JUNE 2024

NOCTURNAL ROLLERCOASTER

Introduction
In true Souls Series style, our inaugural 'Chapter of the Month' combines past, present, and future. We start on Starship Conquest Four in deep space in the twenty-fifth century, but one journey soon turns to another as Serena takes us back to a notorious incident from the middle ages, and makes a visit to her life as Susan Carpenter in the present day. And she finds time to ask a few existential questions too.

Nocturnal Rollercoaster comes from Mystery of Souls, sixth instalment in the Souls Series. The first instalment, Trinity of Souls, is available at troubador.co.uk/trinity-of-souls, amazon.co.uk and selected bookshops.


“What shall we do tonight? You fancy a game of chess?” Serena looked across the table at her crewmate as the ship silently hurtled through space at almost the speed of light.

“Nyet, I get bored beating you at chess, you are no challenge. I have been thinking; I would like to do kaetchemo. We have not done since you showed me I am Anastasia; I want to see what is happening next.”

“I can’t guarantee you’ll see Anastasia again. I told you, as far as I can tell, you’ve had nearly twenty lives; it could be any one of them. You could find yourself anywhere, any time. And there’s something you have to remember about every life.”

“What is that?”

“They all end in death.”

*


“Why does Uncle Richard want us to stay in here?”

“Shhh, you cannot call him that any more, Richie; we have to say ‘His Highness’, he is the king now.”

“I thought you were the king, Edward?”

“No, do you not remember, Uncle Rich... I mean His Highness... explained it to us. I am too young to be king, so he will be king first, until I am twenty-one, and then it will be my turn.”

“What about me, will I get a turn?”

“I do not think so,” Edward frowned, “I do not think that is how it works.”

“But why must we stay in here, why must they seal up the wall and trap us inside. I am scared, Edward, I do not like it.”

“You must be brave, brother. We are royal princes; the usurper has spies and assassins looking for us. We have to be strong and do what our duty demands. This is for our protection, to protect the crown, the same reason we came to the Tower. His Highness told us so himself.”

“But, Edward, how will we be protected if we are sealed inside a chamber with no food or water, will we not perish from starvation and thirst?”

“We must trust Uncle Richard... er, His Highness, he knows what is best.” 

The workmen placed another stone in the wall, leaving only a small gap. “I am frightened, Edward,” said Richie.

“Have faith, my brother,” Edward replied as the last stone was put in place and they were plunged into darkness.

Richie began to cry.

 

*

 

Xenia came out of the trance, gasping for air, “Der’mo, that was horrible, those poor boys, trapped and suffocated.”

“I did warn you. When you go into kaetchemo, there’s no way to predict what you will see.”

“Is it the same for you, when you dream?”

“I have some control, to a degree,” Serena shrugged; “sometimes I can choose, or at least kind of roughly guide, where I want to go, but sometimes it’s just... well, pot luck, really. It can be pretty nasty, sometimes. Like I said, every life ends in death, and many of mine have been rather gruesome thanks to Mamboja.”

“What is worst he has done to you?”

“Oh, God, where do I begin; burning, drowning, I’ve had so many terrible deaths. I try not to think about them.”

“But always you come back.”

“Yes,” Serena smiled, “always I come back.”

 

*

 

“Always I come back,” Serena whispered to herself. But was it guaranteed, would she truly go on forever, life after life, for all eternity? Or would there be an end to her existence one day? Ending... that seemed impossible, an inconceivable thought; but, forever, that was impossible too. Neither made sense, but one of them had to be true. It had to be forever, or it had to end, those were the only possibilities. Or were they?

She sighed, turning over in her bunk. She would never get to sleep like this. Remembering what she’d said to Xenia, she tried to focus on a time and place, seeing if she could steer herself there. Sometimes it worked.

 

*

 

Susan opened the door to her flat. It felt strange being back here after everything she’d been through, so normal it seemed abnormal. She smiled and gestured for her guest to enter, “Well, er, this is it, my humble abode. Sorry, it’s not very spacious... or tidy... or clean. I, er... well, you know, I live alone and, er... I’m not here very much. Er... you want some coffee?”

“No, thanks, I had loads on the plane; I think I’ve had enough caffeine for today.”

“Tea?”

“No... thanks,” he shook his head.

“Something stronger?”

“Maybe later,” he smiled.

“Would you like something to eat?”

“I’m not hungry”

“OK, er... so, do you want to go and get your stuff from the hotel?”

“We can do that later.”

“Right, er... do you want to watch some television then?”

“No,” he shook his head.

“Go for a walk?”

“No”

“The pub then?”

“No”

“Well, er... what do you want, Ben?”

“You,” he stepped forward and took her in his arms, holding her tight, kissing her passionately.

“I’ve only got a single bed,” she gasped, huskily, as he ran his lips down the side of her neck.

With one arm around her shoulders, he reached down and put the other behind her knees. Lifting her up and cradling her to his chest, he said, “We’ll manage; show me the way.”

“In there,” she whispered, pointing at the bedroom door.

 

*

 

Serena smiled. Those early days with Ben had been amazing. They’d escaped Mortimer and, while they knew there were challenges ahead, battles to be fought, for a while it was just the two of them in their own little world, enjoying each other at last, after nearly twelve millennia; almost twelve thousand years of being denied, by fate, and by Mamboja. Yes, it had been a very special time. They’d earned it, after all.

But, as George Harrison once said, ‘all things must pass’. And those golden days were no exception.