The Novel 2 that wasn’t.

I’m a bit behind on IKWYDLS right now, largely because I decided to do some work on Novel 2.  I’m not too far in, about 20 pages or so to be precise, but I figured it was about time I did some work on it.  To be fair, I had already started Novel 2 some months ago but I’m not really happy with it.  I looked at it, Novel 1, and a few of my more recent short stories and decided they were a little too similar: they all start with a murder and roll along with the detectives of said killing.

I’m reworking Novel 2 into something a little different now, but there are some aspects of the first draft I quite like, and will probably reuse further down the road.  You never know, maybe this draft is a sneak peak at any further novels I decide to do, should my career ever start proper.

Oh, it’s quite long.  Around about 13,000 words I think.  I don’t think I’ll go through and format it all for wordpress either, so at least the massive gaps between paragraphs should help assuade any eye strain.

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Uppity Dead Children – A Hubris McLeod short

I really hate poltergeists. There’s something very upsetting about a creature that steals kids via the static on a television screen. This is compounded by the fact that the NBUO has no useful information on how to get rid of the bloody things. After decades of research you think they’d have something, yet they don’t even know why they exist, let alone how to move them on.

This poltergeist had taken up residence in a church. It had spent the afternoon lobbing crucifixes at parishioners before retiring to the leisurely sport of font-rolling. The vicar got a little scared, managed to exorcise three frightened parishioners to death, then called the police. The NBUO had intercepted the call, being nosy bastards to a man, and sent me to deal with it. The new boy always gets the poltergeists. It’s like a hazing ritual or something.

Poltergeist don’t have auras, which is annoying. I like things with auras, even the gribbley things from other dimensions. Sure, their auras have corners, but at least you can get some sort of understanding of them. Poltergeists are basically uppity children. Dead uppity children. As a result I had a few ways up my sleeve with which to deal with them.

They didn’t work.

Also, a pew upside the head fucking hurts.

Hubris McLeod – Part 6

The, now rather dishevelled, agent helped me out of what was left of Carly’s house and collapsed on the grass. I tried to catch myself from falling, stupidly putting weight on my injured foot. This little misadventure resulted in me twirling my way onto the grass in a much less manly and heroic way than the agent had done. Thankfully there was no one around to see.

 

I hauled myself to my knees as the agent guffawed away at my ridiculous pratfall. I rolled over to look at him and shot him my most vicious scowl. I think that made him laugh more, so I decided it was probably time to get some questions answered. He must have been expecting this as he managed to pre-empt me.

 

Woo that was fun, eh?” he managed to get out between his raucous giggling.

 

Well it’s not every day a hell beast from the Nth dimension tries to freeze me out of existence,” I interrupted, a fine lather of snideness colouring my words, “Smashing!”

 

The agent, his laughter finally subsiding, hauled himself to his feet, adjusted his sunglasses and tie, and helped me pry myself off the ground.

 

You don’t know what that thing was then?” he asked as he helped me up.

 

Surprisingly enough, no,” I shot back, “I don’t exactly run into this stuff often, you know? I would have though the near death thing would have tipped you off.”

 

Point taken. Ok, let me fill you in on some of the easier stuff.”

 

He began to rifle through his jacket pocket for a moment before pulling out what looked like a very old book. All cracked leather and torn yellow pages. He rifled through hundreds of pages until he was roughly half-way through the book, then he spun it round to give me a glimpse of the illustration. It was a hideous looking creature. The body wasn’t bad on the surface, it resembled a fine female form, sleek and supple and perfectly toned. The problem was the face, it wasn’t there. The head of the creature contained two very familiar eyes, large, electric blue and very, very evil. It had no mouth, instead there were a series of suckers akin to what you’d find on an octopus’s tentacles. They were labelled “Highly acidic and heavily poisonous”.

 

It’s not a hell beast.” he said, flipping the book back towards himself.

Well what is it then?”

 

It’s a Deceit Elemental.”

 

This, of course, made no sense to me, and he read that in my face.

