By Richard M Clements
Key Themes: fiction, occult thriller, fantasy, dyslexia, schizophrenia, recovery
The Necronomicon - fabled book of the Black Arts, lost in antiquity and supposedly bound in human skin - the legend promises absolute power to the finder, but at a price that some are only too willing to pay, a price just as dangerous to the innocent who may unwittingly cross its path.
Set over sixteen days during one summer, a suicidal teenager becomes an immortal demon, a Professor with a dangerous ambition discovers this most mystical of books and two people fall in love and over-come the ultimate evil.
About the Author
Richard M Clements was born at Colchester Garrison Hospital in 1969. He overcame Dyslexia as a child thanks to the avant-garde Head Master of Felstead Junior School. After five years at Langley Park School in Norfolk he dropped out of ‘A’ Level studies aged seventeen to work on a building site.
Richard’s first published work is his memoir entitled: “Defender: Adventures in Schizophrenia”, the story of a latent illness catalysed by his experimentation with L.S.D in 1989. He developed a love of creative writing over the next decade while trying a number of careers around the country. ‘Zaxxon’ is his debut occult thriller.
Richard is currently working on his third book. He lives in Essex.
Rupert had never been caught before. The fear was like a swallowed tooth, a taste of blood. He had experienced a few close shaves, everyone did, but this time he hadn’t been sufficiently vigilant to avoid a harbinger of the school rules. Someone had seen him cross a public path into one that was quite private, and Out Of Bounds. The June sunlight seemed clouded to him, and to him only: a bright chilled emergency that seemed to spread through every nerve ending in his stooped body. The noise came again, closer this time. Leafy branches somewhere over to his right twitched with a noise like rats scuttling across crusty newspaper.
In his adrenaline befuddled mind he was already running in the opposite direction! He had already dropped the cigarette butt under his regulation black shoes and crushed it into the nicotine flavour spit that speckled the mud inside the bike shed, but in reality he was rooted to the spot. Not knowing how many were closing in on him, his right hand rose to his lips. To alleviate the fear he took another quick puff like a murderer absentmindedly scratching his head with a bloody dagger. A twig crackled. It was a subversive sound. He needed to hide behind a squeeze of toothpaste. He needed to go back about five minutes to when he had left the cafeteria after lunch, at twenty past one, to do anything other than come to this dismal shed for an illegal pleasure, but it was too late. He could hear the panting of his stalker.
His biology tutor, whose skin was as tight and only slightly greyer than his suit, swept around the side of the corrugated iron wall like a phantom. Rupert’s heart leapt against his ribs and his acne flushed like a rash. Mr Marshall was as tall and thin and as forbidding as a cane, and he had a reputation for swinging one, but the price for being caught smoking was in many ways worse than that brief pain in the ass. The rapid breathing that Rupert had heard was his own. The teacher pronounced his surname like an insult, a stupid name identical to that new brand of cheap yoghurt.
“Empty out your pockets Thornberry,” demanded Marshall. “I want to see all of it. Now! All your filthy works.”
The moist stink of Rupert’s crime and the butts of others was a smell soaked into the mud like embarrassment.
“Yes sir!” said Rupert, reaching into his loose trousers.
“Do you know what some people call ‘works’?”
“No sir!” He pulled out some coins, a magnifying glass, and a tube of Colgate. But he knew that there was no point messing this teacher about. So he took a deep breath and also revealed a half empty packet of red Marlboro, a blue Clipper lighter, and some green acorns wrapped in a tissue. He couldn’t recall why he had collected the acorns. He sneezed.
“Heroine users. Addiction, young man! That’s what I’m talking about. Do you remember what I said about the habit of smoking to the 4th Form last year?”
“Yes sir, you said… I don’t remember...”
“I said two per day probably doesn’t make any difference to the lungs, but the habit can grow. And I know who smokes more than ten a day in this place.” Marshall took the lighter and the Marlboro out of the boy’s hands. “And you had better believe it!” He licked his lips.
Rupert was starting to relax now, to accept it was over, that he had been caught.
“It’s the GCSE’s sir… it’s my last one today and exams make me nervous,” he said.
“Your health is equally important to your betters, Thornberry. Biology – understand?”
“I do sir: I’ve got a touch of the Flu.”
