The Penrath Chronicles : Blackest of Hearts

Spurred on from the moment she’d felt her father’s essence weakening Kendra had left the kitchen and was halfway down the hall before the coffee cup hit the floor and shattered. Kendra was halfway down the hall. The sensation of his fading image and a sense of dread being forced into her mind was one she’d only experienced once before. It lent speed to her movements and as quickly as she could she passed through the front door and down the drive dragging the car keys from her handbag as she went. With a snap of her fingers she unlocked the central locking and threw open the door before hurling herself into the driver’s seat in a single movement.   Even before the key was in the ignition she’d started to connect with the source of her father’s essence and from the moment the car headed toward the road at the end of the drive had concentrated on its source. Allowing it to guide her she drove as quickly as she dared ignoring the occasional blast of car horn from behind her as the panic she felt motivated her to take certain liberties where road safety was concerned. Fifteen minutes later the sense of dread she’d felt only increased when the hospital swung into view and she felt herself being drawn toward it. Less than a minute later she parked in the first empty space she found within the car park and disregarded the pay and display meter she raced straight through into the main entrance of the hospital. Taking a moment to stamp her feet to drive the snow from her shoes she then strode over to the reception and all but elbowed the woman standing there aside, “I’m looking for Arthur Weyland,” she said, “I understand he was brought here”. The young nurse on the other side of...

A Ghost of Eurydice

by Adam Wilby James watched as the last of the group departed from his pub, the door closing behind them almost in time with Kirsty McColl as she exchanged reminiscences with Shane MacGowan of the Pogues. Now that they were gone the bar was now empty and he wished them a safe trip home. The wind could clearly be heard blowing a storm outside and there would no doubt be tidying up to be done tomorrow. A fresh torrent of rain lashed against the windows and as he took a moment to look round at the Christmas decorations, in less than a week they would all be boxed up and back upstairs in the cupboard, all the better for them to be out of sight and out of mind in his opinion, he only put them up because it was expected for him to do so. A new song started playing on the jukebox and he checked his watch. A quarter past two in the afternoon and given that it was Christmas Day there were unlikely to be any more customers. The rest of day could now be his to kick off his shoes and sit upstairs with his feet up. There would no doubt be the usual feel-good Christmas TV on, inclusive of a token film in the vein of It’s a Wonderful Life, intermingled with a fair dose of TV drama. As he walked the length of the bar he reached out without needing to look and stroked a finger across her photograph which had long been positioned in the same place on the wall. Tomorrow it would be three years to the day since she’d been gone and he’d unquestionably feel the same sense of shame he always did, perhaps this year the conversations he’d have with customers would be enough of a distraction. If not...

Happy Families

  -By Adam Wilby From his vantage point near the top of the Skyway bridge Edward Chandler looked upon the streets of Matracea. He had never visited this part of the city before but could see how it had earned its nickname as the Ant Colony. More people than he cared to try and count swarmed up the narrow road which ran parallel with the Skyway before branching off into any number of side streets. Somewhere ahead Edward was just about able to make out the beginnings of a square which seemed to be where most of the people below were headed. According to the directions he had been given this was also his destination and he saw little point in hanging about. Walking slowly down the stone staircase Edward analysed the speed and depth of the crowd as he went. The sheer numbers meant that was no-one was able to move at an especially quick pace but they also meant there was a lot of jostling going on and he instinctively rested his hand upon on his money belt even as he stepped out into them. Electing to keep fairly close to the buildings on the near side of the street as he headed for the square that he’d seen earlier Edward quickly discovered that there was nowhere on the street that allowed for respite from being driven along by the crowds. It occurred to him that it was lucky that his wife Mary had not accompanied him here today as it would have been seconds before the claustrophobia she had carried ever since she was child got the best of her in such an environment as this. The moment he reached the square Edward felt able to relax as it was sizeable enough to allow the crowd to spread out. Taking a few moments to look around...

Cordelia’s Lament

– By Adam Wilby Cordelia moved across to the mirror and silently gazed through it. On the other side the man approached and set a cardboard box down on the floor. Looking up his breath settled on the glass as his attention focussed on the dresser in front of him. Reaching out her hand Cordelia traced a finger in the resulting condensation. The message spoke but one word, “Remember”. For a moment she thought the man had seen as his teeth lightly bit on his lower lip as he had always done when he witnessed something unexpected. Cordelia’s hopes were dashed as he took hold of a framed photograph which rested near the edge of the dresser. Even without seeing it Cordelia knew what it depicted. Two years ago the two of them had taken a trip to Devon and had stumbled upon Saunton Sands beach more by accident than design. The month of June had been upon them and the summer sun had brought out the surfing community out in force; one of whom had been nice enough to take their photo. Cordelia turned her fingernails into the palm of her hand and exerted pressure to the point where it almost hurt. Watching as the photo was consigned to the cardboard box she looked on as memories of her previous life followed. As they did so her mind went back to the events of six months ago. It all seemed so silly now. A handful of words hastily spoken and she’d stormed from the house in anger; without slowing down she’d crossed the road without looking and had only been dimly aware of the sound of screeching brakes. Afterward Cordelia could have realistically have gone anywhere but with no real family in the world she’d felt her choices were limited. In the movies there always seemed to be...

