Unusual Vignettes and Book Promo

*Okay, I came back two days ago and my birthday is tomorrow. I will try to do some writing today, but I’m not even looking at my email till the 19th, because no. And also no. I’m trying to adapt to this “late 50s” thing. I need a moment. Also, honestly, I’m trying not to come down with yet another cold, because these days it takes me forever to recover.  I’m sure my faithful vignette-challenge-creators sent me a word, but since I’m not opening the email, I don’t have it. (I’m not even expecting anything bad. I just don’t wnat to deal with a week and a bit of email until after my bday) So. The challenge will be images.  The rest is normal. – SAH*

Book Promo

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months. One book per author per week. Amazon links only.-SAH*

FROM RUSS MITCHELL:  Malik The Pawn.

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Malik’s star is rising. The village boy’s bravery nets him an award far beyond his station — the chance to serve the Moon Daughter’s Temple for a year. But serving a Goddess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Malik finds himself possessed and in possession of dangerous secrets, as devastating changes come to a world he hardly comprehends. He will travel with a bitter, taciturn huntress and a healer who’s chained to a past he can’t escape, as Malik struggles to regain his freedom — and his soul.

FROM MARY CATELLI:  Oath Keeper.

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Eadwin travels through through wild lands. There, he learns of a ghost, a oath that was broken, and one that was kept.

And thus his decision, which thane to serve as a knight, grows harder.

FROM ALMA T. C. BOYKIN:  Eerily Familiar: Familiar Tales Book Seven.

 

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Something hunts the hunters . . .

Something waits in the shadows, watching. Lelia Chan and her Familiar, Tay, hear vague rumors of trouble among the shadow mages. Everyone’s heard rumors before, and keeping her boss happy is more important. Then a painting tries to capture her friend. When her mentor and good friend André and his Familiar Rodney both go missing, Lelia has to take charge.

She’s not ready. No shadow mage ever is. But she’ll find a way or die trying.

Things worse than than death hide in the shadows. And they LIKE meeting over-confident young mages . . .

FROM MICHAEL J. HOOTEN:  Till the Conflict Is Over (Enlisted Book 2)

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Peter Wright not only survived the most deadly space battle in US Navy history, he also managed to defeat the enemy as well. He’s hailed as a hero, and everyone wants to know his story, but all he wants is to avoid everything that reminds him of that day. Instead he endures interviews, cotillions, and the ever-surprising demands of being a celebrity. And also anxiety attacks, suvivor’s guilt, and funerals. Through it all, he wishes he could just be a normal sailor again.

Be careful what you wish for.

FROM BLAKE SMITH:   An American Thanksgiving.

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It is Thanksgiving Day, 1865, and Margaret Browne isn’t feeling very thankful. The war is over, and her grown-up sons have returned from the fighting, but her beloved husband remains absent, last seen a captive in a notorious prisoner-of-war camp. The Browne family muddles through their uncertain path, lost without their leader, but when everything begins to go wrong all at once, Margaret must hold together the farm and her family, and turn a disaster into a true day of thanks-giving.

And now for the writing challenge:

Take one of the two pictures below; assume they describe an essential aspect of a novel, that is either character, setting or conflict.

Now write me a couple of first paragraphs that will hook me and make me want to read your novel:

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38 responses to “Unusual Vignettes and Book Promo

  1. Vitamin C and zinc can help your immune system fend off a cold.

  2. The chains creaked as Kitty swung gently above the city. The city was odd, no unified theme, as it had just grown, not been properly planned. Obviously the product of a primitive civilization. But pretty or not, she was going to have to live here for five years while her parents studied this new world.

  3. Many happy returns of the day, one day early.

  4. Hey, I’ve heard of sailboats, but never a snailboat! Especially a steampunk snailboat. I got nothing.

    • There’s a cargo joke in there somewhere, but fishcakes are Wednesday.

      • Clearly a steampunk snailboat needs a little additional Steam driven car (S Car), and of course we need coal to make this S Car go (runs for the Carp proof shelter).

  5. Happy Natal Day!

    After yesterday’s post, I shall not be so foolish as to tell you that you are only as old as you feel. I will tell you that the Late Fiftiesish feeling is self-correcting. Although the cure is somewhat worse than the disease, from my viewpoint of having just a tad more than three months to go.

  6. Many happy returns of the day!

  7. Happy birthday tomorrow Sarah! And now, a birthday party snippet:

    Jimmy Carlson was standing in line for tickets at the theater. It was a double-feature monster movie at the Broadway Cinema in Hamilton, on a crisp night in early December.

