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Seraphim: Sanctuary

Seraphim: Sanctuary

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Seraphim: Sanctuary

Comprimento:
410 página
4 horas
Lançado em:
Apr 22, 2014
ISBN:
9781311484031
Formato:
Livro

Descrição

Six years after a chemical attack destroyed their normal way of life, Sera must now fight to defend the life she has rebuilt. A virus has taken hold of the human population. Herds of infected roam the countryside, but Sera soon learns that it is the ones that aren't infected that pose the most danger.

Lançado em:
Apr 22, 2014
ISBN:
9781311484031
Formato:
Livro

Sobre o autor

I was born in Surrey, England, in the early 1980s. I have very few memories of that time, but I often wonder how different my life would have been had my family not emigrated to Ireland when I was four. I grew up in the countryside on the outskirts of Athlone, a town with the population of 20,000, in the heart of Ireland. With an odd accent that would draw unwanted attention during my school years, I would often withdraw in to my own world. It was hard to remain inconspicuous in primary school with twenty-eight children on the entire role-call. My class expanded to three people when I was ten years old. A boy in the year ahead got kept back. I became quite introverted and my imagination began to grow. Primary school had done nothing to prepare me for secondary school. My class alone had thirty people in it. My entire year had more than a hundred. You would be forgiven to think that I would welcome the crowd in which I could hide myself more easily. Unfortunately, I couldn't. If it weren't for some of the teachers, my English teacher especially, I don't know if I would have made it. Secondary school is tough for anyone. I have no doubt that a lot of people have emotional wounds from that period. Unfortunately, this isn't something you realise until you're a lot older. I began to miss a lot of time from school, through truancy and various embarrassing health-related reasons, the cause of which wasn't diagnosed until I was older. When I left school, I hoped to return to the UK and join the RAF. I have always wanted to fly. I planned to work for a year in order to build up funds to be able to support the move. Almost one year to the date that I had started working, I had my first serious, crippling encounter with Crohn's disease. It was September 10th 2001, the day before the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York. Everyone remembers where they were the day the Western World was changed. I was lying in a hospital bed, unable to move without pain. I spent the next four years in and out of hospital on a regular basis. My partner, Roo, stood by me the whole time, for which I am eternally grateful. In 2005, I had surgery to remove a section of my intestines, which effectively relieved me of the majority of the symptoms of the Crohn's. I have a four inch long scar, and a displaced bellybutton as a reminder. Alongside this scar, a star-shaped scar on my right side, and another four inch long scar from 2001 where they initially thought I was in need of an appendectomy; scars from the battle I waged with the disease. Thankfully, my only complaint in regards to Crohn's now is that I haven't been swimming since 2005 because of these scars. I was one of the lucky ones. I know it can come back at any time, but I vow to never let it win. I haven't had pork in nine years, and when I eat an apple, I eat it thoroughly. Luck plays its part, but keeping positive has a major influence too. For anyone out there that is suffering from Crohn's, please know that it does get better. Stay strong. In 2007, I chased my dream of becoming a pilot. I successfully completed training on two types of helicopters, the R22 and the R44. Unfortunately, a technicality with my history of Crohn's rendered my licence invalid. I have had an assortment of jobs over the years, mainly menial tasks where, again, my imagination was working overtime to keep me occupied. These jobs ranged from warehouse work, to taxi driver, to hotel receptionist, to welder. I knew that I had to give my mind a release by putting pen to paper. I currently reside in Northamptonshire, UK, with the love of my life, Roo, and our border collie, Cooper. Both inspire me to no end. Writing has long been my passion, and I hope to chase it as my future career in order to provide them both with the life that they deserve.

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Seraphim - G Aaron Rendell

Prologue

A twig snapped, catching her attention. She would investigate. Susan didn’t know for how long she had been walking. Indeed, nor did she know to where she was walking. She had been wandering aimlessly. This sudden noise was drawing her in a specific direction now. She had heard something, she was sure of it. It would be food, it had to be.

She was so hungry now, not because of the walking, that didn’t seem to affect her, because she was constantly hungry. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten. In spite of the miles she had covered, her feet didn’t hurt. In fact, she didn’t feel much of anything anymore.

