Thackery Farm sat at the summit of a hill, looking out across the Marsh like a sentinel sent to watch the growing town of South Hethel.
Once, the picturesque view had touched an old man's heart and fed the pride he felt for his land. But that man was dead now, and the son who inherited the farm had sold all but a single field. He kept one tired, old cow and left the once-busy barn locked.
The barn resembled an aircraft hanger sitting on a quagmire of mud. Sheets of corrugated steel had been blown off or had collapsed inside. The building had served its purpose long ago, and now it slowly rotted like the old man's final crop.
The son, Liam Thackery, rarely used the land for agricultural purposes. Mostly, he thought of the land as a source of quick cash when times were hard. And there were certain practices that could only be done with seclusion and quiet.
He had come across a wonderful young woman while he was in the pub a year before. Her name was Kim. She was a petite, green eyed, dark haired wonder of a 27 year old woman. He couldn't believe his luck when they hit it off. She had been impressed by his muscle and tough talk. He discovered she had a son. He was bright, cute and the best behaved little boy you could ever wish to come across. His name was Shaun.
Shaun and Liam got on like grease and fire. The boy looked up to Liam like a father; he wanted to dress like him, talk like him and even had his hair cut the same. Soon enough, people began to comment on how alike they were and, when told they were not father and son, they responded with: 'Really? You'd never know.'
For Kim, the change in her life was dramatic. She had raised Shaun on her own for four years; bathing him, feeding him, changing him, teaching him. The burden had sapped the life out of her, and on more than one occasion she would fall asleep in the bath after he had gone to bed, as though the remains of her energy were seeping into the water. Through all of that, the thought of her little boy’s brown eyes gazing into her own, melted her heart. She could never have hated him for the burdens he placed on her, he was her son. And now, she was glad he would have a father.
The wonderful dream, however, had begun to crack and would soon shatter. Kim and Liam argued almost every night. Plates would be thrown, sending food careening across the room to eventually rain fire down on the kitchenware. And, on more than one occasion, Liam had hit Kim.
On nights like this, Shaun would sit at the top of the stairs, covering his ears and slowly rocking himself. He would watch their shadows moving violently on the wall and would flinch when something broke or one of them would rush into the hall.
One particular night, the couple was having an especially severe argument. Ornaments were swept from their homes in the lounge and thrown across the room. Kim and Liam screamed at each other, their voices breaking with the strain. Shaun sat, as usual, at the top of the stairs and recoiled as there was a loud crash. Kim cried out in pain.
She burst into the hall, searching for more ammo to throw at Liam, and then spotted Shaun. Concern melted the anger from her brow and she raced up the stairs to him. Kim took her son into her bosom and rocked him. Into his ear she whispered: 'Oh my baby boy...'
Liam exploded from the living room, his predatory eyes locked onto Kim and his face sharpened with fury. 'Get down here! I'm not done with you yet, bitch!'
Before Liam could pull her away, Kim squeezed Shaun tightly. 'Lose yourself, little Shauny, run away in that little head of yours.'
He did as his mummy instructed, and did so more often when they began to fight. He would crawl away into some corner of his mind and when he would return, all that was left was the carnage that the two adults had left behind.
A year later, Shaun and Liam were at Thackery Farm. It was raining heavily, the water thrummed on the steel roof like a stampede of horses' hooves. Shaun rather liked it that way, it dulled the whispers in his head so that he was not distracted by them.
Liam was working under the hood of an old Buick he had bought from an old lady in Northamptonshire. His blue overalls were stained with grease and oil. He kicked his steel-toe capped boots on the concrete floor to get the blood flowing again.
Little Shaun was sitting on a sack of feed, playing with plastic cars that he had won from a box of Cheerios. Over the racket of the pummeling rain he made engine noises and the sound of squealing tyres. He would play this way for hours, lining them up or zooming them round in long arcing circles, becoming hypnotised by the patterns. The games let him fall back a little from reality and that comforted Shaun.
There was a clatter as a wrench fell to the floor. 'Fucking hell!' Liam roared and kicked the Buick's bumper. He stood back from the car, his hands on his hips. He let out a long breath as he rolled his tongue in thought.
He turned round, a smile played across his lips, exposing his large yellow teeth. 'Hey, Shauny boy.'
'Hi Liam,' Shaun replied, beaming.
'How would you like to play a game?'
Shaun gave this a little thought and then jumped to his feet. 'Okay. What are we gonna play?' he asked with a shrug of his shoulders.
Liam looked about himself and spotted a coil of blue nylon rope on the floor. He picked it up and tensed it between his hands, it cracked under the strain. 'How about you're a secret agent and I've managed to catch you?'