 

Ok, elements 101. Most people tend to accept that there are two school of elements, the Scientific School and the Natural School. The Natural School is your Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, all that jazz. The Scientific School contains the periodic table. With me so far?”

 

Just about.” I murmured.

 

What most people don’t realise is that there’s a third school, that of the Consciousness. The School of Consciousness embodies things that are part of the mind. All the emotions, mental states, that kind of thing, are included in this school. Deceit, of course, is one of the main linchpins.”

 

So a Deceit Elemental is the physical embodiment of deceit. That makes sense I suppose.”

 

Well that’s not entirely true. This is where it gets a little complicated. An elemental can, and in most cases does, represent one element from each school. For the Natural and Scientific Schools then yes, they do tend to be a physical embodiment of them, but the powers derived from the Consciousness School work a little differently. For reasons we have yet to determine, the Elementals that wield Elements of Consciousness have a dual nature, meaning that while they may champion one element they also carry its counterpart. Hate carries love, confusion carries clarity, and deceit carries truth. They don’t have control over the counterpart element, it’s just sort of along for the ride. It tends to leak into prolonged use of the main power though, with varying effects of course. There’s still a lot we don’t know.”

 

He paused for a moment, closed the book, and put it back in his jacket pocket. From the other side of his jacket he pulled out one of the business cards he had given me before. Folding it in half first he tore it in two and gave me one of the halves. I examined the card and realised that concealed within was a tiny metallic strip which I gently teased from within the card and studied closely.

 

A tracking device,” he explained, “It alerts us whenever someone with one of our business cards bumps into an, erm, unexplained occurrence. Comes in very handy when you need to save a civil servant from an Extra-Planar Deceit Elemental and its minion.”

 

Minion?”

 

Yeah, probably a lower Aggression Elemental. They make good guard dogs for their more seasoned compatriots.”

 

I wasn’t quite taking all of this information in, it was a bit of a stretch. Then again, I had just seen a giant muscular behemoth and a large ball of danger try and tear me limb from limb so I decided I should give him the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to question him some more, but as I began he cut me off.

 

That probably enough for now. I need to go alert the clean up crew anyway. Need to get some warlocks down here to seal everything off.”

 

I began to laugh but his expression told me he probably wasn’t joking.

 

If you have any more questions… well, you’ve got our number.” He gestured at his half of the business card, and I remembered the one he had given me much earlier. He gave me a polite wave and strolled off. I watched as he disappeared around the nearest corner and wondered why he hadn’t called me an ambulance for my bloody foot.

 

I hobbled over to the nearest payphone and called myself one, then collapsed onto the nearest bench. A job well done. Carly’s house was free of ghosts now. Of course she couldn’t live in it in its current condition, no doubt I’d end up taking her in. Even more likely, as she had been living at my place for the last week or so, I just wouldn’t kick her out.

 

I could hear the ambulance in the distance and decided that this was probably the best time to catch up on the sleep I so desperately needed. I’d need to be well rested for when I told Carly about her house.

 

The sirens drew closer as I closed my eyes.

Hubris McLeod – Part 5

It was cold to the touch, very cold. Suddenly I found myself struck with a sensation, not entirely unlike a brain-freeze, shooting up my arm. I glanced around the room and, to my horror, saw what appeared to be a creeping frost encase the world around me, slowly followed by a dense and impenetrable fog. The icy pain reached my shoulder and I flinched, screwing my eyes up tight, and tried to pull away.

 

I fell to the ground, landing hard on my frozen arm. The ground felt wrong, far too soft and springy compared to how I remembered wooden floors to feel. I opened my eyes to find myself sprawled on a patch of grass. It seemed that I was no longer in Carly’s house seeing as I distinctly remember the house having walls and being totally devoid of grass.

 

A quick survey of the area told me that I was in a graveyard and, depressingly enough, it looked quite familiar. A few feet ahead of me were hundreds of old, damaged gravestones, in a series of irregular lines. I pulled myself to my feet and walked towards them. As I got closer I began to notice that some of the gravestones came complete with bullet holes, and one even sported a large hole through its centre, likely caused by an errant shotgun blast. This alone should have tipped me off as to where I was, but it was what I saw next that caused the penny to finally drop.

