Wednesday. Middle of the week. Hump day. Just means another draft excerpt from the novel I’m currently working on – Black Earth: Dark Masquerade.
With Legion’s presence flooding the earth, Cynthia Ruin seeks refuge with Petrina, a woman she rescued from a cult group taking refuge on a boardwalk along California’s coastline. And so begins this week’s excerpt.
And if you want to catch up on the other excerpts I’ve posted over the last few weeks, here’s a handy list –
This week’s excerpt is intended for mature readers. Enjoy!
Excerpt from Black Earth: Dark Masquerade –
Cynthia’s arrow wound felt worse than it really was. The arrow had managed to miss her ankle bone, but she had lost a lot of blood. So much blood in fact, she was surprised she was still alive.
Petrina had Cynthia’s foot wrapped in gauze and fastened with medical tape. Petrina bandaged her own head with a strip of gauze as well, and both women received a mild dose of painkiller that Petrina had in her medicine cabinet. Petrina explained to Cynthia she was a nurse. Cynthia found this fact to be fortuitous.
Petrina got Cynthia settled in the guest bedroom of her two story beach home. It was a mansion compared to other houses Cynthia had been in, and she felt quite intimidated to be in such a place. Especially considering the condition of the world at the current moment.
They were both eating sandwiches Petrina made them from what was left in her refrigerator – ham and cheese.
“Why were you hiding out near the boardwalk instead of here?” Cynthia asked the woman.
“My husband was shot by looters once the stars fell. They tried to break in here and rob us, but my husband…he was a brave man. He defended our home, defended me. He became mortally wounded because of it. I didn’t have what I needed to treat him here, so I brought him into the city to see if I could find a doctor willing to mend him. That’s when things really got out of hand.” Petrina turned and stared out the tall window at the other end of the kitchen, overlooking a swimming pool out back. “A group of…of looters, I guess…they found my husband and me. They tried to take me…either to rape me, or…I don’t know.” She took a cautious sip of the fresh coffee she had just gotten finished brewing and turned her gaze toward the marble countertop Cynthia was eating her sandwich at. “We managed to find a hiding spot in one of the buildings near the boardwalk. Near that horrible boardwalk. We waited in that building for days, sure the looters were still searching for us. I left to find food at different times. My husband slowly died in the process.”
Cynthia decided she wasn’t hungry enough to finish her sandwich. She set what was left on the counter and felt tiredness sweeping over her like a flood.
“He died. I was left alone to hide and survive. It was horrible the first day. It got worse after that. I was captured at one point. Nobody did anything to me. I managed to escape. Then those fanatics…those carnival freaks out there…they got their filthy hands on me and that’s when you found me.”
Cynthia found herself staring out the window at the lit up pool outside.
“I was told you’d save me. A child of ruin.”
“Who told you that?”
Petrina pointed to the ceiling.
“Please,” Cynthia scoffed.
“You’re not the religious type, are you?”
Cynthia shook her head emphatically. “Thanks for patching me up. I need to go.”
Petrina reached out and took hold of her arm, gently, as her mother used to when she was younger. “Please…please keep me company a while. I have nobody out here.”
“If you stop talking about your god like he’s real. Deal?”
Petrina grinned. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“I’m not. I’ve seen enough proof there is no god. Take a look around. Look at all the darkness. Look at the fallen vessels, the destroyed cities, the President has -“
“She doesn’t control this world. She thinks she does. She’s being controlled herself.”
Cynthia huffed. “Well, I don’t doubt that. But there’s no way you can explain to me how your god exists and yet he sits up there in Heaven and does nothing about all of this. He just leaves you here to rot? Is that the way the caring, loving god I’ve heard so much about would act if he were real? This world is literally falling apart and I haven’t seen your god lift a finger to help us out of this mess.”
“Child, there are so many more worlds out there to explore. Mr. Silver…he found Anaisha. I have a ticket, you know, to get off this world and ride in one of his shuttles to Anaisha. A new world, a new start. I can buy you a ticket too if you wish to come with me.”
“You’re ignoring my question, as most people who believe in your god do.”
“I’m not ignoring it. If there are other planets, other worlds to explore, then we have other places to go. This may just be the end of the line for Earth.”
“Since you continually ignore my question about how you know your god exists, I’ll take that as an answer in itself. You don’t know that he exists. You believe in empty things and your faith is in a deity you wish existed because he sounds really merciful and loving. But he’s not, because he doesn’t even exist.”
“My God exists, and the proof is the fact that I’m still alive. Before being struck with that brick, I had prayed to God and He told me you would save me. A woman of ruin.”
“You don’t know anything about me.”
“Your name is Cynthia Ruin, is it not?”
Cynthia stood up from her barstool. “Are you a witch or something?”
Petrina shook her head. “No.”
“How did you know my name? How did those men know I was pregnant?”
“I’m out of here.” Cynthia turned to leave, stomping through the living room, not entirely sure where she was going to go once she left the security of the house. The clan of freaks from the boardwalk could have followed them here and could be waiting outside to ambush her. Cynthia stopped in the middle of the room, frightened at the thought of running into them again. She barely escaped once…she was certain she wouldn’t be able to again.
Petrina came up behind her and sighed. “If you’re going to leave, at least let me pack you a few things. Some food, maybe a weapon you can use in case you run into them again. You have a baby to protect, you know? I can’t let you just walk out there without some sort of protection.” She left the room, walking up the stairs toward the second floor.
