpleasant odor in its hallway, all of them distinct from the others somehow.

The apartment that Meredith brings me to is cramped and narrow, filled with ornate antique furniture too large for its rooms, forcing us to navigate with care in order to move about the place. There are shelves heavy with books, some of them very old, and the air is dense with the smell of them. Everything here seems to run counter to the person I met this afternoon; it has none of Meredith’s care or precision.

Seeing the look on my face, Meredith says, “It’s a friend’s. Someone they couldn’t possibly know, so it should take them awhile to find us again.” Continue reading

A Look Back: The Forgotten Part 4

With the coming publication of the final volume of the Sojourners Cycle, The Sojourner, on September 30, we’re revisiting how it all began with an excerpt from the first book in the series, The Forgotten:

Meredith drags me along as she runs, pulling my arm so violently I fear my shoulder might fly from its socket. Behind us I hear a cry in a strange accent, a word I think I know, though I cannot place it. I whisper it to myself as I try to keep up to Meredith and she glares at me furiously, yanking even harder on my arm. The sounds of pursuit grow nearer as we duck around a corner and into a broad alley, weaving around trash dumpsters. One of the pursuers—the man with the goggles, I am certain—utters a command that I cannot make out, and somehow I know they are splitting up to cut off our avenues of escape.

I begin to say something, but Meredith silences me with a glance. Directly in our path are two cooks in stained white jackets outside taking a smoke break, and Meredith heads for them with me in tow. They glance up in surprise at our rapid approach, their astonishment soon replaced by fear as they see the man behind us in pursuit. Their conversation silenced, they watch us, open-mouthed and frozen in place, as Meredith blows past them, carrying me with her. She throws open the door leading into the kitchen, with such violence it almost rebounds off the wall to hit us, and we plunge within before either cook has time to recover and do anything.

Inside we are met by a shout of anger from another cook and a stunned shriek from the waitress we bowl over as we dodge through the galleys. By the time I notice the scalding heat from the ovens hitting my face, we are already out of kitchen, emerging to find ourselves near a bar. A couple, with their arms slung over each other as they lean against the counter, glances up at our sudden entrance. Again I note the long delay before the surprise registers on their faces. Is time moving slower for me, each instant fuller than the last? Continue reading

A Look Back: The Forgotten Part 3

With the coming publication of the final volume of the Sojourners Cycle, The Sojourner, on September 30, we’re revisiting how it all began with an excerpt from the first book in the series, The Forgotten:

The Cafe Beano is a coffee shop on the corner of a busy avenue not far from the apartment building, a place I am convinced I have been before, though no memory comes to me. Yet I know where it is and can picture its cluttered interior, with tables and chairs strewn about seemingly at random, can smell the bitter coffee and hear the chatter of the menagerie of people gathered within its walls.

It is the specificity of these memories that seems the strangest of all to me. Why can I recall with exacting detail everything about the Beano, but not remember having been there or anywhere else in this city, wherever it is? It’s as if someone planted the memory whole within me, but left aside all the context, all the things that make a memory personal. This recollection could be anyone’s, just as I could be anyone, and that is what bothers me most of all.

Meredith might be able to help there, I reason, as I walk back through the park to the coffee shop. All those things that seemed so significant earlier—the couple talking, the movement of the light through the tree branches, the damp smell of the earth—I note now in a glancing way, giving them no real thought, my mind on how to proceed with Meredith. Did I reveal to her that I have no memory of who I am? Can I trust her with this information? Best to wait until I better understand what she wants and go from there, I decide. Continue reading

A Look Back: The Forgotten Part 2

With the coming publication of the final volume of the Sojourners Cycle, The Sojourner, on September 30, we’re revisiting how it all began with an excerpt from the first book in the series, The Forgotten:

I crawl from the bathroom, choking back sobs, my whole body shaking with fear and revulsion. I want to peel off this skin, cut off my nose and lips, all of my face. Perhaps beneath it all is the person I am, not this simulacrum. But who is that exactly? I have no sense, no idea of where to even begin. My mind is blank, my thoughts as unfamiliar as the face that stares back at me, though they tantalize at moments, almost seeming to be my own. My instincts have returned me to this place, it is all here somewhere within me. But for now I remain a foreign country to myself.

When I have recovered from my shock enough to get to my feet, I go to the kitchen to see if there is anything to drink. I fumble through the cupboards haphazardly, my search of the apartment only moments before already forgotten, and come across a bottle of rye and some packets of chai tea. I opt for the tea, not trusting my stomach with the alcohol, though the thought of oblivion is tempting. I find the kettle and fill it with water and plug it in, spending a few anxious moments waiting for it to come to a boil.