“All the more reason not to smoke. Report to your Housemaster at five o’clock for gating.” He placed the Colgate tube back into Rupert’s hand. “Now go and brush your teeth. Don’t be late for Games.”
* * *
Rupert Reporting he thought, and walked down the concrete flags between the rhododendron bushes that joined the wide gravel path. The path led from the changing rooms, past the huge imposing Edwardian edifice at the front of the school, to the classroom blocks. Just before his sweaty shoes crunched on the gravel he heard a similar sound from behind him, from the scene of his crime, the unmistakable noise of a Clipper being lit. He smelt a wisp of smoke but felt too tired to be angry. His dreams had been upsetting him.
He started counting his coins, his mind already working on from whom he could purchase a few cigarettes. He had started the habit to be ‘one of the lads’ about two years ago but he had only been legally allowed to buy them for the last three months. He had turned sixteen, cursed with the greasy skin, the stinking feet and the berserk hormones, which come with the age - but his life was as mysterious as ever. His memory was as hazy as his motivations. Sixteen had brought with it no answers.
He wanted to lie on his bed, if only for an hour. His steps bisected the gravel path. He walked past the warm dead smell of the wheelie bins arranged in the sun at the back of the kitchens, and headed for a door leading into a corridor made of wire reinforced transparent plates. It surrounded the changing and locker rooms on the exposed sides of the red brick wall like a glass snake skin. He walked in the other direction. Infiltrated the annex adjacent to the main hall and then stood still to take stock. It smelt of old books and varnish. There weren’t any people about so he slipped up the stairs and crossed the landing, hearing no noises from any of the 6th Form study bedrooms. It was against the rules to be in a dormitory between the hours of nine thirty am and half past four in the afternoon but Rupert didn’t care. He was in the worst kind of trouble already.
He sat on the edge of his bed and unwrapped the incomprehensible pouch of acorns. He took off his thick glasses and examined the nuts closely, his woefully short focal length allowing a macro perspective. There were twenty of them. Like the date, he thought: June 20th. They were all green and hard. Rupert yawned and took a bite of one. His mouth flooded with bitter juices and he gagged and spat on the floorboards. That obviously wasn’t why he had collected them; they weren’t for eating. He sucked some toothpaste out of the end of the tube and sneezed.
The school doctor had offered him sleeping pills if he needed them because of his vile dreams. The pills had a weird name. Something like ‘Zimmer frame’, and the Matrons kept them for him in a bottle in the Surgery. Since he had exaggerated the symptoms of his cold he had also got himself put Off Games and this meant he had a couple of hours to brush up for his last exam. He was due to take paper two of the French G.C.S.E this afternoon but his memory was so terrible studying it probably wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference. He lay down and his head sank into the softness of his feather pillow. A cool breeze through the open window ruffled his black greasy hair, bringing with it the distant sounds of tennis and cricket. He yawned again and laced his hands guilelessly across his chest. He was going to sleep. He hoped that he wouldn’t dream of his estranged parents, nor that other dream. That the light of day behind his eyelids would keep the old woman at bay, the witch that called herself Lilly, who raped him in his sleep.
It had begun seven weeks ago and he had tried to write some of it down but his notes were a scribbled mess of phonetic Dyslexia and over-pressed biro. Back at the beginning of term there had been only hazy images, like out of focus photographs. The nights of the week passed by and the scenes gained resolution as though rising through shallow water. It was like the transmission had been growing, somehow, then rippled into three dimensions and took on substance like a fourth dimension. Rupert could be taken sexually in his sleep, and a part of him could be taken to other places in his sleep where it would happen. He wanted to hate it.
In that reality he sensed the old woman’s strength. Lilly had bones like Titanium rivets yet he could feel her gentleness working on him, her soft hands, her hot mouth. Her paper-soft skin left behind a smell on his own like bird’s nests and bruised grapes and he would awaken sweating unable to recall much detail. Only essences: exotic words; a kiss; leaves. And that geriatric smell lingered in his nostrils for a while as he dried up his secret shame.
