The Second Tale - Part 2

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

I’m walking along Commercial Street, the slums of Downtown far behind me. My super hearing picks up faint strains of classical music. Wagner. Someone is in real trouble. The echo on the music says they’re in a large building. Vertigo Central Station. I put Downtown behind me and start running north.

It’s one of my gifts, if you could call them that, to hear human emotions as music. I thought everyone could do it until I got to school and realised I was a freak. That was what they called me. Freak. It took me fifteen years to fully embrace what I could do. Fifteen years to realise that I’m not a freak. Vertigo City just produces strange people. We thrive here.

Wagner stops dead, cut off mid-crescendo. I speed up, sprinting through the streets, but I already know I’m too late. Vertigo Central Station sits at the crossroads of Vertigo Avenue and City Boulevard. It’s a cathedral of transport, a cavernous hall of marble and cold stone from the old Windspit Quarry in the Hills. The rush hour throng flows through the main booking hall. People hurry home at the end of a busy day. Bankers, receptionists, lawyers, doctors - all of them oblivious to the anguish and resentment simmering outside.

The throng flows around a small circle of people near one of the booking office windows. A woman sprawls on the floor, her beige overcoat soaking up blood. I assume it’s hers. A man crouches beside her. He wears too much hair cream and his leather gloves smell new. Blood spatters his shoes.

“Look! It’s The Hero!” shouts an onlooker.

I look down into the woman’s not-unattractive face. She looks like any one of the hundreds of poster girls plastered across town, selling hand cream or soda or products guaranteed to achieve domestic bliss. Pretty, but generic. Pretty, generic, and dead.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, one minute I was behind her, next minute there was a bang, she screamed, and she fell to the ground,” he says. “I think she’s been shot.”

“You didn't see anyone?" I ask.

“No. There were people everywhere. It took me long enough to get people to step over her," he replies.

“Anyone know who she is?”

“She’s got a Council ID in her purse. Says she’s Ida Willcott. Justice Department,” says a blonde woman.

She’s holding the dead woman’s bag, guarding it from view. The dame is dead, and this stranger still wants to keep her purse private. Stupid, really.

“Well, Ida…what’s your story?” I ask.

I pull off my gloves, press my index fingers to her temples, and let her start talking.

Back to Part 1

The Second Tale - Part 1

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Late afternoon, late February. It's getting dark already. My shadow strides away from me in the deepening twilight. I follow where it leads. The Christmas lights outstay their welcome in the street. The blinking or broken bulbs loop their way from one lamppost to the next. Their lazy flashes skitter across the wet sidewalk, sparking in the puddles. It's pathetic enough in December. Now it's intolerable. Just like the rest of the city.

Every day, I watch the slow, steady decay of the crumbling metropolis. Notices of condemnation appear on a daily basis all over town. Entire streets disappear into demolished oblivion. The homeless take refuge in the dying shells of these unwanted buildings, and most of down town is a haven for the dispossessed. The apartment blocks stand empty, hunkered over abandoned stores advertising long gone wares in broken windows. No one ventures onto the streets in this neighbourhood. The eerie silence is only broken by gunshots or the squalling cries of hungry babies.

A man shuffles towards me, one shaking hand held out while the other clutches his oily rags at his throat. He stinks of cold, clammy death. At first I think he is one of the Risen, but I see his bloodshot eyes and realise he's just a down-and-out. I bury my face in my collar to avoid the stench. He sighs when I walk past. I have no intention of stopping. I refuse to give his kind money. You just have to take one look at those scrawny arms poking out from beneath his rags, punctuated with needle marks, to know how he'll spend it. I want to help but he's beyond my reach.

I head into an alley between the remains of a retro cafĂ© and a hardware store. Bodies, swollen with rain yet frozen by the cold, lie under disintegrating cardboard shelters. Hungry eyes watch my progress as I cross from 34th Street out into Mayhew Square. I could bring them food, or help them build shelters, but it won't help. Not in the long run. I'd just need to come back the next day and do it all over again. The City Fathers sit back and do nothing. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and all the while the city rots.

Sometimes I hate who I am. They call me The Hero, and yet there is only so much I can do.

The Launch of The First Tale ebook!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

It's finally here! The First Tale e-book is now available for 99c from Smashwords. Click here to buy! The e-book collects all thirty episodes of the serial that ran on this blog, although naturally it's been edited and tweaked to improve the flow, even out the tone and in a couple of places, even add a little extra action.

So now you can read the whole story of the Vertigo City Resistance and the Weimar Corporation in one go, if you so choose! It's available in all the usual Smashwords formats, including MOBI, EPUB and PDF.

As a special bonus, if you buy the e-book, there's a link on the back page to the extras I bundled together, which will hopefully add a little to the experience of Vertigo. I'm talking newspaper clippings, propaganda posters...and of course, another copy of the wonderful cover illustration of Commander Liss Hunt by the exceptionally talented Jimmy Misanthrope.

Of course, if you like it, feel free to leave me a review!

Chapter Thirty - The End of the First Tale

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The free web serial has now been taken down, but you can buy the collected episodes as a novella for the princely sum of 99c from either Smashwords or Amazon for the Kindle!

You can also follow Liss on Twitter @LissHunt.