By Mark Jones
Key Themes: fiction, psychology, murder
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The sickening murders of two close friends, Imelda Hart and Mabel Bright, begin a terrifying and sinister journey into the strange happenings of a small English town where sleep can mean torture, extreme psychological torment, and ultimately death for millions of other people worldwide. To fall asleep means to be watched by those who have appeared from nowhere and sleep when their work is done. The long, black, deathly cars patrol the streets now owned by this group of unknown, evil and crazy men called the Masters. On the streets their drones, powered by thoughts and callous orders, collect wandering spirits and still wide-awake souls for the nightmarish world they have created.
Min, Ritchie and their friends find themselves caught up this seemingly unending hell. The Masters can take you when you are awake and also while you sleep, in a place where the real world and the imaginary one collide with devastating consequences.
The Masters and drones are symbols, symbols of something else, deep within the subconscious mind, creating a strange scenario that just won’t let anyone go – not today, tomorrow or at any time in the future, whether in this world or the next.
About the Author
Born in Wrexham, North Wales without a plan but as it sometimes does, destiny came calling. It put a pen in Mark Jones’ hand and many stories in his mind. Where this particular idea came from is a mystery as big as why it was given to him, but he hopes others enjoy the story as much as he enjoyed writing it.
Screaming as she ran through the narrow streets, the blood-soaked figure of a young woman by the name of Imelda Hart was drawing much attention from the local people of the village of Silwall. They stood by their doors and at their paint-peeled windows, her attacker had not been seen or heard approaching by Imelda herself or anyone else who had left the small, cosy, lively inn called The Widow Nell. Imelda fell to the ground as onlookers stood by, unhelpful in their curiosity, just staring at the young woman. Imelda held out a hand in search of help and comfort, whispering, “Help me, please help me!” Suddenly she slumped and died from deep, gaping wounds to her head, face and body.
Some of the onlookers spoke of a wild beast on the loose while others talked quietly about an axe-wielding maniac, none of them knew for certain, the true cause of poor Imelda’s demise, but there was nothing that they could do to help her now. Imelda wasn’t the first woman from the village to be murdered in such a terrible way; she was preceded by Mabel Bright a month earlier. Both women were in their early thirties, had dark hair and were the best of friends. Many people took them for sisters as they were so alike; they shared the same interests in life and grew up only a few doors apart and attended the same school. Just before their horrific and untimely deaths they had worked at an above-top-secret facility in an undisclosed government-run location. Imelda and Mabel had, in many local people’s opinions, discovered something of great national importance and whatever it was had now ultimately ended with their shocking and brutal murders.
The people of the quiet, sleepy village soon turned their heads away from Imelda’s cold and lifeless body, as they had with Mabel, and went home to their mundane, everyday lives, fearful as ever of becoming involved in this bizarre turn of events. Some watched still from behind twitching curtains, cowering as a long black estate car with blacked-out windows mysteriously drove alongside Imelda’s body. Two men in dark suits lifted her into the back. The car, with no lights or registration plates, then disappeared out of sight. Obviously, no one saw a thing. The locals knew better than to speak out of turn at certain times. They believed that someone was listening, something in the atmosphere they thought, as the feeling just after poor Mabel’s death was identical to the one they were experiencing now after Imelda’s. It was peculiar, a murder had taken place and yet all evidence and reason was swept away within minutes, leaving a sense of fear and quietness that was overpowering. No one was around, but everyone felt a chilling and dangerous presence. A thin layer of frost covered the ground and roof tops like an icy sparkle; it was as though the village had died along with one of its most colourful and feisty characters. In fear, the majority of people soon took themselves off to bed, almost begging the night for mercy and to see daylight once again.
