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First pages

Letter I

Dear Mary,

How I wish you were here. This country grows more beautiful by the day and I know your pen could paint a fairer picture of it than my own might ever do. We have travelled through some of the most glorious locations known to man, the Balrush Falls two nights ago away to our left glittering in the darkness like so many fireflies tumbling down to earth, Warton Country Park a quite breathtaking mass of trees and wildlife left untouched by the greed of man’s concrete expansion, Jah Por that towering edifice we in the western world have only seen in textbooks at school, and my personal favourite the Wall that stretches right along the tracks we travel on accompanying us like some upbeat traveller, keeping step, telling a story at every turn and holding our spirits high with its indefatigable zest for life.

I say ‘we’ though in truth I am now alone. My companion Frederic left the trail last night. His dreams lie in another direction to mine over the mountains in the East and further on towards the horizon - he is desperate to catch sail with his fellow countrymen and so complete the last leg of this marathon journey we embarked upon almost a year ago. As for myself I yearn to visit Utopia, the fabled island that everyone seems to be talking about both on and off the train. I have tried not to listen to the rumour that something disastrous has happened there preferring instead to see and judge for myself when the time comes to travel to those climes, but it is hard not to speculate when all one can hear are hurried whispers and low-pitched murmurs talking of haunting, infidelity and murder.

Oh if only Frederic was still here! At least then I could drown out these irritating rumblings by speaking of loftier matters or at the very worst accept the rumours and consider them with him. But no, I am stuck on my own with just a handful of books for company and the spirit-crushing thought that there are still three days of travel to endure until I can leave the train and take passage to this extraordinary isle. Even as I write I hear voices behind me talking about it not with any degree of excitement but with great sadness as though a terrible tragedy has occurred there and they are personally involved in it.

I think this stems from the fact that the founder is a well-known figure in these parts, a man who is respected and admired for the society he has created, and it seems as though the demise of the island is concurrent with his own. He must certainly be a most interesting fellow and I hope to meet him well but until then I must sit through the ramblings of this Fame machine as it spreads its wings and flies up and down the train increasing with each flight the magnitude of false speak until the whole vehicle believes the entire island has sunk beneath the sea without trace, a veritable second Atlantis.

So for now I shall leave you and try to get on with some reading. If I can just lose myself in another world I might be able to escape the infernal mutterings that so beset me at every turn though rumour being the thing it is I don’t hold my hopes very high. It is only a matter of time before someone engages me in conversation yet I shall endeavour to shun all hearsay and form my own judgement on the situation when I reach the island itself.

I hope you are well Mary and that married life is treating you with the joy you so deserve. I will write again soon.

Your brother Andrew

 

Letter II

Dear Mary,

I cannot wait for this journey to end! Since I wrote to you on Wednesday I have barely slept, a recurrent nightmare assailing my mind whenever I close my mind and drift into dream-state - I lie in agony on the ground, an evil-looking man whipping me with bamboo cane laughing as the blood pours and bruises rise on my skin. In his free hand he holds a portable television set raising it high above him and in seconds the clearing is filled with people kneeling down to pay homage. The man stops, bids me be up standing then sets his followers on me. I run through the forest as fast as I can but soon I am caught, kicked and beaten, my last view their grinning leader bending down to deal the death blow.

I wake up sweating. What a strange dream, the like of which I have never suffered before. By yesterday morning I was so disturbed I simply had to seek company. I wandered through the train carriages looking for a suitable companion and finally found a lady on her own gazing from the window. You know my frailties better than I Mary, particularly that I never can resist striking conversation with a lone woman. Some call it caddish but I hold it to be gentlemanly especially if attempted as I always do with honourable intentions.

‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘is this seat taken?’

She seemed to be in another world for it took her a second to turn and take me in. ‘I’m sorry?’ she whispered.

‘This seat,’ I pressed, ‘is it taken?’

