Work in Progress
This is hot off the press. Literally just copy/pasted it straight from the main document. It’s the second chapter of the new novel I started this week. Although Oakfield is something that has been planned for many, many years. Great to finally start it. It’s a horror story set in the South West of England and is a direct prequel to the epic novel God Seed. Fans of the Cthulhu Mythos will probably start to guess what “might” be happening here by the end of this chapter. Enjoy! ;o)
Start from the beginning: Chapter 1 here
The town of Oakfield sat next to the sea, perched 200 metres up, but was separated from any view of the water it by a steep, densely wooded spur that enclosed it on three sides like a giant letter C. James could only surmise that at some point in the town’s distant past, building it within such a natural enclosure had allowed it to defend itself from seaborne raiding parties crossing the Celtic Sea, Irish Sea and Bristol Channel, all of which were within short sailing of this part of the Cornish coastline. He knew that Atlantic Drive was a small road connecting the main drag to the nearest beach, which wound up and over the mid-section of the C-shaped enclosure. On the other side, the road dropped sharply, precariously down an almost vertical cliff-like descent, to a shallow bay – facing west. James knew this because he’d checked out the topography of Oakfield via satellite imagery on the Internet, as soon as he’d known where they were going.
From Bodmin they had taken the A389 north until reaching the A39, which they travelled for some distance before turning off to head north again. The roads at this point dwindled from well-maintained two-lane blacktop with clear markings to a single strip of badly potted tarmac that weaved left and right through a landscape generally hidden from view by the high hedgerows on either side. Not that the taxi driver – a local – took the lack of visibility as any reason to slow down. Everyone in the vehicle became very quiet as they hurtled around a chain of never ending blind bends at speeds that bordered insanity. The only thing that seemed to be stopping anybody from complaining was the sense that there was simply going to be nothing coming the other way. There were no roadside buildings. No developments just out of town. They were literally plunging headlong into the middle (or edge) of nowhere.
They came in from the east, along a low-lying road that then climbed sharply to reach the high elevation of the main town. Entering into the mouth of the open C-shape, they passed swiftly along Moritz Parade, the route through. It was bordered by a mix of late 18th century cottages with low doorways, stone lintels, any tiny dormer windows poking up from grey-slate roofs that were almost camouflaged by the patterns of green and yellow moss. There was a handful of spacious early 20th century houses with large bay windows, overlooking small gardens that themselves were placed high above the passing road. Everywhere was hemmed in by dry stone walls that looked older than the town itself.
He also knew from his Internet reconnaissance that the house his sister had inherited sat on a separate hill, to the south of the main town, and was one of only two properties situated there. The hill was called Camel Heath, and the only road connecting it to Oakfield proper was a tiny twisting ribbon of tarmac called Rose Brook Lane. It snaked around the lower tip of the C-shape, descended some 150 metres to pass through a small collection of cottages and farm buildings, crossed over a broad stream via a humped-back bridge of ancient moss-covered stone, and then immediately began to wind its way up the sides of Camel Heath.
As the taxi came to the end of Moritz Parade and turned down Rose Brook Lane, the experience of the journey was nothing a map view could have prepared him for. It was spectacular. The heat and noise and violence of Operation Metal Hammer may as well have been a million miles away and a thousand years ago. As the tiny road looped down from Oakfield it entered an area covered by the interlocking canopy of large trees. The bright sunlight seeped through in places, tinged a meadow green and creating zones of high contrast against the general gloom of the background. In other places the sun lanced through with dazzlingly bright beams. The cottages were quiet and tucked away, with no sign of residents but appeared exceptionally well-maintained. Stone gateways opened off the road to lead visitors into long driveways.
“This is really special.” He said to no-one in particular. Everyone murmured concurring words and sounds. Faces angled to peer out the taxi windows and soak up whatever passed by.
They rumbled up and over the steep hump of the bridge. Either side more or less open with just a few centimetres of stone to stop a stray wheel popping over the edge. The stream was fast flowing but shallow. The water glowed where the sunlight touched it. The surface glistened with the reflections from eddies and swirls.
And then they were hurtling around a broad curving arc in the road, ascending sharply at the same time.
This will be a bugger to walk up and down, James mused, thinking about an elderly relative of theirs living out here all on his own. Something that had been considered strange by the general family at the time, when Eustace Spaulding had pulled up stumps from his long-time home in Frankfurt, to move here. James figured the man had probably grown bored of brooding in a large empty house after the death of his lifelong wife and academic partner. Moving here had probably been a way of injecting new experience into a dead life.
The broad, ascending curve of the road took them out beyond the spreading reach of the trees and into bright, nearly blinding sunlight. To their left the view was almost entirely obscured by a high dry stone wall beyond which was a dense tangle of foliage, but the occasional break in it provided snatched views of the narrow, deep gulley which separated Camel Heath from the elevated bulk Oakfield sat upon. To their right, another dry stone wall held back a gently rising slope of wild grass, broad and expansive, looking like the side of a massive slice of moorland. One driveway zipped past on their right. James caught a glimpse of the roof of a small house there. They carried on up. The curve of the road easing but not ceasing. And then they were passing between two massive, relatively modern stone gateposts. The pot-holed tarmac became pale limestone gravel; the taxi tyres crunching as they sped across it, but the sound was almost drowned out by the exited exclamations of delight and surprise as everyone inside taxi saw the house.
