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Biotime 3: the coldest place on earth

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Here is the third excerpt from my novel Biotime.

I plan to release Biotime in droplets – around 500 words, fairly often.  All feedback welcome: on content, frequency, style or anything else.  I’d love to hear from you.

I’m also publishing a “story so far” post for infrequent readers, bringing together all the excerpts published up to now.

Ghanaian market 3, Nov 04

Ghanaian market – Photo SDT


Biotime.  The future, today.  Excerpt 3

[Part 1, “Breughel vs. Jones”, continues]

Snow was falling on the Bakenessergracht. It settled on the ice which clung to the brick-built walls of the canal which bisected the street, offering a foothold to a pair of stoic ducks. A cyclist in a rain-cape trundled down the cobbles.

Hans Breughel felt the damp penetrate his worn leather soles. He had travelled a great deal, in his youth. It was a fact that nowhere on earth felt colder than a Dutch canal-side in February.

The heating at his home had been cut off months ago. Walking back from his visits to Lotte in the hospital helped stir his tired old blood. But the trembling of his limbs made his gait so ponderous he sometimes wondered if his blood was flowing at all. Today it had taken an hour to complete the half-mile journey. Now, with the wind whistling through the narrow streets of Haarlem, it felt as though his very heart had frozen.

He scrabbled in his pocket for the key. To close his fingers around the chilled metal required patience and concentration. The front door of the house was like a bank-vault; the windows were thickly barred from the days when he had kept the stones here. There was only one copy of the key, its high-security shaft longer than Breughel’s middle finger. A lifetime of mistrust made a second copy unthinkable. In any case, most of Breughel’s friends had died long ago.

That had been his secret: trust no-one. The only way to judge a diamond was to see it and hold it yourself. The day you listened to someone else’s opinion, you were finished. He grimaced as he struggled to guide the key into the lock and turn it. How ironic it would be if he had now fallen victim to the biggest swindle of all.

The narrow hallway was icy. Breughel left the damp shoes by the door and padded down the hall still wearing his outdoor jacket. They had promised an update at 10 o’clock.

He entered the bedsit. Long ago, this space had been a dining room: he and Lotte had hosted gala dinners here for his fellow diamond merchants and their wives. A picture of Lotte on their wedding day stood next to a wooden cross on the mantelpiece, lit by a night-light Breughel strove never to allow to go out. He had not ventured up the steep stairs to the upper storeys for two years, since a deterioration in his early-onset Parkinson’s had led to depression, dizziness and, inevitably, a fall and a broken hip. It was a reminder, he had joked with his doctor, that death was nature’s way of telling you to slow down.

Not necessarily, nowadays, she had replied.

The IKEA clock showed 9.55. Time for a cup of tea. Breughel shuffled into the kitchen and put on the kettle. Lotte smiled at him from the mantelpiece.

Would she have saved him from Doktor Faustus? He blinked, then took off his bifocals and polished the thick lenses on a piece of kitchen-towel. No. If the experimental new procedure called Biotime had been available before Lotte entered her coma, he would have paid everything he had to keep Lotte conscious for a single day longer, let alone the ten years he had purchased for them to share now.

Without Biotime, Lotte could die any day. Every day Breughel lived on without her after that would be a torment.

Ten years of Biotime would change everything.

[Excerpt ends][Next excerpt]


I hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt from my novel “Biotime”.   If you’re interested in hearing about further episodes, follow this blog by e-mail (top right, “click here”); or follow me on Twitter @RobertPimm (left hand side).  I can promise you a fun ride.

If you’d like to read some complete fiction by me, see what you think of my “wonderful, feminist and dark” Hotel Stories.  

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