To defame to devour the.., p.7
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       To Defame, To Devour: The Prequel to a Time-Travel Adventure, p.7

           Lewis J Jones
 
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  The town was filled with an even larger group of bewildered onlookers the following morning. Those who had miraculously slept through the ship’s arrival had stepped outside to find the typically quiet streets bustling with groups, most of which had ventured from villages and towns far and wide. Rivers of people flowed down to the shoreline to inspect the vessel and trickled away from it dumbfounded. Ten o’clock came and went and still there was no sign of anyone on board the ship.

  After he’d showered and pulled on fresh although ill-fitting clothes from his wardrobe, Alex found his way back to the window with a steaming cup of tea and some toast. Between the pulled curtains he could see that the local police were attempting to tame the crowds, and barriers were gradually cornering off the shore. Despite the fierce downpour battering the crowd, Alex was able to spot a number of familiar faces.

  Arthur Pemtril, a tall white-bearded gentleman dressed in a flat cap and his usual canary-yellow trench coat, paused to speak to various people before heading off down the high street. A stout and hunched old woman Alex had named Angelica drifted, to her apparent surprise, into the gathering of bodies. Shaking her head disapprovingly at the ship, she set her sights on the baker’s shop and shuffled away through the crowds. Alex even spotted Herga Hyll, Abraham’s greatest friend, dressed in a leopard-print coat and waving her arms exaggeratedly while talking to a neighbour.

  With the arrival of the Precipitous, as Alex read it was named, timed perfectly with the printing of the Merlow Messenger, the week’s edition was full of news about the ship, most of which Alex presumed to be either speculation or completely untrue. He glanced over the townspeople’s accounts of their rude awakening the night before but couldn’t help but feel that none came close to his own, and so cast the newspaper aside in favour of a new book from the shelf.

  The day trudged on with the grisly onslaught of rain and occasional grumble of thunder. The wind picked up too, giving flight to a number of lucky umbrellas not held tightly enough. When five o’clock finally neared, Alex knew that Abraham would soon be home and they would exchange apologies, as was normal after one of their arguments. As he returned the newspaper to the table beside Abraham’s armchair and slotted his book back on the shelf, through the window looking up to the woods Alex saw something that made him do a double take. Beneath the brooding clouds and through the wicked downpour, amongst the overweight trunks of Bedfellow Meadows’ oak trees, Alex could make out a number of bodies. Between the streams of rain upon the window, there they were. Seven figures. Four adults and three children.

  The tallest figure, who seemed to be directing the group, glanced towards the busy shore, and as he did so, Alex’s heart leapt into his mouth. The man was wearing distinct bottle-end glasses, and a long stretch of silver propped up one of his hands.

  It was Winton.

  Alex’s racing breath instantly fogged the window, and when he smeared it away the man and the six others were gone.

  Could it have been him? Really? Alex thought. Precious seconds were falling, wasted and unused, like sand slipping between his fingers. Temptation was not calling now but mightily singing from the other side of the glass. Without another second of doubt, he threw on his coat, flicked up his hood and charged off down the path behind the row of old thatched shops. Passing behind the back of the post office, the fish-and-chip shop, the bakery and finally his uncle’s clock shop, Alex quickly came to be beyond what he had ever been able to see from the Clockhaus.

  The path before him was empty, and Alex slowed to a stop. He was imagining things, he knew it now, and his heart had drawn him from the warmth to the cold, from dream to disappointment. Imagining his uncle’s reaction to his escape, he felt a swell of fear. Perhaps his wishing to see them again had led to his vision, but yet that did not explain why he had seen not three people but seven. Seven.

  Alex shook his head; it was no use, there was nothing there to see.

  But there was . . . There were footsteps! Footsteps dashing through the puddles, multiple feet pummelling the ground in haste. And as he turned back, peering through the relentless rain, Alex saw them. Shivers rippled through him just as the wind, like a howling banshee, carried words of warning:

  ‘Quick! Don’t just stand there!’

  It was the voice he had longed to hear again; it was Evie. And as sinister shots rang out and the alleyway detonated as though filled with landmines, Alex scrambled amongst the group of people to run as fast as he could. Crackling spitfires of light shot around Alex’s head. He ducked and swerved whilst dodging the bursting walls to either side of him.

  An older lady—Winton’s wife? Alex thought—was running beside him with a ghostly, fear-stricken expression.