‘Oh, no.’ She turned her attention once more to the window. I sat down opposite her and gazed from the train myself. Rolling fields and hills stretched away into the distance, the Wall ever running beside us as we jogged through the brilliant countryside and for a moment I forgot all the talk of Utopia and that dreadful dream content to let the panoramic views sweep on before us. Then I noticed my companion yawn and couldn’t help glancing at her. ‘Excuse me,’ she said trying to stifle it, ‘I’m very tired.’

I smiled. ‘Not at all,’ I said, ‘I feel the same myself.’

Suddenly she was all ears. ‘You do?’

‘Yes, I’ve barely slept since Wednesday.’

So innocent a remark, so unexpected the reaction. She looked over her shoulder at the carriage behind us then past me down to the front before leaning in close to the table and beckoning me forward. I acquiesced and was soon lost in the beauty of her features. Her eyes were that sparkling blue which holds one enraptured for minutes at a time glowing with an intensity under which I found it hard not to shrink so completely did they light up the dark recesses of my soul. Her nose so beautifully formed gracing the face on which it took centre stage seemed to bow and take plaudits whilst her high cheekbones like drawn curtains threatened to come together at any moment and hide her whole face from sight. But her mouth, its saviour, curled at the edges into a philanthropic smile drawing those cheekbones back out applauding the feature above it as an audience would a player whilst her forehead young and as yet unfurrowed by the hands of time stood over all, the roof, the ceiling watching the performance below it with disinterested grandeur and ceremony. She spoke to me in a hushed whisper, her voice as sweet as any I had ever heard, her long flowing hair hiding her face from all but my own. I felt privileged. ‘Have you had them?’ she asked, the concern audible even in her whisper, ‘the dreams, the nightmares.’ I nodded dumbly. ‘Then we must stay together.’ She looked furtively up and down the carriage. ‘He is near.’

‘Who?’ I asked still lost in her beauty.

‘The Usurper,’ she growled immediately bringing me back to myself, ‘though he is dead, he lives on. Utopia has failed my friend and they say the dreamers are bound up in the tragedy. We must go to the island to see for ourselves. I fear something terrible has befallen them.’ I told her what I had dreamt and her eyes widened with interest. ‘That is what happens,’ she said eagerly, ‘the sufferers send nightmares to the world. It is their cry for help. We must go there.’

‘I was heading that way already,’ I smiled, ‘I could do with some company.’

Her face fell. ‘It will be dangerous.’

‘I know, I know, I just meant…’

‘No matter. Come, we must see if there are others.’ With that she rose from the table and led me to the front of the train busily looking from one face to the next as we made our way back to the rear. She settled on no one else though and it was with some relief that I headed back to the table with her for the last half-hour leg of the journey. Claire, for that I discovered is her name, busied herself reading a book whilst I tried to nap although constantly roused by the passing of passengers or the terrifying visage of the Usurper, as I guessed it was now, in my half-waking reverie.

And so here we are just off the train waiting for a bus to take us to Ogilvy Port some two hours to the east. I have penned this letter whilst Claire has been gone, on what errand I know not, but I am sure she will return soon and then we will be on our way. For my part I have fallen asleep twice in the interim and the sight of that fiendlike face is now a common place though by no means less frightening for being so. I hope we can reach Utopia in the next few days and find out the truth about what has occurred there. It will be a pleasure to sleep soundly again once I have fulfilled my part in whatever adventure is being played out here. Now I have a lady to take care of as well as myself and the added complexity of trying to understand why the sufferers of that isle have chosen us for reception of their dreams and indeed how they have managed to penetrate both our subconscious minds.

I hope all will be revealed soon Mary and I send you and John all my love and best wishes.

