…it was the right story at the right time. Read the first chapter! You never know, you may actually learn something about why it became an Indie success story back in 2012-13, exceeding 250,000 sales.
If you have actually been reading my posts, and not merely clicking ‘Like’, or ignoring them altogether as so many do these days, you will know I’ve been busy re-jigging my 2012 best selling short novel (61,954 words) Race against Time (formerly – The Seventh Age), a tale involving a race against time itself, with a science fiction slant. While I’m reading it through once again looking for any errors I missed during the re-write, prior to republishing it on Amazon, here is the first chapter.
In the beginning was darkness
It was the time of the summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge on the plains of Wiltshire. Each year the mixture of revellers hardly changed. First timers were standing alongside the old hands, all waiting to experience the magic of watching the sunrise in that special place. This year, Nick Palmer, aged twenty nine, an unemployed lecturer with a doctorate in theoretical archaeology, now had some free time on his hands and decided to join in. He had lost his latest post due to his former tutor Professor Joseph Randle seeing to it that he got fired for his highly unorthodox views on ancient sites and ancient peoples.
Nick’s piercing blue eyes looked out on the world from his weather beaten craggy face. At just under six foot tall, his wiry build belied an inner physical strength that had developed from his sometime hobby of free climbing on the craggy cliff faces in the more remote parts of inland Wales. Topping off his frame, his head was crowned with thick untidy auburn hair that hung over his forehead. He had arrived in the early evening yesterday, and had pitched his tent among the myriad of others already set up. Once done, he headed off to Salisbury for a pint of best bitter at the first pub he found in the beautiful old cathedral city. Now nursing an alcohol induced pounding headache and a tongue seemingly covered in fur, he stood with the throng in the predawn gloom to witness the first rays of sunlight illuminate the alter stone at Stonehenge’s centre.
A group of three new age hippies stood off to one side of the main crowd. To Nick’s alert eyes they were obviously not mainstream participants. Something about their furtive discussion encouraged his natural curiosity and made him edge over to where they stood; close, but not close enough to make them aware of his eavesdropping. As the minutes ticked by and the excitement grew among the hundreds of participants, Nick listened to the hushed conversation between the three hippies.
Milo rolled himself a massive joint, lit it, inhaled the heady herb smoke, and passed it along to Rebo, who took a long drag before passing it to the third member of the group Sunflower. “Are you sure about your facts man?” Sunflower asked as he exhaled the spent cannabis smoke, creating a series of inwardly spiralling smoky halo’s in the still air of the early morning.
Rebo took back the toke and inhaled before replying to Sunflower’s question. “Sure I’m sure man, wait and see,” he said, wheezing his reply through clenched teeth, trying to keep the intoxicating smoke in his mouth and lungs for as long as possible.
Milo looked toward the east for the first sign of predawn light before the sun appeared above the horizon. “If it does happen like you say Rebo, man it will blow people’s minds,” Milo muttered quietly as he kept his eyes glued to the horizon. Nick shook his head, bemused by the seemingly nonsensical conversation as he moved closer to the main body of the crowd, as eager as everyone else to celebrate the solstice.
The appointed time of sunrise came and went. The seconds slowly ticked by. A murmur of anticipation in the crowd grew in intensity. Somewhere in the gloom, a reveller was slowly banging a drum accompanying a group who were chanting their welcome to the sun. What the hell was going on? Where was the sun? Nick looked back to where Milo, Sunflower and Rebo stood. Rebo’s face broke out in a look of cannabis fogged triumph. Milo was blearily staring eastward. “Wow man, it’s just like you said!” Sunflower just stood in stunned silence, mouth open. Fully fifty seconds after sunrise should have begun; the sun finally appeared on the distant horizon. To the vast majority of the solstice witnesses, the delay went unnoticed, unappreciated. But not by Nick, who like Sunflower, briefly stood dumbstruck, nor Ithis who watched unobserved, from where she was morphed into the side of one of the largest standing stones that made up the outer ring of the ancient henge. Somehow time had slowed, but why? She knew and was greatly concerned.
Rebo turned to Milo. “See man, the guy was right. What he said on his blog has just happened. Time is slowing down man – crazy or what?”
Nick looked across to where Rebo, Milo and Sunflower were now dancing a cannabis assisted jig. “What blog?” Nick directed his question at Rebo. “What blog?” he repeated; this time grabbing Rebo’s arm to get his attention.
Rebo stopped dancing; turning to see who it was that had interrupted his triumphant dance before answering. “Time Reversed, the blog is called time reversed. The dude that runs it has been saying for months, that as the planets get closer to alignment in 2012, just like the Mayans predicted on their clock man, the full alignment will be pointed directly at the centre of our galaxy, time will gradually slow. It may even stop man!”
Nick wandered slowly back to his tent, deep in thought. Once inside he closed the flaps and offered a silent “Yes!” to the heavens. After all those years of being vilified by academia over what his former tutor, Professor Joseph Randle had termed “complete and utter unmitigated nonsense, not worthy of one of his worst undergraduate students,” his theory had finally been proven true.