Cynthia realized it might not be such a bad idea to stay here for a while. At least a day or two, let the boardwalk freaks get over their hang ups. Then she could travel safely to the next city. Set up shop there, find another apartment.
She stood near a large glass armoire full of miniature ceramic figurines and glass sculptures. Something in the case caught her attention and pulled it away from everything else around it – a statuette of a black cathedral. She drew closer to the case and gazed longingly at the statuette, realizing she had seen it somewhere before. In a dream.
“That was my husband’s,” Petrina said, appearing behind her as if she had never left the room. “He purchased it at a swap mart a few days before the stars fell.”
Cynthia wasn’t sure why she asked the question, but her mouth blurted out, “May I hold it?”
Petrina glared suspiciously at her for a moment or two, and then opened the case, pulling out the statuette. “Please be careful with it.”
“I will,” Cynthia said, taking the object from her. Chills ran through her arms.
“I don’t have any idea where it originally came from,” Petrina explained, keeping a close eye on Cynthia and the statuette. “I just remember my husband being mesmerized by it. He was like a little kid in a candy store when he first saw it. An old woman – she looked like a gypsy with her rags and the way she was old and frail – was selling them at a little kiosk at the swap mart. I don’t usually like strange things like this in my home, but he had his little heart set on it so I couldn’t say no.”
Cynthia examined the statue. One tall tower that resembled a black spire was flanked by three – no four – smaller towers. It was the same tower from her dream of Ryn. She turned the tower over to reveal an etching, something done in a line of symbols that Cynthia didn’t understand.
Petrina reached out to take the statuette back, and Cynthia started to give it to her, but then her heart screamed at her not to. Something was strange about it, something about the way the black material it was made of shimmered in the lighting of the living area. Something about the way the cathedral had been carved, with intricate lines and patterns embedded within the walls of the construct. And was that a small, stained glass window above the carved doorway?
The cathedral is Ryn’s world. The one he offered me to live in with him.
She noticed Petrina was pulling on the statuette now. “Do you mind putting that back now? It means a lot to me.”
“I can’t,” she whispered.
“Excuse me?” Petrina grabbed hold of the statue and attempted to wrestle it from Cynthia’s grip, but
Cynthia wasn’t ready to give it up. Not yet. Not ever. She pushed Petrina and the older woman fell to the couch.
“This is mine now. I’m taking it with me.”
“With you?” Petrina got to her feet. “You’re stealing me from? Stealing the item my dead husband cherished so much?”
Cynthia’s eyes were glued onto the statue, studying every line, every detail. She closed her eyes and felt a strange bond with the statue, a synergy. It was as if the statue called to her, as if it was a living breathing entity. As if it were Ryn.
“Give it back!” Petrina shouted, grabbing Cynthia’s arm. Cynthia struggled with the woman, but Petrina made a wild swing, hitting Cynthia in the mouth. She stumbled back and her head went through the glass of the armoire. Her back arched, she stayed still and silent, feeling the sharp broken shards of glass cutting through her neck.
Petrina went to help Cynthia, but Cynthia swung the statuette at her, warning her to keep away, even though she could feel the warm blood streaming out of her wounds. She kicked Petrina in the stomach, sending her to the couch again.
“I can help you!” Petrina screamed.
Cynthia’s body hung from the door of the armoire, her neck bleeding out across the furniture and the carpet. She cradled the statue as she would a baby…her baby…her precious little one whom she loved more than anyone – anything. She rubbed the statue and droplets of her blood stained the shimmering surface.
Petrina was shouting at the top of her lungs, scrambling to get off the couch. Her words came to Cynthia in fragments, and Cynthia kept kicking at her, cursing her, warning her to stay away from her cathedral. In a deep part of her mind and soul, Cynthia knew she was dying, bleeding out here in the living room of the woman she had rescued from the clutches of evil. Was there really anything special about this statue, about this inanimate object? It was a carving, of a cathedral. That was all. Nothing special. Nothing but the shimmering surface, the attention to detail in the stained glass window which depicted three colorful spheres. Nothing special.
Cynthia’s body finally fell to the floor. She took the statue with her and then cradled it as she felt her neck become lighter and the moisture in the carpet grow under her head. Petrina was at her side now, pressing towels to Cynthia’s neck, attempting to save the girl’s life.
But it was too late.
Her heart slowed and she found she couldn’t hold her eyes open any longer. It was the end. The end of the dark road to redemption. She had done her part, saving Petrina. But was it only to steal from her, to take the one token she had left of her deceased companion? Them’s the breaks, Cynthia thought. Them’s the breaks.
Will you come to me now? Will you be my dark princess?
She smiled. Yes, she answered the voice in her spirit. Yes, I’ll come to you now. I’m sorry I ran, I’m sorry I resisted.
She felt a tender embrace tug at every inch of her skin.
Come to me. I’ve been waiting for you.
Cynthia Scarlet Ruin felt darkness wrap around her. An energy or a pulse of some sort beat within the statue, within the dark cathedral, and she knew somehow that it was taking her life. Taking the breath from her lungs, the beat from her heart, the life from her bones. It was turning her into a shell, into a casing, empty and lifeless.
But the insides of that shell were going to someplace so much greater than this dark world.
Petrina’s voice could no longer be heard. Nothing could be heard but silence. Long silence.
Copyright © 2012 David N. Alderman