Your brother Andrew

 

Letter III

Dear Mary,

What a splendid location! The sea stretches before us like an azure carpet unruffled by the pitch and swell of incoming waves or indeed by the incessant passing of motor boats, yachts and tankers as is our wont back in England, and one can only follow in awe the shaded blue sky stretching up and over us then bending back down to sea level where a veritable mass of islands stud the surface right out to the horizon, forming an archipelago that is at once breathtaking and daunting. How will we find Utopia in amongst this multitude? Claire thinks it will be easy, we must just concentrate on our dreams and they will show us the way but I am sceptical and my doubt remains whilst I continue to scan the chain of seemingly identical islands out at sea.

Once again my companion is off hunting for something or other. She is a strange woman, beautiful in the extreme but with a temper that would frighten most men with its intensity. Indeed, last night we were making our way down to the sea when a group of local vagabonds accosted us. As you know I am not the greatest fighter but just as I began to appeal to their reason Claire physically attacked the nearest of their number. The others took one look at the ferocity with which she was beating their companion and called a stop to their intimidation immediately muttering their apologies and heading off I suppose for easier pickings. It took me some time to process what I had witnessed and I have to admit I was bowled over by the experience, particularly as to its further revelation of the nature of Claire’s character. I still feel great sadness over Ann’s passing, so lovely a woman, so calm and placid and she has been forever in my thoughts since I left England, but travelling the globe I have learnt to transfer the love I hold for her to that I now carry for all people. I have met countless characters whose faces, idiosyncrasies and benevolences have left a lasting impression on my mind and I have grown to understand and apply the examples set by those who have taught me lessons about life I would never have acquired had I stayed in England with the family, the most important of which seems to be let life take you where it will. Can this really be so? Has my visit to Utopia been fated all along?

Fate, the most complicated concept with which I have ever wrestled. In England I was its master, always the dictator of my own destiny. I wanted to be a lawyer, I wanted to marry Ann, I wanted, I wanted and I always got. Now through a succession of mayhaps and mischances I am far more Fate’s thrall than its lord. I have wandered onto a train bound for the East hearing of Utopia from a fellow with whom I happened to be playing chess and now I have bumped into a woman who is going to take me there whether I like it or not. Is it chance that we and no others on the train have had these dreams? And how did Claire know of this fellow the Usurper? I can only presume she conversed with some locals before we met and discovered what she knows from them. For my part I still know so little about her - she has lived in France for many years I am sure but how she came to be on a train bound for the East I have still to uncover. I will make it my business to find out more about her once we board ship and are heading for Utopia. Until then I will leave you Mary and hope that your own destiny is smiling upon you at this time. I will write soon.

Your brother Andrew

 

Letter IV

Dear Mary,

We have been at sea for three days now moving from one island to the next, dropping people off and then jumping on like some giant grasshopper bounding across the ocean. For the first two nights Claire and I were forced to share a cabin. I made it my duty that first evening to offer the room to her alone but she told me not to be so silly and settled down on her bed to sleep. It was past midnight but I wasn’t at all tired so I went up on deck, struck up conversation with one of the ship hands and enjoyed a cigarette with him. We talked about England and the English then his own land Peru and I thought we were getting on rather well when suddenly after my mention of heading to Utopia he climbed down from where he was sitting, made his excuses and tended to some rigging at the bow of the boat. I was suspicious to say the least and decided to ask him the reason for his reticence but just then there was a terrifying scream from below decks and I knew instantly that it was Claire who had so shrieked.

I raced down to find her writhing around on her bed fighting the air above her with as much venom as she had attacked the men in the streets a few nights ago. I rushed over, the room behind me filling with people, and held her hands down in front of her bidding her wake up as forcefully as I could. Her eyes shot open and the terror therein was awful. ‘He is coming,’ she shouted shivering with fear, ‘his spirit is here.’

The fellows behind me all started to cross themselves and angered by their superstition I yelled at them to leave the room. Most complied but the captain of the vessel stood still in the doorway then told me that he would be taking his ship nowhere near the island. He ran from the room and left me cradling Claire’s head in my hands. ‘Was it him?’ I asked quietly?’ She nodded. ‘We have to reach this place Claire, we have to stop this.’

