By Eugen Bacon
I came across an exhilarating guest post idea on an author series, and thought, ‘Just wow.’ If I took a random page of my novel with Andrew Hook, Secondhand Daylight, would it render justice to the overall storyline?
I’ve always liked odd numbers, so my eye fell on p.43, and I thought, why not? -EUGEN BACON
Secondhand Daylight—An Excerpt
I delayed the inevitable until I couldn’t sit back any more, a wuss, without altogether ditching the going. Already I was late for the ceremony—perhaps I’d purposefully stalled to make sure I wasn’t there to object, because every fibre of my being was screaming to do so. What right did Dad have to his own happiness, when he’d left me for shit?
I was early—the wedding probably just about finishing. I marched straight to the reception and, unsurprising, when I arrived, it was awfully quiet at the Turner Street house. It was a big and grey period structure with flowered awnings.
Dad opened the door. The ranging fellow he always was.
“Oh,” he said, as if I was the last thing he expected. The door widened.
Took my legs away, seeing Dad this close. He looked seasoned in a good-looking way. Kind of self-actualised, and it pissed me off.
Wordless, I wove past him and into the living area. I scowled at the plush Turkish carpet most likely christened with a romp. I peered at it with distaste.
“Well?” Dad said.
“Her name is Sharee,” my dad said firmly.
“Does Mum know?”
“She left us both. There’s nothing to know.”
“Renting?” I poked, prodded.
“Sharee…” Dad threw his hands in the air, as if that would tell me everything I needed to know.
To say that the silence that followed was a little uncomfortable was an understatement.
“How are you, son?” Dad’s strong grey gaze.
He looked older, even though his hair was dyed. He had this mature look, the good kind of maturity that made you want to trust him.
“Where’s everybody?” I asked, a little harshly, rejecting the familiarity, the offer to trust.
“The wedding reception.”
“Son. That was six months ago.”
The time gap was starting to stretch, I couldn’t ignore it.
“A girl was looking for you at the wedding,” Dad said in the awful silence.
“Girl, woman…” He shrugged. “Maybe people have a reason to look when you don’t show.”
Sharee climbed down the stairs, the bump on her stomach leading the way. She was wearing a red maxi dress that swung. Its V-neck was rather low and met the swell of her motherhood breasts. I shook my head. The last thing I wanted to be thinking about my dad’s new wife were her breasts.
Her smile was enveloping. It shimmered and pushed a smile out of me, swapped my rebellion with shyness. I felt a bit giddy.
“The prodigal father’s prodigal son,” she said in a voice of natural husk.
“About right,” I said. “Do you sing?”
We laughed together. Who stayed long in rage in Sharee’s shimmer?
“Tea?” she offered.
“Absolutely,” I agreed, and allowed a cushie sofa to swallow me in its comfort. Even my dad loosened up. I found that I couldn’t maintain frustrations in Sharee’s presence, couldn’t cogitate the time lapse into something that made any sense. I rolled with it, moved forwards with it mentally as well as physically, just as Dad had apparently done since Mum left.
Soon we were chortling and sharing my childhood stories over fresh mint tea and homemade honey cake that tasted even more divine than it looked.
“Remember that time we passed this building that had been abandoned for aeons, and it was night but there was a light under the door?” Dad said. “How you couldn’t help your curiosity and pushed a hand under the big wooden door where the light was coming from, and you pulled back in a bolt, jumped at a dog’s fierce bark inside? We could see its shadow under the door, and we ran so fast as the dog barked and barked?”
We laughed till we gasped. “I’ve never seen you run so fast, Dad. You left me behind!”
“Yeah, I was a shit dad.”
It got all awkward again, and I started feeling wrecked.
I took my cue to leave. The parting with my dad was, anyhow, less uneasy than our tense greeting.
“What was that about losing six months?” Dad asked.
It was then that I nearly told him.
So I’ve cheated a little in this excerpt, because it’s more than page 43. But I feel that this part of the story has two natural pause points that are fair to the reader:
“Son. That was six months ago.” (p.44)
It was then that I nearly told him. (p.46)
Starting from page 43 gives the excerpt good grounding. Secondhand Daylight is a story in two parts. This excerpt perfectly captures the novel’s essence.
In this first part, Green’s, he’s realised that he’s losing time, fast-forwarding into the future. He doesn’t know why and it’s unsettling him.
In this scene, Green—having wrestled with himself: should he go / not go?—finally arrives at what he believes is the date of his estranged father’s wedding. Turns out his clock is off; Green is six months late.
I couldn’t have chosen a better excerpt that encapsulates the day-to-day disruption to Green, and to those around him, of the uncontrollable time-jump conundrum. How much can this go on before Green leaps to a forever place that has nobody he knows?
Find out more about Green’s story, and Zada’s—she’s from the future and believes she can save him. But her technology only affords her the opportunity to go backwards. She can never return to the future.
As Green leaps forwards, and Zada teleports backwards, what happens if they entirely miss each other? That is Zada’s problem that Green doesn’t even know about!
About the authors of Secondhand Daylight:
Eugen Bacon is an African Australian author of several novels and fiction collections. She’s a 2022 World Fantasy Award finalist, and was announced in the honor list of the 2022 Otherwise Fellowships for ‘doing exciting work in gender and speculative fiction’. Her book Danged Black Thing made the 2021 Otherwise Honor List as a ‘sharp collection of Afro-Surrealist work’. Recent books: Mage of Fools (novel), Chasing Whispers (collection) and An Earnest Blackness (essay collection). Eugen has two novels, a novella and three anthologies (ed) out in 2023, together with the US release of Danged Black Thing. Visit her website at eugenbacon.com and Twitter feed at @EugenBacon
Andrew Hook is a European writer with over 160 short stories in print, including notable appearances in Interzone, Black Static, and several anthologies from PS Publishing and NewCon Press. His fiction has been reprinted in anthologies including Best British Horror 2015 and Best British Short Stories 2020, has been shortlisted for British Fantasy Society awards, and he was longlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize in 2020. As editor/publisher, he has won three British Fantasy Society awards and he also has been a judge for the World Fantasy Awards. Most recent publications include Candescent Blooms (Salt Publishing)—5-star reviewed in the Telegraph. Find him at www.andrew-hook.com or @AndrewHookUK