Left To Darkness

By: Craig Saunders

(The Oblivion Series Book 1)



Acknowledgments





Please allow a moderately old man a moment to say thanks to a few people before you move on to the next thing…this being, by and large, the start of the book, I would hope the next thing is the story itself…

First, foremost, the team at DarkFuse.

Thanks to everyone over on my FB author page—the bonus material at the end of this novel exists because of you.

To my friends Sandy-Andy, the Oates. The Great British Horror team—Matt Shaw, Ian Woodhead, William Meikle, Graeme Reynold, G.R. Yeates, Iain Rob Wright, Michael Bray. For my friends on Facebook—too many to name, but love you all. Especially, though, for my colleagues, many of whom have shared the mean streets with me on this, the long haul toward being an AUTHOR. It doesn’t stop. Ever. Love you all, too.

My fans? Yeah, you. Lisa Lamb! Jami Hamilton! Malina Roos! John C. Hoddy! It’s about time I said hi to you in a book.

My boys, Tom, Jack, Harry. It’s been emotional.

Lastly, mostly, my amazing wife, Sim. Always.





Craig

The Shed

2014





“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

—John Milton, Paradise Lost





“And the Lord replied: ‘The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I have carried you.’”

—Footprints in the Sand (Authorship disputed)





I. THE BRIEFCASE





1





Kindness can be deceptive, like a steaming mug of coffee on a cold day. You never know how hot it’s going to be until you pick it up.

So, when the man sporting nothing but a pair of stained pants offered a cigarette to the man in a stinking coat from a charity bin, the man in the coat was understandably suspicious.

It wouldn’t be the first time someone had held out a kind hand, only to follow it through with a hard boot to the ribs. The man in the coat was a few teeth shy of a mouthful. Scarred lips from a punch, a wheeze from the cold and neglect. He had a heavy limp—three youngsters had given him such a kicking one night about seven years before that they’d managed to break his thighbone. Him, an old man. Homeless, shit out of luck, stinking, yes. But a man, still. Always a man.

The man in the coat was named Ed Bright. He was the man who would not bend.

Ed sniffed unsuccessfully and wiped his dripping nose with his right hand. He wore a glove on the left and didn’t want to get snot on it—the glove was nearly new.

“No trick, boss,” said the man in the stained pants. He still held out the cigarette pack, like he could do it all day. Like it wasn’t snowing up above their little perch in the shelter of the subway.

Ed sniffed again.

Bugger must be freezing, Ed thought. Shit, he was wearing a coat and three jumpers (if he remembered rightly) and he was still cold. Cold like the kind that you couldn’t get out in a couple of hours sitting around a shop’s heating vents. The sort of cold that wouldn’t go until the first month of spring, and even then, your bones would remember it.

Bones don’t forget the cold so easily when you’re an old man.

He did really want a cigarette. He had a lighter, too. There was a bit of gas left and the flint was still sound.

“Well…cheers, then.”

Carefully, wary as always of the kind hand, Ed Bright took the proffered cigarette in his bare hand (snot hardening on his skin in the cold air already). He didn’t look at the brand, because he didn’t care. A cigarette was a cigarette, he figured. It didn’t matter to him who’d made it.

He fumbled in one of the large pockets of his stinky coat and brought out the disposable lighter of which he was so proud. With a nod to the man in the pants, Ed lit his cigarette and took that grateful first hit all the way down into his tattered lungs. He could feel the warm smoke, the tar, the nicotine…working their magic straight off. The kind of magic any junky feels after a fallow spell breaks.

“Been a while,” said Ed Bright, warming to the stranger sitting with him, weathering the midwinter cold…in his pants.

Ed meant to ask about that. It just didn’t seem polite, right now, while he was enjoying the man’s cigarette.

“Mind if I join you?”

“Nope,” said Ed with a largely toothless smile. Ed hadn’t shaved in a while, and when he smiled, the corners of his mustache went into his mouth.

Shifting around on his perch—a grubby briefcase that Ed had found and been using as a pillow—Ed watched the man tap out his own smoke and rolled it expertly across his knuckles before popping it into his mouth.

The stranger flicked his own lighter at his own cigarette. Same brand as Ed’s. Basically, an identical cigarette. Like might happen for rich people when their cigarettes came from the same packet. People with money smoked whole packs. They had a brand, rather than homeless people who smoked whatever was left on the ground outside shops and pubs, or in the wall-mounted ashtrays that adorned Britain’s walls since the indoor smoking ban.

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