‘We can’t,’ she said weakly, ‘not until we meet the sufferers.’ Her face was wild with fear and she shook in my arms.

I called for someone, anyone to tell us how far it was to Utopia but my shouts went unanswered so I stayed by my companion’s side and looked down at her tenderly. ‘Talk to me,’ I said gently, ‘tell me about yourself.’

For a moment she resisted then I think she understood that it might relax her. She was guarded though all the same. ‘I am from England,’ she said hesitantly, ‘but I have no ties there. No parents, no family, no lover nor husband, I am just Claire, on her own.’ She smiled. ‘That is all, Andrew, there is no more to tell.’

‘What brought you to the train?’ I pressed, ‘how do you come to be here?’

‘Chance,’ she said, ‘I have wandered the world, I heard of Utopia, I wanted to see it for myself.’

So there it was again - Chance, Fate, Destiny, had we made our way into each other’s lives by accident or was it part of the huge pattern of predestination that webs its way invisibly round the world? ‘Why did I bump into you?’ I hadn’t meant to speak my thoughts aloud but there it was and Claire took my hand in hers. I must admit Mary a thrill ran through me as we touched. I had not been this close to a woman since Ann and I felt like a young man again, giddy with desire, my heart telling me to act honourably, my mind advising otherwise. The latter won the argument and I leant down to kiss her on the forehead but just as I did she lifted her head and met my lips with hers. It was a brief kiss, a tender exploratory show of affection and when we parted I could see she was glowing with as much anticipation as I was myself. She beckoned me to lie down beside her and as I did she rested her head on my chest. I closed my eyes with contentment.

Too late the realisation that I had fallen asleep. There he was again, a man the like of which I have never seen before. His eyes cold, hard and pitiless, coal black with hatred, envy or some equally destructive emotion, his smile as he whips me with the cane revealing a set of crooked, dirty yellow teeth above an unshaven chin. His nose a great broad protuberance mirroring his bulk and his long straggly hair tumbling down the back of his head unwashed, unkempt, unbrushed forever it seems. And the scar running from just beneath his right eye the length of his face hardens an already cruel visage to new depths. He is the most malevolent looking fellow I have ever seen and as he holds up the television set and his followers fall to their knees he becomes almost fiendlike, uttering words I do not understand then setting his people on me like hounds upon a fox. It is a chase I can hardly win being so outnumbered and when I am caught, beaten and stare up into his face it is as though I was actually there. So vivid a dream I have never had before, so total the terror I feel when I sit bolt upright in bed.

‘Andrew,’ I hear a voice beside me say, ‘Andrew, it is alright.’

I lean down and hug her then we kiss again and this time go further. I don’t know whether it is the dreams that have brought us so close together so quickly or some kind of attraction that one is used only in films to see developing so fast but as we enjoy the act of love it is as though this was always meant to be, that I was bound to meet Claire on the train, that we were bound to have these dreams together and that we were bound for Utopia right from the start. The consummation of that tie is therefore inevitable and the most intense experience of my life.

Mary, I know I should not be going into detail with you over this but it has made me so happy. It is as though grieving the loss of Ann is at an end and I can now move on with my life. Claire and I have not been apart since that first night now and as we approach the end of the third day I know that the love that has sprung between us will continue to grow as long as we water it with care. She is here at this moment in the cabin reading a book whilst I write this letter to you. We are now the last passengers on board the vessel and fast heading for Utopia. I managed to talk the captain of the boat round yesterday morning telling him that I would expect him only to drop us off and pick us up a week later and with the help of a small bribe he agreed to accede to my wishes. So my next correspondence to you will be from the isle itself. I must say my nerves are tingling with anticipation and I yearn to reach the place with great longing. Claire is sure that once we meet the sufferers all will be well but I would still like to know how they have contacted us and will be questioning them on the subject when indeed we meet. I suppose time and patience should be my watchwords though you know curiosity and restlessness have ever been partners to my soul.

