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By Tom Sarega
Average 4.6 STARS
DREAMCATCHERS - After Darkness Light is a young adult dark fantasy. Imagine, for a moment, Super 8 crossed with Apocalypto, and you have a hint of an idea of this novel...
It’s September 2012 and five school friends, all suffering similar horrific nightmares, decide to investigate why – only to become embroiled in an apocalyptic feud between two Mayan brothers. Their investigation leads them to the sudden disappearance of a former school teacher and to the source of their nightmares - a dreamcatcher, hidden in the depths of a parallel universe, saturated with evil. Its guardian is the immortal Anunaki, a murderous Mayan warrior.
The Mayan prophecies are nigh and Anunaki will fulfil them. He will unleash the dreamcatcher and shroud the world in such darkness that none will survive. And if by a miracle some do, they will pray every night that they had perished also. The only person who can stop him is his younger brother, Iktaniki, a spirit guide - but not without the help of the five. There’s just one problem. They don’t trust him....or his motives.
Frederic Fontaine was always thinking two steps ahead. He had a natural ability to be organised and logical. The afternoon before his first day at secondary school, he was knelt over a neatly unfolded map on the floor of the conservatory at home, a short pencil tucked under his wiry hair, plotting a drive-in route to school for his mother the next day.
“You know I don’t know where you get it from.” His mother, Marjorie Fontaine, called cheerily in from the kitchen, wearing pink marigolds and accidentally flicking water at him with a dish brush.
“From ‘is father ‘o course,” Gerald Fontaine’s Sunday newspaper rustled as he chuckled heartily.
Bald, ruddy-faced and lithe, Freddie’s father had risen to Chief Engineer at The Monedel Manufacturing Corporation, the largest employer in Monedel and had been its loyal servant for almost thirty years. With his index finger wagging in front of his nose, he would put his modest success down to “sheer bloody hard work” and would often remind Freddie, the rest of the family, or, in fact, anyone who would listen about how to get on in life.
Gerald Fontaine kept a keen eye on his children’s education. He felt that it was as much his responsibility as a parent to educate his children as the schools to which he sent them. He was delighted, then, when Freddie began to show an interest in engineering and how things worked. Freddie had shown a real gift for numbers and would often follow him into the garden shed to help him out with building things – just to find out how they were made.
“That boy’s gonna’ be better ‘an me someday,” he would often whisper to his wife as they retreated to bed after the ten o’clock news.
“You should be telling him, not me,” Marjorie, who was by far the most sensitive of the couple, would reply.
Freddie’s older brother and sister, both of whom looked like their mother, with soft, heart-shaped faces, had already left home. His older brother ran his own flying school close to Monedel while his sister had headed straight for the bright lights of London to pursue a legal career. Freddie, meanwhile, had inherited his father’s genes. He was thin, with dark brown eyes and a slightly rouge complexion but his most obvious feature was a full head of black, curly hair as entangled as a birds nest. “You should enjoy it son,” Mr. Fontaine would chuckle, “if you’re anything like me, you won’t keep it for long.”
Freddie’s parents were a generation older than those of his friends, but they were still young at heart, especially his father, who was fond of practical jokes. Freddie’s most vivid infant memory was of his father’s return from work one summer lunchtime, unknown to his mother, via a joke shop. He had purchased a large, plastic tarantula with a bulbous abdomen, fat hairy legs and fluorescent green eyes and left it crawling on the kitchen floor. He had split his sides laughing when Marjorie had walked in to make the children some lunch, let out a terrified, shrill scream and burst past her young son through the conservatory, out onto the patio and up the garden.
Unfortunately for Freddie, his mother’s reaction branded his psyche. Ever since that moment, Freddie had learnt to be intensely afraid of spiders, just like his mother. On the eve of his first day at secondary school, Freddie was dreaming of a family holiday in Greece. What he didn’t expect to appear, however, were spiders – lots and lots of spiders...
