Dark Season VI: Gothos preview

Dark Season VI: Gothos is out early next week, and the cover will be up over the weekend. In the meantime, here’s a preview of the book in the form of the prologue. If you’ve read the other books, this preview will probably strike you as quite… unusual. Rest assured, it will all make sense – kind of – when the books is out:

It looks as if the night sky is breathing fire straight down towards me. There’s a massive explosion nearby, rocking everything around me and knocking me off my feet. Scrambling about in the mud, I’m almost deafened by the sound of machine guns and further explosions. All around me, men are shouting and screaming, most of them standing by ladders preparing to go over the top. They’re going to die. All of them, they’re going to die.

“What the hell are you doing here?” shouts a British soldier, wide-eyed as he helps me get to my feet.

I open my mouth, but I don’t know what to say.

He grabs me and pulls me over to one side. “Are you a nurse?” he yells over the sound of more explosions. The whole trench shakes again as another explosion lights up the sky. “What’s your name?”

“Sophie!” I shout back. “Sophie Hart! You’ve got to help me, I shouldn’t be here!”

“Join the club”. He looks puzzled. “Are you American?”

“Yes!” I shout.

“What’re you doing in France?” he shouts, just as a whistle sounds. He looks over his shoulder for a moment, then back at me. “That’s the one-minute signal,” he says. “We’re going over the top now. You can’t come, but… you can’t stay ‘ere, they’ll destroy you”.

There’s another loud explosion, showering the trench with mud. There’s nowhere for us to take cover, so we just hide our faces until the debris has stopped raining down on us. Nearby, there’s another whistle.

“Thirty seconds,” says the soldier.

“What year is it?” I shout.

“What?”

“What year is it?” I shout, louder than before.

He pauses. “1917,” he says. “Why, are -”

“Damn!” I shout, interrupting him. 1917. That means there’s still another year before the First World War ends. I look along the trench at the soldiers – most of them so young – about to go over the top and meet almost certain death. I look at the soldier I’m standing with. “Don’t go!” I shout at him. “You’ll die!”

He gives me a strange look and turns away, but I grab him and pull him back towards me.

“Help!” I shout. “You’ve got to get me out of here!”

The whistle sounds again, and this time it doesn’t stop. The other men start climbing up the ladders, shouting as they go, and the sound of gunfire intensifies. The soldier with me turns and runs over to a ladder, turning back for a moment to shout: “You never know!” He climbs the ladder, but before he’s even over the top he’s cut down by a storm of machine gun fire, his body falling back into the trench. I run over and look at him, but he’s clearly dead, with several bullet wounds on his face and down his torso.

I run along the trench, deafened by the sound of explosions and gunfire. I have to find a way back out of here. There’s no way I can stay, I have to get back to save Patrick. I can’t die here, ninety years before I was even born. But as I search desperately for the door, I hear a high-pitched whining sound coming closer and closer. Turning, I look up to see something metal and dark flying through the sky, coming straight towards me. A bomb.

This is it, then. This is how I’m going to die: a bomb in the face. As it reaches me, I turn away and close my eyes tight. There’s a flash of light.

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