Travels to The Paradoxicon

MY WORLD | FICTION

“Yay, a blog post!”, says one regular reader whenever she sees that I’ve written something new. This is not so much newly-written as unveiled, for what follows is the first five chapters of my novel, The Paradoxicon.

Why am I doing this? Because I can. Because I retain legal intellectual copyright of my book. More practically though, I’m marketing.

I’ve posted individual chapters of the book previously, as I completed them and while the novel remained a work in progress. Those posts were password protected, with the passwords only given to my beta readers. Other test readers of the final draft have received copies of the book by email. Now that I’ve signed a contract with a magazine to serialise my book, it will be in the public domain, beginning in a few weeks. The patient reader will complete the journey which the book guides them through over a period of nine weeks thereafter, as it is serialised in five-chapter installments. At the moment, I don’t plan to complete the serialisation on this blog, publishing only the first installment ahead of the magazine run. The less patient will buy the book for just £1.99 – less than the price of a coffee in many places – from Amazon, HERE.

In doing so they will be helping me and will get to read a book which is best summed up by people besides myself:

“I have just finished reading The Paradoxicon. Steve writes in a way that just keeps you wanting to read one more page, no matter if you’re exhausted after a 12 hour shift or not. Taking you down roads of the unexplained and the fantastic, but keeping you grounded by making Victor a real person easy to relate to – I too would muse these events over a cup of tea and peanut butter on toast in the morning! The book inspires thoughts and feelings on many different levels from having to keep the light on when first being introduced to ‘they’, to feeling a very real human empathy for a character battling his own demons and the collapse of his life. A pleasure to read and thoroughly recommended.”

So, I hope you’re sitting comfortably: make the most of it because soon, you won’t be able to.

A little preamble, then the beginning of the journey:

You are free to choose but you are not free from the consequence of your choice.

This is the story of a life which hasn’t happened yet. A life that could have been, given the chance. It will happen. In time.

We are about to meet a man who you may or may not like. You may relate to him or you may judge him. The choice is yours. If you’re watching something on TV which you don’t like, there is an off switch. You are holding a book which you may choose to put down at any point.

Does anyone deserve a second chance at life? Who plays judge? You hold a life in your hands at the moment and you may switch it off at any point.

Is it possible to make amends and right one’s wrongs, so that one may clear the slate with life? To live again? Can I put everything behind me and move on?


Is the remorse I feel sufficient punishment for what I have done? Are the constant memories my punishment, to live with me until the day I die?

Travel with Victor Frank in a search for knowledge and the ultimate answer to the ultimate question: that of life. Why are we here?

This is a journey through time, space, dreams and so much more. A trip through the past, present and future. A journey into the unknown.

All of the answers which we seek are here, if we look for them. But we need to know what we are looking for. In order to understand the answers, we need to fully grasp the ultimate question.

This book covers what it means to be human; what life is all about and what it might mean to us and to others.

There are horrors, encounters with strange beings, mysteries, questions and adventure. All are contained within The Paradoxicon; a book about itself and so much else. Hold the hand of the author and be guided through what is literally the story of a life.

After reading The Paradoxicon, you will see your own reflection and shadow differently. You may even fear life itself.

THE PARADOXICON

By Steve Laker

Chapter One

Victor Frank

This is the story of a life which hasn’t happened yet. A life that could have been, given the chance. It will happen. In time.

We are about to meet a man who you may or may not like. You may relate to him or you may judge him. The choice is yours. If you’re watching something on TV which you don’t like, there is an off switch. You are holding a book which you may choose to put down at any point.

Does anyone deserve a second chance at life? Who plays judge? You hold a life in your hands at the moment and you may switch it off at any point.

Is it possible to make amends and right one’s wrongs, so that one may clear the slate with life? To live again? Can I put everything behind me and move on?

Is the remorse I feel sufficient punishment for what I have done? Are the constant memories my punishment, to live with me until the day I die?

For as long as he cares to remember, Victor has been collecting things and taking photographs of them: memories. For just over a year now, he has been placing objects and photographs in The Room of Forgotten things. Just over a year ago, it all fell apart; it all went wrong.

In his forty years on Earth, Victor has collected many things: badges, cigarette cards, games consoles and computers…He has a fascination with history, things past; forgotten things. He buys job lots of CDs and DVDs online; out-of-print books and hard-to-find original, uncut versions of cult and horror films, mainly by Japanese and Italian directors and mostly from the seventies and eighties. He owns all of the titles banned under the Video Recordings Act of 1984.