A phone begins to ring as I wait for the tea to finish steeping. I locate it in the bedroom atop a dresser amidst a scattering of detritus: loose change, receipts, and sunglasses, all stray pieces of a lost life. Looking at the display I see a name and a number and, while I try to call forth from my memory any details about the Meredith whose name appears there, the call goes to voicemail. The name does not seem familiar to me, but the number is a local one. How I know that I cannot say, but a quick search of the cell for its number shows the same area code. It seems likely that my instincts are correct again. Continue reading

A Look Back: The Forgotten

With the coming publication of the final volume of the Sojourners Cycle, The Sojourner, on September 30, we’re revisiting how it all began with an excerpt from the first book in the series, The Forgotten:

I remember nothing but this moment right now, as I walk through this park alone. Before, there was only darkness—not even darkness, something without substance at all. I emerged, whole but flailing, my feet carrying me forward before any thought or awareness had taken form. It is as though all that had been left behind, scraped away, in my journey from the void to this place.

The park is the sort one can find in any city, with grass and trees, footpaths winding their way through the greenery, and benches set at intervals upon which people sit. The surrounding neighborhood is equally unremarkable, a mixture of houses and apartment buildings with not a landmark among them. There is what looks like a school at the park’s far end, with a yard fenced off from the rest of the park and turned into soccer and baseball fields.

I have no memories. How did I come to be here? Clearly I was walking from somewhere, with some destination in mind. These facts elude me. Continue reading

Excerpt: The Double

In advance of the publication of The Double on May 3, here is a short excerpt:

The Grand Regent sits upon his throne, surveying the audience room atop De Gofroy’s tower. I stand at his side, as expressionless as I can manage, though I am suppressing a grin of delight. At long last, I have returned to my rightful place. A sub-Regent of the Watchers’ Order. A servant to the Grand Regent. A shield against all those who would stand against the faith.

The Grand Regent studies those gathered before him, casting his eyes from one face to the next, as though seeking to penetrate whatever walls they have built up to keep their secrets from the faith. That is against the Protocols, as we all know. What his gaze tells them is that he will see them revealed. And my presence says that, if he is unable to, the Order shall do the work for him.

Everyone here knows what that means, some of us only too well. I see Morris Loverne, that traitor, now rendered compliant, standing alert and stiff at the back of the audience chamber, ready to act should the need arise. It will not. His remaining loyalists within the Church have been arrested and subjected to the Acolyte’s ministrations. The rest are scattered to the winds. But with what he has already revealed and what I know, we shall find the rest soon enough. Laila Johar, the companion of my mind and enemy of the faith, has been overthrown and banished. I rule this flesh now. She is but a distant voice I barely hear. I have choked the life from her. Continue reading

Excerpt: Theoreticals of Illusories

In advance of the publication of Theoreticals of Illusories on February 1, here is a short excerpt:

I sit in the chill alone, another mile further down the road, staring up at the sky and watching my breath as it forms puffs of vanishing clouds. The air is the way only winter can make it, sharp and crisp, cutting at my lungs as it goes down my throat. Clouds are gathering, distant on the horizon, foreshadowing the storm I know is coming. Wind, snow, and tumult; the storm of our humanity will not even register.

I can see a fire in the distance, not far from where I crouch in the miserable shelter of a few trees. It must be no more than half a mile, if that, and I long to trudge across the snow to join whoever is there. To ask them if they will share their fire and perhaps a little food or drink, if they have any to spare. The commonwealth of all travellers on a cold winter’s night.

But I do not stray from where I sit in the frigid darkness, shivering and rubbing my hands together to try to put some semblance of warmth in them. The Commonwealth—my commonwealth—died some time ago, and I have no friends left to me. Certainly not in this place.

Does he feel as tired as I do? As hopeless and alone? Is he worn out and ready to quit, the strength to keep fighting drained by these endless hardships?

No, not him. For him, the privations and difficulties are merely proof of his righteousness. The blood on his hands only demonstrates the justness of his cause and the lengths he will go to stand by it.

For me, I do not enjoy this new world that he and his kind have wrought. That it is him, of all people, that I am forced to reckon with only makes it all the worse. If it were someone else, it would be another matter. It would not cut so deep.

As these thoughts flit through my mind, I finger the tome that I carry with me. It has only the dead in it now. The incantations here that my kind once worried over are now only the words of a forgotten tongue. I am its last speaker and I have sworn myself to silence. He and his kind have seen to that.

He has the silver and the gold, and our lives, so many I cannot even bear to count. And now he will take this last thing too, to bring an end to all this.

Continue reading