This series has taken that novel as the starting point; the series has a much bigger cast of fantastical creatures, well recognised gothic characters and a lot more action. 3 seasons of 'Beautiful Freaks' is planned. Each series is 12 episodes and each episode is 10,000 (the size of a small novella)
The first TWO episodes will be downloadable on THURSDAY 3rd DECEMEBER (You can Pre-order them both now HERE) and then an episode will be released every Thursday afterwards until the end of the series. In order that you don't miss one, they are all available on PRE-ORDER at Amazon.worldwide.
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So without further ado - let me introduce you to the opening chapter of 'Beautiful Freaks'
SEASON 1 EPISODE 1
BOTH the century and its Queen were dying. The winds of change rattled through the streets of the metropolis, leaving its citizens fearful of the coming times. Uncertainty bred suspicion, causing the people to return to the old ways. Mystics and fortune-tellers swarmed out of the city mists and filled the billboards of the now sober dancehalls. Nobody felt like dancing anymore. Gypsies hawked silver charms and lucky heather, and iron-faced preacher-men stood at every corner shouting warnings of damnation. It was a grey world, full of shadows.
The city was a landscape of monsters, both of flesh and brick. Chimneys from a thousand slave factories belched out black smoke; stealing the breath from the lungs and the light from the sky. Workhouses swallowed the poor; asylums the insane. It was amongst this labyrinth of sorrow Kaspian Blackthorne walked.
He was approaching his eighteenth birthday, although he felt he had been an adult for most of his life. His patron, Professor Heartlock, was making arrangements for a small private engagement in celebration of the boy’s coming of age. It would be an interesting evening, although not a very exciting one.
Heartlock was a paranormal investigator – had been a paranormal investigator – he was now mostly housebound. For the past three years, the professor had been confined to a wheelchair following a serious accident whilst in pursuit of a notorious serial killer. That was the official story. In truth, the professor had broken his back falling from the roof of a church in pursuit of a werewolf.
Professor Heartlock had once been a fascinating man to a younger Kaspian, but now his fantastical tales had faded into the sad ramblings of a man full of regret about losing his youth. When he told his tales, the lines between reality and fantasy increasingly blurred, to the point Kaspian worried the old man was losing his genius mind.
Kaspian had been just a baby when his mother and father were brutally murdered by an escaped Bedlam lunatic. The madman had believed William and Eliza Blackthorne were evil demons disguised as respectable people. He’d followed them for months, skulking in the shadows, before striking one night on their return from the opera. Despite there being several witnesses to the violent attack, the murderer still managed to dispose of their bodies so that they were never found. The whole case had been riddled with inexplicable circumstances and so quickly became a national news sensation. The murderer made no attempt to hide or escape; he maintained he was working for the glory of God. Regardless of his belief, they hanged him in front of a large cheering crowd.
With no other relatives, Kaspian had been destined for the workhouse orphanage until Heartlock came to his rescue.
Heartlock had been a good patron, although perhaps a little lacking in his understanding of children and childhood. As such, Kaspian’s nursery had been a study. His playthings, strange scientific apparatuses and his childhood stories, great leather-bound texts on religion and the supernatural. It sometimes seemed Heartlock had been set on raising a protégé to carry on his life’s work rather than a young man. As a result, although Kaspian’s upbringing hadn’t been cruel, it had been serious; and although showered in fondness and attention, it had lacked love.
Kaspian pondered his eighteen years as he walked through the evening gloom of the London streets. The rain had forced most people inside, creating the impression that the great metropolis had turned into a ghost town. Kaspian liked walking through the streets at times like this. It made him feel as if he were walking through his own misty and silent empire.
He’d been on an errand for his patron and was now returning, laden down with books. His cargo didn’t stop him skipping over the puddles with an unusual childlike joy, or humming to himself. He was happy and free.
Then he saw her.
She was standing under the streetlight, a newspaper held out in front of her as if she were reading it. Kaspian thought it obvious she wasn’t; she was watching the church on the other side of the cobbled street. He stopped midstride and pulled himself behind a tree; spied on her as she took a pocket-watch from her pocket and flipped open the lid. She cradled it in the palm of her hand and raised it until it was level with her eyes before studying it carefully. This struck Kaspian as an odd way to read the time, most people just looked down with a quick glance, and it led him to believe the device she held was not a watch at all, but another form of apparatus.
He looked over to the church she was watching. It looked empty and he couldn’t fathom what could possibly be of interest. The lights were out, the door locked, and the whole place had the impression of sleeping. He turned his attention back to the woman. She was tall and slender; striking in a slightly over-powerful way. Despite wearing a full, black-silk skirt, the fitted waistcoat and black necktie were manlier in dress than ladylike. He’d never seen a woman like her, although he had heard of ‘her sort’ as Heartlock’s companions would say.
