Gods and Monsters

When you are afraid to dream, you value your consciousness. FBI agent Jack Abrahams is afraid to dream. The recurring nightmare that haunts his sleep fills him with fear and dread. When reality starts to twist and turn, playing out a series of bizarre events, Jack is asked to investigate them. A priest, nailed to the side of a log cabin and a homicidal biker are just the beginning of these strange events. Fellow agent, Helen Foster wants to travel to England to investigate a man called Adam Blake. Helen suspects that Blake was responsible for the mock crucifixion of the priest but Jack is reluctant to begin the investigation. He changes his mind when he sees a photo of Blake, the man who lives in his nightmares.
The Last Days of Planet Earth is an amusing and interesting re-working of history, myths and religious icons, with references to popular culture threading neatly throughout.



"The blame for Armageddon lies on man.
And the millennium will come only when the average man exhibits a scientific integrity about all he is and does--instead of half of it.
Many a psychological Archimedes has put signposts on the hard road man must follow if he is to avoid self-destruction and come into his own.
A few very great modern scientists have added to the lore.
Indications of what man may expect of himself are everywhere at hand.
But most men must first be persuaded that the task lies ahead and not behind--that we are infants still, with loaded guns for toys."

33 AD

A solitary man trudged along the dusty road that circumvented the small cemetery. The cemetery stood at the bottom of a hill that resembled the physical features of a skull. The man wondered how the forces of erosion and time had conspired to produce this natural sculpture. The horsehair crest on his helmet and the mail armour shirt were the attire of a soldier. A long flowing cloak that would have graced any state occasion trailed behind him as the soldier continued his walk, accompanied by his shrill and loud whistling. His sword hung on his left side and his dagger was sheathed on the right side. He tapped the ground with the crooked but ornate stick that occasionally received a baton twirl around his head. The considerable amount of phalerae he wore indicated the number of battles this particular soldier had participated in.
Crows circled the hill in front of him and filled the air with their cries as if mourning the passing of a soul. The skies were dull and grey, although, no thunderclouds were in view and there was no sign of rain. The air around the man bristled with static electricity, which crackled as he walked towards the hill. The area itself was quiet. Only the screeching of the crows broke the silence. He smiled and raised an eyebrow as he reached the foot of the hill because now he could see the tops of the wooden structures that broke the horizon and he could hear the soft moaning of human suffering. Yet there was still a fair distance to walk as the road continued upwards on its spirally route towards inhumanity, desperation, and death. The soldier’s eyes lifted towards the skies, displaying his yellow pupils for a brief second or two as electricity crackled and popped in the air around him. He resumed his whistling, which became increasingly pronounced and discordant as he neared his destination.
Two soldiers stood either side of the road, guarding the approach and observing the passers-by, making sure that nothing untoward was about to occur. When they observed the man strolling towards them, both guards stood up straight and made sure their weapons were sheaved correctly whilst straightening their armour and cloaks to make themselves look more presentable. They looked at each other and then walked down the hill towards the whistling soldier.
The soldier looked up and saw the two guards. He smiled to himself and tightened his grip on the stick. Electricity crackled around his fingers. The crackling stopped when the guards joined him. The guards now stood directly in front of him, raising their hands to salute the soldier.
“Centurion!” one of the guards said. “My name is Gaius Rustius. How can we help you?”
“Seriously?” asked the centurion.
“I have given you my name. I would have yours and know your intent,” said Gaius.
“My name is Lucius Curiatius Priscus. I command one thousand men of the Roman infantry who wait patiently for my return. I have come to see the one some call saviour.”
“I would ask what it is that you want of him, centurion. We have been told to keep a strict eye on him,” said Gaius.
“And yet you elevate him by the side of a road for all to see. On my way here, I have seen soldiers forcing the natives of this place to take this road when there are other routes to use. They do this so that the people witness his suffering. Yet you question my right to pass by him despite my rank and standing in Rome?” said Lucius.
Gaius looked nervous and offered an apology.
“Forgive me, centurion, but there is much talk of this one. You may proceed,” he said.
Lucius offered his thanks, and Gaius moved aside to allow him to pass.
Lucius resumed his walk along the path. Eventually, he reached the line of crosses that held the suffering men. He paused at each cross, paying his silent respects to the dying until he reached the man on the fifth cross. Lucius knelt in front of the suspended man.
“These people call this justice. I call it barbarism,” said Lucius.
Lucius kneeled down and smiled as he spoke. The man on the cross opened his eyes slowly and gazed upon the Roman in front of him. He smiled gently and addressed the kneeling soldier.
“I have been here a long time, brother. You wait until now to come and see me? You carry the tone of defiance but wear the uniform of compliance. Tell me what you call yourself,” said the man.
“Lucius Curiatius Priscus. It’s very Roman. I was not sure you would want to see me. All the same, when the mighty civilisation of Rome deems it necessary to nail you to a cross, I feel I have little choice but to come and take a look.”
“Just that, you just want to take a look?” asked the man.
“I have an army of two-hundred men a little over a mile from here. They would burn Rome itself to the ground should I command them to. Let me take you from this place and you can return home, free from this pointless torment,” said Lucius.
“In exchange for what?” asked the man.
“You know what I want. The one thing that I want,” said Lucius.
“You cannot go home. You made your choice a long time ago,” said the man. “I cannot offer you a deal.”
“At least let me free you from this. It is…undignified,” said Lucius.
“No. This is my choice. I am here to show them that death is not the end. I will die very shortly, be taken from this cross and placed in a garden tomb. After three days, I will rise and leave the tomb proving to the mortals that death is merely a transition. I will spend forty more days reinforcing this message before ascending and returning home. Once they have witnessed this, they will realise their time here is not fleeting and that they will be here long enough to witness the fruit of any actions that will damage the earth, other species or themselves. They will know that accountability is not avoided through death. I do not need rescuing. Joseph will ask for my body from Pilate when the time is right. You understand?”
“Pilate? The man who allowed this?” said Lucius.
“He argued against it,” said the man.
“He gave in to the mob, though. He did what they all do. Run scared of the majority,” said Lucius.
“What choice do any of them have?” asked the man.
“They could be brave enough to be the men they imagine themselves to be. Where are your followers now? The ones you place so much faith in, where are they? In what world is it right for one man to torture another? They will not understand what you are going to do; they will misinterpret it like they always do. You cannot even force sentience on these primates. They are not ready. If they believe there’s no death, then what do they have to lose? Carnage, murder, slaughter, rape, and genocide, where would it end?”
Lucius stopped his rant, transfixed by the sign that hung over the head of his brother.
“King of the Jews? So, who is the king of everyone else?” asked Lucius.
Lucius looked up at the man on the cross and realised that there would be no reply. The man hung lifelessly; a single tear falling on the kneeling Lucius.
Lucius patted the leg of the dead man.
“I guess that would be me then,” said Lucius.
Lucius reached inside his cloak and produced a golden chalice. He held the chalice below the body until a single drop of blood fell into it. He smiled as the blood soaked into the chalice and disappeared from view. The silence was broken by the sound of shuffling behind him. Drawing his dagger, he lurched to his left, snarling as he caught the hooded figure by the neck and drew the blade close to his throat.
“Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me!” shouted the figure.
Lucius pulled back the hood to reveal a young man. In his hand, the man carried just a gourd of water, nothing else, no weapon. Lucius relaxed his grip and stood the man in front of him.
“What were you thinking?” asked Lucius.
“Forgive me, sir, but I have brought water to ease the suffering,” said the young man.
“You charged up the hill, armed with a gourd of water, to give relief to a man you did not know? You would risk death to do this?” asked Lucius.
“It seemed the right thing to do. This crucifixion is barbaric and unworthy of us all.”
Lucius placed his hands on the young man’s shoulders and smiled.
“I am afraid you are too late. Our brother has gone. What is your name?” he asked.
“My name is Ben Ezra,” the young man replied.
Lucius smiled and removed his hands from Ben Ezra.
“I have searched for someone like you for so long, Ben Ezra,” said Lucius.
Lucius grabbed the hand of Ben Ezra and drew the knife across his palm. Ben Ezra struggled but Lucius was too strong. He held the hand of Ben Ezra over the chalice until the blood found the bottom of the vessel. Ben Ezra tried to call for help from the guards but Lucius clamped a hand over his mouth.
“Don’t be afraid. This is a gift for you because you have shown compassion today,” said Lucius. “Will you be quiet?”
Ben Ezra nodded his head and Lucius relaxed his grip. Still holding Ben Ezra’s hand he folded the fingers, forming the hand into a fist. He smiled at Ben Ezra and unfolded his fingers. Ben Ezra gasped when he saw that the wound had gone.
“How?” whispered Ben Ezra.
“There is a little more,” said Lucius.
Lucius placed three fingers on Ben Ezra’s neck.
“This might sting a little,” he said.
Lucius forced his fingers into Ben Ezra’s skin. Ben Ezra convulsed as electricity filled his body. When he fell to the ground, the pain stopped. He grabbed the hand of Lucius, who pulled him to his feet.
“I don’t understand, what was that?” he asked.
“In time, you will understand,” said Lucius. “Now return to your family and give the water to them.”
Ben Ezra turned and ran back down the hill. Although Lucius caused him no lasting harm, he still moved quickly, afraid that Lucius would give chase. He would have been more afraid had he been able to see the three glowing circles that now adorned his neck. Resisting the urge to turn and see if Lucius was still watching him, he carried on running.

Lucius turned and shouted to the guards at the bottom of the hill.
The air crackled and warmed as Gaius made his way towards Lucius. He was terrified but knew that the sooner he responded, the better it would be for him.
“Gaius! Inform Pilate that the King of the Jews is dead.”
“Yes, of course, immediately,” said Gaius.
“There is something else,” said Lucius.
Lucius reached beneath his cloak. He produced the chalice, detailed with hieroglyphic symbols and inscriptions, and handed the chalice to Gaius.
“Guard this with your life. It is a gift for Pontius Pilate. Tell him that Lucius Curiatius Priscus wishes him to accept this as a reminder of the efforts Pilate has made here today. Consider it a tribute, so that he will always remember,” said Lucius.
“I will guard it with my life, centurion. You have my word,” Gaius replied.
Gaius turned and ran back to the other guard at the foot of the hill.

