“Blood Bonds” Excerpt – the Sundial Passage

Partly because I’ve been pestered asked nicely, and partly because if I don’t post something all three of my readers will assume I’ve died, to discover their mistake only after they’ve thrown the wild celebrations (and just imagine the despondence of that clean-up), here’s the sundial passage from my work in progress, Blood Bonds:


     When he drained the glass, he set it down as carefully centered on the end of the bottle’s shadow as he could, and now he watches the slow hypnotism of dwindling time. If he stares long enough, he can actually see the movement, watch the creeping darkness capture each tiny feature of the woodgrain, every hill, every valley, every fleeting instant. Six weeks ago, two weeks ago, yesterday, just this morning, that shadow would have been slow, plodding, excruciating, the impatience welling up in him like a flooding creek. Now all he wants is to hold it back, to stop that crawl.
Do you want…
When the shadow finally clears the empty shot glass, he fills it again, carefully, setting the bottle back where it was, the label toward him, carefully. He drains the glass and sets back it down on the end of the shadow, carefully. Soon, the shadow will be pointing right at him, and he thinks for a moment of switching seats, but there’s no point. You can smash an hourglass, rip the hands from the face of a clock, cast down all the bells from all the towers in the world, but you can’t touch a shadow. You can’t hold back what isn’t there. You can’t stop the ominous sweep of God’s sundial.
Do you want…
He slowly twists the bottle, the gnomon of his life, one slow full circle, stopping it centered toward him again.
     15 years of age, it says.
French Oak Reserve.
He’d give everything he’s ever had to be fifteen again. He’d trade every single thing he owns to stand once more in that dawn.
     He shoves the chair back and rises in a sudden rush of movement that ends as swiftly as it began, leaving him standing without motion or the desire for motion, staring out the window across the lake so far below him. Sliding slowly, stone on stone, across the room, pulled by the same tidal force that drives the shadow, he presses his fingertips to the glass. He suddenly wants to press his fingertips to every surface in the room, to every window and every wall and every face in the world, to soak up what he can, to say… to say something. He doesn’t know what.
     This glass, these walls, this floor and ceiling, he built all this to protect him, to keep all that he has and all that he is separate. Inviolate. Alone. But now, he’s all alone.
Do you want the long slow…
His fifteen-year-old single malt, his careful blend of all the right antiques and all the right avant garde pieces, his prints and sculptures and first editions, his shelves and shelves and shelves of books… all futile. Useless. Empty. The house was built to hold him, the belongings lined up carefully like walls to hold him in, and now it’s all empty. There is nothing left to define him except that creeping shadow, and then nothing at all forever.
     Do you want the long slow buildup, the doctor asked him, or do you just want the bad news?

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