I’m excited about the upcoming release of Communion (still on track for the end of October) and wanted to make the prologue available for everyone to get a sneak peak.
A Worlds of the Dead Novel
Gary Lomax couldn’t stop laughing as he climbed into the back of a taxi he and his party had waved down outside his hotel on Victor Hugo Boulevard in Montpellier, France. He liked to stay in that hotel because he could remember the name of the street it was on, although he couldn’t remember who Victor Hugo was or what he was famous for.
His companions, Olivia and Alain, had joined him earlier in the bar in the lobby, and Gary was worried he’d already had a bit too much to drink. Getting into the cab felt awkward and he sat down quickly, and when Alain had to climb over him, he stepped on Gary’s foot. Alain apologized several times and Gary just laughed.
Olivia climbed in last and Gary tried not to notice how her skirt hiked up over her knee when she sat down across from him. He knew now he’d had too much to drink, and he didn’t want to say anything stupid. He had to be careful; he was still new in his position. He turned his attention elsewhere, staring out the taxi window at the reflected blue and green lights on the stone exterior of the hotel. Alain told the cab driver what restaurant to take them to. Some place on the Mediterranean.
“Where are we going again?” Gary asked Alain in English, hoping he wasn’t slurring his words. He needed to watch how much heavy French wine he drank. He wasn’t getting any younger.
“The Light House on the Mediterranean,” Alain answered, his English quite good. Olivia’s English was good also and Gary wished he spoke French better, knowing he would have to if he moved here, although that didn’t seem likely after his last fight with his wife. Remembering the expression on her face when he left depressed him, and as a distraction he read aloud street signs in his best French accent while they traveled.
“Avenue des Etats du something.”
“You said one right!” Olivia exclaimed and they all laughed.
The cab twisted and turned through the narrow streets of the city and, as it curved on a roundabout, Alain fell against Gary.
“Opportunity corner,” Gary yelled, laughing. He didn’t think his French companions understood the joke, but they laughed along with him.
“This one I can say,” Gary said, pointing to a highway sign. “D986,” he pronounced formally, and Olivia laughed.
This is fun, Gary thought. He was having a good time and didn’t understand why his wife, Kim, didn’t want to join him. She loved fancy things, and now he was going to have a fancy meal at a fancy restaurant on the fancy coast of a fancy sea and she wasn’t there. It would be incredible to live here, to be able to visit the beach all the time, to enjoy French culture and cuisine, to travel throughout Europe, and simply to have new and different experiences. It’s what Gary wanted to do. When he returned home from this business trip, he and Kim would have to talk again.
The taxi arrived at the restaurant, a converted water tower. Gary smiled. How do you make a water tower look elegant? Somehow they had achieved it by surrounding the base of the tower with a small garden of palm trees, lighting the sides with a diffuse blue reflected light, installing wrap around windows, through which chandeliers were visible where the actual restaurant was located in what had formerly been the reservoir part of the tower, and adorning the top with a neon blue spike, like a giant, modern Christmas tree. Gary was impressed. Olivia opened the taxi door and the air smelled slightly salty and Gary could hear waves lapping against the shore in the distance.
He stumbled getting out of the cab and felt more winded than he should have. He was an athlete, after all. Well, he told himself, he’d been an athlete over thirty years before. He laughed aloud at his own internal dialogue.
“What’s so funny?” Olivia asked, grinning, and smoothing out her skirt as she stood next to the cab while Alain paid the driver.
Gary pointed to a stairway that zig zagged up the side of the building to the top. “We have to climb those stairs?”
“Just for you, our American Director, an elevator has been provided.”
Gary never got claustrophobic, but the elevator seemed cramped as it ascended the one hundred and eighty feet to the restaurant at the top. He felt dizzy when the doors opened and the smell of the food nauseated him slightly as he stepped out.
“We probably shouldn’t sit too close to a window,” he said.
Alain laughed. “But that is the best part.”
They were quickly seated, Olivia having made the arrangements ahead of time, and two bottles of wine were delivered to their table. Gary now felt sick to his stomach and he was sweating more than usual, but he wanted to hold his own with his younger companions in drinking. He was only fifty-three. They couldn’t out drink him.
His skin suddenly felt cold and he shivered. The waiter came out and asked for their orders and he scanned the menu, looking for something expensive that he could pronounce. He ordered Daurade Royale. Olivia snickered.
When the waiter left, Gary asked, “What’s wrong?”
“They serve it with the head still on,” she answered, unable to contain her laughter. The men joined in, and laughing made Gary feel a little better. He wiped a sheen of sweat off his forehead with his napkin.
“Is it hot in here to you?” he asked.
“No, it’s fine,” Olivia answered.
“I’m hot,” Gary said, feeling uncomfortable.
“It’s the wine,” Alain said. “No more for you until you’ve eaten something.” He added in French to Olivia that Americans couldn’t tolerate as much alcohol as the French.
“I understood that,” Gary said, trying to sound stern. They stared at him and he smiled and the three burst into laughter. This is nice, he thought. His wife should be here with them, but then Olivia would probably act all formal and not be as much fun. He looked out the window to distract his thoughts, watching the lights of a ship passing by, but the lights became blurry. He blinked his eyes several times, but the blurriness didn’t go away. He looked back at his companions and he could see them fine.
Soup was served and Alain poured wine for himself and Olivia, but pushed a water glass and a plate of bread towards Gary. Gary tried to thank him, but his throat felt tight and the words wouldn’t come out. He’d had way too much to drink.
He tried to pick up his spoon but couldn’t seem to focus on it. The conversations of the other customers at the restaurant turned into an annoying buzzing sound, like a fly that wouldn’t go away, and Gary’s left shoulder hurt. He wanted to massage it with his right hand, but moving his hand was hard. It felt heavy. He stared at it.
He looked up and Olivia looked like she was saying something and Gary tried to focus on her face. Her mouth was open, but he couldn’t hear what she was saying.
No, Gary thought, she wasn’t trying to speak. She was screaming.
Why was she screaming?