He has collected things which relate only to him: school reports, exam certificates; police bail and court notices; little black books of phone numbers and business contacts; bookies’ receipts for big wins and losses, poker trophies; bongs, snorting pipes and other paraphernalia from past times. Stolen memories.

He keeps these things – or photographs of them – as a sort of self-administered punishment. He forces guilt upon himself for the very past he wishes to detach himself from.

He had too much to keep in the living area of his new flat, so now he’s going through his own things and those of the previous tenant and separating them into things to be remembered and those he’ll try to forget, once they are in the loft: The Room of Forgotten Things. Often he goes up there to reminisce over his own forgotten things; to remember, to have regrets and to torture himself.

When Victor moved to his current flat, the previous tenant had left without trace. The landlord had offered to clear everything that the departed occupant had left behind but Victor was fascinated by this abandoned life. So he set about collecting things he found interesting from around the flat: books, CDs and DVDs; old VHS tapes and audio cassettes of the kind he used to make music compilations on and give to Julia, his estranged wife. Some items were too large to keep, so he disposed of them – mainly by selling them – but never without photographing them first. The landlord had no knowledge of the previous tenant’s whereabouts.

The flat is on the top floor of a converted manor house and it has a loft. This became the room of forgotten things. The room is becoming crowded, so Victor is spending a Sunday afternoon sorting through the forgotten things, being reminded of his own past. Occasionally he finds something he thinks he should throw out. But every time he puts something in the box destined for the skip, he wonders if one day he might need it.

It’s only once something is gone that you miss it, even if you didn’t know it was there before; Like only realising that you took something for granted when it’s lost. He becomes reacquainted with some of the lost things and others he sees for the first time, in the boxes of things left by the previous tenant.

He has no room for anything else downstairs in the living room or the bedroom. Those rooms are large enough but they’re the only two he has in the flat besides the loft and the bathroom. The flat isn’t cluttered but it’s laid out just so; just the way Victor likes it, with everything in its place, until he finds another cast off or bargain online or in a charity shop and needs to move something into the loft to make way for a new acquisition downstairs.

The sound of David Bowie fills the living room below: “…Don’t believe in yourself. Don’t deceive with belief. Knowledge comes with death’s release…”.

Victor has all of David Bowie’s studio albums, plus compilations, tribute albums full of cover versions of Bowie’s greatest hits, every film Bowie was in and several books. His most prized piece of Bowie memorabilia is a signed copy of Diamond Dogs on vinyl, which he has hanging on the living room wall. Up here in the loft are the vinyl albums which the CDs replaced. Even though the albums are packed away, they’re in chronological order in their storage box, just as they are on the shelves downstairs, where Bowie’s albums are between those of James Blunt and The Carpenters, also in chronological order.

Looking through the old vinyl collection, Victor is reminded of times spent with Julia, punctuated by the Bowie albums they listened to so much. He can’t decide if it’s an ironic or poetic coincidence that the Bowie collection downstairs is sandwiched between two pieces of music which signalled the beginning and the end of his ten year marriage to Julia. The first dance at their wedding reception was We’ve Only Just Begun by The Carpenters and when Julia ended their relationship, James Blunt was on the radio: “…Goodbye my lover. Goodbye my friend. You have been the one. You have been the one for me…”.

Music can evoke so many emotions; and memories, good and bad. They take you back; remind you of happy times and times tinged with sadness. Words set to music create feeling and the best feeling of all is love: of being in love and knowing you’re loved. With love, you belong; in a place and with a person. The person becomes the place in your life. Music can take you anywhere; usually back to a time you remember. But not just a time: a place, situation and circumstance. Similarly the moving image, poetry and the plain, written word. Victor has collected many of all and will build upon those collections over time.

Behind the boxes of vinyl records are two boxes marked “Photos” in Julia’s handwriting: Julia had helped him pack and had labelled most of the boxes. Such a sweet girl and a great mum to their kids, often covering for him when he wasn’t home for the children’s bedtime, or he was away for days on end. Victor rarely had to offer an explanation for these periods of absence and when he did, Julia believed him. Now she was a single working mum.

The photos in the albums are arranged in chronological order and Victor wonders at how he and Julia had aged in their time together. Ten, mainly happy years.

