David Kernot (co-author)
The Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster III shook through mountainous Afghan winds as it descended into a remote military airfield in the Nimruz Province. Dust clouds blanketed the landscape, and from the rear cockpit seat Harrison Peel’s stomach tightened. He had no idea how close they were to the runway. He closed his eyes until he felt the landing wheels touch and the military transport jolt to a stop.
The three days it took Harrison to flee the black desert of western Pakistan, he barely slept. When the saw the dusk lights of Rawalpindi he felt relief; street lights meant normalcy and a safe place to rest. When Peel drove into the city’s heart he was forcibly slowed, melded with the busy evening traffic. Despite the late hour, he passed busy bazaars and crowded alleys. Hindu temples and Muslim shrines were clean and complete compared to cheaply constructed apartment blocks and government offices, with their rusting reo jutting from upper unfinished levels. Mounds of stinking garbage piled against chipped walls. Woman’s faces on billboards were ‘veiled’ with black paint while men were left untouched.
John Goodrich (co-author)
Harrison Peel counted the dead as more covered corpses rolled into the Marrakech morgue. They weren’t really humans, rather the dissected remains of their flesh, bloody in leaking body bags. The sharp, coppery smell of blood filled the room, reminding Peel of an abattoir. Lounging next to Peel was Fabien Chemal, a spook with Morocco’s DST intelligence agency.
When I was woken by a thud sounding suspiciously like a dead body falling into my guestroom, I gave up any idea I’d sleep again that night. I rolled towards the bed side table and checked my alarm clock. It was 1:00am.
The darkest hour had just begun, when creatures of night liked to come a knocking. I slid out of bed figuring I might as well get this unscheduled business meeting started. Yet in no hurry to seem eager, I stepped into the kitchen and poured myself a large glass of water. Then I sauntered across my apartment lounge area to the guestroom.
Hot metal shards pierced the red sand. Dust stirred in the thin atmosphere as it mixed with burnt wisps of propulsion fuel. Broken and bloody people screamed and thrashed where they had fallen. Liam Richter woke into this fury. Pain surged from the void where his legs should have been. “What happened to me?” he bellowed. “You’ve been in an accident,” explained the ambulance robot, meticulously attending his wounds. Three more of the spindly creatures surrounded the first. Metal spiders with bulbous bodies were furious in their mending.
For five violent days, the unrelenting storm battered the Daintree, threatening to submerge her at any moment, but it was the unravelling of Greg Wright’s mind that disturbed Tracy more than any elemental assault. As the weather worsened, so did his delusions. First, he claimed to see mermaids then fish-demons. Both, he said, were plaguing the angry waves, clawing at their yacht. Tracy never witnessed these fanciful creatures herself, even when he pointed them out. After his fifth day of peculiar behaviour, Greg calmly explained to Tracy that he’d finally read the truth in a book. It told him what to do and he had done what he was told. He had just murdered their daughter Matilda. How? A revolver pressed against her temple had splattered her brains all over the cabin walls.