books by mlm


bits I’m working on (and stuff already out)

a sample from El Dorado


I said in a previous post I wasn’t going to share anything from this one until it was done. But it’s fine. There’s very little context here; I just like the way it turned out. The setting is fairly early in the story and the central character has arrived in prison…

Bell Isle’s prison was little more than a field, surrounded by a hastily-built fence, patrolled by a handful of guards and dogs, and littered with hundreds of small one-man tents. Too look at it, you’d think your chances of escaping were better than average.

“You have no chance of escaping.” Those were the first words spoken by Warden Curtis, a small man, both in stature and in posture. His slight hunch and thin, relaxed arms made him look like a limp marionette doll.  “The only tower on this compound is located there.” he said, pointing to the land bridge their wagon had previously traversed.

I turned out and was surprised to see the tower in question. I was unconscious during that part of the trip, you’ll remember. Upon closer examination, I observed that it was not exactly a “tower” as Curtis had put it; the structure resembled more of a makeshift archway with a hut built on its apex. Wagons could cross through the arch with guards above and around keeping a watchful eye.

“Try to run that way and you will be shot…and will die.” Curtis added before pointing in the opposite direction behind the listening prisoners. “Try to run that way and you will be thrown into the water to drown…and will die. When the water is low, a truck comes once a month to deliver supplies en route to Castle Thunder. When the water is high, the supplies come by boat.” He paused to let his words sink into the minds of those listening. “Try to sneak on to the wagon and you will be shot…and will die. Try to sneak onto the boat and you will be thrown into the water to drown…and will die. Am I clear?”

A grumble resembling an affirmative was muttered by the crowd on hand.

“You are all prisoners of war, union loyalists, and such like. When the war is ended and the North has surrendered, those of you still living will be traded for whatever poor Southern soul has to spend his days in a Union prison. Keep quiet, obey, don’t run, and you will live. Fail to do any of those things…and you will die.”

The speech ended and Curtis hopped off the crate he was standing on. The five of us who were linked together were then shuffled toward a guard twice our warden’s size. The man called Brock held in an iron ring in his banana-like hand. Several keys were wedged in between each digit, looking like finger bones on a half-flayed hand. He eyed each of us suspiciously as he unlocked the linking chain that had tethered us together.

We were each guided (not gently) to our respective tent. Inside, I was greeted to a bed comprised of three planks laid side by side on the ground and a rough-spun quilt for a blanket. No pillow was offered and everyone knew better than to ask; it being nearly one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit, the blanket—when folded—made suitable padding for a bruised and battered head.

I managed to fall asleep relatively easily and awake early the next morning expecting my prison stay to be, if not pleasant, then at least uneventful.

 I was wrong.