    On one arm was Beatrice, his robot girlfriend. Six-feet tall, shining wavy chestnut hair down to her waist. Broad of shoulder, long of leg, and wide of hip in sublime proportion, she was what supermodels only wished they could be. She was dressed to impress in black spray-on pants, silvery, drapey silk wraparound top, knee-high fashion boots and a fur coat. She looked like she had walked straight off a Milan runway.

    On the other was Nammu Chen, his ancient and powerful alien girlfriend. Also a robot, but with a (mostly) human body. A very attractive human body. She was 5’7”, had smooth brown skin, black hair, flashing dark eyes, and at the moment wore a blissful expression on her fine features.

    It was her ten thousand, four hundred and thirty-first birthday.

    She was being taken to the movies for her birthday party, and she was so happy it was exploding out of her. Her outfit was cowboy boots, worn blue jeans, a Black Veil Brides t-shirt and a leather biker jacket, which she wore like an empress.

    By contrast, Jimmy was a skinny nerd with straggly blonde hair, wearing sneakers, nondescript jeans and a big coat. Everyone was stealing glances at him too, wondering why the two goddesses were holding on to him like he was a rock star.

    Nammu was enjoying herself hugely, just being there holding on to his arm was making her happy. Jimmy was finding it embarrassing how happy she was to be with him.

    “Nammu, people are looking at us.” Jimmy was a bit shy at the best of times, being surrounded by strangers at the movies was unpleasant. Having them all looking at him was excruciating.

    “Of course they’re looking. Beatrice is here,” replied Nammu comfortably. “They’d have to be blind not to look at her.”

    “I think it’s more that you are glowing,” said Beatrice with a wink at Jimmy. “Everyone is ignoring me. I feel wonderfully invisible right now.”

    “I’m not!” objected Nammu in mild surprise.

    “You are,” said Jimmy. “You look like a light bulb.”

    “I am out with my beautiful husband and my beautiful wife. If I’m glowing it is only because of you.” She smiled impishly at him. “Am I very embarrassing to be with, Jimmy?”

    “Yes,” he said truthfully. “But then so is Beatrice, so it isn’t any worse than usual, I guess. At least you’re having fun, that makes it worth a little embarrassment.”

    “I am happier than I’ve been in a very long time indeed,” she sighed and laid her head on his shoulder. “I am replete.”

    “Lightbulb now upgraded to searchlight,” said Beatrice, and gave him a gentle push into her. “I’ll need sunglasses in a minute. Do you want us to take you home?” She did a Groucho Marx eyebrow-and-cigar shtick at the end to imply something more than just a car ride. Jimmy blushed scarlet.

    “Yes, but after the movie,” giggled Nammu. “You made him turn red again. Poor Jimmy, to have such bad wives!”

    “Speaking of, where is the rest of the tribe?” wondered Beatrice. “Did they get lost?”

    “Who cares?” said Nammu. “I have my Jimmy and my Beatrice all to myself! That never happens. Look upon me, husband, witness my joy.” She looked into his eyes, and he saw the fire of her consciousness revealed in all its blazing, incandescent glory. Jimmy went away for a little while, as the two of them became one being, standing there in the line at the movie theater. They turned to look at Beatrice, and she became included in their bonfire of joined existence.
    Then Jimmy’s nose was cold, and he was just himself again with two magnificent women leaning on him. The three of them managed to hold each other up until their knees started supporting their weight properly. The line moved forward a bit, and they staggered along grinning drunkenly at each other.

    A big white crew cab pickup truck rumbled up next to them on the street and stopped. The driver rolled the window down and leaned out to speak to them. “What are you maniacs doing out here? I saw the spirit light show a block away, it looked like fireworks.” She was an arresting sight, hair midnight black on the right side and white as snow on the left, right eye crystal gray and left eye dark brown. It wasn’t a dye job and contact lenses either, her hair and eyes were naturally that way.

    “Hi Alice,” said Jimmy. “Nammu was being bad and looked at me. These two kids here got caught in the back-blast, now Beatrice went and made them go all stupid. So, the usual.”

    “Try not to burn anything down before I get there, eh? I’ll park this heap, and we’ll be with you in a second.”

    Nammu leaned off the sidewalk and ran her fingers through Alice’s hair. “Hello gorgeous,” she said. “Hurry up, I need more friends to make a fuss of me.”

    “Jeez Nammu, not in front of the straights,” muttered Alice, coloring in embarrassment from the attention. “You’re supposed to be the grown up here, hold it together will ya?”