Gaius Rustius sat on the ground looking, open-mouthed, at the chalice. The second guard made his way towards him, seeing that something was wrong.
“Gaius? Gaius? What is it? You have stared at that chalice for ages now. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Pilate will be delighted with it,” he said.
“It’s not that. It is beautiful, but… don’t you hear it?” asked Gaius.
“What? Hear what?”
“The chalice, don’t you hear it?” asked Gaius.
His fellow guard put his ear next to the chalice and then sprang back in alarm.
“That’s impossible. It cannot be,” he said.
Gaius held the chalice between them and smiled at the strange melodic sound that came from it.
“You hear it as well,” said Gaius. “The chalice is singing to us.”


I will be adding excerpts from Fugue in the coming few months.

The Last Days of Planet Earth Volume I goes free to read.

With the imminent release of the third book in the series, I have decided to make the first book in the series free. I have listed the sites where it is available for free download below. It will be available on more sites as a free download in the very near future. I will add the links as these become available. The decision to release the first book as a free one has been made in order to introduce people to my work, and hopefully to gain some reviews. Above all, I hope that you enjoy the tale I have to tell. After all, it is the last tale that anyone will ever tell.

L J Hick





Large Gods



L.J. Hick

He did not accept finality. All he knew was that he had to change the impossible.
The car rolled to a halt by the side of the trees, its engine and lights switched off.
Not that there was anyone around to observe its approach in the dark, but the driver felt the
need for caution. He left the vehicle, closed the doors gently and quietly opened the boot to
retrieve a heavy cloth bag and a cylindrical sling. Once he had closed the boot of the car, he made his way into the woods.
He paused to put on what looked like a pair of ski goggles before continuing on his way.
The glasses that now adorned his face lit up the woods like a summer day. He made his way through the thick barrier of branches, bushes and foliage before stopping some hundred yards from the boundary of a heavy wooden fence topped with barbed wire.
He opened the sling and withdrew the sleek black metal shapes from within. He locked the
different sections into place, carefully checking his work before adding the sight and silencer. He crouched down, pulled the rifle into position and put his eye to the sight, slowly bringing it through an arc to survey his surroundings. When he had done this a dozen times, he slung the rifle across his back and took a position at the fence itself.
He used the wooden fencing as a support and once more took the rifle in an arc in front of
him. There was no gate here, just the fencing, and on the other side there were small trees and
bushes that served to mask the area beyond. The house that stood beyond was a huge
Victorian building. The moon shone brightly, illuminating its roof and the brickwork and tiles
that had seen better days.
He ran his scope along the contours of the building, playing with the top of the roof before
using the chimney as a guide to drop to the first bedroom window. There were four windows
with lights on downstairs and two of the bedrooms were lit, including the first one. He knew
his target would pass by one of the vantage points, but it could be some time.
He placed the rifle to one side and used a more manageable pair of binoculars instead of
the rifle’s sight. The night was young. He decided to give it until one hour before daylight
before abandoning his task if the opportunity to complete it did not arise.
Patience was a virtue that he possessed and prided himself on. When the hours passed and
the slight drizzle of rain fell upon him, he never cursed or moved for shelter, he just held his
position and waited for his chance. A third light came on from one of the upstairs bedrooms
and a shape shuffled across to pass quickly in and out of view. He picked up the binoculars
and held his view on the window. Sure enough, there was his target, adjusting his tie and
briefly glancing through the window itself. When the light disappeared from the bedroom, he
picked up the rifle and focused it on the first window to the left of the building, then scanned
the room as best he could. He could make out the medium-sized portrait on the wall and the
shelving that stood to the right of it. The windows were narrow and decorated with strips of
metal. He knew the windows were indented with thick glass, which at this distance made his
target very difficult to hit. He hoped and prayed that when the time came he did not miss.
He focused the sight on the portrait. His target entered the room and moved from one side
of the window to the other, seemingly laughing and chatting to other people in the room who
must have been seated. His target reappeared with a drink and paused to look at the portrait.
This was the opportunity, the area was too narrow to wait any longer and he might never get
another chance. He squeezed the trigger slowly and deliberately.
The bullet shattered the window and fizzed into the portrait, narrowly missing the man’s
head and embedding itself in the wall behind. There were screams as it dawned on the rest of
the occupants what had just happened. The man who had nearly taken a bullet dropped to the
floor. Lights came on in the rest of the rooms of the house and the alarm sounded, shrill and
whining. It would not be long; the police would arrive and check the immediate vicinity
before extending their search beyond the grounds and into the woods.
He calmly took the rifle to pieces, put the main body back into the sling, and placed the
sight, magazine and silencer back in the bag together with the binoculars. Using the night
vision, he made his way back to the car and placed the bag and sling beneath the covering in
the boot. He started the car and lit up a cigarette before winding the window down and driving
back onto the road. He travelled a little way down the road before putting the lights on and
increasing his speed. The narrow country lanes lasted another two miles before he took the
slip road that fed onto the main road. He pushed down the accelerator and drew deeply on the
cigarette, smiling widely as his car found other cars and lorries to mingle with on the
* * *
Ronald Mason was tired of the endless questioning by the police. Yes, someone had tried to
put a bullet in him, but what he really wanted to know was whether they were going to catch
the would-be assassin and why had someone made an attempt on his life.
Ron was a renowned physicist and when the funding he had been so dependent on to
continue his studies was withdrawn, he did not hesitate to borrow the money to fund his own
research. With a couple of breakthroughs in particle physics, his company grew and attracted
bigger and wealthier investors. At the age of thirty-five, he was rich beyond his wildest
dreams, but that meant nothing to him. It was the research and the advancement of science
that fulfilled him. Dancing on the cutting-edge of science was the lifeblood for him.
His wife Carol made yet another coffee for the detectives, mumbling that nobody seemed
to drink tea nowadays, and only sat down when the last of them had left and the man who
actually was going to do something arrived. She was still shaken by the events of the previous
night and for the first time in her life was grateful for not having children yet.
Gary was a detective of some thirty years and the owner of his own private security firm
for the last ten. The police had offered them protection and Ronald had agreed to the standard
hotline and the car parked outside the house, but nothing else. Gary had looked after security
for a while now at Ron’s firm and he had never let Ron down, made any mistakes or failed to
respond when the situation demanded it.
“So what did the police say?” asked Gary.
“They said they’ll find the man who did this and have a car sat outside to keep an eye on
me and Carol,” said Ron.
“Well that’ll stop a guy with a sniper rifle. They don’t even know where he took the shot
from yet,” said Gary, shaking his head.
“I heard one of them say that the shot must have been taken from behind the fences in the
woods, but the others reckoned it was impossible for the sniper to take the shot accurately
from there. The windows here are small and when the shot was taken I was not standing still.
The sniper would have known that he would have to be incredibly lucky to hit me from there,
so he would not have taken the shot,” said Ron.
“But he did take the shot and missed,” said Gary. “You know the police seem to think that
everyone’s an expert these days but maybe this guy isn’t as good as they think. Maybe he’s
just someone with a grudge who unfortunately has a sniper rifle.”
“I see what you’re saying, but where does that leave us?” asked Ron.
“It leaves you in a position where you can’t take any chances,” said Gary. “So if it’s
alright with you I’m going to put two of my best people here with you. They will watch you
closely every day. When you go to work, one of them will go with you and the other will stay
with Carol.”
“I’m not sure Carol will be comfortable with being alone in the house with another man,”
said Ron.
“I said people Ron, not men. One of them is a woman. They are on their way here right
now. Trent and Karen are their names. They will make sure you are never alone until either
the police or my guys catch this man.”
It was not long before the two bodyguards arrived, who turned up in separate cars. Trent
had a sleek black BMW and Karen a silver Audi. Trent was a blond, youthful-looking man.
Clean-shaven and with bright blue eyes, he could have been the postcard American surfer.
Instead, he had no discernible accent but spoke softly and precisely. Karen had long hair that
was bunched in a bob at the top. Dark brown eyes stared from beneath her auburn hair and
once again, she appeared to have no accent.
“Where are you two from?” asked Ron.
“We’re not allowed to tell you that, sir,” said Trent.
“Well I can’t place either of your accents,” said Ron. “Don’t think you’re American
“We are both multi-lingual,” said Karen. “That’s probably why we have no accent to
speak of.”
“All that phrasing hey?” said Ron.
He introduced them both to Carol and when Gary left, the pair of them did a grand tour of
the house and arranged things a little differently outside. They erected screens just off the
windows to deter any further sniper attack from a distance and placed a series of electronic
alarms and sensors at different access points to both the house and the grounds.
“That’s everything secure now Mister Mason,” he said. “We’ll leave you alone now. You
won’t see us as such but we will be watching. If anyone tries to enter the grounds, we’ll know
about it. Gary has patrols on the property and in the morning I will come with you to work
and Karen will stay with your wife.”
“Oh, I thought you were going to stay overnight as well,” said Ron.
Trent shook his head. “No need. Once you are in here, you are safe. When you leave the
house though, that’s when we need to know. So don’t even put a toe out of that door if we
don’t know about it,” he said.
“Okay. We’ll remember that,” said Ron.
“Is there ever a time you can think of when you are completely alone?” asked Trent.
Ron looked at Trent for a minute or two without speaking.
“Not really. Not if you include me and Carol being together. Why do you ask that?” asked
“Should that be the case for any reason, you need to let me know so I can be with you,”
said Trent. “If you had an accident or something, how would we know? It’s a bit like health
and safety at your work.”
“Ah, of course, that makes perfect sense,” said Ron.
Trent and Karen left the property. With the doors and windows locked, Ron and Carol
went to bed, safe in the knowledge that the army of dogs and flashlights that patrolled the
grounds were their army of dogs and flashlights.
Over the coming days, the security arrangements for the couple remained consistent. Trent
and Karen arrived every morning and Trent would accompany Ron to work whilst Karen
remained with Carol. The women would discuss everything from houseplants to world
politics and Carol was amazed at the level of knowledge of world affairs Karen displayed.
Trent stuck tight to Ron’s side and always asked whether Ron would be alone at any point.
This was never the case, however. This was Ron’s company and there was always someone
with him. In the evenings, Ron and Carol would relax with a glass of wine after their evening
meal. Ron had started to look at the damaged portrait regularly, rubbing the bullet hole with
his finger.
“What is it about that picture that fascinates you so much?” asked Carol.
“It’s not the picture, it’s the bullet hole. They keep saying the man who did this had to
take an impossible shot, but if he was a professional, why take an impossible shot?” asked
