Today, I’ve got the prologue of The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka, and two copies of the book to give away to two lucky US winners, courtesy of the lovely folks at Henry Holt.
Excerpt: The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka (Prologue)
A wave climbed the pebbly beach, washing over my foot, filling my pants with grit and sand. All along the shore, dark slabs of rock jutted from the surf, sharp as broken teeth. I shivered as I came back to myself and for the first time realized my suit jacket was missing. Also my left shoe, brown leather, size twelve. I looked for the shoe, scanning the rocky shoreline, but saw only sand and frothy, sliding water.
I took another pull from the bottle and tried to loosen my tie. Since I had a gun in one hand and a bottle in the other—and since I was unwilling to surrender either to the waves—loosening my tie was difficult. I used the gun hand, working the knot with a finger looped through the trigger guard, cold steel brushing my throat. I felt the muzzle under my chin—fingers numb and awkward, curling past the trigger.
It would be so easy.
I wondered if people had died this way—drunk, armed, loosening their ties. I imagined it was common among certain occupations.
Then the tie opened, and I hadn’t shot myself. I took a drink from the bottle as reward.
Another wave rumbled in. If I stayed here long enough, the tide would roll over me, drown me, and pull me out to sea. This place was nothing like the dunes of Indiana, where Lake Michigan caresses the shoreline. Here in Gloucester, the water hates the land.
As a child, I’d come to this beach and wondered where all the boulders came from. Huge, dark stones like pieces of shipwreck. Did the tides carry them in? Now I knew better. The boulders, of course, were here all along—buried in soft soils. They are left-behind things. They are what remains when the ocean subtracts everything else.
Thirty yards up the beach, near the road, there is a monument—a list of names. Fishermen. Gloucestermen. The ones who did not come back.
This is Gloucester, a place with a history of losing itself to the ocean.
The wind gusted, and the salt spray stung my eyes.
I told myself I’d brought the gun for protection, but sitting here in the dark sand, I no longer believed it. I was beyond fooling myself.
It was my father’s gun, a .357. It had not been fired for seventeen years, seven months, four days. The math came quickly. Even drunk, the math came quickly. Always my most resilient talent.
My sister Marie had called it a good thing, this new place that was also an old place.
A new start, she’d said over the phone. Away from what happened in Chicago. You can do your work again. You can continue your research.
Yeah, I’d said. A lie she seemed to believe.
You’re not going to call me, are you?
Of course I’ll call. A lie she didn’t.
There was a pause.
I mean it Eric, call me. If anything goes wrong.
Further up the beach, a seagull leapt into the air and hung stationary against the wind, frozen like a snapshot, before it wheeled and lifted into the thick gray fog and was gone.
I turned my face away from the ocean and took another burning swig. I drank until I couldn’t remember which hand held the gun and which the bottle. I drank until they were the same.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher
About The Flicker Men:
A quantum physicist shocks the world with a startling experiment, igniting a struggle between science and theology, free will and fate, and antagonizing forces not known to exist
Eric Argus is a washout. His prodigious early work clouded his reputation and strained his sanity. But an old friend gives him another chance, an opportunity to step back into the light.
With three months to produce new research, Eric replicates the paradoxical double-slit experiment to see for himself the mysterious dual nature of light and matter. A simple but unprecedented inference blooms into a staggering discovery about human consciousness and the structure of the universe.
His findings are celebrated and condemned in equal measure. But no one can predict where the truth will lead. And as Eric seeks to understand the unfolding revelations, he must evade shadowy pursuers who believe he knows entirely too much already.