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To give you a taste of my book The Unseen, here is another extract from Chapter 2. Extracts will continue every Wednesday and Saturday.

Extract from CHAPTER TWO

The new warmth of early spring and the tranquillity of the English countryside gave Sarah little comfort. For the first time in her career she was perplexed by indecision; to tell her partners of Richard Caswell’s unscrupulous behaviour in marketing PKL shares, or join in his deceit. Torn between conscience and ambition, even on her walk she found indecision over which path to follow.   Her normal route to the right led through pine and dappled sunlight, the left fork traversed meadowland to Rattlers Wood, a place of dark and heavy deciduous trees, a place never visited.

She chose the left fork. Logic told her it was foolish, she would be late back for her meeting, late back to reveal that for two years PKL had used subliminal psychotic induction to influence sales and make their games the best-selling in Europe. With substantial shares and sale distribution rights, her company had much to lose.

“This way gives me time,” she spoke in whispered excuse as she walked, her hands thrust in pockets, her gaze on distant sheep. Inside her jacket she clasped her mobile, occasionally turning it in her fingers. Why walk to a place she did not know if not to gain time? She put her indecision down to conscience and a desire to escape. Since reaching level ten of the PKL video game and entering Princess Kay-ling’s Garden of Serenity, the compulsion to visit Rattlers Wood had grown steadily. She enjoyed walking into the unknown to explore where the inhibited feared to tread. Like the use of Ben, her young gardener. Why shouldn’t she satisfy the licentious frustrations of a single woman nearing middle age? It kept her slim and conscious of appearance. She desired more eccentricity in her life than addiction to a computer game, even if such addiction had resulted in making her a wealthy woman.   PKL was heading towards becoming the best selling computer game ever; providing they didn’t get caught. She picked up a stick and thrashed the grass.

“How could you be so stupid, so greedy?” she said aloud, as if Caswell was beside her. Five days ago she had felt pride on reaching level ten. The first person ever, the first person to walk through the gate into Kay-ling’s Garden of Serenity. But for the first time also, the screen showed graphics without action. Without the distraction of moving characters, her keen eyes became drawn by the flickering pulse of words which read the same as the constant thought in her mind. Buy PKL shares. Realisation and anger came immediately. Throughout the hundreds of hours playing PKL, Caswell had influenced her to buy PKL shares. She held thirty percent of their stock. To tell the truth would cripple her finances plus those of every shareholder.

Richard’s denial had come with sharp anger.

“Rubbish. Absolute fucking rubbish,” he had shouted. “You’re losing it woman, becoming addicted with visions of fantasy. It’s a game, not real. Maybe we should check your distribution contract for a mental health clause.”

But when she downloaded the following programme, the Garden of Serenity had been overwritten. More suspicions; and still he had not agreed to an investigation.

Ahead of her, at the boundary of Rattlers Wood, raucous crows tussling on the ground caused her to hesitate. Go into the forest or turn back?

Puffball clouds dotted the sky and the air was still, perfumed with the scent of spring. Sheep dotted the meadow. Looking one way she saw the perfect rural setting but looking the other way she found more crows sitting on the wire, all watching her with bright, hard eyes. Those on the ground fought over the carcass of a dead ewe, the victim of some rogue dog. They picked out its eyes, flapping their wings and squabbling while plucking putrid flesh.

Sarah turned away. She wanted the solace of rural England, not its dark side.

A fence post gave support as she braced herself to precariously straddle long legs over the wire, finally hauling herself onto the far side. She had no right to be there. Rattlers Wood was private land, the property of some trust or forestry company. The sort of place she liked to visit with Ben. Sex had always been a favoured indulgence, particularly with someone fifteen years her junior. Sex gave a break from computer games, from the stress of business and money. It gave the woods new meaning and a reason for her to explore new places. Somewhere here was a spot for future use. She had visualised it in her mind, a vision which had been there for weeks, as if in a dream. It was a Kay-ling kind of place, a circle of trees where grass lay open to the sky. A beautiful and secret place, a place of sanctuary.

Without sheep the grass grew calf deep and then gave way to new bracken interspersed with areas of flat leaf mould. The smell of budding foliage grew intense.   Within minutes of moving from the boundary she was totally enclosed by trees. Her sense of isolation became overwhelming, as if the world outside had been severed, her thoughts and conscience free to decide. Accumulation of wealth could not be used as an excuse, she thought. She had morals, ethics.   Children and young people played these computer games. Subliminal psychotic induction had the premise of evil.

She found the clearing within three hundred metres of entering the forest. It was as she had imagined, tall grass and warm sun in a surrounding wall of leaves. She had seen it many times. Where? She thought, how?

“Buy shares, visit Rattlers Wood,” she whispered. “Oh dear God! No.”

A branch cracked and bushes rustled. Sarah stood motionless, listening to a second single crack of dead wood, realising she was not alone. She saw him over her left shoulder, a square faced young man, clean-shaven, his mouth open, his eyes staring, no movement, no expression, as if a wax dummy.

“Knew you’d come,” he said. “The Colonel is always right. I’ve been watching you, waiting days for you to get here.”

“What do you want?   I don’t carry money,” Sarah said, unable to prevent a quiver in her voice. Should she run? She was no longer fit, instead she fumbled for her mobile.

His speed was startling. As he closed the gap between them she screamed, her feet slipping on damp leaves. Next moment she was thrown full stretch on the ground. One of his hands pinned her throat, strangling her voice as another hand unfastened her trousers. He was immensely strong, stronger even than her terror. She thrashed, punched and kicked, her half-choked cries startling crows out of the trees and into the sky. The next moment he twisted her over, her face rubbing into leaf mould as he lifted her legs, yanking her trousers around her ankles.

“Welcome to Zoby’s world,” he said, pressing her shoulders to the ground. She screamed again, screamed to the crows and the empty forest, feeling the brutal pain of him thrusting inside her.

Frontcover of the unseen

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