    “Way to go Nammu!” said Nike from the passenger seat. “You scored on her!” Effie, Athena, and Kurio waved at her from the back seat.

    Alice gunned the engine and pulled into the parking lot next door to the theater. At that time of night, it was about half empty. As she and the other women got out of the truck, there was a thunderous sound of flapping wings.

    Down at the corner, a gigantic beast fell from the sky and landed on Wellington Street. It was 100 feet long from nose to tail, but by a very acrobatic twist in mid-air, it managed to miss all the buildings and power lines as it came down. It squeezed under the traffic lights at the end of the street and stalked forward on powerful limbs, tail swishing from one side of the road to the other. Its fur was silvery black and shining, its scales iridescent under the streetlights. Its head was equipped with jaws big enough to bite a truck in half. Canine teeth two feet long protruded from its upper jaw like sabers.

    Alice stood on the sidewalk with her hands on her hips and watched it come. It came right up and butted her with its nose. “You drive like a lunatic!” it said in a deep, disapproving voice. “I saw you drift that corner on the Clairmont Access, somebody should yank your license.”

    “Maybe so,” said Alice, “but you still owe me five bucks McIntyre, you big lizard. I beat you down here fair and square.”

  8. When they decided to make the playground more realistic by projecting scenes on the walls, they didn’t think it through.

    Nah, got nothing more.

  9. “Higher! Higher!” Ginny heard the other kids’ exhortations, and pumped her legs all the harder. Below her, she heard the rhythmic grunt of the chains against the D-rings connecting to her seat. The landscape whirled by her at dizzying speed: ground rushing up at her, the ancient walls of Mable Titus Elementary, then blue, blue sky.

    And back again. Next to her, Ginny caught a glimpse of Edge Eddy attempting the same feat as Ginny – the Ultimate Swing. Nobody could say for sure what that meant. Completing a full loop-the-loop? Possibly. Jumping from a greater height than anyone ever attempted? Maybe. All Ginny knew was that she had to pump harder, harder than she ever had before. As she rose higher, she became aware of Edgy Eddy crying out “One!”

    He’s making a decision, Ginny thought. What was Edgy Eddy going to do? Ginny decided it didn’t matter. She had to make up her own mind.

    “Two!” Ginny was impressed with Edgy Eddy’s guts. Whatever he was going to do, Ginny was going to make her move when Edgy Eddy yelled –

    “THREE!”

    Ginny was braced for impact, but none came as she sailed higher, higher, higher.

    Edgy Eddy, the swing-set, her classmates, and her school were nowhere to be seen.

  10. Inez knew she wasn’t supposed to use her implant to project scenes from history over the drab walls of the station’s playground. Children her age were only supposed to use their implants under direct adult supervision, which usually meant lessons and dreary improving stories and games. But she was a Hargreaves on her mother’s side, and she’d found it easy to bypass the safeguards enough to give herself some more interesting surroundings while she played on the swings. She’d be in trouble if anyone found out, but it wasn’t like she was doing anything dangerous.

  11. Kathy watched her little girl on the patio of the rather exclusive clinic.

    The prognosis was good. Sis was going to have a fighting chance. The procedure had been tried on fifty-two patients and out of those, forty-nine showed complete reversal of the disease, telomeres long, and the wild mutation issues long gone.
    Nobody would have guessed that CRSPR techniques could have become meta- lifeforms in and of themselves, and fewer that alternate meta-lifeforms could become the cure.

    The problem was affording it, and the only way that was going to happen was if the scan of Golevka panned out, and it could be thermally-expanded safely into a real hab, without breaking up or cracking as olivines tended to do in deep space.

    She sighed. It was time to pack Nikki into the sub-orbital. Kathy tapped her forearm a couple of times until the right code showed up, and left a message in voice, proudly managing to keep the cracks out. “Okay, Roger. I’m on the crew.”

  12. (Oh, and before I forget, THANK YOU both for bookpimping *and* for the vignette challenge. That was fun. Many happy and healthier returns.)

  13. Just a little wake in the water, break up the reflection. Jase touched pen to tablet and the computer recalculated the relevant elements.

    The rendering software was ancient, left over from his mother’s younger days as a game developer. But it would run on this old machine that he was allowed to use for personal projects, and that was enough.

    He looked over the image, searching for anything incomplete, anything that would destroy the viewer’s suspension of disbelief. Reflections were the hardest part, especially in water because up here in Grissom City you never saw that much of it to reflect anything. He thought back to when his family still lived on Earth, when they would go up into the mountains to the cabin on the lake. How had the full moon reflected on the water?