 

I’m terrible at funerals. I’ve been to four funerals in my life, and three of those ended with me getting punched repeatedly in the face by one, or all, of the grieving party. The only funeral where that didn’t happen was where I was the grieving party, my father’s funeral. It was this scene that I stumbled upon as I walked through the graveyard. It was a pathetic funeral by all accounts, probably because I had organised it and by this time most of my acquaintances did not trust me at funerals. In attendance was myself, a priest (who was in the process of being defrocked for various stereotypical offences), a few of my father’s work colleagues, and my father, sealed into a cheap MDF coffin. I watched myself watch my father being lowered into the ground as the priest muttered some insincere statement about how the entire world would mourn for my father. The moment my father disappeared below the lip of the freshly dug grave the entire party dispersed, leaving me alone by his grave.

 

I walked towards my younger self, five years my junior, as he ran a hand over the crisp, new gravestone. It only sported two bullet holes as it had only been in place a few hours. The decision to bury my father in the worst graveyard in the city would haunt me for years, but it was cheap, and my father had hardly left me a sizeable inheritance.

 

I made my way up behind my younger self and went to put a hand on his shoulder. It passed straight through him and caused him to disperse in a series of spirals, as smoke does when wafted away, only to reappear a few feet away, leaning against the shotgun damaged gravestone. I remembered this part well. I followed as my younger self drearily plodded back through the graveyard towards his car, a black Audi parked just outside the church. He reached the car and fished around in his pocket for the keys, taking an unusually long time to find them. There was a loud cracking noise and he looked up just in time to see the head of a stone gargoyle crash straight into his face. Seeing it from outside made it look much more painful than I remembered it to be, although the amount of blood was consistent with my memory. That was the moment that enabled me to see auras.

 

My younger self passed out almost immediately and, suddenly, a thought struck me. I never knew how I had made it from the churchyard to the hospital I was to wake up in later, no-one had called an ambulance and the hospital staff couldn’t remember anyone having brought me in. I scanned the area and found no trace of anyone else so decided to head into the church, perhaps I could at least learn how the gargoyle had fallen. I walked through the church door, actually through it, causing it to billow in a similar smoky fashion to my younger self. I made my way through the main hall at a deliberate pace, nearly bumping into someone coming the other way. He looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place him. He was wearing a long, grey cloak that flowed behind him as he walked. I called off my gargoyle inspection and decided to follow the guy instead, he was just too sinister to ignore.

 

The cloaked figure headed all the way back to my unconscious younger self. He stood over his body and just studied him, barely moving. Reaching into his robe, he pulled out a notepad, scribbled down some notes in incomprehensible handwriting, then replaced the notepad. The cloaked man turned away from my younger self and flicked an archaic mobile phone out of his sleeve. I watched him dial 555-357 before he froze solid. The creeping frost was back again, once more acting as the harbinger to the thick fog. As the fog completely obscured the surrounding environment, hanging so close to me that I could not even see my own feet.

 

After what seemed an eternity the fog cleared and I found myself in Carly’s house once more. The phenomenon’s eyes, still fading in and out of visibility, were staring at me. I backed away slowly, stumbling as my foot suddenly remembered that I had shot it before my little soiree into dreamland. This was way out of my league, whatever this phenomenon was it had power. Fumbling inside my jacket I managed to find the business card the suspicious G-Men had given me. As much as I didn’t want their help I couldn’t really see any other way to sort this mess out. The decision was ultimately taken away from me, however, as almost as soon as I found the card the agents of the NBUO kicked down the lounge door, guns at the ready and still wearing their sunglasses.

 

They fired a few shot at the phenomenon, to no discernible effect. The only thing that did happen was that the creature’s eyes faded away from looking at me and faded back in facing the agents. One of the agents, the one who didn’t talk to me in the lobby earlier, freaked out at this and made a run for the door. The other agent took him down with a sudden lariat, barely taking his eyes off the phenomenon.

