Here are a few paragraphs from the story I’m working on now, which will probably be about novella length when it’s finished. The story is called “I Know You.” I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. The paragraph listing the items she finds in the basement is still pretty generic; I’ll have to touch that up. Also, this is a pretty subdued beginning. I might want to punch it up a bit later. Usually I like my openings to be a bit more dramatic. I’ll know how well it fits as more of the story unspools.
The first step in putting order to the detritus of a finished life is to take stock of what remains. To this end, Amanda took the key found in her husband’s pocket by the forensics team and used it to unlock the door to the basement, which was the only room in this two-story lakeside mansion she had not entered in close to fifteen years. That she had stayed out of it all this time was due to an amicable accord with her late husband: he was afforded his underground laboratory, in which he conducted the experiments for which he had been fired from the university and which served to gain him notoriety among certain fringe communities on the internet, not to mention the occasional lucrative speaking engagements for privately funded astronomical or alchemical societies; and she had her upstairs writing den, where once upon a time she had written a book of personal essays which had garnered the favor of critics and readers alike.
That he had devoted himself entirely to his work in recent years while she had long ago abandoned hers was, she thought, just the way life worked. If human beings had their life cycles, so did love, and so did passion. She rarely thought about her early, promising days as an essayist, and when she did it was without regret. Writing, finally, is a narcissistic endeavor, and she had found much beyond herself to love, and to fill her mind.
William had always been a fastidious man, in manner as well as habit, so it surprised her to discover that his laboratory was a calamitous sprawl of half-finished projects and stranded equipment. A pungent chemical stink filled the room, mixed with the rancid-butter undertones of microwaved popcorn. A low, staticy hiss rose ghostlike from some unidentified source; it sounded like air escaping into space, and filled her with an inexplicable sense of unease. Boxes and spilled packing materials were stacked in a small mountain against the east wall; one lonely spark would turn the whole basement into a bonfire. A system of work benches divided the rest of the room into sectors, though if there was an organizing principle to this division, Amanda could not detect it.
In fact, she could make very little sense out of anything she saw down here, and it made her heart quail to think of the work ahead of her.
There were bunsen burners, a Tesla coil, beakers and test tubes and solvents and solutions, jars of formaldehyde with mysterious fleshy masses resting inside them. A monstrous telescope was set up in the corner, as big around as a tree trunk; it stared upwards through a window they had specially installed years before, so that William could chart the courses of the stars from his underground hideaway. Banks of machinery covered two of the walls; she remembered the two weeks it had taken for them to be installed by the work crew; he had been flush with grant money from one of his nameless foreign benefactors.
In the back of the room was something that surprised her: a large, clear vat, big enough to hold a child or a small dog. It was filled with a green, viscous liquid. A cheap radio had been affixed to the side with large quantities of electrical tape, and a spaghetti tangle of wires unspooled from the bottom and disappeared beneath the workbench.
The low hiss came from the radio, like an unending exhalation. As she approached it sputtered, and barked a harsh burst of static; her heart spiked, and she stopped. The hiss resumed.
Tentatively, she stepped closer again. When nothing happened, she pressed her hand against the side of the vat. It was warm — a fact she found surprisingly unsettling. She pulled her hand away.
The radio coughed again, and a voice, genderless and faint, swam up through the noise and the interference, as though it had come from the deeps of chaos and noise.
“Amanda,” it said. “Woman of petals. Steeped in blood. I have wanted to meet you for a long, long time.”