As always I am thrilled when Titan books asks me to be part of a blog tour. Especially, when I have an excerpt to share!!
Thank you Titan Books!!!
Excerpt From Birds of Paradise by Oliver K. Langmead
Two days later, Adam is moved.
Men in dark suits and dark sunglasses put him into the back of a black armoured van, and he is chained down opposite an armed guard. The guard’s name is Tom, and he’s talkative. So, as the van rattles away through LA, and the palm trees they pass make the white sky strobe through the small slotted windows at the top of the van, Adam listens to Tom’s story.
For a while, Adam forgets that he is Adam, and becomes convinced that he’s Tom. He marries Tom’s wife, and the wedding is bright and beautiful in his mind. He has his first child, and then loses her at the age of three during the hurricane that ravaged the East Coast back then. But he and his wife remain together, and battle on through their grief, and move to the West Coast to start anew. They have a second child, and he’s fifteen now, and while they do struggle – working for the FBI doesn’t pay as well as it used to – they are happy, happier than they’ve ever been. Tom is happy, and Adam is happy, and he doesn’t want the story to end.
Yet Adam’s absorption is interrupted by a distant noise, which Tom doesn’t seem to notice.
The slotted windows are bright across Adam’s face as he returns to reality, and he stares through them, trying to see what it is that has broken his concentration. It was a sound so familiar. There is nothing but the white sky, at first. But there – something dashes across, too quick to see. It might have been a bird. An enormous, monstrous bird.
There is a scream cut short from ahead, barely audible over the engines of the van’s escorts. Tom is at once alarmed, gripping his shotgun tight. “What’s going on?”
Suddenly, his radio blares into life – confused voices yelling over each other – and from outside the van, cackling gunfire is audible. Tom stands shakily and swings his shotgun around, trying to see through the slots. “What’s happening?” he shouts into his radio. “Tell me what’s going on!”
There’s an inhuman shriek, and claws the size of pickaxes come through the roof of the van. Tom is thrown to the floor. Blinding daylight flashes through the slashes raked through the steel, and the van shudders, tottering on two wheels before slamming back down to four.
Adam breaks free of his chains. Tom, panicked, aims his gun, but Adam grabs it by the barrel and red lines are slashed across his face as the blast skims him.
There’s another animal shriek, and claws strike the side of the van. This time, it teeters and then tumbles – hits the side of the bridge and falls from the edge.
Grabbing Tom, Adam cradles him like a father with a son. Sunlight whirls around them as the van spins, plummeting. Tom is screaming, and struggling, but Adam holds tight. They hit the water, and it’s sudden and cold, filling the van and filling Adam’s lungs as the impact pushes his breath from him. They sink, in a rush of torn metal and froth.
The gaps in the roof aren’t big enough for Adam to escape through, so he breaks the lock on the back door, struggling against the icy water making his fingers clumsy. Grabbing hold of Tom, he swims; powerful strokes, free of the van. He can see motorbikes and cars hitting the river around them; ragged bodies tugged away by the strong current, red rushing from them and mingling with the debris of the motorcade.
There are fish in the water. Silvery fish, that dart to avoid the falling wreckage.
Suddenly, Adam remembers.
There was a valley. A mountain valley, in a country a long way away from here, back when it wasn’t even really a country – just the edge of a continent – where he and Eve lived, and made their own little paradise. There was a waterfall that beat his shoulders when he bathed beneath it, and there were so many birds in the trees that there was never a moment of silence, and there were the soft songs that Eve sang when she floated in the lake, gently rippling the waters with her fingers. Crane lived with them there, and she would often be seen circling the big blue sky, or stalking the edges of the lake; and so too did Pike, the lake his kingdom, his brilliant silver scales each a tiny mirror reflecting lost Eden.
About Oliver K. Langmead
Oliver K. Langmead lives and writes in Glasgow. His long-form poem, Dark Star, featured in the Guardian’s Best Books of 2015, and his new book, Birds of Paradise, is arriving March 2021. Oliver is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Glasgow, where he is researching terraforming and ecological philosophy, and in late 2018 he was the writer in residence at the European Space Agency’s Astronaut Centre in Cologne.