Preview for Ghosts volume I

Here’s a preview from the first book in the Ghosts series, which will be released on Saturday. Hint: This isn’t necessarily from the start of the book…

From nothing, there comes blackness. And then from blackness, there comes a hint of light. And from the hint of light, there comes a bright blue sky as I open my eyes.

What the fuck?

Sitting up, I find that I’m in a piece of scrubland by the main road. Not in bed. Not under my duvet. On a patch of dirt, out in the morning sun, miles and miles from anywhere and anything.
A disturbingly large bug starts crawling over my foot. I shake it off and crush it under my shoe.
I recognise this place immediately: I’m on the limits of the Doakes family farm, about four miles out of the centre of town. It’s dusty and dead, nothing’s been able to grow out here for years. The only sign of life is the occasional lizard, and even that’s rare. There’s no tumbleweed, but there should be: this is dead land, a place where nothing ever happens and where no person in their right mind would ever go. Looking up, I see that I’m right next to the city limits sign:

Welcome to the town of Texas
in the state of Texas
Population: 9,437

I get to my feet. Looking down, I note another bug, walking away from the dead body of the first bug. The two bugs look absolutely identical. I guess that’s bugs for you. I sigh. I feel achy and sore all over, like I’ve just gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. And I don’t feel right in my head, either. Concussion, maybe? I rub the back of my neck and look around. How the hell did I get out here? Seriously, did I go to a party last night or something? I try to remember, but it’s all a bit of a blur. I vaguely recall… being at home, watching TV with my sister, and our dad was out working late. And then I think he came home and… No, it’s gone. Maybe we had an argument and I stormed out. That’s probably what happened. And then I probably ended up at some god-awful party, drinking cheap beer. And…

I look up at the clear blue sky, and at the bright flare of the sun.

Did I get raped or something? That might explain the soreness, and the memory loss? Okay, time to calm down. There’s no sign that I got raped. Anyway, what are the odds of that happening? I’m so unpopular around here, I’m pretty sure no-one would want to touch me. I probably just drank too much. Still, I don’t have a headache. So…

I hear a noise nearby, and a red open-top car appears over the horizon, heading towards town. The radio’s on loud, and I instantly realise that it’s Don Redman, the father of one of my friends. I go to the side of the road and wave him down, but he just zooms past without even looking at me.

“Nice,” I say, watching as the car bounces up the road and away.

I turn and start walking towards town. I reckon I’m about four miles out, so this is gonna take me a while. And in the morning sun, I’m gonna get burned no trouble. I look up at the bright blue sky, half expecting to see vultures circling. Thankfully there are none so far, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they start following me, getting ready to pick my bones if I happen to collapse. Damn it, when I get home I’m gonna find out who dropped me off out here and I’m gonna make sure they pay. If this is a prank, it’s the worst, most annoying one I’ve ever experienced. Damn it, someone is going to pay for this. Big time!

After an hour or so, I start to see the haze of my home-town ahead. And closer, just a hundred metres or so ahead of me, I spot Don Redman’s red car pulled over to the side of the road. There’s steam coming from under the bonnet, and Don looks to be out of the car, talking on his mobile phone.

“Like I said, Earl,” Don is saying as I get close enough to hear him, “I don’t have a damn clue about cars”. He listens for a moment. “Sure, I suppose it could be the carburettor. Can the carburettor make a kind of clanking noise and then produce a load of steam?” He listens. “Yeah, it sounds like something’s really broken in there. So can you get out to take a look at it, or not?” He listens some more. “Two hours? Are you fucking serious? Earl… Okay, fine, two hours. I’ll walk into town, you can give me a call when you’re on your way and I’ll come back and meet you here, okay? Okay. And I want a discount for the crappy service”. He puts the phone down.

“Bummer,” I say, stopping next to him. “Hope you weren’t going anywhere important”.

Without even acknowledging my presence, Earl turns and grabs his briefcase from the back seat, then he starts walking towards town. “Fucking Earl,” he says out loud. “Fucking cocksucking asshole”.

“Charming!” I say, loud enough for him to hear, but he just ignores me and keeps on walking.

Seriously, I know Don Redman’s no saint, but I didn’t realise he was so… rude. I’ve never heard him talk like that before. There’s a part of me that wants to go and keep talking to him, to see what other crazy shit he comes out with. Then again, if he can’t give me a lift, I guess there’s no point talking to him at all. Ever. Walking the final mile into town with him would just be awkward anyway. But still… there’s no need to be so damned rude. He could have at least acknowledged my existence.

I start walking, deliberately going slower than Earl so that there’s no danger I’ll catch him up.
When we get to town, Earl heads straight for Joyce’s Cafe and I head off towards home. The large clock in the town square says it’s just after 9am, and people are strolling around as if this is just another day to be filled with pointless wanderings. Which, I guess, is probably true.

Texas has never been the liveliest town. Every day is like Sunday, except Sunday which is like two Sundays rolled into one. Seriously, this place is dead. Hell, I find it hard to believe there’ll even be a town here in a hundred years’ time, and the fact that it’s lasted this long is down to pure obstinacy on the part of the locals. Like many people around here, I’m just waiting until I can save up some money to get out of here. Then again, I’m not sure where that money’s going to come from. And when I look at the faces of the old folk sitting in the cafes each morning, part of me wonders if they’re still waiting to save up some money and get out of here. The thought sends a shiver up my spine.

“Hey!” I shout as a man comes out of a shop and barges straight at me. I barely have time to get out of his way, but he just walks on as if nothing happened. That’s not exactly unusual behaviour for people around here, but it’s still fucking rude. What is it, National Rude Day? National Behave Like an Asshole Day? Oh yeah, I forgot: that’s every day.

Up ahead, I spot a familiar car at the stop lights. It’s my friend Samantha, with her little brother in the back seat. Samantha’s twenty-one, like me, but her dad gave her a car for her birthday recently so she’s suddenly soared up the social ladder and our friendship has become strained as a result. Figuring I could use a lift back to my house, I run across the road and try to get to her car before the light changes, but I’m just a little too late and her car speeds off. I wave in vain, hoping she’ll spot me in her rear-view mirror, but there’s no chance of that.

So I walk.

I walk through the streets, thinking about how this is totally not my day. It’s not even midday and I’ve already had several crappy things happen. Seriously, could this day get any worse? Eventually I turn the corner and head towards my house. But as I get closer, I realise that there’s something large and white parked in the driveway. I haven’t got my glasses so it takes me a moment to notice the markings on the side: CORONER. I pick up the pace a little, starting to worry, but it’s probably okay: it’s probably just parked there for convenience while the driver eats a donut or something. But then, as I get closer, I hear the engine start and the van pulls out and heads off up the road. I turn to watch it go, and then I look back at my house, and something shocking is awaiting me.

There’s police tape across the front door, and across the windows, and there’s blood in the driveway. A chill runs up my spine. What the hell happened last night?

Ghosts will be available from Amazon on Saturday 28th April 2012.

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