Hey there, Insiders!
On June 15th, we release the first book in the awesome Dark Lakes urban fantasy series. The book is titled Magic Eater and we thought we’d share the first chapter with you to get you all ready and excited to dive in come release day! Have a read, and let us know what you think!
I suppose this all started when I woke up without a single clue as to who I was, where I was, or why I was bleeding from so many different and interesting places.
My name is Joseph Lake, or at least that’s what I’ve decided to call myself. Not the most inspiring of choices, I know, but I couldn’t find anything else that felt comfortable, so Joseph Lake it was. The fact it stuck made me wonder if the name meant something; like perhaps it was a family member’s name, or a good friend’s, or even a good enemy’s, but I Googled that thing down to a painful nub and ended up with nothing. Just one of many deader than dead ends I’ve chased aimlessly ever since I woke up next to that lake.
That was ten years ago. At the point this story kicks off proper I was stalking the streets of Carlisle in the middle of the night, dressed head-to-toe in black. This was my first time following a stranger at a discreet distance, but I’d seen enough movies to know the best colour outfit to wear for a good stalk. To begin with I’d even been wearing matching black shades, but it soon became apparent that this was not my brightest idea. What with the whole nighttime thing. Yeah, I didn’t feel too smart as I shoved those in my pocket, I can tell you.
The stranger I was following was a homeless woman who looked like a charity shop threw up over a passing Helena Bonham Carter. Or in other words, like Helena Bonham Carter. She’d been tossing up red flags in my head for the last two months, so a bit of following seemed in order.
Anyway, back to my mysterious origin story. I was found by a fisherman named Joseph (hence the forename), face-down, and very, completely naked, beside Derwentwater, which is one of several bodies of water that make up an area known as the Lake District in the far north of England. Yup, you got it, from thence derives my surname.
Wait, that’s a lie, I wasn’t completely naked, I still had one sock on. I still have that sock, it’s the only physical evidence I have of my past life and who I really am. Though it’s difficult to extrapolate much from a sock, other than “I wore socks.” Even Sherlock Holmes would need more to go on than that; unless I’ve skipped over Sherlock Holmes and the Man Who Wore Socks.
It was chilly out. I pulled my long coat tight around myself as I did my best to keep a discreet distance from the tramp, who seemed to be aimlessly wandering here, there, and nowhere in particular. She’d been showing up a lot recently. Not just hanging out by the cash machine I passed on my way to work, or pushing a trolley full of tin cans past me on the high street. No, she’d been turning up all over. I’d look out my bedroom window and she’d be sat across the street. I’d get to work and she’d be lurking in the car park, going through the bins. It felt a lot like she was following me. In the end I thought, well, two can play at that game.
So, there I was. Following a homeless woman around the streets of Carlisle—Cumbria’s only city—in the middle of the night. No, you have too much time on your hands.
I’m sure most would brush it all off as coincidence, but when you have my kind of strange and stunted history, you tend to see the weird shining out from the ordinary and coincidental. No, this wasn’t one of those situations where you buy a pair of red trousers and suddenly you start noticing people wearing red trousers everywhere you look. This woman was following me, I was sure of it. Keeping tabs on me, for reasons yet to be ascertained.
A little part of me even hoped it was because she recognised me. Maybe I’d been a tramp, too before… well… before whatever happened happened and I wound up unconscious by a lake wearing nothing but a sock and an all-over bruise. Maybe that’s why it had been so difficult to find anything out about my past; perhaps I’d been on the streets for years, away from polite society, living off the grid.
The tramp stopped and turned, so I ducked into the doorway of a betting shop that stank sharply of piss. For a moment it looked as though she was going to walk back the way she came and discover me lurking in my not-too-discreet, urine-scented hidey-hole, but then her head twitched to the left and she darted off down an alley. I counted to five then sprinted after, coat tails flapping, heart pounding, grinning a lot more than I should have been.
I didn’t want to bust out of the alleyway and find myself smacking into the back of my quarry, so I slowed down to a walking pace, one hand trailing along the old, crumbling brickwork that lined the narrow crack between two shops.
And that’s when the first strange thing happened.
As my fingers traced the old bricks, a strange mood descended on me like a heavy blanket. It was… fear. No. Not just fear, fear mixed with hunger, mixed with pain, mixed with desire. It felt like it was washing over me again and again, a multitude of disparate emotions and memories, like I was pegged to a beach and the sea’s waves were battering against me, over and over, and if I didn’t get away quickly I might just drown in all the intoxicating, terrible feelings of dread and—
My hand snapped away from the bricks of the alleyway and my head dropped back into the here and now.
There had been a scream, not in my head, not in whatever weird thing it was that I’d just experienced, but out there, in the night. Not a fun scream. Not a playing around and being young and boisterous and drunk scream. No, this was a blood-curdler. A real, “For God’s sake, won’t somebody help me?” scream.
I ran at the sound.
As I burst out of the dark of the alley into the comparatively bright square, my foot kicked something heavy and I found myself sprawling over the obstruction and tumbling to the cobbles, my head bouncing painfully as it connected with the ground.
I lay there for a few seconds, getting my breathing under control and trying to decide whether to throw up or not. I went with not. I pushed myself into a sitting position, the world tilting, and gingerly fingered my throbbing temple. I could already feel a lump rising like I was a cartoon cat who’d been struck over the head with a frying pan.
Feeling stupid for not looking where I was going, I peered behind me to see what I’d tripped over. I was expecting to see a bag of rubbish, or perhaps a tree root pushing up from a crack in the cobbles. What I was not expecting to see was the body of a woman with her throat torn out.
No, I wasn’t expecting that at all.
So, what happens next? And just who is Joseph Lake? Click the link to find out!