Now available: SECRETS OF THE HANGED MAN, the third novel in the acclaimed Icarus Fell dark urban fantasy series by Bruce Blake. For a limited time, get the new book for only 99 cents by signing up for Bruce’s new release email newsletter…follow the link, register, and receive your Smashwords coupon!
Icarus Fell thought the afterlife couldn’t get any worse…until Hell came looking for him.
When you are the orphaned child of a disgraced nun, and you’re saddled with a ridiculous name like Icarus Fell, you don’t expect things can go drastically downhill.
Until death comes along and an archangel recruits you for a job you screw up so badly you nearly lose your son to a demonic priest and a fallen angel.
And then, burdened by the lives lost because of your foul ups, you travel to Hell, a detour that costs you more dearly than you could ever have imagined.
No, things couldn’t get much worse in the afterlife…unless Satan sends his lap dog to bring back the one thing he thinks belongs to him.
Why couldn’t death be easy?
18 Years Ago
The streetlight flickered overhead and went out. I raised my head from scrutinizing the patch of pavement between my knees and saw a shadow stumble around the corner into the alley. The dark outline of a ma n paused, one arm leaning against the brick wall, the sound of his heavy breathing wafting toward me on air heavy with the odor of garbage and urine. I rolled my eyes.
Just keep going.
Every day, it became more difficult to find a little privacy, Can’t get it living at a church, can’t find it living on the street. What’s left for a man to do?
He lurched forward and blundered into the alley, his foot slipping on the same rotted tomato that nearly got me when I arrived here earlier in the day, newly purchased bag of weed n my pocket. He went to his knees with an exaggerated oomph. I shook my head, laughing, until he struggled to his feet and continued his lopsided trek toward me.
I pulled my knees tight to my chest and shrank back against the wall. He stopped and looked around in the patchy illumination emanating through the screen door-protected rear entrance of Il Trattoria. The restaurant’s aromas of herbs, spices, and frying onions were strong enough to disguise the less pleasant odors found in a back alley, and they drew me here often. That, and their reputation for tossing away still-edible food. Some nights, so many dudes lined up hoping to get their share, the back entrance needed a wait list more than the restaurant. Must be why he was here.
But the little bit of the man the diffuse kitchen light revealed showed me he wasn’t a regular. He was a mess, but a tidy mess, which meant not just someone here to partake of my sumptuous repast, but a newbie, too, and a newbie means stories.
The man tottered past the door without a second look and entered my territory. I held my breath. I didn’t imagine for a second, he’d hear m breathing, but it’s what you do when you don’t wnat people to find you, a tactic every kid learns playing hide-and-seek.
He stopped a few feet away, wobbling side to side like a man standing on the deck of a ship at sea rather than a stable patch of cement behind the fifth best Italian joint in town. I didn’t fancy the look of him: he resembled a man unable to hold his booze.
Desperate to prove me right, he jerked to the side, bent at the waist and threw up on a pile of garbage bags.
“Jesus, dude. Careful. I think you got some on my shoes.”
Startled, the man fell back, his ass squishing on a damp piece of cardboard. He surveyed my dark corner, staring right at me without seeing me, probably shocked at a trash heap that spoke English. I toyed with the idea of screwing with him, but my annoyance at his presence squashed the desire. It made more sense to get rid of him because the dinnre rush would be done soon, and I didn’t want to share the bounty.
I leaned forward and his gaze found me, not exactly like looking in a mirror for him because his rumpled and creased business suit and recently-cut-but-out-of-place short hair didn’t match my look. In eight months, I’d been near a barber once to ask for change, never for a trim, And opportunities to wash oneself or one’s clothes came along infrequently when living on the street–ditto the chance to shave–so I’d done neither in weeks. My patchy teenage beard probably made me look more like a crazy man.
“S…sorry, ah, dude.” The man wiped his mouth on his sleeve, then his hands on his pants. “I didn’t see you.”
He didn’t sound as intimidated as I’d hoped. “No sweat, man. Just don’t puke on me again.”
He clawed at trash bags, clambering in the manner of a turtle flipped in its back until he got his feet under him, then brushed at the grime on his overcoat, smudging it across the lapel of his grubby hands. Smearing complete, he stood watching me, arms dangling loose at his sides.
I faded into the shadows, looked at the end of my joint to make sure it was still lit, then took a deep drag, the burner’s orange glow illuminating my lips and the tip of my nose. With one eye closed to keep the smoke out, I held m breath for a few seconds, then puffed it free of my lungs in a swirling cloud. The man breathed deep, inhaling the sweet odor of marijuana, and looked at me expectantly.
Bruce Blake lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. When pressing issues like shovelling snow and building igloos don’t take up his spare time, Bruce can be found taking the dog sled to the nearest coffee shop to work on his novels.
Actually, Victoria, B.C. is only a couple hours north of Seattle, Wash., where more rain is seen than snow. Since snow isn’t really a pressing issue, Bruce spends more time trying to remember to leave the “u” out of words like “colour” and “neighbour” then he does shovelling. The father of two, Bruce is also the trophy husband of a burlesque diva.
Bruce’s first short story, “Another Man’s Shoes” was published in the Winter 2008 edition of Cemetery Moon, another short, “Yardwork”, was made into a podcast in Oct., 2011 by Pseudopod and his first Icarus Fell novel, On Unfaithful Wings, in Dec., 2011. The second Icarus Fell novel, All Who Wander Are Lost, was released in July, 2012, and the Khirro’s Journey epic fantasy trilogy followed between Oct., 2012 and Jan., 2013. His next project, another epic fantasy series titled The Small Gods, should begin seeing the light of day by Sept., 2013.