The following is a preview from the upcoming novel “Nae’body’s Hero”. Copyright Mark Wilson 2012:
Rob Hamilton hails from Lanarkshire and from a messed up family. As a result, he has an unshakable sense of right and wrong and is low on self esteem. Rob also has some very special gifts. If he can stop hiding from them and get his life together he may just be the greatest hero the world will never know.
Arif Ali is a British medical student. Disillusioned with life in Britain he is now living and studying in Faisalabad, Pakistan. He and Rob will form an unlikely friendship that will change the course of history.
Annie is an American agent with an undisclosed agency. She could be the worst enemy the friends have or their greatest ally.
The first time it happened I was seven years old. Obviously I knew it had to have been a dream but it really didn’t seem that way at the time. I’d woken in the middle of the night face pressed to a hard, cold surface instead of comfortably against my pillow. At first I assumed that I had fallen out of bed again and landed on my bedroom floor but the contact on my cheek was hard; too hard to be the blue carpet which covered my bedroom floor in those days.
As I slowly came to it dawned on me that the surface was pointed too. There were loads of wee dry, plaster-like prickles pressing into my face, into my whole body actually. It was artex, which made no sense at all. Only the ceiling was artexed. I opened my eyes to see white artex as the realisation hit me that I was pressed to the ceiling.
Realising where I was seemed to break the magic and I clattered heavily onto the blue of my bedroom carpet, grateful for its thickness.
“Robert. You’ve fallen out of bed again. Get back to sleep.” Dad roared from the next room.
I did so and quickly. I didn’t want to anger dad again. I’d been in enough trouble this week. I wasn’t really sure what we’d done but mum and dad had been really annoyed with my twin sister Claire and I repeatedly this last week or two and both seemed tense over something. It was very unlike either of them to be so easily annoyed and tetchy with us.
“Right Robert. Shush. Sleep.”
Dad was the only one who ever called me Robert and he had many different ways of saying, shouting, laughing or barking my name depending upon how much trouble I was in. When I was a wee boy my dad taught me a rhyme about my name that I’ve never forgot, mostly because it reminds me of him and makes me smile. He’d told me that it was about a boy called William but he thought that it fitted my name better. I could recite it back to him by the age of three, the two of us laughing together as I did so.
Father calls me Robert
Sister calls me Rob
Mother calls me Robbie
and the fellas call me Bob.
Dad has always called me Robert and I love that mum actually does call me Robbie (she pronounces it Rabbie) but nobody has ever called me Bob. Everyone else, including Claire, calls me Rob (or Rab).
Finally I did sleep once more, drifting off to the thought that it would’ve been really cool if that dream had been real and I really could fly up to the ceiling. That’d be crazy though. No-one can fly.
Waking from a long deep sleep, with all the usual dreams sleep brought with it, Rob sat up in bed. Leaning back against the old headboard he rubbed his eyes and took in the room. Something seemed……off. Dressed in matching Y-fronts and vest (Spiderman) Rob stepped out of bed and pulled on some jogging bottoms. He took in his rooms’ contents, mentally noting various objects’ positions. Everything seemed fine, nothing out of place. Claire hadn’t been in overnight to cuddle up with him (a twins’ habit they had yet to break which had increased in regularity recently), all his things seemed to be where they belonged, but something just wasn’t how it should be. The house was just too quiet.
Checking his bedside clock Rob noted that it was eight am. Friday morning, mum and dad are normally getting ready for work and pulling us out of bed by now. Surely they haven’t slept in?
The previous night Rob’s parents had both seemed in good spirits. The whole family had watched a film together, chatting their way through most of it with nobody really all that interested in what was happening on the screen. Both mum and dad had tucked them into bed with lots of kisses, cuddles and “I love you-s” exchanged. It’d been great having them back to their old selves after so long of being so tense at home. I’d better go see where they are.
Rob creaked out onto the landing, walking slowly and deliberately just in case he’d been daft and gotten mixed up; maybe it was Saturday. There wasn’t a sound coming from anywhere in the little semi-detached family home. Continuing across the landing he slowly cracked open Claire’s bedroom door. Seeing his sister still asleep he resisted the urge to go wake her up by jumping on her just in case her screams woke their parents and quietly closed her door over. Rob made his way downstairs to the kitchen with some quiet time in mind before the usual burst of activity started.
