By Andy Marlow
Copyright 2011 Andy Marlow
Discover other Titles by Andy Marlow:
The Creative Sponge
Thomas Wilson is missing. When last seen, he was being taken away by a representative of the mysterious TGN organisation, his identity erased. Kathy Turner, his best friend, has gone insane searching for him. Or has reality distorted itself around her? This philosophical thriller brings their destinies together on a journey deep into the nature of identity, reality and existence itself.
“A Gripping Read” (Tom)
“I couldn’t stop reading it” (Smurfa Ruddick)
I Love You
A moving tale of one couple’s life together from the man’s perspective as he looks after a wife with dementia.
“…an ending that’s sad but nonetheless surprising. The author captures the blossoming and sad demise of a lifelong relationship very well.” (Tom)
“this read really touched me” (Smurfa Ruddick)
Do I exist? And Other Philosophical Questions
An examination of basis philosophical questions drawing on the ideas of history’s great philosophers.
Pirates versus Ninjas
It’s in the name, really. Except there’s also a dinosaur at the end.
Chapter 1: Peter
The road ahead snaked into the distance, a mud-coloured meandering sprawl disappearing behind the horizon. Its eventual end, and the silhouettes of vegetation along the way, were bathed in the all-embracing glow of a rising desert sun, huge and glorious against the chalk-blue backdrop of the receding cosmos. The horizon was flat, a level line from east to west, save for the odd bump of rocky stack or a particularly tall cactus plant.
Sheltered by the embracing arms of two rough-hewn cliff faces was the scene of our crime, where deeds most foul would soon be undertaken. Here, the sun’s light and warmth were visible only through a gap in the rockface, where human machinery had broken through the design of nature to build a path for his snaking roadway. The signs of human interference were visible to this day, despite the passing of time and weathering of erosion: pockmarks where dynamite had made its impression, and odd scars in the naturally linear patterns of the sedimentary rockface. Nature had been tamed, but the sun was not to be held back: it burst its way through the passageway and when it had the chance, exploded left and right to fill all but the scrubs and bushes hugging the cliff-face with the awakening of light.
The road that passed through the crevice and marched against the flow of sunlight curved left and right haphazardly, only straightening to obey the demands of nature and pass through her stony gateway. To the right its route was drowned out by white light; to the left, only illuminated, and one could see its winding path five miles back to the city of Jamahiriya.
Out here, nobody had heard of the war going on back in urban civilisation. Out here, no-one knew of the terrorists trying to bring down the government. Out here was innocence and tranquillity, a simple way of life untroubled by politics and murder.
That was, until today.
For Peter Robinson stood by the side of the road, coiled like a waiting adder. Peter Robinson would kill today.
His target lay across the man-made track way, across the path of sunlight, ensconced in a wooden shack almost hidden in the cliff’s shade of protection. She lived out here for protection and solitude: five miles from civilisation gave her those privileges, but any further and she would have exposed herself to highwaymen and ruffians lurking in the wilderness. By this cliff-face, she was safe, hidden, still within the jurisdiction of Jamahiriya’s law enforcement agencies.
His body was stationary: hidden in the shadows; hidden in plain sight. His target was not home yet, so he was simply to wait it out until the appointed time when she would return from berry-picking in the woods. Until then, he may as well not have been living. His life had sapped into the ground like water from a tree and he stood now as still as any of the cacti surrounding him, as much a piece of furniture in the living room of nature as they were.
His lungs still rose, his heart was still beating, that was sure. Yet these were mechanisms of nature, not evidence of life; his mind was elsewhere, gone; his body, a vessel, filled now with empty readiness.
Perhaps his mind was permanently gone. It did seem that way these days: he would be in this state, an empty vessel, for days on end until a new target was provided for him- and then life would return at the death of another, at the prospect and idea of draining the essence from a living creature’s soul.
But it may not have been his life; he may not have had life, in the ordinary sense of the word. His identity, whatever it was, had been subsumed under the idea of: kill. It was more than his raison d’être. It was his very essence.
It was what made him him. Every skill in his possession, every muscle on his bones, had been trained for this very task, time and time again. His vision had become precise and formed a permanent tunnel, a visual barrel-of-the-gun down which all he could see were targets and victims. The rest was as a nothing to him. The concept of the world, the they-self he found himself in, was that one word: kill.
Thud Thud, went the beat of his heart, the mechanical pump that fuelled his body. Thud Thud. Yet there was no person to pump for. Not yet. His face was of a dead man, and perhaps he was. Perhaps the life he felt when he took another was simply the equalising force of bringing him and her, or him and he, together into the same form of existence: death.
The MP4 in his grasp was the instrument of choice. It weighed heavy on his soul. Though a soulless piece of metal, it was perhaps the only thing in the world he could connect with. If love were a concept he understood, he may even have said he loved it. He felt at one with it, as if it were part of his own body and not simply a tool for his labours. The passion with which he administered to it was like the passion of a husband to his wife, or an enthusiast to his hobby: he had cleaned and inspected it himself this morning, spending over an hour making sure every nut was tightened, ever scratch buffed out, every splinter removed. He had great pride in his gun.
Tick Tock went his watch, and a silent vibration stimulated him to life. Thud Thud went his heart, faster, and now it had someone to pump for: the life in his body had finally turned on; the light in his eyes had finally lit up. The machine was active and ready to go.
Its feet, his feet, began to slowly move forward: mechanically, methodically. He was in no rush. His watch was his guide and its ticks informed his every movement, working his muscles like clockwork as if it were his guide, his master, his life-giving creator.
His boots were heavy. Not that this bothered him, but it bothered nature and the spirits of this valley, for they knew what he was about to do. Each time his footfall fell on Gaia’s innocent surface, she let out a clouded protest right into his face.
If he was human, he might have spluttered, have coughed or protested. Yet he was not human. He had the heart of a man and the lungs of a man; the brain of a man and the limbs of a man- but not the mind. Nor the will. His existence was programmed; never flexible, never free, but governed by the tick of his watch and the whims of his paymasters. At seven o’clock, the watch had turned this killing machine on. And at half past seven, when the deed was done, it would turn him off once more, returning him to the state of empty vessel, waiting for orders to be inserted like coins in a slot machine; waiting for his leader to give him the hatred he required.
His mechanical feet led him onto the road and into the wide shaft of sunlight beaming down upon it. Heat was carried on its rays: blistering, uncomely heat which would make any normal man cringe- especially any normal man wearing the kind of kit Peter Robinson was carrying. Yet his face remained the same: rigid. Determined. Dead. Life wa
The heat lasted but a minute while he crossed the road. And then there it was, just to his right and emerging from the shadows: his target for today. The house of Miriam Stopwood.
The house, or shack, was built from dark pinewood and had stood there for a century or so. It looked its age. Of the two storeys, only the ground floor was still useable since anyone foolish enough to walk upstairs may just have found themselves falling through the ceiling. Even the ground floor looked delapidated: windows askew and doors hanging loose, a disused garage to the side. Any normal person would have abandoned this place years ago. Any normal person would have thought this place was abandoned. But Peter knew Miriam, and she was no normal person. It made perfect sense that she