Nick’s doctoral thesis – ‘Early Sumeria and its influence on Middle Eastern culture today,’ had earned him a distinguished first, gaining him unprecedented access to the major digs in Iraq and others equally as important, spread across the near east from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and on into Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. In those early days he was Randle’s star graduate student who could do no wrong, and had a promising academic career ahead of him. After gaining his doctorate he had done his post-doctoral work largely in the dusty and almost airless labyrinth of rooms containing thousands of artefacts, consisting mainly of broken pieces of clay tablets adorned with the strange birdlike cuneiform written language of the time; echoes from the Sumerian culture’s distant past, now buried deep inside the British Museum. From time to time, he took the odd trip back to Iraq and the ancient Sumerian ruins to confirm his emerging theory. While he kept his findings to himself, everything was fine. But, when Randle had insisted it was time for his protégé to present a paper at the annual University of East Anglia archaeology departmental conference, the academic equivalent of shit hitting the fan occurred, big time. In the rigid world of academia, to survive you tow the party line; you conform. But Nick was never one to roll over to have his belly scratched by his elders and betters. Literally from the second he opened his mouth to announce the title of his paper, Randle’s neck turned purple. The senior lecturers rose en masse, and hurriedly left the conference room quickly followed by their undergraduates and post-doctoral researchers.
From that fateful day, Randle made it his personal mission in life to destroy Nick’s academic credibility and career. To be associated with this foolish rebel put paid to his own personal ambition of a knighthood for services rendered in the field of archaeology. If he had been able to demand that Nick return his doctorate, or that the university somehow declare his brilliant doctoral thesis now unfit for purpose, based on this abhorrent almost heretical paper, he would have. The offending paper had deliberately been entitled ‘The seventh age – when time stops.’ In a way Randle had done him a huge favour. Nick was now free to pursue his worldwide search for clues to support his theory of time slowing to a standstill, unfettered by academic constraints. Word had quickly spread about Nick’s obsession, thanks to a few rogue journalists who liked nothing better than printing sensationalist articles about the hallowed halls of stuffy mainstream British academia.
The University of East Anglia hardly needed yet another witch-hunt. It had only recently extracted itself with a large amount of egg on its public face. Controversially, a previous academic storm concerning leaked internal emails, from one of its lauded departments, which had been reported worldwide, had the university hierarchy in a panicked spin, desperate to regain control.
To make money to finance his painstaking research, Nick wrote articles about his theory on time for fringe publications worldwide. He delivered popular lectures to new age believers everywhere. He also appeared on endless late night chat shows both here in the UK as well as across the United States of America via satellite, where conspiracy theorists dwell in their thousands, hungry for a new subject that dares to speak of cataclysm, and which challenges conventional thinking in the largely cynical and dusty academic world. All of which convinced Ithis that he was the right man for what lay ahead.
The idea of time possibly slowing to a standstill had gradually dawned on him through his research into ancient Sumeria. Plus, from reading all of the available literature on other ancient cultures that sprang up across the world during the same time period, and on into the early centuries of the first millennia AD, through to the mid sixteen hundreds in Central and South America. It wasn’t so much what the various academic papers actually said about these cultures, but what they didn’t say, or blatantly dismissed as folklore, that sharpened his curiosity. Buried inside the endless forgotten reports from the countless digs done in the mid to late nineteenth century, through to the early part of the twentieth century, and the corresponding artefacts excavated and immediately discarded as not fitting into the given timeline for the dig in question, from time to time he came across derisory comments made by the various paper’s academic authors on the local people’s firmly held beliefs. Quite frankly he considered that the authors in question should have known better, especially concerning the sites which they had largely dismissed out of hand, classifying them as nothing more than myth or fairy tales.
Slowly over many months he built up a dossier of these local legends, beliefs and so called myths. The thing that really stood out for him was the recurring conviction and belief of the ancients that time was not a permanent fixture in the cosmos. Indeed, according to them, it was anything but permanent and something entirely different to the relatively modern concept of time being a means of dividing our existence into millennia, centuries, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds. Somehow, despite the widely held belief of learned physicists that everything started with a big bang, what he was reading also countered that theory. In fact what the ancients related in their writings was that time was a wholly unnatural construct, created eons ago by persons long forgotten, in order to impose control and discipline to what they deemed to be the chaos of daily life. Nick would gradually come to the realization, over the many months of his research, that his belief that time was actually counting down to something catastrophic, was true after all.
What finally convinced him that there was something in all of this was when he began seriously researching all the material currently available on the controversial Mayan Clock phenomena, and its firm conclusion that everything would somehow end on December 21st, 2012. Would that state of chaos return, or would the natural order of things prevail? Was there a ‘key’ to time? At the back of his mind, he remembered reading something very similar in the translations of several of the ancient Sumerian cuneiform tablets housed in the British Museum, once again discarded as pure fantasy by his fellow researchers, written thousands of years before the Maya and Inca empires came to prominence, together with some of the more obscure Egyptian papyri on the subject also held there. On one specific Sumerian tablet there was reference to a planetary alignment in the future where our solar system would be acting like a pointer to the very centre of the Milky Way galaxy, marking the end of something – but what it was at the time remained unclear. As he dug further into all the information available from across the world, he began to find seemingly unrelated and tantalizingly vague clues, pointing to a device of some kind that had been placed on this planet thousands of years in the past. Who had been responsible for placing it, as well as its whereabouts and function escaped him for the moment.
So, you’ve had a taste of my best seller from back in 2012. If you want to read more of it here on my blog don’t be shy, ask me…