I am excited to welcome author S.C. Barrus, who is sharing an exclusive excerpt from his new novel, Discovering Aberration.
An ancient map stolen. A lost civilization discovered. A terrible secret unleashed.
Set in an alternate Victorian era, Discovering Aberration follows Freddy Fitzgerald, a rebellious writer and ex-scuttler, and Thaddeus Lumpen, a desperate archaeologist with a slew of dangerous rivals. Together they will stop at nothing to make the discovery of a lifetime. But their island destination hides it’s own dark secrets which can push even the strongest minds into madness.
Exclusive Excerpt: Discovering Aberration
I walked down the streets with a new fury, holding my head and cursing myself for falling for so simple a trap. “Robbed by a wench and an ankle biter,” I snorted. Determined to get my stolen bag returned, I guessed a direction and hurried down it, glancing down every alley way, street, and cranny I came across. But one isn’t found in the Warehouse District.
“What mess have you gotten yourself into this time, eh old boy?” I groaned as I tried to establish my bearings. “Hoodwinked by two of those accursed Scarlets, lost in one of the most confusing neighborhoods in Victania. How did I let myself get tricked a second time? Breasts again! Never trust a woman with a low cut blouse, or any other manner of busty manipulation!”
I turned a corner and looked about but there was no land mark I recognized. All I could see were debris filled streets, piles of crates, and long stretches of great closed doors. But then a shadow in the darkness cloaked in a hooded jacket caught my eye. It was her, the whore who had mugged me and left me in the alley.
Breaking into a sprint, I raced after her. She paused for only a moment, turned to face me then fled in the opposite direction. With all my effort I doubled my speed. Her cloak bustled in the wind, slowing her flight, but she knew the area well. Darting round a corner, she disappeared from sight. I pressed forward with all the will I could muster and followed.
A sudden wallop! and my feet flew forward and my face remained suspended in air. With a hard thud, my back clapped against the street. The wind was cast from my bellows and for a long, distressed moment I could not draw breath. With a hard pull, I forced in the air, and with my first breath I strained a curse, “Barmy woman!” Air was hard won, but it came and with each huff it came easier than the last.
“Stop hitting me!” I shouted as I sat up.
The lass stood over me clasping a board in her hands, ready to strike again. Blood dripped quickly from my nose. I pressed my palm hard against it, hissing with the pain.
“Stop hitting you?” The girl gasped in disbelief. “I wouldn’t be hitting you if you weren’t chasing me. I know what you had on your mind, and I’ll let you know you’re not forcing your way on me, wretched tail chaser!”
“What?” I began to stand but she shook the makeshift club. “Alright,” I lifted my blood soaked hand to show I meant no harm. “I’ll stay down. Staining my backside for this. Blood on my shirt. Unbelievable.” I narrowed my eyes and glared at her. “I want my stuff back.”
The girl laughed. “Your stuff? Ha! Been hit by one of the girls then. Serves you right for walking in the middle of the night in Scarlet territory, eh. Anyway, I didn’t take your things. Must have been another girl.”
I looked at her carefully, though it was hard to make her out in the darkness. Her jacket looked the same, but beneath it certainly was not the red corset from earlier and the curly blonde hair had been replaced as well, though I could hardly make out the color in the darkness.
“Of all the rotten luck.”
“Hey, I know you.” She visibly relaxed, then tossed the board to the side and offered me a hand. “I didn’t recognize you in the dark with you running and shouting and all. You’re Franky.”
I glared up at her, ignoring her hand. “And what of it?”
“Don’t you recognize me?”
I didn’t recognize her, after all I could hardly make out her face, but the only girl I knew who might be out here was the one from the day previous, so I ventured the guess. “You’re not the girl from before, the one who offered me the job?”
“Yes,” she replied. “My name’s Miss Bottoms, in case you were wondering. But I’m still too young to be considered a proper woman yet, so I suppose you can call me Candy. Couldn’t resist seeking out the Downy Destiny? I can’t say it surprises me, most men do once they get a taste, and you’re almost a man, aren’t you. Get up, clean yourself off. I’ll take you there.”
My eyes still stubbornly fixated, lips shut tight, I rose, ripped a bit of fabric from my shirt, balled it up and stuffed it into my nose to quell the bleeding. With a sarcastic smile and showy bow, I bade her lead on saying, “Ladies first.”
