At that moment a dozen rifles were fired more or less simultaneously, part of a night training exercise. Adam panicked and lost his balance. He felt himself start to fall towards the dish and scrabbled to reach it. His feet slipped from the mast. As a result, his body was for a moment directly above the top of the dish, enabling him to grasp it firmly. His relief at achieving such a strong hold was short-lived. The weakened bracket snapped under his weight and Adam, still clutching the dish to his chest, fell to the ground. He landed on his back and was killed instantly. The dish had somehow remained connected to its cable. It fired its radiation through Adam’s body and deep into the earth.
The Clava Cairns are situated only a few miles from Culloden Moor, but any connection between them can only be one of propinquity and thousands of years. There can be no direct link between the Scots, English and French dying in 1746 at the battle of Culloden to determine the succession to the throne and a few important Bronze Age people, who may or may not have been warriors. I am inclined to think they were.
I am sure they were.
Late the next morning Sam Jones, Adam’s boss at the estate agent’s where he worked, put through a call to Adam’s flat. It was far from the first time Adam had not shown up for work on time. Previously he had always managed to ‘phone in sick, but Sam had his suspicions as to the cause of the suspiciously recurring illness; let’s just say it greatly profited The Crown. He’d bet a fiver Adam was there now, having an early lunchtime drink or three.
He wasn’t going to let him get away with it any longer. Sam regretted the passing of the old days when he could just have fired Adam. Now he would have to go through the motions of talking to head office with a view to instigating disciplinary proceedings. Regulations decreed that the process begin with a verbal warning. And it will. Right now. See if he enjoys his drink after that.
He had Adam’s cell phone number, but his own did not have a signal. “What the hell? I thought it was all sorted! It’s time we got Wi-Fi in here!”
Sam checked with the others in the front office. They all had the same problem.
“Bloody hell! Arse! Oh, sorry madam, didn’t see you there. Lizzie, attend to this customer, will you?”
He darted back into the cubby-hole which masqueraded as his office and used the landline to call his network provider. It took him forever to key in an endless selection of options, but he did finally manage to speak to a person and complain about the loss of service.
“Please accept our apologies, sir. (Translation: Serves you bloody well right, you bad-tempered old fool!) We have already been notified about the problem. (You are so far outside the loop.) A van is on its way. (But not to you!)”
By mid-afternoon there was quite a collection of vehicles parked alongside Valhalla. The telecoms workers were in a state of shock, the police did not see any evidence of foul play, the police doctor pronounced the body dead at the scene and the coronial undertaker arrived to take the body to the morgue prior to an inquest being opened. A police pathologist was on call to conduct a post-mortem. The media were all over the place.
I am convinced the inhabitants of the Clava Cairns were warriors because, having seen the pictures, I can attest that the stones Geoff photographed at Valhalla are indeed identical to those surrounding the Clava Cairns. Valhalla is undeniably the site of a very similar Bronze Age tomb. That it also contains the remains of fighting men is to me self-evident.
Of course, Adam had owned a mobile ‘phone. Why would he not? He had needed it for work and for all his other activities, such as they were. I know what you’re thinking, but it would be too simplistic to accuse him of having been a hypocrite. He had no objection to the technology. He had merely wanted the masts to be at what he considered a safe distance from where people lived. It was totally unrealistic and not actually necessary, but he would never have been persuaded otherwise. If only he had not had his ‘phone with him when he fell.
Inspector William Brown and his Sergeant, Ian Leslay, did not manage to search the victim’s pockets for ID or any other potentially useful information. When Brown had attempted to do so he received what felt like an electric shock. It was a hell of a jolt and it took him a few minutes to recover. Furious, he turned to the telecoms team gawping in the background.
“I thought you said the damned thing was switched off!”
“It is. We uncoupled it as soon as we saw… that.”
“Sergeant, you have a go.”
Ian Leslay approached the body with great reluctance. Sure enough, he too received a nasty shock. He glared reproachfully at his superior officer.
The inspector beckoned to the undertaker.
“That’s it. I’m not going to touch the body while it’s live. Wrap him in rubber or something and take him to the morgue. I’ll join you there. Sergeant, you stay and help.”
Now no-one wants to go near Valhalla. Academic historians the world over, horrified and excited by “I want to join my tribe!” stormed libraries in an attempt to discover which tribe it might have been. They peered closely at unattributed artefacts in previously little frequented museums in the hope that a dagger would be more than just a dagger, that a pot would contain knowledge of life and death. Google had, of course, shut down Gmail, but they nervously conducted a deep search into Google Books. There has been a huge increase in demand for fax machines. A consensus emerged, but it made no sense. What happened was not possible, yet it could not be denied. How was that? Are we inevitably bound for a hell of our own making? Is it possible to panic while typing? I am afraid it is. Give me a moment. I will endeavour to get a grip and continue sequentially with this narrative.
