Half Sick of Shadows – Audio Excerpt
by Richard Abbott
Like Audio Excerpts A and B & C, for author Richard Abbott’s second sci-fi novel, Timing, the excerpt below, from his historical fantasy, Half Sick of Shadows, is powered by Amazon’s Polly software, which is enabled for text-to-speech in multiple accents and intonations. There sometimes are limitations on the range of speech and accents Alexa can produce, but technology is advancing and can be utilized in a number of ways, such as to help produce speech for those on the autism spectrum.
Below you’ll find the next audio excerpt offering, this time from Half Sick of Shadows, Richard Abbott’s historical fantasy based on Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s inimitable poem, “The Lady of Shalott.” Take a peek at our review, which pairs well with this particular extract, for its background pertaining to the scene here. And don’t forget to join in for a chance to win a free copy of the novel!
See below for details about winning a free paperback copy of Half Sick of Shadows
Addendum: Contest extended and drawing will occur on December 2
Exactly a month after she had first seen the baby, they brought it out to the cairn opposite and held it up to her in the evening. The woman placed an offering on the cairn, and the man threw something metal into the flowing stream. The little one did nothing, unable even to hold up its head, but her heart melted at the scene.
She sang again, breaking her self-imposed fast, and saw their faces light up with awe as they heard her.
Just a few nights later she found herself ravenously hungry, and gorged herself on the food all around. Only at the end of her feasting, when she lay exhausted in her chamber and looked around, did she realise what was happening. Soon she would sleep, and while she slept her body would go through another change.
She gasped with anguish. How many racing years would slip away between sleep and waking?
“But if I sleep, I shall never know what happens to my sister, nor my brother, nor the child I helped them make. I cannot bear this, Mirror. It is cruelty. You must let me be awake for longer. I want to see what happens to them.”
There was no answer, but unquenchable hunger seized her again. She tried not to eat, but the desire was stronger than gravity, irresistible as wind, and she could not deny it. Great helpless tears rolled down her face even as she tore at great strips of leaf and swallowed brimming bowls of sap.
Heavy, and feeling full to bursting, she wallowed on her couch, desperate for nightfall to come. Would she be given even one more day, before the unstoppable urge to sleep overwhelmed her?
They came that evening, and held up the infant so she could see it. She sang again for them, and her song was full of both the beauty and the sorrow of the passing world. She watched the glow of wonder on their faces as they heard her. She knew what they could not, that this would be the last time she would see them, and she sang to bless them as the shortening day eased into night.
Long after they had gone, she lay looking at the riverbank where they had stood. The world was made up of shadows now. When her brother and sister next came, when they held up the infant for her to see, she would no longer be there. She would be lost in her own world of slumber and transformation, and the quick years of the world would roll unseen around her.
How long would they continue to come, she wondered, once the sound of her singing was gone? Would they think that she was lost to them, lost somewhere in the gloaming? She watched herself stuffing food into her body, slithering awkwardly, heavily, into her chamber, and she felt that her heart was breaking.
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Click titles to read our reviews for Richard Abbott’s Far from the Spaceports or Timing.
For more on “The Lady of Shalott,” please click here.
About the author…
Richard Abbott writes fiction of several varieties, including both historical and speculative fiction. His historical is set in the Middle East at the end of the Bronze Age, around 1200 BC. It explores events in the Egyptian province of Canaan, following events in the life of a priest in the small hill town of Kephrath during a time of considerable change throughout the region.
His heretofore speculative writing is set in a near-future solar system exploring issues of high-tech crime and human-machine relationships.
Far from the Spaceports introduces Mitnash Thakur and his virtual partner Slate as they investigate financial crime in the asteroid belt. Its sequel, Timing, was released in the second half of 2016.
Richard lives in London, England and works professionally in IT quality assurance.
When not writing words or computer code, he enjoys spending time with family, walking, and wildlife, ideally combining all three pursuits in the English Lake District.
You can follow and learn more about Richard Abbott and his books at Facebook and Google–and be sure to check out his brilliant collection of images! The author also has some amazing content at his blog, In a Milk and Honeyed Land, including Polly and Alexa, with space-related and not, his own reviews and reading list, information about his other books, and much more.