She lead me down the winding streets and I followed close behind, attempting to memorize my surroundings but failing miserably.
“No need to be so glum,” she said as we made our way through the streets speckled with bums, drunks and vagrants. “You were the one who was chasing me, after all.”
“I’m not glum,” I said with a frown. “I’m just thinking.”
“And what are you thinking about?”
I didn’t answer as I began to recognize landmarks I had passed some time earlier in the evening. Instead I asked, “what were you doing alone so deep within the Warehouse district?”
“Such prying questions,” she smiled self assured. “And not really any of your concern, is it. But I’ll tell you this. The Warehouses don’t threaten me as they do you, this is my home. I know of all the secret places and it’s my prerogative to use them when I see fit. Wouldn’t you agree, Mr. Fitzgerald?”
“I suppose. It’s just…”
“It’s just,” she picked up where I trailed off, “You didn’t expect a woman to be able to survive alone in a place so renowned for its crime. Such narrow thinking. You’d be wise to learn, Mr. Fitzgerald, that while this place seems the realm of the workers in the day and hoodlums at night, it is in fact the land of women at all times. It is the men who are in danger here.”
“So I’ve gathered,” I said dryly.
I grew increasingly disappointed as we drew closer to the markets. And when the markets felt just out of reach, I began to worry that this girl was in fact leading me away to cast me off with some sort of chastisement. But it came to be that The Downy Destiny was actually located on the border of the two districts cleverly cloaked in the veil of a winding way and darkened alley. Once I saw it, a small crowd of well dressed men and malnourished whores lit by two glowing yet unassuming windows, I was taken aback by the proximity.
“But it’s so close to the markets,” I thought aloud.
“Naturally,” Candy replied as if the reasoning was common knowledge. “You don’t think gentlemen in the know would venture very far into the Warehouses, do you? Not more than once. Not unless we want them there, anyway.”
“I suppose not.” We stood in silence and watched the men chase the skirts of the women, flirtation a mere forethought to jovial forced affections. Though I was not one to consider myself above any action a man might take, I had never seen how men such as these act in the company of whores at night. Wantonly they took advantage of the girls, laughing when one lost her nerves and turned frightened. They goaded on the long-in-the-tooth veterans who had lost themselves through the years to their nightly work, happily bending to the pokes and the prods.
Watching with a curled lip, my stomach churned. “Are those girls Scarlets?” I asked as I packed my pipe and watched. I tried not to give away my distaste for the scene, to play everything evenhanded, but the longer we stood the less I was able.
“Certainly not.” Miss Bottoms looked at me appalled. “Some of them came to the Scarlets at one point desiring entry into our ranks, but one must meet a certain criteria to gain the Scarlet name as their own. Still, we don’t turn a desperate woman away, after all if we don’t provide for the cast off women, society certainly won’t. We provide them lodging, we let them stay outside the Destiny for their work if that’s what they wish. There are many others who get by without whoring, but these girls here, I suppose they never discovered another way. We take a small cut off the top of whatever they earn, however they earn it. But they are not Scarlets.”
I nodded as I began to puff my pipe, understanding of the world taking root in my mind bit by bit. I had had these visions in my mind of what The Downy Destiny might be. Somehow vague images of grandeur and graceful sensuality had flowered in my youthful imagination, not the dirty whores with their scabbed lips or the disgraceful men slipping their hands down the fronts of their loose bodices. “Thus is life,” I whispered as a piece of my heart chipped away.
“Excuse me?” Miss Bottoms was watching me with a strange look.
“Nothing,” I said. “Forget it. I’m ready to meet The Misses.”
I strode off in the direction of scene, but Miss Bottoms caught my hand. ”Not that way,” she said and tilted her head. “We go through the back. Come on, I’ll take you round.”
Meet S.C. Barrus!
S.C. Barrus writes strange and thrilling literary adventures including the novel Discovering Aberration, a steampunk adventure novel. Born in Canada, he grew up in the Pacific North West where he skipped school in favor of swimming in the local rivers.
Raised on a hefty selection of books, video games and movies, he grew to love story telling from a young age. He received his degree in creative writing from the University of Washington and began writing fiction in 2011.
Throughout the years, S.C. Barrus has been inspired by a wide range of authors and genres. A fan of literary fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy and sci-fi. But perhaps the easiest influences to identify in his writing comes from authors such as Edgar Allen Poe, Jules Verne, H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Louis Stephenson.