All Hallow's Eve draws closer, and while I can assure you all that it means I will be dressing up as a ghoul and running amok, it also means that the release of Conditional Immortality looms!
I have decided to treat you all with a little taste of the book! Read on below for a sneak peek of Conditional Immortality (and other life lessons from a lobster)!
"The Kiddie Pool", original artwork by Cassius Moore.
Leo looked up with a soft smile on his face. “Wyatt, thank you for coming over today. If you’d like, you can leave now.”
Wyatt frowned, tugging on the little braid that Lulu had put in his hair that morning when it was slow. “Are you trying to get rid of me again?”
“No.” Leo shook his head. “But you can leave if you’d like.”
“I think,” Wyatt said, pausing for a moment. He got the feeling that this was his last chance to leave, though he didn’t think anything truly bad would happen if he didn’t. “I’ll stay,” he said apprehensively.
“Good.” Leo looked down at Brick again, and then looked up, making intense eye contact with Wyatt. “Would you like to hear about how I found Brick?”
“Uh, sure,” Wyatt said.
Leo settled back in his seat and lit another cigarette. “I grew up in this house. I was lucky because even after my parents died, it was able to stay in my name. Sometimes, in those days, they would sell off an estate because the parents died with debt, but my father was a good businessman. I was able to keep the house, and my sisters were able to stay with me until they all got married. That was nice for them, I think. Being able to stay in their childhood home.
“I inherited quite a bit of wealth when my father died. He had his fingers in all kinds of pies. Shipping and imports, textiles, real estate. He was a lawyer, and he was determined that we would live below our means — and this meant that when my sisters were married and I was alone in the house, I could live a life of leisure. So, I did. I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I wasn’t stupid; I didn’t go drink and gamble my money away like many other young men would have. I spent time here, at Pleasure Beach, wandering the surf like I had when I was a child.
“There was a storm rolling in one day when I was out collecting crabs. I liked them for my dinner — I had a cook back then, a wonderful woman who could turn just about anything into a feast. Most of my servants thought I was a bit eccentric, but I paid them well and wasn’t cruel, so they let me have my scruples. I wanted to have a good meal that night, because I was meeting the next day with a gentleman who wanted me to marry his daughter. I wasn’t paying attention to the weather. I was thinking so hard on that man’s daughter. When we were children, she had been extremely ugly, but my sisters had told me that she had returned from English finishing school much transformed. I was nervous and excited. I dug up my crabs, and just as the storm was beginning to hit the beach, I found a little lobster.
“There used to be so many lobsters back then. I thought he was dead, honestly. He had just molted and had gotten swept up onto the beach. I have a soft heart, and I didn’t want him to die. I dumped out my crabs and I put him in my bucket — and then I was struck by lightning. You might not believe me, but I assure you this is precisely what happened.” He paused and held up his hand. Wyatt had noticed the thick, ropy scar ran across that his palm in class but always thought it would be rude to ask about it. “This is from the bucket that had been in my hand. I nearly died. When I came to, I thought I was dead. Someone had found me and taken me to a doctor. The doctor had to cut the bucket out of my hand, so I still had Brick with me. His name wasn’t Brick back then, though. I just called him Lobster.” He leaned forward. “And that’s how I came to have Brick.”
Wyatt laughed. “Okay, sure.”
“You don’t believe me?” Leo asked, his face falling.
“That’s quite a story,” Wyatt said. “When you were a younger man? How old are you, twenty-nine at most?”
“I’m a hundred and sixty-seven,” Leo said seriously. “I found Brick when I was twenty-seven and I haven’t aged a day since that lightning strike.”
Wyatt grimaced and stood up, putting the plate on his chair. “Okay, buddy. Everyone was right about you, I guess. Are you going to try and murder me?”
“Why would I do that?” Leo snorted. “I’m trying to tell you about my life.”
“You’re messing with me.” Wyatt dusted off his hands. “You’ve been screwing with me this whole time, and I don’t know if it’s because you’re going to kill me and eat me or what, but I’m not sticking around to find out.”
“I’m not going to do anything of the sort,” Leo said, standing up. “You wait here, and I’ll prove it.”
“Okay, buddy,” Wyatt said sarcastically. He crossed his arms and watched as Leo marched into the house. Without thinking, he looked at Brick and said, “Is he always this bad?”