There would have been a time in her life when Susan Roberts, Vice Chancellor of a prestigious university, wouldn’t have dreamed about ever looking as awful as she did now. Her grey pallor skin was streaked with blood. Her elbows and knees were grazed; dark criss-crosses of blood patterned her joints. Her thin white lips were dotted with dry sores and cracks. A bloodied stain stretched across her chin, almost as though someone had painted her face to resemble a macabre clown. Her arms were streaked with pencil thin lines of dried blood from numerous encounters with thorny shrubs. Her once-expensive clothing had been reduced to rags, and any living creature downwind, with a sense of smell, would have had ample warning of her approach.

The forest floor was littered with pine needles. She couldn’t recall how many had pierced her bare left foot. She neither winced from the pain, nor cared that each footstep caused the needle to embed itself further into her skin. She was still wearing one of her designer shoes. Its sole was attached only halfway down the length of the shoe and frequently folded back giving her a slightly awkward gait. She couldn’t recall when or where she had lost its literal sidekick.

She walked on in a semi-catatonic state and didn’t appreciate the beauty of the nature that surrounded her. The early evening sunlight filtered in through the forest canopy at a sharp angle. Streaks of light, carrying dust motes in the still air, gave the world around her a reddish hue. Insects, carrying about their business of surviving, completely ignoring this alien invader to their world, contributed to the forest’s gentle humming sound. She listened through the humming, and she heard it again. A sound that she was certain was human voices, whispering. She slightly altered her direction and strained to hear more, and somehow pinpoint where they were.

Amidst the humming sound, a second sound became audible. It was a high pitched whistle and lasted only a fraction of a second. A firm, but silent thud, and a sharp pain in her neck aroused her from her almost catatonic state. She tried to tilt her head forward but something protruding from her neck was impeding her. She brought her right hand up and slowly pulled on a thin black tube that was lodged in her neck. It was an arrow. She could feel its pointed tip tearing at the inside of her throat as she pulled. It snagged on something inside her. She could see the end of the arrow now. An intricately woven, bright white fletching, dotted with her blood, caught the sunlight. She didn’t appreciate the amount of time that it must have taken to make such a fine fletching.

She erupted into a rage, and emitted a bloodcurdling howl. Her eyes swung back and forth searching for the archer that had done this to her. She spotted the archer, a female, standing amongst a cluster of three others high on rocks to her left. She growled and prepared to launch herself at them. The archer let loose an arrow. She brought her hand up in front of her face, a primal instinct to protect herself. The arrow punctured her palm, shattered a phalange and carried enough inertia to protrude three more inches through her hand. She moved her hand down and quickly inspected it.

By the time it took Susan to register she would’ve been dead if not for taking the arrow to the hand, the archer let loose another arrow with deadly accuracy. It pierced her right eye, and lodged itself in her brain within a second of leaving the archer’s grip.

Susan was dead before she hit the ground. Long before she hit the ground.

ONE

Mark, you there, son? Over. The radio squawked. Mark, Come in. Over. The radio’s fascia lit up, green numbers displaying the frequency of the transmission.

Mark ran in from the sitting room where he’d been reading, whilst waiting for this transmission. He had been as engrossed in his book as he could have been, simultaneously keeping one ear open for the radio. He wasn’t entirely positive, but he was sure he had heard Charles’s voice. It had been hard to tell, but whoever it was had called him ‘son’, so he was going to bet that it was Charles. He lifted the microphone. Mark here, over.

Mark. It’s Charles. We’re en route to your location. Break. The radio transmission paused for a few seconds. ETA forty minutes. Over. Charles’s voice crackled through the radio’s speakers.

Received. Forty minutes. I’ll put the kettle on in thirty five. Good to hear your voice Charles. Over. Mark twisted a dial on the radio, trying to eliminate the static in Charles’s voice. He turned the dial marked ‘squelch’ clockwise. That usually worked.

No need for kettle, son. Flying visit, I’m afraid. We need usual order, no extras required. If you could have that ready for us, please. Over. The static had gone, the transmission came through clearly. It sounded to Mark as though Charles was in the same room as him, although he could hear the engine noise in the background.

Received and understood Charles. See you in a bit, drive safe.

Mark returned the microphone to its cradle. He would have to get everyone moving, sorting out Charles’s order. They had the majority of it organised, and stored in the barn. They would have to move it to the gates, ready for the collection. He called out for Marie.

***

You get it? Griff asked. He was looking over Robert’s shoulder, not fully understanding what Robert was doing. He had listened to the intercepted radio message, surprised to hear Charles’s voice. Griff hadn’t expected Charles to be back on his feet for at least another month.

