Extract / Preview: The Night Clock by Paul Meloy

CB - Reb - Nov - The Night Clock

1

LEWIS WATCHED BARRY Cook stumble across the lawn with the green loop of a hosepipe caught around his ankle. He stopped, looked up. Lewis froze as Barry’s eyes, redblack as blood blisters, fixed on the kitchen window; his tongue lolled, redblack too, behind his teeth. His left arm reached out, fingers clawed, and made a feeble grabbing motion toward the window. His right arm was gone; just a stump remained, congealed and tattered, torn off at the shoulder. Through the glass, Lewis could just make out a low, miserable moaning sound. Barry looked down at the hosepipe snagging his ankle.
Barry reached down, fingers still making that reflexive grabbing motion, and tried to unhook the hosepipe. The task was beyond him; he toppled forward and cracked his forehead against the marble birdbath.

*
“Someone should put that poor sod out of his misery,” Dawn, Lewis’s mother, said as she joined Lewis at the window. She shook her head as Barry began levering himself up, using his one arm to push himself to his knees, his chin resting on the rim of the birdbath. He had sustained a gaping, bloodless gash to his brow. His expression was one of stunned incomprehension, that of someone perhaps fallen victim to fierce and unanticipated incontinence.

Barry regained his feet. The fall had  dislodged  the hosepipe and Barry used this new freedom of movement to gather enough momentum to propel him up the garden towards the house. He reeled across the patio and thudded against the back door. Dawn gasped, pushed past Lewis and tried to fumble the bolt across but Barry was already pushing his way into the kitchen. The side of his face and his butchered shoulder pressed against the frame, one unlit crimson eye glaring through the gap, the final incredulity of his own astonishing death still embossed in its expression. His mouth opened and he uttered a choked, throaty shout.

Dawn leant against the door. “Go away, Barry!” she hissed. Barry’s expression didn’t change but at the mention of his name he doubled his efforts to get in. He was feeble but the kitchen tiles were slippery, Dawn was small, and she was wearing socks. Gradually, Barry managed to shove the door wide enough to squeeze his upper body and one leg through. Dawn staggered backwards and sprawled across the large wooden table that stood in the middle of the kitchen. Lewis ran to his mum and they stood together, their backs to the cooker, while Barry uttered more insensate cries, flailed one arm about, and gawped around the kitchen with those awful congested eyes.

As Dawn and Lewis began edging away from the cooker, keeping the kitchen table between them and Barry, trying to get across the room to the door to the hall, Barry made up his mind what he wanted. He lunged for the cooker.

Dawn and Lewis dodged away and made it to the hall. They heard a clatter and they both turned. Barry was at the stove. He was standing with his belly up against the oven door, leaning over the large saucepan of beef chilli Dawn had been stirring. He cocked his head and seemed for a moment to be responding to some kind of internal stimuli, perhaps just the aroma of the chilli and nothing more than that—a trace memory of chemical detection still functioning in his poor decomposing head; then he raised his left arm and thrust his hand into the pan. Dawn and Lewis cringed against each other as Barry scooped up palmfuls of steaming chilli and shoved them into his mouth. He choked, unable to swallow and a wad of mince flew against the tiles and slid down behind the grill. He plunged his hand into the pan again, and forced in another mouthful. This time he turned and displayed his sauce-smeared jaw to Dawn and Lewis. His mouth was jammed wide with a dense bolas of mince and kidney beans. His left arm was red up to the elbow; drops of sauce flew from the ends of his fingers. Barry staggered back against the cooker and clawed at his face. His eyes bulged.

The kitchen door banged open and a man came in carrying a pitchfork. He squared his shoulders and took the pitchfork in both hands. “Come on, Barry. Time to go,” he said and walked across the kitchen.

Barry shambled backwards, clattering into the cooker. His arm came up and he waved it in the man’s direction. The man advanced. Barry’s eyes continued to bulge but Dawn thought for a second she could see something new in his expression; fear perhaps? Barry’s last knowing thought?

Barry tried to bolt but the man came up behind him and thrust the pitchfork through the middle of his back. Barry’s mouth flew wider still and the wad of chilli was ejected onto the draining board. He made an awful cackling, throat-filled rattle as the tines of the pitchfork punched through his chest. The man braced himself and leaned down on the handle. Barry went up on his toes. The man moved to his right. Barry sagged a little then swung to his left. He looked at Dawn as he was pushed past the door to the hall and Dawn could see resignation on his face, even if it was partially masked behind chilli sauce. Despite his condition, and in some primal way, Barry Cook knew his future.

Dawn and Lewis edged out of the hall and went to the door. They held hands and watched as the man propelled Barry down the garden, across the lane and into the field opposite. Two men were walking towards the middle of the field. They stood together and waited for the man with the pitchfork to reach them. They were carrying jerry cans. They looked grainy and insubstantial in the overcast early- morning light, like an image on a hand-cranked camera. The man drove Barry across the field, both of them stumbling amidst the dark, blocky chunks of turned earth until they reached the others.

The man stopped in front of the others. Barry hung from the tines of the pitchfork, his head down, arm limp by his side. One of the men approached and appeared to speak to him. Barry opened his mouth and tried to flail him away. Dawn heard his rasping shout, borne across to her on that sodden wind, and it was that as much as the sight of the cans of liquid being poured over him, and one of the men returning to strike the light, that made Dawn turn away from Barry, set ablaze up there on the hillside.

 

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You can read more about THE NIGHT LOCK on our Jul-Dec 15 Abaddon & Solaris Books page or our November New Book Recommends page, and there’s more extracts to check out as well – you can see in order of most recent in our Extracts Articles Category,  and below in order that we put them out!

DAVE VS THE MONSTERS: EMERGENCE – John Birmingham
SKY PIRATES – Liesel Schwarz
BLOOD RED CITY – Justin Richards
RADIANT STATE – Peter Higgins
THE SUMMONER – Taran Matharu
MARKED – Sue Tingey
BETE – Adam Roberts
FOUL TIDES TURNING – Stephen Hunt
STEEPLE – John Wallace
CRASHING HEAVEN – Al Robertson
BENEATH LONDON – James Blaylock
OUR LADY OF THE STREETS – Tom Pollock
CAUSAL ANGEL – Hannu Rajaniemi
YOUR SERVANTS AND YOUR PEOPLE – David Towsey
THE SEVENTH MISS HADFIELD – Anna Caltabiano
DETECTIVE STRONGOAK AND THE CASE OF THE DEAD ELF – Terry Newman
THE RELIC GUILD – Edward Cox
FOXGLOVE SUMMER – Ben Aaronovitch
THE MOON AND THE SUN – Vonda McIntyre
PATH OF GODS – Snorri Kristjansson
TIME SALVAGER – Wesley Chu
REGENERATION – Stephanie Saulter
THE SUPERNATURAL ENHANCEMENTS – Edgar Cantero
THE RETURN OF THE DISCONTINUED MAN – Mark Hodder
THE MARTIAN – Andy Weir
KOKO THE MIGHTY – Kieran Shea
THE UNNOTICEABLES – Robert Brockway
IF/THEN – Matthew de Abaitua
THE SAND MEN – Christopher Fowler
THE DRAGON ENGINE – Andy Remic
YOUR RESTING PLACE – David Towsey
THE NIGHT CLOCK – Paul Meloy