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Authors: Gary McMahon

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Silent Voices

BOOK: Silent Voices
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Praise for Gary McMahon

 


The Concrete Grove
is a tense, ghoulish, creeping horror guaranteed to give you recurring nightmares! Brilliant characterisation, economic prose and with genius control of building tension, the climax of
The Concrete Grove
will leave you reeling! There's a new wave of brilliant horror writers – and McMahon's right there at the top of them.”

– Andy Remic, author of
Kell’s Legend

 

“Gary McMahon is one of the finest of a new breed of horror writers. His work combines spare, elegant writing with an acute sense of the growing desperation felt by those having to deal with the crime and crumbling infrastructure of our urban centers. Illuminating these themes with a visionary's sense of the supernatural makes
The Concrete Grove
one exciting read.”

– Steve Rasnic Tem, author of
Deadfall Hotel

 

“Gary McMahon is a spellbinding storyteller.
The Concrete Grove
is as feverish and unnerving as it is gripping: a bleak orchard of humanity where you hardly dare to look at what dark things hang gleaming and winking in the branches of the trees.”

– Graham Joyce, author of
The Silent Land

 


The Concrete Grove
is an outstanding mix of urban horror and dark fantasy, hints of King’s
The Dark Tower
series, hints of Holdstock’s pagan fantasy but above all the realisation of McMahon’s talents as the outstanding British horror writer of our times.”

– The Black Abyss

 

SILENT

VOICES

 

 

Gary McMahon

 

For Charlie, my Best Boy:

I can’t wait to see what kind

of man you grow up to be

 

 

First published 2012 by Solaris

an imprint of Rebellion Publishing Ltd,

Riverside House, Osney Mead,

Oxford, OX2 0ES, UK

www.solarisbooks.com

 

ISBN: (epub) 978-1-84997-351-9

ISBN: (mobi) 978-1-84997-352-6

 

Copyright © Gary McMahon 2012

 

Cover Art by Vincent Chong

Map by Gary McMahon and Pye Parr

 

The right of the author to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of he copyright owners.

 

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

Also by Gary McMahon

 

Hungry Hearts

Pretty Little Dead Things

The Concrete Grove

Dead Bad Things

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

 

Thanks always to Emily and Charlie for giving me a reason to fight; to Ross and Katarzyna Warren for checking and correcting my pitiful attempts at the Polish language; to John Probert for the medical advice regarding stab wounds; to Michael Wilson, Jim McLeod, Jason Baki, Colin Leslie and many other kind reviewers and bloggers who supported the first
Concrete Grove
book; to Mark West (again) for his interest and enthusiasm; and finally huge thanks must go to John Roome for some sound advice given at a time when it mattered.

 

“The rest is silence.”

 

– Hamlet
, Act 5 scene 2

by William Shakespeare

 

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

 

– Old English Nursery Rhyme (circa 1811)

TWENTY YEARS AGO, WHEN THE WORLD WAS SO MUCH SMALLER...

 

 

T
HE SUN IS
a bronze penny hanging motionless in the sky as the boys toil beneath its hazy glare, laughing and sweating and having fun. The kind of fun that they will never have again, once they go beyond a certain age: kid fun, all happiness and innocence and mercifully free of the sharp edges adults develop, even in their play.

It’s been a long day for the Three Amigos – a typical English summer day, filled with running and play-fighting and sweet, long bike rides along the old railway line that runs along the bottom of the Embankment, with the gang pretending they are on their way to somewhere special – a place other than this one, with its embittered people and grey concrete promises.

But now, late in the afternoon, the bikes have been put away and the three boys are planning to build something in the trees at the north edge of Beacon Green, just up the hill from the old Near Grove railway station: a high platform, the beginnings of a proposed tree house.

Marty brought back the necessary tools from the drawers in the garage when he returned from a tense lunch with his perpetually warring parents, and Brendan stayed behind while the others returned home to eat so that he could gather enough wood for the project. Brendan never goes home for lunch: his father is dead and his mother drinks too much, even during the day.
Especially
during the day. Simon, the third member of the group, often feels guilty that he never invites his friend home for a meal, but the tension between his own parents is too uncomfortable to inflict upon anyone else. They are going through a ‘bad spell’; that’s what they call it, as if it’s the result of some kind of dark magic. As far as he can tell, he once told Brendan, their entire marriage is a bad spell – one that’s been going on since before he was born.

“Get that bit over there,” says Marty, the muscle of the gang. He points towards the splintered remains of a timber pallet and waits for the other two to walk over, drag it from where it lies half-hidden under the bushes, and then carry it over to the site of their construction project.

“Jesus, it’s heavy.” Brendan is very thin; his elbow bones jut out like twigs and his face always looks starved.

“Yeah, but that’s because you’re a wimp.” Simon laughs at his friend and gives a tug on his end of the wooden pallet, causing Brendan to stumble. Brendan sticks out his tongue; it is a child’s riposte, lacking sophistication even for a ten-year-old.

“Come on, then. Let’s get this thing built!” Marty is standing with one foot resting on the mouldy trunk of a fallen tree. He has his hands on his hips, and he pouts as if he is waiting to be kissed. To the other boys, he looks strangely alluring: like an asexual being that’s been trapped somewhere between childhood and the great unexplored country of adulthood. A tree nymph or a woodland elf: some mythical being from a story book, rather than the streets of a northeastern council estate.

“Yes, Miss!” Brendan’s voice carries through the silent trees, disturbing a ground-dwelling bird or a small mammal from its hiding place. The animal darts through the undergrowth, rustling the leaves and branches, as Brendan and Simon let loose with a brace of laughter.

Marty shakes his head and slowly lets his arms drop to his sides, abandoning the pose. “Piss off!” he shouts, much too late to salvage his dignity.

The boys fall quiet for a while, occupied by the simple task of sorting out pieces of wood. They discard ruined, shattered pieces of timber and form a pile of decent material that can be re-used. The sun moves slowly down the sky, tracing the day’s journey towards early evening. The sky seems to shimmer above the scene, like the underside of a distant body of water.

Brendan stops for a rest. He walks across to the nearest tree and sits down at the base of its trunk, retrieving a can of pop from his jacket, which lies grubby and creased on the ground. He opens the tab and drinks deeply, his eyes closed and his head tilted upwards. His fringe falls back to reveal a forehead pocked with livid acne and absently he scratches his thigh with his free hand. It’s a displacement trick he learned long ago – scratch another part of your body rather than the place you really want to scratch, and pretend that you’ve eased the discomfort.

Brendan opens his eyes as he lowers the can, scanning for a moment the green expanse of Beacon Green which lies beyond the line of the trees. He narrows his eyes, leaning forward with an intent look on his face. He licks his lips, stray droplets of pop making them sticky and sweet. Close to his position, gouged into the bole of the nearest tree, someone has used a penknife to write a single nonsense word:
Loculus.

Brendan studies the hand-carved word. It means nothing to him, yet something inside him stirs. The spotty skin on his back crawls, as if tiny feet are walking between his shoulder blades. His forehead begins to itch.

BOOK: Silent Voices
11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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