Stephen King – Under The Dome

-by Adam Wilby Just over a week ago this was placed in my hand by a work colleague following a conversation about Stephen King. My initial comment was something along the lines of “This isn’t a book, it’s a doorstop”, an observation based on it being 880 pages long. The setting for this story is the fictional town of Chester’s Mill which, like other stories Stephen King has written, is located in Maine. Consisting of a population of approximately 2500 people they are all going about their everyday lives when a ‘forcefield’ suddenly comes down and cuts them off from the outside world. For anyone who has read Lord of the Flies they might recognise the similar themes of sides being taken which, at a fundamental level, is essentially good vs evil. The protagonist is Dale Barbara, a former Iraq War veteran who quickly finds himself at odds with politician Jim Rennie over the latter’s intention to use what has happened for his own ends. At times the ‘Dome’ as it eventually becomes known is forgotten in the midst of the ongoing power struggle which, it could be argued, are lacking in the ‘shades of grey’ which so often make up human nature. On the plus side though Stephen King has not neglected to mention the outside world which begins with the efforts of US Military to analyse and break the dome and later deals with re-uniting relatives as far as they are able to do so. This is about as much as I can say without giving away too many spoilers so shall stop here, my final words on the subject shall be : Yes it is a long book but Stephen King has written it in such a way to make this interesting from start to finish. Buy a copy and read, I promise you won’t regret...

Book Review – Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

-By Adam Wilby I’ve read a number of autobiographies in my life but this is the first I’ve ever read which has made me laugh and made me want to cry in equal measures. Predominately set against the backdrop of Limerick in Republic of Ireland after Frank McCourt’s buck the trend of Irish immigrants settling in America by returning there and experiencing the grim poverty of the 1930’s and 1940’s. In writing this book Frank McCourt manages to pull off the near-impossible and find humour in a life which saw his alcoholic father regularly spend all his money down the pub thereby forcing the rest of the family to beg, borrow and steal in order to survive. As this is predominately Frank’s story he does focus on his siblings but the reader can clearly see how his life experiences shape him as a person and ultimately lead to him returning to America as a nineteen year old in a potential cliched bid to seek his fortune. All in all, a throughly good...

Christmas Requiem

– By Adam Wilby CHAPTER ONE Even as his consciousness returned and he started to open his eyes Seamus grimaced as the familiar pain of the previous evening’s alcohol shot through his head. Squinting against the glare of the sun as it streamed through the window he turned over and his heart sank upon seeing the bars of the prison cell. On the far side of the bars a policeman glanced up from his chair as Seamus slowly made his way to his feet. “Merry Christmas,” he said sarcastically. Seamus rubbed his eyes as a fresh wave of nausea swept through him, “What time is it?” he asked. “Eight thirty, suppose you’re going to ask to be let out now?” “That would be nice,” said Seamus. The policeman walked over to the cell door and unlocked it before sliding back the bars. Seamus trudged through and began to head for the stairs leading to the upper floor of the police station. “Thanks,” he muttered over his shoulder. “No doubt we’ll be seeing each other tomorrow,” replied the policeman. Seamus heard the probable truth in the words but chose to ignore them as he proceeded up the stairs. Even before he reached the top he caught sight of Mary’s red hair, partially buried as it was under a thick woollen hat. Almost as soon as he caught sight of her Mary’s head turned in his direction and the scowl on her face seemed to grow ever deeper. As he drew nearer she turned away and began to make her way toward the exit. As he rushed to catch up with her a round of applause erupted from around them, “If you’re tired of him sweetheart, you can have my phone number” someone called out. Mary was far nearer the door than Seamus and she vanished through it long before he...

The First Time

– By Adam Wilby The girl barely raised her head as he entered the room and he paused in the doorway as he looked at her, for her own part she was seemingly content to stare shyly at the floor. Her long brown hair covered part of her face before draping over the shoulder straps of the black dress she wore. He crossed over and placed a hand on each arm, noting the barely concealed tremble as he did so. Reaching up he brushed the hair from her face and cupped her chin in his hand, raising her head until their eyes met. “I never thought to see something so divine,” he said. The girl smiled for the first time, the auburn eyes which lit up as an echo of the smile betraying her innocence. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he said, his voice holding steady with a confidence he wasn’t sure he truly felt. Slowly her right hand moved to the left hand strap of her dress before pushing it clear of her shoulder. Turning her attention to the bed behind her she sat herself down, her eyes once again focussing upon the floor. Sitting down next to her he noted the glimmer of tears in her eyes. “Have you done this before?” she asked. He made pretence of clutching at his heart, “Now there’s a turn up,” he said, “I was beginning to think you’d been struck dumb”. A second later he knew he had miscalculated as her expression hardened and she began to stand up. “I’m sorry,” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder, “That wasn’t funny was it?” She turned to look at him, her irritation registered on her face, “No it wasn’t,” she said. He took a breath, casting a look around the room, “You’re not the only one here...

