dEaDINBURGH: Hunted – Preview

The following excerpt is unedited and taken from

dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4)

Available to pre-order now at Amazon

Filtering out Dad’s scraping and clattering, I focus on the errant noise. The pattern of the sounds tells me one of The Ringed is nearby, probably in amongst the trees or shrubs and making its way towards our little picnic site.

Leaving dad to busy himself with the tea, I move quietly towards the source of the noise. Shoving a heavy branch from my path, I come across a female Ringed. Both of her legs are badly broken. She walks with the ankle of her right foot folded all wrong, so that her foot trails along behind. Her lower right leg is missing completely giving her a tilted gait. I let a sigh out and draw one of my knives.

Seemingly intent on moving her awkward limbs, she doesn’t notice me until I’m three feet from her. When she looks up at me, I gasp and take a step back.

She’s newly-risen. Aside from the damage to her legs, she’s in good condition. At a guess, I’d say she’s been dead less than a month. It’s not the condition of her, or that she’s so close that makes me start. It’s her appearance. She’s my age, has my hair colour, height and general build. She also has her right eye missing.

The girl’s lips snarl back to reveal a mouthful of gums. No teeth remain in her head. Stepping towards her, I shove her powerless arms aside before driving my heavy blade through her brain. The girl flops, adding to the detritus. Sprawled onto the forest floor, I get a clear look at her. She does look like me, very much like me. Unnerved I draw a second blade and press my back to a silver birch for cover. My eye catches a glint at her leg. Peering closer, I get low. It’s a knife worn exactly where I sheath my own.

I close my eyes lightly and concentrate on the sounds around me, like Joey taught me. Filtering out animals, birds, the wind and swaying branches, I pick out an altogether more human sound.

To my left, perhaps fifty feet from me, a light and familiar footstep disturbs some dry leaves.

The girl, the location, the macabre humour of her appearance…Suddenly the tableaux makes perfect sense. In his head anyway.

“You might as well come out, Bracha,” I try to sound bored.

A moment later he ghosts out of the shadows, lifting aside a low branch with his golf club. Leaning on the club, one leg crossed over the other, he smiles broadly at me. “So wonderful to see you, Stephanie my dear.”

A soft kick to the dead Ringed girl’s shoulder, “I do wish you had played a little more nicely with my friend, though. It took me an age to find her.”

I make a deliberate show of re-sheathing my blade and taking a relaxed stance. Despite his jester’s demeanour, His eyes note every move I make. Nodding at the dead girl, I ask. “Why?”

His expression shifts to one of deep sincerity. “I missed you, Stephany,” He says. The bastard is telling the truth. He selected this girl, took an eye and dressed her as me so that he had someone to talk to…no. So that he had me to talk to. Had he really grown so used to having me around?

His eyebrows lift in faux nonchalance. “She was a lot less trouble than you, though, Stephanie. Although… you do have a certain way with you.” The shark grin returns.

“You know I’m here to kill you?” I ask flatly.

He lifts his club and performs a little flurry with it, twisting it around his fingers only to toss it overhead and catch it on his waiting foot. With a flick, he punts the club back into his waiting hand. Throughout his performance, my eyes watch his hands and feet for a hint of an aggressive twitch. The display is not a distraction. He’s simply happy to see me.

“Well of course, my darling. There’s no-one else I would rather dance with.”

Showing him a shark-smile of my own, I draw two of my knives.

“But…” He blurts, holding a hand out in front of him.

“As you’ve brought my dear friend Jimmy along on the trip, let’s say we have a civilised discussion before we engage in our dance. Get to know each other once again, maybe share a meal. I also have some interesting information to share with you and your little community.”

I’d forgotten the sharpness of his senses and his habit of scouting the area he’s in regularly. I rebuke myself silently at his mention of James and resolve to remember my lessons better in future, if I have a future.

Wondering how long Bracha has been watching us, I shake my head minutely. “No.”

Bracha sighs and leans back onto his club once again.

“Manners, Stephanie. What has happened to people’s manners in this city?” He looks at me expecting as response. I give him none.

A long resigned sigh comes from him. “Well, I suppose if you absolutely insist…” Allowing his golf club to thud to the ground, Bracha draws two of his favourite blades. His movements are much less smoothly executed than I’m used to. The cold and his injuries have shaved another portion of his speed and agility. My heart races as I realise that I’m faster than him now. I’m capable of a greater range of physical attacks also. I have a chance, so long as I don’t underestimate his decades of experience.

A wistful look replaces his predatory expression. Bracha nods at my Ringed doppelganger. “I can always make friends with you once again.” He crouches to the Ringed girl. Coating his knives in her blood and saliva he resumes his fighting stance.

“When you awaken.”

End of Excerpt

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dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4) is available to pre-order now at Amazon

dEaDINBURGH: Hunted Preview – Billy Boyd, The Eunuch

The scene that follows is an outtake and will most probably be fleshed out and added into the novel as a bonus story at the end of the main novel. The story takes place in an off-page scene from dEaDINBURGH: Vantage, during the scene where Joey leaves the Gardens to meet Alys on North Bridge and hunt Bracha at the Royal Infirmary.

Billy Boyd, the main character of the short, is my attempt to portray the effects that living in an all-female society that fears and hunts men would have on a young boy. Billy (the Eunuch) will feature heavily in book 4.

The following excerpt is  copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing. It is unedited and comes from the forthcoming dEaDINBURGH: Hunted (Din Eidyn Corpus 4):

The Gardens

Edinburgh

2050

 

Billy creased his face, squinting against the low, cold Edinburgh sun hanging over princes Street, trying to determine if Joseph MacLeod was staring at him. He was. The worm in his guts writhed.

Men are supposed to be banished. What I went through…what I did to make sure I could stay here, and he….him, he just walks in, invited by Jennifer and her arrogant daughter. They’re even training him.

MacLeod waved down at him.

Arrogant bastard!

Returning his gaze to his hand-held plough, Billy Boyd shoved the wooden handle, driving the iron blades through the frosty earth beneath. Despite his height and having three years on the next oldest boy, Billy didn’t have the raw power of his younger peers. His muscular development and stamina had been stunted. Instead of being layered with firm muscle his chest was flat, skeletal really. His arms and legs and back hadn’t developed any real size or power with puberty. Facial hair hadn’t come. His voice sounded like a child’s… or a woman’s.

This is exactly what Billy had intended when he’d castrated himself at eleven years old. A simple elastic band and blade had prevented his pre-teen body from becoming what it might. Who wanted to be a man in a community that hated them enough to banish them?

Power, physical strength in the field would never be his, but he had other strengths, other talents, especially with plants and medicines.

Steven Campbell hissed at him. “Billy, quit that. We decided to ignore him.”

“Aye. I know.” Billy rasped.

I won’t ignore him forever though.

 

The seven lads of The Garden, ranging in age from wee Charlie Munnoch, aged ten, to William Boyd, aged sixteen, were a very quiet minority in their strict community. Each of them had been born inside The Garden’s fences, most of them after the banishment of the men. None of them had ever gone through its gates.

Men weren’t permitted to be Rangers.

Farmers, cooks, husbands, cleaners? Yes.

Rangers, no. Never.

They were treated as well as any other member of the community- at least that was the common perception- in reality, small things marked them out as different, as being watched. It was no secret that Jennifer Shephard, The Garden’s patriarch, hated men having driven them out some ten years previously. Whilst most of the women treated the boys with respect, Jennifer’s Rangers eyed them with suspicion.

Being in Jennifer’s presence was a storm of undisguised malice. Billy suspected that she’d happily have thrown the infant boys out of The Garden along with the men if she could have.  The boys were watched closely wherever they went. If a boy was alone with a girl, a Ranger or a parent would come sit nearby to keep an eye out.

Like watching a dog with your child.

Sometimes the boys were asked to leave if they were the only male present, so that the girls could relax. Most of the younger boys hadn’t noticed yet, but Billy and Steven had, and they resented it. They resented it more with each passing day, especially Billy, who’d taken such drastic measures to eliminate the threat of his maleness.

 

Billy watched Joseph MacLeod disappear effortlessly over the fence line onto Princes Street. Billy Boyd seethed that Joseph could leave The Gardens so easily. He swallowed a white hot lump of hate and drove his plough into the hard earth once more.

A crunch on the frost drew Billy’s attention. Lifting his chin, he watched Stephanie Kelly stomp her way across the lower fighting pit. She carried a bow she’d made from uPVC pipes in her right hand and wore a patch over her right eye socket and stoic expression that looked alien on her young face. Despite his mood, it startled him to see Steph this way.

Steph had been one of the few girls who’d remained his friend after he’d modified his body. She’d never once judged him and simply smiled, as she frequently did, whenever she saw him. People who are glad to see you were a rare thing for a boy from The Gardens. Steph had been a true friend and a comfort to him when he’d needed it most, simply by being decent to him, by making him laugh and by understanding how terrified he’d been of his approaching adulthood. She’d also defended him more than once from the taunts of other girls.

Tell some lies Eunochio.

Maybe they’ll grow back.

Idiots.

Cruel and heartless.

Females.

 

Billy watched his childhood friend crunch with purpose, bow in hand to the pit and sighed heavily to see her so joyless. So like him. The way he’d heard it, her cousin, Alys Shephard, had let some roaming madman hurt her. For Billy, it was yet another confirmation that the Shephards represented all that was wrong with his home.

End of Excerpt

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 dEaDINBURGH: Hunted is due for release on Kindle and Paperback on July 13th,2016. You can pre-order and  find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon.

Why Would Anyone Settle For Being An Indie-Author?

Why Would Anyone Settle For Being An Indie-Author?

The first question I’m asked when people discover that I’m an Indie- Author is whether I’ve approached or considered approaching agents or publishers.

‘Your books are good, Mark. You should submit to publishers.’

It doesn’t seem to occur to some that being independent is a choice, not a necessity. I never considered the traditional publishing route, although I have had offers from several Independent publishing houses and one large agency over the years which I chose not to accept for a variety of reasons.

I was very lucky to benefit early in my writing career from the advice of several authors who’ve spent some years in the publishing industry. In particular, I had a long chat with Gavin Bain, a friend of mine who has had long-term experience in the music and literary business. We chatted about agents, contracts, advances, small publishers versus large ones and I spent months doing my own research on the business. With a push from Gavin I followed my gut instinct to go Indie. I’ve never regretted this.

So…Self- Publishing or Traditional?

Asked by every writer to spurt ink.

When I started writing my debut novel, I stood firmly in the self-publish camp. As I progressed with the book, I wanted to be thorough, so I researched the industry more and more. Royalties, advances, agents, services performed by the publishing house and or the agent, big or small publisher? Did I want to write for and market to a specific genre? How could I set about building a readership?

There was and is a lot to learn. I did weeks of research, seeking out those agents and publishers (mostly independent) who I thought would like me and my book, and whom I thought I’d like to work with. After ten completed projects, that list remains unused at present.

More and more, as I immersed myself in the snaking and shaded corridors of the literary industry, the same nagging questions came back to me.

Is it worth giving away control of my work for the miniscule chance at the potential exposure a big publisher might bring?

It seemed to me that if these guys deigned to take you, they’d in all probability change your work endlessly, until it fit their formulaic idea of what a commercial novel should be, which is fine for some writers, but not for me. It seemed that most of the promo and marketing would be done by me rather than them anyway, so why should I give them such a huge chunk of my potential earnings (ha!) and, more importantly, complete control over the words that I had spent so many hours writing? What was more important? Potential earnings or creative control?

Advances: For many authors, it seems that an advance, especially a huge one, is the holy-grail. I don’t understand this mentality at all. Sure an advance is a nice pat on the back, and an indication that your book is commercial enough (or at least can be made to be, in the payer’s opinion) to perhaps recoup the investment. It also seems like a good way of allowing the author the privilege and means to write full-time. For me, it’s a scary prospect.

An advance simply means that you’re in debt to the issuer until your sales repay the money. If the sales take years to do so? Well, you’re in hock to them for years, and quite probably on a deadline for at least one more book. No thanks. Add this to the fact that a large portion of publishers give their newly-published books only a very short time to hit serious sales before shifting their enthusiasm and attention elsewhere, it added to my unease.

Agents: Whilst there are of course many good quality agents, who work hard for their clients, let’s remember two key things about them.

Firstly, they do try to get the best deal for their authors, but that may mean something different to them than it does to the author, in terms of cash, advances or the prestige of a particular publishing house over creative control or effective care from the publisher. Your agent represents a business; the more money (debt) they get for you, the more money they themselves make, and that is their primary objective.

Secondly, agents will take around 15% of your money, which is already a very small percentage (somewhere between 7 -15% for traditionally published writers) when considering the fact that you worked so hard on your book and will continue to work your arse off promoting the book, publisher or no publisher (unless of course you’re very high on the publishers’ radar). Whilst the services of agents can be very valuable, if you take the traditional publisher out of the picture, there’s really no place for an agent until you’re selling enough books on your own to gather interest from publishers and have deals to negotiate.

