Black Dog – work in progress 1

NotebookHere’s the first few paragraphs of Black Dog, my current work in progress. I’m not sure how many of these excerpts I’m going to post. This may be the first and last. Or there may be more to come. It’s early days and I’m feeling my way, so I’ve no idea if the final manuscript will bear any resemblance to this initial draft. Come back in a year or so and maybe you’ll find out.

As the French tank rumbled towards him, Art Fletcher struggled to pull his legs clear of the mud. Beyond the upper edge of the crater, a twisting column of black smoke obscured the place where his brother’s plane had come down. Art had no way of knowing whether Eric had survived the crash or not. The only way to find out was to get up there and see for himself. But he was trapped.

The mud had enveloped his legs all the way up to his knees. He was trapped like a bug in tree-sap. The tank was friendly, but that made no difference. When its tracks rolled over him, they would crush him just the same.

The tank hit a sprawl of shattered masonry, humped over it, came on. It was an FT-17: squat and round, turret-topped. All the doughboys marveled at them, thought them futuristic. To Art, it looked like a prehistoric thing. Like him, it was caked in mud. He waved his arms. Surely the men in the tank would see him. But the smoke was rolling over him, and his uniform had turned the same dead grey as the rest of the battlefield, and his screams were lost inside the tank’s mechanical thunder.

The smoke opened briefly. The tail of Eric’s Sopwith Camel appeared through the gap. The rudder was torn, as if some great beast had taken a bite out of it. The rest of the plane was hidden by what might once have been a farmhouse wall. German shells blew grey rainbows of mud high over the rubble. Art’s ears, overwhelmed, barely heard the concussions.

Art looked down. The surface of the mud was spattered with white ash and tiny flakes of pale red brick. For an instant, Art saw each flake as an entire building. Here was a miniature realm, and he with a god’s-eye view. He tried yet again to lift his leg — the right one this time — but the suction held it fast.

Art felt panic rising, forced himself calm. The thunder of tank and shell made it hard to think. Even so, an idea came to him.

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