Well, I didn't think I'd be uploading my first Sherlock Holmes novel to FFN (and as my FIFTIETH FIC onsite, no less!). But… I've discovered that writing a novel without feedback (other than from my mom, which, I grant you, is not inconsiderable)… is rather a lonely business. So, I've decided to feel my audience out by uploading just the first few chapters (won't give away the whole thing for free, since I want to sell it, y'know ;D) and getting some badly-needed feedback.
You see, if you write a novel with only one or two other people reading along… you're still basically alone. It's a marked contrast to the experience of AMM. I'm starting to run a bit dry; I need feedback badly.
So here's what I need YOU to do. I need constructive feedback. I need you to tell me that this and this works or that and that doesn't, and I need you to tell me why. I do not want a run-of-the-mill review like "great chapter," "enjoyed it," "like it," "don't like it," "meh," or even "love it." I'm asking for serious feedback. Now, if you want to say that you love it and give me a quick run-down on what you like and/or why you like it, etc.—that is fine by me. But, heh, "give me details." ^_^
So this is Part One of the coming Deliver Us from Evil series—Tales from the Great Hiatus and quite a few AMM pieces are tied in with this series. I hope to have this first novel, Mortality, out by next spring.
© 2011 by Aleine Skyfire.
All rights reserved.
Deliver Us from Evil, A Sherlock Holmes Saga
Part I: Mortality
Late 1890: a young gentleman hires Sherlock Holmes to investigate his step-uncle, Culverton Smith. As Holmes digs deeper, he finds links to a powerful old enemy—and must come face to face with his own mortality. The first part in a series.
Valley of the Shadow
"I have been in the Valley of Fear. I am not out of it yet."
I have never liked the dark.
It serves its purpose as a tool, a cover under which I may slip when I must traverse London unnoticed, but, beyond that, darkness and I have no kinship. The night is the realm of the lawbreaker and the evildoer, and it is my business to shine light into that blackness and reveal such men. I have no kinship with the dark.
Rather, I did not until now, for darkness now comprises my very existence.
It is deep, penetrating, infinite. It pushes up against my body, thrums in my ears, sets its hands about my throat, seeps into my mind.
A living thing, then, this darkness—a presence all of its own, not a mere absence of light. Even now I can feel it clawing at my mental faculties, filling my head with its harsh whispers. I cannot hold out forever
(Sherlock Holmes must hold out, he wouldn't give up, am I still that man?)
this captivity shall break me
(God, make these voices stop, please, let my mind stop just this once, just let it be quiet)
Watson shall not come in time
(my dear fellow, hurry, I need you, I need you so desperately, forgive me, I am so sorry)
he shall not come at all
(no, he must, he always does, he shan't abandon me to this, he cannot)
I shall die here in the dark
(let me die, then, it's too much, I fear life now more than death, I can't keep on going, I cannot)
alone and forgotten
(Watson wouldn't, Mycroft, Lestrade, they must come, please, hurry)
a fragmented shell of a man before the end.
(dear Father in Heaven, just make it stop)
Something rises in my throat… I hear a whimper. My own voice. Fragmented shell. I am broken already. Dear God, I am broken.
I hear a sound from beyond the blackness—or do I imagine it? My brain—feverish, I think—has conjured up so many noises in this deafening silence. No, it is a real sound, for I recognise the door's creeeak as it opens. Light abruptly floods in to replace the darkness, and I lethargically raise manacled hands to shield my eyes, lest they go blind. Just this simple action drains what strength I have left from my arms.
A tall silhouette looms in the doorway, kindly casting its shadow over me. I cannot see the face, but the slow turning of the head from side to side leaves no doubt even in my drugged mind. A chill ripples sluggishly down my spine.
"Inject him," the man orders in a soft, precise voice.
After long four years, at last we meet, and I am not even granted the dignity of standing face to face, unfettered and strong. I am already fragile and trembling, a shadow of my former self—need I be injected with still more drugs? How much further can they break an already-broken man?
(do you wish to break me open, see the pieces of my mind, can you put me back together?)
I curl up, as much as I am able,
(just stop, won't you, why must you keep poisoning me, does it satisfy you to see me like this?)
into a ball in the only show of resistance I can manage. I receive a kick to my shins for my effort, and I bite back a cry, my lip already split and scabbed from many such bites. Rough hands pry my knees inexorably away from my chest, prevailing over my feeble attempt to writhe away. The coarse chuckle as my left arm is yanked straight out sounds so far away.
(so very far, yet he can still hurt me)
Tie the tourniquet, find the vein, pierce the skin, press down the piston. How many times have I administered that ritual to myself?
I gasp as the needlepoint enters my arm, for though I have followed this procedure countless times in using my seven-per-cent solution, never did it truly hurt as I did it. Not in the manner that it hurts now, and it does hurt. Brief, clean stab that somehow brings every nerve in my body alive, slowly burning me from the inside out.
(I've burned before, survived an inferno, I don't think I can do it again, I don't think I can do it again)
"Raise him," the voice murmurs, its very softness more unsettling than any shout.
"The Professor." So long ago it seems, since I first heard that title from the lips of a dying man, a police informant shot for his treachery to his gang. Thus began the work of a lifetime to bring justice to a man whose hands were stained with the blood of hundreds, perhaps thousands. So very long ago… almost an eternity. That was another man's existence, I think, not mine.
Sherlock Holmes would never let himself break, would never let himself be taken so easily in the first place. I am not that man. I am not.
Sherlock had his Watson. I have no one. I am alone. I am no one. I am alone.
"Those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted."
The words spring out of nowhere in my mind as I am roughly dragged to my feet by two pairs of strong hands. (I can't even find it in me to be indignant any longer—it's merely routine, after all. Perhaps Sherlock Holmes would be indignant, but I am not he.) I recognise that I should know from whence those words came, but the memory floats just beyond my grasp, taunting my inability to pull my faculties together and seize it.
Those dark hours…
How terribly fitting.
This, then, is the end of the game.
Got your attention, yes? =) And perhaps you recognized it? Well, please read on to the first chapter, which is also uploaded today.
EDIT 9/02/11: This prologue has been redrafted and uploaded thanks to some feedback on it. Hope it meets the audience's approval!