As promised, here’s an extract from the first chapter of my novel about human angels, The Shining Ones. It’s set in the near future in a slowly disintegrating but familiar world which has been devastated after a solar storm. The storm triggered a mutation in a small number of people, called Deviants by the ARK consortium who now run society.
We join our heroine near the start of the story. Anastasia Wilson is a Deviant. This gives her special powers that she uses to heal and help people, but it may not be quite that simple. She works at a homeless shelter in a church in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne and has just found a dead man hidden in the graveyard. Now she’s on her way home:
She walked around the church to the street and on the edge of her awareness sensed the jumbled fizz of two bored minds. She rounded the corner and found their owners: two men sitting in a black Lexus parked beneath a streetlamp. One of the men was reading a newspaper, the other played a game on his phone.
She listened to the tumble of disjointed thoughts and discovered that the men worked for ARK Security and were waiting for someone. She couldn’t tell if they were connected with the body in the graveyard, but made a mental note of the number plate, just in case.
The game playing man glanced up and saw her. Both men panicked when they realised she had been watching them. Fragments of startled thoughts pierced her mind like darts. She was Deviant. Dangerous. Call for backup.
Ana hurried past the car into the underpass and forced herself not to run. She must think. Deviant was what ARK called people like her. Was it a coincidence she had seen these men, or were they waiting for her? One of them had recognised her, but she didn’t know how. She decided not to walk home but to take the Metro instead. She needed to get off the street.
The square yellow Metro sign at the Monument shone through the fog and Ana sighed in relief. If the light was on it meant the service was running. Few trusted the Metro since the power cuts began and only the brave or the foolhardy would risk being stranded underground. Ana was neither. She ran down the steps and through the barriers. It was only two stops, but it was worth it to be safe.
The station was deserted, but she didn’t have to wait long. There were two other passengers on the train. A lad in a hood sat near the doors listening to music on his headphones, and opposite was a girl reading a paperback. Ana listened in on the story to distract herself from thinking about the men in the car. It was a tale of doomed love in a dystopian world. The girl was enjoying it, but the story filled Ana with an aching sadness she couldn’t understand. She shut off the connection and listened instead to the clack of the train on the tracks.
The train slowed and pulled in at Manors station. The girl tucked the paperback into her jacket and stepped off the train. Ana watched her disappear up the escalator. On the platform, the lights began to flicker and a pigeon strutted towards the train. The speaker above Ana’s head crackled, ‘Stand clear of the doors.’ With one hop, the pigeon boarded the train just as the doors hissed shut.
Ana peered down the carriage. The pigeon was trotting towards the lad in the hood. The lights flickered and Ana glanced up in frustration. When she looked back, the pigeon had vanished.
In its place stood a dazzling woman with spiky hair and dove-shaped earrings. Her skin seemed to glow with its own luminescence. She wobbled forward and sat opposite the boy, who hadn’t noticed his new companion. The woman watched him for a moment, then pulled the headphones from his ears.
Brutal beats cascaded into the train and the boy hurried to switch it off. The woman smiled, took his hand and kissed the inside of his left wrist with great reverence and affection. They conferred quietly and the boy nodded eagerly. The lights flickered again, and determined not to miss anything, Ana watched intently. The train jolted and shuddered as it rounded a corner and the lights blinked off. When they came back on, Ana was alone.
She stood, swaying as the train clattered onwards, and walked down the carriage. She searched beneath the seats for the missing passengers and felt foolish. Perhaps she was losing her mind. Pigeons don’t generally turn into strange glowing women and then vanish. Just as the train pulled into Byker station, Ana noticed something on the seat where the woman had been sitting.
A single white feather.
She picked it up to stroke its soft edges and was so transfixed she almost missed her stop. She tucked the feather into her pocket and ran up the escalator.
Ana reached the street and checked her phone. She had missed a call from Ethne and a text from Michael. She hurried through the derelict shopping centre towards the main road, past shuttered shops and heaps of rotten garbage, and opened Michael’s text.
‘Bring E when U come home. Got a surprise 4U.’
‘I’ve had enough surprises for today, thanks Mickey,’ she muttered to herself and decided Ethne’s message could wait. She crossed the street and sensed two minds coming her way. She glanced around, trying to appear casual, but her heart was pounding in her chest. The voices were familiar.
Further up the street a black Lexus hugged the kerb. She checked the number plate through the glare of the headlamps. It was the same car.
ARK was following her.
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