BRINDHAM opened a door and unleashed a series. HAVOC is the first book in this series. It is an adult fantasy novel based on the premise: ‘When the fires burn from the decisions that were made.’ It is about witches in a modern, but irrevocably changed world.
When the world found out people of magic had hidden in a city in northern Scotland since the days of the witch trials, it did not welcome them into its fold with open arms. Instead it battled, manipulated, and exploited those who had thought a return might finally be safe.
Ultimately, it’s my mother’s fault things went the way they did. In turn, my life is forfeit. My penance? Avenging the deaths of the innocent. I am Margot Kyteler-Shipton, last of two great lines of witches. I live on earth though it burns like an ember after the war of which magic was the arsenal. This is a time of false peace. Our kind is locked up in wards or work for the government as high-paid traitors. Some are trying to find a way. I’m just trying to find a woman to kill.
It is currently a work in progress. I hope you enjoy the excerpt.
From Chapter 1
The smarter nurses know. I’ve heard them talking in the hallways. There was something wrong with the last batch of medicine. The administrators aren’t listening. Convinced of their supremacy and our debilitation, doubt never registers for them. But in hushed tones, laced with fear, the other nurses of St. John’s Ward for the Magically Disturbed, compare the subtle indicators that some of us are coming to.
The male nurse looking in on me has never joined the gossip. He is a sheep. Satisfied by the things people in positions of authority say, even when it competes with what exists right in front of him. Dumbass, or ‘Cody’ as his nametag reads, stands next to me with a grin plastered to his oleaginous face. Pale blue nursing duds, blemished by the red stains of something dribbled down the front, crinkle as he leans toward me. “Did you think it would end happily?” he asks, referring to his sordid tale of knights and damsels in distress.
I would love to crawl right up in the imbecile’s ear and give him my answer, but now is not the time. I go on pretending to be the drugged up witch this government-funded hospital exists to incapacitate.
“I bet you did,” Dumbass says, laying his stained and rumpled manuscript beside me on the bed. His left hand slips along my jawbone. “You know, I based my main character on you. She’s beautiful, like you. She has a body”—beady brown eyes look over the length of my figure strapped to the bed— “like you. What would you think if-”
The piercing squeal of an alarm erupts from various speakers. It’s accompanied by a red light dancing beyond the door’s glass window. Distracted from what might have been the last move he ever made, Dumbass shoves his manuscript under the tray he used to bring my pills into the room. He strides with the heavy steps of his excessive weight over to the door and pokes his head out. A nurse is rushing by; his thick fingers seize her arm. She looks as disturbed to be touched by him as I have been.
“What is it?” Dumbass demands.
“Some of them escaped their beds,” the nurse answers. Her eyes dart to me.
Dumbass turns back around; his movement steady and slow. He studies me from under thick bushy eyebrows. Attempting to fully embody the vegetative, I use my tongue to edge more drool out from the corner of my mouth.
Another nurse approaches. “Come on,” she bellows. “We’re on lockdown. Lock her in and get moving.”
“Yes, Alena,” the first nurse says.
The women disappear from view as Dumbass brings the door against the frame. Wire-laced glass acts a portal through which to see him draw a keycard from the dispenser holding it to his side. Wielding the card like a sword he swipes it next to the door, then lets it snap back to the holder. He waits a second longer—his eyes fixed on me—before he slinks away.
What happens next begins as it has since I was nine years old. My wrists, base of my palms, and slowly to the tips of my fingers develop a warmth as though radiating with the heat of an internal fire. A sensation of flowing water builds, then gushes forth into my palms and through the length of each fingertip. Magic pours out unseen. It’s directed into the room and affects the particles around me. Each is persuaded to adopt a different shape, form, and color until an image of me—laying as I am—is erected before the watchful technological eye in the corner.
Magic next absorbs into the fibers of the straps that have held me. Leather unravels from my boney, food-deprived wrists and ankles. I push myself off the bed. Tingles erupt in every extremity. Ignoring the sensations best I can, I use my hands to assist my legs to the edge of the mattress. My left foot drops out of the bed and lands roughly on its side. The right knocks into it like a sphere meeting the solidness of its neighbor in Newton’s Cradle; momentum I use to help sit up.
A wave of dizziness swarms my brain as the building shudders. The alarms go silent. The lights go dark. A groan emits from somewhere deep in water-tanked bowels. Seconds later things brighten, but the full force of their luminance isn’t regained. Seconds after that the sirens resume their shrieking. It’s not clear what’s going on, but it would seem St. John’s has shifted to generator power. I can only hope the staff are still fully occupied with whatever first caused the issue of containment; that my opportunity remains open.
A cartoon bunny pattern adorns the baby pink gown bunched around my upper thighs; nothing else covers me despite near cryogenic temperatures inside the building. As such, my toes are already of a purplish-blue hue when they hit the cheap and frigid linoleum. I push off the stiff mattress and stand there—my arms waving, my legs wobbling. I feel like a penguin on the verge of a dive. Forced to wait while my body finds its balance. When standing seems accomplished I shuffle a leg forward. It moves with Frankenstein-like grace. Equally awkward the other moves to join it.
A few steps and the all-white wall that makes up one fourth of my room is within reach. The weight of my body collapses against it, then flings itself off. Clumsy steps and flailing arms land me at cool metal. A glance through the window from where I’m hidden at the frame reveals a hallway dancing with red radiance; bereft of the staff assigned to whatever provided this perfect distraction.
Cameras are spaced at equally intermittent distances along the outer corridor. My already warm wrists begin the waterfall-like gush of magic into my palms and fingers. I spread my hands and magic flows into the room around me. Particles are drawn from the air, walls, and floor to cling like a saran wrap coating. I make them into something like a mirror, so that I am of mass, but there is no way to tell where I start or end. Except for those who know the trick—and therefore inescapable sometime shimmer—I am entirely undetectable.
I reach over and squeeze the L-shaped handle jutting from the door; it’s odd and satisfying to know my hand is there and yet not be able to see it. Magic pours out each fingertip and streams through metal until it reaches the components of the door’s lock. Magic shifts the pieces about until the bolt comes undone. I turn the handle and shuffle out between the narrowest amount of space I can fit through. Taking the handle on the side opposite, magic slides the components back in place. The security station staff should be too preoccupied to have seen that. Now. When they go back to the tapes later. Well. Later won’t matter.
A cut of evening light from a window at the far end of the hallway makes a triangle-patterned patch on the floor. It serves a beacon to my racing heart. Unpracticed toddler steps or a drunk’s waddle would be the only way to describe the jaunt I make to it; my breathing becoming more and more rapid with each step. The decline in physical ability highlights only something as mundane as being strapped to a bed could initiate. I am in a precarious state. Not myself. I have been captive to those who have no cares for our well-being. Loathing creeps into every fiber of my essence.
I take the time my body demands to recuperate while staring out barred glass. Outside, there is no moon. There are no stars. It could be clouds hanging over the city, but experience knows better. That is smoke. It is always smoke in a world of havoc. Somehow, fires always burn. Somehow, there is enough fuel—the bodies of witches—that they never go out. For our kind, the scent of flames never brings forth thoughts of a comforting hearth; they are the poster fragrance of desperate times and desperate measures.