Still, the hours do march on inexorably and by tomorrow we shall at last set foot on dry land. It is a prospect I am looking forward to more than you can imagine. My love to you and John,

Your brother Andrew

 

Letter V

Dear Mary,

For the life of me I don’t know where to begin. So strange have been the last twenty four hours that I feel I could not do them justice if I had twenty four days to recount what has happened rather than the single one afforded me now. Shifting emotions each stronger than the next have played havoc with me, fear, dread, excitement, sympathy, wonderment interchanging all at the same time so that my senses are now truly muddled and fatigue assails my mind like an army of soldiers battering some castle’s walls, climbing up ladders to the battlements and pouring down to the keep within.

Last night we passed Utopia’s neighbouring island and this morning we found ourselves in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. The isle is a way off from any other, a good half day’s sail, so you can imagine my surprise when walking on deck I suddenly saw a man swimming away from me on the port side. I stared at first then mouthed ‘Man overboard’ but I knew Claire and I were the only passengers on board and that the crew would know themselves if one of their number had toppled over the side it being a small vessel with everybody’s whereabouts easily noted. What is more, the man appeared to be in no trouble at all drifting away with a lazy stroke and by the time I fetched Claire to look for herself he was but a small dot in the distance.

We rushed to the captain who raised his telescope and muttered with an oath that it was indeed a gentleman swimming away to the North. He took the piece down and in between words with his First Mate I heard him talk in worried tones about sharks. He at once gave orders to change course so that we could intercept and pick the fellow up from danger. The wheel had just been spun to the left however when a shout came from the bow of the vessel that something had been spotted moving to the fore of us. Claire and I immediately ran in that direction expecting to see a great fin arcing through the water but instead we watched in amazement as two of the crewmen hauled a body up and over the side of the boat. It seemed it was a second man though this fellow had had poorer luck than the first. A bite the size of a dinner plate had been taken from his stomach and as he was rushed away for medical attention I was unable to tell whether or not he was still alive.

Mary, you can imagine the consternation that came over us all after this episode. It was early morning, a time when calm not the storm of shock is the order of the day. Of course Ann passed in the early hours but hers was a quiet serene departure, this man’s screams as the crewmen tended him could have been heard above the noise of the Falls we passed two weeks ago. Well, a fortnight passed since Frederic left me alone. It seems as though his departure has heralded a period of unutterable disquiet and solicitude in my life. First the rumour machine, then the dreams and my encounter with Claire and now this - a man swimming miles out to sea with another seemingly chasing him for that is what we have gathered from his delirious ramblings as he writhes in bed below decks. Claire and I crept down to see him a couple of hours after he had fallen quiet and we sat by his side as he slept. The bedclothes had been propped up on his wound’s side so that they wouldn’t irritate it and although we were tempted to pull them back to look at the injury we decided against it in case it might disturb him. Instead we satisfied ourselves with looking at his face and perhaps employing physiognomy to determine his nature.

But I soon realised the futility of that. This man has been starved, his cheeks are sunk deep into his face and their bones protrude from under his eyes swollen as though someone has punched him in exactly the same place on both sides of his nose. That itself is long and thin, its end hooked low over both nostrils dividing a fine wispy moustache that grows at each end into an equally frail beard. His lips are thin and wiry, his hair bushy and unkempt and his forehead pitted by a multitude of lines weaving their way from one temple to the other. Such a gaunt and bedraggled man must surely have suffered great hardship and when he suddenly opened his eyes as I was studying him I almost fell of the side of the bed. A piercing blue, just like Claire’s they bored straight into my soul and gripping me with a bony hand he managed a weak smile. ‘Thank you,’ he said his voice low and broken, ‘thank you for coming.’

I wasn’t sure what to say but Claire moved towards him and laid her hand on his forehead. ‘You are a sufferer,’ she said more statement than question. He nodded. ‘And the other, where is he?’

