J. Robert King

Read from Death’s Disciples

My new novel, Angel of Death, has just hit the streets in the UK and Australia. If you want to read excerpts from it, go to the magnificent blog of Barbara Martin.

I’m currently working on my new Angry Robot title–Death’s Disciples. Read the prologue here!

Prologue: Flight

I hate flying. Always have. It’s not just the old man on my left snoring, his liver-spotted hand brushing my leg, or the young man on my right darting looks down my blouse. It’s not just the plume of rebreathed air in my face or the flight attendants staring dead-eyed as they hand out bags of pretzels. It’s the impossibility of it.

People aren’t supposed to fly. Hundred ton machines certainly aren’t.

My stomach’s a knot.

“Look at that,” the young man says. His name is Jason. He’s got an Amish-style beard not because he’s Amish but because he’s too young to grow anything better. Too young for me. Jason hooks his nose toward the TV screen, which shows our current position over Billings. “We’re at 35,000 feet, and the air outside’s negative 75.”

“Cold,” I agree, staring at the in-flight magazine as if I cared what meals were available for purchase.

“Fall out of this plane, and you’d be frozen before you hit the ground,” he enthuses. “You’d shatter like a glass doll.”

The knot tightens. “There’s a Darwin Award for you.” They offer a turkey croissant with baby carrots and chocolate pudding.

How much longer? It’s five minutes till noon. I hate flying, but business calls.

“I need to get up,” I tell the Amish kid. “Business calls.”

Jason grins, pivoting his legs to one side and watching my ass as I squeeze past.

The midcabin lavatory is closer, but I’ve got time to kill, so I turn and pick my way back among the crammed seats. Can’t believe I booked in coach, a purgatory—all these dreary, drowsing people, their faces slack, eyes lidded, oblivious to the fact that people aren’t supposed to fly. . . .

The rear lav is occupied. I wait.

Three minutes to noon.

I knock. The person inside groans. The bolt hisses in the slot, and the door cracks, and out comes a fifty-something woman wreathed in a cloud of perfume and flatulence. She glances at me with annoyance, and I return the look as she shoe-horns past. I enter the lav and lock the door behind me and look at myself in the mirror.

Blonde, thirty-two, and smart—and watch that smile, that killer smile.

I can’t wait for this flight to be over.

It is.

There’s a noise so loud I can’t hear it, only see it—a white ball in my head. It hurls me up to the ceiling and pins me to the wall and flings me back down. Teeth crack on stainless steel. Chemical water gushes up my nose. Water and blood.

Another white ball. I’m on my knees on the floor.

There’s a terrible tearing. Metal shredding.

The sound becomes a scream. Screams.

An all-encompassing roar.

I can’t see anything. I can only hear.

It’s too much.

* * *

Why is everything so loud?

My face is slick. Blood?

I stagger up. My hands are on walls, plastic walls. There’s panels and metal frames. I paw the space and find a metal knob and yank on it, and the door opens.

The roar is louder now—a narrow hallway with carpet below and blood beside.

I step out.

I’m inside a plane, except there’s no floor. Just three rows of seats and then a big hole and torn walls. I look through the hole. Grassy hills flash golden below, and the shadow of the plane skims across them.

The shadow grows larger.

We’re going to crash.

I can see trees and rocks. They slide past, surreal.

They’ll soon be real.

I step back through the door and pull it closed in front of me and sit down on the toilet and bend my head down between my knees and wait for the end.

It comes.

It sounds like a broken motor.

It looks like the sun exploding.

It feels like tigers tearing me apart.

September 13th, 2009
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