When I said goodbye to Maureen, Sean and Dubh – and Margaret, Gerry, Catherine, and the whole crew my orphans managed to gather around themselves as the Changelings wrapped up – I thought I would take a break from writing. Play a few video games. Read a few books. Maybe learn to knit.
And then the July Camp NaNoWriMo started ramping up. As I put the finishing touches on the Memory of Myth paperback, I knew: it was time to start the next series. The Heresy of Before has been stewing in my subconscious since 2013; starting today, I’ll be plotting its escape into the real world.
Below is a snippet of The Heresy of Before, which first appeared here as a piece of flash fiction in 2013. Samuel has stuck with me all these years and I’m looking forward to finally meeting him, and his entourage.
The Heresy of Before: The Song
Oh, little Jack Frost get lost, get lost
Little Jack Frost get lost
You know you don’t do a thing but put a bite on my toes
Freeze up the ground and take the bloom from the rose
“What’cha singing for? Don’t you know singing’s forbidden?”
Singing is forbidden – and songs from Before, well those were a heresy all unto themselves.
My mother remembered singing. She sang defiantly, even as they cut her down. She taught me her songs, just as I will teach them to my young – provided I ever get out of this rat-hole called the Big C.
My mother was brought here as a child of 12, not long after the carnage in the sky eclipsed the sun.
There were other camps – places other children were sent – but they all lost contact with one another as the lines failed. Some days it feels we are all that is left of humanity – gathered into the sprawling gutter of the camp.
The Big C is all I know. The world beyond its tall walls – the Zone, or the O.Z. to the older folks – was too toxic to venture forth for years, and though the sky has been clear for almost a decade, the land remains blighted.
Cursed, it’s said.
Mother said it was hogwash: calling it cursed was just Fat Jimmy’s way of controlling the desperate.
But Mother is gone. And Fat Jimmy goes by the Oligarch now, and those who do venture into the Zone never come back.
Tosh said the Oligarch is recruiting for snatchers – training people to bring back those who have managed to escape. Us drones barely have enough to feed ourselves – I can’t imagine why Oligarch needs people to come back – and why, if the land is so toxic. But Tosh said he was joining. It was something to do – and he was guaranteed rations for service.
I’ll never see him again, either.
Mother showed me pictures of the Zone, once – before the wars. Before the sky exploded.
They’re outlawed, of course – everything from Before is outlawed. I cannot imagine what she had to go through to keep them private. Here, in the bowels of the city, nothing is sacred. Nothing is pure and nothing, absolutely nothing, is your own.
Oh, little Jack Frost—
“Knock it off, Caroline. You’re going to get us all in trouble.”
“Leave her be. She can sing if she wants to.”
I looked up at the new voice.
He was tall and lean. Covered in stubble, and with more than a few cuts and scars, his face wasn’t something I’d call handsome, but there was something about the eyes.
Down here, among the drones of Big C., nothing twinkled.
I smiled, and the stranger hunkered down next to me.
I nodded. I liked the way my name sounded when he said it.
“I always knew I would meet you. I always knew I would love you. You and me, we’re going to have a baby one day, and he’s going to lead these people out of here.”
If my eyebrows could have taken off from my head, they would have. Twinkly or not, this man was nuts.
“Oh yeah? And what’s that baby’s name going to be? Jack? Or maybe Frost?”
“No, his name is Samuel.”
Shivers ran down my spine that had nothing to do with the cold. My mother had been crazy the night the squad took her. But her crazy was something that terrified the Oligarch, and maybe that’s why he’d authorized her murder. She’d told me to remember that name. She told me to remember Samuel.
I held out my hand. The man before me took it and planted a soft kiss on the palm.
“My name is Doyle. If you come with me now, I can promise you singing – as much as you want. That’s about all I can promise right now, but if you give me time, there will be more.”
“Will there be love?”
He pulled me to my feet. “There already is.”