Smaller publishing houses offer a more personal service and are generally more engaged with and passionate about the work they’ve chosen to represent. They are also significantly more pro-active in reacting to the market and in developing their authors than their traditional counterparts. Whilst working with small publishers can be rewarding, particularly if think you haven’t the skills or contacts to produce a decent standard of book for yourself, in my view there’s not always a need to hand your work over to a small publisher, unless they can add value that you cannot on your own. Indie publishers like Bloodhound Books have made great strides in the market and appear to put their authors first.

If you choose to go it alone, given the time and will you can learn do it yourself with the right assistance and a commitment to pay professionals for the services you can’t do for yourself, i.e., editing and proofing.
Many of the industry professionals I hire do the exact same work but at higher rates to small publishers. Good freelancers are easy to come by and needn’t be expensive.

This is where the effective Indie-Author exists. In the centre of a web of professionals; editors, proof-readers, formatters and cover designers (if needed), hired by the author to polish his/her work and free the author up to do what he/she does best…Write.

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Are the potential benefits and rewards of being a writer great enough for me to expect to earn a living from writing?

For me the decision to go Indie was a no-brainer. However, a small part of me, the one that’s low on self-esteem, told me that I needed the recognition from an agent or publisher that my book was “good”.

I ignored that needy version of myself and ploughed on, buoyed by the research I’d done into the standard of eBooks out there. As far as I could see, my first book was as good as many self-published eBooks, and better than most (there’s the tiny little bit of ego/confidence I do possess asserting itself).

In hindsight, my first work was of a good standard but just good. I was judging the quality of my work against other independents, when I should have been planning ahead in my development and thinking bigger in terms of the standard I wanted to reach and surpass.

As a writer, I’ve developed a massive amount and learned many more writing devices and techniques during the process of writing nine more books. This kind of development time, I wouldn’t be allowed with such a public analysis and feedback in traditional publishing. Like the music industry, the days when a publisher will take a punt on a new talent and invest in developing them are long gone for the most part. “Bring us the next copy of a copy of ‘a girl who kicked a hornet in the nuts on a train’.”

As things stand; using several industry professionals who are competitively priced, and more importantly better at editing etc than me, I’ve published my stories across a range of genre, exactly as I intend them to be.

The financial rewards?

Here’s the thing few writers will tell you, mostly because you don’t want to hear it. You will most likely not make money as a writer.

You will devote thousands of hours of your time to writing the very best books you can. Time to develop your skills and broaden your writing palette. Hours and hours to learn what you can about marketing and promoting your book effectively. Building an audience. Writing some more.

None of this will guarantee you readers or an income. If you make more than £500 a month from writing novels, you deserve a pat on the back. I regularly outsell much higher profile authors who are tied to restrictive contracts and huge advances. How the hell they pay their creditors back, I have no idea. Living from one advance to the next doesn’t appeal to me.

The truth is, that for all the professionalism you will have to employ; all of the dedication and sacrifice of your time to write and to present your writing as well as it can be, writing will be nothing more than a very time-consuming hobby that you love. If you build a small readership who enjoy your books and earn enough for a little holiday once a year, give yourself well-deserved handshake. Focus instead on being proud of a back catalogue of books you poured yourself into writing.

So, why ‘settle’ for being an Indie- Author?

That’s the key, you’re not settling, you’re making a determined and smart choice to control your own literary destiny and produce your work the way you desire. No changing characters ages or sex or motivations to appeal to this demographic or that genre. No committees making a product of your labour. No debt to a corporate master which for most writers you haven’t a hope of recouping form advances.

The beauty?

If you’re one of the lucky writers who have a breakthrough hit of a book, your work is entirely in your own hands. You can make that deal when the big boys/girls come calling, but you can make it on your own terms. Use their distribution. Use their contacts to get a TV deal or international translations or Movie deals. Use them. Not the other way round.

As an independent, you can still choose to publish with an indie-publisher, or a larger one if that’s your bag, but have the choice to work with people who truly feel passionate about and can add value to your novel, rather than jumping at the first publisher or agent who shows an interest at all cost.

Do not settle for being an Indie-Author.

Fucking aspire to be an Indie-Author.

Mark is the proudly-independent author of nine works of fiction and one non-fiction

You can find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon.

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Bracha’s Origin – dEaDINBURGH: Origins Excerpt

Taking my favourite, heroic ginger Royal and twisting him into a psychotic, sadistic survivalist was (to date) the most fun I’ve had writing a novel. Please enjoy.

Mark

The following excerpt is from dEaDINBURGH: Origins and is copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing:

dEaDINBURGH: Origins is currently on FREE promo at Amazon (until April 25th, 2015).

UK:
http://goo.gl/91pTxs US:http://goo.gl/aLBsnE Can:http://goo.gl/0PwBTx Aus: http://goo.gl/g2JJjh

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Chapter 1

 Edinburgh

Hogmanay

2014

11:50 pm

 “I’m not interested, Jimmy. You fire in.”

He throws me a smile that’s not really a smile at all. It’s laced with sarcasm and judgement. Letting his raised eyebrows mock me for a few seconds, he finally turns his attention to the young lass.

“I will,” he says, leering at her legs.

Leaving our booth, Lieutenant James Kelly staggers on strong but wobbly legs across the carpet to unload his spiel on the unsuspecting girl in the red dress, completely oblivious to the wedding ring on her finger or the husband in the toilets. Jim’s had a few drinks, but he’s entitled. Besides, I’m designated babysitter tonight, subsequently limited to two drinks.

Harry, who’s in better shape but approaching tipsy, reaches across the table and drops a note.

“Fifty quid he earns himself a generous kick in the testicles.”

“Fuck off, Spike,” I tell him. He snatches the strangely-coloured note back.

“Right. For fuck sake.”

Despite myself I laugh. I always do. It’s his voice. It always makes me laugh when he swears using that clipped, so very proper accent of his. So at odds with who and what he actually is.

I throw a twenty of my own on top of his purple twenty, both bearing his grandmother’s likeness, and give him my thickest Lanarkshire accent.

“Right then, fanny-baws. Twenty sheets it is.”

He laughs loudly at me.

“Nice,” he says. “Don’t often let the…” He pauses for a few seconds, searching for the phrase. “Schemey. You don’t often let your schemey origins show, Cameron.” He laughs at his own use of the colloquialism.

“Aye, well. You’re being an especially excellent example of your kith and kin tonight, Harry,” I tell him. I hardly ever call him by name. All the lads call him Spike. Always have.

The ever-so-posh demeanour and bumbling, upper-class moron act he uses, which we call his Bruce Wayne persona, couldn’t be further from the man I’ve known for a third of my life. The soldier, the professional killer, the assassin who sits opposite me is not the man his public buys into. The jovial, ruddy-faced, red-haired buffoon he plays for the public and the media. Captain Wales, Apache-pilot. An officer and the poshest of gentlemen. This image carefully crafted and maintained by the ministry, so often useful as a mask and diversion, betrays not a sliver of who Spike really is.

Jim Kelly and I have been his shadows since Sandhurst. Employed to protect a killing machine. The thought is laughably ironic, as though Spike had ever feared anything or anyone. We trained and bled and laughed and drank and killed alongside him during his rigorous training in the Army Air Corps and then Special Division and on every Black-Ops mission since.

Captain Wales, according to official records, completed two heroic tours in Afghanistan based at Camp Bastion, Helmand province. His presence there was kept secret for the months of his tour, to both protect the men serving beside him and allow the young soldier the privacy to perform his duty. To be one of the troops.

Of course, cameras followed from a distance, filming him. Showing him mucking in like any other man of his rank and duty. A promise from the media, a gentlemen’s agreement, to not break the story until his unit were safely home was respected. A year later an admiring public watched with admiration as the news crews showed footage of the young captain doing his duty.

A substantial morale boost to the troops, his presence lingered for months following his departure, motivating the men who remained or replaced.

Ask any of the soldiers stationed there during that time, and they’ll tell you, “Great patriot. One of the lads. True professional.”

And they wouldn’t be lying: the man they served with was all of those things. He just wasn’t actually Captain Wales.

The genuine article, Spike we call him, long story, was in Syria, doing his real job.

I cut him a look, marvelling as I always do at how effectively this man masks who he really is beneath a veneer of joviality and haphazard clumsiness.

“I might be a schemey,” I smile at him, “but that lassie over there is all class. He’s getting sent packing.”

I jab a thumb at Jimmy who, one hand on her knee the other trying to get the attention of the barman, is laying it on thick for the lady in red.

“Watch this,” I say.

Harry flashes his best smile, the one we call his camera smile. All perfect teeth and carefree attitude, a mask for the iron-veined soldier underneath. The Batman persona.

“Yes, all right then, Cameron. Let’s see, shall we?”

His confidence, borne of generations of status, wealth and breeding, but also from hundreds of hours of Black-Op missions and killing, oozes from every pore.

We watch as the girl accepts the drink – a single-malt, no ice – and gently removes James’ hand from her thigh where it’s crept. She talks politely for a few short minutes then firmly ushers him back to our table. He walks slowly back to us, arms spread like Jesus, all attrition and mock repentance.

“She’s gay,” he tells us, sheepishly, despite his demeanour.

Spike’s laugh fills the booth.

“Of course she is, my boy. What rotten luck.” His affection is genuine.

I pick up my winnings from the table as Jim plonks himself back into the comfortable leather bench of the booth.

Spike juts his chin towards the bar.

“My round, I believe, chaps. Same again?”

Jim burps loudly, exaggerating the noise. “I’ll have a pint this time, Spike,” he says, Edinburgh accent thickening as his sobriety thins.

I take the fifty from Spike’s hand. “I’ll go,” I say.

His lips thin but he doesn’t argue with me. He knows we could do with some peace and quiet. It’s almost midnight and people are busy getting excited about seeing another year end and one begin, but as soon as he leaves the relative privacy of the booth, cap pulled down over his eyes and bushy red hair or not, someone will clock that famous face of his and our night will be over.

The lady in red catches my eye as I approach the bar and waves me over.

“Your pal. He all right?” Her husband’s back at her side and giving us a puzzled look.

“Aye,” I say, “he’ll cope.” I smile at them both. He looks relaxed, but you never know with some blokes, especially on the drink.

“Another admirer, eh?” he smiles at his wife and then throws a big genuine grin at me. “Poor wee bastard.” He laughs, sharing a private joke with his wife.

I acknowledge his joke with a nod, “Have a good night, folks. Happy New Year when it comes.”

The couple return their best wishes and I turn back to the bar to shout the barman over.

Whilst he’s away pouring the drinks, I scan around the pub. It’s packed, so we did well to get the booth during Hogmanay in Edinburgh. It’s a minor miracle we got a seat at all, but we have been in here for most of the afternoon and evening, leaving the table only to relieve our bladders. Hell, we’ve earned some downtime: it’s been a bad year.

There’s a band setting up through in the stage area. All low cavernous ceilings, reminiscent of the Edinburgh vaults, the venue slash pub holds a great little crowd and an atmosphere that belies its size. Down on the Cowgate, Bannerman’s has long been a favourite of ours. Whenever we are in town, which is often, this is our second home. After Holyrood Palace, of course.

The bar owner has known us for years and is one of that rare type who couldn’t care less who a person is, so long as they behave themselves and send their wages over his counter-top. Travelling and working alongside Spike, you tend to put people into types based on their reaction to His Royal Majesty: gawpers, agitators, creeps and indifferent. Jackie was the last of these. The working classes, more in common with the toffs than either group realise, tend to be relaxed around Spike.

An hour later and the bells have come and gone. A slow trickle of drunk and happy people begin to spill out onto the Cowgate. Parents who’ve managed to get babysitters begin to remember that early start the next day and grimace at the thought of their little ones bounding cheerfully into their rooms at first light. Young kids couldn’t care less about hangovers or days off.

Twenty-somethings – the three of us have recently left that particular club-dance – are out looking for their next party or nightclub. Tourists, singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and staggering on the cobbles, trying to remember which direction their hotel was in.

The barman, Jackie Naismith, gives the regulars a nod and yells, “Time, please.

We stay put. Jackie’s a good bloke, he’ll see us right. I watch the big barman slide the upper and lower bolts into place on the heavy doors and light a cigarette. Lock-ins, the sanctuary of the blessed man. Late night drinking behind closed doors at the invitation of the landlord. And you don’t have to step outside into the shredding Edinburgh wind when you want a fag.

Jackie slams a few heavy, old-fashioned ashtrays onto the bar followed by a bottle of Glenmorangie Pride 1978 Spike gave him as a thank-you gift three years ago. Jackie places the thirty-four-year aged single-malt gently onto the counter, yanks at the cork and takes a deep nose-full of the escaping vapours. He pours four singles and replaces the cork, returning the bottle to its locked case behind the bar.

“Here ye go, Cammy,” he says, pushing three tumblers towards me. “Don’t drink it too fast. That deserves to be enjoyed.” He glares at me but the malice he directs towards me is meant affectionately.

“Thanks, Jack.”

He gives me a quick nod then focuses his attention on the shot of whiskey he’s waited all year to enjoy.

As I gather our drinks a wee guy I don’t know nods at me as I walk past. I laugh as I hear him get told to “Get tae fuck, Johnny,” by Jackie.