He’s dwelling on a past he has no chance of getting back. If only he could travel back in time, make changes and not do some of the things he’d done. But the past is where it is and must stay there. Before moving onto the box he’d come to find among the forgotten things, Victor takes out the last photo album. These were the last photos of the time he and Julia spent together. They were a family then, with two young children. Closing the album, he repeated in his head the last words he would say to them: “Daddy will see you in dreamland. Every night.”

Victor spies the box he’s originally come to sort through. Sealed with green parcel tape to differentiate them from his own, all of the previous tenant’s boxes were categorised along with his. So behind Victor’s boxes of music are the records and CDs which had belonged to his predecessor but which are now his. To the left and behind his own boxes of photos are more boxes, sealed with green tape. And beneath those is the box he needs; the one he’s forgotten about in this room of forgotten things. He can’t even remember how he’d labelled the box, nor categorised the contents.

Victor steps over his photo collection and lifts two boxes, sealed with green tape and marked “Photos”. Now he remembers what was in the bottom box as he reads the label:

“Doctor Brunner: tape recordings and notes.”

Chapter Two

Julia

Victor steadies himself with his left hand on the ladder from the room of forgotten things down to the living room. A box containing the tapes and notes of his Doctor Brunner is clasped in his right hand over his shoulder. He places the box on the floor in front of the sofa. There’s so much to learn about this Doctor Brunner. All Victor knows is that the doctor’s first name is Miles and that Doctor Miles Brunner had vacated the flat in a hurry, leaving all of his belongings behind before Victor took over.

A lot of the furniture was old but not antique and therefore worth very little: that went in the skip. He’d sold a few paintings he found and kept others which he particularly liked. There were various ornaments which he kept and which were now in the room of forgotten things to make room for Victor’s own things. Others he’d sold as he needed the money. He’d photographed everything and kept the photographs separate from the objects they were photographs of, in case he decided to dispose of the things themselves at a later date.

Books, CDs and DVDs were now arranged by subject, artist and title respectively with his own. The photos of the forgotten things were with the doctor’s own photographs in the loft. For now, he was interested in that which he hadn’t seen: the box of tape recordings and notes. He would go through this box later but first – as was his tradition on a Sunday – he would write to Julia.

Victor descends the short staircase leading down from the living room to his bedroom. He switches on his netbook and is reminded of the money he’d lost the previous evening as he looks at his online poker balance. His sleep had been shallow and restless.

Hi Julia,

You didn’t reply to my last email: are you okay?

How’s Lucas and Laila? Tell them daddy sends his love if you think you can.

You know most of what’s going on this side as I’ve told you.

You remember I said I was going to sort out the loft? Well, I’ve finally got around to it; or I’ve started at least. You’ve seen downstairs but there was still everything in the loft to go through. I’ve not thrown anything else out yet and I’ll probably keep most of my old stuff but I’m going through the old tenant’s stuff. You remember I said he was a doctor but I didn’t know what he was a doctor of? Well there was a box in the loft that I’d forgotten about. I remembered it last night and I’ve been up there today to get it. It’s tape recordings and notes. The tapes are recordable ones; not music albums. The sort of tapes I used to make music compilations for you on. I don’t know what’s on them. The notes were with the tapes, so I assume they’re related but I’ll find out when I go through it all later. I’m wondering if he was involved in forensics or something? Or maybe a private detective? Who uses a tape recorder? It could be that it’s really boring but something I have a lot of right now is time on my hands so I’m going to investigate for myself. I’ll let you know.

I assume you realise it’s been just over a year since I moved here? As I’ve said many times before, thanks for all your help. I’m only sorry it didn’t work out with us. We had ten good years and two beautiful kids. If only I knew where it all went wrong, I’d travel back in time and change things. But I can’t. I’m sorry.

There are two levels of being sorry: saying it and meaning it. By meaning it, I mean feeling genuine remorse every waking hour and feeling sorry for the person you have wronged. I feel sorry for you. I am my own harshest critic and I remind myself every day of what I’ve done wrong in my life. I’m serving a self-imposed sentence and am a prisoner in my own home.

I don’t speak to you and I don’t speak to anyone here. Sometimes I go a bit stir crazy. But that’s what I deserve.

I’m finding it hard being on my own here, especially since you stopped visiting. They’ve upped my medication doses but I’m still finding it hard to sleep. I’ve got the drinking under control most of the time but sometimes I tire and I lapse. 