 

A large groan suddenly shook the room, the neutered behemoth was awake. It sat up gingerly and glared angrily at me. The agent, in one fluid motion, pulled a metal stake from a pouch on his belt and hurled it at the behemoth, embedding the stake in its brain, all while keeping his gun trained on the phenomenon. The behemoth crashed back to the ground, and I found it very hard not to be impressed. He made a hand motion that I gathered meant I should leave, and hobbled my way out the other doorway. Behind me I heard some gunshots, but I paid them little attention as I made for the back door.

 

Annoyingly the door was gone, and in its place stood a wall of solid ice, blocking my exit. I glanced down the hall to see the same was true of the front door, it seemed the phenomenon didn’t want anyone to leave. There was a loud crash and the agent came flying through the wall, straight into me, knocking me down. His sunglasses didn’t move, I made a note to ask him about that at a later date. He flashed me a wry grin as he got back to his feet, reloaded his gun, and ran back into the lounge. I observed as best a could through the newly formed hole as he fired his gun numerous times at the phenomenon. His gun seemed quieter than before so I deduced that he had changed his ammunition during his strategic reloading. It didn’t seem to have made much difference to the phenomenon, other than angering it.

 

There were thin razors of ice slashing across the room, resembling claw marks. They seemed to be aimed at the agent but he was dodging them effortlessly, continuing to fire away. When he paused to reload the phenomenon took its chance and, with a single swipe, disarmed the agent, launching his gun across the room and causing it to land a few feet away from me. The agent fell back, flat against the wall. He looked flustered. A hand was rummaging around in his pouch again, the icy slashes getting closer and closer. The agent pulled something from his pouch and threw it at the phenomenon. I was blinded by a bright flash, there was a loud squeal, and then an eerie silence.

 

When my sight eventually returned the agent was sat, leaning on the wall of lounge, breathless and flustered. The icy slashes were melting rapidly, as were the walls blocking the exits. I dragged myself to the wall and hoisted myself through the hole to inspect the damage. The phenomenon was gone, as was the behemoth, and apart from the melting ice, shattered furniture, injured agents, and the bullet wound in my foot, there was no evidence that either had been there. The agent smirked at me and let out a strained chuckle.

 

I’ve had easier cases.” he said, wryly.

 

He was still wearing his sunglasses.

Hubris McLeod – Part 4

It took me longer than I’d expected to get back to Carly’s house, not least because I tripped into a puddle on the way there. When I did finally squish my way up to her front door I was surprised to find it wide open.

 

I crept into the hall and, to my delight, found that the horrible carpet of maggots was gone. This afforded me the luxury of not screaming like a girl and letting anyone know I was there. Using this advantage I pressed myself to the wall like a badly trained spy and sidled towards the door to the lounge. I tried the handle but the door wouldn’t move, which wasn’t entirely unexpected. One of the first things I learned when I got roped into this gig was that horror film cliches seem to have a basis in the real world, suddenly locked doors being the bottom of the pile.

 

I fumbled my way around the overly large house for a few minutes before finding the other entrance to the lounge. This door wasn’t locked and I pushed it open. I was greeted by the same aura I had seen before, only this time it was bigger. It had grown quite quickly, filling most of the lounge like a cold fireball. I wanted to study it but I was distracted before I got the chance.

 

I ducked the punch just in time, falling to the ground as the giant fist crashed into the wall behind me. I glanced up to take a look at my assailant. At the other end of a long and muscular arm stood a man who could only be described as a giant. He was so tall he had to stoop so he didn’t hit his head on the ceiling and must have been nearly as wide as a doorway. This was probably the person who jumped me the last time I was there and looking at his hands I can see why he did so much damage.

 

The muscular behemoth drew back his hand from the wall and shook free some large clumps of plaster before setting his sights on me again. He was surprisingly quick for his size, before I had time to run he had grabbed me and hurled me across the room into the far wall. As I lay there, seriously winded, I saw him pick up the couch with one hand, he was going to crush me to death with it. It was then that I remembered my gun.

