An excerpt from Souls, Light and Wings, a debut novel by Simon A.G. Spencer
My first book, Souls, Light, and Wings has just released and I'd like to share an excerpt from its first chapter. The book is a bit hard to describe along clear genre lines, but if you pulled my arm or asked me nicely, I'd call it a post-apocalyptic fantasy crime thriller. Kind of a mouthful, right? I originally just wanted to write a more traditional urban fantasy story, but one chapter in and I found myself so bored with the world I'd built that I wanted to destroy it. So I did. The story follows a pair of police officers on a journey across an icy wasteland in search of a way to return a strange magical creature to his own world, while being pursued by a vicious criminal. Featured in this story are shapeshifters, train cults, an oblivious demon, kaiju, and plenty of other oddities. Please enjoy:
"A snowdrift a short distance away shifted. For a moment, Eric thought it might have just been a strong wind, but then the snow heaved up and a figure emerged from it. It was definitely a person, with blonde hair, but from this distance he couldn’t tell sex, age, or even what it was wearing. It staggered towards the headlights, raising a hand to shield its eyes.
Irene pushed open the door and was out of the truck before Eric could say a word. Her sixth sense must’ve been getting to her if she was just throwing caution to the wind like that; it wasn’t like her at all. He grabbed his gun and followed, leaving the engine running to keep the truck warm.
The chill hit him immediately, flowing through the layers of clothing as if they weren’t there. He hugged himself to keep warm and trudged through the knee-deep snow.
Irene was already halfway to the figure. “Hey, what are you doing out here?” She waved. “Are you hurt?”
The figure stopped in its tracks and stared at her. The headlights reflected in the ice crystals tangled in its hair, making it shimmer. Coming closer, Eric still couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman; its features were soft and youthful. It looked to be a young adult, maybe a teenager or maybe it was even younger than that; it was thin and feeble-looking, making its age hard to assess. The only clothing it wore was a feathery white cloak that curved over the shoulders, covered most of the chest, and stopped in two points just below the crotch. The rest was exposed to the elements and it trembled pathetically against the cold that should have already made him into a popsicle.
Irene stepped carefully through the snow, displaying a smart degree of caution towards the half-naked creature, more than when she’d leapt out of the truck. “You can’t stay out here,” she said, a little roughly. “Come with us – we’ll get you food, clothes, whatever you want. If you want to tell us why you’re out here, we’d appreciate that as well. We’ll take you somewhere warm.”
A pair of large, unnaturally bright blue eyes watched her. Something glistened down its cheek and suddenly it was sobbing.
“It’s alright, you can trust us. We’re police.” Irene held out her hand and reached for the person’s arm. The creature let out a squeak and leapt backwards. At the same time, the cloak split and flew upwards, shaking off a cloud of snow.
Eric’s chest tightened. What he had thought was a cloak was actually a pair of wings, as white as the snow around them. The thought came into Eric’s head unbidden: an avial, a divine being, the stuff of legends. He suppressed the thought; it – he, now that it was completely exposed – was probably just a shape-shifter. But he couldn’t quite shake the feeling. You didn’t expect to find even a shape-shifter in the middle of a snowstorm.
He noticed that Irene was standing as still as a statue, shotgun trained on their winged target. He put a hand on her shoulder.
“Keep calm, rookie, I don’t think we’re in any trouble,” he said.
The gun barrel swung towards the ground. “What is he? A shape-shifter?” She whispered.
“Probably,” he said, too embarrassed to mention his other theory. “Doesn’t matter, we have to get him in the truck before he freezes to death.”
He turned to face the thin boy. The kid was watching them, chest heaving, wings flared.
Eric gave him the kindest smile he could muster, not easy to do with a face like his. “Hi, I’m Officer Homens. You can call me Eric, if you want. What’s your name?” He pointed to himself and said his name again, then pointed to the boy.
The boy’s lips quivered, then curved into a nervous imitation of Eric’s expression. “S-Syfael?”
That certainly sounded like an avial name. “Nice to meet you, Syfael,” He pointed to Irene. “This is Officer Kelnotch. We’re here to help you.”
The boy tilted his head to one side. “He–help?” He said the word like he didn’t understand what it meant. He had an accent that couldn’t be placed, and his voice was as soft as a whisper, barely audible through the gusting wind. As if in contrast, a loud, thundering bellow in the distance grabbed their attention. Foghorn, was Eric’s first thought, a recollection from his old life by a riverside, but they were nowhere near any body of water. And that meant they were in trouble.
Irene’s eyes went wide. “Oh shit! Balagon!”
Eric couldn’t see anything through the gusts of snow that concealed most of their surroundings. It was a little late for the nocturnal predator to be prowling; something must have woken it up.
“It must have heard the horn,” he said, thinking aloud. “The roar can carry for miles ― we’ll probably be fine.”
Another roar, much louder and closer, assaulted their ears. The air itself seemed to tremble and Eric made out the slow thud of enormous feet nearby. The boy clapped his hands over his ears and stared up at the sky."
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