Wyatt blinked. It was as if someone had injected a thought into his mind. It was uncomfortable, a bit like the first time he had sex: something was going somewhere it hadn’t gone before. He looked down at the lobster, splashing the water with his tail. It was a fluke, he decided. Just something strange his brain had done. That was all.
Leo came out of the house with a small book in his hands. “Sit, sit,” he said, gesturing. Despite himself, Wyatt put his plate onto the dead grass and sat back down. Leo took his own chair out of the kiddie pool and scooted it close to Wyatt’s.
“Here,” he said, flipping the book open. He pointed to a grainy black and white photograph, held in place with corner tabs and surrounded by a loopy, old-fashioned handwriting, of a man with a mustache holding a lobster in his hands. “That’s me and Brick in 1885.”
“That’s a guy with a lobster,” Wyatt snorted.
“Well, of course,” Leo said haughtily. “But it’s me.”
“That could be anybody,” Wyatt said. “That’s a worse quality photo than that video of Bigfoot.”
“I assure you, when we saw the Bigfoot, we were using the best quality film we had available to us at the time …”
“Excuse me?” Wyatt demanded.
Leo shook his head. “Never mind. I’ll explain later. Do you want to see documents?” He gestured to the house. “Come inside.”
“I’ll stay right here,” Wyatt said, crossing his arms.
“Fine,” Leo snapped. He disappeared back into the house.
Wyatt looked down at Brick, considering that maybe he should make a break for it. He certainly wasn’t going to go into the house again, not when he wasn’t so sure that Lulu was right about everything. He felt another little tickle in his brain. It wasn’t a word, really — more of a feeling. His eyebrows drew together as he stared at Brick.
The word rang clear in his head, along with the concept of honesty the way a bug like a lobster must experience it: the water is cold, and that is the truth. The sun is shining, and that is the truth. The sky is big and bright over them, and that is the truth.
Wyatt blinked. He knew that these were not his thoughts. It was not his concept or definition of truth or honesty. He knew, objectively, that they could not be the thoughts of a lobster because a lobster could not share its thoughts. Nothing could share its thoughts unless it was speaking them out loud, and lobsters could not speak.
Truth, the word came again, more urgent this time. Wyatt felt the great relief of being picked up off the sand and put in a bucket. He saw the distorted image of a young man with an unfortunate mustache, could make out his tab-collared shirt and suspenders through the haze of water. He felt the impression of that bucket, scratching a soft claw against the wooden sides, feeling a seize of existential fear when the water became charged with electricity. He could see the blood on the handle of the bucket. He could hear voices that he could not understand, not yet — but they were starting to make sense to him.
Wyatt jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Are you alright?” Leo asked, a look of concern etched on his features.
Wyatt blinked up at him.
Leo looked down at Brick and then back at Wyatt. “What happened?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Wyatt admitted. “I was looking at Brick and then it was like … I could see … something.”
Leo’s grey eyes went wide. “Was he … speaking to you?”
“I guess you could call it that? It was just pictures, and a few words. Like thoughts, but ones that shouldn’t be in my head.” He shook his head. “Did you drug my beer?”
“Why would I do that?” Leo asked. He set the leatherbound folio in his hands on the ground and reached into the water, hefting Brick out and holding him gently, the way a normal person might pick up a rabbit or a cat. “Brick, did you speak to Wyatt? Can you speak to Wyatt?”
Wyatt, the little voice said. It sounded as though it was in the same tone of voice that Wyatt thought in. Wyatt. It repeated. Wyatt, Wyatt, Wyatt.
“He’s learning your name,” Leo explained. “It takes him a long time to learn names. They’re the most foreign to him. Lobsters don’t have the concept of names.”
“Lobsters don’t …” Wyatt shook his head. “I’m sorry, but, what?”
“I think he thinks you’re the right one,” Leo said excitedly. “He’s never spoken to another person before. Never. He’s never even tried.” He held Brick up and laughed. Brick waggled his antennae.
Wyatt, he repeated.
“I’m hearing the thoughts of a fucking lobster?” Wyatt asked, incredulous.
I hope you've enjoyed this little taste of Conditional Immortality!
As a reminder, you can preorder your digital copy using this link, and physical copies will be available October 31!