Books written by Ray Sullivan

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Parallel Lives - Prologue

The Ford Anglia bumped its way down the rutted track, the hedgerows scratching the barely new paintwork lightly as it passed. Johnny’s father tutted in an annoyed way as each branch and twig flicked away from the car, having made a preceding lisp-like sound as the car pushed past it.
Johnny was bored; they had travelled for nearly three hours without stopping, it was hot and the plastic seats were making his bare legs sweat. Worse, they stuck to the seats and hurt when he moved. His mother showed no concern at the time or discomfort with the journey, having knitted a cardigan during it, periodically holding it up to examine the tension.
Johnny saw another bend ahead and assumed it would be followed by further bends; he felt such a guess was reasonable as that had been the pattern for what had seemed an eternity, at least since he had finished his comic. As the car rounded the bend, though, the family were treated to a brief glimpse of the Devon coastline, an event that caused Johnny’s heart to soar with excitement. His father ceased tutting and his mother started to put her knitting paraphernalia away, stuffing the already crumpled pattern into a well worn knitting bag, followed closely by the loose balls of partly used wool. The next turn revealed a more expansive vista; a rough, dry track running parallel with sparsely placed wooden posts delineating the edge of the track and the almost obligatory Devon sheer drop adjacent. Johnny’s mother turned, hooking her right arm over the low seat back.
‘Nearly there now, love. Put your comic back in your satchel.’
As Johnny pulled the leather bag onto his knees his mother turned to the front and gathered the almost completed cardigan off her lap, holding it up one last time. She thrust it towards Johnny’s father, proudly.
‘Not bad, eh? I think Johnny’ll look a dandy in this when I finish it.’ His father looked at the cardigan with an exasperated look; he had little choice as it now filled two thirds of his forward vision.
‘Great, it’s smashing,’ he said in a voice that didn’t convey the same meaning as the words. ‘Now can you let me see where I’m flaming going?’
He swept the cardigan aside with his left hand, thrusting it firmly into his wife’s lap. As he did so, the rear end of the Anglia started to slide sidewards, slipping along the camber of the track, skipping over the dry, loose stones that served as a surface. Johnny heard the crack of one of the wooden posts from the rear of the car and spun onto his knees to look out of the inwardly angled rear window to view the damage. He heard the tension in his mother’s voice as she called for him to sit down properly, felt the pull of her arm as she leaned over her seat to restrain him. His father, swearing, pushed his wife back into her seat and away from his space. As he braked the car skidded closer to the edge as it slowed, the steering wheel snatching control from Johnny’s father’s grasp suddenly, causing the car to slip slowly towards the precipice. A few more wooden posts surrendered to the mass of the vehicle, snapping like firecrackers in a bonfire as they scattered ahead of the sideways movement. Johnny saw one fly up past his right-hand window and he heard it land on the roof above his head.
His father shouted a word of warning that could not be heeded and his mother screamed as the rocky shoreline replaced the placid horizon of several seconds before. Johnny felt a fear he had never known, looking to his father for the reassurance he had always received. His father, unable to prevent the slide over the cliff reached over and pushed Johnny firmly into the seat, his hand pressing against the young boy’s chest, the look of desolation as he realised that he could not save his child. The sounds of the wheels and the underside of the car bouncing along the steep incline drowned out the combined screams and Johnny grasped his father’s arm with both hands as the car rolled, his shoulder bouncing against the side of the car. The car rolled further, with all three occupants thrown violently, Johnny’s father’s neck snapping as his head hit the roof. Cliff-face flashed past the windows as the car fell down, the grinding and bumping momentarily ceasing as the car free-fell to the sandy beach below. Johnny’s last sight was of a young man in his twenties running away from the falling car.
John’s father applied the Anglia’s handbrake without pressing the ratchet button in; he never pressed the button when putting the brake on. He turned to John, smiling from side to side.
‘You alright, son? You look a bit pale.’ John’s mother put her crossword puzzle down and turned to him.
‘Well, we’re here. Were you feeling a bit travel sick, John? Never mind.’ John spun in his seat, looking left, right and behind. To the left was the large caravan he had seen in the brochure, looking grubbier than the image implied, to his right was the shoreline interceded by soft, inviting sand, and to his rear was the road they had just driven down; a rough, rubble strewn track winding up a hill that bordered a sheer drop. The wooden posts were all intact save one at the bottom that looked as though it had been swung on by a generation of holidaying children. The man in his twenties was staring at the foot of the cliff, clearly looking for something.


Copyright Ray Sullivan 2011

The characters, places and events described in this novel are fictitious and any resemblance to persons, places or events, past or present, is coincidence.  All rights reserved

Chapter 1 of Parallel Lives will be posted on Friday 5th October

Parallel Lives is published in paperback and as an eBook

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