Aug 30 2012 3:15pm
We have excerpts from Walter Mosley's upcoming novel: Merge/Disciple, two works contained in in one volume. It's out on October 2:
Merge: Releigh Redman loved Nicci Charbon until she left him heartbroken. Then he hit the lotto for $26 million, quit his minimum wage job and set his sights on one goal: reading the entire collection of lectures in the Popular Educator Library, the only thing his father left behind after he died. As Raleigh is trudging through the eighth volume, he notices something in his apartment that at first seems ordinary but quickly reveals itself to be from a world very different from our own. This entity shows Raleigh joy beyond the comforts of $26 million dollars...and merges our world with those that live beyond.
Disciple: Hogarth “Trent” Tryman is a forty-two year old man working a dead-end data entry job. Though he lives alone and has no real friends besides his mother, he's grown quite content in his quiet life, burning away time with television, the internet, and video games. That all changes the night he receives a bizarre instant message on his computer from a man who calls himself Bron. At first he thinks it's a joke, but in just a matter of days Hogarth Tryman goes from a data entry clerk to the head of a corporation. His fate is now in very powerful hands as he realizes he has become a pawn in a much larger game with unimaginable stakes a battle that threatens the prime life force on Earth.
There ain’t no blues like the sky.
It wasn't there a moment before and then it was, in my living room at seven sixteen in the evening on Tuesday, December the twelfth, two thousand seven. I thought at first it was a plant, a dead plant, a dead branch actually, leaning up against the wall opposite my desk. I tried to remember it being there before. I’d had many potted shrubs and bushes in my New York apartment over the years. They all died from lack of sun. Maybe this was the whitewood sapling that dropped its last glossy green leaf just four months after I bought it, two weeks before my father died. But no, I remembered forcing that plant down the garbage chute in the hall.
Just as I was about to look away the branch seemed to quiver. The chill up my spine was strong enough to make me flinch.
“What the hell?”
I could make out a weak hissing sound in the air. Maybe that sound was what made me look up in the first place. It was a faltering exhalation, like a man in the process of dying in the next room or the room beyond that.
I stood up from the seventeenth set of lectures in the eighth volume of The Popular Educator Library and moved, tentatively, toward the shuddering branch.
My apartment was small and naturally dark but I had six-hundred-watt incandescent lamps, specially made for construction sites, set up in opposite corners. I could see quite clearly that the branch was not leaning against the wall but standing, swaying actually, on a root system that was splayed out at its base like the simulation of a singular broad foot.
The shock of seeing this wavering tree limb standing across from me had somehow short-circuited my fear response. I moved closer, wondering if it was some kind of serpent that one of my neighbors had kept for a pet. Could snakes stand up straight like that?
The breathing got louder and more complex as I approached.
I remember thinking, Great, I win the lotto only to be killed by a snake nine months later. Maybe I should have done what Nicci told me and moved to a nice place on the Upper West Side. I had the money: twenty-six million over twenty years. But I didn’t want to move right off. I wanted to take it slowly, to understand what it meant to be a millionaire, to never again worry about work or paying the bills.
The sound was like the hiss of a serpent but I didn’t see eyes or a proper mouth. Maybe it was one of those South American seed drums that someone had put there to scare me.
“Nicci?” I called into the bedroom even though I knew she couldn’t be there. “Nicci, are you in there?”
No answer. She had sent my key back two years before—a little while after she left me for Thomas Beam.
Even though I was facing this strange hissing branch the thought of Tom Beam brought back the stinging memory of Nicci asking me if I minded if she went out to a show with him.
“He’s just a friend,” she’d said. “He’s not interested in me or anything like that.”
And then, two months later, after we had made love in my single bed her saying, “I’ve been sleeping with Tommy for six weeks, Rahl.”
“We’ve been fucking, all right?” she said as if I had been the one to say something to make her angry.
“What does this mean?” I asked.
I knew that she hadn’t been enjoying sex with me. I knew that she was getting ready to go back to college and finish her degree in business; that she was always telling me that I could do better than the filing job I had with the Bendman and Lowell Accounting Agency.
“Do you love him?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Are you going to keep seeing him?”
“For a while,” Nicci Charbon said. “What do you want?”
It was just after midnight and my penis had shrunk down to the size of a lima bean; the head had actually pulled back into my body. My palms started itching, so much so that I scratched at them violently.
“What’s wrong?” Nicci asked.
“What’s wrong? You just told me that you’re fucking Tommy Beam.”
“You don’t have to use foul language,” she said.
