Alice’s appointment with the doctor was on the following Friday. Mum picked her up from school early, and they took the train together into central London. The doctor’s office turned out to be not in a hospital, but in a tall terraced house in the west end of London — the kind of place where private and confidential consultations were held with private and wealthy clients. Everything was hushed, from the gentle whisper of the air conditioning to the discrete entrances and exits of the nursing staff; the carpets and walls were cream, and everything smelt of polish.
Mum and Alice sat in silence in the empty waiting room, mum flicking through magazines and Alice completing a Sudoku puzzle, until they were called through to meet Dr Harding: a slightly elderly, professional woman who was very good at being pleasant but would probably not remember them after they left. She shook Alice’s hand and made sure to include her in the conversation, which was mostly held with mum. Alice remembered to nod her head and act politely, and paid little attention to what they were saying.
Continue reading “The Singularity: Part 3”
“The theory of general relativity predicts that a sufficiently compact mass can deform spacetime to form a black hole. The boundary of the region from which no escape is possible is called the event horizon.”
“Nice work today.”
Alice looked up with a start. The classroom was empty, the corridor outside echoing with shouts and scuffles as the school moved from one lesson to the next. Mrs Gallagher, her maths teacher, was standing over her, holding out an exercise book.
“Just try to keep your working out a bit neater next time, all right?” she said.
Alice took the book from Mrs Gallagher and opened it. The pages were dense with sums and equations in a scrawled, spidery handwriting that looked almost, but not entirely, like her own. She looked up.
“Go on.” Mrs Gallagher nodded her head towards the door. “You’ll be late for your next lesson.”
Alice packed her bag, left the classroom and ducked into the crowds outside. As she pushed her way down the corridor she checked her maths book again. She couldn’t remember doing any of this. She couldn’t remember the lesson at all. She closed the book and squeezed between the bodies. She needed to see Sarah.
Continue reading “The Singularity: Part 2”
They had no blankets, aside from the used parachutes. The night was long and cold, and morning found them hungry and thirsty. Mohammed rose early to pray again, kneeling at the mouth of the cave and prostrating himself in the long golden sunlight. His muttered words echoed softly around the cave, guttural and foreign to Colin’s ears.
Colin made an attempt at starting the fire, raking over last night’s remains in search of an ember, but the most he achieved was a faceful of ash and blackened hands. When Mohammed returned he took over, and within a few minutes a pale flame was dancing amongst the wood.
They sat close and warmed themselves, rubbing numb hands together until they tingled. Colin found that his sight had improved; he did not need the silk blindfold, and the mouth of the cave was no longer painful to look at.
He glanced sideways at Mohammed, seeing him properly for the first time: he was dark skinned, almost black, and his eyes were dark to match. A thin film of stubble coated his head and face, except where a long scar ran from his crown down to his left eyebrow. He gazed at the fire with a powerful intensity, and Colin saw how he crouched on his heels, like a predator ready to spring up at any moment.
Continue reading “Coals of Fire: The Golem (VII)”
Adam’s whole body convulsed, the way it always did on re-entry. Purple stains blossomed on the inside of his eyelids, the tendons in his legs and arms strained, and his chest tightened until his lungs felt like they were being crushed. He clenched his teeth and clutched the worn leather of the armrests, and waited for the convulsions to pass.
When his body finally relaxed he stayed where he was and took deep breaths, waiting while the nausea subsided, then hauled himself up in the chair and pressed his knuckles to his eyes until the purple spots began to fade.
The intercom clicked on. “Adam. Are you all right?” Femi’s voice sounded worried, as usual.
Adam nodded, still massaging his eye sockets. “I’m fine,” he called. “Just give me a minute.”
Continue reading “The Singularity: Part 1”
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I begin to keep count of the days. Well, the space between sleeps, anyway. I’m no longer aimless, lost in the dark. I have something to keep me going, something to motivate me to more than just animal existence. I spend as much time as I can against the wall, listening for any faint sound, any proof that she is still there. Sometimes I knock on the plaster, or call for her, and because I don’t know her name I call her ‘Woman’. I don’t know if she minds: she doesn’t reply.
After a week I begin to think that maybe I was imagining things. Maybe she was just in my head, a way my mind came up with to cope with its slow collapse. Maybe I’m finally going mad. I wonder if a madman knows he’s mad. If he knows, how can he be mad? Would only a madman think the things I’m thinking now? Do the insane have enough presence of mind to be aware of the state they’re in, what they’re doing and saying? Are they just unable to communicate it? I think how terrible it would be to be aware of your own madness, and unable to do anything about it. I dream that I am a puppet, and someone is making me dance and caper in front of a roomful of children, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Continue reading “Coals of Fire: The Golem (VI)”
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The neck of a bottle was pressed between his lips, and tepid water spilled out over his chin and his neck. Some of it found its way into his mouth and down his throat, but it stuck there and he coughed it up again.
The bottle was taken away. Someone sighed.
“Try again. And this time, drink it. I can’t waste water on you, my friend. Are we agreed?”
There was a pause. Waiting for an acknowledgement. He nodded.
This time most of the water went into his belly. It was not nearly enough to slake his choking thirst, but when he opened cracked lips to ask for more it did not come.
“Not now, my friend. We must be wise. There’s no telling how long we’ll be stuck here.”
Continue reading “Coals of Fire: The Golem (V)”
Some of you may have noticed that the name on my books does not match the name on my blog. Who is this Wainwright fellow masquerading as the loveable Hughes we all know so well?
Well, it’s me. E. A. Hughes is (was) my pen-name. I may still use it, but for now I’m going to start going by my real name.
I chose to use a pen name when I first started writing, for three reasons:
- I hated the way my name looked.
- I didn’t want to be stuck on the bottom right-hand corner of every bookshelf in every bookshop and library in the world.
- I had a fond metafictional notion of including Edwin Allison Hughes into the story, in a Lemony Snicket sort of way.
In the end, however, I’ve decided that I’d rather have my real name on my work, especially now I’m getting more popular around the school. It just makes sense not to confuse the kids, and it’s too much work to design two covers for every single book I print.
So what do you reckon? Is E. A. Hughes better than Matthew Wainwright? Does one have more cachet than the other? Any favourite pen-names from history? Any views on using a pen name? Anyone feel betrayed and violated (anyone?)?
Rest assured I am still the same person.
Oh, and Coals of Fire II: The Golem is gathering pace. More news soon.