The Crypt

– By Adam Wilby Kayleigh was pissed off, there was less than two hours to go before the stroke of midnight and she hadn’t received so much as a birthday card from any of her friends. Pausing for a moment at the entrance to the churchyard which she regularly used as a shortcut on her way home, she glanced upward. The last vestige of the sun was barely visible on the horizon, the rays of which appeared to cover the sky like a red blanket. Kayleigh had of course seen the crypt before, older than the church itself someone had even today clearly gone to considerable lengths to keep it restored, if she was to hazard a guess the descendants of those buried inside were still rich enough and still cared enough to keep it this way. Traversing her way through the network of graves Kayleigh walked over to the crypt. The outer design was of Tudor architecture unless she was very much mistaken; history had always fascinated her, ever since a very young age she would set aside the comic books that her peers read and instead pour over history books, paying particular attention to the pictures of old building contained within. As she had done countless times before Kayleigh approached the crypt and silently marvelled at the skilled workmanship. Tracing a finger along the marble which had been artificially darkened in the manner of the gothic style of the Tudors she could see the hard work that gone into carving religious imagery into the stone, all of which lay in the shadow of a statue of Saint Christopher on the top of the crypt. Measuring approximately half a metre high the statue depicted the saint carrying a staff and staring out across the horizon, looking every bit the patron saint of travellers. Traversing the crypt round to...

Book Review : The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

– By Adam Wilby . This is now an available to rent DVD, the movie (for the benefit of those of you who don’t know) has Peter Jackson in the directors chair and a good job he makes of it as well. However, to move onto the book, an excerpt on the back cover reads “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighbourhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertiliser”. This eye-catching teaser is quite possibly how this book came to catch the eye of Peter Jackson. In the story Susie Salmon is raped and murdered in the first chapter by an adult from the neighbourhood known only as “Mr Harvey”. I did find myself wondering such thoughts as “Why should I care?” upon reading this as precious little had been revealed about Susie. It is only afterward when she is watching events unfold from heaven, the reaction of her family as the investigation moves from that of a missing person to a case of murder as evidence is gradually discovered. In this version of heaven Susie’s world is what she wishes it to be, she still attends school but only her favoured classes, making friends along the way, while at the same time being almost fanatical about her desire for justice. The thought occurs that there are several shades of grey in this book, an example being Susie’s mother making the decision to walk out on the family leaving the father to contend with the two surviving children being easy to criticise at face value. Upon her return several years later she finds she has paid a heavy price for what is seen as an act of betrayal when her children...

Scars of Lost Innocence

– By Adam Wilby * This is an excerpt from a short story I’m sort of working on, the ultimate object being it’ll be one of several to make it’s way into a book. Ashley ran excitedly down the stairs and down the hallway. As she rounded a corner she nearly collided with her Aunt Jane who was coming the other way, her arms laden with a basket of laundry. “Slow down Ashley, anyone would think the devil was chasing you,” said Jane with a smile. Ashley ignored her, instead waving a photo she had found up in the attic in her aunt’s face. “Is this you auntie?” Jane looked at the photo and her smile faded, dog-eared and partially faded yellow with age it portrayed two girls stood side-by-side on the edge of a cornfield. “I assume you have been up in the attic again?” said Jane rhetorically, her voice almost toneless now. “Did I do something wrong?” asked Ashley. “Not at all, it’s just that I haven’t seen that photo in such a long time”. Ashley pointed at the girl on the left, “That’s me right there”. “Who is the other girl?” Jane paused and looked away for a moment before returning her attention to the photo. “Well once upon a time she was the Princess...