Sunday nights are the worst: the weekend and all the fun times with the children have ended, then it’s back to the full-time weekday job. I know how much work those kids can be and I’m sorry you’re having to do it all on your own. I wish we’d spoken more but you asked me not to speak to you about it. Your mind was made up and I’d left it too late. 

I understand the kids may not want to talk to me as it might upset them. Sometimes I can’t help wondering if it might be easier for you all if you were just to forget me and get on with a new life. I’m not getting any better.

I miss you.

Hopefully I’ll hear from you soon.

Take care,

Victor.

Victor hits the send button. Maybe Julia will reply this time.

Returning to the living room, he sits on the sofa. He glances at the clock on the hi-fi: 23.42. Almost quarter to midnight and nearly Monday; the beginning of another week.

He looks down at the box by his feet, sealed with green parcel tape: “Doctor Brunner: tape recordings and notes.” What might be on those tapes? And notes on what? What did Doctor Brunner do? What was his business, or who did he work for? Why did he leave this place in such a hurry and leave everything behind? Did he leave everything, or did he take things with him?

With so many of the doctor’s things now in his possession, Victor almost feels like he owns this Miles Brunner. He needs to know more about this man he has in some ways become.

Chapter Three

Miles Brunner

Monday. Monday, bloody Monday. Tell me why I don’t like Mondays? Because Monday is at the beginning of what used to be a working week.

Victor Frank lies in bed, wondering whether or why he should get up and do something. But what?

No wife; no job; no business; no kids. Just the flat which Julia moved him into: close enough to the old marital home that he used to be able to visit the kids but far enough away for her to be sure he’d never go knocking on their door in the dead of night, although she’d never said so.

Stay in bed and wait for something to happen, or get up and see what happens? Or even make something happen? Find a diversion from the daily boredom and routine, where every day may as well not have a name for it is the same as the last and the next now.

He left the door between the bedroom and the living room open last night. From his reclined position, he can see the sofa in the middle of the living room – at the top of the short flight of steps up from the bedroom – and in front of it, the box sealed with green parcel tape; the box containing Doctor Miles Brunner’s tape recordings and notes.

Victor has one thing in abundance: time. And so the box sealed with green parcel tape was what he planned to spend time on; with; sorting through; and the time he has will allow him the opportunity to find out about this mysterious Doctor Brunner.

Victor ascends to the living room and over to the kitchen bar to make brunch. Then coffee – lots of cream, lots of sugar – in one hand and a carton of cold Chinese food in the other, he sits on the sofa and switches on the TV to watch the news, placing his coffee and Chinese on the box sealed with green tape which serves as a coffee table. Nothing much in the news and not a lot on TV as he scans through the channels, he finishes brunch, places his cup and half of a half-empty Chinese container on the floor either side of the box and looks at it once again: Doctor Brunner’s tapes and notes. Let’s see what’s in here…

The box is made of corrugated cardboard and as Victor peels the parcel tape off of the lid, it takes a layer of cardboard with it; rather like a layer of skin being removed. Pushing down on the top of the box – the second and remaining layer – the seal is broken and Victor is reminded of what he last saw inside: just a pile of innocuous-looking papers in a plastic wallet and some old audio cassettes: C15s to be precise. The record protect tabs are intact and the labels on the tapes are blank, suggesting that the tapes themselves are as well. At first glance, Victor estimates that there are around twenty cassette tapes: none are in boxes. He turns his attention to the sole plastic wallet of papers in the box.

A blank protective sheet of thin card sits at the front of the plastic wallet. Opening the wallet and removing the sheet of card, Victor takes out the first sheet of paper beneath the card. The paper is thick and Victor estimates that the quarter-inch-thick stack of paper in the wallet probably runs to only around twenty five sheets. This shouldn’t take long to read…

The first sheet is hand-written, in a scrawl which reminds Victor of doctors’ notes his mother used to be given for him:

If you are reading this, then you are reading this: you are able to read. And if you can make sense of these words, then you understand and I have made first contact. I think, therefore I am. Or am I? What am I?

I may have to leave any time soon. In the event of my leaving, I hope that what I’ve gathered can be kept together; to be retained as a collection: I think it’s all connected but I don’t have time to join the dots. I may not have time to label or catalogue everything, so if someone with more time than me finds all of this, I hope they can continue what I may have to leave. I hope they can find what I sought.

