Beneath Midnight excerpt

Delirium has released a trade paperback version of New Dark Voices, which includes my novella, “Beneath Midnight”, the first story about that strange and wondrous city.  (Not the last story, but thus far the only one you’ll be able to find; your patience will be rewarded with additional stories and novellas and novels.)

You can find it here or here.

And here’s an excerpt:

   Mileah paused.

   Only for a moment.  She didn’t want to give anyone–whoever was with her, in the dark–any reason to think she knew she wasn’t alone.

   Was she being followed, or had she stumbled upon someone?

   It was possible, but only barely, that the cough came from someone who didn’t know she was there.  Possible–but unlikely.  If you lived in the dark, you developed senses for it.  Her own night vision was rather acute, developed in the darkroom.

   She glanced around, moving only her eyes, unable to make out more than tracks and columns.

   She pressed forward, sure she’d gone than halfway through the open area.  Light up ahead indicated the tunnel.  She could make it.


   Ahead of her.  This time, she stopped.  Two people–or one, moving like she was?  If she waited, maybe the next cough would be further up the tracks.

   Clink.  Metal hitting metal, a pipe casually tapped on one of the rails, off to her right.

   Two, at least, maybe three.  More?  Was this some sort of street gang, or vagabonds just passing through?  She tried to focus on the not-so-negative options, like old men meandering alone in the dark, not seeing her and not caring if they did.

   She tried, but it felt wrong.

   Whispers.  Furtive, quiet, too soft for Mileah to hear.

   Then, on her left, they laughed.

   She could almost see their silhouettes, black on a darker black, a deep canvas through which they danced around her in a perversion of ancient ceremonies.  Maybe gypsies, but Mileah didn’t think they lived in the city.

   One said a word, sharp and clear though still under his breath, and Mileah’s heart skipped a beat.  “Warde.”  There was no mistaking it, and no one could have guessed at a whim.  Almost a million people lived in Midnight; only a handful shared her name.

   She sprinted forward, sticking close to the tracks, swerving to avoid the man ahead of her.

   There were three, at least, she was sure of that now.  One followed on her right, pacing her, mocking.  The others chased, laughing.

   A thousand feet or miles, the tunnel was too far away.  She saw its light clearly.  It offered no sanctuary.

   The guy on her right started making monkey sounds, jumping as he ran, swinging his arms, more visible with every step.

   Someone tapped her shoulder.  She hunched to the left, trying to duck.  He fell behind, laughing.  Another slammed into her from the right.  She stumbled away from him, lost her balance, and tripped over the next set of tracks.  She crashed into the floor, scraping palms and knees, kicking up dirt and finding concrete underneath.

   One of her pursuers leapt over Mileah and straddled her.

   He spun her onto her back and grabbed fistfuls of shirt under her collarbones.  He jerked her head up, to an angle from which she had no leverage.  She pounded on his arms, without effect.

   He bent so close, his sour breath rushed over her in heavy waves.  “Warde,” he said, spitting out her name like bad wine.

    “Let’s take her home,” one said.

    “You don’t belong under the city,” the guy above her said.  “Stupid girl.”

    “Yeah, stupid,” the other said.

    “But I think…”  He paused, purely as a demonstration of power.  “This might just be your lucky night.  See, it’s not you we want.”

    “Of course it is,” the other said, much closer than before.


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