One second. Robert said. "Didn’t have that much to work on. This Mark guy didn’t talk all that much. It’s kind of hard to get this accurate. His tongue protruded from the corner of his mouth as he pencilled in a line on his map. He readjusted the angle of his ruler, and pencilled another line intersecting the first. Okay. I think I’ve got it."

Where, show me. There? Griff fingered the map. How do you work that out? He couldn’t make head nor tail of the map itself, not including the lines that Robert had added to it. He had never been good at reading maps. He never really had the need to learn as a kid growing up in a city like London. He’d never been outside the area defined as Greater London before the infection. He had just known where everything was in his little world.

Well it’s fairly simple. Last time we were here. Robert pointed to the map. He traced a different pencil line. And the directional antenna was strongest to the southwest. He moved his hand across the map. And today we’re here. And this is the direction it’s at its strongest. Slightly north of west here. He traced the recently added pencil line.

So how do you know where it came from? Griff asked, still perplexed. His brow furrowed, and his nose crinkled as his brain worked overtime to understand.

Well you run the two lines until they meet each other, and that will give us an approximate area. If you’re willing to wait another fortnight, I can properly triangulate the broadcast from another position, and give you a more definite location. But I think it’ll be easy to spot. You see these lines here. He ran his finger along a printed line on the map. These indicate that this area here is in a slight valley, and this point here will give us a bird’s eye view. We’ll see their convoy and find it no problem.

Griff nodded as though he now understood it. Well, I hope so, I’m not waiting another fortnight. I want to keep moving. Start heading north again, I think. We’ve worn out our welcome here, can’t exactly go back to that last crowd. We ripped them off something rotten. I would love to have seen the look on their faces when they opened the last packages.

Robert shared in Griff’s laughter. Yeah, would’ve been priceless. Screw them. Hey, look at those lazy fucks. He pointed his chin in the direction of the teenage boys sitting in the grass.

I’m beginning to think these kids were lying. Should have off’ed them straight away. Griff shook his head slowly, staring at the two newcomers to his group. They were sitting together back to back, talking.

It was better when it was just the four of us. Robert sneered. We each earned our place in the group. And we’ve each done our part to prove ourselves. Those two are just here on a promise. Even Tom’s had enough of them.

Griff watched Tom as he walked around their makeshift camp. He had just finished inspecting their vehicles. Griff’s son Robbie, had helped him. Robbie returned with a beer for Tom.

Lazy little shits too. All they’ve done is cost me food. And I’ve got squat in return. Griff shook his head. He would have to do something soon. The group dynamic had changed with their arrival. He could sense the tension, and see the disdain that everyone held for them.

Robert nodded. Yeah. It’s been, what? Just over a month? I’d say, give them another fortnight. At most. I mean, we’ve searched this entire area. Just think of the reward, man. If it is true. We’ll be kings.

"Damn right. If it’s true. Those little shits had better come through with the goods. I’m not going to be taken for a fool. Especially not by them. Come on, we’ve got to get moving, get in position before they turn up. How far are we from that overwatch position?"

About ten minutes, I guess. Not far. Robert traced a road on the map.

Robbie and I will carry today Griff informed Robert. He wanted his son to be able to protect himself. We need to get our hands on more guns. I reckon this Mark guy will be packing. I’m sure we can persuade him to part ways with it if it comes to that. I have a good feeling about today.

Funnily enough, I do too.

Get the rest of them ready. I’m going to take a leak. Griff jogged to the bushes to relieve himself.

TWO

Sitting high in an old oak tree, I looked up from my book. I replayed the last few words I had read in my mind as I rolled my shoulders and stretched my neck from side to side. I had been sitting here reading for quite a while, and stiffness had set in. I rubbed my eyes, and then massaged the bridge of my nose, both actions releasing some pressure that had built up at the front of my head. I had thought that I was relatively comfortable, straddling a bough with my back against the main trunk of the weathered tree. According to my sore muscles, I wasn’t.

The gentle early morning breeze of the late autumn day rustled through the leaves up here. I was being rocked back and forth in irregular patterns soothingly, yet almost imperceptibly. I yawned, audibly and animatedly, not for my benefit, stretching my arms and arching my back, clamping the trunk between my shoulder blades for stability. I could imagine a fall from this height would not end well.