Andy Sheenan, the police pathologist, had been calm and professional as he sliced and diced. Adam’s brain was soon in the dish and his vital organs were similarly disposed. Joe, the mortuary assistant, had begun to tidy up. In order to allay Inspector Brown’s impatience for results, typical of every policeman he had ever worked with, Sheenan prepared to discuss his preliminary findings, subject to a full report later. Although he had found some evidence of microvesicular steatosis typical in the liver of a heavy drinker, he concluded Adam had been otherwise healthy before the fall which had caused his death.
An hour or so earlier things had not been nearly so relaxed. Adam’s body had been delivered, wrapped in a thick rubber sheet which Sergeant Leslay had managed to purchase, along with two pairs of thick rubber gloves, from a DIY store not far from Valhalla. He’d helped the coroner load the body into the van, but then had stayed behind to make sure the scene was properly secured.
As they gazed at the makeshift, rubbery body-bag, Sheenan had tried to engage Inspector Brown in a conversation about Gauss’s law, which was incomprehensible, and a Faraday cage, which was unobtainable. Brown had been irritated and told him firmly that none of this was helpful. He wasn’t interested in electrostatics. He just wanted the body to be rendered safe as quickly as possible so they could all get on with their jobs. This lack of curiosity indicated that the inspector’s career had probably plateaued.
Sheenan and the morgue assistant, Joe, had carefully rolled Adam’s body from the rubber sheet on to the stainless-steel operating table. The mysterious electrical charge which had rendered the corpse untouchable suddenly and dramatically dispersed. There was a loud crack and a flash of contained lightning, which made everybody step back in alarm. In consequence, no-one saw Adam’s eyes open and then close again. Nor did they hear the body bags rustle in the refrigerated drawers as the corpses shifted in seeming discomfort.
By the time Joe, Inspector Brown and Dr Sheenan had pulled themselves together everything was normal. There were no more shocks of any kind. Only the living moved. The post-mortem was completed with the conclusions I have already mentioned. No explanation was offered or demanded for Adam’s transitory electromagnetic properties. His ‘phone, business cards, wallet and the keys to his flat were bagged up as evidence. By the time everything was done Brown’s mood had improved so much that he bade Sheenan a cordial farewell before setting off for Adam’s workplace.
He never made it.
Bluetooth can be a double-edged sword. It is handy for sharing data over short distances, but is not generally very secure. It can easily be hacked. Be that as it may, it was still activated on Adam’s ‘phone and on Inspector Brown’s. As the inspector picked up the evidence bags, the one containing Adam’s ‘phone brushed briefly against Brown’s jacket pocket, in which he kept his own ‘phone. The two devices synchronised at once and each of them emitted a scream of eternity that cut through the soul like a razor through flesh.
You may remember I told you it had already started to happen. That was the beginning.
Two of the three living people in the autopsy room shook with fear, but there was worse to come.
It went quiet.
Their heartbeats slowed.
They slowly regained control, still fearful but also puzzled.
Inspector Brown took a deep breath, put down the evidence bags and removed the ‘phone from his jacket pocket. He could have chosen to hurl it to the ground, Andy’s too, stomped on them, destroyed the screens. All would have been well. But he did not make that choice. He couldn’t. He was in the grip of a violent ecstasy.
Instead of the usual apps the screen showed a Bronze Age axe covered in blood. It had cleaved the head of a man dressed in the fighting gear of the time, which appeared to offer little protection. The man wielding the axe was missing an arm and the stump bled copiously. It was sickening. Disgusting. But something primeval had already been released in William Brown. He wanted that axe. He needed to kill. He had to kill. The rage drove him to look for a weapon, any weapon. He threw his ‘phone into Adam’s brain and snatched up a scalpel. With a great roar he hurled himself at Andy Sheenan.
The pathologist was too frightened and too astonished to defend himself. His rugby-training fitness was two decades in the past and he was no match for sharpened steel in the hand of a warrior. He did not even protest when the blade flashed towards his throat. It cut through to his spine.
Sheenan’s death brought Joe to life. He realised that to reach the door he would have to run past Brown. No chance, but he blindly reached for the nearest implement to use as a weapon. Unfortunately, it was a bread knife. They are used for slicing organs. And maybe the bread of heaven, if he was lucky. He hesitated and that gave Brown all the time he needed. Joe looked into his eyes and waited. Without hope.
Inspector William Brown, if that is who he still was, drew himself up to his full height, flung his arms wide and bellowed in fury, “I want to join my tribe!”
And cut his own throat.