Never interrupt a man with a rare whiskey in his hand.

Spike notices me coming with the drinks. A silent exchange passes between us confirming Jackie’s generosity with his prized whiskey. Spike takes his glass from me and strolls over to the bar for a chat with Jackie. Flopping into the leather booth, I cut a look at James who’s sprawled over the beer-soaked table, face resting on an arm.

I don’t try too hard to wake him and carefully I make my whiskey a double.

“Thanks, Jim. That’s good of ye,” I tell the back of his head. He grunts something unintelligible.

Sipping at the whiskey I let the off-amber fire soak in my mouth, under my tongue and slosh to the roof of my mouth for a bit, enjoying the intensity of the burn which continues along my gullet and into my stomach after I swallow. Feeling the warmth spread, seemingly to my bones, I close my eyes and enjoy the sensation. The noise of a siren nearby threatens to break the moment, but I find my whiskey-Zen again and submerge myself in the sensations.

I feel a buzz that has nothing to do with the evening, the company or the whiskey and snap my eyes open, searching for Spike. His eyes are already on me, alerted by his own device. Even James is up from his seat looking significantly more alert. A decade of training takes control of us.

Jim secures the doors and windows, Harry takes his cap off and shows our fellow drinkers his face. He uses their shock at seeing his familiar coupon to usher the remaining revellers, along with Jackie, to the rear of the pub, smiling genially and muttering apologies as he shepherds the mostly drunk crowd.

I’m on weapons detail. On sober duty, I’m the only one who’s supposed to be carrying a firearm. I pull my Sig Sauer P230 from the horizontal holster at the base of my spine. Performing an automatic check, I ready the sidearm and check with the lads.

Spike has three knives, his favoured weapons, of various size and type on his person. I know this without asking, but he also pulls out a handgun I didn’t know he had, another Sig P230. That’s fourteen rounds between us.

James, a little slower thanks to the alcohol but mostly alert, pulls out a P226 with fifteen rounds. Neither of them should be carrying. We share a sardonic smile as we assess each other from across the room.

Several other sirens have joined the first I heard in the ten seconds since our personal comm-devices issued the level 1 alert and I can hear sounds of a crowd gathering on the Cowgate. I sweep my eyes around the room one more time and pull my phone from my back pocket. As I move my thumb to speed dial our control centre, it buzzes in my hand. I answer in less than a second and bark my clearance code into the receiver.

“Confirmed,” a woman’s voice says, “please hold for Lt Colonel Melville.”

The line clicks and the calm voice of our CO speaks.

“Situation report please, Captain Shephard.”

“Unit is in lockdown in a level 2 secure building. No immediate threat present. High defensive capability.”

“Affirmative. Hold.”

I listen as Melville leans away from the phone, someone whispering updates in his ear. Spike and James, both calmly standing their zones and smoothing things out with the other occupants of the pub, look to me with questioning eyes.

I break eye contact as Melville coughs and returns to the phone.

“We’re at full-alert, Captain. Escort Captain Wales to…” Another pause for updates. “Escort the captain to Beta Location. Acknowledge.”

“Acknowledged, sir. Timescale?”

Melville, a man with a stoic reputation, unimpressed by pomp or status, sounds genuinely ruffled.

“Immediately, Captain. Expect resistance.”

In Edinburgh?

A trickle of cold sweat tracks its way down my butt crack as the significance hits me.

“Sir. Civilian or military?”

He answers and I wish I hadn’t asked.

“Anyone who gets in your way, Captain. Direct route, no detours. No other directives.”

Melville clicks off, leaving my next words stillborn in my mouth. Despite the insistence on urgency, I take a second to compose myself. From outside a choir of sirens races past up on South Bridge. The crash of twisted metal vibrates down to the Cowgate and rattles the windows. Something explodes, the pub’s frosted windows light up as a fireball warms the night sky. People outside, minutes ago laughing and dancing, are now screaming loudly. Jim and Spike both look to me once again.

“Direct evac,” I tell them. “No distractions. Level one.”

Spike waves me off and returns to calming the punters in the bar.

“Spike, I’ll force you if I have to.”

He raises an eyebrow in amusement. We both know that if he chooses to assert himself, I’ll come off worst. We also both know that he’ll have to hurt me badly to deter me. Neither of us wishes this.

“Not until these people are safe,” he says, pulling at a cellar door behind the bar.

The last level one alert issued to our team was when the plane hit floors 93-99 of the World Trade Centre’s north tower. We were in London at the time and had Spike to his safe location in under five minutes.

None of us know exactly what’s going on outside in the gothic city, but the status of the command leaves us in little doubt that something dreadful is happening to the city. Invading army, bombing, nuclear aggression, bioweapons? We can’t know. We have our orders. Go directly to Beta Location, secure Harry. Do not pass go, do not collect a hundred pounds. Do not stop to help anyone, only engage enemies if progress is barred.

I grind my teeth and crack the pub door a fraction, trying to gain some insight as Spike and James usher the pub’s occupants down into the cellar. Jackie descends the stairs last, face stern.

Spike gives them assurances that they’ll be safe in their hiding place and that he’ll make sure that someone comes for them quickly. Jackie reappears and offers a beefy hand which Spike encloses in two of his.

“I promise, Jack. Now go.”

The big bartender gives him a firm nod and disappears down into the cool cellar with his customers.

Spike wastes another twenty seconds closing the cellar door and shifting a rug over the top of it for camouflage.

James has drained two cups of coffee. He’s alert now, but walking a fine line between sobriety and the shrill over-sensitivity to stimuli that a good dose of black caffeine brings.

Peering through the door I watch people run past Bannerman’s all headed away from The Royal Mile, towards The Grassmarket. Bad news for us; our evacuation route takes us along Niddry Street, straight up onto The Royal Mile and along to Holryrood House where an underground bunker and/or chopper awaits.

I close the door softly and double-check my sidearm.

“You guys ready or do you have something else to take care of?”

Neither answers. Instead they flank me, weapons ready, and we crash through the doors into a nightmare.

 Chapter 2

Cammy threw the double doors open and they spilled out into the street. It was one of those moments, the ones you never saw coming but which changed everything you thought was certain about your world. The sequences and events a team prepared for hundreds of times in training and executed dozens of times – if you were lucky, and you were good – in the field.

Secure, recon, eliminate threats, progress.

They’d done this together so many times they had lost count. Each of them knew his respective role. The big men, so well-coordinated it looked like a lover’s dance, began to move in synchronised perfection.

James had shaken off the last effects of the evening’s alcohol. A glucose tablet and two cups of strong black coffee in under a minute had brought his senses screaming back online. All he had left to fight was the encroaching shrillness of his hyper-alert state – and whatever was happening in the city. Despite the pressure, James felt calm, in control. His training and hard-earned experience taking over, he was a virtual passenger. His best friends by his side meant that he feared nothing. Business as usual, no matter how odd the location.

Through the door, three men, back to back, pirouetted and scanned each section of their zones twice. Smooth, certain, decisive.

That was normally how it went, at any rate. Cutting a look past Harry’s left shoulder, James’ eyes widened as they watched a young man in denims and a Nirvana T-shirt run directly towards them. He couldn’t have been more than twenty-one, just a kid but crazed and covered in blood and gore and sprinting at them, lips peeled back from blooded teeth, naked fury burning in his eyes. No, not fury… hunger.

James moved his weapon up smoothly and issued the kid a warning.

“Halt.”

The kid kept coming. Snarling, he leaped over a shredded body and raised his hands as claws.

James did not hesitate and fired three rounds centre mass into the kid’s heart.

Whipping around he repeated the process, killing four more feral-looking people. The world transformed into a fury of teeth and blood and crazed eyes and death. His team had taken down around a dozen assailants but had expended almost all of their ammo.

“What the fuck has got into these people?” James asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” Cameron replied roughly. “Let’s move.”

James and Cameron flanked Harry who covered their rear as his two guards progressed up the hill towards The Royal Mile. After ten steps Harry swore loudly in that refined voice.

“What in the name of holy fuck?”

James and Cammy swung around, facing the direction they’d come from.

Every one of the people they had dispatched was somehow back up on their feet. Some looked dazed, others fixed on the three friends instantly. All had congealed jelly-like blood clotted where arterial spray should have been pumping out onto the pavement. They bared their teeth once again and ran at the team.

Harry raised his gun first and put a single round into the head of the nearest man, a policeman in torn, bloody uniform sporting two bullet holes delivered to his heart by Cameron moments before. The policeman collapsed like a marionette with its strings severed and didn’t rise a second time.

“Headshots,” Spike said, firing his last two rounds into the heads of a tourist with a rucksack on her back and an elderly lady who was running at him with the speed of an athlete. Both face-planted the cobbles, skidding to a stop a few feet from the group.

Cammy turned uphill once more and brought down two new arrivals who’d been drawn down from The Royal Mile by the gunfire. All three men took advantage of a ten-second break in the onslaught to check their firearms, confirming what they already knew. Three rounds left: two for James and one for Cameron. Spike holstered his empty sidearm and drew two of his blades, big Rambo-esque knives with one sleek edge and a ragged one. One of them sported his house emblem, while the other, a gift from his grandfather, bore his name.

The three men exchanged glances and sprinted the length of Niddry Street, dodging fallen people and shouldering further assailants from their path. Spilling out onto The Royal Mile they cut a quick look uphill and gasped.

The famous thoroughfare’s width and length was filled to overflowing with people. Some crawled over cobbles and over each other, some ran… and all were screaming. Some of those screams were gargled, the thick blood torn loose blocking the path of their dying wails. Some were screams of fledgling hunger from the throats of new-born creatures already deep in the throes of an eternally-agonising appetite for flesh.

Blood flowed in thick, fast rivulets between the cobbles towards the men. The soldiers noted immediately that a close, further along The Mile, was the likely epicentre of whatever the hell was happening. Cameron discharged the last of his ammo into the head of a heavily-built man in a kilt, slipped his knife from concealment and rammed it through the temple of another lunatic trying to force the big officer to the bloody cobbles beneath.

James pulled at Harry’s sleeve to cajole him along in the opposite direction. His friend stiffened, resisting, and pulled his arm free. James watched as the man he was sworn to protect plunged the knife in his right hand through the top of a female tour-guide’s skull. Releasing the big knife, leaving it in her head, he continued his move by fluidly stepping on the back of a dead tourist and launching himself into a wide-arced leap. Adjusting in mid-air, he changed to a two-handed grip on his remaining blade and brought it down heavily into the base of the neck of a woman who’d made it through Cameron’s defences.

James shouted at both men.

“When you’re all done, can we get fuckin’ moving?”

He nodded down the mile towards High Street. Despite the confusion and the terror and the river of blood and madness flooding their way, the men managed a tight grin.

“Keep your knickers, Jimmy,” said Spike.

All three men continued their sprint, feeling the crowd and the enemy thin out as they crested a little hill before High Street swooped down to Holyrood.

They skidded to a halt just after the cobbles end at the entrance to a former church. Looking around at the people running past, James gasped.

“What the hell is going on here?”

Cameron shook his head and blocked a young man about to clatter into James, sending the man sprawling onto the tarmac. The guy regained his feet instantly and sprinted on without ever looking back.

“They seem like they’re infected, near as I can make out,” Cameron said.

Harry laughed, but there was no humour in it.

“They look sick to you, Cameron?” he asked.

Cameron shrugged and opened his mouth to reply when one of the people who seemed to have gone insane came tearing along the street. The three soldiers watched in horror as the assailant pulled down an elderly woman and ripped at her throat, arms and legs with his teeth.

Clinically, James started counting. He reached thirty when the madman tore himself away from the dead woman and snarled, sending blood and flesh spilling onto the concrete. He… it lashed at another passer-by, a middle-aged man this time, and began tearing at his face.

James continued counting. At fifty seconds, the elderly woman jerked up. Moving smoother and significantly more quickly than she had before the attack, she sprang from the ground and fixed her eyes on them.

All three men watched the transformation take her, burning away the frail pensioner. They stood open-mouthed and inert. A first for the unit.

Cammy was the first to recover, but only by milliseconds. The trio, with a new vigour and previously untapped speed, resumed their run towards Holyrood Palace.

End of Excerpt

dEaDINBURGH: Origins is currently on FREE promo at Amazon (until April 25th, 2015).

UK:
http://goo.gl/91pTxs US:http://goo.gl/aLBsnE Can:http://goo.gl/0PwBTx Aus: http://goo.gl/g2JJjh

Preview: dEaDINBURGH: Alliances (Din Eidyn Corpus Book 2)

Throughout dEaDINBURGH: Book 2 I’ve placed interludes, following the development of Stephanie, Alys Shephard’s cousin, and how she deals with the vents of Book 1. In this scene, Steph- after months of hard combat and survival training with her aunt- has decided to leave The Gardens.

*The following excerpt is pre-edit and contains Book 1 Spoilers*

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This is how it feels to be Stephanie.

My cousin, Alys and my friend Joey MacLeod have returned from the south. They found no cure and almost killed the madman who took my eye. Almost….. Such a small, limiting word with such infinite potential. Alys, tired from her journey and debriefing, is asleep in another tent. Joey went to seek help from a friend. Lying surrounded by dozens of strong, highly trained women I’ve known my whole life, I’ve never felt so desperately separate. But I feel good too.

