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Preview: “The Devourer”

Excerpt of Chapter XXI

Despite the darkness, Mercedes sensed the demon stagger. His granite resolve was cracking at last.

‘…to refuse my nature as I have done, is to deny justice. A crime in itself. Yet to obey justice is to confess myself to be an abomination. A criminal…’

The shadows, the faces; they shot past, faster and faster, as if caught in a maelstrom. Too near, the water of the ghostly Seine gurgled a promise of relief. Mercedes recognised its call, and knew to fear it. The demon’s dark currents had quelled her fire. Now she scrambled to clear the tumultuous thoughts that threatened to pull her down, into the abyss of his corrupted mind. She clawed at every shadow that was less black than the rest, but her fingers

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“Directions” – short story

The saturated soil squelched under his feet and mosquitoes buzzed around his head. He tried to ignore them and focused on the nigh on invisible path instead. These marshes were treacherous under the best of circumstances. What had possessed him to cross them with less than a full day’s light ahead and after heavy rains, he couldn’t say, but he cursed himself for it.

Before every step he prodded the swamp ahead with his long walking stick, searching for the next bank of solid ground. More often than not, however, the tip of the stick sank so deeply under its own weight that he dared not use it for support, even when he was about to lose his balance. If he fell, he might not be able to get up again.

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“Paradise” – short story

When the lonely road through the barren desert dunes led his pick-up truck into a luscious green village, Abdel knew he had taken a wrong turn. Which wasn’t possible on a road that had always been straight.

He stopped his truck in the village square to consult his map. By the well in the centre of the square, a group of women in traditional garb interrupted their nattering to observe his arrival. He ignored them and checked his route. It wasn’t new to him, but this oasis was.

A tap on his window. He rolled it down.

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“Statue” – short story

Once upon a time there was a sculptor named Kumar, who carved statues of spirits and deities for the temple in his village. One day, the pujari of the temple brought him a block of marble bigger than himself. The marble was cold when Kumar first touched it. The gaze of the pujari was cold and factual, too, but unlike the gaze, the stone warmed under his hands. He felt its grain, caressed its surface. Finally he put his ear to the marble block and listened.

‘Let me out.’

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“Payment” – short story

Dry land was scarce since the Flood. What remained were thousands of islands scattered about the endless ocean. Of them, only few were large enough to support a town this size. Fiorello recalled the stories his grandmother had told him, the ones her grandmother had told her in turn. Stories about fields of grass and grain as far as the eye could see; stories of people who travelled by land to the cities that housed millions. Fantastic tales, but little more. All he had ever known was this island, this town. As a child, he had thought these shores were the end of the world. How much he had learned since then.