But exercise caution, for some of what I believe to have discovered may require a broad imagination. If you are of a cynical nature and not open to suggestion, then I would politely request that you pass on what you have found to someone who may be better equipped to continue my work. If you wish to be my student and learn, then please read on. One thing you will certainly need is time, which I can give you.

Briefly yours,

Miles Brunner.

Chapter Four

An Introduction

Victor Frank contemplates the open box in front of him. He reads Doctor Brunner’s words again: “Exercise caution…” Victor wouldn’t consider himself risk averse. Had he exercised caution in the past, he may not have found himself in the very place he occupies now. He thinks he has a broad imagination but how broad? What is it that Doctor Brunner speaks of that might require such an imagination? He’s certainly open-minded; open to suggestion, taking things on board and giving them due consideration before either dismissing or embracing them. He likes to read and learn; he has plenty of spare time. He feels that he both owns and owes this Miles Brunner.

On the second sheet of paper in the plastic wallet, there are more hand-written notes:

You continue to read and in saying that, I have told you what you already know. Some would call it stating the obvious but I need to ensure that you are truly reading what I am writing. For who is to say that you are not? What may seem real to me, might not be to you, or you may see things differently. Is that personal interpretation? Imagine I show you a picture and describe to you what’s in it: do you see the same as I do? I have no way of knowing. Who’s to say that what I think of as blue, you see as blue as I understand it? Perhaps you see what I see as blue, as what I see as green? It’s a paradox: something which can neither be proven nor disproven. If there’s no-one around when a tree falls in the woods, does that tree make a sound? Another paradox.

It’s all inside our minds and our minds are personal to us. No-one can read our minds and see things as we do. But I believe I have found something: I have a knowledge which I wish to share. In doing so, I hope to prove that what I think I’ve found is not merely a figment of my own imagination and that others may see it too. That is why I have written these notes and collected them with some of my other material in the hope that someone like-minded may discover what I believe I have found for themselves. And if you have read this far, you would probably meet the criteria of the kind of person I was hoping to find.

As we are likely to be spending quite some time together, I feel that I should introduce myself:

My name is Miles Brunner. You will have worked that out for yourself as if you are the kind of person I expect to have read this far, you will have gone through the things I left behind and found my name on many of them. If you are that kind of person, then you probably wouldn’t have thrown out anything which warranted further investigation. You will have kept my tape recordings as the cassettes aren’t labelled and the curious person will want to know what is on them. You will have kept the plastic folder containing these notes as it wasn’t labelled either and you’ll have been curious to see what lay inside. If I am right then I have found just the kind of person I was looking for and it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

I am a doctor of nothing other than my chosen field: one which no-one else has chosen to pursue as far as I know, or at least I have found no other published research into the things that I have studied. I am not employed by, nor affiliated with any organisation, government, academic institution or company. I report to no one individual, group or body. I work alone. You will not find me through any internet search and you will not see any of my research published. I have been careful to keep close to me that which I have found for it is not for public consumption. I have no family, few friends and my personal associations and social interactions are rare but by my own choice and based on nothing more than personal intuition. I don’t crave attention or contact and I am averse to relationships. We may have met. We may yet meet. That is me and I am who I think I am.

I write these notes in a slightly cryptic manner because I hope that you will lose interest. I hope that you will bore of me, like the unwanted attention at a social function which you wish would go away, or that you try to move away from. If you have grown tired of me, then I would politely request that you introduce me to someone else and pass these notes on. If you are still reading and genuinely wish to read on, then that is further evidence that you are the type of curious person I seek.

I will wager that as the kind of person who is curious enough to have read this far, you will now search for me. I will further wager that you will have found no trace and you are wondering if I am indeed real. I exist in the same dimensions which you understand to be be real and it is that physical form which has allowed me to write these notes.

You will now be asking, “What next?” You are, aren’t you? You are because I just suggested that you would be. You read it for it is written and you can’t change a thought you’ve already had. Nothing you’ve done can be changed, undone or forgotten.

So, who is this guy? A maverick? A crank? An alter ego; the figment of someone’s imagination? Does he even exist? If so, where is he now? Where is he from? Doctor Miles Brunner – or his creator – is certainly intuitive as Victor did indeed search for him on the internet: nothing. He’s either very good at covering his tracks, or just a secretive, private individual; one who shuns communications and technology. So why does he want to share whatever it is he wants to share? What is it? And why not share it by publicising it, in print or online?

