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Works in Progress

What do you think? Please read these two sample of two works in progress, and let me know which sample you find more interesting, and please provide comments if you wish. I greatly appreciate your participation

Here are the opening pages of two Works in Progress. Which of the completed novels would you rather read? Why?

The Opening of Divine Monster

     The gas lamps cast circles of light that shed a hazy blue gloom on Joseph‘s cheek while he steps gingerly up 17th Street through the foul muck left by horse-drawn carriages. Like ghosts or memories, a few people cough into the silence, stumble down the cobblestone through stippled shadows, with one exception, an old woman, bent almost double, who heads Joseph’s way. 

     Her face is horse-like, save for its spindly nose and oriental eyes. As she moves she seems to grow larger, her face growing even longer, until he wonders if she’s even human. Her ankle high boots slosh through the ordure, and he thinks of the nags that pull the dray-carts filled with barrels of beer and other comestibles for the city’s bars and bordellos.

     Joseph doffs his hat. The woman nods and smiles. Through a cavern of missing teeth, he spies one that appears to be solid gold, something he wouldn’t have expected given her threadbare overcoat. She passes him quickly. The air is brisk for late September. 

     His feet slow, as he lingers to check the brick and cement houses for numbers. They’re hard to discern in the shadows that line the street. When he finally notices a legible address, he realizes he’s gone too far and must turn around. By now, the bent woman is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps she’s sunk into the pavement like flakes of soot. 

     Joseph’s eyelids droop with fatigue but he remains poised, his spine as rigid as a spike. He’s in a new city, about to start his first full-time teaching job, and he’s heard nasty rumors of unruly students and a strict employer. Ignoring any shreds of doubt, he pulls out a well-worn pocket watch to check the time. He glances down at the perfect crease in the trousers of his fashionably tight black suit, trying to convince himself he’s a man of means, but feels his shoes cruelly pinch his toes.  

     From the metal grates beneath his feet rise tongues of steam. 

     Just ahead is a huge brownstone, with a black wrought-iron staircase. Joseph glances at the ornate lintel that frames a stout mahogany doorway. He pauses. Takes  a breath. Whirlpools of doubt spin. A gray death moth hovers by his head, as if to warn him about the children that await his arrival. 

     The Daiyu School is unusual. In a city where boys and girls are generally educated separately, it’s coeducational. It houses the spoiled children of the rich who’ve been dismissed from better-known schools like St. Mary’s or Fordham Prep, or even the newly opened Packer School.

     Joseph gives the fist-shaped gold doorknocker a sharp rap. 

     The door swings open. 

     He gasps. 

     The old woman with the bent back that he saw just minutes ago opens the door and he steps back, surprised. Her face shows no signs of recognition. The pale light thrown by the candelabra renders her flesh waxen; and her features seem to melt before his eyes. 

The Opening of The World Between

     The Holocaust Memorial service is starting, whisper the SS bolts on the watch he wore 75 years ago in Sobibor. He glances down at the lot. Full. The cars that circled the streets on all sides of the temple have parked. Their drivers are inside the sanctuary. 

     He leaves his hiding place, beside a dormer, and scurries crablike across the sloping roof over to the air vent twenty feet away. He wears a state-of-the-art military grade gas mask and carries a slim bag that swings back and forth. He reaches the main air vent, stops, and rubs his fingers over it, savoring the chill of flesh against metal. Now in a borrowed body, he’s flushed, excited. His senses have returned. He feels everything: the quickening of his breath; the infinitesimal widening of an artery; the fevered pulse of elation

     He unscrews the vent . He hears a violin playing softly in a minor key. The  voice of a frail old man who speaks of suffering. He smiles. Music, memories and prayers won’t help. 

     The Master of Death is no longer an outcast. Shulamit’s perfumed hair will turn to ashes again. 

He unscrews the vent , removes his gift from the bag, and carefully drops the pellets of Zykon B. Flattening his body along the roof, he tries to make himself invisible, and waits for the cries of the dying to reach his ears. 

Chapter 1 San Miguel de Allende, January 26, 2018 Alicia, the psychic

     The tile floor is cold on my bare feet and makes my toes curl. I shake off the morning haze and look toward the mountain in the distance. Dress hurriedly, listening to birdsong and telling myself to trust that the day will bring its rewards just as clearly as the birdsong, which suddenly stops in mid-chirp. 

     Today feels different from all the other mornings I’ve spent here; nothing of the future was contained within them; but today change is in the air.  

     I’d like to go downstairs and chat with the ice cream vendor, but it’s too early for him to be setting up his tiny stand. I think of the landlord, the way he looks at me, with so much hunger, so little affection. Better to remain celibate. I think of Carver’s slightly too large ears, his spicy scent, his warm but wary eyes. Sometimes I miss him desperately, as a lover should. At other times he’s like a figure of fog and mist.  It’s impossible to long for someone that you’ve deliberately run from, isn’t it? 

     Maybe not. 

     My cuticles hurt. I’ve bitten them down too far again. I don’t know why. My room has a calming effect. It smells like jasmine and eucalyptus. The shower has a cheerful orange curtain; lemon-yellow walls show every insect, however tiny; and the white-and-blue tiled floor has a lovely fleur-de-lis pattern with only one chipped tile under the sink. It reminds me of a child with a cracked front tooth. The neighbors are friendly but not inquisitive. None of them care what brought me here – or imagine the problems I’ve left behind. 

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