Written in Fire: New Excerpt

Written in Fire by Marcus Sakey is the explosive conclusion of The Brilliance Trilogy where the world is in utter disarray, and Nick Cooper must risk everything he loves to face his oldest enemy (Available now).

For thirty years humanity struggled to cope with the brilliants, the one percent of people born with remarkable gifts. For thirty years we tried to avoid a devastating civil war. We failed.

The White House is a smoking ruin. Madison Square Garden is an internment camp. In Wyoming, an armed militia of thousands marches toward a final, apocalyptic battle.

Nick Cooper has spent his life fighting for his children and his country. Now, as the world staggers on the edge of ruin, he must risk everything he loves to face his oldest enemy—a brilliant terrorist so driven by his ideals that he will sacrifice humanity’s future to achieve them.

This must be…

This must be what God feels like.

A single glance at my outstretched hand and I know the number of hair follicles covering the back of it, can differentiate and quantify the darker androgenic strands from the barely discernible vellus hairs.

Vellus, from the Latin, meaning fleece.

I summon the page in Gray’s Anatomy on which I learned the word and examine the diagram of a hair follicle. But also: the texture and weave of the paper. The attenuation of light from the banker’s lamp that illuminates it. The sandalwood scent of the girl three chairs down. I can evoke these details with perfect clarity, this utterly forgettable and forgotten moment that nonetheless was imprinted in a cluster of brain cells in my hippocampus, as every other moment and experience of my life has been. With a whim I can activate those neurons and scrub forward or backward to relive the day with full sensual clarity.

An unimportant day at Harvard thirty-eight years ago.

To be precise, thirty-eight years, four months, fifteen hours, five minutes, and forty-two seconds ago. Forty-three. Forty-four.

I lower my hand, feeling the extension and contraction of each individual muscle.

The world rushes in.

Manhattan, the corner of 42nd and Lexington. Cars and construction noises and throngs of lemming-people and cold December air and a snatch of Bing Crosby singing “Silver Bells” from the opening door of a café and the smells of exhaust and falafel and urine. An assault of sensation, unfiltered, overwhelming.

Like descending a staircase and forgetting the last step, empty air where solid floor was expected.

Like sitting in a chair, then noticing it’s the cockpit of a fighter jet going three times the speed of sound.

Like lifting an abandoned hat, only to discover it rests on a severed head.

Panic drenches my skin, panic envelops my body. My endocrine system dumps adrenaline, my pupils widen my sphincter tightens my fingers clench—




Mantra: You are Dr. Abraham Couzen. You are the first person in history to transcend the boundary between normal and abnormal. Your serum of non-coding RNA has radically altered your gene expression. A genius by any measure, you are now more.

You are brilliant.

People flow around me as I stand on the corner, and I can see the vector of each, can predict the moments they will cross and bump, the slowed step, the itched elbow, before they happen. I can, if I wish, screen everything down to lines of motion and force, an interactive map, like a fabric weaving itself.

A man jostles my shoulder, and I entertain a brief whim of breaking his neck, picturing instantly the steps to do so: a palm on his chin, a handful of his hair, a foot planted for leverage, a fast, sharp swivel building from the hips for maximum force.

I let him live.

A woman passes and I read her secrets from her sloped shoulders and the hair falling to screen her peripheral vision, the jump of her eyes at the taxi’s horn, the baggy jacket and ringless finger and comfortable shoes. The hairs on her pant legs are from three different cats, and I can picture the apartment she lives in alone, the train ride in from Brooklyn, perhaps, thought not the fashionable part. I can see the abuse as a child—an uncle or family friend, not her father—that framed her isolation. The slight pallor and trembling hands reveal she drinks at night, most likely wine, judging by the teeth. The haircut indicates she makes at least sixty thousand dollars a year, the handbag assures she makes no more than eighty. An office job with little human interaction, something with numbers. Accounting, probably in a major corporation.

This must be what God feels.

Then I realize two things. I’ve got a nosebleed. And I’m being watched.

It manifests as a tingle, the kind fools attribute to notions of “the collective unconscious.” In truth it’s simply indicators gathered by the senses but not processed by the frontal lobe: a tremor of shadow, a partial reflection in a glass, the almost-but-not-quite undetectable warmth and sound of another body in the room.

For me, the original stimuli are easily examined, focused like a blurry image in a microscope. I call up my sense memory of the last moments, the texture of the crowd, the smell of humanity, the movement of vehicles. The lines of force tell a tale, much like ripples in water reveal rocks beneath the surface. I am not mistaken.

They are many, they are armed, and they are here for me.

I roll my neck and crack my fingers.

This should be interesting.


Copyright © 2016 Marcus Sakey.

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Marcus Sakey’s thrillers have been nominated for more than fifteen awards. They’ve been named New York Times Editors’ Choice picks and have been selected among Esquire’s top five books of the year. His novel Good People was made into a movie starring James Franco and Kate Hudson, and Brilliance is currently in development with Legendary Pictures.

Sakey lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.