 

I’ve never been very good with firearms which made what happened next feel so very good. I didn’t have the strength, nor the speed, to get my pistol out of my pocket in time to fire it so instead I did my best to aim it in my pocket. Thinking I had a pretty decent bead on his head I pulled the trigger and instantly felt a sharp pain shoot up my leg. I had shot myself in the foot. Handily, however, the bullet had passed through my foot and embedded itself in the hulk’s groin, causing him to drop the couch on his head and knock himself out in one fluid movement. I managed to hobble over to make sure of this fact before I shot him once more in the groin. I’m a vindictive bastard.

 

I took a few minutes to compose myself and turned my attention once more to the aura. It didn’t look right. Deep in it’s centre, almost impossible to see, were two fuzzy circles that I could almost swear were eyes. It was like watching for pictures in the static on a television, every now and then I would catch a glimpse of something that resembled a face only to lose it to the chaos. Regardless of this I got a very clear feeling of evil from whatever this thing was. It warranted further investigation. I needed to touch it, to get direct contact with its energies. I know that sounds a little New-Age but a lot can be learned from physical contact with auras that you just can’t get from looking at them. Of course if what you are about to touch isn’t an aura you get a much different reaction, as I found out when I actually touched it.

Hubris McLeod – Part 3

I’d stumbled upon the NBUO quite early on in my career as a civil servant. I spent years checking a continuous stream of expense reports from numerous minor departments, and the only ones that stood out were those filed by NBUO. Their expenses were uniquely absurd, they were the only department to put in a petrol bill of over $1 million. It was charges like this that drew my eye.

 

As bored as I was with expense reports I took it upon myself to do a bit of digging on these NBUO guys. From what I could find the department consisted of only 2 agents, and no-one had anything nice to say about them. Those that had actually heard of the guys told me some weird stories about them, weird occult things that were just too bizarre to be true. This didn’t dissuade me from my little investigation however.

 

Eventually I found someone who had actually had regular dealings with the NBUO agents for a time. It was him that successfully persuaded me to call off my investigation. He told me about one of their cases, a guy claiming to be a warlock or sorcerer. This guy had been murdering young girls as part of his sadistic “rituals” to fuel his “magic”. The NBUO guys tracked him down, cut his hands off, crushed his nuts with a sledgehammer, poked his eyes out with a Swiss Army Knife, and set him alight. All that with no repercussions from their superiors, not even a letter. I didn’t want to get noticed by guys like that.

 

Seems they’ve noticed me now. I turned the card over in my hand a few times. It had that crispness that only freshly printed cards have, and I had no doubt that they had printed this card especially for me.

 

I pocketed the card and headed up to my apartment. The door was ajar when I reached it and I could hear the TV cackling from inside. I strolled in stupidly to find Carly happily sat on my couch and watching a children’s channel. She seemed to be enjoying herself so I didn’t interrupt her. I slouched off to my room, wondering exactly how long I would have to put up with this dozy goth squatting in my apartment. I threw the pile of rotting filth off my underused bed and perched myself on the end to think things through.

 

I would have to go back to Carly’s house in the morning, I needed to see more of that unusual aura. I’d take a weapon this time, I wasn’t about to get myself brained from behind again. I rifled through my bedside cabinet for my (illegal) firearm. I had meant to get a proper permit, but by the time I had finished going through the ridiculous citizenship exam I couldn’t be bothered to sort out all the paperwork. It was a lot easier to just buy one out of the back of a van in the bad part of town, cheaper too. Of course the gun would be useless if I let the guy sneak up on me again, but it was a better plan than going in unarmed.

 

I fell back on my bed and my head suddenly remembered that it was supposed to be hurting. I swore and rolled onto my side, flicking a mouldy cracker off my pillow as I did so. Carly was giggling quite loudly in the lounge now and it was doing nothing to help my new headache. I really needed to get this case sorted out soon and get her back into her maggot ridden goth palace. I was beginning to worry that I may end up enjoying having her around, and I didn’t think I was quite ready to put up with her Misery induced rages for a prolonged period. I angrily stormed over to slam my door and caught a glimpse of her, bathed in the light of the TV. She looked so cute sat there, her face locked into a childish grin as she bounced up and down excitedly. I was just like watching a kid watch TV.

