The Severed Man
by George Mann
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The Severed Man

What links a clutch of sinister murders in Victorian London, an angel appearing in a Staffordshire village in the 1920s and a small boy running loose around the capital in 1950? When Honoré and Emily encounter a man who appears to have been cut out of time, they think they have the answer. But soon enough they discover that the mystery is only just beginning and that nightmares can turn into reality.

Part mystery, part detective story, part dark fantasy, part science fiction ... original adventures in time and space.

  • Released: December 2004

  • ISBN: 1 903889 43 X (Standard Edition); 1 903889 44 8 (Deluxe Edition)
  • An audiobook of the novella, read by Terry Molloy, has been released by Fantom Films as a 4-CD set (ISBN: 978 1 90626 315 7 ).

Honoré experiences a recurring dream about chasing a young boy across London to Spitalfields market, where Emily first appeared out of the fog with no memory of her past, and where the boy vanishes in a blaze of white light. One night, the dream changes; as the boy vanishes, a man grabs Honoré from behind and asks if he can see “it.” Honoré wakes and goes out for a walk to clear his head, but he spots a tramp with a time-snake that seems to have been severed, leaving the man with no connection to the past or future. The tramp addresses him, speaking the words from Honoré’s dream, but Honoré then loses track of him. After telling Emily of his experiences and getting some rest in the abandoned toyshop of Mr Sun, Honoré spots the boy from his dream and chases him to a cemetery near Spitalfields; the boy vanishes, but Honoré sees the tramp standing nearby and glaring at him.

Emily hopes that these strange events may provide a clue as to who she is and where she comes from, and though unwilling to risk jumping into the tramp’s severed timeline, Honoré agrees to accompany Emily to the cemetery to investigate. The tramp has gone, but there is a tombstone where he was standing, marked “Barnaby Tewkes: He Lives On.” The tramp reappears in the cemetery as they wait, and upon seeing him, Honoré and Emily inadvertently time-jump to London in the year 1892. There, they are nearly run over by a carriage marked with a strange emblem, like a circle with devil horns on the top; for some reason, Emily has a nasty reaction to the symbol, but she doesn’t understand why. Honoré and Emily then hear a police whistle, and investigate to find that a constable has just discovered the body of a man who seems to have been torn apart by a wild animal. Honoré tries to help, but the policeman, upon seeing Honoré’s skin colour, arrests him for the murder. Emily’s protests are ignored, and when more policemen arrive, they beat Honoré unconscious without giving him a chance to explain himself.

Honoré recovers to find himself in a police cell with a man named Horace MacEaseby, who claims that he’s been unfairly accused of belonging to a gang that’s been kidnapping girls and murdering prostitutes. Emily is in an adjacent cell, and she and Honoré discuss their situation. Emily dryly asks Honoré what the reaction will be if they tell the police that they came back in Time to investigate a man who had been severed from history, and after overhearing this, MacEaseby falls silent. Sir Charles Newman of New Scotland Yard then releases Honoré and Emily from their cells, apologising for their treatment and telling them that another murder was committed while they were locked up. They give their statements at Newman’s office, where he reveals that there have been a number of grisly murders recently; in each case, the victim was found clutching the Tarot card representing the Devil. Emily reacts oddly to the sight of the card, but can’t explain why it disturbs her so.

As Honoré and Emily discuss the situation, it occurs to Emily that the tramp was too young to have been alive in 1892, which means that they shouldn’t have been able to ride his timeline here. Honoré also reveals that he could sense that last night’s murder victim, Edward Groves, was a time-sensitive. He and Emily visit the scene of the second murder, which Honoré learned from a file in Newman’s office; it is an abandoned tenement house imbued with an overwhelming sense of evil, and for a moment, as they explore, Honoré sees Emily with the face of the Devil. Unnerved, he demands answers from her, but she can’t explain why she is so affected by these events. Unsure whether he can trust his friend, Honoré wanders off to be on his own for a while, but is nearly run down by the coach bearing the devil-horned circle. The coach retreats when Emily catches up to Honoré, her hands stained with blood; the coach was on its way from another murder, and Emily found the victim just too late to save his life.