I feel alert, clear.

My legs are swift and strong as I slip silently from my tent. My mother lies sleeping soundlessly, confident in the security of her home, The Gardens. These delusions of contentment she taught me, that made me so weak. I’m done with them.

I crouch in the darkness of the early winter hours. Closing my eye, I increase my awareness of every little sound in The Gardens. Joey taught me to do this.

Focus on one sense at a time, close off the others and the one you need amplifies the world. I’ll never have the innate skill Joey has. He forged his senses over a decade and a half living in the infinite blackness of Mary King’s Close. I do well enough though.

I listen to the guards patrol their regular routes around the fences and gates. The rattle of the East gate tells me where Magda is. A crunch at the bottom of the North slope gives Helen away. Five other Ranger Guards broadcast their presence to me. I open my eyes and move silently on the balls of my feet, dancing between their sounds in the arms of the winter wind. Slipping through a gap between Helen and Samantha, I spider-crawl, low and quietly, my strong core muscles flexing and stretching, keeping me tight and able to stop on a hair if needed.

As I wait for two Rangers to pass by ten feet below me on the grassy slope, I smile a fraction of a smile, allowing myself to enjoy my hard-earned skills. I close my eye one more time, checking for trace movement or any guards I’ve missed.

All clear.

I’m entirely certain and infinitely confident in my assessment and use the three seconds I have to vault silently over the spiked iron fences, landing cat-like on Princes Street.

On the street I say a silent prayer of thanks that The Ringed are almost entirely absent, having been drawn North by a metallic giant collapsing. I feel, smooth, in control, powerful and strong, but I need more. More than I can have here.

End of Excerpt

dEaDINBURGH: Alliances (Din Eidyn Corpus Book 2) is due for publication by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing n March 23rd, 2015 and is available for pre-order at Amazon, US and UK.

* dEaDINBURGH: Vantage (Din Eidyn Corpus Book 1) is also available now on Kindle and as a paperback.

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Top Books of 2014

2014 has been a breakthrough year for many authors, whether Indie, traditional, or the new breed of Hybrid authors who are dipping a toe in the old and new worlds.

I’ve discovered, rediscovered, read and re-read some quality books this year, written by  established and by new authors. For me, a new generation of writers- mostly, but not exclusively, British- are making their mark in the publishing world. Many without the assistance of publishing houses and producing literature that, for me, is the most exciting and fresh the industry has seen in years.

In no particular order, here’s my favourite reads of 2014:

1. Consumed by Kyle Scott:

consumed

An easy pick for me. As well as being a former schoolmate, Kyle is a rare breed of writer, one who picks away at the scabbiest parts of your psyche. Kyle’s produced a few books this last year or so. Consumed was my favourite. here’s my review of the book.

You can find Kyle and his books at Amazon.

2. Fall of Night by Jonathan Maberry:

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Another easy pick. In the last two years, Maberry has become my favourite writer by a long way. Whilst his Rot & Ruin series was wonderful, and the reason I sat down to write my dEaDINBURGH series, the standout book for me this year from Maberry is Fall of Night.

Pacey, heart-felt, horrifyingly realistic, well-researched, prequel to Rot & Ruin and sequel to Dead of Night; this book showcases all of Maberry’s finest qualities as a writer. For me, Maberry’s greatest strength lies in his very strong characterisation, most notably his empowerment and realistic portrayal of his female leads.

When I grow up, I want to write like Jonathan Maberry.

You can find Jonathan Maberry and his books at Amazon.

3. Paul Carter is a Dead Man by Ryan Bracha:

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Probably my favourite Indie book this year and my favourite Indie Author. Yes he’s a hairy, goggle-eyed borderline alcoholic with personal space issues and an irrational fear of soap-based products, but the Bracha bloke is simply the most imaginative and ballsy writer on the Indie scene. Always uncompromising and experimental, with Paul Carter, Bracha finally reigned himself in just enough to give his storytelling the structure to match its quality. Wonderful stuff. He is a bell-end, but don’t let that put you off form taking a trip through his dirty dystopian masterpiece.

You can find Bracha and his books at Amazon.

4. Wee Rockets by Gerard Brennan:

wee rocketsGerard’s Wee Rockets is a belter of a book and ne that I’ve revisited twice already. Hailed as Irvine Welsh-esque, I’d rate this addition to Brennan’s catalogue as much, much better than anything Welsh has produced of late. I’ve read and enjoyed a few of Gerard’s books this year, but this was the standout for me. here’s my review of Wee Rockets.

You can find Gerard Brennan and his books at Amazon.

5. Glue by Irvine Welsh:

glueFor me, Glue is Irvine Welsh’s best book by a mile. Full of friendship, hardship, families, victories, humour and betrayal, Glue showcases everything that’s good about Welsh’s writing and Scotland’s infinite capacity for humour and heart-felt sentimentality. Not just my favourite Welsh offering, but my all-time favourite book, full stop.

6. This is How You Disappear by Allen Miles:

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Depraved in parts, gentle and insightful, Miles short story collection was a high point of 2014 for me. Here’s my review.

You can find Allen and his books at Amazon.

7. The Search for Ethan by Robert Cowan:

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An absolutely lovely wee story of growth and friendship, riddled with emotion and gritty realism. Lovely work from yet another new writer from my hometown. Here’s my review of The Search for Ethan.

You can find Robert Cowan at Amazon.

7. Dimebag Bandits Craig Furchtenicht:

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Lovely, lovely book that oozes class and shocking realism. One of those reads that as a writer you’re insanely jealous you didn’t/couldn’t write.

You can find Craig and his books at Amazon.

8. Russian Roulette by Keith Nixon:

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As well as the fantastic and Bestselling, The Eagle’s Shadow, Nixon also produced one of my favourite crime books of the year in Russian Roulette.

In this collection, Keith doesn’t spare a single word or gesture in his writing and delivers a punchy, intensely-paced series of shorts featuring his now trademark character, Konstantin. Awesome stuff from Keith. Here’s my review of Russian Roulette.

You can find Nixon and his books at Amazon.

9. Amsterdam Rampant by Neil Cocker:

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Probably my biggest surprise of the year. I picked this up expecting another ‘lads on holiday’ type read, but found a lovely little story filled with great characterisation and a nicely-paced plot. Cocker also uses a skilled technique to relay the protagonist’s back-story.  Here’s my review.

You can find Neil and his books at Amazon.

10. Twelve Mad Men by Various, edited by Ryan Bracha:

Despite telling Bracha that he was a mad bastard, I was delighted to be asked to contribute to this novel of shorts, joining some of my favourite writers in helping produce an ambitious and seemingly-impossible novel from a collection of stories written by a load of very good writers, but who are very different from each other. I doubted that Bracha could meld the stories into a meaningful, flowing narrative, but he did. The bastard.

Twisted, imaginative, demented and wonderfully weaved into a true novel, you can purchase Twelve Mad Men here.

Featuring the contributions of:

Paul D Brazill (Guns of Brixton, A Case of Noir)
Gerard Brennan (Fireproof, Wee Rockets)
Les Edgerton (The Bitch, The Rapist)
Craig Furchtenicht (Dimebag Bandits, Night Speed Zero)
Richard Godwin (Mr Glamour, One Lost Summer, Apostle Rising)
Allen Miles (18 Days, This is How You Disappear)
Keith Nixon (The Fix, The Eagle’s Shadow)
Darren Sant (Tales From The Longcroft, The Bank Manager and The Bum)
Gareth Spark (Black Rain, Shotgun Honey)
Martin Stanley (The Gamblers, The Hunters)
Mark Wilson (dEaDINBURGH, Head Boy)

Please do check out, Sant and Douglas’ Near to the Knuckle Anthologies,  Blasted Heath  and Caffeine Nights Publishing; sources of excellent books and support for the fledgling Brit-writing scene.

Thanks for reading, please do check out some of the books on my list, you’ll be glad you did.

Mark Wilson is the Amazon-bestselling author of five fiction novels and one non-fiction memoir. You can find him and his books at Amazon UK and US

Somna Origin: dEaDINBURGH 3 Preview

Somna was a periphery villain in dEaDINNBURGH: Book 1 and will come to prominence in the second book.

A relentless killer of survivors in the dead city, Somna collects the eyelids of his victims and worships the reanimated corpse of a famous footballer.

The following excerpt is set before the city of Edinburgh was sealed, is unedited, contains no Book 1 spoilers and shows Somna’s beginnings:

dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus Book 2 Cover

dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus Book 2 Cover

Somna

 2014

 

I follow her along Carnaby Street the sound of her heels clacking on the concrete becoming a metronome, accompanying the pounding of my heart in my chest. It doesn’t irritate me, this monotonous soundtrack, rather it acts as an overture, joining the other London sounds building in intensity, stoking my bottomless appetite.

My imp giggles as he catches our reflection in the blackened windows of the vans store. I shush him and he glares at me with undisguised contempt.

“It’s my night, killer. It’s me who’s in charge tonight, don’t fucking forget who I am.” The vitriol drips from his sneer.

That’s what he calls me, killer, like it’s a curse and reverence in one word. I nod once in reply. In deference. Now’s not the time. Besides, he’s right. It is his night. He’s in charge, he controls what happens, how it happens and to whom. These days, I’m just a passenger. No, that’s not right. I’m more of a tool for him to use to enable his insatiable urge to kill. Of course, I’m hardly one to judge having held those same appetites and compulsions all of my life. My imp merely……sharpens those instincts and gives me so many new, delicious ways to love my victims.

Once, maybe two years ago, I moved through this world of stalking and loving and blood and joy alone. I’d killed dozens by then, men women, teenagers, but no children. They didn’t make the urge beat and pulse the way older people did. They felt too…familiar. Too much like me. Too…human.

My imp joined me after I’d killed a man in an alleyway in the Lanarkshire town of Motherwell. He was mildly drunk, his five year old skipping along beside him. Normally when my prey is with a child I walk away. I lose all urge to kill when a child is present, and decided to return to stalking him another night but as I turned to leave, I saw him land heavy blow with meaty hand to the back of the boy’s head. His son fell to the stony ground as I leaned in from a misty distance to listen.

“Too fuckin’ noisy.” He barked down at the lad.

The kid glared up at him from the ground. I caught the shadow of what looked like faded bruises around his angry stare.

“Don’t look at me like that Matthew.” The man raised his hand to threaten.

His action did nothing to dampen the fire in the boy’s eyes. He stood glared at his drunken father then lowered his head.

The man nodded and continued walking, his son running ahead towards their home, no longer interested in skipping alongside the bully he called dad.

I’d taken him then of course. As soon as the boy had left, my urge came rushing back on the crest of a hundred beatings from my own father. A thousand insults of eternal mocking about my obsession with footballers.

He died very quickly- which was which a disappointment- but cried and begged with shameful cowardice, which was wonderful, if too brief. I hadn’t had the opportunity to repay my own father for his love and this man’s death had proven a wonderful substitute, and one that made a significant change happen within me.

My imp joined me afterwards and has been my constant companion throughout life and death since. Initially he’d been unobtrusive, an observer. An ever-present facet of myself in many ways. Keen to offer suggestions, but largely a passenger. Over time, he’d sharpened my appetites.

My kills had been careful in the past, after all, I’d killed dozens, from all walks of life in many cities and countries. No police force had so much as linked any of my kills together. Once my imp began speaking to me, exerting his will, I became very creative.

I used different methods of dispatch and never stayed true to a certain type of victim. I’d like to say that this was all my own inventiveness, but truly, my imp has had so many good ideas these past two years. More and more it’s made sense to just let him, take control. To direct, to command.

 

As she passes Merc Clothing my victim’s heels screech a little, breaking the build-up of the moment for a split-second as she turns along Broadwick Street. Perfect.

As my victim passes Mozzino, my imp hisses at me.

“Now!”

I check up and along the narrow little road and then rush at her. She’s in her mid-forties, very fit and much smaller than I am. Most people are. I place my hand over her mouth, pulling her head back sharply, so that her hair presses against my chest.

Wrapping one beefy arm around her waist I lift her into myself and slightly to the side to avoid her kicking legs. Quickly I dart through the half-shut gates into a service yard my imp laughing that sissing laugh. The one that reverberates around my head and makes my skin crawl. I ignore it. My imp’s as excited as I am, maybe more so. He’s entitled.

I put the woman in a choke hold and she passes out. My imp looks at her and smiles broadly, his face a twisted mirror of my own.

As soon as she’s unconscious, I walk to the gates and close them firmly. Retrieving a canvas bag with a few implements suggested by my imp, I kneel beside her and begin placing my tools at her side. Sometimes I tie them and wait until they awake whilst I do this. The terror in my victims eyes as they see what toys I’ve thought ahead to bring for them is a wonder like no other. For her, she gets to stay asleep.

My imp issues a series of instructions, making my hands his own. I simply obey. The pleasure I feel washing over me isn’t diminished by this act of near servitude. Quite the opposite is true. Surrendering myself to the imp’s voice, to his needs and his commands, amplifies my experiences to a plane I could never have achieved alone.

