Palimpsest and Winter – Craig Herdern
Fans of parallel universes, time-travel and historic horror are in for a treat with Craig Herdern’s debut novel. Palimpsest is the first instalment in his original Multiple Dimensional State (MDS) series and will be followed by a second book, Winter, due for publication soon.
Palimpsest explores the hidden worlds of the Multiverse (a hypothetical group of multiple universes) with mind-bending themes, where nightmares come true and laws don’t apply.
When the novel’s central character, Lucinda Soames-Parker, uncovers a distressing secret during a drug trial at university, she is catapulted into a strange multi-dimensional world of doppelgangers and despots. The intriguing adventure follows Lucinda down a path of historic baddies where she befalls a seventeenth century Blood Countess, Jack the Ripper and a nasty Nazi. Meanwhile, in the real world, life isn’t straightforward either, with multiple murders, arrests, imprisonment and love.
Palimpsest is a captivating hybrid of genres with Herdern expertly flitting between science-fiction, murder-mystery, historical crime and adventure. The author’s reference to accepted scientific theories are skilfully played out through his characters and the science-fiction elements of Palimpsest are immersed in reality, as this dialogue demonstrates:
“Superstring theory is the concept which posits that the universe exists in ten dimensions.”
“Yes, we humans have an awareness of just four, and those are what I will cover first.”
Winter is coming
Following an addictive first book, Winter will publish in the spring of 2020. The second book runs concurrently, diving deeper into the four universes with all the suspense of Palimpsest, as Herdern explains: “Winter puts a lot more meat on the bones that was only hinted at in Palimpsest. It also opens up the story to a taste of the implications of a Multiverse.”
In Winter, Herdern continues his ingenious interplay between doppelgangers, history and time-travel with just as much adventure. Lucinda’s paranoid father, Edward Soames-Parker, has escaped death, appropriated another body and is manipulating advanced forces inhabiting the Multiverse. Caught in the middle, Lucinda, destined to suffer a tragic loss, relives her worst experiences but will she survive…? Within all four universes, there is an unsettling but spellbinding combination of histories, protagonists and intentions on a collision course that will catch any reader’s attention.
Review copies of Palimpsest, ARCs of Winter, and interviews with the author are now available on request.
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About the Author
Palimpsest published by HFS Rundle Publishing is available at Amazon’s Fiction Book Store (www.amazon.co.uk).
Price: £8.99 and on Kindle for £2.99.
Winter is due to be published in Spring 2020.
Excerpt from Palimpsest, Chapter 31
Station Road, Cambridge, Tuesday 13th April 2021, 4:14 p.m.
Ruth Dagley was tired, the cold was taking its toll again. She had stayed in the day centre as long as she could but was now back on the streets and heading for her usual haunt behind the Portaloos on the rough ground near the station. There was construction work taking place, but the builders would have knocked off at 4:00 p.m. The police knew about it but only came once a week to move them on, they knew the homeless had few places to go. The previous night Snuffle had not been there; he had slept in a recycle bin behind the off-licence. He hadn’t used those at the city centre supermarket since the unfortunate accident of his mate Cyril, who also fell asleep in one and had been crushed to death in the refuse truck that collected it. He’d been a sweet old man, but he’d had a severe drinking problem. He was funny as well and knew a lot. He had been a teacher once, just like Snuffle.
And she was there again; just doing what she had done, on and off, for the last two weeks, watching from a distance. She was beginning to piss Ruth off, why couldn’t she just come out with it and say what she wanted? And as if she had read her mind, she did.
She had actually.
“Hi, I’m Natalie, I’m a volunteer with the Homeless Cambridge Support group, and we are trying to help, where we can, those people who have nowhere to stay at night. Would you be interested in somewhere?”
“What’s the catch? Why me?”
“Look, I am new at this, I have just been tasked with finding someone if I can. They just said at the beginning of last week that it may take a while to gain someone’s trust. I have seen you a few times, and just thought that you might need some help.”
“Yeh, OK. What are you offering?”
“Well, first let me show you my credentials.” Natalie pulled out a card. Ruth had seen one two weeks earlier at the day centre, it seemed legit, it had her photo and everything. She decided to play along for a while.
“Look, as I said, I am new at this. I have got an address that’s got some space, it’s just become available. If you are interested, you can be the first person to try it out.”
She appeared genuine to Ruth and seemed like one of those innocent, young do-gooder wannabees who, on their gap year, wanted to make a difference and take some politically correct action or another; good for their résumé. It was getting cold, there was no sign of Snuffle, as he was no doubt bedding down for the night at the off-licence anyway, and Ruth rancied a change from this dump.
“OK, I’ll just get my stuff.” That didn’t take long. Ruth grabbed her rucksack and carrier bag with her plunder from the day centre and followed.
“How long have you living rough?” said the HCS girl.
“What’s it to do with you?”
“Sorry, don’t mean to be rude, I’m a bit new at this.”
“Yeh, so you said.” Ruth was beginning to wonder if this was a good move. Still, they were on the main road, and she could handle herself, probably better than the innocent-looking Natalie.
“Anyway, the place is just down the next street.”
“What, Churston Gardens?” I don’t bloody think so, they’re quality.”
“Yeh, but this one has been empty for a while, and we have agreed with the owner that we can use it, with a stipulation that we don’t trash it. So, I was given the task of getting some people in who would not that. I think they thought that I would be able to get some homeless girls of about my age group; typical stereotying of a man.” Natalie rolled her eyes, with the inference that it was male manager doing what male managers do.