“Perhaps he panicked,” said Carol.
“Why would he panic? Neither the police nor Gary have found any clues as to who he
might be. They haven’t been able to pinpoint the position he took the shot from and there are
no tyre tracks nor footprints anywhere in the area other than ones we can account for,” said
Ron. “That’s not what bothers me the most though.”
He beckoned Carol over to the portrait and pointed towards it. It was a portrait of his
father and remained hung on the wall despite the damage, waiting to be repaired once the
police gave him the okay to do so.
“Look where the bullet went,” said Ron.
The bullet hole was in the dead centre of his father’s forehead.
“It’s almost as though he was deliberately aiming for that place,” said Ron. “How could
that be and why would he want to do that?”
* * *
The next morning Trent stood outside, leaning on the car, waiting for Ron. The sun was
already oppressive and the glare made it difficult to see. Trent wore the sleekest-looking pair
of sunglasses Ron had ever seen and seemed to have no trouble with the sun, even if it
involved looking directly at it.
Ron was hurrying to the car and as Trent opened the door, he accidentally caught Trent in
the face, sending his glasses crashing to the ground. Trent cursed, but not in English. Ron
looked at him for a moment and then found his words.
“What was that? Mandarin? Japanese?” asked Ron.
“I spent some time out there and had to learn some,” said Trent.
“Are you fluent?” asked Ron.
“It’s more of a dialect to be honest. I’m not sure most of it is spoken correctly. Some of
the cursing has stuck with me. That wasn’t directed at you by the way, just the glasses.
They’re sort of one of a kind,” said Trent.
“That’s okay, don’t worry about it. Shall we go?” asked Ron, smiling.
He climbed into the back seat. Trent walked to the front passenger seat as the driver
started the car. As he turned to face the house, he caught the glare of Karen who stood in the
doorway staring hard at Trent. He smiled and waved but Karen just kept staring.
That night as Ron and Carol were relaxing, watching television, they heard the sound of a
muted argument outside. Ron dimmed the lights and peered cautiously through the window.
There, standing by their cars were Trent and Karen. They had both left the house a good ten
minutes earlier but had not yet left the grounds. Trent seemed to be apologising for the most
part, with Karen poking him in the chest every now and again. She never stopped her verbal
assault on him, pausing only once to turn in an angry circle wagging her finger before
plunging it into his chest.
Ron turned to call Carol but she was already behind him, watching the couple arguing.
“What the hell do you think is going on there?” asked Ron.
“Don’t you know? Don’t you see it?” asked Carol.
“See what?” asked Ron.
“They’re a couple, Ron. Look at them, they argue like a married couple. She cares a lot
about what he says and does,” said Carol. “Look how guilty he looks.”
“Says the woman,” said Ron, smiling.
The next day Carol stood in the kitchen, making herself and Karen a strong cup of coffee
and burning a couple of rounds of toast. She spread the butter thinly on the toast and turned
back to Karen, speaking as she munched.
“How much longer do you think you two will be here for?” she asked.
Karen shrugged her shoulders. “Until the job is done. Whenever that is,” she said.
“Gary seems to think that whoever did this won’t be back,” said Carol.
“Thinking is not enough, we have to be sure,” said Karen.
“What if we are never sure?” asked Carol.
“We will be. Trust me, we will be,” said Karen.
“Are you two a couple?” asked Carol, suddenly.
Karen looked startled by the question and responded in a defensive manner.
“No, not at all. Why do you ask?” she asked.
“We saw the two of you arguing outside last night,” said Carol. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean
to be intrusive but you looked just like a married couple out there.”
Normally, Karen would laugh at a suggestion like this. In all her time with Carol, she had
been amiable and had shared a similar sense of humour but this time there was no change in
expression, just a stony face.
“It was just about work, that’s all. Nothing you need to know,” said Karen.
Carol decided to stop the conversation there and pursue another subject. Karen plainly was
not happy with this line of questioning, whether she and Trent were a couple or not.
“You know Ron and his team are on the verge of some breakthrough at work. He says that
the world will never need to dig for coal or drill for oil again. That energy will be free for all.
Do you think that’s why someone tried to kill him?” asked Carol.
“What sort of breakthrough?” asked Karen.
“I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong, he does tell me these things, he tries to explain it but I
don’t understand. All I know is that he says it will change the world. Things will change for
the better,” said Carol.
“Did he say when he is likely to complete this breakthrough?” asked Karen.
“Well last night he was waxing on about how in a month or two they’ll be ready to go,”
said Carol. She thought that the conversation might bring back her amiable friend but instead
the stony-faced one remained.
“In a month or two,” said Karen.
* * *
Trent had become accustomed to Ron’s infatuation with routine on the car journey and never
thought to ask why they had to stop at a certain shop to get his newspaper. The regular stops
at the small terraced house, where Ron would enter the house to spend an hour in there at
least every day on his way home from work, finally got the better of Trent’s curiosity.
“You can tell me to mind my own business if you like, but why do we stop here every
day?” asked Trent.
“In that house is someone very important to me,” said Ron. “I always said I would look
after him and I keep my word. He’s a good friend.”
“You never come out of the house with him though and he never comes to yours. Hell, we
could give him a lift there and back if it’s that important to you Ron,” said Trent.
“You don’t understand. He’s severely disabled,” said Ron. “He can’t leave the house. I
wish he could but he can’t.”
“Can you trust him?” asked Trent.
Ron turned and stared at Trent. The anger in his face was barely disguised. It was as
though the question was unforgivable.
“I guess that answers my question,” said Trent. “I’m sorry I asked.”
* * *
That night, Ron and Carol were looking through the window again. Ron was beginning to
wonder whether the two of them were beginning to lose the plot. The argument took the same
format once more, with Trent on the defensive and Karen pointing and doing most of the
talking. This time she pointed towards the house every now and again. Was she pointing
towards the house though, or was she pointing towards Ron and Carol?
“For a couple of bodyguards they seem to have let their own guard down a little too
much,” said Ron.
“She said they weren’t a couple, but was incredibly defensive about it,” said Carol.
“Perhaps we should tell Gary about this,” said Ron. “I have to admit, it’s beginning to
disturb me a little.”
As he spoke, Trent moved towards Karen and grabbed her by the arm as if trying to calm
her. The struggling Karen continued to point with her one free arm and protest but relented
when Trent pulled her close and hugged her warmly. Ron and Carol both smiled as Trent
lifted Karen’s head to his and kissed her passionately.
“Well I guess that allays my fears,” chuckled Ron.
“I did say,” said Carol.
“Yes, you did sweetheart,” said Ron. “Let’s respect their privacy.” The couple both moved
away from the window as Trent and Karen continued their kiss outside.
* * *
Their secret observation of the bodyguards made their personal relationships with them much
closer. Trent would go into the newsagents with Ron and got to know the shopkeeper. They
would even stop off for a drink together at a nearby pub on their way home, but Ron never let
Trent come into the terraced house with him. Carol and Karen had now started to go shopping
together, interrupting their spending to take lunch. They also had a regular planned diet of
television that they adhered to religiously. Carol never broached the subject of Trent and
Karen’s personal relationship again, however.
One night as Ron looked out of the window, he noticed that Karen was gone but Trent
remained outside gazing at the night sky. Ron pulled on a coat and ventured outside to join
You should not be outside,” said Trent, his gaze not leaving the sky.
“Am I not safe with you and the flashlight army out here then?” asked Ron.
Trent smiled and Ron walked towards him. Ron stopped and gazed at the night sky along
with Trent. The stars twinkled in the clear sky. Trent pointed towards what seemed a
particularly bright one.
“Looks like a star, doesn’t it. It’s a planet though. Venus,” said Trent.
“Is this a particular passion of yours?” asked Ron.
“I have not seen the stars in such a long time,” said Trent, suddenly in a world of his own,
his face drawn with remorse.
“I’m sorry?” asked Ron.
Trent turned from his watch and smiled at Ron.
“I meant I don’t have the time to watch the skies these days. There was a time when that
was all I used to do,” said Trent.
“Really?” asked Ron. “Was that as a child?”
Trent shook his head and gazed towards the sky once more.
“As a child and as a man. I shouldn’t tell you this but I was a scientist as well. Events
caused me to take a different path and so I find myself here, far from home, doing a task I
should never have had to,” he said.
“A scientist? What was your specialisation?” asked Ron.
“Geology. I was concerned with the environment,” said Trent.
“So what on earth made you become a bodyguard?” asked Ron.
“I worked with a man called Johnson. He was a physicist. We argued about everything.
The state of this planet suited Johnson. He became very rich by suggesting alternatives to
conventional ideas about cleaning up the environment,” said Trent.
“What alternatives?” asked Ron.
“You’re a physicist. You know that if you could put a mirror on the moon that the image
in the mirror would be two or three seconds in the past?” asked Trent.
Ron nodded.
“Johnson believed that you could open a window in the mirror. That you could talk to
people in the past,” said Trent. “He thought that you would be able to guide them and tell
them what they needed to do to keep the planet clean. A few of us helped him in his research.
The problem was that you would need to be looking in that mirror from light years away to
talk to people from many years ago.”
“It’s impossible,” said Ron. “You would need to be 20 light years away from Earth just to
see ten years ago.”
“Not if you viewed it for a short period of time from another dimension. A dimension
physically close to ours,” said Trent. “Johnson viewed it as a series of mirrors and windows.”
Ron laughed and slapped Trent on the back.
“Conjecture and fantasy, I’m afraid Trent,” said Ron.
“Only, Johnson said that he had achieved it. He could talk to people in the past,” said
Trent. “We dismissed it as first but then Johnson suddenly started to inherit large amounts of
money and he became an expert on historical events.”
“So you think he was planting seeds and actually talking to people from the past?” asked
“Sounds crazy, doesn’t it,” said Trent. “But something had changed. Johnson became
more and more powerful as well as rich. I asked him whether it would be possible to actually
step back in time and change the past. Put the Earth right. He just laughed at me. He said that
even if we could go back in time, we would change nothing in the present because the past
had already affected it,” said Trent.
“Well it is the obvious conclusion,” said Ron.
“Didn’t stop us from trying to time travel though,” said Trent.
“Did you succeed?” asked Ron.
Trent shook his head.
“Johnson made it public knowledge. He blamed us for wasting huge amounts of public
money. I couldn’t get a job cleaning test-tubes after that,” said Trent. “Johnson didn’t want
anyone going back in time for some reason. It was as though his wealth and power came from
his monopoly on the subject.”
“So what made you become a bodyguard?” asked Ron.
“You don’t need to know that,” said Trent.
“Well if you have qualifications, you can still do the thing you love. After this has finished
why don’t we see if we can find a place for you in my company? It’s never too late, Trent,”
said Ron.
“It is too late, Ron,” said Trent, smiling at his friend. He climbed into his car and wound
down the window to wave a hand at Ron as he drove away from the house.
Ron watched Trent drive his car through the gates. Once the car had vanished from sight,
he turned to go back towards his house. He stopped and looked up at the night sky. There,
shining brightly in the night sky was Venus. Ron suddenly felt cold and very alone. He
hurried back inside quickly to embrace Carol.
* * *
Trent’s revelation that he too had been a scientist cemented his friendship with Ron. Their
