Today I’m pleased to host a stop on Charlotte McConaghy’s blog tour for her second book in The Cure series – Melancholy. The series is about a civilization where negative emotions are being erased, creating a world of mindless drones where only those with fury can survive.
Charlotte is a super impressive author who was first published at 17. She makes me feel inferior, because at that age I was playing Playstation. The first book in the series – Fury – was a corker and I’m looking forward to newest release.
You can check out the other stops on Charlotte’s blog tour here and you can check out the first excerpt from Melancholy here. You probably should, or else the second part that I’ve posted below won’t make much sense.
On with the show!
Melancholy – CHAPTER 1 – continued…
My breath leaves me. It’s unbearably hot, and I start to sweat with a dizzying sensation along my spine. A hand takes my arm—I think it belongs to Pace—and steers me into what seems to be a large town square. Squinting against the brightness, my first understanding is of the bright yellow-orange dust under my feet. Next comes the brilliant, endless sky above. Not a speck of green anywhere, but I never expected green. Not in the west.
There’s an odd wash of salt in my nose, the kind of pungent scent you can’t ignore. I can’t for the life of me work out where it could be coming from.
Around us are low buildings full of open windows and doors, presumably to let the airflow help against the heat. And beyond the buildings, in every direction, is a mighty stone wall slicing right up into the sky, rimmed in rusting barbed wire. It makes the hairs on my arms stand on end, because my first thought is, of course, prison. I have been brought to a prison, and I’ll never be able to get Luke out. My next thought is not another one. In the city we were too used to walls. Too used to cages. I didn’t escape one just to wind up in a second.
“Where are we?” I rasp, but I don’t think anyone hears me.
Pace yanks me into a small brick building, then down a different set of steps. It is blessedly cool down here, and the relief, unfortunately, distracts me from what is actually happening. I just trot along, dazed and sore, until Pace shoves me into a square concrete room and then locks the door behind me.
I blink, staring at her face through the small glass window. “Get comfortable, Dual,” she tells me, her voice faint. Then her footsteps disappear back up the steps.
“Hey!” I shout. “What—?”
She’s left me here. What a bitch.
The room has a steel table that’s been screwed to the floor, and a single steel-framed chair. It’s clearly an interrogation room, or a prison cell.
Okay. Okay okay okay.
I mentally get my bearings. Possibly two days ago—it was very hard to keep track of time on the train—I escaped from the asylum on the hill with a recently drugged and unconscious Luke. I was picked up by three wild kids in the bush, who brought me on a train trip and then promptly locked me in this room. I don’t know where I am, or who lives in this place, or who the kids really are. They said they were resistance, but I have no way to trust that. And I have no idea where they’ve taken Luke.
That’s it. That’s all I have to work with.
My feet are still bleeding and my broken elbow is aching. Instead of slumping into the chair like I’d really love to, I squat to the ground and study the bolts securing the table. They look strong, but the legs were welded to the bases a long time ago, so I might be able to pressurize them at the right angle and get them to break. This seems unlikely, though—I don’t think I have ever been as undernourished or sickly as I am right now.
None of it turns out to be necessary as the door swings open and I stumble back. A man enters the room and shuts the door behind him. He is shorter than me, but very muscular through the chest and arms. He looks a bit like a bull terrier. Though his face is quite pretty, actually, beneath the boyish sandy hair.
“Hi,” he says.
My eyebrows arch. “Hey.”
“Sorry about this. Protocol.” He gestures to the seat. “We’d just like to ask you some questions, if that’s all right.”
“And if I say no?”
He smiles and I am abruptly met with the reality of this friendly-looking man: he’s dangerous. “Let’s start with your name.”
“How about we start with yours?”
Another smile. It’s a kind smile, but there’s an edge of something beneath it. “Sure. I’m Quinn.”
“And you’re the boss of the resistance?”
“Boss makes me sound like I’m a thousand years old.” A wide grin and a shrug. It’s the perfect gesture of self-deprecation—he’s good at this. At seeming non-threatening. He’s trying to make me comfortable.
“Sit down,” Quinn insists. “You look unwell.”
“What’s your name?”
I didn’t tell the three kids my name; they never asked. Instead, Pace started calling me Dual because of my two-coloured eyes. Now it hits me like an electric shock—I don’t know why but I really, really don’t want this man to know who I am. The hairs on the back of my neck are literally standing on end because I can feel the danger in the room.
“Dual,” I tell him.
“Dual. Unusual. Do you have a last name?”
“Not one I can remember.”
He frowns a little, confused. “Really? Why’s that?”
“I’ve been in a mental health facility most of my life. Electroshock therapy and a nice cocktail of medication is a great way to strip you of anything and everything, including your name.”
“I’m sorry to hear it,” he tells me. “That’s where Luke found you?”
My mind starts working quickly. “The guy who saved me? Yep.”
Quinn watches me, studying my face. “You don’t know him, then?”
“You aren’t cured.”
“How perceptive you are.”
“Why is that?”
I’m sure he can guess why, but I tell him anyway. “They never bother curing some of the looniest in the loony bins. It’s funny, really, ’cause we might have been the ones most in need of fewer emotions.”
This was what happened to my roommate Maria. She’d been in a catatonic state for most of her life so the government didn’t waste their cure on her—they just locked her up and waited for her to die.
“You don’t seem very loony right now,” Quinn points out.
“Thanks, that’s sweet.”
There’s a slight twitch in his jaw. I’m annoying him, I can tell. He smiles again, as if pulling the mask over his face. “How did you know to go to the tree?”
From my pocket I pull the instructions scrawled on the small piece of crumpled paper. “Found it on Luke.”
Quinn takes it and gives a wry sigh. “Not too careful of him, was it?”
“You’ll understand if I don’t mind too much about carelessness that saved my life.”
He nods. “’Course. What do you know of Luke’s girlfriend? The one he went back to save.”
I meet his eyes. “Josephine Luquet.”
“She was my roommate.”
“Where is she?”
“She died,” I tell him simply. And just like that, I am reborn. Josephine Luquet, orphan and murderess, is dead.