London is a monstrous town, scarred and disfigured.
My people know better than most how deep London’s scars run. We saw the fire, the disease and the Luftwaffe. We came here when London was Londinium. We know her ancient streets and her tallest towers.
We know where there is darkness enough to hide in.
It is a grand place, our home, but it is also a cruel place. The grey city speaks to me, whispers of smoke and ashes. It tells me to run, it tells me the men are coming, that they are close, that if they find me, they will rip the child from my arms and throw my body in the river.
Oh yes, London is a monstrous town.
Ghoul: Chapter One – Excerpt Working Draft
I cleared the ice covered alley at breakneck speed and skidded onto Lombard Street.
“Mama?” my child clung to me. I shifted his weight and tightened my grip on him.
“Shh, Eli,” I huffed and kept running. I could hear the men behind us; they were to close.
“Mya!” Kain roared. The sound of his voice caused my muscles to tighten, and I stumbled.
“Not him,” I whispered and risked a glance behind me, Kain was advancing fast.
“You stinking wretch,” I heard him huff when I picked up my pace. “Charlie, Alf cut her off!”
“Faster, Mama,” Eli tugged at my hair with pudgy fingers. His eyes were wide, the brown iris almost completely eclipsed by his pupil. No four-year-old boy should ever look so afraid. “Run, faster.” But it wouldn’t matter how fast I ran; we couldn’t outrun them like this. We would never make it. I turned into another alley and stopped behind a skip, I had seconds, maybe less. I let go of my son.
“Shh,” I whispered. Eli looked around the alley, with wide eyes.
“Don’t leave me,” he screeched clinging to me as I tried to push him away.
“I’m not leaving you. Mama is going to make the bad men stop.”
“No! Mama don’t leave me here,” he was sobbing, I almost picked him up again. But I knew I couldn’t make it carrying him. This was my only chance.
“You’re going to be brave now, aren’t you?”I pulled rubbish up, burying my son. He looked small amongst the bags and boxes.
“Did you see where she went?” The man’s voice was close.I brushed snow off Eli’s dark hair and hoped he didn’t notice how badly my hands were shaking.
“Now go dark,” I pleaded. “Come on, be a brave boy; go dark, hide for mama.”
“Why do they hate us?” He asked, already starting to fade as he pulled the shadows around him. He was only four years old, and he was almost as good at shadow casting as I was. My son would be incredible when he grew up if he survived long enough.
“She’s close, I can smell them,” it was Kain, he was so close.
“It’s just the way it is,” I ran my gloved hand through Eli’s hair one last time as he faded completely. “We’re Ghouls, but don’t be afraid, be brave for Mama.” I glanced back and saw two figures. They moved slowly, kicking at the trash bags, getting closer. “Shit.” I hissed I looked back to my boy and saw nothing. “Mama will be right back, be silent baby.” Eli had faded into shadow, invisible in the dark. But those who knew the signs would find him. The men would find him if I did nothing. I stood, deliberately knocking one of the bins over as I did so.
“There!” one of them shouted. I started to run.
“Come on, you rat bastards, come on,” I muttered, forcing myself not to look at the shadows where I had hidden my son.
“I see her! I see Mya!” the second man shouted. They pulled guns from under long coats and started shooting. They fired in short controlled bursts, aiming with every shot. The snow sprayed up around me as bullets hit the ground. My balance wavered as I had a sudden vision of those bullets hitting Eli, but I kept running. I ducked and wove through the alley, making myself as small a target as possible. I tipped a wheelie bin over as I ran past it, then another. I didn’t dare turn to see if the fallen bins slowed my pursuers. I fled the alley and ran into the street, leaving my son behind.
“Gottcha,” one of my pursuers stepped out a few meters in front of me. I skidded in the frozen slush, feeling my legs go out from under me. I cried out as I fell and knocked us both down. Scrabbling I found my feet before he did, a well-aimed kick on my part kept him down for a few moments while I started running again. I had to lose them quickly. I headed down a gap between two buildings. The gunfire and footsteps behind me stopped. The men weren’t following me down here. Why not?
I stopped running and turned, my heart in my throat. Had the men gone back to look for Eli? No, I could still see them, they were waiting at the entrance, looking ahead I saw two more waiting. This was a trap.
“Crap,” I hissed. Looking up and down the cramped space, there was nothing I could use as a weapon. “Crap,” I said again, I couldn’t go ahead, I couldn’t go back. I glanced upwards. “Right,” I pulled my gloves off and thrust them into my pockets.
Once my hands were bare, I concentrated on dropping the human disguise I had adopted. I couldn’t lose it completely; I just needed my hands, not the soft, blunt fingers of a human but my true hands, sharp-clawed and strong. My muscles cramped as my fingers forcefully dislocated. The cracking of my joints sounded deafening to me, I pulled my changing hands to my stomach and bent over, trying to muffle the sound. I bit my tongue to keep silent as my fingers stretched and claws tore out from the nail beds. I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to watch. I could hear footsteps coming towards me. I didn’t have much time.