Age of Monsters – first chapter

Here’s a preview of Age of Monsters, Chapter 1.

This will start on January 1, if you are interested.

Chapter 1

The sound of bells rang out over New Town, deep and sonorous. Foreboding. The sun was setting; there were clouds in the sky. The weather was cold and there was damp in the air. There was death in the air, too—rather, the promise of death.

The Lottery Bell tolled, and the souls destined to be thrown over the Wall shivered, even though they did not yet know their own fate. They would know soon enough.

Gaellan Orbus walked through the cold autumn morning, tried his best to look small. Gaellan: young, tall, lean. Muscular, not skinny, but it was the muscle born of a lifetime of hard-work and rough living. A young man that was not quite a man, no matter what the world had to say about it. Handsome, too, but with a darkness in his eyes that strangers found off-putting.

Gaellan lived in the shanty village that was hidden in the depths of New Town. An old shipping container had been converted—years ago—and when the old man that had lived there died, Gaellan had moved in. He wasn’t there now. Gaellan didn’t like to be home when the Lottery Bell rang.

Two kids ran past, terrified. Gaellan grabbed the slower one as he passed.

“What number did they call?” he demanded.

“Five-twelve,” the boy answered, then ran off before Gaellan could ask any more questions. Five-twelve. Good. He looked down at his own scarf, tied around his arm: six-thirteen. He was lucky. It was ominous, in many regards. He was so close to being Chosen. The closest his number had been towards the Lottery. He shivered.

He ran through in his head all his friends and the numbers they had. He knew them all by heart, but it was an exercise he couldn’t help but complete every time the damn bell rang. They were all safe. Most importantly, Bethany was safe. She was nine-seven, an eternity away. Still, she would be worried. He had to see her.

Gaellan increased his pace, ignored the puddles that littered the broken streets. There were not many people on the streets today—it didn’t pay to be outdoors, just in case the Wall Squad mistook the number scrawled on your arm. It was better to stay indoors and drink tepid tea and wait until the nasty business was over. Gaellan was one of the few that were out and about. He always thought it was more terrified to be at home, waiting for the damn Squad to come and take him away.

Gaellan kept to the shadows. Already, the Wall Squad were doing their rounds. Behind him, he heard some crockery shatter and a twisted scream. Not many people were happy to win the Lottery. And why the hell would you be? Nothing to look forward to except being thrown over the wall.

Then fed to the Kraken.

Gaellan hurried through the streets. The buildings here were proper and sturdy, made of brick and mortar. He saw worried faces in the windows as he passed. People afraid that he was part of the Squad. Not bloody likely. Things would have to be bad for Gaellan to join the Squad. He would rather be thrown over the wall.

“Gaellan!” Gaellan didn’t have to turn to recognise the voice: Jack Turner, his friend.

“Lucky again, Jack,” Gaellan said, as Jack fell into step with him. Jack nodded.

“Damn lucky. One day… God, I keep thinking what would happen if my number gets called. I wish I had a gun; I could just shoot myself.”

“Don’t speak like that,” Gaellan chided.

“Why not?” Jack shrugged. “It’s a better way to die. You think being eaten by that… thing is better? And if you run, you know what they do? They shoot you. Right there on the spot. There’s no escape from the Kraken.”

“There’s no escape from the Lottery,” Gaellan corrected. “The Kraken doesn’t shoot, remember?”

“No, I suppose not. Are you seeing the girls?”

“Yeah,” Gaellan nodded.

“Can I come?”

“Why not?” Gaellan frowned. Jack didn’t need permission to see their friends. He looked over to Jack—also tall, also skinny, but not quite as handsome as Gaellan—and saw the boy’s cheeks were flushed, slightly. “I think Ellie’s with Bethany, today.”

“Do you?” Jack flushed a brighter red, and slowed. “Maybe I should go home, after all. You don’t need me.”

“Oh Jack!” Gaellan laughed. “Listen to yourself! Shooting your own face off with a gun, hiding away from girls… What the hell’s gotten into you?”

“Nothing. It’s just the Lottery, that’s all.”

“Then what better time for a bit of beer, huh? Come on: I’m buying.”

“Wow,” Jack stopped in his tracks. “I can’t remember the last time you bought me a beer.”

“I can’t remember the last time you were afraid to talk to a girl,” Gaellan countered. “Not would you stop hanging back there and hurry up? The Squad will be on our feet any minute now. I don’t want to be outside when they get to Bethany’s house.”

“Right,” Jack said, hurried after Gaellan through the rest of the town.

Bethany’s house was near the far side of town. The Lottery Bell could still be seen here—it was still ringing as Gaellan and Jack reached her house—but it was the furthest point from the Wall that you could get.

The Wall—in reality, it circled the entirety of New Town, but when people talked about The Wall, they were really only talking about one place: the massive dam that stretched across the old river, blocked the town from the sea. That was where the victims of the Lottery were sent, and that was where the Kraken came to feed. It defined their lives, and not in a good way. Gaellan avoided the place when he could, but it pulled at him in a way he couldn’t define. He would find himself walking past it at night, for no other reason than because it was the Wall.

It had been hastily constructed, slapped together from chunks of old concrete and masonry and car bodies and anything else that had been lying around. Back in the days when the Kraken had raged without control, and where people were afraid to even walk outdoors. Back in the days of the flood.

Now there was no flood, but people were still afraid to walk outdoors. Gaellan looked at the closed windows and the closed doors as he neared Bethany’s house. Yes, these people were still afraid. Afraid of death. Afraid of the Lottery.

Afraid of the Kraken.

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