‘On the island still. You must save her.’

‘Who was the other man,’ I asked, ‘swimming out to sea?’

A low moan escaped his lips and he started to shake his head.

‘Who was he?’ Claire pressed.

‘You must reach the island,’ the man said instead, ‘you must save her.’

‘Who is she?’

He was silent for a second then he looked at each of us in turn. ‘My wife.’

Suddenly the captain came into the cabin and fairly picked us up off our feet herding us outside like cattle and pushing us up above board. Such was the unexpectedness of the assault that for a few seconds I allowed myself to be shepherded in this way then I came to and rounded on the fellow demanding to know why he was treating us in such an unacceptable manner. He said nothing but led us to the bow of the vessel whereupon he pointed straight ahead and said just one word, ‘Utopia.’

So there it was, the isle fairly small though still a long way off. For the next hour or so we watched as it came closer and in that time I tried to get back down to see our sufferer but on each occasion a member of the crew blocked my path as I was heading below. Claire tried too but met with the same obstacle so we were forced to remain on deck waiting for the island to draw near enough for us to make out the blue and white breaking waves, the glittering golden beaches and the canopy of fresh green leaves covering the tops of the trees that ran round the back edge of the sand as far as the eye could see.

We weighed anchor some hundred metres out and got into a small rowing boat. The captain told us we would have one hour to search round. If we wanted to come back on board after that then that would be fine but if we left it longer the rowing boat and vessel would be gone and he would be back to pick us up in a week. When I asked him how we would fend for ourselves he said that there was a plentiful supply of fruit on the trees and several fresh water outlets dotted around the isle. Claire seemed confident that the islanders would look after us anyway so it was with great excitement and a little trepidation that I climbed into the boat with her and the single crewman who was to be our rower. On the short trip however I started to think about the man we had picked up this morning wishing we had had longer to speak to him and as we approached Utopia and the vessel we had come from shrank into the distance I began to experience a sensation that raised the hackles on my neck. Anticipation maybe now that we were on our own, fear even or dread, whatever it was as I looked out over the beach I felt something inside me urging me to be careful. It is only now as I write this letter that I know it was our friend the sufferer sending us a warning but I must record everything in its place if you are to gain the best impression of matters.

We reached the island safely and helped the crewman pull the boat up onto the beach. He said he would wait by it until we either returned or didn’t and lit himself a cigarette turning away to look back at his captain’s ship. Claire and I took that as an invitation to leave and so made our way away from the boat up the beach and into the first break in the trees where a rough track led away through the forest. That was the first sign of civilisation and it seemed to calm me a little. Claire, walking behind me said she was feeling things she couldn’t explain, uncomfortable disturbing sensations and presentiments. She warned me to tread carefully and so I did looking around me sure now that the forest had eyes. But it was a homely place, no chimps or other animals making ghastly cries just the sound of birds singing in the trees whilst the sun’s rays slanted gracefully down to the ground around us. Before long we came to a clearing and I noticed a small object lying half-hidden in the grass away to my right. I made my way over and started to unearth it wondering what on earth it was as I dug my hands under its back to try to dislodge it. It was heavy and in the end it took both Claire and I to free it completely from the ground.

Immediately I turned it over and saw a familiar sight, a screen with buttons from one to eight running along the side. It was an old television. Claire seemed fascinated by it but I at once thought of that terrible nightmare I had been having for days now. It was the same object, I was sure of that, though as you know one does look much like the other. I half-expected the wild man to jump out from the trees with his followers behind him but the forest remained quiet and when Claire bade me be up standing to look at a set of footprints leading off to the west I forgot all about my concern in my eagerness to follow the tracks.