Cut the artery. Remove the trachea. Crush the kidney in your fist. Kiss her.

My imp laughs as he commands. I’m in the moment, entirely, when my mind starts to drift. I pull my attention deliberately back to the beautiful act of deconstruction I’m doing to this once hard-earned muscular body, but I can’t seem to stay focused. I think of the kills I’ve done since my imp joined me. So many. We learned so very much together. Something feels wrong. Something is……not pleasurable. Something hurts.

Dozens of kills flash before my eyes. Disembowelment, hangings. Arms severed, genitals eaten. Livers fed to stray dogs. Strangulations, beheadings, skulls caved in, eyes gouged. So many beautiful communions with my prey. My imp, learning from me. My imp teaching me. Football, always football, my only other love. My imp loved Manchester Utd even more than I did. We enjoyed the history of the club, the greatest players. Sir Alex. All our heroes in red. We stalked one of our heroes, the hero actually, through the streets of Paris, but my imp cried out that we must not. He was special.

 

I drop the gore-covered surgical scalpel and part of her intestine from my hands and turn to look into the face of my imp. His smile is toothy and wide. He looks different, I’ve never seen him so happy. I blink hard several times and smile back, mostly out of reflex. He smiles so rarely, it just seemed the thing to do, to smile back.

My eyes narrow and drop to his hands. He has a large kitchen knife form our bag. It’s dripping with warm, bright blood. Blood too fresh to be hers. My fingers feel around to where the pain lanced in my spine and disappear into the stab wound.

I feel my imp slide the eight inch blade into my neck, plunging it through the trapezius.

“Why?” I gurgle, a clump of blood splattering from my mouth.

My imp laughs.

“Don’t need you anymore, killer.” His voice is slap of sarcasm.

I feel the blade being pulled out. It’s actually quite a pleasant sensation. Not unlike defecating. I fall to the ground my face coming to rest on my victim’s open abdomen.

“I’m proud of you.” I whisper with my last words.

He laughs.

 ∞

 

He stands over the body of the killer and sighs. A sort of sadness passes over his being, only briefly but long enough for him to notice the desolation and be surprised by it. He hadn’t considered that he would feel a sense of loss. Still, he supposed, two years is a long time, and I have learned an awful lot from the killer. He absent-mindedly flicks the knife sharply to his right imitating samurai he’d seen in movies cleaning their katana.

Cocking his head to the right he moves his eyes dispassionately along the bodies in front of him. The man at his feet, face plunged into the growing pool of blood of their victim. He coldly removes his own clothes. Standing in only his Spiderman underwear, he walks slowly to the gate, rearranging his face into one of a traumatised seven year old. With a final look over his shoulder he whispers, “Goodbye, killer.” And slips through the gate in search of a policeman or Samaritan.

Steven takes another long pull on his cigarette and jabs at the volume minus button on his remote. He nods towards the door.

“”Can you check in on him again, love?” His wife, Sharon, smiles at him, indulgingly.

“If it’ll make you feel better, of course.” Sharon creaks quietly half way up the staircase leading from their living room to the two bedrooms on the second floor. Pausing, he lifts one ear in the direction of one of the doors and listens.

“All quiet love. Turn that up a little will you?” she asks, descending the stairs and taking her seat once more.

Dermot Murnaghan speaks a little louder as Steven jabs the volume up button.

“It seems that Matthew Houston, the seven year old who disappeared two years ago on the night of his father’s murder, is settling in well with his aunt and uncle.”

Dermot’s kindly face is replaced by the head teacher of Noble Primary School.

”Yes, we’re very pleased with Matthew. Despite his ordeal, he’s adjusted very well to normal life once again and is proving to be one of our brightest pupils.”

Dermot nods sympathetically and looks into the camera as the footage from Noble Primary disappears.

“After two years held captive by what appears to be Britain’s most prolific serial killer, young Matthew Houston’s bravery and spirit is an inspiration to the people of Scotland and Britain. Dermot Murnaghan, news at ten, in absolute wonder at a genuinely heroic little man.”

 

Steven jabs the red button, turning the image off.

“He’s a special kid, isn’t he, Sharon?”

He is, love. To have been under the control of that monster and fight his way free, is amazing, but to have come home such a confident, assured young man, it’s a blessing, Stevie.”

Steven nods his agreement. “He’s some boy. Only thing he’s asked for since he’s been back is a poster of David Beckham.” Steven’s face drops a little.

“He’s a wee bit obsessed is he not?”

Sharon shook her head. You were the same with football at that age. It’s good for him.”

Steven smiles. “Aye, I suppose so.”

Rising he makes for the kitchen to brew another cup of tea for them.

“Looking forward to taking him through to Edinburgh next week for the New Year fireworks?”

Sharon smiles broadly.

“Can’t wait, love.”

 

End of Excerpt

dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus Book 1 is available now at Amazon, US and UK

dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus Book 3 is due for publication by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in March, 2015

dEaDINBURGH Excerpt – Michelle MacLeod

The following excerpt is taken from the upcoming second volume of the dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus and details the insertion of Michelle MacLeod into the dead city.

Michelle is the mother of one of my lead characters from Book 1 and is thirty one years old at the time of the excerpt.

*****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD******

IF YOU HAVE NOT READ dEaDINBURGH: BOOK 1 DO NOT READ ON

The following excerpt is Pre-Edit and copyright of Mark Wilson and Paddy’s Daddy Publishing Ltd:

Michelle 

Early Spring, 2032 

Part One

 

Michelle woke to find herself laid face-down on a very cool-feeling white tiled floor. The cool-sensation wasn’t entirely unwelcome and helped her focus on something and pull her tangled thoughts together into a semi straight thought process. Her hand went immediately to her abdomen and lay there for a few seconds. Unsure what reassurance she gained from the gesture, she welcomed it regardless of how superficial.

Rolling onto her back, her head swam and her neck ached with the effort. Opening her eyes seemed an insurmountable challenge, a mountain too steep to conquer. An image of her student days, waking on Darcie’s floor after a hard night’s drinking and dancing came to mind, but left as quickly as it came. Not many nuggets of information were presenting themselves to her ever more alert mind regarding her current whereabouts or situation, but she knew for certain that alcohol hadn’t been a factor, having eliminated it from her life some fourteen weeks before.

She blinked hard six or seven times and finally managed to get her eyes in focus. Nothing she looked at made any kind of sense. Michelle sat up groggily and rubbed at her gluey eyes. She felt her pupils contract in response to the clinically harsh, xenon glare of the lights blasting the unfamiliar too-white room and laughed at the absurdity of the dream she was surely having.

Looking down at her own body, she found herself clothed in rags. Filthy sack-like canvas shirt covered her upper body loosely. Men’s trousers three sizes too big and rancid, really truly rancid, draped her lower half. She fought down a familiar nausea as the waft from them hit her senses. She wore no underwear and subconsciously pulled her arms around herself.

As the brightness became normal, she became aware that she wasn’t alone. Far from it. Moving her eyes was painful, so she rotated her pounding head on aching vertebrae and scanned the room. Perhaps ninety people lay in various states of consciousness. Men, boys, women and girls, lay around her on the pristine, sterile floor of the very white room.

All were clothed as she was. Some looked at her, like a child looks at a parent for answers, for reassurance, simply because she was the most alert-looking in the room. Many were too busy looking down at themselves or around the room, wondering what they wore and where they were. Michelle’s eyes teared-up as they flitted from one face to another. Some were scared white. Others shook their heads certain, as she herself was, that they’d awake somewhere warm and familiar at any moment. Most were starting to panic as they became fully awake. None of them looked to be anything other than very ordinary, very scared people.

One man started laughing loudly, causing Michelle to jump at the suddenness and intensity of his Sid James-esque bray. In other circumstances she’d have laughed along with the man and described his laugh as the dirtiest she’d ever heard. Today, in this place the man’s laugh was the sound of his sanity rustling as it left him and breaking against the white walls. Today the laugh was truly terrifying and corrupting to the tenuous grip on sanity held by the room’s inhabitants.

Michelle shut the noise out and focused on a group of seven people who still lay prone near the only door visible to her. A few others had started to move towards them also, drawn by their relative stillness. As Michelle drew nearer the group of people- a mixture of adults and children, male and female- she noticed that each of the group weren’t as still as they’d seemed from the other side of the room.

They were twitching and jerking, only slightly, like someone in the depths of a nightmare. Michelle felt a laugh of her own escape. Irony always had made her laugh.

Pushing her way gently past the little group of stunned people gathered around the apparently asleep people on the floor, she mentally swatted away the mist of a thought that was beginning to surface and placed a hand on the nearest boy’s forehead. The boy was burning up with fever. A quick glance at the other sweat-soaked faces in the group confirmed that they all were fevering. And then she saw the wounds.

Michelle’s eyes widened with horror as her subconscious pushed harder and filled her mind’s-eye with thousands of images of people she’d seen in the same condition. People in the latter stages of infection. People who’d been bitten. Infected.

Without guile or embarrassment she pulled the filthy clothes from her body and searched every visible inch of herself for bite marks. She pulled a man who stood next to her close and asked him to look in all the places she couldn’t see. Without asking, she pulled his shirt and trousers from him. Too stunned to protest, he allowed her to check for bites. Word spread, quickly. Within minutes everyone in the room was naked and checking each other for any signs of broken skin.

Eventually each of the room’s occupants, silently dressed once more, relief smashed aside with returning panic. Why? Why were they here? Three things happened in the next five seconds to make their question the last thing they needed to worry about.

 

Michelle

 Early Spring, 2032

 Part Two

 A loud clang rang out and bounced around the tiles of the room. Many of the people jumped in fright. Some of them disappeared, dropping through the large trapdoor that had fallen six feet from the pristine white floor to a barely-lit tunnel below, forming a slippery white tiled ramp into the darkness.

Many of the people in the room stood and gaped into the darkness, but only for a single second. Only until the loud scream of a child at the rear of the group snapped everyone’s attention around to the fevering group of almost dead at the main doors. Almost dead, now fully risen and attacking people closest to them with a bottomless, vicious hunger that tore flesh from bone and limb from socket. All of those present had seen the show. It didn’t need said, but one man, the still-laughing man, felt the need to shout out the obvious.

“We’re in dEaDINBURGH”.

He was positively gleeful. Until a newly animated Ringed tore his throat out with its clawed hands and devoured the flesh.

Like a wave of pestilence The Ringed moved throughout the room, tearing, biting and clawing with the strength and speed of the newly risen, at the room’s panicked occupants.

Michelle MacLeod saw none of this. As soon as the trap door had slammed into the darkness, she’d become a blur of movement. No thought, just deed. Launching herself along the tunnel, Michelle shouldered each of the people in her path aside. Leaving them in a wake of bewilderment, she cut through the darkness, one hand grabbing the loose waist of the men’s trousers she wore into a fist, the other reached out in front of her, searching through the darkness.

Her fingers cracked against a wooden panel, causing a jolt of nerve pain to lightning up her arm and the panel to dislodge. A crack of very strong sunlight lasered through the gap she’d made. She saw the dust and dirt she’d swept along with her swirl around in the biblical shaft of light that cut through the tunnel’s blackness and took a second to shout back to the other people, if people they still were.

“This way. There’s a way out.”

Shouldering through the panel of MDF, Michelle clattered onto the earth outside and shut her eyes against the brightness of the day. Beneath her eyelids, her eyes still hurt, such was the intensity of the Edinburgh, sunshine and the contrasting darkness of the tunnel. Placing a hand over her closed eyes she gave her pupils the dangerous few seconds they needed to contract and tentatively peered beneath her eyelids.

The world was a cacophony of colours in the air and the flora and fauna. She looked down a landscaped apart of the countryside. Trees and bushes, grasses and shrubs, all filled with bright berries, flowers and fruit shone alongside a straight, concrete path cutting through the beauty of the landscape. The fauna, perhaps a hundred yards along the path, hadn’t noticed her yet, but with the screaming coming along the tunnel behind her, their desiccated faces and mouldering teeth would turn her way soon.

Michelle blinked stupidly into the sun and let out a quiet sneeze. She’d always been a sun-sneezer. Her friends had mocked her playfully for it, but she’d always liked the trait she shared with her mother. Her eyes darted to a meadow to her right and picked out the unmoving body of a dead, truly dead, Ringed. She moved with speed towards the partially-rotted pile of bones and decayed flesh that not even the maggots feasted on.

Picking up the fleshiest part she could see- badly putrefied quadriceps- Michelle covered her exposed flesh and already rancid clothing in the black, jelly like fluids of the decaying Ringed. She coated her face, and carefully applied congealed fluid that had once been blood as though it were her favourite make-up. Taking her time, she flicked away the little clots that threatened to make her vomit despite the state of cold calculation her mind had entered, and smoothed fold blackened paste-like flesh over her own skin. When Michelle had finished her task she looked as though she’d fallen into a container of rotted offal.

Taking a belt from the trousers of The Ringed she’d coated herself in, Michell tied it around her waist, gathering the folds of fabric together, hurting her waist with the tightness of the leather. She shut herself off to the loud moans of dusty hunger and the wet tear of torn cracked teeth on flesh coming from the cycle path at the tunnel’s exit. Nothing to do. Nothing I can do. Just move. Years of images flooded her mind once more. Information on operation she’d been privy to as a board-member of the UKBC flooded her mind along with detailed layouts, blueprints and maps of the dead city.