It was early morning in Greece. The sun was already burning hot and yellow in a cloudless blue sky, not that Freddie would have known, as he was snug and comfortable in his soft bed. His mother loved the relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle and was sure that she would be able to convince Freddie’s father to move there one day but for now, a two-week holiday would suffice. His mother had booked the four-star Landmark Hotel but as it was the height of the school holidays, the only available apartment had been on the 22nd floor.
Marjorie Fontaine skipped out of bed early and packed a small bag of bronzing creams. Within ten minutes, she was down at the pool in her two-piece bikini and sunglasses, beating the other tourists to the sun loungers. His father followed shortly afterwards in small swimming trunks and a pair of blue goggles. He wanted to swim fifty laps of the pool before the gaggle of families and children arrived. Success only came with discipline and that applied as much to his lithe physique as it did to his career.
“See if you can make it down for breakfast sleepyhead,” his father called into his bedroom on his way to the hotel lift.
Freddie woke bleary eyed an hour later. He had already missed breakfast. He climbed out of bed, ambled to the bathroom, splashed water over his face and his mass of curly hair, slipped on a clean white t-shirt and pair of red shorts and went to forage for something to eat in his hotel room. At no point did it seem amiss to him that he would find a box of Weetabix and a single pint of milk – which just happened to be his favourite breakfast cereal. His normally sharp brain did not understand that they should not have been there. His parents had not shopped for food as they were on a package holiday.
Freddie grabbed the yellow cereal box. It was already open. He dipped in his right hand to grab a couple of fibre blocks that he was going to liberally coat with sugar and afterwards slurp the sweetened milk.
Instead, his mind swam.
In his hand was a black, hairy spider whose pulsing abdomen filled his palm. His mouth turned sticky and sour with fear. His legs wobbled beneath him as he stared at the red-striped spider for a fatal second. Freddie’s lips wrapped tight around his gums as its fangs plunged deep into his wrist.
Freddie could only think of needles; hot, venom-laced needles thrusting through his skin and into his bloodstream. He warbled frightened as he instinctively hurled the arachnid at the wall. He staggered into the living room, bumping into the hotel T.V. along the way. His cells were popping, bubbling, boiling inside of him. The arachnid scratched its hairy legs over the marble floor after him.
Freddie had to get out. He was hallucinating. The poison was coursing through his veins, stripping his insides like acid. With every heartbeat, he felt an explosion of pain. He made for the apartment door. Hundreds of smaller spiders swarmed from under and around the doorframe, their fangs snapping after him in a malicious, clicking chorus.
Freddie twisted, his eyes searching frantically for the hotel balcony. It was the only way out. There were hundreds, thousands of them, spreading like a virus across the room. He limped towards the glass balcony doors. The spider’s bite was paralysing his limbs, interrupting his brain signals to his body. He dragged his dead left leg behind him. He was half-way there, he would have to jump.
Freddie collapsed in the middle of the living room floor, his chest rapidly rising and falling. His breathing shallow, armies of arachnids scuttled from under the living room sofa and chairs towards him. He had lost all motor function. He could not close his eyelids. The spiders itched along his legs, up his shorts and under his T-shirt. The large, hand-sized, red-striped spider danced imperiously through Freddie mass of wiry, curly hair, its pads tapping one by one onto his forehead, down towards the bridge of his nose. It lifted its pulsing body and its quivering fangs up into the air and plunged deep into the whites of his eyeballs.
Freddie’s breathing quickened and stopped.
An hour later, his mother and father returned from beside the pool. Marjorie Fontaine twisted the handle of the apartment door as they giggled like newlyweds. When he looked into the room, his father dropped his bottle of beer to the ground in shock, its liquid soaking a brown, urine-like stain into the carpet.
Freddie’s body was cocooned in spiders’ webs. His eyes had been eaten and in their place were black arachnid abdomens. His tongue was black and striped red. Hundreds of spiders were feasting upon his dead, limp body, creeping in and out of his nose, mouth and ears.
Marjorie Fontaine opened her mouth wide and curdled the skin-crawling roar that had been stalking Freddie for months.
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