relationship continued to flourish, although Ron did not broach the subject of Trent’s previous
occupation and Trent never spoke of it either. Their stops at the pub became more frequent
but did not interrupt the regular visits to the terraced house.
Gary and the police were no nearer to solving the identity of the mysterious sniper. In fact,
the police now seemed to have no interest in Ron and Carol at all. Even Gary was beginning
to doubt the wisdom of keeping so many men at the property, to the extent that he was
considering withdrawing Trent and Karen from the job. Trent had protested however, stating
that this could be exactly what the assassin was waiting for. Gary agreed, not least because he
could not afford to take the risk.
The weeks passed without incident and the winter set in, making the days shorter. One
day, they stopped at the terraced house as normal and Ron left Trent and the driver to enter
the property. He was longer than usual and Trent became restless after an hour passed by. He
was on the verge of leaving the car and entering the house when Ron came back outside and
returned to the car.
“Everything alright?” asked Trent.
Ron was shaking a little but stared through the windscreen, seemingly fascinated by the
views outside the car. Trent stared at Ron and then the driver. He was relieved when Ron
“Yes, never better. Best I’ve felt in a long time,” said Ron. “Trent, there is something I
have to do, something I am meant to do. I need someone to help me with it.”
“Do we need to pick up someone you work with?” asked Trent.
“No. It has to be you, Trent,” said Ron. “Just you and me together, totally alone. No one
Trent looked at Ron and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Ron, what is it? Are you sure about this?” he asked.
“Tell the guards to keep away from the property. I don’t care how you do it. And get
Karen to take Carol out for a meal or something,” said Ron.
“Okay Ron, not a problem,” said Trent.
Trent phoned the guards at the house and told them to step back from the property, telling
them that the assassin might be trying to access the boundary from either the wood or the
fields. He then rang Karen, who agreed to take Carol out for dinner. Ron noticed Trent was
busy texting Karen as well but did not ask why. He just smiled and enjoyed the night-time
views from his seat in the car.
As they pulled up to the gates, the two men blocking their entry opened the gates and
waved them through. In the rear-view mirror, Ron could see both men leaving the grounds of
the house in a black BMW. The driver pulled up by the front of the house and then as Trent
and Ron made their way into the house he left as well. Karen and Carol had already left and
the house was completely empty except for Trent and Ron.
Ron was pouring his fingers over the bullet hole in the portrait of his father.
“He never thought I would amount to anything. He called me a fanatic, a dreamer, a man
who did not know the meaning of sacrifice. He was wrong,” said Ron.
He moved away from the painting and sat down at the small writing bureau. Taking out a
notepad from the drawer, he ripped a page from it and wrote what looked like a single word
on it. He crumpled the paper up into a small ball and gripped it tightly in his right hand.
“I am ready,” he said, and looked up at Trent.
Trent stood no more than four feet away from Ron, his gun pointing at Ron’s head. Ron
raised an eyebrow for a second but said nothing.
“I’m sorry,” said Trent. “We have become good friends, I know, but what you are going to
do, I have to stop it. I put the bullet in the portrait of your father. It isn’t disrespectful but no
man could hit you from there, I had to get inside. I also had to keep Karen and me safe. We
cannot go back. We have to give ourselves time to get away and start a new life. This has cost
us so much already. A personal bodyguard, close to the target was the only way. It has taken
so long to get you alone, but this way it will be at least four or five hours until they discover
your body.”
Ron still said nothing, but started to twirl a pen around in circles on the top of the wooden
“Ron! Ron! Don’t you want to know why?” asked Trent.
Ron looked up at Trent and smiled at him as if he was silently forgiving him.
“In six weeks time you realise the breakthrough you have been working on. Dark matter
will become a reality for the world. You will be able to harvest it and provide an endless
supply, solving all the energy needs of the world. One man will corrupt it however, he will
convince you that it can meet all sorts of needs and you will harvest so much that you can no
longer control it. Our world will be grey and dark. My world, Ron,” said Trent. “The trees are
all dead and the oceans are a murky brown mud. The atmosphere is barely breathable and
when you look to the sky at night, all you can see is the black fog. No sun, no stars, just the
impenetrable black fog.
“I had to come back and prevent you from bringing this slow death to the world. Johnson
said it wasn’t possible, that we could not go back in time, but we found a way, Ron. We
cannot go back though. It’s a one-way ticket, so I had to bring Karen with me, my wife. One
of our leaders, Johnson, argued against it. He seems to prefer our world as it, poisoned and
less populated, easier to control and rule, but the council voted against him and sent us back.
If there was another way to do it, I would, but I cannot take any risks. The only solution is to
kill you.”
Ron still did not move but spoke at last. “Tell me. This dark matter? Will it make me
famous, would it make my father proud?” he asked.
“Initially yes, and I suppose your father would be proud, but…” said Trent.
“Then do it. Do it now, while I still have resolve. While I still believe in sacrifice,” said
Trent steeled himself and fired the gun, sending a single bullet through his friend’s
forehead. Ron slumped, face down on the bureau, his blood spilling across the wood. Trent
holstered his gun and took a moment to kiss his friend lightly on the back of the head.
“God forgive me,” he said. “I’m so sorry.”
Trent ran from the building and made his way across the grounds. Vaulting the boundary
fences and running into the woods, he pushed back the branches and twigs as he ran in and
out of the trees. In the distance, every ten seconds, a car horn made a single sound. He ran
towards the noise, breathless, afraid and distraught at what he had just done. The tears
streamed down his cheeks. As he left the woods, he fell into the arms of Karen, sobbing
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” said Karen, stroking Trent’s hair.
“It’s not okay. He was my friend. He trusted me and I killed him. I killed him, Karen,”
said Trent.
“You had no choice. What else could you do? You did what you had to,” said Karen.
Trent looked at the silver Fiesta parked by the side of the woods.
“It’s a rental. False ID. By the time they find Ron, we will be long gone. New identities
and a new life. This is our world now Trent. We cannot go back, but we at least know our
world will not be poisoned,” said Karen.
Trent dried his eyes and slowly composed himself.
“Johnson said it could not be done. He said you couldn’t change the past because it has
already happened. Irrevocable he called it. Yet, here we are. Johnson was wrong, thank God. I
am so glad he was wrong but I hope that wherever Ron is, he forgives me. Carol is safe, isn’t
she?” asked Trent.
“I left her at her mother’s with one of the security team. We saved her at least. Ron was
my friend too and I am trying not to imagine Carol’s grief when she discovers what has
happened,” said Karen.
Trent pulled himself to his feet and the couple climbed into the Fiesta. Karen sat in the
driver’s seat and looked across at her husband, who was still struggling to hold back the tears.
She leaned across, kissing him gently on the cheek before starting the car. They both turned
and smiled at each other and clasped hands gently.
The lorry losing control on the corner behind them came hurtling through the rear of the
Fiesta, pinning it between itself and a large oak tree, crushing it into a pile of twisted metal
and killing the occupants instantly. Only the hands of the couple were visible in the carnage,
still holding each other tightly.
* * *
The group of people moved away from the grave and began to disperse into smaller groups,
all having their own respectful discussions. Gary stood behind the man placing a single white
carnation on the grave.
“You never told me about him. You never told anyone about him, only Carol,” said Gary.
Ronald Mason stood up and straightened his coat.
“He was the same as me. A scientist. Truth is he was brilliant, far better than me,” said
Rod. “But father ridiculed him because John wanted to talk to other worlds, different
dimensions. He was thirty years old when he claimed that he could talk to people in the
future. His behaviour grew erratic. He would wake up screaming; even attacked people,
saying that they wanted to kill me. We found a gun in his house and that was the last straw. I
had no choice but to keep John away from the rest of society, for his sake as well as theirs.”
“Schizophrenia?” asked Gary.
“Paranoid schizophrenia,” said Ron. “Very acute.”
“I have put my resignation on your desk back at the house,” said Gary.
“Why?” asked a shocked Ron.
“Why? The people I put close to you were the very people who wanted to kill you,” said
Gary. “I swear that at the time I put my faith in them, they had worked for me for years.
Valued and trusted employees. Yet now, after their death, I know that they came to see me
just six weeks before the bullet hit your father’s portrait.”
“Who were they?” asked Ron.
“We don’t know. The cops don’t know. It’s as though they came from another world. No
trace of a real identity, although they had a brace of brilliantly forged identities.”
“They nearly got away, I’m told.”
“Yes, an unfortunate or fortunate accident, depending how you look at it,” said Gary.
“Lorry driver lost control on a corner, swears that the wheel just went loose. Their car was
crushed between the truck and a tree. The sniper rifle and bullets that match the one in your
wall were in the boot.”
“I wonder why they wanted to kill me?” asked Ron. “John kept saying that someone was
coming to kill me. The man in his head warned him that he had to save me. On the day Trent
shot John, I stopped off at the house as normal only to find his two carers unconscious. I
found John in a room by himself, he kept saying it’s today, it’s today. Sacrifice, I know
sacrifice, he kept saying. I asked him who warned him, tried to calm him before phoning for
help for the carers but he just said, ‘I will tell you after I am gone’. Then he stuck a syringe in
me and the world went black. Woke up in just my underpants,” said Ron.
“He switched clothes with you and climbed into the car with Trent,” said Gary. “Trent
thought John was you. He never suspected a thing.”
“Identical twins. Even the hair,” said Ron. “You know, he insisted on changing his name
just before he lost it completely. Said it was important, he made me promise never to tell
anyone. He even managed to falsify documents to show that he had died at birth. For all
intents and purposes, I had no brother, well not one that the history books would know of,
anyway. He said they must not know of him, whoever they might be. The man in his head
told him this,” said Ron.
“Trent thought it was you. Thought he had his man. I’m sorry Ron,” said Gary.
Ron smiled and wiped a tear from his cheek before placing a hand on Gary’s shoulder.
“You’re not responsible for this, Gary. They fooled us all; me, you and the police. In two
weeks time I have a very important announcement to make. I have discovered something that
will change the world. I need people around me I can trust. I am refusing your resignation. I
expect to see you back at work tomorrow morning, nice and early,” said Ron.
Gary smiled and nodded and walked away as Carol embraced her husband from behind.
“You alright?” she whispered in his ear.
“I guess so,” said Ron. “How did he know that on that particular day someone would try
and kill me? Father ridiculed him, but he was a bigger man than us both. Somehow, he knew
he was going to die and yet he made sure I was safe. He made the sacrifice.”
“Didn’t he say the voice in his head warned him of all this?” asked Carol.
“He always said he would tell me how. I guess we’ll never know now,” said Ron.
Carol hugged Ron tightly and he returned her embrace. Gary was running back towards
them, holding something in his hand. Ron and Carol separated as Gary approached.
“I almost forgot,” said Gary. “John had a piece of paper crumpled up in his hand when
they found him. He had written just one word on it. It makes no sense to me or the police but
you should have it.”
Gary gave Ron the crumpled paper and turned to leave as Ron unravelled the paper.
On the paper written in ink was just one word.
* * *
* * * * *

