It’s a year away, but here’s a teaser to keep your motor revving: a little taste of the first chapter of Cal 8. Half the book is set twelve years ago and half is present day. Twelve years ago Niko was fifteen and Cal eleven (for those confused by the difference in ages–4 years vs 2 years–you’ve forgotten that time runs differently in Tumulus where Cal was lost for 2 days here/2 years there.) In this little snippet, Niko comes home after school and work and Cal fills him in on the news of the day. Enjoy! (And if it inspires fan art…I do love fan art.)
Twelve Years Ago
“Our neighbor is a serial killer.”
It was that kind of day.
There had been tutoring no-necked football players lacking enough in brain cells that I was surprised they didn’t have calluses on their knuckles from walking on them. It would’ve gone well with their gorilla grunting. Following that had been the food poisoning caused by a casserole brought in by Mrs. Cornelius. The teacher’s lounge had been liberally labeled a biohazard. The color of which is not orange like they tell you, but the bile green of non-stop vomiting. I stood witness to that. I’d gone through three mops.
And now we had a serial killer.
I closed the door behind me and locked it, not because I was immediately on board with the serial killer comment just issued, but we rented in a bad neighborhood. For us, an average neighborhood would be a more truthful way to put it. We’d not lived in better and we’d sometimes lived in worse. This cramped little house with a pronounced lean, no insulation, and cracked windows in east New London, Connecticut was nothing special in one way or the other. When we didn’t stay anyplace longer than five or six months, thanks to our mother’s ‘occupation’, it was all the same. I put my duffle bag containing my school books and janitor uniform by the door and took off my worn, but warm Salvation Army coat to hang from a rusted hook by the door.
With everything in its place I moved to the kitchen table, which wobbled, where my little brother with pencil and paper sat in a chair, which also wobbled. I lightly ruffled his black hair, shaggy in length but with a gloss like silk. Thanks to Cal being a good brother, he let me without complaint.
“Are you doing your homework?” I asked with a little disapproval for him to hear. It was six PM—although I couldn’t make it home at the same time as he did, I made it there before dark. Always.
The homework that he should’ve been done with by now. There was also a pan crusted with burnt Spagetti-Os in the sink, some less scorched fake pasta in spots on the cracked linoleum floor, and a purple handprint, Grape Crush probably, on the door of the groaning refrigerator.Cal was a good brother, but there are all sorts of definitions for good when it came to an eleven year old.
“Yes, Nik. I’m doing my homework. Watching the serial killer made me get behind.” I didn’t have to see his eyes to know they were rolling with the disdain and sarcasm only an eleven year old could manage, and I gave him a gentle swat to the back of the head.
I took the other chair and sat down. “All right. Tell me why our neighbor is a serial killer,” I said with a patience I didn’t have to fake. I listened to Cal when he had something to say. I always listened to him. I had even when he was three and thought a monster lived under the bed, because in our world….
In our world, there was every chance that he wasn’t necessarily wrong.