The footprints led away for a good half mile through other clearings, past rushing streams, over rises and dips in the forest floor, along the sides of what looked like well kept orchards, and before long it seemed as though we were approaching some centre of human habitation. The forest was more ordered somehow, the trees not so close together, the lie of the land more flat and when we finally broke into the biggest clearing of all I barely noticed the forms lying prostrate on the floor so impressed was I by the sight of the huts and houses and so amazed by the wealth of television screens littered about the place. But there was one bigger than all the rest in the far corner and about a hundred people were kneeling before it gently moaning and swaying, some raising their hands in an occasional sign of worship. I thought at first they were automatons so robotic were their movements but when one of them suddenly turned round and stared me straight in the face I saw fierce and very human zealotry in his eyes. He was impassioned with hatred and I for some reason seemed to be the cause of it. ‘The blasphemers!’ he shrieked in high-pitched madness, ‘the blasphemers are come.’

With that the entire clearing irrupted into life, all those lying down and kneeling rising to their feet each with the same demoniacal look of frenzy distorting their features, all turning to Claire and I with implacable enmity and hostility twisting their countenances. We at once ran and they pursued back along the path we had come past the orchards, the streams, the rises and dips until we hit the first clearing and I took a sharp turn back towards the beach. It was a long run and Claire struggled to keep up but somehow we managed to stay ahead and when I burst out onto the beach and saw our crewman just starting to row away I shouted at him to stop. Taken aback he lifted his oars but the moment the forest behind us exploded with people he rowed even quicker from us.

‘Damn you!’ I yelled charging into the water, ‘wait!’

Claire followed me and we managed to catch up with him hauling ourselves in and looking worriedly back to shore. I grabbed the oars from the man and rowed as though I was leading on the Thames with three lengths to go. The fanatics poured into the sea and started to swim after us but I continued to row as fast as I could towards the safety of our larger vessel. The captain whose shrewdness continues to impress me the more I see him in action had been watching through his telescope and the ship was ready to sail the moment we got on board. Within minutes the swimmers gave up the chase and headed back to Utopia whilst we sailed away from the island and made our way out to sea. Then as if we didn’t have enough to contend with already a scream from below decks brought us all to our friend who was writhing around on his bed.

‘No!’ he yelled, ‘you can’t leave her. They’ll tear her apart. They’ll kill her.’

‘Perhaps she is dead already,’ said the captain without emotion, my appreciation for him now plummeting like a stone.

‘Of course she isn’t,’ he screamed the veins in his forehead bulging, ‘or she would not have the dreams.’ He pointed at Claire and demanded from her if indeed she was still experiencing the nightmares.

Claire swallowed. ‘Until last night.’

He looked madly at me. ‘And you?’ My heart sank. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I’d not suffered the dream last night so relieved was I to be shot of it. I admitted as such to the fellow. ‘Then she is gone,’ he groaned, ‘my angel. They have murdered her!’ He said the words with such venom I thought he was going to jump up and dive straight overboard to avenge himself but instead he lay back and closed his eyes.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I read English at Bristol university and took an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, both degrees really helping me with my novel writing, stage plays and poetry; creativity is like a tap for me, it builds up until it bursts out from pen to page. I’m 41, I live with my lovely wife, our baby boy and our cute cat and I support pupils at a local school. I’m also a keen track and field athlete, and I still love mixing electronic music together as a superstar DJ…in my dreams!!

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
The proliferation of the screen from humble beginnings as the box in the corner of our living rooms to pretty much any device we now depend upon holds increasing interest for me - I love television but I also love old-fashioned storytelling, and I'm concerned we may be losing touch with the latter.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
Typing it up from my original handwritten manuscript! Although I loved reliving the tale, it was tough starting from scratch and going through the emotions evoked for me in the story again. Also, battling against encroaching realism when I'm an idealistic dreamer myself, I felt sad for William.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
I was on a career path which was mostly practical and occasionally creative, but not in a gushing flow of unconstrained freedom, it was custodial, a sort of imprisoning creativity. I felt stifled and hemmed, so I chose to fling it all away and become a writer - I hope I've made the right choice!

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