  ‘Haven’t you missed this?’ Winton shouted. White flashes behind them let Alex know that Irwin was returning vengeful fire.

  ‘Missed what?’

  ‘Being blindly terrified with little chance of survival?’

  A row of bins up ahead exploded, spewing their flaming contents into the sky.

  ‘Not exactly!’ Alex shouted back.

  The young boy leading the group swerved out into Haggowe Lane, the long road back to Alex’s house, and they stampeded after him and into a side-street. Irwin held back to return fire using the same weapon Alex recalled from that night, but when the car beside him was struck and sent somersaulting across the street, he grabbed Evie’s arm and charged on.

  ‘There! Markle Woods!’ Alex shouted, and the group swerved right, clambering over a fence and into the empty field on the other side. The soil was poisoned against their ambitions; it was soggy and stopped their feet from moving as quickly as possible. Evie swept up the youngest girl, who looked no older than about seven, into her arms and pleaded.

  ‘Keep running, my loves! Don’t look back now! We can never look back!’

  Missiles of soil exploded up from the angry earth, chasing them up to the tree-line at the top of the hill and down the steep slope on its other side. Managing to keep his balance, the brave young boy skidded down into a deep trench difficult to see amongst the uneven ground and rocks, and one by one the group, apart from Irwin, who pressed back against a thick tree trunk, skidded down into hiding.

  Neither a whisper nor a thought could afford to be spared; who knew quite what their assailants could detect? Evie, huddled at Alex’s side, pulled in the boy and two girls and held on to them devotedly. At the opposite end of the trench, Winton pressed his and the elderly woman’s hands together in prayer.

  Is this it? I finally meet them again so we can die together? I rob Abraham of his last immediate relative? Alex thought. His decision to leave the Clockhaus, to leave his uncle, had come with consequences so colossal that Alex wished with all his being that he would make it through this for Abraham. As he glanced at Evie, who was staring back at him, she placed a finger carefully to her lips.

  Unbearable waves of apprehension rose and fell. Dirt tumbled down upon Alex’s shoulders, and he crushed himself deeper into the damp trench wall. They were there, somewhere above them: inspecting, waiting, scrutinising the scene. A gradual thumping sound grew louder and louder, followed by the appearance of a great glowing sphere. It soared overhead and burst like an igniting sun, throwing out a great web of light into the thick nest of branches above.

  Through a small gully in the ground, Alex saw Irwin throw something, a stone possibly, in a different direction. It took a short while, but very gradually the footsteps moved on, snapping twigs at distances further and further away from them.

  ‘Pssst!’

  Irwin pointed in the opposite direction, and then leaned down and began to pull everyone up from the crevice. ‘Keep safe, have faith!’ he insisted, and so the troop, which now included Alex, rushed off through the woods.

  They made their way wordlessly through the dips and troughs, following no path other than the one they were carving. The glowing orb dimmed, and the only sound remaining was that of bullets of rain hammering the
leaves above, setting the woodlands alive with sound. Pausing every so often to inspect their surroundings, the eight finally emerged into a small enclosure where a fence blocked their path.

  Treading carefully, Irwin, at the front of the group, stretched his hand forward. His fingers twitched. ‘I can feel it,’ he said. ‘It’s definitely here.’

  And then Irwin disappeared.

  Within a moment he had reappeared, and with him came a falling shimmery veil. Behind it, in the distance, was the same colourful field, in front of that the same fence, but now right before them a large vehicle was parked. Alex rubbed his eyes, and as he wondered whether he was only now beginning to imagine things, Evie ushered everyone inside before moving over to him.

  Wearing the same red coat and troubled face as she had been that night, Evie had seemingly remained in a constant state of turmoil. Alex felt like he wanted to give her a reassuring hug.

  ‘I’m afraid we need to leave at once,’ she said hastily, ‘but we cannot leave you here. We can get you home.’ Evie lowered her head to meet Alex’s stare. ‘Do you trust us to do so?’

  ‘Yes,’ Alex replied immediately.

  ‘Come on then, in you get.’

  With Irwin and Evie taking the front seats, and the three children settled in the back, Alex took the free seat beside Winton in the central row of seats. The car grumbled to life and they slowly crawled up the hill.