Moonlight Flirtations

-By Adam Wilby . . LOCATION – The Starlight speed dating agency; PAUL has just sat down across the table from MARTHA. MARTHA:        Evening. PAUL:               Evening, my name’s Paul, what’s yours? MARTHA:        Pleased to meet you Paul. PAUL:               So what makes a girl like you want to speed date? MARTHA:        Honestly? A desire for companionship I suppose, how about you? PAUL:               True love, what else? MARTHA smiles. MARTHA:        Are you always this optimistic? PAUL:               Best way to be I think. MARTHA:        Yet you are single, not the way you like things I assume? PAUL:               I split up with the girlfriend two months ago. MARTHA:        I’m sorry to hear that. PAUL:               Don’t be, it was a case of opposites attract, that is until we both woke up one morning and realised we had nothing in common. MARTHA:        I assume then that living on your own was not to your liking? PAUL:               Something like that. <PAUSE> How about you, any men in your life? MARTHA:        Not recently, I’ve been off seeing the world for the last couple of years; romance hasn’t been terribly high on the agenda. PAUL:               Good for you, who were you travelling with? MARTHA:        I was by myself. PAUL:               Really? Brave girl. MARTHA:        I’ve always liked my independence. PAUL:               Where was the last place you visited? MARTHA:        Thailand, I was out there for a month last February.  I spent a few days in Bangkok before making my way over to Phuket. One of the best times to go if you haven’t already, weather is warm without being uncomfortable and you get to experience the Chinese New Year. PAUL:               You make it sound very attractive. Do you by any chance work in the tourism industry? MARTHA:        (Laughs) Actually I’m a taxi driver, ever need a lift home on the graveyard shift and I’m the girl to call. PAUL:               A...

The Mentor

The Mentor -By Adam Wilby Below us the group of people left the building right on time and began to walk up the street, their usual route would eventually bring them directly past us. From beside me I heard the voice of my mentor, “Do as I do, act when I act”. Always the same words for as long as I could remember. On the day we had first met he’d introduced himself as Patroclus, addressing me only as Diomedes from that point on. Of all the kills I’d made with Patroclus at my side I remembered one the most vividly, the first of which had been my initiation. I had been sixteen at the time, in a crowded pub on a Saturday night nobody have given me a second glance when I cleared the empty glasses from the table, a simple sleight of hand trick being sufficient to poison one of the pints of beer on the table moments before it was seized and gulped back. He had brown shoulder length hair and a broad northern accent as I recalled, ironically the conversation topic had been something along the lines of future plans. I found out later that he’d been the boyfriend of some rich heiress and didn’t have the intelligence to keep his trousers zipped up without bragging about it. Naturally enough word had quickly got back to her. He’d probably heard the phrase “beware a woman scorned” a dozen times before without thinking it would be instrumental in his death. Even before the poison had started to take effect we were long gone like shadows in the night. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the trigger finger of Patroclus tighten as made the first shot as he done many times before, a half-second later I copied the action and seemingly as one the...

Blood Rain

Blood Rain – by Adam Wilby I hated the rain. I hadn’t always felt this way. I vividly remember the day that I did. It was August 23rd 2008 when everything changed. I looked into the face of the man I had just punched. Blood was dripping from his nose, for his own part he was staring with an expression of disbelief at the claret puddle in the palm of his hand. The people stood closest to us had fallen silent, out of the corner of my eye I could see most of them were biting their lips; the odd few of course were clearly amused at what they saw at some impromptu entertainment. “Do I look like some cheap tart to you?” I asked the man rhetorically. If I hadn’t been so angry I might have been incredulous that he appeared so surprised. I had been sat at a table near the bar with one eye on the door while I waited for Stella to arrive. That evening the two of us had planned to meet here for a couple of drinks before moving on to a nightclub just down the road. Consequently I had gone out that morning and bought myself the red dress I had seen earlier that week when using the shopping centre as a shortcut to work. He’d walked over and asked if I wanted to dance. If Stella hadn’t once again kept me waiting I would probably have declined his offer with a smile and the false promise to catch him later. As it was I had grown bored of sitting by myself. In any case I didn’t see the harm, as the pub was less than a mile from my flat, while I wasn’t exactly one of the regulars, I was confident that if anything untoward happened someone who knew me would...

The Punch and Judy Show

THE PUNCH AND JUDY SHOW – by Adam Wilby Judy heard the keys rattle in the lock as Punch let himself into the flat they had shared together for the past two and a half years. She had never liked the flat much, situated as it was directly above the record shop where Punch worked during the day, it was also located near the two main nightclubs in the town centre. Judy had lost count of the number of times she had been woken up during the night by people who apparently couldn’t handle their drink as they staggered, shouted and swore loudly on the way home. It was small wonder that when Judy climbed out of bed at eight every morning she had bags under her eyes from lack of sleep. Even so she was never so tired as not to know that Punch would return to the flat almost precisely at noon every day for his hour long lunch break, in keeping with their established routine Judy always made sure there was a salad on the dining table waiting for him. Punch had made his feelings clear on this as he took his diet and fitness very seriously, just one of the examples being the five mile run he took every day after work meant he didn’t have an inch of fat on him. This being, if Judy was to be honest with herself, one of the reasons why she had felt an attraction to him so soon after a mutual friend had introduced them. As the shop closed at 6pm it meant that Punch would, almost as regular as clockwork, return home perhaps an hour afterward. While he was out Judy generally kept herself busy as there was usually something to occupy her attention. Indeed over the course of just over two years of living in...