“But you said the word first.”
“I did not.”
We went back and forth on that fine point until Nicci said, “Well what if I did say it? You’re the one who told me it was all right to go out with him.”
“I . . .” It was then that I lost heart. Nicci Charbon was the most beautiful girl . . . woman I had ever known. I was amazed every morning I woke up next to her and surprised whenever she smiled to see me.
“I don’t want to lose you, Nicci,” I said. I wanted to ask her to come back to me but that seemed like a silly thing to say when we were in bed together in the middle of the night.
“You don’t care about me and Tommy?” she asked.
“I don’t want you to see him.”
It was the first bit of backbone I showed. Nicci got sour faced, turned her back, and pretended to sleep.
I tried to talk to her but she said that she was too upset to talk. I said that I was the one that should have been upset. She didn’t answer that.
I sat there awake until about three. After that I got dressed and went down to Milo’s All Night Diner on Lexington. I ordered coffee and read yesterday’s newspaper, thought about Nicci doing naked things with Tom Beam and listened to my heart thudding sometimes slowly, sometimes fast.
When I got back at six Nicci was gone. She’d left a note saying that it would probably be better if we didn’t see each other for a while. I didn’t speak to her again for fifteen months. Most of that time I was in pain. I didn’t talk about it all that much because there was no one to talk to and also because we were at war and a broken heart seems less important when you have peers that are dying from roadside landmines.
And then I won the lotto. Nicci called me three days after it was announced.
“No,” she said when I asked about her new boyfriend. “I don’t see Tommy all that much anymore. We were hot and heavy there at first but then I started college and he went to work for Anodyne down in Philly.”
She called me every day for two weeks before I agreed to see her. We had lunch together and I didn’t kiss her when we parted. She wanted to see me again but I said we could talk on the phone.
I wanted to see her, that was for sure. She looked very beautiful when we got together for lunch at Milo’s. She wore a tight yellow dress and her makeup made her wolf-gray eyes glow with that same hungry look that they had the first night she came up to my place.
But what was I supposed to do? Nicci had dropped me like an anchor, cut the rope, and sailed off with another man.
And now there was this seed drum or serpent hissing in my room.
A four-inch slit opened in the stick toward where the head would be if it was a snake or a man. The opening was the length of a human mouth, only it was vertical and lipless. A rasping breath came from the thing and I heard something else; a sound, a syllable.
I saw then that it couldn’t have been a stick because it was undulating slightly, the brown limb showing that it was at least somewhat supple—supporting the snake theory.
I leaned forward ignoring the possible danger.
“Foo,” the limb whispered almost inaudibly.
I fell back bumping against the desk and knocking my nineteen-forties’ self-study college guide to the floor. It was a talking stick, a hungry branch. Sweat broke out across my face and for the first time in nearly two years I was completely unconcerned with Nicci Charbon and Thomas Beam.
“What?” I said in a broken voice.
“Food,” the voice said again, stronger now, in the timbre of a child.
“What are you?”
“Food, please,” it said in a pleading tone.
“What, what do you eat?”
“Thugar, fruit . . .”
My living room had a small kitchen in the corner. There was a fruit plate on the counter with a yellow pear, two green apples, and a bruised banana that was going soft. I grabbed the pear and an apple and approached the talking stick. I held the apple up to the slit in the woodlike skin. When the fruit was an inch from the opening three white tubes shot out piercing the skin.
The apple throbbed gently and slowly caved in on itself. After a few minutes it was completely gone. The tiny pale tubes ended in oblong mouthlike openings that seemed to be chewing. When they were finished they pulled back into the fabulous thing.
“More?” I asked.
The creature ate all my fruit. When it had finished with the banana, peel and all, it slumped forward falling into my arms. It was a heavy beast, eighty pounds at least, and warmer by ten degrees than my body temperature. I hefted it up carrying it awkwardly like the wounded hero does the heroine in the final scene of an old action film.
I placed the thing upon my emerald-colored vinyl-covered couch and watched it breathing heavily through its vibrating slit of a mouth.
The living branch was round in body, four and half feet long. It was evenly shaped except for the bottom that spread out like a foot formed from a complex root system. The vertical slit was open wide sucking in air and it seemed to be getting hotter.
“Are you okay?” I asked, feeling a little foolish.
“Do you need anything?”
For a brief moment a white spot appeared at the center of the brown tube.
It gave the impression of being an eye, watching me for a moment, and then it receded into the body of the creature as its tubular mouths had done.
“Ressst,” it said again.