10 July 2012

Burning Down the House

No kidding.  I was beginning to think the summer had it in for me. First came the heat. Then the June 29 derecho knocked out our power, incidentally blasting any hope of me posting on my assigned June 30 blog date. And then it got hotter. Made me wonder if I jinxed myself writing about a genie and two inept magicians in "Burning Down the House", part of the anthology Hellfire Lounge 3: Jinn Rummy.

Nah. Jvala, my fire spirit wouldn't do that--would she?  Well, considering I sort of, kind of introduced her to Eddie Woodhouse...  Yeah, for that, she might.  Check out the opening of "Burning Down the House" if you don't believe me:


Eddie Woodhouse lurched between the tables of the Sixth Circle Club, apologizing every ponderous step of the way. Carrying a full-grown jinni inside his skin was hell. Its spine-crushing weight was only the start. Despite the swelter of July in New York, his thermal fleece sweatsuit, the heat of the crowd and the flames jetting in the six upright iron cages evenly spaced along the club’s circular wall, it was all he could do to keep from shivering as he approached the sorceress waiting at the shadowed table furthest from the door. 

Gritting his teeth, he eased his tripled girth into the wide-armed leather chair across from her. The puffy cushions clenched around him like a boxing glove around a fist. If this didn’t work, they’d need to winch him out.

“Do you have the bottle?” he asked.

A flash from the dance floor lit her eyes like an evil smile. She placed an empty absinthe bottle on the table.

“May your next transfer run as smoothly as the one from your bank.” The blare of the music muted the scrape of her scimitar nails along the glass. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather do this someplace more private?”

“No.” The jinni inside him lashed his face. He couldn’t hide the bulge of their shared skin or his flinch of pain. 

The woman added teeth to her smile. “Your funeral. I trust you’ll be more careful where you stick your straw in the future.” 

Her exit line raised a different kind of welt, but he didn’t care as long as she left. Nobody paid any attention to a fat man in a club full of beautiful people. More importantly, the security cams and warding spells focused on the tables would keep her from trying anything more than what he paid for. He’d never been a contender in the magical department, but he never thought he’d sink so low that he’d owe his life to the sorcerous paranoia of Ducky “Duc d’Or”.

Eddie’s teeth chattered against the glass as he closed his lips around the neck of the bottle and chanted the first of the thirty-one goetic evocations from the Secret Key of Solomon under his breath. The words didn’t always make sense, but he suspected the real spell lay in his mind’s desperate prayer: “Take this damned thing outta me and I’ll never do magic. I’ll never so much as make a wish. Never. Ever.”

The words burned his throat. Never. The jinni swelled inside his lungs until he thought his ribs would explode. Ever. Propelled by his breath, the fire spirit shot into the bottle, strafing the inside of his mouth like Red Hots coated in habanero sauce. His thumb replaced his pepper-numbed tongue against the hole. The pain and the stink of charred flesh were blinding, but he managed to fumble one of the copper seals he’d brought with him over the opening before the jinni escaped. Then he shrank into the leather, consciousness deflating with his girth.



If you'd like to read what happens next, there's a further excerpt on my web site. After that...well, I really hope you'll want ot read more. My ice bill this month is going to be humongous!
Stay cool.


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