The house was incredible. It sat to the left of the gravel drive, facing the wild expanse of grassland that swept away and down to what seemed to be a sheer drop, and beyond that, the sea. It was palatial; a rectangular block of Cornish stone, the patchwork of dark and light greys almost obscured by vibrant green ivy dabbed with blood red leaves in places. Double-fronted, the central doorway enjoyed a small stone porch with identical bay windows on either side; the bays bulged out on both the ground and first floor, creating a pleasing symmetry.
Annabelle twisted around in the front passenger seat, reached behind and gripped David’s hand. “Oh my God, look at this place.”
Her unhappiness about the presence of Briggs seemed to have evaporated. It was almost as if everyone else exhaled a sigh of relief. David certainly seemed pleased by the upturn in her mood. Dark haired, tanned, sardonically good-looking like a battle-hardened version of Cary Grant, he held onto her hand and wiggled it back and forth, grinning.
“Looks like it’s worth a bomb.”
Annabelle guffawed and chucked his hand away, but in good humour. Twisting back in her seat as the taxi pulled to a halt she said, “In your dreams. I’m not selling this place.”
James slid his eyes sideways to observe his younger brother, who he suspected had only agreed to come along on the trip because he probably thought it would ensure him a slice of whatever inheritance pie was going to be sliced up. Anthony was gazing absently at the back of their sister’s head with a perturbed expression. James grunted, said, “Tough luck old sport.”
Anthony snapped a glance towards him that defined the simple question: what? As in, what are you on about?
Neither of them had really ever got along.
The taxi doors began to open and everyone spilled out in the heat reflected back from the pale gravel.
“Wow, it’s seriously warm here.” Anthony stated.
“I would have thought there would have been more of a breeze.” Annabelle ruminated, gazing away from the house, out across the grassland towards the vast expanse of the sea.
“Probably sheltered by surrounding land formations.” David suggested as he went around to the back of the taxi with the driver and took charge of gathering the bags.
James went to help him.
“Looks like you’re moving to Cornwall,” he murmured with wry humour.
David snapped him a sharp, almost worried look. “Like hell.” A quick glance at the driver who just stood watching. “I shouldn’t even be here. London is where the action is.”
“I shouldn’t be here, either.” James said vaguely.
David didn’t question it, but his expression said he wasn’t certain what James meant. David leant in close, heads together in the car’s luggage space, “She’ll have to sell it. No choice, really. Not unless she’s thinking about letting the place out but whose going to manage it?”
James tilted his head to one side. “The town looks big enough. Plenty of people willing to earn some extra cash keeping a place like this clean.”
David knew he was right. He didn’t look pleased.
With all the bags placed by the front door, David paid the driver who climbed back into the taxi without so much as a thank-you or acknowledging their presence.
“Talkative chap.” Briggs commented, his voice as immaculate as his three-piece suite, a series of snapped syllables and crashing consonants.
James grinned. “I thought he’d never shut-up.”
Annabelle looked at him and smiled. Her expression conveyed something he understood: it was good to see him happy. He smiled back.
The taxi vanished to leave a cloud of dust from the gravel hanging in the air.
Annabelle got everyone’s attention. Her countenance became theatrical. “Right then. Shall we take a look inside?”
“Err, maybe sooner than later.” Anthony suggested, his tone sounding worried. Everyone followed the line of his fixed gaze. Coming towards them at speed was a white dog. At least James assumed it was a dog but the size and snarling ferocity of it made it look more like a wolf.
Shit. Where did that come from? Although even as he thought it, his mind conjured up an internal, aerial view of their position relative to the road and the town. He guessed that the first property they had passed on the way up was just beyond the distant drop.
David and James both marched forward. Both exuded natural confidence. The dog slowed and then stopped a few metres away. Snarling. Strands of drool dangled from an open jaw crowded with jagged teeth. It was a stand-off.
But then a noise behind them caught their attention. The sound of the front door unlocking. The dog abruptly calmed, trotted to one side and then ran round in an arc to avoid both men. Meanwhile, everyone had turned to face the house.
In the porch, visible through the glass panels of the front door, was an elderly man who wouldn’t have looked out of place in a historical documentary about America in the 1880s. A shock of white hair held back with a string of coloured beads. A faded blue denim shirt with some kind of feathers sticking out of the upper pocket. Unbuttoned halfway down his hairless chest, it revealed an aged but remarkably toned and deeply tanned body. He got the door unlocked and the white dog plunged through to start jumping up and licking at his hands. The old man laughed, pampered the dog whilst at the same time looking at the new arrivals apologetically.
“Hi there! And welcome.” He spoke enthusiastically, like a television host from some bygone era. His accent had the undulating inflections of the west-country infused with something else. It was an instantly engaging voice. “Welcome. You must be Eustace’s family. I’m Hiram Sykes. I was his neighbour. And I was his closest friend.”
* * *
Back in the town of Oakfield, the car that had followed the taxi from Bodmin didn’t go any further. The occupants knew where the taxi was going. Knew the house they were going to be staying at. The car turned off the road onto a short tarmac ramp that took it around and behind one of the large, 1920s houses that sat on the edge of Moritz Parade. The strange-looking man who had observed the family’s arrival at the train station clambered out, appearing clumsy as he moved, but at the same time demonstrating great agility and strength. He hurried into the shade of the house through a back door. Ignored the staff working there and went to the owner’s private study. The owner was out, but the man went to his desk and picked up the receiver of what looked to be an ornate, antiquate piece of electrical equipment. He began to speak immediately into the device. His vocals more of a blur of overlapping buzzing sounds than proper words, every few moments broken up by throaty, bone-like clicks. It wasn’t a language often spoken by humans. In fact, it was barely spoken on Earth at all.
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