I am pleased to announce that I am taking part in the blog tour for the third book in Phil William’s Sunken City trilogy, The Violent Fae. To count down to its release date, each stop on the tour will be debuting one of twelve short stories set in the city of Ordshaw, each providing a glimpse into the city’s chaos. At this stop on the tour you can read “The Neighbours”.
Number 34 opened onto a lop-sided man, legs wider than his torso and round head perpetually tilted. Capillaries showed through his patchy skin, and his teeth were a bit too big for his lips to conceal. He wore stained sweatpants and a t-shirt too small for his girth, nothing on his chunky feet. His greeting was not exactly a word.
Pritchard did not judge. It took all sorts to make a world. On Bartlett Street, a cosmopolitan bunch took advantage of the cheaper flats above stores, an affordable gateway to West Farling.
“Yes, hello, sorry to bother you – I live across the road.” Pritchard indicated her modest dwelling above the betting shop. “55a. I’ve been asking around to see if anyone’s heard these strange sounds at night.”
From the look on the man’s face, she could have spoken a foreign language. She dealt with enough oddities at the library not to let that trouble her. Some people needed a little patience.
“Strange because they’re quiet, and rather distinct, at the same time. People enjoying themselves, but I’ve no idea where. The gentleman at 32 wasn’t much help, nor the couple in 53, and I think him in 57 is away. I’ve spoken to Riley’s, under me, and the charity shop. No one else has heard these people. But you look an observant chap, perhaps you have?”
The man shook his head mutely, hand hovering towards closing the door.
“The sounds come from this direction,” Pritchard quickly pushed on, “but I’ve seen no sign of activity. Talking, laughter, music, but all rather quiet. Like it’s in the wall, almost.” She gave that an appropriate chuckle. “Quite irritating. Especially when I can’t find a source.”
The man made no comment. Waiting for her to get to the point.
“I suppose you haven’t heard anything yourself, then?” Pritchard sighed. “53 suggested someone left a radio on. A TV. I had Riley’s double-check their equipment. But the sounds aren’t like that – they come and go. Definitely people socialising. Perhaps its travelling in the pipes?”
“You work the library,” the man finally spoke.
Pritchard paused. “I do, yes, the Bolling Crescent branch. Are you a member?”
He shook his head. His watchful quiet was starting to become unsettling.
“And yourself …?”
“Drive the buses.”
Pritchard smiled politely. “Well. You must think I’m loopy, with these strange ideas.”
“Nah,” he shrugged his sunken shoulders. “Probably the sin, is what it is.”
Pritchard gave him a blank look.
“Sin rising up. They’re at it all day, after all, it’s got to go somewhere.” He pointed at the betting shop. Though a gambling house, Riley’s Bettor Off was hardly a den of inequity; they had armchairs and an oddly up-market clientele. And Pritchard quite enjoyed the quirky name. Details apparently lost on the man from 34.
“I’m not a holy man,” he assured her. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think sin’s all checks and balances towards some afterlife. Just that it’s got to go somewhere, doesn’t it? All the bad, people’s corruption, it has a way, seeps out, rises or whatnot. I see it on passenger’s faces, the way a little lady creases up when you’ve got a black guy sits down next to her.”
“Oh my,” Pritchard exclaimed.
“Got to be something like that. Don’t know how you sleep at all, up there, if I’m honest.”
She took a very small step back, not daring to blink. He hadn’t moved.
“Come in for a tea?”
“I …” Pritchard swallowed. Perhaps he had misspoken, and a longer chat might clarify his beliefs. It took all sorts. Or perhaps there would be worse, once the surface was scratched. Taking another small step back, she said, “Yes, well, thank you anyway.”
The man didn’t seem to notice nor mind the rejection. “Any time.”
He closed the door. The slam made Pritchard flinch.
Between that and the impatience of 32, she had little desire to continue. Ear plugs would do the trick. Yes. Better to wear ear plugs than discover who else shared Bartlett Street.
If you enjoyed that vignette, then there are multiple ways to read more about Ordshaw and its supernatural inhabitants. To ease you into it, you can read the other vignettes on the tour. Yesterday’s vignette, “The Chemist”, can be found on Bibliosanctum. Or if you’re already following the blog tour, tomorrow’s vignette, “The Artist”, will be available on Out of This World SFF Reviews.
For those of you interested in the Sunken City series proper, the final chapter will be available from Amazon, on Kindle and in paperback, as of November 5th 2019.
If you haven’t started the series yet, you are in luck as the first book in the series, Under Ordshaw, is currently on offer on Kindle on the UK and US Amazon stores until November 1st. They’re available for $0.99 and £0.99, so grab it while you can. There is unfortunately no sale for the second part of the series, Blue Angel, but it is definitely worth picking up if you’ve got the time.