This is from my novel in progress, Vintage, which can be read for free at either my website or my Wattpad page. This began as a four-part short story. It's now 20 parts and 60K words. The story of Etienne, a man who hunts witches for a living and finds himself falling in love with a particularly captivating one named Nightingale, and in the process discovering the truth about who he is. Here is an excerpt from Part 20.
Enough time to change my mind and run, Etienne thought, and dismissed the notion as quickly as it had come to him. There would never be another or better time, and so deep cut his fury at the Bureau for stealing his life and twisting him into an enemy of his own blood, that the very idea of flight induced the acid in his stomach to leap up and gnaw at his throat. Impossible task had become inescapable obligation. And though he had told Nightingale, on the beach, that he wanted to do this for her alone, he could not deny the part of him that craved vengeance for himself, craved the vision of the Bureau building razed to cinders. Hatred simmered where there had once been unquestioned devotion, and relentless determination borrowed the grit of old ramrod ideological adherence. He would turn the inimitable zeal that had marked his time as Commissionaire toward the goal of ensuring that there would never be another like him. Not in this country, anyway.
The trio exited the Bois Jongleurs onto the bordering Rue Loup Noir, which arced north for three miles and eventually intersected with Chemin des Fougères. Simmering heat was already beginning to burn off the thin layer of early morning fog. Etienne was surprised at the quiet of the great city as it clambered up from the night’s slumber and the people of Calerre rose to be about their daily affairs. The boulangerie owners would have been awake since midnight baking their inventory, the fishermen would have converged on the docks before the dawn tides, and the constabulary and the sweeps never left the streets completely unattended, so there was no lack of activity along their cobblestone route, but the lively hum of conversation that made these neighborhoods vibrate with color and character was missing. Some great cosmic trowel had scraped it away, leaving behind silence and a city that felt more alien than home. Etienne could draw no dialogue from his two companions to fill the wanting space. Valnier simply never talked, and Nightingale was in no mood for light badinage. For that, he could not fault her, even if it meant that each second of the journey ticked by in a lugubrious dirge, counted off by the ticking hands of his precious pocket watch.
Etienne looked at Nightingale riding beside him and found himself thinking of the impossible aria in La Sirena Ridere. It was a haunting, terribly beautiful piece of music, and when it was performed successfully, only the hard-hearted did not burst with pent-up emotion as its final, lingering note spun into the rafters. The inaccessibility of its language was no barrier to the impact of its poetry. A curious Etienne had once sourced a crude translation, and though it could not replicate the idioms or embedded cultural references from the original, he still found the verses poignant, though they had never meant as much to him as they did now.
“From beneath the edge of the world I cried to you,
From under the waters I sang my song.
I looked for you before I knew you were there.
My heart dreamed you into being to fill its hollow.
Let my blood rush now with passions unchained,
Let me take you into my soul.
Let us laugh and let us weep, let us devour the day,
Let our nights be filled with limitless fire.
If you are only a dream, I wish that I might never wake.
If you are real, and you cannot hear my song,
Then I will wish that I will never know you.
I will dream that my heart might remain empty,
Because filling it with you will make it break.”