He glanced at the road signs that headed the motorway. At some point, they had stopped indicating all the quaint little English town names like Bottom Flash and Sheepy Parva, and now they simply read THE SOUTH. He had started at the manor house he had grown up in, in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, and was now somewhere between Birmingham and Coventry. Tomorrow night, he would reach
For hours, his phone had beeped wildly for attention, and in the end he had switched it off. There were only two people who could be ringing him. One was the man he was supposed to call his father. The boy had listened to the first few voicemails with guarded amusement. Of course, the only thing his father was worried about was the car – not the boy. The car was a 1973 convertible Jaguar E-Type in hunter green and mint condition, which had cost about €20,000 to buy and then countless thousands more to maintain over the years. It had hardly been driven, but rather sat in the double-garage at the back of their disconcertingly oversized house. The boy had always thought it was a travesty not to take such a beautiful creature out more.
The boy, on the other hand, was a menace, in his father’s eyes. He could do things, as he’d overheard it being described to his mother. He was dangerous. He had made a lightning bolt appear, for goodness’ sake, like he was Thor himself. If he could do that, what more was he capable of? It didn’t matter that he had a spotless record before. It didn’t matter that he spent all his time alone with his nose in his books, while the other boys at the public school were occupied in rebelling against the parents they would ultimately come to emulate. If anything, that just made him more dangerous, because after all, it was always the quiet ones you had to watch out for. No, his father didn’t want him back – just the car. The car had never hurt anyone, even accidentally. And it had been in the family for longer.
The other person ringing him over and over and over again was Melody. When will you be here? she kept asking, like an impatient child in the backseat. It was driving him mad. They had been ‘together’ almost a year, now, but always at a distance. She had never had any real claims on his time before, and now that he was about to live with her, she was already showing signs of change. She had lost her easy charm and begun sounding needy in a way that didn’t bode well, and it made him a little sad. But it didn’t matter, because as much as he had told her he was coming to London to be with her – and as much as he had told himself that was why he had suddenly thrown away his cushy life, packed up his favourite books and a few changes of clothes and stolen the car – he knew it wasn’t true.
He was going to
because of the black pulse.
His whole life, he had felt like he had been trying to find something. For a long time, he told himself it was because he was adopted. He thought maybe he was trying to find love, bearing in mind that all he had ever received from the people who had taken him in as a baby was detached affection that smacked of obligation. That and driving lessons. He begrudgingly had to thank them for getting him his licence.
Then one night, he had a dream that made him break out in a sweat upon waking. In the dream, he had been drawn to a pulsing light. It was black and throbbing and he knew by instinct that it held fantastic power. But most of all, he couldn’t stop thinking how beautiful it was. He wanted it more than anything he had ever wanted in his life – more than his real parents, more than Melody, more than the feeling he had when he was driving free down that motorway in the peace of night. But he woke up just before he could touch it, and it left him feeling dissatisfied and desperate. It was more than desire; he needed the dark light.
The dream followed him into the next night, and the next, and every night thereafter, never letting him go. Suddenly, he was breaking every rule he had ever set himself and becoming something he was not: a thief. He stole into the garage and slipped into the car so easily, it was like it had been waiting for him to take it away. In fact, everything about his escape had been easy, like he had been wrapped in a protective bubble by whatever it was that wanted him to go.
South, it kept speaking to him in the night. And finally,
Whatever it was he was searching for, that was where he would find it.