The reason I had yawned so dramatically was because I knew that this quiet time was about to be disturbed. I had known for about a quarter of an hour. Cooper, my border collie, had given me warning. She sat at the base of the tree, drifting in and out of sleep in the late morning sun. It had been a really warm October so far, with temperatures reaching eighteen to twenty degrees. Coupled with random, and quite sudden, downpours, it had been great for the last our crops. It would be a good winter.

Placing a leaf between the pages as a bookmark, I closed my book and reached for my satchel. It was hanging one branch higher, in easy access. I packed my book away.

You’re being way too loud I said. And it’s taken you nearly ten minutes to get halfway up the tree.

How did you know I was here? a voice came from below.

I could hear the disappointment in her voice. I felt a pang of guilt. I wondered whether I should have let her continue. I didn’t want her this high in the tree though. It was too dangerous for her.

You just confirmed it. I replied. I looked down, and amidst the tangle of branches below, I spotted Kayla hugging the trunk with one arm, and waving up with the other. She had done well, to get so close. I wondered how close she would have managed to sneak had Cooper not given the game away.

Kayla was twelve years old, six years younger than me, but just as tomboyish as I had been at that age. Her knotted and tangled blonde hair, hanging below her shoulders, was flecked with leaves and strands of hay. Her angelic face was smudged with mud and she had a new scratch above her left eye. I wondered how she had acquired this new abrasion.

Mum and Dad want you. She said, wrapping her arms around a branch over her head.

Great. I muttered under my breath. What do they want? I called down. I expected that it was more chores. It was quite rare these days to get a moment of peace. There was a lot of work to do on the farm as the winter rolled closer. I had climbed out of bed early this morning too, in order to get an early finish. I was falling behind on my reading. I had had to re-read a few chapters to reacquaint myself with my current book.

Not sure. But I bet you’re in trouble. Kayla called up. She swung from a branch, kicking her feet out into thin air. Seeing her do this sent waves of worry through me. Just be careful I called down.

Below, Cooper danced about, her tongue hanging from her mouth. She didn’t bark though, she was such a clever girl. She knew she had to be quiet.

I started down the tree. Kayla spotted this and did likewise. I caught up to her easily and had to wait as she made her way from branch to branch. I had to admit that I admired her tree climbing capability considering her stature. Kayla wasn’t yet five feet in height; in fact she was about four inches shy, most likely from lack of good nourishment in her developing years.

Uh-oh, problem! Kayla stopped on the lowest of the branches. She was still a good distance from the ground.

How did you get up? I asked, spotting the issue. The lowest branch was too high for her to safely drop down from.

That method you showed me, with my belt. She had looped the belt around the main trunk of the tree and shimmied up until she had reached to the first branch. It was a method I had read about in a book once, about how they picked coconuts off of trees in exotic lands.

It works for getting down too.

I dropped my belt though. Look, it’s over there. She pointed to where her belt had fallen. It looked like a well camouflaged snake lying amongst the exposed roots of the oak.

Ok, let me past, and I’ll help you. You’ll have to jump down on to me.

I manoeuvred past her, dropped my satchel down, avoiding Cooper, and lowered myself from the lowest branch so that my legs were now only a few feet from the ground. I dropped the remaining distance, landing, in my opinion, gracefully. I looked up to see Kayla already lowering herself. Her foot swung towards my face but, luckily, I dodged it.

At full extension of her arms, Kayla’s waist was slightly higher than my shoulders. I grabbed her around the top of her thighs and once Kayla was satisfied that she wouldn’t be dropped, she let go of the branch and folded herself over my shoulder. It was too good of an opportunity to waste. I enjoyed teasing her.

I think you need a wash Kayla. Your face is a state. I think you should go in the lake! I laughed, bouncing her gently on my shoulder.

No! Kayla screamed, half in terror, half in delight. She wriggled on my shoulder. I juggled her weight, trying not to drop her.

I sniffed loudly. Oh yes, can’t have you smelling like this either. I’ll throw you in the lake and toss in some soap after you. How does that sound?

Kayla giggled and playfully punched at my rump.

Oh now you’re definitely going in. I crouched to pick up my satchel, again juggling Kayla’s weight to keep her in position and then I started to jog in the direction of the lake. Kayla bounced up and down on my shoulder, still giggling. Cooper jumped at us playfully. She ran around my feet in circles, almost causing me to trip.

There’s no water in it Sera, it’s just a hole! Kayla tried to talk her way out of trouble.

Oh, there’s a big puddle in there from the rain, it’ll have to do. I countered.