Honoré and Emily follow the coach to an inn, where the driver collects a hooded figure and drives him to an unfamiliar mansion in the East End. There, Honoré and Emily see the other occupant of the coach: a man who, like Abraxas, has had machine parts embedded in his body, making him less than human. The figure has a set of grotesque metal jaws, obviously the weapon used to murder the time-sensitives, but the driver and the hooded figure seem to be treating him as a slave.

Honoré and Emily break into the house, where they see a cult of hooded figures surrounding a painting of a starscape and two Devil statues, and hear the cult’s leader telling his followers that they now have a powerful new force on their side, a time creature that will enable them to purge pollutants from the time-stream. As they explore the mansion further, they encounter a room filled with a blazing light so bright that Emily recoils and knocks over a brazier, setting the house on fire. The cultists send the man with the metal jaws after them, but Honoré sees his time-snake and sees that he’s a soldier from the First World War, who was fatally injured and then transformed into a monster and forced to keep killing. The man steps aside and lets Honoré and Emily escape while he remains to die in the flames.

As they flee, Honoré reveals that the light in the room was the same as the light in his dream, but Emily still isn’t sure why the images of the Devil are causing her to feel such fear. The two friends then find themselves back at Spitalfields cemetery, where two men are digging up Barnaby Tewkes’ grave. The surprised men claim that they were hired to do so, and that they were told that a large black man and a young woman would arrive just as they finished their work. When they open the coffin, the tramp with the severed timeline sits up inside the coffin, cackling.

Honoré and Emily time-jump again, this time to a country village where nobody seems able to notice them; however, when they enter the village’s B&B, they find a much younger and saner version of the severed man, who introduces himself as Barnaby Tewkes. Tewkes claims that this is the year 1921, and that he, like Honoré and Emily, is a time traveller. The people of this village, Middleton Basset, are under the thrall of an alien creature from beyond Time, which serves the Cabal of the Horned Beast. Once an insignificant cult from Victorian London, the Cabal has been infiltrated by travellers from the future, who are using it to hunt down and kill time-sensitives. Tewkes believes that he was killed while investigating the Cabal, and that he now exists only as shadows of his former self, echoed in all of the times that he’d visited before his death. Aware that he is slowly losing his identity and sanity, he intends to go out attacking the Cabal by destroying the time creature and thus freeing the people of Middleton Basset from its control.

Though unsure whether they can trust Tewkes, Honoré and Emily have little alternative but to go along with his plan for the moment. As Honoré scouts out the manor house, Emily learns that Tewkes has also forgotten much of his past, and worries that he’s become desperate to defeat his enemies, whatever the cost, before he goes completely mad. Nevertheless, she and Honoré accompany Tewkes into the manor house, where they confront the time creature, a blaze of light stretching out through all the directions of Time. Tewkes, overwhelmed, disintegrates into shreds of broken Time -- but Honoré realises that this is not an attack, but an attempt at communication. Realising the truth, he grabs Emily and leaps back to 1950 -- but the insane tramp is waiting for them, and while Honoré is disoriented by the leap, Tewkes knocks Emily unconscious.

Honoré recovers and revives Emily, telling her that the time creature, like the soldier with the metal jaws, has been torn away from its home and tortured by the powers behind the Cabal; it is not their willing servant, and it entranced the villagers to protect them by making them unaware of the Cabal’s presence. The boy from Honoré’s dream is another manifestation of the time creature, and the crazed Tewkes is going to try to kill it, unaware that, like him, it’s a victim trying to escape from the real enemy. Honoré and Emily track down Tewkes as he attacks the child and intervene just in time to save the young boy’s life. The boy vanishes in a blaze of light, and the enraged Tewkes attacks Honoré and Emily -- but they time-jump to safety somehow, and find themselves standing in the snow outside an office tower...

Source: Cameron Dixon

Continuity Notes:
  • The cliffhanger is resolved in the next novella, Echoes.
  • There is presumably no connection whatsoever between the murdered time-sensitive Edward Groves of this novel and the living house Edward Grove of The Chimes of Midnight, but what the hey, let’s mention it anyway.
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