Subconsciously she placed her hand over her slightly protruding uterus, absorbed strength and purpose from it, decided on a destination, and used the other gift her mother had given her. A lifelong stamina athlete, Michelle MacLeod ran like she’d never run in her whole life.

dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus 2 is due for release by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in late January, 2015.

deadinburgh-Book2-barbb-yeallow-cover copy

dEaDINBURGH: Din Eidyn Corpus 3 is due for release by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in late February, 2015.

deadinburgh-book3-red-cover-alley copy

You can find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon, US and Amazon, UK.

Preview of dEaDINBURGH (Din Eidyn Corpus Book 2)

 

The following excerpt is taken from the upcoming second volume of the Din Eidyn Corpus.

*****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD******

IFYOU HAVE NOT READ dEaDINBURGH: BOOK 1 DO NOT READ ON.

 

 

Din Eidyn Corpus Book 2 Will follow Alys and Joey directly after the events of book one, but will also show awider look at the outside world, beyond the dead city’s fences. As well as continuing Fraser Donnelly’s story, we’ll also see Michelle MacLeod (Joey’s mother) before she entered the dead city and discover how she came to be in amongst the dead.

Most of the information about the outside world will be relayed through a new character’s story arc. This is what follows:

 

dEaDINBURGH: Book 2 excerpt:

 

Edinburgh, Scotland

 2051


 

Voiding the light breaking through the gap in his curtains, Jack squinted at his Holo-Screen, blinking the fog from his eyes. Seven a.m.

He’d been playing the dEaDINBURGH: Lair of The Ringed video game since midnight. Since the feed had been cut from the live show. He flicked his finger across the air in front of him, causing the UKBC screen to pop up. The countdown until the feed re-connected sat at 00:15. Just fifteen more minutes until they had the show back onscreen in full High-Def Holo-Image. Jack saved his progress and kicked at the desk in front of him, sending his ergonomic chair scooting backwards through the pile of empty energy drink cans and takeaway boxes littered across the carpet of his living room.

Scratching at his crotch with his right hand, he lifted his left arm and sniffed at his arm-pit, screwing his face up at the sourness. Should have time for a shower if I get a move on. Jack stood with a groan in protest at the crack of his knees. It’d been a while since he’d had quite so long a session on the game. Scooping a handful of Cheesey-Puffs off of the desk and into his mouth he headed to the apartment’s little shower cube.

 

As he sang from the shower, the dEaDINBURGH theme began blasting from the surround sound speakers, eliciting a whoop of delight from him as he barrelled from the bathroom, not bothering to dry himself, body wobbling back into his still-warm chair.

Leaning forward he made a little gesture, enlarging the screen and scanned the info-bar along the bottom of the page to catch any updates. There were too many to read so Jack flicked at finger at the Holo-Screen, bringing up a highlights reel on a smaller screen within the main one. Whilst the main screen flickered into life, he flicked his eyes from the main image to the highlights feed, gleaning everything he could about what had happened to his favourite Survivors during the feed-loss.

Suzy-Wheels, Danny McGhee and Jennifer Shephard, his main characters, all were more or less where they’d been when the feed had cut twelve hours earlier. Jack flicked at the screen a few more times, bringing up images of one of the less popular and least-covered Survivors he’d been following.

Joey MacLeod’s face filled the frame. Jack liked this kid. He’d begun to get a little more airtime recently, mostly because he’d been in a few scraps with The Ringed of late. Jack remembered him from the episodes where he’d left The Brotherhood a few years back, with the old Padre.

Padre Jock had been a favourite of Jack’s as a kid. As a Zom-Hunter and one of the most colourful characters on the show, he’d had a huge chunk of airtime over the years and had consistently been in the top-ten Survivors chart for over twenty years. When he’d been killed by Bracha, Jack had shed a few tears for the old man who seemed as intricately tied to the show as its theme tune to a generation who’d grown up watching him. Three years later, Jack still felt grief whenever he looked at one of the many images of Jock on mugs, posters, T-shirts and other merchandise around his home. Jack had a massive poster of Jock over his bed, a scene from the show, showing a young Jock, blades flashing, Silencing five Zombies. It bore the legend: Running rings around The Ringed. One of Jack’s online friends had a tattoo in the shape of the characteristic Ring o’ Roses rash of The Ringed.

Many of Jock’s fans had now latched onto the eighteen year old the old preacher had trained out of the need for a connection to the familiarity of the Padre. Aside from that, they’d grown to know and love Joey during his time with Padre Jock.

The screen showed Joey and Alys, both shot from behind, in a large open field. Joey had his bow over his back and was following along behind Jennifer’s daughter. They looked tired and were both covered in a grey dust. Jack watched as the cameras zoomed out, revealing a mass of Zoms spilling out into the field from a cycle path and a little clearing in a woodland. From the trail in the long grass, it was obvious that the teens had come from the Zom-infested area.

It was a beautiful shot, so much so that it moved Jack to click the little thumbs-up icon at the corner of the screen. He was only the hundredth to do so. It made him feel a part of something special, that he was amongst the first to see the beauty in the photography.

Wondering how the teens had survived the massive congregation of Zoms and why the infected weren’t pursuing them, he whirled the highlights footage over to the main screen and began searching through it, hoping that he hadn’t missed something special. He looked at the view counter at the edge of the highlights screen.

One View. A single viewer besides him.

Jack felt a thrill surge through him and clicked the thumbs-up icon, making himself the second person to have done so. As the images moved he watched amazed as Joey and Alys moved like crowd-surfers along a mass of the dead. They seemed completely calm, so at ease. Jack he’d never seen anything like it. Nobody had.

As the scene progressed, it was suddenly cut with footage from earlier in the day. They had battled hundreds of the dead in that same clearing, Joey in a tree firing arrows and Alys a demon with her twin Sai. It was astounding and contrasted so sharply with the serenity of the previous footage that Jack felt a prickle all over his skin.

He watched Joey and Alys’ Survivor ratings rocket from the around 10,000 straight to position two and one, respectively. Realisation suddenly made him jerk in his seat. He motioned at the screen and watched as his viewer rating appeared. Last night he’d been in the upper ten-million region. A respectable position for someone in Kent. The total viewing figures worldwide for dEaDINBURGH were at around four billion.

Due to his early support for Joey, and lifelong support of Jock, he’d voted and thumbed-up Jock hundreds of times, maybe thousands in his lifetime, Jack’s Viewer Rating would receive a boost. Factor in his support of Alys by proxy of being a Jennifer Shephard supporter and combined with this morning’s early acknowledgement of both the live-feed and the highlights package, and Jack’s viewer rating should be at an all-time high, perhaps top one million.

Jack blinked in disbelief as he looked at the numbers. His rating had been propelled to top 500, worldwide. Number 1 in Europe.

His Holo-Screen suddenly lit up with emails, messages and invitations regarding  interviews, expert analysis, insights. He was being lined up for a series of appearances across some of the biggest shows on the network and a clutch of major blogs and newsfeeds.

Messages of congratulations from his network-family scrolled across his screen. In one minute he’d gone from being another nobody, an above-average fan who spent a little too much time watching the most-watched Holo-programme on the planet, one of those guys who haunted the thousands of fan-sites and pages looking for insights and extra-footage, to the hottest viewer-consultant in Europe.

He’d always known that he was someone special. Always felt that he was destined for something better than his current station in life. Something that made him worthy of the name he carried. This was it. Finally.

Jack Thatcher glanced down quickly at his mostly-naked, wet body, edges of the towel barely meeting around and under his belly. He gave a curt, decisive nod, to himself. Time to get sorted. The first thing I’ll do is get that liposuction and a skin removal. And my teeth. Get my teeth fixed.

With the kudos and the money that’d be coming his way, it was time to get himself together.

Rising from his seat, he stopped for a second, lifted his right thigh a little and expelled a cloud of gas before heading to his wardrobe. Drying off, he sniffed at then  pulled on a pair of reasonably clean sweatpants, figuring that he’d aim the Holo-Camera from the waist up. Best to be comfortable.

Jack then pulled on an old dEaDINBURGH T-shirt his dad had given him on his thirtieth birthday, with an image of Jock in full Plague-Doctor outfit on the front. It felt a little tight, but familiar.

Striding back through to take his seat, he flicked open the Comm for his first interview with an American news network, allowing himself to enjoy a moment of satisfaction at finding his rightful place.

He smiled warmly and connected his call.

 

END OF EXCERPT

SILHOUETTE-cover

dEaDINBURGH (Din Eidyn Corpus) Book: 1 (and Mark’s Lanarkshire Strays collection) are available now as a paperback and on kindle at Amazon, US and Amazon, UK.

The Man Who Sold His Son – Preview

The following passage is an excerpt from my upcoming 5th novel, The Man Who Sold His Son. I’d previously placed this on the back-burner after writing the first third of the book, as dEaDINBURGH: Book 1 was itching my head. At present, I’m writing this as my main project whilst working on dEaDINBURGH: Book 2

The Man Who Sold His Son is a welcome return to my native Bellshill. The following excerpt is pre-edit.

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Bellshill, Lanarkshire

 

Scotland

 

2055

 

1

 Alex sped the along Bellshill Main Street on his vintage Kawasaki Ninja enjoying the freedom of being on his bike. It was past midnight and a warm July night so he had the roads to himself. Hardly anyone drove these days, most choosing to use The Tubes, and those who did invariably drove those soulless hydrogen-powered cart monstrosities. Alex couldn’t imagine being without his bike. Riding his Kawasaki was more or less the only freedom he had these days, but that was ok. Life was good in so many ways. Continuing along the long road, he glanced up at the windows of his duplex noting the living room’s light flickering and that the light in Tommy’s room was on. Damn it, Sarah!

At the end of a long shift in the hospital the last thing Alex needed was another argument with his wife. Why couldn’t she just be a little kinder to the boy?

Disappearing down his building’s ramp, he noticed the underground garage doors sliding up in response to his bikes’ approach and gunned it, ducking slightly as he impatiently sped under the ascending metal. Riding the elevator to their duplex apartment on the twentieth floor of the Sir Matt Busby building, Alex removed his helmet and steeled himself for the inevitable confrontation that awaited him two hundred feet above. Forcing himself to breathe deeply, Alex thought of his grand-father.

Tom Kinsella had been a Bellshill resident but had moved to New York in adulthood. Tom had fathered twin girls, Natalie and Patricia. Patricia was Alex’s Mother and currently on vacation in Cornwall. In her fifties the relative warmth suited her and the beautiful scenery aided in her day job. Like her father, Tom, Patricia was a writer and had returned to live in her father’s home country whilst pregnant with Alex.

Alex had been lucky enough to spend his younger years splitting his time between Scotland and his grandfather’s home in New York City. Of course this was when people still travelled to other countries relatively cheaply and freely. These days, only the very rich could afford overseas travel and as a consequence, almost no-one left their country of birth anymore. Alex hadn’t seen his Grandfather in years, although they spoke often over the Holo-Net.

Tom Kinsella was the calmest, most composed man Alex had ever known. Having lost his wife in his twenties, Tom had raised the twin girls in New York and seemed completely incapable of getting angry or flustered. He was a terrific Grandfather and entirely Alex’ hero; which is why he’d named his son for the man. Speaking to, or even thinking of, his Granda Tom always helped Alex to compose himself.

The shudder of the elevator, followed by a ping shook Alex from his reverie and prompted him to step out onto the plush carpet of the twentieth floor. Each floor was identified by a different décor. Every time Alex stepped out onto the blue of the twentieth floor, he gave silent thanks that he didn’t live on the fifteenth, the orange floor.

 

The Sir Matt Busby Busby building was a luxury apartment complex built on the site of a long-demolished leisure centre. The building had been named for a 20th Century football manager, born in Bellshill, and was the new centre of the once-again affluent town. In years gone past Bellshill had been an impoverished, ex-mining, ex-steelworks town but had benefited from a decision to base Synthi-Inc’s global headquarters in the now resurgent town.

On the verge of being granted city status, Bellshill had expanded exponentially to become a global hub and mecca for biological and reproductive research. Research labs provided skills, education and employment for the thousands of locals and hundreds of thousands of new settlers the town had attracted. Several new hospitals had also been built in recent years, including Alex’ employer, the Ally McCoist Clinic for Reproductive Health, again named after a former footballing native. The locals had loved football at one time but with most of the population now composed of Synthi-kids and adults, the desire, passion and drive that made people follow or play for football clubs was absent and the game had died.

 

Alex breathed deeply, expelling any residual anger he’d felt on noticing the lights on in two separate rooms in his home, pressed his thumb to the doors’ scanner and gently pushed open the aluminium door. Striding past the living room on his right, Alex ignored Sarah’s half-hearted Hi and continued to the staircase at the end of the hallway. Ascending the spiral staircase, he reached the upper floor and lightened his step to approach the door to Thomas’s room. Grimacing at the noise as he creaked the door open three inches or so, Alex poked his nose in, checking if his son was asleep. Although there was a light on in the room, Thomas often fell asleep with a light on, a habit left over from infancy.