It’s all muddy, I’ll tell on you! Kayla was getting worried now as we were getting closer to the lake. Everyone referred to it as the lake, but it was more of a glorified puddle. Currently, there was about three inches of water sitting in its basin, no more than a metre in width at its widest point.

"Everyone will thank me. ‘No more smelly Kayla’ they’ll say. They probably won’t recognise you anyway, it’s been that long since you’ve had a clean face."

Please no, Sera. The genuine worry in her voice broke my heart.

I manoeuvred Kayla down off of my shoulders, and around until I was cradling her like a baby. ‘A girl Kayla’s age shouldn’t be this light’ I thought. There really was no weight to her at all.

Kayla could probably see in my eyes now that I wasn’t serious about throwing her into the puddle. You’re mean. She said, a smile spreading across her face.

You’re smelly! I laughed, scrunching my nose.

I’ll wash later. Anyway, I knew you didn’t have the balls to do it!

Kayla! I exclaimed, genuinely shocked. Where’d you hear language like that? I had never heard her say something so crude before.

I can read too she wriggled down out of my hold, "and you read some very disgusting books, Sera. You shouldn’t leave them around where an innocent child like me can pick up some awful habits."

I had recently branched out in to more romantic type books, just to satisfy my curiosity about sex. I had found them during a provisions raid in an abandoned house, and it had been too tempting to pass them up. I had thought that I had kept them pretty well hidden. I could feel myself blushing now at the thought that Kayla had found them.

What did Mark and Marie want anyway? I asked, rapidly changing the subject. I began to wonder whether she had told them about the books. I really did not want that discussion. Especially not with Mark.

"Mum and Dad?" Kayla tried to correct me.

"Yes, your Mum and Dad, what did they want?" I petted Cooper, running my hands through her long, silky hair. She was mostly black, with a white neck and face. She had a few black freckles on her muzzle. I like to trace the patterns between them gently with my fingers.

They didn’t say, Kayla started, Like I said, you’re probably in trouble for something. Come on, I want to find out what it is, too. She set off in the direction of the house towards the centre of the property, my slight embarrassment and I in tow.

Marie came out of the house as we walked closer. She wore an expression on her face that I read as worried. ‘Must be real bad this time’ I thought. I couldn’t think of what I had done to cause her upset. I had all of my chores from this morning completed. I had forgotten to tell anyone that I was going to my tree to read though. Maybe that was it. It was common courtesy to keep people in the loop as to where you’d be.

You found her then, honey? Good girl. Marie’s voice was husky, but she said everything in a singsong way. I had heard her singing before. She wouldn’t do it in front of an audience, but she hadn’t known I was there.

Yes Mum. Kayla said smugly. We live on four acres of land, it wasn’t exactly a needle in a haystack. Kayla rolled her eyes. It was an awful habit she had picked up from Adam, another resident of the farm.

There’s fresh bread in the kitchen, if you want a slice. This was Marie’s way of keeping Kayla’s nose out of this business. Kayla was what I imagined Marie had looked like when she was a child. They both had the same blue twinkling eyes, the same freckles dotted across their noses, and the same blonde hair. I could see a little of her father in Kayla too, in some of her expressions, but mostly she resembled Marie.

Kayla understood. Ok, Mum. She climbed the porch steps, hugged her mother around her waist as she walked past her into the house. Marie leant down and kissed the top of her head.

And go and wash your face too. You’re filthy. Marie patted her buttocks.

I knew Kayla would have dashed up the stairs the moment the front door was closed, and would soon be situated above the porch, in her parent’s room, desperately trying to hear what was going on below.

What’s up, Marie? I asked, eager to get whatever this was over and done with. I couldn’t, for the life of me, work out what I had done wrong this time, no matter how hard I wracked my brain.

Mark wanted me to ask you... Marie began.

Mark and I often clashed heads over various things. I guess we were so similar in personality, each being as stubborn as the other, that it often flared in to huge rows with sometimes hurtful endings. There hadn’t been such a flare up in at least a fortnight though. I couldn’t believe that Mark would have held a grudge for that long without saying something. We had worked together various times in that fortnight with different chores on the land. There was no way Mark would’ve kept his mouth shut if his pride was in any way damaged.

Marie struggled with her wording. "Erm... Mark was passing your room last night. He wanted me to ask you whether you’re okay. He said you were having a panic attack in your sleep, screaming out and clawing at the pillows. He had to come in and

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