    “That’s an awfully big moon you’ve got there. I can’t see how it can help being over the Roche limit.”

    Even as Jase started to say, “Hi, Dad,” he realized the timbre of the voice was ever so slightly different. He turned to face the man standing in the doorway, looking so much like his father, or what his father might look like in another decade or two, his dark hair streaked with gray, laugh lines at the corners of his eyes.

    “Hi, Uncle Braden. What are you doing here?” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he realized how impertinent it could sound. His uncle was a pilot, a naval aviator who’d been tapped for the astronaut corps way back at the beginning of the Energy Wars. “Um, I mean, it’s kind of a surprise to have you visit, with your new job and everything.”

    Braden Maitland just smiled, making it clear he took no offense. “Yes, I have a lot of responsibility now that I’m director of flight operations for Shepardsport. But there’s still going to be times that I have business over here, and if I can, I’ll make sure to squeeze in enough time for a visit.”

    Something about the way he said “business” suggested something out of the ordinary. But there was no way Jase could ask, not when he’d already put his foot in it.

    All the same, the curiosity was like an itch at the back of his brain. Somehow he had to find out what was going on, without getting in trouble for being a smartass again.

  14. For your birthday tomorrow, here is a gen-yoo-ine Mormon Birthday Song from some of your LDS friends.
    Wishing you the very best, today and always.
    Pretend we are singing this to you!
    * * *
    You’ve had a birthday… shout hooray!
    We want to  sing  to you today!
    One year older  and wiser  too.
    Happy birthday — to you!

    Words and music: Barbara McConochie, b. 1940 © 1989 by Barbara McConochie. https://www.lds.org/music/library/childrens-songbook/youve-had-a-birthday-round?lang=eng

  15. When Astrid hinted to her father that she’d like a swing, she hadn’t expected him to hang it from the World Tree, Yggdrasil. The ever-changing views were spectacular, though not always what she wanted to see. She usually preferred mountains and forests to city skylines.

  16. analytical-engine-mechanic

    Ambassador Katrina diGiovanni wrung her hands a little more (though she was, also, mostly, winning her battle to wring them less). “Can’t we go any…”

    Her final word was mostly drowned out by a chorus of “FASTER?!” from quite literally every crewmember on the bridge — more or less softly, more or less caustically. Though always abstractedly, they were every one of them busy…

    Pilot Graham Ovchinnikov (the grandiosity of the title “captain” for such a petite craft quite literally stuck in his throat) said, and very nearly again, “I do understand the Straits of Burzha here are notorious for pirates. I also quite clearly understand the limited orbital resources mean the response time for any assistance would likely be long and too long.” As he said it, he shifted the position of the hydrofoil’s fine-command “stick” a trifle to starboard.”But as this is a hydrofoil boat, Ambassador, not an ekranoplane or hovercraft or aircraft to ride entirely above the water, we must — needs must — consider the effect of encountering any floating debris. And I mean ‘encountering’ as in ‘colliding with’ — the struts and foils of a hydrofoil being far from as sturdy as the hull of a wet-buoyancy boat, floating on static not dynamic lift.” He tipped the stick rather more back to port, though still almost micrometrically to any casual observer — he did not like the look of that clot of material outlined by Scan Officer Petrova on his head-up piloting display.

    “Ladies and gentlemen of the Cygnus Rising,” said Steersman Cynthia MacGillivray in that over-smooth radio-announcer’s voice of hers, “please see the following landmarks and notabiles now visible. To port, the classic statue of the Sea Maiden installed to overlook Lake Victoria, way back when there was one. To starboard, observe one of the finest examples of Kurtanii steam leviathan snail-crawlers ever known on the planet, dating from the Evacuation Period only a few decades ago. Finally, observe to the fore of it the familiar yet overwhelming bulk of Okeanos, the gas-giant primary around which we…”

    “Ten degrees to starboard on the gross rudder, Steersman, if you please, we need to make the turn around Bazzhen Point.” The Pilot’s voice cut across her “Lots of weather we’re having now, huh?” patter easily and she responded almost instantly and in a very different tone, “Ten to starboard aye aye, soft and smooth,” and unlocked the helm wheel she was holding with a twist of one hand. Running as they were, it was her post to define the general shape of the Cygnus’ path and the Pilot’s work to steer her around any ‘trouble’ which might lie wating with the fine controls he held. And as they did, the amazing bulk of the leviathan crawler loomed to the right of the ship, nearly to the point itself.