“Right, OK. I’ll take a look, but if I dont like it, I’m not staying.” Ruth was beginning to think that it might be better than another night of dodging the rain and plods.
They turned left, entered Churston Gardens and started to walk past some lovely houses with trees, neatly spaced, growing out of sectioned low, metal-fenced areas in the pavement. It was incongruous that there would be any homeless housing in this area. The detached properties from number two up to number ten were replaced by groups of semis that still seemed cool. Number twenty-six looked like the others until they had negotiated around the path and large bush obscuring the front door; it was boarded up and was in need of some TLC. The place had seen better days and seemed to fit into the category of ‘homeless abode’. Perhaps she wasn’t pulling her leg.
“Here it is,” said Natalie and she reached into her pocket, removed a small plastic bag with a key inside. It was at this point that Ruth was surprised to see that Natalie seemed to be wearing latex gloves, the same that she had seen police wear in TV detective series. That was the last free thought that poor Ruth Dagley every had.
Marie Soames-Parker carefully removed the key, with attached fob, from the evidence bag, unlocked the door and then replaced it. Ruth Dagley walked in without a word.
At the same point, Marie heard her father say, “This is Rebecca Masson, she will assist you with your task.” Marie then fathomed out that someone was watching from the pavement side of the gate after she had peered through a samll gap in the bush.
“Hello Marie, I’m Becca. Your father has asked me to help.” She walked towards Marie and entered the house without a further word.
Marie was not impressed, her father was chaning things without any discussion or involvement from her; this would not do. She deciced to scan this Rebecca Masson as soon as she had got her victim settled. Before Marie entered, she picked up the cheap, collapsible chair, with carrier bag tied to the handle, which she had bought and secreted earlier by the wheelie bin.
The house no power or light fixtures. She was about to pull out a torch from her pocket, but Masson already had one and was guiding the automaton Ruth to the lounge. Marie put her torch on anyway, walked past Masson, unfolded the chair and placed it in front of the empty fireplace. The elegant fireplace accompaniment set had long since been removed, along with any furniture. Ruth walked to the chair and sad upright. Her eyes were open, but she did not blink, speak or utter a sound. Her breathing was slow, measured and controlled with hands folded in front of her.
Marie turned to Masson, and while reaching into the back which contained, amongst other things, a bottle of water, offered it to her and smiled.
“Drink?” she said.
This would have been beheld as a friendly gesture by a new acquaintance, but while doing this Marie was hammering on Masson’s mind to enter and discover what plans had been hidden from her. She was to be disappointed. Maried had left her body and was drifting around Masson’s head in an MD state, but it was a block onyx-like consciousness, impervious to her onslaught, that she was presented with. She reached into the root of her MD chakra and fired an ‘inform’ demand at Masson’s cerebrum, but it rebounded futilely. This made her even more furious, and the humiliation was further augmented when Marie detected that Masson could sense her feeble efforts.
Masson just smiled sweetly, and taking the bottle of water said, “Are you OK, dear, you seem to be a little flustered?”
“Let’s just get on with it, shall we?” Marie had judged that swift exit would be her best strategy.
Without doubt, she had to get this sorted sooner rather than later… Maried needed to speak to Father at his earliest convenience when this Masson person was not present. This incident necissitated a reassessment of her capacity. She needed to up her power to prevent future humiliating episodes.
Soames-Parker, the elder, sniggered as he viewed the little confrontation which he had found quite amusing. He was currently sitting lounging in his New York penthouse apartment, overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, drinking only some Perrier and abstaining from his favourite tipple. He would need all his, and their, mental faculties in due course.
Marie turned and stared at a point in space that seemed to contain nothing, but in fact, did. “Father are you ready now?”
Soames-Parker spoke directly to Marie’s brainstem. “We are. Remove the knife.” Marie reached into the carrier bag and pulled out a brend-new bread knife, she removed the protective packaging and price tag and held it out straight in front of her at waist height.
“Now, pass the evidence bag containing the key to Rebecca.” Marie did as she was told.
Masson took the bag. “Can you please hold the knife by the blade?”
“Why?” Marie shrugged.
“I just need to touch the handle. Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.”
Marie smiled, “Uh-huh, OK.” Masson, wearing a pair of purple, latex-free forensic gloves, removed the key, wrapped the fob carefully around the handle, and gripped it. She then removed it and returned it to the eivdence bag and handed it to Marie.
Edward Soames-Parker said, “Now, hold it out.” Marie took it by the handle and extended her arm.
“A bread knife” You mollisher, what use is that?” The voice had been emitted from the same point as Father but was not him.
“Father just said knife, he didn’t say what sort,” responded Marie, she had just about had enough of this fiasco.
“It will have to do. Anyway, the serrated blade should cause significant damage, and this is not a rippering exercise!” It was Soames-Parker again, he continued, “Let go Marie.” She let go of the knife.
It didn’t fall to the ground but remained static, suspended in air as though cemented in place. Then it started to move, slowly at first and then the momentum increased. As it did, it began to undulate as though it had been taken by a hand, though the hand, arm, and body of the person concerned were missing. It was bizarre, even for individuals who knew what was taking place.
Marie and Rebecca moved to the doorway and then stopped. What happened next was, though expected, still brutal and savage.