Fiction samples

Berthezene

David Major


Short story

Some of the more attractive incidents described in the following story — the stuffing of windows and doorways with the bodies of the dead, the scientists engaged in research while fighting rages around them, the officer attending to his wig — these all did happen during Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, according to contemporary accounts.

It is also certainly true that the entire complement of the First Division of the Young Guard (General Berthezene’s command) were lost during the campaign in Russia. Of his six battalions (approx. 8,000 men), not a single soldier was left to answer in roll call.

Of the 50,000 that were the total of the Guard (the Young, Middle and Old combined), 1,100 survived.

As for Napoleon’s death on the roof of a burning library outside Borodino — I’m absolutely sure that that happened. – D.M.

The Serpent and the Horse

David Major


Short story

There was only one entrance to Tritonis. It was a large gate, set into the wall which surrounded the city.

So tall was the gate that it was five times higher than the tallest horse on the island; taller even than the shadow made when the guardsman whose mount it was sat high on the great beast in his ceremonial armour with its feathers and fur all flying up around him and across his blue skin, so that he would look like a sunset — even this guardsman and his mighty horse were dwarfed in their height by the city gate.

No one in the city could remember a time, or had even heard of a time, when the gate had been closed, and the drawbridge across the moat drawn up. The moat had never been breached. This is no surprise, because it was so full of dark fears; things that crawled and slithered and stung, or things that were the dark shadows of themselves — but about these things and the moat and its awful depths we are not going to concern ourselves, because they are another story altogether, and one much more difficult than this.

‘The Day of the Nefilim’ – Excerpt

David Major


Excerpt: The Day of the Nefilim

The sun darkens. At first imperceptibly, and then with greater speed, it casts an unfamiliar veil over itself. It is the first eclipse in years.

The people look up at the sky, where some of them notice to the east a star falling to its death, and others watch the hulking disk of the moon that obscures the sun. It was all there in the sky that day, above Barker’s Mill.

After a few minutes, the eclipse is over. The planets creak slowly along their orbits, and soon everything is as it was.

On the ground far below, life teeters on the edge of changing forever, but for today at least, it changes its mind and proceeds as it always has, grinding along the rusting tracks of its normality. It forgets quickly the strange orange dusk that had descended from the middle of the day.

On the edge of a tree-lined bay, with water the same deep green that you find in the glass of old bottles, stands Barker’s Mill. The town has been laid out with the same care that a child gives to the arrangement of a new set of blocks. Its houses sit solidly, arranged in neat rows, portly squires gathered around a dinner table on their foundation seats of brick and bluestone. It is a most respectable gathering; everyone is well behaved.

Excerpt: Chapter 1 of ‘Dear Heart, How Like You This?’

// Wendy J. Dunn


// Excerpt from Dear Heart, How Like You This?

// My Anna was dark and lovely—full of life’s burning light. How strongly my love’s fire did blaze. Too strong, yea, too strong for this world. For her bright, burning light has forever been put out; aye, put out, and my life is eternally dark. Too dark tout de suite for me to ever see the end of my despair…

Excerpt: Chapter 1 of ‘The Light in the Labyrinth’

// Wendy J. Dunn


// Excerpt from The Light in the Labyrinth

// “You were foolish to marry him,” Kate said, perched on the edge of her mother’s unmade bed. Her family had more troubles than most. They were of noble blood, yet poor. Kate balled her hands in anger, thinking, ’Tis my mother’s fault. She’s the one who has brought shame on us. A sister of the Queen of England should know better than to wed a commoner…

Excerpt: Chapters 1 & 2 of ‘Tritcheon Hash’

// Sue Lange


// Excerpt from Tritcheon Hash


// “Disengage please, Sylvant Hash.”

“Disengaged,” Slvt. Tritcheon Hash answered. “And fucked!” she added.

“I’m sorry?” The reply through the voice feeder was pretending it had missed that last thing.

“Nothing,” Tritch said, switching off the vox. “Nothing. Nothing.”

Blame her impatience on the fact that she’d been sitting in a one-size-fits-all seat for the past six hours. She had spent most of that time trying to revive parts of her body that had fallen asleep. It was an impossible task, since the hemp straps held her securely in place just like the procedural manuals liked it. S