Kaspian took advantage of her intense concentration to move his head around the tree and peer at her more closely. He could see she wore a monocle in her left eye and was at least ten years younger than he’d guessed from the first impression; about twenty-one. She must have sensed him looking at her because she turned towards him and smiled at the rather ludicrous sight of him poking out from behind the tree. Kaspian was already precariously balanced on the tip of his toes, and in an attempt to dash back behind the tree, he stumbled straight into her line of vision.
He bent down and pretended he’d been about to tie his shoelaces, trying to mask his clumsiness. As he looked up at her from under his flop of dark, wavy hair, he saw she was still smiling at him; a strange reaction to the discovery someone was spying on you. The boldness of her action unsettled Kaspian in a way he couldn’t quite put his finger on. When he was sure she had returned to her own secret observations, he scuttled past her and almost ran to the safety of home.
By the time he pushed open the imposing front door, Kaspian carried the strangest sense that something deep within him had changed – that things would never be quite as before.
“Good evening, Kaspian,” Heartlock said, greeting the boy in the hallway. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes, Sir,” he answered, dropping the small pile of books onto the hall table.
“Did you manage to get all I requested?”
“Yes, all of them apart from the Valentine book. Mr. Foxglove said he was sure he would have it by the end of the week.”
Mr. Foxglove was one of Heartlock’s oldest acquaintances. He ran a bookshop situated in one of Soho’s shadier alleyways. The sign above the door read, ‘Rare and Precious Books’ which made it sound almost respectable. In truth, the great leather-bound books of poetry and Shakespeare folios were a front for the back room; the place that held real interest for its rather darker clientele.
Although the shop had a small, narrow front, it had a seemingly endless body, which always gave Kaspian the unnerving impression he was being swallowed by a giant snake. Right at its tail was the occult section. Not only did Mr. Foxglove sell occult books, but there were also shelves of other strange and curious objects, which might appeal to the amateur alchemist or necromancer; glass jars of preserved reptiles, grinning skulls, and black candles were amongst some of the more identifiable items.
Kaspian had visited Foxglove’s shop since being a small boy and he was no longer quite so scared, or impressed, by its spooky appearance or its owner. Before Professor Heartlock’s accident, they’d always visited together. It was one of the rare occasions the old man shared any physical affection with his charge. Kaspian would search out Heartlock’s bear-like paw and grip it tightly, afraid the strange Mr. Foxglove might kidnap him and cook him for supper.
Mr. Foxglove had always been ancient, and so paradoxically he no longer aged. He wore a glass eye, but as he’d shrunk with age, it had become too big for the socket and now bulged, giving the impression the eye belonged more to an insect than a man. Even now, Kaspian constantly had to remind himself not to be rude and stare at it because he found it totally captivating. Mr. Foxglove had long lost the ability to stride and now shuffled along the stone floor in a pair of velvet slippers. In all of his years of visiting, Kaspian had never seen the man wear outdoor shoes.
The occult section of the shop had no windows. Before the client entered, Mr. Foxglove would shuffle into the darkness and light the dusty oil-lamps, which filled the room with paraffin smoke, and cast dancing shadows over the books. As a child, Mr. Foxglove had taken delight in teasing Kaspian about his fears surrounding the shop, telling him the shadows belonged to the book goblins. Both men would laugh, and although he knew he was being mocked, Kaspian’s imagination refused to give up the idea – even now he found himself looking for the goblins out of the corner of his eye.
Today, Mr. Foxglove had already bundled and tied the books in readiness and they were sitting on the counter waiting for collection. Kaspian was grateful for this; not only did it save him time but it also meant he did not have to visit the back room. The books were heavy and twice he had used them as an excuse to stop and rest; once in a coffee shop and once to spy on the strange woman who now haunted the edges of his thoughts.
“Ah, well – patience is a virtue,” said Heartlock, snapping Kaspian out of his drifting daydream. The professor’s face flickered with disappointment and he started to cough in reaction to the early winter air Kaspian had brought in with him. Heartlock’s aging lungs squeezed and wheezed; it was a sound now as familiar as the sound of his voice.
The old man recovered the pile of books from the side table and placed them into his lap before deftly turning his wicker wheelchair one hundred and eighty degrees and wheeling back towards his study.
Kaspian let out a deep sigh. The sight of his patron becoming so immobile and decrepit added to the increasing sense of heaviness Kaspian believed was attached to the adult world. Even the house, his home since childhood, faded and peeled on a daily basis. It was as if the whole place was a projection of its master’s state. The dust layer deepened, the gloom spread, and Kaspian felt increasingly like he was suffocating.
When Heartlock had been a fit man, the house had been full of fascinating visitors; the sound of hearty, booming laughter and the tinkling of whisky glasses filled the study, which was a hub of academic and scientific progress. It was amazing how quickly a life could decay.