L J Hick’s contribution to the Wyrd Worlds II anthology.

You can download the complete anthology for free using the links below


The Last Days of Planet Earth Volume I Giveaway Extended

Gods and Monsters Image


I have extended the giveaway at Smashwords for The Last Days of Planet Earth Volume I. The giveaway will now last until July 13th, 2015. This is because the third book in the series (The Children of Raphael) is nearing completion, and I will begin work on the fourth book (Revelations) in the very near future. This seems like a pretty good time to start seriously promoting the series. The same code still applies: RZ73B.

Hope you enjoy it. If you do enjoy it, then please give me a review. You do not have to, but it would be much appreciated.

L J Hick

Gods and Monsters Second Edition

The rewrite and final edit for the second edition of Gods and Monsters is complete now. I will just give it a final read-through to make sure that it is as perfect as I can get it before issuing it through the appropriate channels. Some of the text has been changed because of minor errors but some of it has been changed to accommodate events that happen in later books in the series. The art design for the book will remain the same although the formatting for the text has been altered slightly. The formatting for the printed version, which will be available at Amazon still needs to be done. Hopefully, this will not be too problematic.

L J Hick

Atom – Chapter 2 (1st draft)

Scott Jennings was a likable teenager. His outgoing manner often meant some embarrassment for Sam but Scott always said things with a smile and somehow managed to get away with things that Sam could not. As they walked down the street to the small real estate business where Scott’s mother, Louise worked, Scott smiled and greeted everyone they passed by. Scott seemed to know everyone in the town whereas Sam knew most of the faces but not the names. Sam wished that he could be an extrovert like Scott but he just did not have that level of confidence. Not that he was a quiet boy. His amiable manner and polite conversation impressed all the people he met. It was just that Sam wished he could  say what he thought sometimes. As they approached Becker’s Property, Scott brought up the subject of Barbara Young again.
“They say she went to the city,” said Scott.
“Who?” asked Sam.
“Barbara Young,” said Scott. “She went to the city because there are no bears in the city.”
“Do you think she’ll ever come back?” asked Sam.
“Would you? After that? No. From what I heard, she vowed never to return,” said Scott.
“I wonder if she’s happy?” mused Sam.
“Dude, that’s a real strange thing to say,” said Scott. “Why do you think about that?”
“Something as traumatic as that. If you survive it, are you ever the same again? I know my dad isn’t. He never got over it,” said Sam.
“Your dad’s a cop. Surely they send them to a shrink for that sort of shit,” said Scott.
“Well I think some guy came down to do that. Couple of days later he was gone but the old man was still the same,” said Sam.
“Maybe he just needs a while longer. It has to shock you. Even if you’re a cop,” said Scott.
“He wants to leave Atom,” said Sam. “Ever since that night, he has wanted to leave but my mother won’t budge.”
“You can’t leave. Shit! Who would I hang around with then?” asked Scott.
“The McCabe twins?” asked Sam, laughing.
“That’s not even remotely funny,” said Scott. “Those guys both look like Marilyn Manson but listen to boy bands.”
“I know, that’s definitely weird, huh?” asked Sam.
“Plus I think their dad wants to kill me,” said Scott.
“I think he wants to kill everyone,” said Sam. “Struts around like the Terminator.”
“I swear to God, I wish it had been him and not Jeff Walker,” said Scott.
Sam looked at Scott disapprovingly. Scott knew that Sam felt you should not talk about anyone that way. Not even in fun. Not even Ron McCabe.
Ron McCabe was ex army. He had never climbed the ranks, although he had seen plenty of active service. Sam did not doubt that Ron was a good soldier, he had serious misgivings about his intellect, though. McCabe married whilst he was still in the forces and his wife gave birth to twin boys. The boys were even less intelligent than their father. They dressed in black t-shirts and wore silver crosses that hung from their necks. They both had a pasty complexion and had long, straight, greasy black hair. The McCabe twins had grunted their way through school, stalking the corridors like an accident waiting to happen. The feeling of relief when they left to work with their father was shared by teachers and pupils alike. Even now, when Scott or Sam saw them and said hello, they would just grunt back.
“Do you think they’re the missing link?” asked Sam.
“Who? What?” asked a confused Scott.
“John and Joe, the McCabe brothers,” said Sam. “Scientists go on about Neanderthal man but I bet even they did more than grunt and drink beer.”
Scott and laughed and pushed his friend to one side.
“I don’t think they have anything in common with human beings,” said Scott.
Sam smiled as they came to the glass frontage of Becker’s. Scott went to go in but turned and waited when he realised his friend was adjusting his hair, using the window as a mirror.
“Sam? Why are you doing your hair?” asked Scott.
“I’m not,” said Sam.
“Dude, you most definitely are. I thought we talked about this,” said Scott.
“Hey, for the last time. I do not fancy your mother, okay?” said Sam.
Scott frowned at Sam and opened the door.
“C’mon, and try to control yourself,” said Scott.
When they walked inside, Louise Jennings rushed over to meet them. Scott’s mother had striking auburn hair that hung across her shoulders. Her blue eyes and warm smile melted all the men’s hearts in Atom. She also had the body of a Playboy model, and yet she was still single. She had dated a few men but never found anyone she felt anything for. This was a fact not lost on Sam, who surmised that the reason was that most of the men in Atom fell to pieces when they were anywhere near Louise. Sam tried to keep control but he could feel the warm flush of his cheeks, giving away his thoughts.
Louise hugged Scott and then Sam, who nearly fainted.
“So how are my boys today?” she asked.
“Very well, thank you, Mrs Jennings,” said Sam.
“Oh Sam, I swear you are the most polite boy I have ever known,” she said. “One minute, boys.”
“Very well, thank you, Mrs Jennings,” mimicked Scott, under his breath.
Louise turned around just as Vaughan Becker emerged from the back room with a bottle of champagne. Vaughan stopped when he saw the boys and gave them a slimy smile that only Vaughan could.
“You boys come to walk Louise home. You know there’s no need. I’ll drive her back in an hour or two,” said Vaughan.
“You sure that’s wise. If you’re gonna be drinking that stuff,” said Scott.
“Well it’s only a glass or two, Scott. Hell, we have something to celebrate, don’t we Louise?”
Scott turned to Sam and was about to say something smart, when he realised Sam was staring at his mother.
“Dude, close your mouth,” he whispered. “This is seriously fucked up. Just stop.”
Sam composed himself and smiled weakly at Scott.
“What are you celebrating?” asked Scott, turning away from his guilty friend.
“We have only gone and sold ‘the house on the hill’ for a shit load of money,” said Vaughan.
“No fucking way,” said Scott.
“Scott!” snapped Louise.
“Sorry mum,” said Scott.
“Yes, way,” said Vaughan. “Straight cash sale. Guy didn’t even negotiate. Just came in and said he wanted the house. Easiest sale ever.”
“Is he sane?” asked Scott.
“Do I care,” said Vaughan, filling his and Louise’s glasses with champagne.
“Does he know?” asked Scott.
“Yes. He said that he knew the house was cheap because of what happened but he just had to have it,” said Vaughan.
“So he’s not sane,” said Scott.
Vaughan laughed but Scott decided to shut up when he saw the look his mother was giving him.
“He’s actually rather nice, and polite, like Sam,” said Louise.
Sam’s mouth came open once more.
“He actually looks a little weird,” said Vaughan. “Guy has no sense of humour, either.”
“Vaughan, that’s so mean,” said Louise.
Vaughan apologised immediately and began to perform the grovelling act that sickened Scott when he saw it. It was no secret that Vaughan tried desperately every day to bed Louise. After all, most of the men in the town felt the same way. Vaughan would try to entice her out for a drink, even bringing alcohol into the office. He asked her out for dinner constantly and what was worse would find any excuse to touch her. Scott sometimes blamed his mother for being over friendly. Not in a seductive way but in an entirely innocent way.
Scott had never known his father. He disappeared when Louise announced she was pregnant. He was five years older than the seventeen year old Louise. He came from out-of-town to work on a  construction job and even Gary Kent, the local builder who hired him, could not trace him once he left. Despite all this, Louise carried herself with a great degree of optimism and a an upbeat manner. Vaughan paid Louise far more than the going rate and Scott knew that this was to keep the woman of his dreams close to him, but he also knew that Louise was the reason for the success of the business. Vaughan was all kinds of creepy. He looked creepy, he acted creepy and he even sounded creepy. Vaughan could sell nothing but Louise could sell anything.
“Is he as creepy as you?” Scott asked Vaughan, smiling.
Vaughan did not take the bait. Instead he dismissed the comment. lightly.
“Creepier,” said Vaughan.
Scott was about to utter another insult, taken from the queue inside his head but decided not to when he saw Louise glaring at him. Scott changed the subject. Not to let Vaughan off but to prevent the lecture he would surely get from his mother, later.
“So who gets the money from the sale of the house?” asked Scott. “As far as I know, Jeff Walker had no family other than his daughters. Well, no one turned up at his funeral anyways.”
“You’re right, Scott,” said Vaughan. “He didn’t, but he did have a will. He left the house to a group who call themselves ‘The Children of Bogatyri’.”
“He left his house to a cult?” asked Scott.
Vaughan shook his head.
“Apparently not. These guys think of themselves as an old religious order,” said Vaughan.
Scott was intrigued by the sale of the house but was even more intrigued by the buyer of the property.
“What’s the guy called?” asked Scott.
“Felstar,” said Vaughan.
“That his first name or last name?” asked Scott.
“That’s it. Just Felstar,” said Vaughan.
Suddenly, Sam came out of his Louise induced trance and joined in the conversation.
“He can’t have just one name,” said Sam. “That’s a pseudonym.”
“Well it all checks out. Legal and above-board,” said Vaughan. “He may well have changed his name in the past but to be honest, I don’t care.”
Scott turned to Sam and glared at him.
“Welcome back to Earth, Sam,” he said.
Sam gave him a disdainful smile.
Louise grabbed her coat from the hook and gestured to the two boys.
“If it’s all the same to you, I’ll pass on that drink, Vaughan,” said Louise. “Gotta get Scott home and make sure he does his homework.”
Vaughan smiled and held up his glass of champagne to her.
“Another time,” he said.

