Author Dave Rudden recently won the Bord Gáis Energy Children’s Book of the Year Award for his novel, Knights of the Borrowed Dark; below is an extract from his fantasy book.
‘Hello,’ Denizen repeated, feeling a little silly. ‘Are you . . .’
He trailed off as he took in the woman’s blank smile, her whole body stooped as if held up by the pinch of a thumb and forefinger. She didn’t seem to understand what he had said. ‘. . . all right?’
The woman didn’t respond, hands digging in the pockets of her white overcoat. Eventually, she pulled out a loose cigarette and jammed it in the fold of her smirk.
It hung there, unlit.
Horror curled its way through Denizen’s gut. The woman looked like she wasn’t quite there, as if something essential had been taken from her. Her hair was a ragged white cascade framing thin cheekbones and colourless lips. She took a staggering step forward, cigarette bobbing in the air.
He couldn’t just leave her. She was the first person he’d seen – he should help her, get her somewhere safe. It wasn’t exactly fighting a Tenebrous, but it was the right thing to do.
‘Miss? Miss, why don’t you come with me? I know some people who might be able to help you…’
He trailed off.
The woman raised her head in a series of slow jerks and Denizen suddenly realised he’d made a huge mistake.
It was her eyes. They were bright, and pale, and normal – or at least a fiend’s guess at what normal should be. Grey’s words suddenly came back to him.
They look... wrong, even the really old ones that try to pass as human. It’s the little things. The face. The eyes.
She hadn’t done a terrible job, at least as far as Denizen could see. All the bits were there. Iris, eyelids, whites – any doll maker would be proud. It’s not like there was a way to fake the things that actually made an eye human, like love or pity or hope.
The cigarette fell away as the woman’s jaw clacked open, baring a hollow filled with a mass of delicate clockwork – a tunnel of cogs and gears and spindle wheels, all wet and shining oily black.
Her howl made the ground vibrate and far-off windows shatter. The echoes took a very long time to die away.
‘Oh,’ said Denizen in a small voice, ‘right.’"
Dave has worked in the Dublin theatre, spoken word and storytelling scene since 2010; he has also performed at such nights as Milk & Cookies, Bang Bang Forty Coats, The Monday Echo, Shore Writers’ Festival, Electric Picnic, Culture Night and RTÉ’s The Works.
Dave was awarded a Literature Bursary by the Arts Council and serves on the committees for both IrishPEN and the Irish branch of the International Board of Books for Young People.
His book is available here.