 

I slowly walked over and sat next to her on the couch. She smiled at me and put her head on my shoulder. I ruffled her hair and let myself relax into the softness of the couch, glancing only briefly at the sickeningly bright cartoon blaring from my television. I fell asleep.

 

A rat nudged me awake at about 7 am the following morning. Carly was slumped against me fast asleep so I did my best not to wake her as I got up from the sofa, covering her with the least dirty blanket I could find, as all good gentlemen do in such situations. The TV was belching out static again, one of the sky vermin was probably perched on the satellite dish again. I gently crept into my bedroom and changed my clothes into something slightly more respectable. I had been wearing the same clothes for 2 weeks now so I replaced my yellowing shirt with a crisp white(ish) new one, a slightly crumpled tie, and an arguably cleaner pair of trousers. I loaded my gun and jammed it into my trouser pocket, right next to the keys for my burnt out car.

 

I fished out the G-Men’s business card again, staring at the number embossed on it. I had no intention of calling these guys but it didn’t hurt to have them as a back up plan. After all they couldn’t be that bad with the phone number 555-ECKS-FILES. They had to have at least some humanity left.

 

Fully prepared for my return trip to the house I made my way to the front door. I took one last look at the girl asleep on my couch. I could feel my idealism rising within me. First I was going to get her house back, then I would get her off the drugs, then I would marry her. Simple as that.

 

I closed the door behind me as I left and made my way back to the park, to Carly’s house.

Hubris McLeod – Part 2

Ironically it was a second punch that woke me up. Carly had found me slumped on a bench in the park and had decided to beat me back to consciousness. Bless her heart.

 

Apparently I had been gone for most of the afternoon, and at about 10 o’clock she’d finished crying and started to worry where I was. Two hours later she had found me asleep on a bench in the park and wasn’t best pleased.

 

I managed to stop her hitting me and tried to explain to her what happened.

 

Oh my god!” she screamed as soon as I mentioned the aura, “you saw it too?”

 

Err, yeah. Kind of hard to miss something like that.”

“I thought I was going mad! But now you’ve seen the ghost, you know I’m not crazy, right?”

 

Even though I’d seen what the girl had thought was a ghost I still wasn’t convinced that she wasn’t a bit mental, but she did have a point. She seemed to think so at any rate, as she skipped off merrily down the path before I had a chance to ask her any more questions. I got up to chase after her and found my legs were still far too wobbly and landed myself back on the bench.

 

I lay down and stared up at the sky. I should have gone home, tried to get a good night’s sleep and let my headache run its course, but instead I decided a nice under the stars would be preferable. Well, it would be preferable to trying to get up again at least. That was until I fell off the bench, then I decided that I’d go home.

 

I drunkenly staggered my way home, my head gradually clearing. I stumbled into my apartment building at about 1 am, and bounced straight into some very official looking gentlemen. All suits and shades, very overt government types, they all look alike. They strongly pushed me back a few steps and straightened their suits.

 

McLeod?” the one on the left asked in a tone that made my spine tingle. I have never been good around G-Men.

 

What do you want? Can’t you people just leave me alone?” I spat, quite stupidly.

 

We’re the government, sir. It’s our job to make sure people aren’t left alone.”

 

Oh very clever, you must have been practising that one for days! Just tell me what you want.”

 

Shouting at a government agent is not a good thing to do ordinarily, but having spent most of my adult life as a civil servant (both freelance and conventional) I’d managed to accumulate enough dirt to save myself from any of the nastier repercussions.

 

Listen very carefully McLeod We know what you’re up to with the woman, and you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.”

 

Jesus Christ, could you be any more cliché?”

 

Shut up McLeod, we’re trying to help you! Here, think about it and give us a call.”

 

He threw a crisp, newly printed business card at me and both men left. I looked at the card and read “National Bureau of Uncategorised Occurrences”. It was then I realised quite how much shit I was in.