As they walked home, Scott grilled his mother.
“Why do you work for that creep?” he asked.
“Because the pay’s good and he also bought me a car,” replied Louise.
“Yeah, but mum. He only wants…”
“One thing. Don’t even go there, Scott. I can handle, Vaughan,” said Louise.
“That’s what I’m worried about,” said Scott.
Louise gave him a playful slap across the back of the head, whilst Sam turned a bright red.
“That mouth of yours will get you into big trouble one of these days,” said Louise.
Scott smiled but did not stop questioning his mother.
“Why are we walking? Why didn’t you bring the car?” asked Scott.
“It’s a lovely summer’s day. You should enjoy days like this,” said Louise. “Who wants to sit in a stuffy car?”
“Me,” said Scott.
“Mrs Jennings?” asked Sam.
Scott looked at Sam and screwed his face up at him.
“Jesus Christ, there is life after death,” said Scott.
“Pay him no heed, Sam,” said Louise. “What is it?”
“This Felstar. What does he look like?” asked Sam.
“Well he has gorgeous, long blond hair that reaches to his waist. Dreamy blue eyes. He is so handsome and…”
“Yeah mum, we get the picture,” interrupted Scott.
“He has this sexy, European accent,” she continued. “He’s not English but…”
“Enough, already,” said Scott. “Let’s just go home and I promise not to ask any more questions. So does Sam.”
“I do?” asked Sam.
“You do,” said Scott.

As they neared Sam’s house, Scott told his mother to carry on as he veered off to see Sam home. Sam looked strangely at his friend, wondering why he felt it necessary to escort him.
“We should visit this Felstar. Check him out for ourselves,” said Scott.
“When?” asked Sam.
“I’ll find out when he’s moving in and we’ll go up there on the day,” said Scott.
“Won’t that look a little strange?” asked Sam.
“Nah. New neighbours and all that,” said Scott.
“And I thought you just wanted to see me home safely,” said Sam.
Scott smacked his friend across the back and ran off.
“Watch out for the mad bears,” he shouted.
“Very funny,” muttered Sam.
Sam opened the door to his house and entered the hallway. The familiar sounds of argument greeted his ears. Kate Newell was arguing with Brad about moving. Sam wondered how many times his father would pursue this argument before it finally sunk in that Kate was going nowhere. The two of them were so loud that they had not heard their son enter the house. Sam leant his ear to the living room door.
“Why can’t you just drop it?” stormed Kate.
“Do you see them looking at me when I walk down the street?” asked Brad. “They sneer and make jokes behind my back.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Kate. “It’s all in your mind. Everyone around here respects you.”
“Well that’s wrong for a start,” said Brad. “What about Ron McCabe?”
“Oh, like Ron McCabe counts,” said Kate.
“Well he’s a citizen of Atom,” said Brad. “He might be loud and ignorant but he’s not the only one.”
“Come on, Brad. It’s a public office. You are always going to be criticised. It won’t be any different, anywhere else.”
“You think? They gonna call me Officer Dibble everywhere else then?” asked Brad. “Jesus, even Ted has been dubbed Deputy Dawg.”
“It was one year ago,” said Kate.
She spat the words out one by one, her patience snapping because of the constant thorn in the side of their marriage.
“One major crime. That’s all, and I couldn’t solve it. Three people murdered in their own home in a small town and I found nothing. Hell, I still have nothing,” said Brad.
“This is insane. It was a bear. What are you supposed to do about it?” asked Kate. “Fit an innocent bear up? Jesus, Brad.”
“It wasn’t a fucking bear,” stormed Brad. “You didn’t see it, Kate. I’m telling you that whatever it was, it wasn’t a bear.”
“So it was a human? A human being smashed a hole in their chests with his bare hands and tried to eat them?” asked Kate, incredulously.
“I don’t know. I seriously don’t know,” said Brad, his voice lower and more thoughtful now. “I just know it wasn’t a bear.”
Kate moved towards Brad and stroked his hair.
“How are you ever going to solve this case, if you’re not here?” she asked.
“I’m never going to solve it, whether I’m here or not. I’m just gonna stay the subject of ridicule if I stay here,” said Brad. “Please, Kate. Let’s just go. I can get another job in a town miles away from here.”
“Not without my father,” said Kate. “I can’t leave him alone here.”
“George. Christ, he’ll never leave here,” said Brad. “You know what he said when I asked him to leave with us? ‘My time is not done here, Brad’. What the fuck does that mean?”
“He lives and breathes this town. You can’t expect him to leave here,” said Kate.
Brad banged the wall with his fist and screamed at Kate.
“I don’t. I expect you to though,” he said.
Brad turned away and made his way to the door.
“Where are you going?” asked Kate.
“To get steaming drunk,” stormed Brad.
“That’s right, run away, Brad. Run away from your misplaced guilt and this town. Run away from me,” cried Kate.
Brad opened the door and saw Sam standing there. Sam said nothing but the tears streaming down his cheeks told Brad that he had heard it all. He reached out and placed a hand on Sam’s head.
“I’m sorry son,” he said, and left the house.
Sam walked into the living room. Kate sat on the sofa. Her hands covered her eyes as she sobbed. Sam sat down beside his mother and hugged her.
“It’s okay, mum,” said Sam. “Don’t cry.”
Kate raised her eyes to look at Sam and kissed him gently on the forehead.
“That’s the trouble, Sam. It’s not okay,” she said.

The rest of the night passed peacefully. Kate made Sam something to eat. They sat together and watched television for a while before Sam decided to go to bed. He heard his father come back to the house in the early hours of the morning but thankfully there was no repeat of the argument. Sam guessed that they had worn each other out and that both of them were too exhausted to continue the quarrel. Brad never discussed the death of the Walkers with him and, until tonight, Sam thought that Brad believed bears were responsible. Now he knew that his father thought it was something else that attacked and killed the Walkers, but what? He peered from behind his curtains at the moon, shining brightly in the night sky.
‘Did you see it?’, he asked the moon, silently. ‘Did you see the killer?’.
He left the window and climbed back into his bed. He understood how his mother felt. He did not want to leave his grandfather behind, either. He loved George. George was a Blackfoot Indian who told him tales of mythical creatures and wonderful lands. He also would recount the history and the fate of the Indian nation in North America. His home was full of books on history and mythology.
Very often, Sam would grab one of those books and sit on the porch with his grandfather as they watched the day pass by. It was peaceful and tranquil, not at all like Sam’s home. George was a quiet, calm man but Sam could see the steel in George’s soul behind his soft, brown eyes. The only fault that Sam could find with his grandfather was his refusal to discuss the Walkers with him. Sam knew that Brad had told George not to talk about it but George laughed when Sam challenged him about this. He said that Brad did not tell him what to do and that he did not talk about it because young hearts do not need knowledge of evil. Sam laughed at the drama of his grandfather’s words and pulled the bed covers’ tight over him. He drifted towards sleep and hoped that tomorrow would be better for his family. He had left the curtains a little apart and a thin strip of light lit his bedroom wall. He considered getting out of bed to close them properly but was too tired to bother. If he had got up to close the curtains, he would have seen the man with the waist-length, blond hair, standing outside, looking up at his bedroom window.



Atom – Chapter 1 (1st draft)