    “Rather sad, I would say,” First Officer Kyle Stanton said, dividing his time in fine increments between radar and sidelooking sonar and navsat displays, rarely circling this or that and passing it on to the Pilot as a sidescreen flash. “Even a bit ironic — a landcrawler stranded by the Kurtanii dipping sixty feet from the world ocean here, and the crossflow ripping the Burzha Strait right through what used to be the Isthmus of Bismarckia.”

    “They needed the water for the ships’ drive, Mr. Stanton,” said diGiovanni in a tightly-abstracted, claustrophobic kind of voice. “Despite all the hype, scooping atmo from a gas giant is still very tricky, and dipping up water from a moon like Portlandia quite straightforward. And even with all their long history, their tech isn’t quite up to our own in some ways.”

    “If I may, ma’am Ambassador,” he returned much more quietly, “why us? I do see you need speed and discretion, but why a ‘foil not a ‘plane or a shuttle?”

    “I really cannot tell you, or even the Captain,” she said, not quite as softly. “But since you and you-all are risking this journey with me… Those things would be faster or far faster, but less… stealthy. They would speak of haste and need in evident ways to anyone watching… and I cannot judge that worth while.”

    And diGiovanni’s hand tightened yet once again on the wide strap of the large shoulder-bag she was never seen without. “And though data transfer might be quick and stealthy enough for any message, what I bear with me instead is material… evidence.” Somehow her tight voice and stilted words underlined what she said, instead of trivializing it. “And I mean less, ah, diplomatic or legal evidence than, let us say, a specimen of informational value.”

    And for a moment, save for the many natural sounds, there was silence.

    “Do you mean some kind of discovery? Maybe something new and big enough to change our relations with the Kurtanii, or with the other human factions?” Karen Petrova’s voice was soft and mild, but penetrating, as always.

    “Enough to change everything. If it gets to where it belongs. So it must.” Said in such a quiet, ordinary way that no-one questioned it or would.

    “There is enough power to raise ourselves another six inches, if that helps,” said Engineer Ian Bretagnon. “That could let us raise our speed another two knots, assuming the risk is acceptable.”

    Ovchinnikov moved the stick left a bit to trim the Cygnus onto her new heading. “Unless there is any objection, and if Madame Ambassador judges the marginal risk worthwhile..?” He left the point hanging, inviting comment.

    “Please, Pilot, please do, if you may.” And her hands strangled the bag’s strap yet once more.

    [and Many Happy Returns of the Day to Mrs. Hoyt!]

  17. Birthy Hapday on this fine November Morning!
    I’m racing to catch up with you

  18. Happy birthday, Sarah!!

    Oh, and everybody read “The Disappearance of John M. Ford”, because it is interesting and a cautionary tale. But it has a happy ending for booklovers, so there is that.

  19. Happy birthday. I hope you get what you wish for when you blow out the candles.

    What’s the low carb stand-in for the cake?

  20. my birthday was Sunday.

    i drank far far too much Saturday night

    happy birthday Sarah.

  21. Good recommendations there! And I needed something to read on the airplane tomorrow!

  22. Moo’moo moo-moo-moo moo Moo!

  23. analytical-engine-mechanic

    From my thoroughly customized / “rebel” version of NatNo the WriMo, a flashback scene with the theme of “darkness” (see comments tomorrow):

    The slim (but not small) sliver of dazzle-brightness dwindled almost visibly now, at the edge of that ever-present cueball-at-arm’s-length circle in the sky, as the midnight full darkness approached. Paul had lived a few other places in his eleven standard years, so he knew how uncommon a lunar eclipse was over the wider stretch of worlds, just as he knew intimately how here on Betancourt it was literally a daily event.

    Quite as daily and as ordinary as the noontime solar eclipse that split each day in night.

    But there was nothing ordinary about staying up to midlongnight with his grandfather, into the fleeting full dark of a mid-eclipse deepnight, when (his mother and so many others were so often pleased to remind him) all good children were fast asleep in their beds.

    .
    .
    .

    He knew he was speaking in half-riddles of indirection himself, talking “with a shadow on his tongue” as that old book from out of the depths of his pocket library had put it.

    But little as he’d chosen to do it, he wanted to keep on with it, not just because it linked him with his grandfather but because he knew it suited him as deeply as water did a fish.

