Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Docks by VH Folland (Sample Sunday)

A sample from "The Docks", the novella I've been working on. Originally planned as a short story it outgrew the magazine it was intended for so, with the help of my publisher, it will be available on Smashwords. Rather than another sample from Fire Season or Arrival, for this week's Sample Sunday, I thought I'd use something new.

Sample: The Docks

Bob had told me we were going to sink the ship, but what he hadn't mentioned was that it wouldn't be empty when we did it. My jaw dropped in horror as I saw the arm, smashing out the cabin window, black against the flames behind it as it fumbled for the door handle on the outside to escape the inferno. Fumbled at the door that Bob had blocked.

"Good night's work, eh?" As he clapped me on the shoulder, I looked at him, wordless. "Hey, don't look like that. A few corpses always helps them think it was an accident."

"Bob, I — Insurance is one thing, but this —" I choked, staring out of the office window, down towards the ship. In front of me the hand was still reaching, the arm flailing, but more weakly. I could see the first tongues of flame licking down the sleeve.

"What?" He looked at me scornfully. "Don't go soft on me now. Remember, you're in this up to your neck." He turned his back to look at the ship and smiled. He was still smiling when the crowbar hit him, his skull shattering like an egg and he went down. To make sure, I hit him again and from the shape of his head I knew he wouldn't be getting up. He should have remembered what I'd done time for when he recruited me.

The boat was still burning, and I knew I had to get across there. I ran out of the dockers' office where we had met, metal burning my hands as I slid down the ladder towards the quayside. The explosives would scuttle her in ten minutes unless they could be removed, placed carefully to look like an explosion as the fuel tanks overheated. With the gangway removed — Bob had said to prevent casualties, now I knew he had lied — getting on board would be difficult. I swung myself onto one of the huge docking chains, pulling myself up. Slick, oil-soaked, the climb was difficult. Twice I slipped, saw my legs dangling over the dark gap between the ship and the quayside where the sea boiled and churned, and then I was against the side of the ship, the raised hull too far above to climb. Locking my legs around the chain I released my grip, fumbling for the grappling hook I had used to get on board earlier. One quick cast and it was over the side, hooked on something. I tugged it as hard as I dared and it moved. Slack pulled in in coils until suddenly the line caught and held. I couldn't see what it was caught on, but it held against my tugs, and carefully, reluctantly I put my weight on it, climbing up until I was standing on the chain. It held. No more delays.

Hand over hand I could climb the rope easily, the knots giving me all the purchase I needed. Seconds later I was swinging my legs over the side, and then as I came to my feet, running for the door. Now I was close enough to hear the screams, feel the heat that was beginning to seep through the deck. No time to check the time. I kept running, ducking under the window, feeling the heat of flames on my back and yanking away the fire axe Bob had used to block the door.

The full novella will be on Smashwords. View my profile here: VH Folland on Smashwords

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