Thank you to HQ and P L Kane for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for Paul’s latest novel: ‘The Family Lie‘. I’m thrilled to be sharing the prologue of the novel with you today.
P L KANE is the pseudonym of a #1 bestselling and award-winning author and editor, who has had over a hundred books published in the fields of SF, YA and Horror/Dark Fantasy. In terms of crime fiction, previous books include the novels ‘Her Last Secret‘ and ‘Her Husband’s Grave‘ (a sell-out on Waterstones online and Amazon), the collection ‘Nailbiters’ and the anthology ‘Exit Wounds‘, which contains stories by the likes of Lee Child, Dean Koontz, Val McDermid and Dennis Lehane.
Kane has been a guest at many events and conventions, and has had work optioned and adapted for film and television (including by Lionsgate/NBC, for primetime US network TV). Several of Kane’s stories have been turned into short movies and Loose Cannon Films/Hydra Films recently adapted ‘Men of the Cloth’ into a feature, ‘Sacrifice‘, starring Barbara Crampton (‘You’re Next‘) which sold to Epic Pictures/101 Films.
Kane’s audio drama work for places such as Bafflegab and Spiteful Puppet/ITV features the acting talents of people like Tom Meeten (‘The Ghoul‘), Neve McIntosh (‘Doctor Who’ / ‘Shetland’), Alice Lowe (‘Prevenge‘) and Ian Ogilvy (‘Return of the Saint’). Visit Paul’s website for more details.
The Family Lie
It was the noises outside that woke them. Woke him.
Noises outside the tent they were sharing, camping in the woods, part of the region known as Green Acres. Todd had woken first, sitting bolt upright when he became aware of the sounds – of someone . . . something out there in the undergrowth. The snapping of twigs on the ground, the swish of leaves and branches being pushed aside. He glanced across at Candice in the dimness, tucked up in the sleeping bag beside him. She was just starting to stir, though whether it was because of his movements or the ones not far away beyond the thin material surrounding them was unclear.
‘D-Did you hear that?’ Todd asked her, trying and failing to say it without his voice cracking.
Bleary-eyed, Candice gaped at him. ‘What time is it?’
Todd had no idea. Late. Middle of the night. It only felt like he’d been asleep for a few minutes, having taken ages to drop off in the first place. Candice, on the other hand, had been fast asleep as soon as her head hit the inflatable pillow. And, in lieu of any kind of proper rest, he’d simply watched her by the light of the small battery-powered lamp before he’d had to turn it off, as she breathed in and out softly. That beautiful face, skin the colour of caramel, jet-black hair that hung in ringlets, Todd reckoned he was pretty much the luckiest man alive. And not for the first time he wondered just how he’d managed to end up with her.
They’d met at uni, both studying psychology – a class taught by one Dr Robyn Adams, who worked with the police on certain cases so was a bit of a celebrity on campus. They’d been best friends first, then it had developed into something more. And when they’d finished their course, he’d suggested this holiday because who knew where they’d end up in the future. Something cheap, because they were skint, and he knew Candice loved the outdoors. They could go on walks in the daytime, cook on an open fire and eat under the stars. Didn’t get much more romantic than that.
And at night-time, snuggle up in a sleeping bag and . . . well, you know.
Hadn’t exactly turned out the way he’d imagined though, had it? First, they’d spotted those creepy-looking folk out and about, when they’d been searching for somewhere to set up camp. Just two or three of them out for a walk in nature probably – but they’d all been wearing the same thing, those weird cream-coloured tunics and trousers.
‘They look like they’re in a cult or something,’ Candice had joked, fan of horror movies that she was. ‘Probably doing a bit of Devil worshipping!’ But Todd hadn’t found it funny. Hadn’t found it funny at all and was glad when they’d passed by out of sight.
Then there was getting stung by that wasp which apparently set a precedence. Everything that walked, flew or crawled in those woods seemed to have it in for Todd, it was like they knew he wasn’t used to being out here. He was also absolutely knackered, had barely slept since they got here – and not in the fun way. Todd just found it so hard to drift off with all the strange noises around him, was too much of a city boy he guessed; and this was just such a long way from it all. The sounds of nature were louder in his own skull than the hum of traffic and buzz of people he’d grown used to. More alien to him than anything, though nothing like the noises that particular night.
