On the airwaves speak the voices of the dead and bodiless.
That’s what this one’s all about. Disembodied beings. Spirits, but not necessarily human. This story is set in 1970s Somerset but the time period is mostly flavour. It’s about a father, Harry Chamberlain, taking the search for his kidnapped daughter into his own hands. Along for the search is his brother-in-law, Vincent Bardot.
The main focus here was turning the concept of ‘air’ into a novel. The obvious thing: the sky. The occult subject of UFO sightings became the springboard. I knew from the beginning that this was never going to be an ‘alien’ story. But I did know it was going to be rooted in sci-fi. The time period of 1975 was chosen for its past-looking-forward perspective of technology and because the ’70s was really the beginning of personal computers. Somerset was chosen because I wanted a location that contained plains. It didn’t take long to realise that this was the perfect location for this story. Ley lines and Arthurian legends and myths and occult subjects in general abound in this fascinating county.
Five Suns Over Somerset takes place in many of the common locations: the Glastonbury abbey and the tor specifically. But these are obvious places to feature. So I try not to spend too much time with them but enough time that I pay respect. The tor, for example, is struck by lightning which causes … some interesting changes in a couple of characters: Gideon Candlemass and Chester Hippolyte.
Duality and polarity were stepping stones in this six part novel. Extremes. Even the veil of reality is lifted a bit. Evangeline, Harry’s kidnapped daughter, is the story goal. The chalice. The Holy Grail. But she’s also a person. So Harry isn’t just searching externally, but internally (As above, So below …). To find Evangeline really does mean finding things that will change his life forever. And although the story doesn’t feature aliens, it does allude to interdimensional beings, but for those wanting these beings to feature prominently should probably look elsewhere. They’re built into the fabric of the story world, and that’s what I do in my writing. I build words (Worlds in Words). I get a plot – a simple one – on which to hang the world and the characters. I’ll let the the work speak for itself. Below is an excerpt of the story.
It happened again. He couldn’t remember what it was exactly, but it was important, he knew that.
It was like a great black hole in his mind, his memories getting sucked into it, never to be seen again.
Like lost socks.
‘You going to stand there as if someone insulted your mum?’ said Vincent.
‘Where are we?’ Harry asked.
‘Hate to be the one to say it, Harry, but your brain’s breaking.’
A black-out. Like the ones before. It started happening after the windmill where Leviticus Hollow had used his machine and had turned into a dragon that stretched across the whole of the sky.
Whumpf, whumpf, whumpf—Harry remembered the sound the machine made. The blood on the pavement. The two bodies.
Vincent readjusted his grip on the revolver. His fist was bandaged and bloody. His eye was a fat, purple knot.
‘What happened to your face?’ said Harry.
‘Forget about that,’ said Vincent, pointing up. ‘Check it out.’
Harry saw the serpent etched and painted onto the wooden sign. Below it was the name of the business: The Gurt and Wurm Wax Museum.
‘It’s him?’ said Harry. ‘Is it really Leviticus Hollow?’
Vincent nodded. The revolver shook slightly in his hand.
Harry hadn’t forgotten everything. He still knew who he was. Still remembered that his daughter had been taken. Knew he was about to enter the dark where she would probably be alongside the man who had taken her. Except he was finally at the end of his search (how did we get here?) and he didn’t know if he had the courage to conclude it: unable to act, unable to turn words (I’ll save you, Angie) into action (by any means necessary … except …).
His head hurt. An enormous pressure in the back of his brain was making him dizzy.
He didn’t want to go in until he knew for sure (nothing’s ever certain, Harry) that he was on the right path. But there was something else. The clock was wrong—the stars were wrong.
He had to go back to before the windmill, to before the black-outs. Wind the clock back—wind it back to when Harry returned to Somerset.
Start from when things made sense.
Part 1: A LITTLE LIGHT CALLED HOPE
And then he was back. This is where Harry Chamberlain had begun his search for his daughter four months ago, driving with the window down, sometimes pulled over reading a map billowing on the car bonnet, his brother-in-law pissing into the long grass. They hadn’t found her. But they were back.
Somerset, May 3rd, 1975.
The police worked within a jurisdiction of laws and rules. That’s why Harry and Vincent set out to look for her themselves—because they had no jurisdiction. And Vincent had a small collection of firearms if it came to that. It almost did come to that. It was going to come to that again and worse.
Vincent let the car idle outside a stucco cottage and Harry could see his wife Helen through the kitchen window. Vincent lit a cigarette.
‘It’s never easy,’ said Harry. ‘Coming back. Feel like Jack without the golden goose.’
Vincent put his hand on Harry’s shoulder. ‘We’re gonna find her. I promise you.’
‘That’s what I told Helen,’ said Harry. ‘But deep inside, you can never know.’
‘You’ve got to banish that darkness.’