Except for one older friend, a sensitive 6th Former named Julian Rant, he had decided not to tell his colleagues about this. He could imagine their taunts. Kids could be cruel sometimes, Rupert knew that. ‘Dirt-berry’ and ‘cheesecake’, the common insults, might become ‘Ghost-fucker’ or ‘Dream-wanker’. Most of the time he couldn’t control his body odour either. He was harassed for being unable to accept that he was dirty. He didn’t actually like water and he often felt too exhausted to shower before breakfast. His feet were a mess of fungal infection and smelly skin with a sweaty appearance like a wrinkly pink frog, and he hid his shoes under the blanket at the foot of his bed to muffle the smell. He hated the feel of starched cotton and wore his shirts for as long as the collar wasn’t dirty enough to be seen like a black firework in daylight.
He did not dream of Lilly that afternoon but he woke up crying anyway, about having been sent to boarding school at the tender age of nine, too young, and about a lack of memories of his mum. He hadn’t seen her since last Christmas when the atmosphere at his Dad’s had been as cold as the turkey. He’d had only three photos of her but they were gone now. One day he’d been sitting alone in his dormitory looking at them and because his collar was so dirty that maniac of a House Captain, Tom Hudson, had tried the rip the shirt off his back. Rupert had called him “a son of a bitch” and Hudson had said: “let’s see how you like your stupid life without your stupid bitch!” And ripped up the precious pictures.
Rupert could recall so little of the days before she had walked out. He wept. She had left him and his dad in a barrage of slurred insults and wobbled out of the front door like a thousand valiums being washed away in a flood of vodka. He pulled a pair of Y Fronts from out of his bedside locker, wiped away his tears and blew his nose in them. It was a noise that seemed very loud in the silence. He dropped the pants, his panic rising. He could no longer hear the smack of leather against willow, nor the shouts and thumps of the games of tennis… because there were no Games being played outside. They were all in exams! He had somehow slept through both bells and according to his Casio he was twelve minutes late for his own exam, his last test, the French paper!
Rupert swung into action feeling like the iron in his blood was being pulled out of the top of his head with a giant magnet. He re-knitted his tie, re-knitted it again, and then scrabbled about for his old pencil case. The adrenaline was making him feel as though he was breathing with lungs that were outside of his body and trying to take on enough substance to open the door and escape without the rest of him. For a few seconds he couldn’t find his shoes then he saw the twin bulges under his blanket. For a disjointed moment he misinterpreted them as a pair of woman’s breasts although he had never actually seen any in his life outside of a magazine. He bolted onto the landing. Inside the dormitory the sun shone on the dubious posters, the seven beds covered with the identical red counter-panes, and the identical bedside lockers. The door snapped closed, quietly.
He tore down the back stairs, his steps like beating drum sticks wrapped in cloth, and hit the vinyl floor and ran right, around the foot of the banisters into the main hall. “Je suis, tu es, ills son, vous et,” he thought madly, his steps echoing on the parquet floor. He pushed open the heavy front door like he was a horse in a steeplechase and ran along the side of the East Wing; passing the windows of tuck box alley and the library block in a blur of ochre and grey granite. “Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amartis…” he thought, his shoes making a satisfactory crunching noise on the gravel, then: “No, dammit, that’s Latin!”
He forced himself to adhere to another rule: to walk past the Head Master’s house. It was a small modern building with much glass and a balcony from which to view the cricket. Within a few breaths he was running again, until he passed under the great Chestnut trees that led onto the concrete paths between the classroom blocks. He fancied people were taking a moment from their writings to stare: eyes watching, inwardly laughing. His acne felt like it was on fire. Strands of greasy hair were plastered over forehead with sweat. He approached the double doors to the theatre, which had been commandeered again as the 5th Form hall because of its huge space, and a sign tacked on the glass bore wounding legends: “SILENCE – EXAMS IN PROGRESS!”
The teacher overseeing the event was at a table on the front of the stage. He had a giant clock on his desk facing the boys that Rupert could read from where he was standing, the minute hand swooping toward the half hour like a knife. Rupert met the teacher’s frozen eyes through the window and froze himself. It was Marshall. Without any idea how to undo the giant metaphorical lock that had closed these doors since he had become twenty minutes late, Rupert felt he couldn’t knock. So he waved his old pencil case weakly in Marshall’s direction. The teacher shook his head and made a decisive ‘shooing gesture’ to go away with flicks of his hand. It was over. He walked back very slowly, thinking about killing someone - himself.
This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 16 January, 2008.