Preview: Sanity’s Edge, progress report

This is a short excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Sanity’s Edge. Our protagonists Jamai and Youssou have left their homeland in exile; Jamai has chosen to leave Youssou, due to his erratic mood swings, and has joined a branch of the Order of Elias in the hopes of finding a place among people of her own kind. This is proving not so simple as she believed.

This is still a draft version and will be liable to revision. Comments and critiques are welcome. Enjoy.

The debriefing began that afternoon. Cyrano had the appearance of a well groomed wild man. He was taller than average and had to duck stepping over the threshold into Alejandro’s casa. His was a thick body with a flat nose that might have been broken on more than one occasion. And he had a mane, a literal flame red mane and beard with no hint of a mustache. All that was stuffed inside a deep blue dress suit whose creases had seen better care than his beard.

The other fellow, Lloyd George, was not so tall but unnaturally thin and clean shaven, even to his scalp which bore the signs of week-old stubble. He was also in a dress uniform, though his seemed more comfortably ivied-in than Cyrano’s. His stare darted here and there, taking in the surroundings while being unfailingly polite to Alejandro and me.

I found the big man’s interrogatories usually came in the form of a one-way shouting match. That, combined with the fact that apparently I might have been a little soft spoken, made for a bit of a tense session.

“I suppose the first time was when I was seven and the village ant totem–”

“SPEAK UP, GIRL! I CAN BARELY HEAR YOU!”

“–and that’s when I found out our elder Odu Molefe had been collaborating with them the whole time, can you believe–”

“DON’T MIX SUPPOSITION WITH THE FACTS! FOCUS, GIRL!”

I had to endure two days of this interrogation before I could even slip in one question, perhaps the only one that mattered to me. The small fellow, Lloyd George, tapped his padd like a mad keyboardist while the fat guy Cyrano sat as a rock on the Mara Plains, glowering directly at me. Alejandro was getting up to fetch us all coffee when I blurted, “Is there anyone else like me?”

Alejandro paused, recalling the one occasion I’d put the same query to him. Cyrano scoffed, “Certainly not. That kind of power in so youthful–”

“No, I mean, are there any other gifted people out there?”

“Like you?” Lloyd George prompted.

“Yes.”

The two interlopers exchanged arched glances. Perhaps it wasn’t so much a telepathic exchange as they’d worked together so long as a team that they thought along the same patterns. At any rate it was Lloyd George who answered.

“Why yes, we have wards much like you in our branches all across the globe,” he beamed. “Some have similar power levels to your own, some can be quite innocuous. Alejandro for example–”

“There’s nobody exactly like you,” Cyrano emphasized, and here his bushy mustache twitched at the right cheek. “Your powers are unique. That is why we’ve taken such an interest in you.” He seemed prepared to move along but I wasn’t done.

“I had another question.”

“Oh, what now?”

“I was wondering if you could help me find something to do with myself. Some kind of employment…”

“You want a job?”

“Y-yes,” I nodded. “I want to do something useful. It doesn’t have to be anything big. In fact I’d prefer it if I could find someplace not so public, where I could disappear in the back or something.”

“What do we look like, an unemployment office?”

“No, but you must have connections.”

“For Chrissakes, what do you think you’re doing here? You’re a murderess!”

Some dishes clattered in the kitchen. “I’m sorry…?”

“Huh, she’s sorry,” Cyrano huffed, nudging his companion. “You damn well ought to be. You should be grateful we’re even taking you in. we could be breaking ten thousand laws just hiding your sorry ass!”

“I didn’t mean to kill them, I panicked!”

“And how do we know you won’t panic in the future? What’s to stop you from doing it again?”

“Because I remember it! Because I can’t get it out of my mind!”

I had to stop; I’d started breathing in shallow gulps. Alejandro had to catch me as I slumped over the table with one hand bracing me up. Cyrano was noticeably silent, though his spirit matched the slow boil in mine. “Getting back to this business with Sydney,” Lloyd George interjected, “may I ask, umm, how did you know all that?”

“She told me. I already explained that.”

“Impossible,” Cyrano said. “We–!” He hesitated, cracking his fists as he huffed more deeply than before. “These are things known to only a handful of us on the Order’s Inner Circle. Sydney Merryman is gone. That’s established fact.”

“You may be wrong,” I said. “From what I could perceive Massoud didn’t want to steal our bodies. I don’t think the vast majority of Sydelle’s kin want to. They’re not after our bodies, our children, for their own pleasure. That’s just what we think based on what Sydelle has told us. I think they just want their purgatory to end. I think they just want to die.”

Our guests exchanged another doubtful glance. Lloyd George began, “Cyrano, maybe we should consider–”

“Oh don’t you be stupid too, man! It’s pure bullshit. Talking spirits? That’s never happened before. In the last five hundred years not one soul has been recovered, not one! Am I supposed to take this shit to the Inner Council, tell them everything we KNOW is wrong, based on the word of a stupid girl?”

“But my vision–what I saw–!”

“Maybe you filtered what your thought was a vision through your own perceptions,” Lloyd George suggested. That creature suffocated you. Perhaps oxygen deprivation caused you to fashion your ideas into a comfortable narrative.”

“No.”

“Miss, it is a possibility we should consider–”

“I said NO. I know what I saw and I won’t be dissuaded from that by the Fat Guy here.”

“Settle down, girl,” Cyrano growled.

“Who the hell do you think you–”

“SETTLE DOWN!”

Was it me, or did the rafters shudder? Dust sifted down from above as he continued. “Our people have been watching those maniacs for five hundred years. You can’t come crawling up out of the bush at nineteen years old telling us how to run our affairs. You’re barely out of diapers.”

“I’ve lived more in those twenty years,” I corrected him, heat rising into my cheeks, “than either of you fucking toubabs.”

“Cyrano…” Lloyd George’s eyes shone bright. He slapped a palm onto his companion’s knee. The fat one’s brow furrowed as his knuckles popped with what should have been a painful balling of the fist I was glaring at.

I had no idea what he could do and didn’t much care. “Oh please, try it.”

Senores,” Alejandro called, though honestly I think his voice only penetrated the periphery of our mutual glares. “Let’s call it a day, debemos? We should give these tense sessions time to rest before we resume.” Lloyd George nodded at least. After a few more moments where our eyes locked, Cyrano swerved his gaze away.

I pushed off the divan without a backward glance at either of my two acosters. “You can see them to the door, padre. I don’t know why I’m wasting my time with you people.”

Alejandro followed me as far as the circular stairwell leading upstairs. “Thanks for standing up for me,” I muttered. “You don’t believe me either, do you?”

“You have to understand it goes against everything we know,” he said.

Sweet Ngai, I didn’t want to talk about this. “Maybe I’ll just leave.”

Both hands slapped on his hips. “And where will you go?”

“I DON’T KNOW! Maybe I’ll go back to the bushes I crawled from, or maybe I’ll see if they’ll have me back at Abyei-Bentiu! That’ll make everybody happy!” it should have been satisfying to slam the door to my room on his face, but somehow it wasn’t.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.         Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

f & d cover

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