‘A little light called hope, I guess.’
Harry shivered. ‘Déjà vu,’ he said. ‘And not the good kind. You want to come in?’
Vincent drew heavily on the cigarette, the tip glowing red. ‘Another day, Harry. That’s another promise.’
Harry walked up to the front door. It opened before he could knock. She had tears in her eyes. Her hair was loose. Then she fell into his arms.
It had been four months since Harry had seen Helen. She’d lost some weight. He didn’t mind. He didn’t care.
She noticed that there was no child by his side—he hadn’t found her, then, had he?
And she wanted to confirm even though she knew. Harry saw it, perhaps in her eyes, and shook his head.
‘Is she … ?’ she was asking.
‘She’s still out there,’ he was answering.
‘And what about Vincent?’ Helen asked, looking over Harry’s shoulder. ‘He’s too much of a coward to see me?’
The Ford Capri roared off down the street, a cigarette butt spinning out of the driver’s window, the engine noise fading into the distance. Then there were no sounds except for the distant barking of a dog, a wooden gate locking.
‘He cares too much about you,’ said Harry. ‘Seeing you like this. Even bravery has its limits. Shall we go inside?’
She felt silly and ashamed that she’d just left him at the door like that. Her skin was fair and scattered with moles and when she blushed from anger or embarrassment the three moles on her neck stood out like the stars of Orion’s belt.
She watched him at the cabinet pouring a glass of gin and topping it off with tonic water. He seemed different. His eyes had changed. Like an oil lamp at the end of its wick.
He was once an architect but that had changed even before their daughter was taken—kidnapped from her bedroom one night, about 9 P.M. No sound, the window was locked, no clues, no trace.
Helen and Harry had bought this house with the plan to gut it and rebuild it in a visage of their liking. It was their golden ticket. They were going to sell it after the renovations and build their dream home atop some hill in Somerset somewhere. Sunday mornings he and Angie and Helen were going to sit on the front deck and watch the sun rise pink on the horizon and burn the mist out of the fields of the Somerset Levels, flooding them with golden light.
Forget all that. They were broke. He squandered their money on a bad deal. That was the wedge between them. She wanted a home which she could invite guests to and be proud of but all she had was a house that leaked when it rained and shuddered when the wind blew. How many years did Helen have to wait for him to do anything about that? Push aside the thought. Your husband loves you. He’s just an idiot when it comes to money. Maybe he did become a cretin in Crete.
I made a bad financial decision. I’ll get out of it. I’ll do better. I’ll finish the house. Anyone could have made the same mistake.
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda.
And she would stare at him and feel guilty for thinking bad things about him. Because she loved him. She did. Just hated his idiotic brain. How long ago it seemed, those petty things. Now all she wanted was her husband in her bed and her daughter returned from that void that some people seem to fall into without a trace.
Helen stood behind Harry—he could feel her breath on his neck and the hairs on his arms stood up. She touched his hand, rough and coarse, remnants of bruises woven into the skin, flickers of half-moon scars on his knuckles. These weren’t here when he’d left.
‘I missed you, Harry,’ she said. ‘I didn’t know how much I needed you until you went away.’
‘I didn’t have a choice.’ He drank half the glass. ‘I have to find her.’
She was closer now—could feel his heart beating against the frontiers of his chest. She believed a person was made up of finite pieces and everywhere they went a bit of them was lost to that place. What did the world gain and what had her husband lost? Infinite questions, no time. There’s never any time. Suddenly that sense of their being strangers to each other vanished. She looked up at him as he looked down at her and then they both found each other’s lips.
Blue tarpaulins gusted in the wind.
The truth was that she hadn’t coped alone for the last few months. The cold bed. The meals. The shadows. Her mind. All things that haunted her while he was out there searching. There were moments in those months when she wondered if their relationship would last in the wake of Angie’s disappearance. He promised to find her. He hadn’t. Not yet. She didn’t want to know what that meant.
Looking at him, she was afraid that he might be a dream that could pop out of existence in a blink of an eye. Forget the house and his stupid mistakes. Forgiveness was never easy and yet here she was with that choice. Let it all go—the baggage, the history, the ill-decisions. Everyone is a diamond even though no one is perfect—no one without their flaws.
Urgently, she led her husband to the bedroom and made love to him with the door open and the window ajar and the curtains puffing.
They’d lain there together for a long time entwined beneath the blankets. The sun eventually dipped behind the rooftops and the sky faded to a midnight pond shining with tiny lights and interspersed with lily pads in the shape of clouds. Harry slept all night and Helen woke several times in a panic, thinking she was alone again, but he was there. In his dreams he spoke of a red sun dying on the horizon and its blood drenching the land. She grabbed his coarse hand, his face draped with silver moonlight, and squeezed gently, lovingly, desperately. He was real. He was there. He was back.
But for how long?