“…it is not for public consumption…”

Chapter Five

Photos

The ladder leading up to the room of forgotten things still extends down from the loft. What’s still up there and which may complement the contents of the box of tape recordings and notes are the photographs. Victor needs to get everything together.

He puts David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World album on the hi-fi. One of many things Julia permitted him was their sound system, which Victor coveted: Cambridge Audio separates with Mordaunt Short speakers. A good few hundred pounds worth. She got the bigger of the two TVs and most of the furniture. She wasn’t materialistic and she gave Victor carte Blanche to take whichever of their joint belongings he wished but the flat he was moving into was pretty full with Miles Brunner’s belongings and furniture, so Victor just took the hi-fi and his collected things.

He Climbs the ladder, remembering where Miles Brunner’s photos are, beyond the boxes of his own pictures. He pauses in the room of forgotten things and is reminded of why many of these things are up here: to be forgotten. But nothing you have done can be changed, undone or forgotten. Everything is indelible; a footprint. Things may be forgotten for a while but the past can never be erased. What’s done is done.

Victor sits astride a box of vinyl records and lifts one of his own photo albums from a box in front of him. Nothing has changed of course. Everything is there in the chronological order he placed it, in life and in recording that life. Photos of him and Julia at a party they went to shortly after they’d met; of their engagement party with mutual friends. Most of those friends were gone now, at least from Victor’s life. Mutual friends had become Julia’s alone. Photos of days out together; of nights out in London. On rides at the Christmas fairground in Leicester Square; a photo which Julia had taken of Victor drunk and asleep on a train home after one of those many nights out. Photos of tickets and programmes for various shows, exhibitions, plays and concerts they’d been to together: Les Miserables had been their favourite. La Folie.

The births of both of their children followed and there are photos of newborns, key developmental stages, first steps, relatives cradling the babies, three years apart. In the three years between the births of the two children, even the elderly relatives age noticeably in the photos.

Victor looks through the photos gradually more hurriedly as the years which they record progress. Nothing you have done can be changed, undone or forgotten. With hindsight, the past can be sped up or slowed down.

Beyond his own photo albums are those of Miles Brunner. There are two albums and a C4 envelope of loose photographs. The albums are of no consequence as he’s looked through them before.

Back in the living room, Victor opens the envelope. The photos inside are presumably oddments, not sorted or assembled like those in the albums. The photos are wrapped in a folded sheet of A3 paper, so they belong together it would seem, even if they don’t belong in the albums. There’s a note on the sheet of paper, written in Mile’s Brunner’s distinctive handwriting: “Screaming Woods”.

The photos are of fields, country lanes, woodland and a couple of old buildings. None are of any immediate interest and they certainly don’t have any artistic merit. These were not photos taken for photography’s sake. After about a dozen seemingly random shots, the photos take on a theme: there is one of a woodland path, then another and another. They fit together because what is at the top of one photo is at the bottom of the next. A tree stump; a wooden post; a puddle. Placed together, end to end, the photos form a path in themselves. At the end of the path is a clearing in the woods and the roots of a tree protrude from the ground. The next four photos trace the tree upwards from the roots to the lower branches. Then another four photos trace the trunk of the tree back down to ground level. It’s like watching freeze frames of what would otherwise be moving images. Back in the clearing, the photos move to the left and show two tents. A lantern of some kind burns inside one of them and casts a shadow on the canvas.

Victor gathers the photos together and flicks through them. In this improvised flick book, the camera moves through the scenery which it is photographing. Still photography becomes a three second movie. He can speed up time and slow it down by varying the rapidity of his flicking through the photos. He can run through these woods which he’s never visited. He can walk through slowly. He can stop and take things in. He can rewind. He can see things which Doctor Brunner – or whomever took the photos – may not have had time to notice.

Victor numbers the photos in the order which they were apparently taken: 1-34 as it turns out. Between the shots marked 25 and 29, as the photographer pans around the clearing in the woods, one of the tents moves: it billows outwards but only on one side. There is no way of knowing the amount of time between the shots being taken. It could be seconds or minutes but in shot 29, the tent is as it was in shot 25. Something moved.

Placing the photos back inside their protective sheet and then into the envelope, Victor is aware of something else in the envelope. It’s another audio cassette.

Unlike the rest of the tapes in the box, this one is labelled: “Screaming Woods”

THE PARADOXICON By Steve Laker is available from Amazon for Kindle, HERE. Kindle reading apps are available for most other devices.

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