On autopilot Rob loaded eight slices of bread into the massive family toaster, prepared four cups for hot drinks for everyone. Coffee with milk and two for both mum and dad, tea with one and milk for Claire and black coffee for himself. Wandering through to the downstairs hall, Rob picked up the Daily record which had been lying on the mat. Confirming from the front of the paper that it was indeed Friday and from his wee calculator- watch that it was now 8:15 he decided that he’d better rouse everyone before they lay in so long that they’d be late for work and school. The only sounds in the house were of his own footsteps bending the old stairs as he ascended causing them to creak and groan.
“Mum. Dad. It’s time to get up.” Tom knocked softly on his parents’ bedroom door. He waited a beat and knocked a bit harder.
“Time to get up”, he sing-songed cheerily.
Again nothing came back in reply. He pushed the door open to his parents’ room and to what would be a new beginning. They were both gone.
Rob Hamilton was just like any ten year old boy in Bellshill in the 80s. Football, Kim Wylde and Star Wars occupied his mind. A relentless ball of energy was how most of his friends would describe him. Playing football, rugby, hockey and attending scouts took up most of his time. That and hanging around down Strathclyde park with his friends. On the surface he seemed a happy and contented kid with not a care in the world, in many ways he was, but Rob Hamilton rarely felt that he fit in with the company he kept. Not with his friends (not since Tom left the town) and not in his own home.
He’d lived in the small town most of his life but was slowly becoming a more detached soul. Rob rarely felt part of what was happening around him and struggled to understand the people in his life. He just felt so different to them. He went through the motions. Joining teams, socialising, school and seemed to be thriving but in truth the only people he’d felt that he really had a place with, who he felt accepted and understood him were his best friend Tom and his sister Claire.
Tom Kinsella had been Rob’s best friend since they attended nursery together. The boys had been as close as brothers, at times even closer than Rob had been to his own twin. Spending long hours days and weeks roaming woodland, building dens and fires, and playing football had developed their friendship. All these things had brought them so close and of course the talking. They were always talking.
They spoke of their families, of where Tom’s dad would be taking him on some adventure always asking Rob along. Rob could confide in Tom, telling of his own parents’ increasingly detached behaviour these past few years. They told each other about their dreams for the future, about how Tom would be a musician, or a writer, or a fireman; maybe all three. Rob just wanted to see the world he didn’t care what job he did to pay for it. A part of Rob just wanted to find somewhere where he felt at home and Tom was the only person who not only understood his desire to roam, but seemed to share it. Both agreed that they would leave their hometown as soon as they were able and made a pact to do so together; to always be best friends. When Tom Kinsella’s father Bobby died and his best friend moved away, Rob was completely lost without him and turned to his sister more often.
Despite being his twin Claire was quite different to Rob. More outgoing, less introspective and much less inclined to be quite as moody as Rob had found himself becoming in the last two years. Claire was one of those people for whom life’s surprises were just another chance to try something new. Claire never flapped, stressed or worried she just went with life, happily taking what came her way and making new friends easily. She and Tom were very alike. The three of them were close and had always been.
They spent most of their time as a threesome chatting, swimming at Bellshill baths, walking down and around Strathclyde Park, sometimes going on the fairground rides or climbing the trees in the woods, but mostly they just talked and laughed. They had a secret place that they’d visit daily either alone or together. They did most of their talking there in a den made of old tree branches they’d made months before and filled with three old tyres for seating. It was in a small bit of woodland behind the butcher’s shop and they’d named it “BHQ” (B for butcher).
Tom, Rob and Claire had found the location for BHQ after following a horrific smell around the back of the shop and discovering a sheep’s head. The two boys had poked at it with sticks for a few minutes examining its face, lolling tongue, milky eyes and rancid, maggot-filled mouth. The thing had started to become putrid. Smelling strangely sweet it had attracted the boys in their morbid curiosity. Claire kept her distance, hugging herself in revulsion, but giving Rob and Tom time to satisfy their interest.
“Let’s go you two, that things’ boggin’.” The boys laughed but quickly moved to join her and walk home together. The next time they visited the sheep was gone but they discovered the location for BHQ and began its construction.