  Winton gasped. ‘I am terribly sorry, Alex, how rude. This is my wife, Ambrose.’ He leaned back, and the elderly woman on his other side finished checking on the children in the back seat and then turned to him.

  ‘Hi, I’m Alex.’

  ‘Oh, I’ve heard quite a lot about you,’ Ambrose said affably. ‘Beyond a pleasure to meet you, at long last.’

  Ambrose had a kindly face and light, butter-smooth skin adequately fending off her true age. She had sincere and bright green eyes, like everyone else in her family, and her cheeks were perched high upon her face, so it seemed as though she was always smiling.

  The car revved moodily as Irwin threw the gearstick around. ‘Can’t figure out . . . these . . . bloomin’ . . . things,’ he said with a huff before finally slotting it into gear.

  Their destination, a place where they could hide, became the next topic of conversation. It was a discussion that, in total, took barely more than a minute of suggestions and one that culminated in a unanimous agreement: ‘Your earlier suggestion, Dad’, as Evie had put it.

  Alex caught a glimpse of something silvery on Evie’s lap in the wing mirror as the car crawled to the top of the hill and promptly stalled, not for Irwin’s lack of skill. Overlooking Merlow and its distant shore, Alex saw the sizeable mass of the ship, domineering as it was, in the passing glare of his lighthouse.

  The doors suddenly locked. Alex whipped round, confused.

  ‘Hold on, everyone!’ Evie squealed, causing Alex to clench his arms tight at his side, although he was completely unsure why.

  There was a hissing noise, presumably from the device nestled in Evie’s lap, and the car began to shudder as though protestors were stamping along its underbelly. Darkness shrouded the car in a hazy curtain, like the one from which it had appeared, and the vehicle suddenly lurched up from the ground. There was a sensation of simultaneous momentum and motionlessness; they were either moving incredibly fast or not at all, or quite possibly neither, or both.

  Peering through the glass, Alex watched in wonder as seeds of blinding colours warped and waved and shot and whizzed and exploded all around them. So mesmerised, so completely enthralled was Alex that if he had been speechless in the woods he was now utterly breathless.

  They were lifted right from their seats as they plummeted through layers of colours, which flicked past like pages of an infinite book. A cyclone of light lassoed the shaking vehicle, and now, somehow, their uncontrollable free fall had transformed into a spiralling ascension. As though with a gradual turning of gravity, they soared higher and higher, shooting through the panoramas of a million skies. And just as Alex’s chest felt fit to burst, and he began to fear that they might not make it to morning, the colours connected and found their resting places around them, and they finally arrived.

  AN EMPIRE OF DREAMS AWAITS…

  Continue the adventure and discover a time-travel adventure like never before!

  Who are the Evergreen family?

  Why have they returned to Alex?

  What happened to Alex’s parents?

  An Empire of Dreams awaits . . .

  An Empire of Dreams is available to purchase on Amazon today!

  Here’s what readers are saying…

  “A fantastic mix of time-travel, mystery and adventure. A very addictive story.”

  “A beautiful, gripping story about the power of memory! This is a brilliant debut, and I look forward to reading more from this talented author.”

  “Mystery, action, fantasy and sci-fi, this for me ticks all the boxes!”

  “Some great twists that I never saw coming . . . go read it now!”

  Uncover the mysteries and secrets that tie together Alex, the Evergreens, the past and the future.

  Search your Amazon store for An Empire of Dreams and continue the adventure!

  Happy reading,

  Lewis J Jones

  HOW DID YOU ENJOY TO DEFAME, TO DEVOUR?

  Gaining exposure as an independent author relies mostly on word-of-mouth, so if you have the time please consider leaving a review.

  Reviews not only help me to understand what you enjoyed about the book but also help me greatly to write an even more engaging story. Plus, it also gives others an idea of whether they would enjoy reading the story too!

  Every review really does make a difference.

  Thank you,

  Lewis J Jones

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  Lewis J Jones is a twenty-five-year-old author who lives in South-East London, England.

  Following a dream he had at the age of 19, Lewis began to write what has transformed into a ambitious time-travel adventure series called:

  Of Hearts & Minds

  An admirer of encapsulating stories with multi-layered characters and interconnected storylines, and a devoted fan of time-travel, Lewis seeks to share a story that explores not only our hearts and minds, but also our strongest hopes and our most daring dreams.

  Lewis is contactable by email at: lewisjjones8@gmail.com

 
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