While working on other things, like a new story called “Komodo” and finishing off a story called “The Quickening”, I’m also inching forward on my next novel. It will be called Borne and is a loose (loose!) sequel to “The Situation,” which is up for a Shirley Jackson Award this year. It features a huge floating bear-creature called Mord, and a narrator who makes part of her living in a ruined city that gets by on barter by finding valuable bits and pieces of things tangled up in Mord’s fur. It also features, er, the title character, but he’s Top Sekrit. Here’s a short excerpt.
The context of the words “killer” and “death” had changed in the city over time. A killer was someone who killed for reasons other than survival. A killer was a mad man or mad woman, not a person just trying to get through another day. Once I had had to hit a woman with a rock. We’d encountered each other while both out scavenging on the same rubble-strewn street on the west side of the city. I had found a smooth piece of metal that had been partially absorbed by a glistening red piece of flesh-like plant. I had no idea if Wick would find it of use, but it seemed likely since I had never seen anything like it before.
As I turned a corner holding my prize, I came upon a woman walking. She was about fifty, wiry in the way survivors often are, he rgray hair hanging in sheets, her clothing a patchwork of gray and black.
She saw me and she smiled. Then she saw what I held and her smile went away.
“Give me that,” she said. “That’s mine.”
Maybe she meant “That’s going to be mine.”
I did not want for her to get close enough to grapple with me. I knelt and picked up a rock with my free hand, and rose and as she rushed toward me from the middle of the street, I threw the rock at her, catching her in the forehead. She went limp, fell onto her side, breathing heavily. Then she got up again, and I threw another rock, catching her in the head again.
This time she staggered back, put her hands on her knees as she hunched down. I could see the bright red pooling from her head to the ground. She sat heavily down in the rubble and put a hand to her head, looked up at me as I dropped the third rock I’d picked up. I didn’t need it now.
“I just wanted to look at it,” she said, puzzled as she kept putting a hand to her wound and then taking it away again. Her eyes had begun to glaze over. “Just a look is all I wanted.”
I didn’t stay to help or hurt her. I left.
Did she die? Did I kill her, and if I did, am I a “killer”?
I don’t know the answer to that question.