Dark Peak by J. G. Parker is today's feature on One Thousand Worlds.
Dark Peak: The First Elemental-
A land of long fields and rough mountains becomes the battleground between two protectors of the Earth’s and a nebulous entity known only as the Beast. Dark Peak is a novel set in the Derbyshire Peak District in the middle of a scorching summer. It's so hot the stones are practically melting in the walls. And there's a reason for this, and Jake Walker - unwitting and reluctant hero of the book – is soon to find out what it is. He’ll also find out what he’s got to do with it. And he won’t be happy, that much is certain.
About the author-JG Parker lives in Northamptonshire in the UK and is surrounded by smallish towns, fields and forests and many birds and beasties and creatures that hoot or bark or screech in the night. Some of them come into the garden – they’re very welcome.
A Prologue of Sorts
The tail crashed into the wall inches from his face. Bricks and weak cement jerked and crumbled as the solid muscle pulled away and struck once more. Jake sank to the floor. His stomach wrenched and heaved and he was dizzy from the blood pounding in his head. He was riddled with adrenaline, useful enough when he’d started this fight, fizzing and cocky as a summer storm. Now it only made him shake, rapid and uncontrollable.
The tail paused mid-air and pulled sharply away. It was replaced by the sounds of heavy feet moving over debris. Above him, Jake heard the wet snort he’d grown used to from his nightmares. He wiped his face with a bloodied hand and stared up.
Through the gaps in the derelict roof he could see the comfort of the early evening sky; plums and oranges, and in the distance, the moon already rising. Then
nothing but solid shadow.
Then a face, thin and grey and longer than the whole of Jake’s young body. It was covered in dust and smoke, and it leaned down until its eyes were level with the crumpled boy. It didn’t blink even once and Jake thought, not for the first time, how the eyes reminded him of the colour of mountains in winter. In the centre, they were filled with fire.
Jake was dog-tired. He coughed, his throat ragged and dry, and held his hand against the pains in his chest.
A voice spoke.
It went beyond deep.
It was every sound ever made by stone: the clacking of pebbles on a beach, the trickling of sand in an egg timer, the wreck of valleys in a landslide. It was the havoc of volcanoes singing in the smallest hours.
And Jake could feel it in his bones, his brain, his blood. In his heart. The voice entered and occupied him. He would never quite get used to it.
‘There, lad,’ it said, calm as a glacial lake. ‘Now do you understand?’
It wasn’t as if she was going to keep it. She’d borrowed it only for the journey but, jeeze, he could be so touchy about his things. And anyway he wasn’t using it, it was just lying there on top of the drawer in his bedroom. An old comb.
This is just crap, she grumbled to herself. I get a bawling off Mam and he gets to stomp around acting betrayed and righteous! It’s different when he goes through my things (not that he ever really does but that’s not important right now) but when I do it once – okay maybe twice – it’s like the world’s gunna end! It wouldn’t be like this if dad was still alive. Oh, yeah!
Elizabeth Walker sat on an unfamiliar bed running her hands over the thin quilt. It had little flowers on it. Her red suitcase lay half-unzipped beside her next to her guitar. She picked at a loose thread on the quilt’s stitching, rolled it into a little ball and tried to push it back into the fabric. That comb! She wished she’d never took it. It would have been easier to pop to the poundshop and pick up half a dozen cheapo ones. Definitely a lot less stress, anyway.
It wasn’t even a very good comb! It was too fine for her hair and stiff. Fair enough, it could get lugs out quickly (like a hot knife through butter) but it took forever just to give her hair a proper comb. All that static! By the end, she’d looked like a Troll-doll, and no amount of patting it down with a dampened hand worked.
She didn’t even know why she’d kept it!
Opposite the bed was a long, discoloured mirror fastened to an ancient wardrobe. Elizabeth caught her reflection in it. Her face was still red and blotchy but she was calmer now. She sat for a few minutes staring at the yellowish figure looking back at her. She looked older than her eleven years, as if she carried the weight of the world on her back. And in a way she did because she’d grown up a lot in the last year or so.
She’d had to. They all had, even Mam.
Grown up and faced the world differently.
She sighed and ran her fingers through her soft, brown hair. Her mother liked to call it auburn, but she knew it was brown. A long bob. She’d thought recently about cutting it short but she’d miss the way she could hide her face if she needed to. She pulled her hair back and up, holding it tight at the crown. No, she didn’t have the facefor short hair.
A small knock sounded on her door and she looked up to see her brother holding on to the frame. She stared at him and sucked at her teeth. ‘What?’ she said, flatly. A shaft of sunlight cut across the room, dividing it in half. The boy sagged a little and started to step over the threshold.
‘Don’t you come in ‘ere,’ snapped Elizabeth. ‘No way, get lost! My room!’
Her brother hesitated, frozen to the doorframe.
‘Don’t ‘Bett’ me! My name’s Elizabeth!’ It was a defence she retreated to when she was upset with Jake, as if she could hide behind the name her father had given her like it was a shield or a talisman.
‘I got a gobfull coz of you and that comb, Jake, so go on! Sod off!’
For a minute, her brother looked smaller and younger than she was, even though he was neither. He scratched his arm and stammered, ‘I- I know, but look–’
He edged in and sat on the bed, carefully, sliding the suitcase to one side.
Elizabeth slapped his hands away and pulled her case towards her.
‘Get off my stuff. I can’t touch your stuff. Keep off mine! Go on! I mean it! Freg off!’