It was the start of summer and the sun hid behind the clock tower of the church. Sam Newell sat on the crumbling stone wall at the front of the church with his best friend, Scott. Behind them, scattered gravestones punctuated the worn grass that stood at the front of the church. Scott wondered what exactly was left beneath the gravestones, dead people or dust. Sam thought it best not to dwell on the subject because it seemed disrespectful.
“You think that discussing the dead will cause zombies to climb out of the graves and eat our brains, don’t you,” Scott said to Sam.
Scott ran to one of the gravestones and then turned to walk slowly towards Sam in a mock zombie walk.
“Brains, brains,” growled Scott.
Sam stood up and threw a stone at Scott.
“You’re out of luck, fucker. I ain’t got any,” said Sam, laughing.
The stone hit Scott on the shin and he forgot the zombie walk and ran after his friend.
“Hey, zombies don’t run,” shouted Sam.
“I’m an Olympic zombie,” said Scott, dragging Sam to the floor.
Sam pushed Scott off him and lay laughing on his back. Scott was looking, sheepishly, towards the path between the road and the church wall.
“Good morning, Mrs Pope,” said Scott.
“Have you boys no respect? There are people at rest in this churchyard,” she said.
She shook her head and mumbled something that the boys could not hear before walking off into town.
Sam and Scott resumed their positions on the church wall.
“As if she’s called Pope,” said Sam.
“It is very apt, young man,” said Scott in an authorative voice. Scott slapped Sam across the head.
“Ouch, chill it dude,” said Sam.
The pair of them laughed and fell backwards, enjoying the warmth of the sun.
Sam and Scott were both sixteen years old and neither of them had managed to get a girlfriend yet. Scott came closest to any sort of relationship. Two weeks with a girl called Katie from school. The relationship ended when Katie discovered Scott and Sam drunk in the school playing fields. Katie demanded to know where they had got the drink from and Scott told her it was a gift from heaven. Katie called Scott blasphemous and did not speak to him for another two weeks.
“You remember when I went out with Katie?” Scott asked Sam.
“Pig-tailed bible basher,” said Sam. “Yeah, I remember.”
“You ruined it for me by taking a bottle of vodka from your Grandpa’s,” said Scott.
“Dude, it was a gift from God. Don’t you remember?” said Sam.
“She still wants me, you know that?” asked Scott.
“Yeah, sure man. What she wants is some dick to carry her bible for her,” said Sam.
Scott laughed.
“You remember Barbara? I wonder what happened to her. She had the biggest hooters,” said Scott.
Sam turned and stared wide-eyed at his friend.
“Scott, don’t even bring that shit back up. My old man still has nightmares about it now,” said Sam.
“Sorry man. Didn’t mean to bring that back up but she was mighty fine,” said Scott.
“Yeah, she was, wasn’t she?” said Sam, smiling.
“Does your old man ever talk about it?” asked Scott.
Sam shook his head.
“Nope. Never. Won’t let my mum or grandpa talk about it in front of me, either,” said Sam. “It’s taboo in our house.”
Scott picked up a twig from the grass and started to strip it.
“My ma never talks about it, either,” said Scott. “It’s like a year ago now and we still don’t really know what happened.”
“All I know is that they found Jeff Walker and his two daughters ripped to pieces by bears and Barbara locked in the cellar,” said Sam.
“Dude, they don’t know for sure it was bears,” said Scott. “I reckon it’s a cover up. Maybe it was aliens.”
“Shut the fuck up,” said Sam, laughing as he slapped Scott on the shoulder.
“What’s so funny, boys?” asked a voice behind them.
Sam and Scott turned around to see Reverend Smith standing over them.
Scott sighed and rolled his eyes at Sam. Sam placed a subtle elbow in Scott’s ribs.
Reverend Smith smiled and sat on the wall, next to the boys.
“So what are you two up to today? Have you been waiting for the church to open?” he asked.
Sam and Scott looked at each other, both waiting for the other to offer a plausible excuse.
It was Sam who finally cracked under the pressure and spoke.
“I can’t Reverend,” said Sam. “I have to meet my mother soon, much as I would love to come to church.”
Reverend Smith smiled and placed a hand on Sam’s shoulders.
“Yeah, sure Sam,” he said. “What about you Scott?”
“I can’t either Reverend,” said Scott.
“And why is that, Scott?” asked Reverend Smith. “You meeting your mother as well?”
“Hell no,” said Scott. “I don’t believe in God, that’s all.”
Sam turned away and lay on the wall, praying for the ground to open up and swallow him.
Reverend Smith smiled, taking Scott’s statement in his stride.
“Look at the day. There’s not a cloud in the sky, the birds are singing and Atom is the most peaceful place on Earth. You think this is random, Scott?” asked the Reverend. “This has to be a grand design.”
“Atom wasn’t that peaceful a year ago. I’ll come to church the day God brings Barbara Young back to Atom. Then I really will believe,” said Scott.
Reverend Smith laughed. He stood up shaking his head.
“If Barbara Young returns to Atom, I suspect that I won’t see you for dust,” said Reverend Smith.
Reverend Smith said nothing else. He walked away from the boys, opened the large oak doors of the church and disappeared inside.
Scott turned to see Sam staring at him.
“What?” asked Scott.
“Do you have to do that? Say stuff, just to wind folks up?” asked Sam. “I have to meet my mother as well. Why didn’t you just say that?”
“I can’t do this with religious shit. Tell Jeff Walker and his girls there’s a God. I’m sure he’d feel the same as I do,” said Scott.
“Talking about cover-ups and conspiracy shit, I can’t believe his name is John Smith. It’s almost as bad as Mrs Pope,” laughed Sam.
“That’s the trouble with this town,” said Scott. “It’s so damn predictable.”
“Except when the bears kick off,” said Sam.
Scott stood up and started to wag a finger at Sam.
“Young Samuel, we will not be discussing bears kicking off in this house, you hear me,” said Scott.
“Yeah, okay dad,” said Sam.
“Now let’s go find my mum,” said Scott.
Sam laughed and the two friends jumped off the wall and walked away from the church.

Brad Newell sat at his desk, reading through the local newspaper of one year ago. Had it really been a year now? It seemed like it was only yesterday. Brad’s mind spun back in time to the events that changed everything for him.
It was midnight and Brad had a call from Jeff Walker’s neighbour, Ron McCabe. McCabe lived a mile away from Walker but he was still his nearest neighbour. McCabe said he could hear screaming and gunshots, and he and his boys were going to make their way over there. Brad told him to stay put. Brad wished with all his heart that he had let McCabe and his boys go to the Walker house but it was too late now. Brad grabbed a couple of deputies and they made their way over to Walker’s house. The house was a large brick and wood constructed dwelling, imposing and isolated. It stood alone on a hill that rose above the woodlands. As Brad and his deputies left their vehicles they noticed that all the lights were off in the property. Brad grabbed a flash light and entered the house; his deputies following close behind. All the men had their revolvers drawn and it did not take Brad long to discover the cause of the commotion at Walker’s house. The flashlight lit the walls of the house up as they made their way towards the living room. Everywhere they looked there was blood on the walls, and the air smelled of urine. Brad gasped as his light fell on the body of Walker’s youngest daughter.
“It’s Sarah,” he called out.
Ted Parker and Pete Coleman moved quickly towards their boss. Brad was crouched over the body of a twenty something woman. Both Ted and Pete gagged when they saw the body. Pete backed away and stumbled over the body of Jessica Walker. Jessica was thirty years old and lived with her father and sister in the house. They had only moved into the property a year ago.
“Brad,” said Pete. “Jessica’s over here.”
Brad was too busy examining the body of Sarah to pay much attention to Pete. Her chest was ripped open, exposing the fractured ribcage beneath the skin. Whatever it was that had done this, it was not human. The chest had been ripped open by what must have been a claw and her flesh had been partially eaten. Brad gagged when he saw that the killer had nibbled on her fingers and toes. Her head was still intact, perfectly unharmed, but her face was frozen in a silent scream. A disturbing thought crossed Brad’s mind. Was Sarah Walker still alive whilst she was being eaten? He moved over to the body of Jessica. Jessica had that same facial expression and she too was partially eaten.
“What the hell?” said Pete. “Brad, something ate them.”
“I can see that,” said Brad.
“Only thing I know that could do this is bears,” said Ted.
“Bears don’t eat people,” said Brad.
Brad stood up and moved the flash light around the room.
“Where the hell is Jeff?” he asked.
The three of them moved out of the living room and into the rear hallway. Brad could see the glass panels of the rear doorway that faced the stairway to the upstairs rooms. He flashed his light along the floor and came upon the body of Jeff Walker. Jeff was lying with his back resting on the door to the cellar. Brad crouched down in front of Jeff and saw that he had suffered the same fate as his daughters. The cellar door was covered in Jeff’s blood. Brad ran his fingers along the wooden door and then called to the others. Ted and Pate came running into the hallway.
“What the hell is that?” asked Brad, pointing at the door.
Carved into the door were a set of strange symbols. The door was covered in them and some of the characters had been inked in.
“Jesus. You think the Walker’s were religious?” asked Ted.
“I don’t think so,” said Brad.
“It’s Russian,” said Pete.
“How the hell do you know that?” asked Brad.
“Remember the Russian student that came here a while ago?” asked Pete.
“Yeah. Anya or something like that,” said Brad.
“She stayed with my folks and when she wrote home. Well, it looked like that,” said Pete.
“I don’t suppose you know what any of this means?” asked Brad.
“Brad, I just saw the letters. I have no idea what that shit says,” said Pete.
Ted knelt by Brad, staring at Jeff Walker.
“He’s different to his girls,” said Ted.
“Different?” asked Brad. “What do you mean?”
“Look at him,” said Ted. “His face. It’s angry. That’s not the face of someone scared to death, that’s the face of a man fighting for his life.”
Brad shone the light over Jeff’s face. It was the face of a man locked in a life or death struggle. Jeff’s face was bruised heavily and had a fractured cheekbone. Brad used one hand to turn Jeff’s face and as he did so, Jeff’s eyes opened and he grabbed Brad by the throat.
“Kill it. In the name of God, kill it,” screamed Jeff.
Brad struggled to free his throat from Jeff’s grip but when he finally succeeded, the shaking Jeff slumped back against the door, lifeless. Brad stared at the dead man for a second or two before turning to Ted and Pete.
“The bear must still be around here,” said Ted.
“Get some fucking lights on and secure this place,” said Brad. “I don’t want to get jumped by the animal that did this.”
“I’m on it,” said Ted, disappearing back into the living room.
“Help me move him, Pete,” said Brad.
Pete knelt to help Brad move the man away from the door but Brad stopped him, holding his finger to his lips.
“Listen,” said Brad. “Do you hear that?”
They both kept perfectly still and listened hard. They could just make out the soft crying of a woman from behind the cellar door.
“Fuck. There’s someone in there,” said Brad.
Brad and Pete moved Jeff to one side and pulled at the door but it would not budge. Brad’s light found a heavy duty padlock securing the door.
“She’s been locked in there. From the outside,” said Brad.
“Jeff must’ve done it to protect her,”” said Pete.
“Stand back,” said Brad.
Brad thought about putting a bullet through the lock before realising the key was still in it. He undid the lock and ripped the door open, shining a light inside. There crouched on the top of the stairs was a young woman, frightened and crying but unharmed.
“Barbara? Barbara Young? What are you doing here?” asked Brad.
He held out his hand and pulled the sobbing girl into his arms.
“What happened here?” asked Brad.
“I don’t know. I came for dinner and the lights went out and all hell broke loose,” said Barbara. “Jeff shoved me in here and locked the door. I couldn’t get out. I heard growling, like bears. I listened to them die.”
Barbara collapsed into Brad’s arms.
“Call it in,” said Brad to Pete. “Let’s get this girl to a hospital and find out what did this.”
Pete left the house to use the patrol car radio, just as Ted walked back into the hallway. Brad shone his light on Ted’s face.
“I thought I told you to get the lights on,” said Brad.
“The wires have been cut,” said Ted.
“Man-eating bears that cut the wires?” said Brad.
“Maybe it was Jeff,” said Ted.
“Why? Why would he cut the power?” asked Brad.
“I don’t know but I’m guessing the bears didn’t do it,” said Ted.

