Mussorgsky Mondays: To Celebrate Launch Day, an Excerpt

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After 10 months of patiently (and, at times, not so patiently) waiting, the day has arrived. 12 Jan 2015, the launch day for my debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle. A big thank you to everyone who has made this day possible: my agent, Stacey Donaghy; Eugene, Lisa, Nikki, Clare, Andrew, and the rest of the crew at Curiosity Quills Press: my critique group; and my friends and family both near and far.

The Launch Event two days ago at Park Road Books here in Charlotte, NC was successful beyond my wildest dreams and I’m really looking forward to the Facebook Online Launch Party from 9-11 today. Come one, come all for a chance to win one of three prizes: a copy of The Mussorgsky Riddle, a copy of Chronology: The 2015 Curiosity Quills Anthology, or a $25 Barnes & Noble gift certificate!

To celebrate, a excerpt from the beginning of Chapter III –

No sooner do the words leave my lips than the barrage of light and sound stops. The sudden silence is somehow worse. Before I can take a breath, a burst of brilliance like a thousand flashbulbs firing at once blinds me. With ears still ringing from the auditory onslaught, I rub at my eyes as my vision adjusts to the muted luminescence of another place entirely.

An enormous hallway stretches out before me, the sheer opulence of the space reminding me of pictures from the Louvre. The way before me is clear, though the passage to my rear is blocked by a pair of ten-foot high doors fashioned of dark oak. A lock the size of my head hangs between them. Won’t be leaving that way.

“Dios mío,” I mutter, channeling my mother.

If even God can hear me in this place.

Its walls alabaster white with mahogany trim, the hall’s hardwood floor is laid in an intricate herringbone parquet pattern of alternating oak and rosewood. Above my head, the vaulted ceiling is decorated with a fresco reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel’s, though the style of the painter appears far more Dalí than Michelangelo. Also, where David’s sculptor found his inspiration in the many stories of the Bible, the tortured images that fill the ceiling of this place are all stolen from classical mythology, the entire surface an anthropologist’s acid dream.

Directly above me, Leda’s rape by the Zeus-swan fills my vision. Just adjacent, the three Fates continue their eternal task of spinning, measuring and cutting the thread of life, the product of their work resolving into a misshapen infant’s umbilical cord. Prometheus, chained to the rock with the eagle’s head buried in his flayed abdomen, lies in agony above the gigantic door that blocks my escape. The Titan’s gaze follows me as I venture farther down the hallway and an additional picture comes into view. Persephone rests on one knee in the darkness, her fist clutched around the crimson pomegranate that remands her to Hades for half the year.

Guess that minor in Classics isn’t looking like such a waste of time and money anymore, now is it, Mom?

If my theory about this place is right, two things are very clear.

Anthony Faircloth has an intimate knowledge of world mythology.

And he’s not too big on subtlety.

As I proceed down the hallway, the images above me grow more and more bizarre, even as the scenes they depict become less and less familiar. In one, a spider climbs into the sky with a bound python caught between its front legs. In another, a bearded man wears a black T-shirt with a white lightning bolt like the Gatorade logo and holds aloft what appears to be a glowing baseball bat. The largest portrays a half-dead Norse warrior standing atop a fractured rainbow. A multitude of slain enemies lie at his feet. The scantily clad women that graced the covers of my brother’s old Heavy Metal collection would look right at home next to Odin or Thor or whoever the hell Leif Erikson on steroids is supposed to be.

“Have you come to weave me a tale?” The whispered voice seems to come from nowhere and everywhere at once. “Of lovers and dangers and unrequited passion?”

“Anthony?” I work to keep the tremor from my voice. I fail.

“I know your secret,” the voice continues. “You hope to lull me with your honeyed words and clever plots.”

I’ve spoken with others mind-to-mind on numerous occasions in the past, a unique experience each time, to be sure. I’ve never been addressed this way before.

“Who said that?” There’s no sign of anyone else along the great hall. “Show yourself.”

“In due time, Scheherazade.” A low chuckle fills the hall. “We will meet soon enough, I fear.”

“Wait.” My pulse begins to race. “Where am I? What is this place?”

The voice doesn’t speak again, the only answer a quiet titter that echoes down from the vaulted ceiling. I hold my breath, hoping for any clue that might help me escape this place, but an oppressive silence, unnatural in its fullness, fills the air.

Neither masculine nor feminine, the whispered voice could represent an ally, but my money’s on adversary.

“Won’t figure it out standing here,” I mutter. “Time to move.”

As I continue my slow progress down the vast hallway, a name echoes across my psyche.

Scheherazade.

The voice called me Scheherazade.

About Darin Kennedy


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