The End of the Road?

For many reasons it looks like my self-publishing career is pretty much over. I have come to a point in my writing career where I have all the stories, the ideas to write more, and the will to do it all, but I no longer have the means to get the stories out there by myself.

I don’t know what to do about it either, even after weeks of pondering (and not writing as a result – existential crises, damn you to Hades!)

Sure, the good people at “Dreamsphere Books” are publishing some of my work (Hereward and Arty stories), but aside from that, all my other stories, including my boyslove short stories, now seem like they are dead in the water before they even really began.

And the main reason for this is the fact that I have been burnt by other people not exactly doing the right thing by me, even after I’ve paid them for a service to do so. I’ve not only lost precious time, but lots of money too because of these people. I just don’t trust any freelance ‘online’ services any more.

Simple as that.

In the meantime, here’s something I’ve polished up a bit lately and will send off to a publisher soon. It’s chapter one of a murder mystery/supernatural story set in Victorian London.

Enjoy…

Working Title: A Cat’s Play is the Death of Mice

Chapter One

A Prostitute’s Home for Me

1854

I didn’t know where I was going through the rain-slicked cobbled alleyways, but I trusted my mother’s hand. As a flush of anxiety washed over me, I managed a quivering, nervous smile. We turned into alleyway after alleyway, our pace quickening as we went.

“This way. Hurry,” my father said gasping, his breath a visible cloud because of the cold. He was holding my mother’s other hand. “We’re being followed.”

Footsteps ahead of us clanked against the cobblestones. A shadowed man blocked our way, stopping us dead in our path. My fear rose to grip me tight by the throat at the sight of him. Was this who we were running away from?

“No,” my mother said, sounding petrified. “We’ve been found.”

Before I could find the strength to question her, a bright light and a series of screams rang out. My mother’s hand slipped from my grasp, chilling me suddenly with its unexpected absence.

The drizzle that wet the cobblestones slicked my face to obscure my vision; the umbrella my father held above us no longer protected me from the weather. Water found my face. I wiped my eyes and looked around desperately. More drizzle, now shifting to rain. I kept wiping my eyes. I couldn’t see my parents.

 “Mother?” I cried.

Another bright light. Then dull, wet thuds of heavy weights fell at my feet. I jumped in my own skin, startled. Two bodies lay like dark stains against the cobblestones. Were they my parents? Lord Almighty, no!

I felt claws of fear walk up my spine as that terrible realisation struck me; not like those of a house cat, but of those that belonged to a great bear after it had felled its prey. The claws held me fast, except my bladder. My only warmth now.

A sinister chuckle, that of the shadowed man, frightened me to my bones. I became confused for a moment. Through that, and my numbing fear and grief, a strange stirring welled up within me, an awakening from deep within my body.

My hands began to luminesce, blue as gaslight.

With a flourish of his coachman’s cloak, the shadowed man slunk back down the alleyway. “We shall meet again, Master Merritt. But for your fear, you will know me forever more as the Skilamalink Man.”  

There was silence once again, save for the unending rain pattering against the cobblestones. Eventually, the light over my hands extinguished, but the power I felt within me remained. It continued to roil for what seemed an eternity, stirring my gentlemanly parts, until even that diminished once my awakening eased. My fear subsided with the power, leaving sadness in its wake.

Rain dripped off my nose. I tried to grasp for any meaning as to what had happened. I found none, too numb to do anything but wipe my face. My hand that once held my mother’s was cold. My throat then constricted once more, held tight by the reality threatening to crush me.

After my breath hitched, I cried.

The harsh clacking sounds of the wooden rattles used by the peelers—the men of the law—pierced the rain at that moment. I could do nothing but fall onto my knees beside my mother. I parted her long, wet blond hair matted about her gaunt face. Her eyes stared up at oblivion, cold as the rain, dead as the atmosphere within the gloom.

Not too far away, but out of reach, was the body of my father.

I was slumped over my mother for what seemed an age, feeling her warmth leave her, trying to cling onto it as best I could. I shuddered with grief, my insides knotting painfully as tears flowed from me in mourning.

The rattling noise stopped.

Several peelers had gathered, as well as a lady pointing at me with a shaking finger. “See ‘im there? See ‘im? Took my very breath it did to witness it,” the lady said, aghast. “May the Lord Almighty rest their poor unfortunate souls. There ‘e is, by ‘is mother. See ‘im?”

“Over here, lads.” A peeler’s voice struck me with its coarseness, rough and deep. “Bring the cart.”

“This one’s ‘ad a terrible fright, ‘e ‘as,” the lady said, shrugging on one of the peelers’ coats. “Best I take ‘im to Lady Penelope. Give ‘im what ‘is mother’s love can’t no more, I say.”

The peeler looked around; I could see him surmising the rain-soaked scene, puzzlement drawn on his brow.

“Then take him, woman. But know we will be there shortly to question him,” another peeler’s voice answered, but not the voice of the first. This one was more commanding, even if it sounded unsure.

“You don’t expect the boy did this to ‘is own blood, do you?”

After a pause, the commanding voice replied, “No…I don’t.”

“I’ll take ‘im right away, Constable. ‘E will be the Captain and Lady Penelope’s boy now. There’s nothin’ for ‘im here, the poor blighter.”

“I’d wager that you might be right,” the peeler in command said. “Jenkins! Go get Orson from the morgue. There’s two more for his draws tonight.”

“Yes, sir.”

I found a warm hand against my cheek, a gentle touch at my back. I looked up at the lady to study her properly. She had a tender face, soft and sweet. Her beautiful skin, unspoiled and wonderfully dark, intrigued me. Despite her thick, common accent, she was dressed handsomely in an evening dress of flowing lace over velvet, her shoulders covered by a rain shawl and the peeler’s coat she’d been given.

I knew a toffer when I saw one.

Being attractive, she’d no doubt be employed in a well-to-do upper-class establishment. But at the moment, and with another shudder, I realised a prostitute who promised me a home was all I had.

Her bonnet dripped rain as she whispered, “Come, lad.” She pulled me up to my feet, supporting me, for I was still weak from grief that had consumed every fibre of my being. “It’ll be for the best…bad luck to ‘ang onto the dead, it is. There’s naught you can do for ‘em now, anyways.”

I nodded assent. She escorted me away from the scene of my parent’s murder; peelers were everywhere, including their wagons and the gawking onlookers who had come with them, breaths billowing vapour from their agape mouths like the chimney stacks of industry further down the Thames.

“What’s your name, lad?”

“Oliver Merritt, ma’am,” I replied, pushing out the words through my numb, cold lips.

“I’m Minerva, but folks all ‘round ‘ere call me Mimsee.”

From that moment on, my life got really strange.

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