'Yeah!' replied Shaun.
Liam gave the boy a crooked smile that crept over his face like a reopened scar. 'Now,' he said, 'I've managed to capture the legendary Shaun Osborne and I've tied him to the front of this...ah...combine harvester.'
Shaun smiled and went and stood in front of the old, rusting harvester, facing Liam.
But the older man laughed. 'No, Shaun, I think it would be better if you turned around.'
The boy frowned, but followed Liam's suggestion. With the rope, Liam bound Shaun's hands behind his back. The itchy nylon scratched at the boy's wrists and he moaned a little in discomfort. Once Shaun was firmly in place, Liam began to prance about behind him.
‘You've done a lot of very bad things, Shaun,' Liam said in the cool tones of an interrogator. 'And for those things, we're going to have to punish you with the most terrible sentence of all.'
Shaun laughed. 'Oh no what is it?'
'The Muscle Monster's probe.'
Shaun giggled away to himself, but Liam's face was taught with intensity. His eyes were fixed on the boy’s backside. He came closer, his footsteps echoing off the steel walls. He pulled down the boys tracksuit bottoms and undid the flies of his overalls.
'Now pay for your naughtiness!' Liam shouted.
The pain lasted only an instant. It was suddenly dulled, as though he had been given an anaesthetic, like the one he'd had when he had to have stitches in his head for cutting it on the kitchen floor. Then darkness began to grow from the edges of his sight, slowly creeping in until it took over everything. He heard and felt nothing.
Suddenly, with the crack of a huge switch being thrown, a spotlight appeared before him; a single, crisp circle of light that was perfect in its brilliance. Within it sat a huge leather armchair.
Shaun got to his feet and walked into the light. He ran his hands down one of the arms, following the maroon leather until it reached one of the lion heads that adorned either armrest. Its mouth was open in a tremendous, silent roar.
It was only then that he noticed the boy sat within it. He was younger than himself, perhaps three or four. Their hair was the same colour; a dark brown, flecked with the occasional sprinkling of blond.
The boy writhed within the leather, tossing and turning, struggling to break free of the invisible bonds that held him down. 'No!' he shouted, and then went on wrestling to break free. Like the crack of a lighting bolt his eyes popped open and he let out a scream that broke his voice, a cry of sheer torment and horror. It was the cry of a boy who's innocence had been shattered.
That cry hauled Shaun from his trance and onto the floor. The room spun like a cheap carnival ride. The boy's face was burnt onto his retina, scorching his vision every time he blinked, appearing like a red ghost before him.
Slowly, the face faded and retreated back into his subconscious. Gentle, feminine hands gripped his shoulders and stopped the room from spinning, anchoring him to the spot. They guided him back to the couch he had been tossed from, and seemed to secrete calmness into his body.
'Easy now,' the woman said. ‘I want you to close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. You have been through an awful lot.'
'What... what the hell did I see?' Shaun asked through deep breaths.
'A memory that has been suppressed deep in your subconscious, Shaun.'
'That was real?' Shaun's eyes were open now, staring at the psychiatrist. 'He did that to me?'
'I'm afraid so.'
'But...' the reality of it all was beginning to knit itself together in his mind, 'he was my best friend. I trusted him! I was a boy... just a little boy...'
'It's okay, Shaun. I'm going to help you.' The psychiatrist touched his arm again, warmth radiated from it. But he couldn't accept that contact any more, he pulled his arm away.
'You don't understand, I don't want help. I want this all to end. I'm bored of being the world's fuck up. I know I killed those people now... the black outs. It makes sense. Do you know how it feels to wake up with blood on your hands and never know who you've hurt?'
She was struck dumb. What could you say to something like that? But it was her job to say something. 'You are not well, Shaun. You need help. Please, let me make you better.'
Shaun began to fallback into himself, his face becoming more and more blank. 'I want to go back to my cell.'
Imprisoned tears stung the corners of her eyes. 'Sure. I'll see you very soon,’ she said.
She gestured for the guard to take him away, but she didn't think for a minute that restraints would be necessary. For once in this man's life, he would gladly go back to that cell. He wanted the isolation, to be forgotten, to be away from those he had the potential to hurt.
Note From the Author
Thank you for taking the time to read this taster for Song of the Universe, my debut novel. If you like what you have just read and you're hungry for more, please do go and buy the ebook exclusively for Kindle (you don't need a Kindle, there is a free Kindle App available for iOS, Android and more).
Believe me, this adventure continues to get better and better through the book and the rest of the books will take you deeper into the world of Terefir. I am working on the next books as you read this.
Support new writing, enjoy this whole novel by purchasing Song of the Universe (The Spire Series Book 1).