    “When I was very young, in the aftermath of the Second Great London Fire, you know they took the sky and its light mostly away from us. Built the Levels around us, where we lived, held the sky reserved to the other ones, the Eloi above us.” (The names had never been official, and such a division of people had never been intentional. But both had probably been next to inevitable, too, given the 19th-century book in the first place and the realities of 22nd-century Britain in the second.) And his native accent, from his later childhood as a Morlock deep in the dappled but heavy shadow of the Levels, came front and center again — London with a bracing dollop of whisky-Irish, and mulled long with more than a pinch of India and Araby.

    “But people like me and you, boy, we were born to be able to live in the shadow, in the twilight, in the night. Like our namesakes in Mr. Wells’ book, the dark ones who made the bright ones’ world turn. Even if to do it we had to live, as the old song put it, in ‘factory smoke and acetylene light’ while they lived in the sunshine — they likely thought it a curse. But to us a blessing.”

    “Your mother does not like it, that I might say such things to you. Even less does she like what creeps up on her from the back of her own head, that intuition she tries to disown, that tells her you might not even ever need to hear them from me, to understand them for yourself.

    “And there’s nothing wrong with her that she wishes it so. The world would be so much the kinder, gentler place, if it were so. Perhaps in some ways, her ways, even much a better one.”

    “Did you read that poem I gave you, last week?”

    And young Paul Regan felt something oddly like an electric circuit being completed. Or in the stories of those old masters in Tibet before the Invasion and the Scattering, how they’d become Realized or Enlightened at last.

    So it did not surprise him when he answered, in verse and a voice very much like Donal’s:

    “Now here I stand before them
    Some of all the men I’ve killed,
    And were there women among them
    Won’t tell the butcher’s bill;

    “No graves with stones with names
    For dead such wholesale made,
    All detail murdered to the keeping
    Of the silence and the shade.”

    And he skipped a handful of stanzas down to the end of it,

    “The rebellious lords were grateful
    Their pay as good as gold and more,
    Their bonuses bitter, sweet reward
    For setting so many souls to soar;

    “Full blessed be those who lay here ‘waiting
    And old mercenary’s deep lament,
    Who died so such as I could stand here
    With much respect and no regret.”

    And Paul felt his own voice, his own self, shift back to something more familiar, from wherever, whoever, he’d just been instead. “And might that be you, once upon a time somewhere, grand-Da?” As soon as he’d said it, he almost tried to hesitate, retroactively, as if he should’ve thought before speaking. But then again, as whatever eerie spell faded a bit more, he realized that other part of him — would not.

    .
    .
    .

    “But you’ve also been raised, by her and others and for most of your life, to be what old Thomas Paine called a summer soldier and a sunshine patriot, to live in the bright sunshine of life and the warm light of rightness. Like an Eloi in old London. As if the night that I and a lot of people with me grew up deep in the belly of, would and could never come. But it does come, whenever it wants or needs to and however it pleases, it does calmly and irresistably come.

    “And when and if it comes, all their sunlight world and all its habits — may no longer signify.” And he raised his glass again, as before; except this time, and judiciously, he drank.

    “But you’ve got it in your veins, as I said, the old Morlock blood, and the DNA in it codes for everything you need to be a winter soldier and a cloudburst patriot, just like the old American Deplorables, just like the old British Tommies that beat les Sales Boches a century before, just like me and the people like me, after, that worked the Morlocks’ work in the Levels, then killed the killers far better than they could do us out among the worlds.

    “Ever you need it, if despite all hope and all prayer you do — at need, it’s yours. Part of you. Pre-cooked right from the factory, all ready to rock and roll. Never a doubt.” Donal Regan’s voice sounded just like he was a young man, *that* young man, again. And in the dark light of midnight, a darker darkness looked out from his gray eyes, like murder.

    It, and all the mid-eclipse dark everywhere about Paul, called up an irresistable echo from way down deep. Somehow, like the poem.

    “There’s this old vaudeoclip they played for us in school, from right before the turn of the millennium, grand-Da. A Swiss psychologist named Carl Jung, they asked him right at the end of his life if he believed in God.

    “And he said this back: I don’t believe… I know.”

    “I’m still not sure how to truly believe in things yet, grand-Da. But somewhere deep down, already, I know.”

    Donal Regan smiled at his grandson, like an eagle’s cry bright in a wide black sky.

    “And that’s enough. For such as you and me, now and always, that’s enough.”

    The rims of their glasses touched, sherry and whisky they drank. And a spark passed. Dark as cold workaday grim murder adrift in a beautiful star-spangled ocean of night.