These days, with Tom gone, Claire never came near it she was too busy with her friends, only Rob sought a little solace in their den. The days the three of them spent wasting hours happily together felt like years ago to Rob now and as though they’d happened to another Rob Hamilton.
Rob was happy his sister was so engaged with the world and full of life. He assumed that this meant that she had escaped what he knew he’d inherited from his grandfather and he could feel becoming worse each night, with every surreal dream of events and incidents that couldn’t have happened but his apparently damaged wee brain was trying to convince him had.
The vast reserves of energy he possessed were a result of his not wanting to waste a minute of the time he had in life. He wanted to see as many places, meet as many people and engage in as broad a range of activities as he could before his mental capacity degraded as quickly and completely as he’d been told that his Granda’s had. As these episodes had started to happen in the daytime as well now, when he was wide awake, he knew that his mental health had taken a turn for the worse.
By the time Rob knew his granda the old man was in a residential hospital having long since lost all capacity for reason. As a younger man he’d apparently been huge “built like a brick shit house” his own dad had told Rob. Working as a steelworker, like so many local men, his Granda, at six foot nine inches, not an ounce of fat on him and a tea-total-ler, stuck out like a sore thumb in Lanarkshire the land of the ubiquitous five foot five male. Rob, even at only ten, had taken a stretch in height this past year and was already towering over most of his year group in school. He’d have been happy to have inherited only his build from the old man.
Granda Hamilton had suffered a series of mental breakdowns from his fifties onwards, hallucinating and fantasising events that Rob’s father had told him couldn’t possibly have occurred. Granda had deteriorated to the point where he couldn’t tell what was real from what wasn’t in five short years and been confined to a hospital for his own safety by Rob’s dad. The phrase bi-polar had been used in Rob’s house when discussing his granda.
With his granda always in his mind Rob had vowed to ignore the growing detachment he was feeling and follow his best friends and sisters’ example, throwing himself into as many friendships and experiences as he could regardless of how out of place he may feel.
After finding his parents’ room empty Rob searched the house. He searched every room, every cupboard, drawer, pantry, bathroom and the garden and its shed outside. Rob even clambered up into the small attic. Initially he was looking for his parents but when he decided that they weren’t there to be found he began looking for a note. He didn’t find his parents or a note explaining their absence.
All of their drawers and cupboards still contained all of their belongings. Jewellery and toiletries, shoes and coats, dad’s asthma inhaler, all of it was where it should be. The house was exactly as it had been the night before when they’d all went to bed enjoying the afterglow of a much needed family evening full of affection. Even the car was still outside. The only thing that was missing from the house was them.
They must have had an emergency or something. With no close relatives in the area (apart from their granda) Rob could think of no one to call. Figuring that all would be fine later in the day he woke Claire, explained that their parents had got up and gone out early to work and that they had to get ready and go to school. When the school day was over and the twins returned home the house still lay empty. It stayed that way for the next day and the day after that.
On Sunday evening Rob called the police. He and Claire left their little house on Liberty Road for the last time that evening. Claire holding a female police officer’s hand, crying for her mum and dad; Rob trailing behind, face of stone, completely certain (as only a child can be) that they had left because of him; because they knew like everyone else did that he wasn’t “right”. That he didn’t belong.
Azam Ali hurried through the busy, familiar streets of Battersea, SW London, gently pushing past and apologising to other commuters in his thick London accent as he did so. Normally, on any other day Azam would happily wander along, content to be carried along with the flow of traffic, usually on the journey between his little newsagents and home, a little ground floor, two bedroom rental. Today however was a not a normal day for Azam.
Sure for millions of others it was just Sunday; just another Sunday in the last days of March. Sundays were for relaxing, for reading the papers (in his case selling them) and having Sunday roast. Most places were closed on a Sunday. Maybe it was special for some people, an anniversary, visiting family or church or whatever but really, what ever happened on a Sunday?
For Azam this Sunday was a very important day indeed and today he wasn’t walking the two blocks to his shop. Today he was taking public transport. Today, on a Sunday, the second generation of Ali to be born in England was on his way to meet his parents.
Nae’body’s Hero will be published in December 2012.
In the meantime try Bobby’s Boy, Mark Wilson’s Debut novel where Rob makes a brief cameo. Available now as en Ebook or Paperback.