It had been two days since the slaughter of the Walker’s. The locals now called it the house on the hill. If anyone used that term, everyone else knew exactly what they meant. The forensics had examined every detail of the house but came up with nothing. The only blood in the house was the Walker’s blood. There was no fur in the house, not even a single hair and there were no claw prints consistent with a bear attack. Nevertheless, the authorities and the doctors reasoned that it must have been a bear attack. Despite the protests of local and external protection groups, Brad was told to organise a cull and find the killer. Much to Brad’s disgust, he was actively involved in the bear cull. They killed six bears before Brad stopped it. When they came across a couple of motherless bear cubs, some of the men were far too quick to raise their rifles. Brad had seen enough slaughter. The young and the innocent would not fall prey to the mob. The bears that they had killed had no human blood on them and no human remains in their digestive system. So it was that Brad called a meeting at the town hall to tell the civilians that the crime would stay unsolved, for now.
The residents of Atom gathered in the town hall, well before the meeting was due to start. Ron McCabe and his two boys sat at the front of the hall. When Brad finished telling the community about the results of the cull and the closure of the case, Ron stood up and jeered Brad.
“So what you are telling us is that you have no idea who or what did this. You slaughtered a bunch of bears for no good reason and the killer is still out there. Is that right?” asked Ron.
“No. What I’m saying is that at this time we have not found the bear responsible for the deaths,” said Brad. “And we have to scale the investigation down as it’s taking our eye off other offences.”
“What other offences?” asked Ron. “There are less than four thousand people in this town. Someone steal your ice cream, Brad?”
The town hall erupted into laughter, sending Brad’s face a bright red. Brad composed a reply as best he could.
“No, but there’s the matter of illegal poaching,” said Brad, staring at Ron.
Ron walked up the steps of the stage and angrily confronted Brad.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? If you’re accusing me and my boys of poaching, then damn well say so,” said Ron.
Brad said nothing but stared back at Ron. Brad wanted to punch the loud-mouthed hick so hard. Ron strode back down the steps and made his way down the centre of the hall, beckoning his two sons to follow.
As they reached the doorway, Ron turned to shout at Brad again.
“What this town needs is a new Sheriff. One that ain’t scared shitless when it comes to real crime. One that ain’t afraid to say what he thinks,” said Ron.
With that, Ron and his two boys left the hall, slamming the door behind them. Reverend John Smith stood up to address the people in the hall.
“I understand the frustrations that you all feel, but trust me; Sheriff Newell has done everything possible to solve this case. The fact that he has not found the particular animal responsible should not be held as detrimental to his efforts. The local bear population is large and we cannot go on forever killing God’s creatures in the hope of finding the one responsible,” said Reverend Smith.
The townsfolk mumbled a little but it was hard to argue against the Reverend. They seemed to accept the reasoning and left the hall calmly.
Brad suddenly felt alone in the world. He could only watch as the business men and dignitaries of the town gave him disapproving glances. Reverend Smith walked over to Brad and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s not your fault, Brad,” said Reverend Smith. “How are you supposed to find one rogue bear in a state full of them?”
Brad shuffled his feet and looked at the floor before looking back up at Smith.
“What if it wasn’t a bear?” he asked.
“What?” asked Smith.
“What if it wasn’t bear? What if it was a man and he’s still out there?” asked Brad.
“You don’t seriously believe that, Brad?” asked Smith.
“Reverend, I don’t know what to believe,” said Brad.
Brad walked down the steps and made his way outside. Outside, Pete was smoking a cigarette.
“Makes you wonder whether they’re worth protecting,” said Pete.
“What does Smith know that the rest of don’t,” said Brad.
“What do you mean?” asked Pete.
“Every god damn mother fucker in this town has been on my back except for him,” said Brad. “Some people would call that supportive. I call it suspicious.”
“Maybe he just believes in you,” said Pete.
“Yeah, well he’s the only one. Hell, I don’t even believe in myself anymore,” said Brad.
Brad climbed into his car and drove away from the hall. Pete put out his cigarette and beckoned to Ted who was leaning on a tree a few yards away.
“Yep?” asked Ted.
“We got to keep an eye on Brad. He’s a good guy. I’m worried we could lose him,” said Pete.
“Nobody could have solved this case,” said Ted. “It’s impossible.”
“Unfortunately, the rest of the town doesn’t agree. Oh, and Ted. Keep your eye on Smith,” said Pete.
“Reverend Smith? Why?” asked Ted.
“Brad seems to think he knows something,” said Pete.
Ted seemed outraged that Reverend Smith would be involved.
“Smith is a nice guy. Maybe he knows Russian but that would be all. By the way, what did the symbols on the door mean?” asked Ted.
“Most of it made no sense at all, apparently. It was Russian, but I’m told it was a very old dialect. Not only that, but the words were mixed up and jumbled. Most of it made no sense at all,” said Pete.
“Most of it?” asked Ted.
“Just one sentence made any kind of sense. It said, ‘provide no answer’,” said Pete.
Ted looked baffled but Pete said nothing further.
“I’m glad I asked,” said Ted.

Brad closed the newspaper and left his office. He made his way through the police station. He did not attempt to speak to anyone as he walked to the door. Once he was outside, he moved out of sight of the windows and leaned against the wall. He sighed and lit up a cigarette. He smoked too many these days, he knew that, but his nerves were not what they once were. He watched as people walked by and cars drove down the street. He squinted as he looked towards the sun. The heat of the day meant that summer had arrived in Atom. There was a time when this would have made him happy but that was over a year ago now. Summer terrified him. He stubbed the cigarette out with his shoe and prayed.

 This is a work in progress and comments and criticism are welcome. In fact they are actively encouraged. The whole of the novel will be readable on this site, warts and all.

L J Hick

Gods and Monsters Version 2

Gods and Monsters Image

Whilst working on the first three chapters of Gods and Monsters and preparing them for submission to literary agents, I found that there were a few things that I wish I had written differently. I also came across passages in the book that could be linked more precisely to later events. There are also a few typos that caused me rip what is left of my hair out.

As a result, I have decided to rewrite passages of Gods and Monsters and prepare to publish a second version of it. Obviously I feel that by making these changes it will result in a better experience for the reader. I have decided to announce this on here as people who have bought the first version will have the original first edition, which will not be available for much longer. So it is a sort of heads up. I do not have a timescale for this as obviously the promotion and submissions of Gods and Monsters uses much of my time. I am also in the process of writing the third book, The Children of Raphael. I will announce the completion of the second version as soon as I am happy with it. The cover and artwork will remain the same.

As an aside, I am also looking at the possibility of using a crowd-funding site or similar to promote a serialised work called Silhouette. If any one has any recommendations or advice for this, your comments will be most welcome.

Thanks for reading and remember. ‘Humanity is an illusion’.

L J Hick


Listed below are our top ten albums of 2015. Listed in order from number ten to the number one position. They are fairly broad in scope, so there was much head scratching and hard decisions to be made. Comments are welcome, particularly as there may have been albums we have overlooked or just have not heard.



Whilst Pink Floyd released an album that was basically a hats off to Richard Wright and predominantly instrumental, there natural successors released an album that came in below the radar and missed the critical acclaim it should have received. Wanted does not take the band into new areas, although the electronica additions are welcome but it does reaffirm them as wonderful song writers and front-runners in the realm of melodic progressive rock. Definitely for fans of Porcupine Tree, Haken and Pink Floyd.




If Roland Orzabal and Tears for Fears did Technical Death Metal then it would surely sound something like this. Stealing Axion manage to combine Death Metal growls with velvety clean vocals that have a warmth and depth to them that other bands simply cannot emulate. It all adds to the epic, emotional feel of the tracks and provides us with one of the best metal albums of 2014.





There is a general feeling that this album should be a lot higher in the Top Ten list than eighth . Released in early January, this album sits somewhere in the Power Metal and Progressive Metal genre. This is in a similar vein to bands such as Circus Maximus. What it is, is Power / Prog Metal without over the top vocals. Technically excellent and vocally excellent, this is a grower.





What? An indie rock album in the Top Ten? You had better believe it. The Hold Steady roll back the years and bring back memories of a growling Graham Parker. The semi-spoken vocal passages and hard-edged guitars weave tales of desperation that cannot fail to move you. “There was a side of this city I didn’t want you to see, There’s just these guys that I know and we go back pretty deep and I hope this whole thing didn’t frighten you. There were times that it terrified me.” The Hold Steady, we salute you.




Personally, I play this album more than any other when I am in the car. It is full of little subtleties that you miss first time around and remains the album that you cannot resist listening to again and again. I believe this is the sixth album from the band and it is the one where they really come of age. Nothing More really excel of some of the slower tracks that remain haunting, time after time.




Lana Del Rey brought us another slice of dark, cinematic music with this release. Stacked full of harmonies and that rich, deep vocal that she consistently uses to such great effect. This is the album for those quiet, reflective moments sought in peaceful solitude. Hair raising at times and always beautiful and haunting. A deserved top five.




An album of building on a theme if ever there was one. Anathema take the under structure of a song and build on it until it becomes an anthem. It clearly uses repetition as a positive rather than a negative to make a tapestry of winding, evocative music. Their metal days are now firmly planted in the past as they move into a more ethereal mode. Would have made the top three were it not for one band’s brilliant release at the end of last year.




This is the aforementioned album that pushed Anathema out of the top three (and we absolutely love that album). This album positively ‘rocks’. Progressive Metal at its finest. The production is polished and crisp as no instrument overpowers another and the vocals are clear and distinguishable. Why do the vocals remind me of Corey Taylor so much? That is not to say that these guys are like a progressive form of Slipknot or Stone Sour, they are not. However, they can punch out the riffs with the best of them and the vocals are top-notch. This album was released on the 5th December 2014 and just made it into the year’s best releases. Wonderful guitar work and actually, wonderful everything else. Almost our best metal album of the year.




Well this was a tough decision. Should it have been the number one album? In some respects it should have been but the winner edged it, and I mean edged it. The War On Drugs have a style that sits like a psychedelic Dire Straits / Springsteen homage. However,the sound is very much their own. Musical landscapes, broken up by quiet reflective passages before cranking up the tension once more, are huge and atmospheric. If albums were land forms then Lost In The Dream would be a mountain.




A double disc release that gives you a mammoth amount of music for your money. Devin Townsend excels on the first disc. The first disc is not without its flaws. The production can be a little overwhelming at times, with instrumentation masked by the wall of sound. Nevertheless, the varying melodies that turn up in every song, keep every track interesting and have you reaching for the volume button to turn it up. The second disc almost sent it hurtling into second place because of the narrative on it. We have heard that there is a second disc minus the narrative. Would love to hear that. The first disc is colossal however, and is as good a piece of progressive rock as we have heard, period. Melodic, anthemic, metal, rock, slow, male vocals, female vocals, soaring harmonies, it is all here. Grab it and love it. The number one album of 2014.


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