But at the house almost central to the village and looking right across a wide area including that where Imelda was so severely butchered, a man in his early seventies by the name of Howard Beckford continued to watch, expecting something else to happen, something that he had seen soon after Mabel’s death. Howard, a quiet and reserved former naval officer with more than thirty years of combat service under his belt, didn’t scare easily. He was determined and angry, so much so that he began a one man vigil at his window overlooking the village on a nightly basis in search of the truth. ‘What the hell,’ he thought, ‘gives those people the right to just drive alongside that poor unfortunate girl and without any feeling throw her into the back of such a strange and fearsome-looking automobile?’ It was a repeat of what had happened with Mabel. Howard, murmuring, paced the room. ‘It’s not right and not normal practice.’
Howard had grown to hate nightfall as Silwall was spooky enough during daylight hours. Late autumn, early winter time as it was, proved to be a terrible torment for everyone living there. A fearless and corrosive presence stifled the night in the small village and Howard Beckford was about to take his life in his hands and investigate what he called the phantom drone company. Howard believed them to be a secret sect that were planning something evil and downright malicious, not only for Silwall but for the entire world.
After a sleepless, thoughtful night, the lone soldier Howard sat up in bed and looked across the room towards the dawn light breaking through the darkness. He didn’t want to look outside, afraid of meeting the glance of a drone figure. His thoughts turned to finding help in his quest, but it needed to be the right kind of help; someone, he thought, whom he could trust implicitly. Howard sat at the kitchen table and drew up a shortlist of hopeful candidates as he sipped his tea, taking all angles of his chosen subjects’ qualities into careful consideration. Howard wasn’t leaving anything to chance. On his list was the name of Minnie Law, and Howard believed her to be capable and astute enough to work alongside him. He had known Min for many years and felt that she could help him discover who was behind the deaths of Mabel and Imelda.
Howard’s mind was made up. ‘I won’t phone her, it’s better if I visit. There will be less chance of being tracked’.
With no pre-warning to Min, a guarded Howard travelled by bus as it was the least conspicuous way; he blended into the everyday rush perfectly, and with the occasional glance over his shoulder showing nothing unusual or out of place, Howard was confident of reaching Min’s door undetected. The ten-minute ride was agonising though. Howard could be sitting just in front or behind a drone spying for its masters; being from Silwall was dangerous but then again these days being anywhere was dangerous. That was Howard’s reckoning and Min was going to be the first to know.
The bus stopped and Howard stepped out into a cold icy blast of air on a dark and dreary morning. Not wanting to hang around too long, he hurried up the steps to the front door. Min saw him from the window and let him in, pleased to see him, but curious as he didn’t visit too often, though he kept in touch by phone and e-mail. Min offered Howard some tea; he accepted, thanking her. She sat opposite and could see that Howard was nervous. “What is it?”
He smiled, not wanting to worry her. “I don’t really know where to begin.”
Min told him to take his time and drink his tea before explaining. Howard coughed and began his story.
“I, um, I think that something bad is going on in Silwall.” He paused for a moment before continuing, “and the rest of the world...Something bad.”
“How bad?” asked Min, almost dropping her tea cup in shock.
“Well,” answered Howard, looking for the right words, “I know that a group of strange people, if they are people, are controlling everything that’s happening, and the bodies – Mabel and Imelda – were used as examples to the rest of us to keep our noses out.”
Min listened, finding it all slightly bizarre, but she knew that Howard was the wrong type to make up a story. Aware of what had happened to Mabel and Imelda, Min wanted to know more.
“What makes you think that this is a world problem, Howard?”
“Oh, just a hunch,” he said before explaining more.
Min sat, perplexed, but believed her friend. Howard continued with his theory and told her about the frightening situation that had gripped Silwall.
“No one,” he told Min, “was sure if the perpetrators were human, animal or something between those two. I think there may be some other dimension coexisting with our own, but I haven’t actually worked out yet how it all works.”
Min thought before answering, trying to piece it together. “You mean something like a parallel universe?”
“Yes, could be.” Howard seemed miles away, thinking about what he should do, if anything at all. He was waiting and hoping that Min would offer to help as he couldn’t do this alone.
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