If Octavian had been sitting where Duane-Eddy Prinkett was that morning, he too would have witnessed the stirring sight that met Duane-Eddy's bleary eyes. Instead, he woke up in a log cabin, staring at a wall.

     He'd been dreaming. Dreaming that he was back in Cambridge, sprawling with his great pals Boris and Guy on the clipped lawn that tumbles gently down from King's College to the River Cam. Sipping Earl Grey and nibbling turkey sandwiches with Gentleman's Relish from Fortnum & Mason, the three of them had just invented a whole new branch of philosophy which had a lot to do with bananas and suicide bombers. When a sudden noise caused his eyelids to spring up and he found himself staring at the above-mentioned wall, the dream ended, and he remembered that he'd never partaken of turkey sandwiches and Earl Grey beside the Cam, or known a Boris or Guy, and felt fleetingly bereft.

     He lay on a narrow bed under a coarse yellow blanket. The cabin was quiet and he was alone except for a black cat sleeping across his feet. He turned his head and surveyed a simply-furnished room with a few shelves and cupboards, a couple of rugs on the floor, a photo on the wall of Barry White as a young man in a terrible suit. There were two small windows, one on each side of the room, hung with cheap drapes. An unlit kerosene lamp dangled from a hook in the ceiling. The door stood half open. The open half was filled with light. He started to sit up. The black cat on his feet stirred, lifted the blanket, and drew a neat set of canals in his flesh. He kicked the cat off. It fled through the light half of the door. Almost immediately someone appeared in the doorway: an old woman in a shawl who hobbled towards him, a gnarled stick in one claw. Her skin was black and wrinkled, her hair white, swept back in a bun, and she had a hooked nose with a wart, and a mouth that might have been stitched on. Ah, Octavian thought: a crone. He fought the urge to cower, the way one does when advanced upon by crones. If he was a guest here, it might seem discourteous to cower before one's hostess. He attempted a smile instead, and found that his lips were so dry that a bead of blood burst from one of them and trickled down his chin. Instantly, the woman delved into the folds of her dress for a piece of rag, which she moistened with spittle and mopped his chin with. Her face hovered over his like a derelict building partially destroyed by fire.

     There was an upended orange crate beside the bed. On top of the orange crate stood a tin cup. The crone lifted the cup and placed the rim against his dry lips. The liquid it contained was green and evil-smelling. His head went back. 'Do ya good,' the old woman rasped, cradling his neck in a wiry arm while she again pressed the cup to his mouth. He tried to pull away a second time, but she was too strong for him. A few drops seeped between his lips, whereupon he discovered that the stuff was not only evil-smelling but evil-tasting. The last thing he heard as he passed out was a cackle like dry leaves from the crone's stitched-on mouth.

     The next time he swam up into what felt like consciousness he was definitely not in a log cabin. The layout was similar but the walls looked as if they were made of clay, or mud. The words 'adobe hacienda' came to him like a gift, or a song. The bed he lay upon, however, was identical to the one he'd woken in previously, and it stood in the same position, with a half open door opposite. Through the door came the scent of wild flowers and fresh clean air, and he thought he could hear birds singing. He sat up, disturbing the cat on his feet. The cat clawed back the yellow blanket that covered him and scratched the first foot it came to. Octavian kicked out. The cat shot through the half open door.

     Five seconds passed. Then a man filled the doorway, blocking out most of the vertical rectangle of white light. For some reason, Octavian found himself in mortal fear of large male shapes that blocked out light, and he shrank back as this one came in. The man had biceps like ebony melons, which burst out of a dirty short-sleeved shirt. He looked like an itinerant cotton picker. The itinerant cotton picker stopped short of the bed and scowled down at him. Octavian did his best to look friendly, tried to say 'Hello there, how are you, nice day,' but the first 'H' was as much as he could manage with such dry lips. The itinerant cotton picker did not return a neighbourly 'H' of his own, or offer any other kind of civility. He leant down and hooked a finger in the handle of the tin cup on the upended orange crate. Octavian shook his head, no. The itinerant cotton picker reached out and placed an enormous palm behind his neck, gave it a little squeeze, and insinuated a drop or two of the evil-smelling liquid past the stiff guard of the dry lips. Octavian fell limp against the ebony chest, and dreamed implausible answers to a dozen pointless questions.

     The third time he woke he appeared to be in a cave, but he quickly realised that it couldn't be a cave because it had windows with curtains pulled across them, and, again, a half open door. Through the door's half opening he could see that it was dark outside, but dark with a shifting glow, like firelight. And he could smell cooking. He'd just noticed this pleasant aroma when a rack of nails as sharp as needles drew a series of neat red lines on one of his bare feet. He reached for the tin cup on the upturned orange crate with one hand, and with the other seized the cat by the scruff of the neck and poured most of the cup's contents down its squalling gullet. He then lobbed the cat across the cavelike room, where it hit a wall and fell to the floor, out cold.

     He pulled his legs around and sat on the edge of the bed, which was so low that his knees supported his chin. To his alarm he found that he was naked. He had just observed this when a shadow fell across him. Tracing the source of the shadow, he found that the figure that generated it wasn't anything like as tall as its length suggested. He was barely four feet high. He wore a small gold ring in one ear, a corduroy cap askew on his head, and a speckled grey goatee on his chin. He stepped closer. Picked up the tin cup. Octavian stiffened.

     'No more. Tell me what's happening.' It still wasn't easy to persuade words past those driest of lips, but this was progress.

The dwarf offered no reply, but reached for him and pressed the cup to his mouth. He resisted, but drops of the evil-smelling green liquid nevertheless dripped into his throat and he fell sideways, one hand trailing romantically on the floor.


When a bomb goes off under his bed, 23 year old philosophy graduate Octavian Underbund is blown out of his window above a Cambridge joke shop. Waking from a coma four weeks later in Washington DC, he finds that he has a mission: to travel into a rather backward part of rural America in a wheelchair and buy off the blackmailing mother of a half brother he didn't know he had till now. Some way into his journey he finds that he can get by without the wheelchair and ditches it in favour of a bus, intending to alight at the town of Orifice in Areola County. But he sleeps through his stop, and by so doing sets in motion a series of events unlike any in his previous experience. After one unscripted encounter he wakes in… well,read the following extract.


WORDYSOD : Michael Lawrence                                    www.wordysod.com

A Writer's Website                                                                                                

A novel about roads taken, about consequences, misdirection, misconception, lies, bruises, buttocks, murder and quite a bit more.