The Architect (Lupine Howl V) is out today. It’s the story of Jess and Darla arriving in London to look for Duncan, but they quickly become caught up in the story of a mysterious new building that hides a dark secret. Meanwhile, they also have a race against time to find Duncan before his death becomes permanent.
I posted this preview on Facebook a couple of days ago, but here it is again. Meanwhile, I’ve almost finished editing Underworld (Lupine Howl VI) so that will be out soon. If you’re wondering how I’m getting them out so fast, don’t worry, I’ve been working on them for months. Anyway, here’s the preview for The Architect (Lupine Howl V), hope you like it:
When I retired from the church, I believed my days of service to the community were over. For nearly half a century, I served St. Mary’s Church dutifully. I officiated at weddings, funerals and christenings, and I gave sermons to packed congregations. But then, shortly before my 60th birthday, my eyesight began to fail. I struggled on for some time, hoping that God would spare my vision. But finally, as I turned 62, I found that even simple tasks such as reading were beyond me. I was forced to resign my position. By the time I turned 63, I had become completely blind. I do not know why God chose to let this happen to me, but I have accepted my blindness with humility.
Then, a couple of days ago, I received a phone call from someone I had not heard from in many years. It was Thomas Lumic, an intermittent parishioner who wanted to know if I would be able to officiate at a funeral. I told him that I am blind now, that I am retired from the priesthood. But he was most insistent. He said that it was very important to him that I should be the one who should take charge of the funeral. No-one else, he said, would be right for the task. It had to be me. I protested, but eventually I was persuaded to come out of retirement for one final funeral.
So here we are, in the cemetery of St. Mary’s Church. I cannot see anything, of course, but I can hear a small gathering of people who have come to bid farewell to their loved one. And Thomas Lumic is here, holding my arm and guiding me through the gravestones until we reach the freshly-dug grave.
“And what is the name of the deceased?” I ask him quietly.
“Duncan,” Lumic replies in his usual dark, hoarse voice. “He had no surname”.
Now that I am blind, I find that my hearing has improved a little. And standing at the graveside, I can hear whispered voices nearby, but also other sounds: strange, unearthly, ghostly sounds. I suppose I must be imagining things.
“Dear friends,” I say. “We are gathered here today to pay our last respects to Duncan. I am afraid that I know very little about Duncan, about his life, about the kind of man that he was. But the fact that we are here today to bid him farewell, is a sign that he touched our lives in some way. To have inspired us to come and bid him farewell, he must have done great things for each of us, and for that may we be thankful to the Lord, that he allowed us to know Duncan for as long as we did”. I pause, not sure what to say next. Thomas Lumic has given me no information about Duncan, which really leaves me in a difficult position. Nevertheless, I must keep going. There are people here who mourn Duncan, and who are saddened by his passing. “We must each remember,” I say, “and keep in our hearts, that which made Duncan special to us. I will now invite any of you gathered here today, to step forward and say a little about this man”.
I wait. No-one speaks up. Instead, I just hear the same strange sounds as before. One of the sounds is snakelike, hissing with a faint rattle. Another sound is heavy and hard-breathing, and seems to be coming from many metres up in the air. If I didn’t know better, I would say that an assortment of monsters had gathered around this grave. If only I could see…
“We must all,” I say finally, a little put off by the sounds around me, “remember Duncan in our own private way. Though his body is gone, his spirit remains with us, and we are all, I am sure, enriched by the time that we spent with him. Amen”.
“Amen,” says Thomas Lumic from behind me, but his is still the only voice. Why do the others remain so silent?
“I will now ask,” I say, glad to be coming to the end of this unusual situation, “that the coffin be lowered into the grave”.
I hear some feet shuffle towards the grave, and then there is a sudden loud thud as something heavy lands in the grave. It doesn’t sound like a coffin at all. It sounds like someone just tipped a body straight into the ground. And then, just as suddenly, there is a second thud, as if the body has been thrown down into the grave in two pieces.
The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. What have I got myself into? What kind of… I take a deep breath. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to bring this service to a close and then perhaps bid good-day to the mourners. Whatever is going on here, I would rather not be a part of it. It feels… strange and inhuman, and ungodly.
“Lord our God,” I say, raising my head as if to look heavenward. “We commend the body of Duncan to your service, and we ask that you bless him with your kind understanding of the difficulties of life on this Earth. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.
I wait. All around me, there are strange sounds: hissing, rattling, shuffling, growls, like a menagerie of the world’s most fearsome creatures.
“Thank you, father,” says Thomas Lumic. He takes my arm and leads me away.
“I must say,” I whisper as we depart, “that was one of the more unusual funeral services that I have attended”.
Lumic laughs a little. “Be glad, father,” he says eventually, “that you are blind”.