Alex eyes followed a trail of books along the floor leading towards Tommy’s bed. All titles well in advance of his ten years, the books were creased and well read. Thomas had always refused to use an E-reader or tablet, preferring real books. He took after Tom, his great-grandfather and a man he’d never met in person, in this regard. With his thick blonde hair and green eyes, Tommy looked like Tom as well. Alex smiled as he raised his eyes to see his son sitting up in his bed, back to the wall, knees bent in a makeshift book rest.

“Hey, Dad.”

Smiling broadly, Alex entered the room, closing the door behind him.

“Hey, Son. What you reading?”

Thomas lifted the hardback edition, showing his dad the cover.

“Rot and Ruin? Great book. I read that when I was a kid. Isn’t it a little younger than your usual choice?”

Tommy nodded “Yeah, but the writer’s amazing, Dad.”

Alex nodded in agreement. Propping one buttock on the bed he ruffled his son’s hair. “You been in here long tonight?”

Tommy’s eyes darted back to his book. “Na. Only for half an hour. Just wanted some quiet time, to read.” He said quietly.

Alex could tell he was lying, and Tommy knew it. Alex always saw the lies in his son’s eyes, but neither pushed the issue any further.

Tommy looked up at his father. “It’s alright, Dad. I like to read alone…..Please don’t argue with Mum again.” He pleaded.

Thomas’s eyes had filled a little.

Alex allowed the rising anger to dissipate and smiled warmly at his boy. “Tell me about your day at school.”

Tommy threw his book onto the floor and launched himself into an animated account of his school day. Alex listened carefully as his son described, his various classes, and friends and passed along some jokes from his mates. Thomas ended up with hiccoughs from laughing so much. When Tommy had finished and Alex had caught his breath from laughing, he raised an eyebrow and asked the boy. “Any arguments today?”

Thomas nodded.

“Mr Chase again?” he asked.

“Yeah, but he wouldn’t listen to me, Dad. I had a good point to make.”

Alex nodded. You know how proud I am of you, Don’t you?”

Tommy nodded back at his father.

“I love that you’ve got your own ideas that you think for yourself, but whilst you’re at school, you have to be careful not to be too…” Alex searched for the word, “…spirited.”

They’d had the same conversation dozens of times before. Thomas was such a livewire, so bright, athletic and full of life. It crushed Alex to dampen the boy, but it wasn’t good to shine too brightly in this modern world.”

Thomas’s eyes filled with hurt, the same way they always did when Alex had to reluctantly rein him in. “Alright, Dad. I’ll try harder.”

Alex winced. He hated making his son hide his talents, but what else could he do? Smiling again, he told Thomas. “I love you more than sausages.”

Tommy laughed. “Daaad.” He groaned.

Alex repeated “I love you more than sausages.”

Thomas’s cheeks flushed red. They’d played this game since Tommy had been a toddler. It was just embarrassing now. But still…

“I love you more than chips.” He replied, bringing a toothy smile form Alex.

“I love you more than cheesecake.” Alex grinned, initiating a ping pong of I love you more thans for a few minutes. After a few rounds Tommy yawned, signalling that his patience had run out.

Alex waited for him to lie down and then tucked him in. Sitting himself next to his son, he stroked his hair for a while. Tommy, with drooping, sleepy eyes, turned to face him. “Dad, I do love you, and Mum. I just wish that she…liked me a bit more.”

Anger and pain lanced Alex’ heart but he didn’t allow it to show in his eyes. “She does love you, you know that, Tommy. She’s just…got her own way of showing it.”

Alex searched his son’s face. The kid didn’t believe a word of it, but pretended to be comforted, for his Dad’s sake. It broke Alex heart to watch his son protect his feelings in this way. He reached out and tugged Tommy’s right ear.

“G’night, Bacon ears.” He laughed.

Tommy grabbed his Dad’s nose and yanked. “Night, Sausage Nose.”

With that he rolled over and Alex quietly left his room. Anger building once again, he made for the living room and another fight.

 

2

Sarah sat with her back to the door, vape-pod pressed to her mouth, immersed in whatever shitty Holo-Soap she was addicted to that month and sunken deep into the memory-foam sofa. One hand tapped the thin screen of her tablet, scanning the Holo-Net. The light he’d seen from outside the building was, as he’d guessed, the flicker from the Holo-Projector filling the room. Listening to the click-whizz of the vape-pod as she inhaled the last of its contents, he allowed his anger to rise.

Alex sat in an armchair opposite her, an old chair. The sort with springs and tears and history and flaws. It’d come from his Grandfather’s childhood house on Community Road. Covered in coffee-rings, it reeked of cigarettes and was one of his favourite things. Alex Mum had wanted to throw it out when the house was being demolished. He’d practically ripped it from the house in his eagerness to preserve that one, simple tie to Tom.

Sarah tossed the empty vape-pod onto the coffee table, where it bounced once and clattered to a rest against four other empty pods. It was a defiant gesture and she glared at Alex for a reaction as she threw it.

Alex held onto his anger, controlling and supressing the need to roar at her.

“Have a good day?” Sarah sneered at him and began laughing at her own question?”

“Not as good as you.” Alex nodded at the pile of pods on the table.

“Och that’s a shame” she giggled. “You should relax a wee bit, treat yourself to a vape.”

Alex ignored her provocation. “How long has Tommy been in his room while you’ve been sitting in here vaped out your head?”

Sarah laughed again. God, he hated her sometimes. At least he wished he hated her. The truth was that he loved her, God help him. His life would be a damn site easier if he could hate Sarah.

“It’s perfectly legal, Alexander.” She tried to look nonchalant, but the expression came across twisted and dull.

“Aye, it’s legal, but that boy in there thinks you hate him. Why can’t you spend some time with him? Show him you do care. Is this shit so important? More important than your son?” Alex lashed out with his foot, sending the table and the pile of vape-pods flying across the room.

Sarah laughed harder than ever. Rising to her feet she staggered unsteadily over to the table and gave it an exaggerated, slapstick kick, mocking Alex.

Alex felt a deep stab of shame at losing his temper, but was struggling to keep it in check again already due to her nastiness. He composed himself and sat back into his chair, leaving her to dance foolishly, kicking the vape-pods around as she went.

Suddenly Sarah stopped her horrific dance and turned to stare at him. Eyes like stone she said, “You know I never wanted him.”

Smiling once more, she continued, “We agreed if I had him, nothing had to change. I’m a young woman. I just want to enjoy myself.”

She staggered back to her sofa and retrieved another vape-pod from her handbag.

“I’m just having fun. Don’t I deserve some fun?” She’d started crying. There was no talking to her when she’d been vaping and he’d promised Thomas that he wouldn’t fight with her tonight. Alex left her to it and headed to their bedroom.

 

Lying on top of the covers freshly showered and in boxers and a white T, he sighed heavily and reached to his bedside table to pick up their wedding image. Holding the light plastic frame at its corners, Alex looked sadly at the image of him and Sarah smiling on their wedding day. Alex hated these moving Holo-images and much preferred the older, still photographs of his childhood. He hated the way the Holos captured and projected so accurately the emotions of the day. Alex’ smile was beaming from the Holo with pride and happiness. Sarah smiled broadly also, but her smile never reached her eyes. Even then she’d begun to grow colder.

 

Childhood friends, he and Sarah had lived in houses across the road from each other in an older part of Bellshill. At three years old they’d gone to nursery together. At five, primary school. At twelve, high school. Throughout their childhood and adolescence they’d been best friends, each and every life event had been marked by photos and then Holos, featuring both of them. They’d come as a pair their whole lives. Eventually, they exchanged their virginities and conceived Thomas on the first go.

Sarah was almost three months pregnant by the time they’d realised and then accepted that they were one of the rare few. A couple who could produce offspring in the old way. Sarah felt that she’d been cursed and wondered at what she’d done to deserve such a cruel outcome to her first sexual encounter. Alex was shocked, but despite what was becoming fashionable, despite the extra work and responsibilities and perhaps persecution having their child would bring into their lives. For him, the introduction of a child into their lives felt right somehow. He felt like a father from the moment he discovered the unlikely conception.

At eighteen, Sarah had been overly concerned with what her peers and her parents’ friends thought of her pregnancy. People generally made one of two assumptions. Either that she’d planned conception and used the synthi-sperm procedure, or that she was having a random. Most assumed she’d conceived with Synthi-sperm and whilst they frowned at her having made the decision so young, most mothers were in their forties, they simply saw her as a silly wee lassie who’d been a little stupid and headstrong. Sarah was happy enough, for the most part, to let people believe that she’d gotten pregnant deliberately but it galled her to be set apart from her peers who slowly trickled away into the past and stopped calling her.

As well as her social circle depleting, her thoughts were consumed with the delivery of their baby. She was terrified at the thought and frequently had panic attacks in response to Holo-Shows about birth or during visits to the Pre-natal clinic. Alex had tried his best to put her mind at ease, but really, what could he say? He had no more idea than she did about what the delivery suite would hold for her.

Sarah had taken time to adjust, but had eventually become more positive through the course of the pregnancy. Then, along came Thomas.

Thomas’s birth had been every bit as difficult as Sarah had feared. After a very dangerous assisted delivery, she’d been left badly damaged, physically and emotionally. Her body of course, healed over the weeks and months that followed, but her mental health had deteriorated badly and had never recovered.

She seemed to blame their new son for the manner and difficulty of his arrival, and frequently referred to him as it. Alex ignored the remarks and remained positive. Sarah worked very hard at being a mother, but it was obvious that a sense of duty drove her. She took no pleasure in her baby and clearly resented him and the responsibilities he’d brought. Sarah couldn’t bond with the boy. The daily monotony of nappies, bottles, washing, cleaning, crying, screaming. Lather, rinse, repeat. It chipped away at her self-esteem and her ability to remain positive. She couldn’t see the moment for what it was; a moment. A period of hardship that wouldn’t last forever. She couldn’t see an end to the hell she found herself in and cried for her dreams of a different life. She simply wasn’t capable of loving her baby enough to keep moving forward.

Alex juggled work, his studies and spent as much time as possible at home. Eventually, they agreed that Sarah would be happier getting out to work and Alex should drop one of his jobs to stay at home and look after Thomas more often. Alex hoped that Sarah’s escape from the Groundhog Day nature of being a parent to a young, demanding baby would help her lift her spirits and appreciate the now more limited time she spent with the baby. Instead, Alex’ bond with their son grew stronger and hers disappeared altogether.

As the years had passed and their lives moved on, more and more, Sarah had sunk into depressive routines and habits. She stopped working and began vaping two years ago. Recently she’d moved from being indifferent to Thomas to being openly hostile.

Sarah rarely left their apartment and was so desperately sad and angry all of the time Alex didn’t recognise her anymore. She’d isolated herself so completely from him and from their son that the gulf between them seemed impossible to cross. Alex had tried desperately to snap her out of the blackness she was in, but caring about her, loving her, had become more and more difficult because of how she’d been treating their son. She obviously and openly blamed him for everything she perceived as absent from or wrong with her life. Alex couldn’t find a trace of his childhood friend in her eyes anymore, but was determined to keep trying to bring her back to her old self and shield Thomas form her illness.

He picked up the Holo of their wedding day and watched his former-self hug and smile the woman he loved. He smiled sadly as he recalled that they’d had a huge row the previous night. I’m only seventeen, Alex. I’m not ready to be a mother. Especially to a kid I didn’t plan. They call them Randoms now, you know.

Alex recalled every exchange from that night. In the early hours they’d argued, screamed at each other. They’d both cried and eventually he’d convinced Sarah that having their baby and getting married was the right thing to do. Not just for the baby, but for both of them also. He had it all planned; Medical school, two jobs to support them whilst he studied. He promised her that they could make it work, that they’d be happy. He’d place his hand over the barely visible bump in her abdomen where their child grew and begged her to trust him. By morning she’d agreed to try.

 

Alex placed the Holo-Frame face-down on his bedside cabinet and turned out the light. He smiled to himself in the darkness. I’ll take them to the beach tomorrow. Yellowcraigs Beach in Gullane. Granda’s beach.


3

 Thomas had found himself a couple of friends and had been playing handball at the edge of the sea. As usual, his peers’ gameplay was a little gentile for his liking and he’d been trying in vain to liven things up. The kids he was playing with didn’t have the same competitive urge and soon lost interest in the game. The group of new friends were sitting burying each other’s feet in the sand. Eventually Thomas got bored and walked off towards the sea to skim some smooth pebbles out across the still, gentle surface of the Firth of Forth. Alex watched his restless, outgoing son and smiled. He didn’t bother turning to share the moment with Sarah, experience had taught him that even if she had been watching, which she wasn’t, she didn’t feel the same swell in her heart as he when watching Tommy at play.

It didn’t matter. It was a beautiful day and Sarah looked peaceful for the first time in months. Whilst he lay on his back, propped up on his elbows, she had rested her head across his lap and was laid face-up, eyes closed soaking up the sun’s rays. Alex played absent-mindedly with her hair and sighed in satisfaction. It was the most intimate they’d been in months and warmed his core more completely then the day’s beautiful sunshine ever could. This trip had been a good idea. Days like today had been what he’d had in mind when he imagined his future as an eighteen year old new father.