‘Listen!’ he whispered to Candice.
‘What . . . ?’ she answered, looking for her phone so she could find out the time, flicking on the light. ‘I can’t hear anything.’
‘There!’ said Todd, who could distinctly hear something stumbling about outside. Maybe it was those people in tunics back again?
‘It’s just the sounds of the woods, babe,’ Candice told him. The same thing she’d been saying for ages. ‘Probably a deer or something.’
‘A deer?’ He was aware he wasn’t really coming off as manly by this point, but the thought of something trampling their tent with them inside it wasn’t exactly relaxing.
Candice couldn’t keep the grin from her face. ‘Yeah, you know. A deer. Don’t worry about it. Won’t hurt you.’
‘Doesn’t sound like a deer to me,’ he informed her. And it didn’t. It sounded bigger than that kind of animal. What if it was something else, some other kind of wild creature?
Something more ferocious.
As if reading his mind, Candice said, ‘Hey, did you ever see that movie with the soldiers and the werewolves? How that started, with one of those things ripping into the tent?’ She was doing this deliberately to wind him up. Candice knew he didn’t care for those kinds of films, that he had a tendency to let his imagination run riot. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.’
Might not be a werewolf – because those didn’t exist, he wasn’t that stupid – but what if it was something else? A nutter or whatever, a crazy cabin person living in the woods with a taste for human flesh? Or a witch, like in that old found footage movie people had thought was real at the time? This place definitely had a history. And hadn’t he read somewhere it was also a UFO hotspot, out in the middle of nowhere? That there had been abductions and such? Those kinds of things he did believe in, Close Encounters and all that. Spoilt for choice with the options . . .
He thought about voicing his concerns, but he was already going down in his girlfriend’s estimation he realized. God, who’d want to be with such a wuss?
Then the noises came again and this time Candice looked up. Looked worried. ‘Now that I did hear.’
Thank Christ for that, it was loud enough! Sounded like Godzilla and King Kong wrestling out there. ‘What should—’
‘We should probably take a look,’ she suggested. ‘At least see what we’re dealing with.’
But what if it deals with us first? thought Todd, who’d changed his mind. He was beginning to wish this was a horror flick, because then he could simply switch it off. Or be safe in the knowledge that good triumphed over evil. Usually.
‘Really?’ he asked.
Candice nodded and took his hand. ‘We’ll look together.’
‘O-Okay,’ he said, voice cracking again.
His girlfriend led the way, unzipping the tent and peering out. After a few moments, she turned and said in hushed tones, ‘I can’t see anything. Can you?’
Todd joined her and his eyes searched the space in front of him. It was pitch black out there, and he had a job even making out the shapes of trees, of branches. Maybe they should flash that phone light around, or grab the lamp? Would that attract attention? Would it be worse to see than not? ‘No, I—’
He froze, squeezing her hand. The loud rustling noises were coming again, only this time he could see the source of it. Something was lit up, stumbling through the darkness: a figure. Todd’s mind went to those UFOs again, to glowing aliens.
More alien to him than anything.
‘Is that . . . Jesus, Todd – I think that’s a person!’ cried Candice. ‘But what’s . . . Is that a torch they’ve got or—’
No, definitely not a torch. Because the whole figure was shining with the kind of brightness not even the strongest torch would give off. And the light was coming from everywhere at once.
That was when he smelled it, the unmistakably sweet aroma of cooking flesh – similar to the smell of the meat they’d been cooking themselves on campfires. That they’d cooked earlier on the one outside, before making sure it was totally out. It was also then Todd realized what the figure reminded him of. Not an alien at all, but a certain figure that was thrown onto the bonfire every fifth of November in this country.
Because the shape, stumbling through the undergrowth and making all that noise – looking for all the world like some kind of stuntman – was, from head to toe, on fire. Ablaze, covered totally in flames. How it was still moving was a mystery to Todd, but moving it was. Crashing on and on towards them, the noise of crackling and popping accompanying the other sounds now.
Then all of those noises, the ones that had woken them – woken him, Todd – were drowned out by something. The sound of screaming, high-pitched and blood-curdling.
The sounds of someone who’d finally realized, who understood now that they were being roasted alive.
Or, more accurately, were burning to death.