Jericho, North Oxford
Joel Solomon awoke with a gasp and jerked bolt upright in his bed. For a moment the night terror still gripped him, before he remembered where he was. This wasn’t eighteen years ago. This was here and now, and he was home in his ground-floor flat in the peaceful street on the edge of the city. Everything was all right.
The luminous hands of his bedside clock told him it was 12.34 a.m. He rubbed his face, blinking to clear away the remnants of his nightmare. When his heart eventually stopped thudding, he sank his head back into the pillow and closed his eyes, inviting sleep to return.
But it wouldn’t. He knew it couldn’t, not now.
I’ll turn. His grandfather’s voice still rang inside his head.
He’d never wanted to relive those memories again. Since the age of fifteen, after three years of counselling, psychotherapy, hypnosis, he’d thought he was free of them for good. Suddenly, the nightmare was back. Twice now, within the space of just a few days.
His fingers clenched into fists under the bedcovers as the images returned once again. The years hadn’t dulled their awful vividness. Seeing the sabre blade come whooshing down and sideways. Feeling that awful crunch as the sharpened steel went slicing through cartilage and bone.
He took a deep breath. It didn’t happen, he willed himself to believe. You imagined it. You were in shock. The brain plays strange tricks. Imagining all kinds of things that aren’t real.
That was what the doctors had persuaded him to believe – that there weren’t monsters out there, lurking and watching in the dark. That the only evil in this world was human. Like the psychopathic murderer who’d broken into the remote cottage that night and done those terrible things. That the only time Joel had ever touched the sabre was when the old man had let him play with it.
And that the rest was just the figment of a deeply traumatised child’s imagination.
It had taken a long time, but he’d eventually learned to trust the words of logic and reason repeatedly drummed into his head like a mantra by the men and women in the white coats.
At this moment, though, he wasn’t so sure. He swung his legs out of bed and looked out of the window at the mist in the streetlights outside. So much for grabbing a decent night’s sleep before his early morning start. He knew what he had to do to clear his mind.
He walked to the bathroom, took a quick shower, and then pulled on his motorcycle leathers and left the flat. Out in the misty street, he swung his leg astride the Suzuki Hayabusa sportsbike, thumbed the starter and rode off.
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