 

Suddenly aware that he hadn’t seen Tommy for a minute or two Alex sat lazily, rising from his elbows carefully, so as to not disturb Sarah. Unable to see Tommy straight away, he shaded his eyes with his hand and scanned along the beachfront. In bright blue long shorts, Thomas shouldn’t have been hard to spot but Alex couldn’t see him anywhere around. Sarah groaned and rolled off him as he rose to his feet, the beginnings of panic starting to surge through him. Still more or less calm, he walked quickly to the spot he’d last seen Thomas throwing stones from and began scanning up and down the beach and along the water’s edge once more.

“Thomas!” he yelled up the beach before sprinting along the waters’ edge, splashing and pushing his way along the shore.

Alex made his way east until he reached the furthermost point of the beach, scanning the depth of the beach and fifty feet into the sea as he went before turning around and sprinting Westward. After spending thirty minutes frantically running, searching and calling for his son, Alex made his way to where Sarah still lay. Grabbing her by the arm, he shook and pulled her up onto her feet.

“Have you seen Thomas?”

“Whaaat?” she replied, groggily. She’d been vaping. Whilst he’d been searching for Thomas, she’d been getting high.

“Thomas! Have you seen him?”

Sarah waved him off dismissively and sat back down.

“He’s over there playing.” She slurred pointing to the place where he’d been playing handball an hour before.

“He’s gone, Sarah.” Alex knelt in front of her, calmed himself as much as possible and took her face in his hands forcing her to look at and focus on him.

“Sarah, I can’t find him. We need to call the police.”

Sarah blinked dumbly a few times and lay on her side before replying.

“Och, he’ll be fine.”

Alex swore loudly at her, drawing the attention of a family nearby.

Turning around, he’d decided to search the beach one more time when suddenly he spotted the blue shorts he’d spent the last hour looking for.

 

Thomas was strolling casually towards his father accompanied by a slim, middle-aged man. The man looked familiar and was dressed in a very expensive looking suit, despite the weather and location. He had his right arm around Thomas, guiding him towards his Dad. The pair of them looked relaxed and had clearly just shared a joke. Alex darted over to his son, went down on one knee and pulled him in close.

“Where the hell did you get to, Thomas? We’ve been worried sick.”

Thomas looked over his dad’s shoulder at his mother who was slumped on a beach towel, blissfully unaware of his presence. He raised an eyebrow challenging his Dad.

Alex followed the boy’s eyes and nodded, “Well, I’ve been worried sick. Where have you been?”

Tommy shrugged.

“I just took a walk along the beach. Ran into Mr Ennis and had a chat with him in the ice cream bar. He’s a nice man, Dad. I know what people I shouldn’t talk to, I’m not stupid.”

Alex was less than impressed with Tommy’s nonchalance and his decision to depart for an ice-cream with a total stranger, but he shook off the anger and turned to shake Mr Ennis’ hand.

“Alex Kinsella. Thanks for bringing my son back, Mr Ennis.”

“Gavin, please. And it’s no trouble. He’s a very clever boy, Dr Kinsella. You must be very proud of him.” Gavin still had a hold of Alex hand.

Alex eye twitched involuntarily but he managed to force a smile onto his face.

“Thanks, Gavin. We are.”

Ennis stood smiling at him in silence, until Alex cleared his throat, pulled his hand from Gavin’s and took Tommy by the hand.

“Well, thanks again Gavin. Good to meet you.”

“And you, Dr Kinsella.” He bent to ruffle Tommy’s hair.

“Nice to meet you too, young man.”

Thomas laughed and asked Gavin “See you again sometime? Next time we’re at the beach?”

Alex bristled at the stranger’s easy familiarity and obvious rapport with his son. “Sure.” Gavin replied. “Bye folks.”

With that, Gavin made his way from the beach back up towards the ice-cream bar.

Alex looked down at his son. “Did this guy just come over and ask you to go for an ice-cream?”

Thomas shook his head. No, Dad. I saw him reading a Jonathan Maberry book and went over to talk to him. I told you, I’m not stupid.” Thomas said defensively.

Alex looked his son in the eye. “I’m really angry at you, Thomas. You had me worried.”

Looking at his bare feet, the boy shuffled. “Sorry.”

It was grudged, he clearly felt that he hadn’t done anything wrong and this worried Alex.

“C’mon, son. Let’s go take Mum home.” As they walked towards their spot on the beach where Sarah lay, Thomas asked his father, “Can we go for a burger on the way home, Dad? I’ll pay.” Thomas fished a note from his pocket and waved it as his father.

Alex snatched the unfamiliarly-coloured note from him. Unfolding it he realised his son had a one thousand pound note.

“Did he give you this?” he asked sounding angrier than he’d meant to.

Thomas’s eyes had begun to tear up. “Yes. It was a gift.”

“Right.” Alex said.

Grabbing Thomas by his wrist he marched towards the ice-cream bar, trailing the boy behind him and holding the note out in a fist. Storming into the bar, his eyes tore around the room, searching for Ennis. With no sign of him, Alex approached the vendor, still clutching Tommy’s wrist.

“’Scuse me?” he barked at the vendor. “Have you seen a guy in a suit?”

“Oh, aye. Mr Ennis. He was having a chat with the wee man there a wee while ago.”

“And you didn’t think that was a bit weird?” He asked the man.

Looking puzzled and a little defensive the guy replied.

“What? A guy and a wee laddie sitting laughing together over an ice-cream? Not really, pal. Besides, Mr Ennis is a lovely man, he’s in here all the time.”

Alex was exasperated. “Where is he?”

The vendor shrugged. “You just missed him. His driver just picked him up two minutes ago.”

“Driver?”

“Aye.” Replied the vendor.

“He’s got one of those big Mayback jobs. None of your hydrogen powered nonsense, a real petrol engine.”

Alex shook off his confusion. “Who is this guy exactly?”

The vendor pointed at a Holo-Ad that was playing on the projector in the corner. The Ad was for Synthi-Sperm’s largest manufacturer, Synthi-Co.

“He owns that company. Lovely man, down to earth. You’d never know he had billions in the bank….Except for the car.”

 

4

Alex closed Thomas’ room door and leaned against it for a second. He’d spoken over and over again to his son about how worried he’d been for him when Thomas had disappeared with Gavin Ennis that afternoon. Tommy said all the right things to assure his dad that it wouldn’t happen again, but Alex could tell from his body language that his son thought that he hadn’t done anything wrong and was just telling his father what he wanted to hear. This meant that Thomas would likely make the same choice gain given a similar situation and this made Alex nervous. There was little point in pushing him further, Tommy had made his mind up and Alex would just have to trust that he’d listen to him.

Continuing along the hallway, Alex gently pushed the door to his and Sarah’s room open and peeked inside. She was sprawled across the entire bed, fully clothed and in a deep vape-induced sleep. One less thing to worry about tonight. Alex thought to himself, before descending the stairs to the kitchen.

After making a coffee, he perched himself on the nearest stool. An infrequent coffee-drinker, the intense hit refreshed his weary mind almost instantly. Alex enjoyed the new clarity for a second before reaching for his Holo-Net tablet. Propping the tablet on the breakfast bar, Alex pressed a soft key on the edge of the device. The tablet resembled a very thin picture frame but with an empty space where the glass and photograph would normally sit. Very light, the frame was designed to fold to credit-card size.

Upon pressing the soft key the frame immediately flashed into life, a vivid High Definition Holo-image of the family filling the empty space of the frame. Alex pressed softly at the corner of the image and it changed to a traditional looking desktop, which is what Alex liked to work from. Selecting the Holo-Net icon, Alex watched a Holo-Keyboard slide out from the bottom of the frame and began searching the Holo-Net for information on Gavin Ennis. Hours later, he’d selected a dozen or so blogs, news articles, opinion pieces and company reports from the hundreds of articles he’d found on Mr Gavin Ennis. Alex was determined to find something to justify the unease he’d felt when Gavin placed his arm around Thomas.

 

Business Insider

 

Gavin Ennis today issued a share option to his five hundred thousand staff. The generous package rewards staff at all levels, from janitorial to boardroom, a quarterly bonus in shares in return for their hard work and contribution to the company. The effectiveness of the employee’s service within the company will determine how many shares each employee is rewarded with.

 

In a statement announcing the scheme, Mr Ennis stated,

 

“We want every lab technician, Scientist, executive, mailroom operative and accountant in our firm to be valued equally and have equal opportunity to receive equal shares issued. With this in mind, these bonuses will be decided by a sliding scale which takes into account the effectiveness, efficiency and loyalty of each individuals’ specific role. Simply put; if our janitor works his ass off and one of our executives under-achieves, our janitor will go home with more shares than the exec.”

 

The scheme is yet another example of why Mr Ennis has been our Business person of the Year three years in a row and Europe’s’ Employer of the Year for the last five years. Mr Ennis’ proactive approach to business management and investment in his staff at all levels is impressive.

 

Alex tapped the corner of the article and brought the next few articles to the front of the Holo-Screen.

 

Time Magazine

 

“Gavin Ennis is our kinda guy!”

 

Daily China Gazette

 

“Ennis continues to forge global links, driving forward his mission to bring low-priced, high quality reproductive health care to citizens of every country.”

 

The Scotsman

 

“Gavin Ennis continues to fly the Saltire.”

 

New Scientist Magazine

 

“Ennis contribution to and continued developments in reproductive health place him in the upper echelons of the scientific elite. That he shares his ideas so freely and his services so cheaply, is to his credit.”

 

 Tiring of reading, Alex brought up a Holo-Tube documentary that nicely summarised Ennis’ contribution to the Synthi-Sperm sector and gestured a command to start the presenter speaking.

 

“In 2025 the World Health Organisation published a report on the diminishing reproductive capabilities of the world’s male population. Sperm quality and quantity in the ‘of breeding age’ demographic had fallen to previously unseen levels. The WHO report presented convincing evidence which suggested that the drastic and irreversible decline in reproductive function was most likely the result of an accumulation of three generations use of hormone-based contraception as well as some other unknown elements. The report suggested that the effects on our physiology and genetics of high levels of progesterone and oestrogen in our drinking water had instigated a permanent change in human physiology.

By 2040 only one in a hundred thousand couples globally could reproduce without medical assistance. Quality sperm had rapidly become the most expensive substance in the history of humankind; until a small lab named Synthi-Co in Wales, founded by Mr Gavin Ennis perfected the technique for producing, healthy artificial sperm.

By 2050, most babies were the result of IVF using the now ubiquitous synthi-sperm. Whilst children conceived by the synthetic method demonstrated a slightly reduced capacity for learning and were significantly more docile than the much rarer, Randoms, the choice of physical characteristics available to the parents when designing the synthi-sperm which would become their child, offset any worries they may have had about their child being a little mild-mannered.

It had become fashionable to use synthi-sperm and a significant portion of the small minority who could conceive ‘naturally’ frequently chose to use synthi-sperm anyway, rather than take a gamble on which characteristics their offspring might inherit. Very few children remained in the population who’d been conceived by ‘traditional means’, and were generally referred to as Randoms; a reference to their relatively random conception and the formation of their physical characteristics.

Whilst a generation of more desirable designer children now existed, ambition, competition and will to succeed seemed mostly absent in the synthi-kids and this new generation was much more content and much less aggressive than any that had come before. The world of 2050 is a much more peaceful place to live in, but discrimination and prejudices do still exist.

The Randoms have become somewhat of an underclass. Parents of Randoms worry about their child’s career prospects and take care to hide their child’s status from their peers. Many have begun to purchase illegal documents to falsely validate their child; to certify them as being of the new breed of children. The parents of synthi-kids take comfort in knowing that they’ve given their offspring the best possible start in life.

Recently there have been rumours of defects in the synthi-kid genome, but most parents have faith that the governments will provide their local geneticists with the new skills and techniques to iron out any flaws. They believe that they are in good hands and trust their Reproductive Health Professionals.

Mr Ennis has been quick to reassure his patients that Synthi-Kids are indeed the healthiest and most advantaged children our society has ever produced. He has also dedicated his vast resources to founding community assistance for the so called Randoms, stating that ‘No British child, no matter how deficient their start in life, should ever be discriminated against.’ His outlook and defence of human rights proved popular with the British public leading to a call for a government position to be created for Mr Ennis. The Scottish government moved quickly, making Mr Ennis a national tsar of sorts for reproductive and mental health in Scotland. The British government is widely expected to match the offer.

 The report went on for another hour but Alex had gotten what he needed. Frowning, he closed all of his active screens. Seems our Mr Ennis, pardon me, Gavin, is a bit of a saint. A super-wealthy saint, but a saint none the less.

END OF EXCERPT

The Man Who Sold His Son is scheduled for publication by Paddy’s Daddy Publishing in late Summer 2014

Mark is the author of Bobby’s Boy, Head Boy, Naebody’s Hero and the dEaDINBURGH Series.

You can find Mark and his books at Amazon UK and Amazon US