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Read an extract from Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza

Shadow Sands packshot and read an extract



28 AUGUST 2012

Simon gasped and choked on the brackish, freezing water as he swam for his life. The reservoir was huge, and he churned through inky-black water in a frantic front crawl, further into the darkness and away from the drone of the boat’s outboard motor. The cloudy night sky meant no moon, and the only light came from Ashdean, two miles away, an orange glow that barely reached the reservoir and the surrounding

His trainers, heavy Nike Air Jordans, which he’d laced up tightly before leaving the campsite, were like lumps of lead on his feet, and he could feel them, along with his wet jeans, weighing him down. It was late summer, and where the icy water met the balmy night air, a thin rippling mist hung atop the water’s surface.

The boat was small and sturdy, and the man he’d seen beside it on the edge of the reservoir had been in silhouette. Simon’s torch had illuminated the body the man was lifting into the boat. A limp form bound tightly in a white sheet covered in blotches of blood and dirt.

It had all happened so fast. The man had dropped the body in the boat and attacked him. Simon knew it was a man, even though he was only a shadow. When he knocked the torch from Simon’s hand and struck him, there was a nasty, sharp smell of sweat. Simon briefly fought back, but he was ashamed how he panicked and ran into the water. He should have run in the other direction, back into the thick woodland surrounding the reservoir.

Simon struggled to breathe but pushed himself to swim faster. His muscles burned from the effort. His swimming training had kicked in, and he was counting one, two, three, his head coming up for air on the fourth stroke. Each time he reached four, the drone of the outboard motor was closer.

He was a strong swimmer, but his injuries slowed him down. He could feel a rattle as he inhaled. The man had struck him in the ribs, and the pain was throbbing. He was taking big breaths as he swam, but he’d swallowed water, and the air wasn’t getting to his lungs.

A wall of fog came at him, low across the surface of the water, and it enveloped him in a cold blanket. Simon thought this might save him, but suddenly the boat roared up directly behind him and struck him on the back of his head. He snapped forward and was plunged underwater. He felt pain as the outboard motor propeller gouged his flesh.

He thought he was going to black out; he could see stars, and his body was numb from the impact. He couldn’t move his arms. He kicked hard, but his waterlogged feet and legs didn’t seem to respond to his effort, moving almost lazily. He came back to the surface, surrounded by mist, and a calm voice in his head spoke to him.

What are you fighting for? Sink down and drown, where it’s safe.

He coughed and spat out the brackish water. His ears were ringing, blocking out any sound. The water around him rippled, and the bow of the boat appeared through the mist again. As it caught him under the chin, he heard his jaw crack, and he was thrown up and backwards so he was lying on the surface of the water. The boat ploughed over him – he felt the hull on his chest and then the blades of the outboard motor gouge the skin against his ribs.

Simon could no longer move his arms or legs. His head and face were numb, but the rest of his body was on fire. He’d never felt pain like it. The water felt warm on his hands. It was his blood, not the water. His blood was warm, and it was pouring out into the water.

He smelled petrol from the outboard motor, the water shifted again, and Simon knew the boat was coming back for him.

He closed his eyes and let the air out of his lungs. His last memory was being enveloped by the cold, black water.