Long Christmas Title Created using Figma

Find the perfect gift at our Christmas shop now
UK orders before 15th December, overseas before 4th December

Right Trees Created using Figma
An excerpt from

Solstice

H Boyd & B Roddam

The image came out of nowhere, startling and intense. One minute she was shivering in the cold half-light of the foggy June dawn, the next she was surrounded by dazzling light.

Rhiannon closed her eyes against the blinding rays and heard a voice in her head shouting ‘don’t… don’t touch her!’ The scream left her trembling with shock, reaching out blindly for support. Her hand met stone, solid and rough to the touch. This calmed her. Slowly, reluctantly, she opened her eyes.

The vast stone pillars of Stonehenge loomed dark and threatening against the feeble light struggling over the horizon. What had just happened? Other Solstice watchers stood nearby, gazing in silence towards where the sun should be, their efforts hampered by the sinister, yellow fog swirling around them. She looked at their still faces, but there was no sign they’d heard or seen anything strange.

Rhiannon breathed deeply, willing her racing heartbeat to return to normal. There had to be a rational explanation. She didn’t believe in visions or the supernatural, horoscopes were for losers. She liked hard facts - that’s what made her a good documentary maker. Maybe research for her current film was getting to her: signs and portents, ancient wisdom, the Mayan calendar that ended on the next Winter Solstice, December 21st 2012, the ever increasing fires and floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes… this fog. The more she found out, the more she felt that time was running out for the world. Something catastrophic was about to happen.
She closed her eyes and for a moment the image flared again as if imprinted on her retina; seven figures standing in a circle, columns of white crystal shimmering in the light of a brilliant sun. One figure moved to the centre of the circle, raising her arms towards the light. Rhiannon tensed. Again, she heard herself pleading ‘don’t touch her, no, don’t…! And gasped in fright as a hand clutched her arm.

She spun round. There seemed to be no dawn, if anything it was getting darker in the fog. There was no sign of the seven figures, only a man who stepped back quickly when he saw her eyes flash with anger.
‘Sorry… sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you. You seem upset, is something wrong?’
Rhiannon was torn between embarrassment and the need for human contact. ‘I thought I saw people standing over there,’ she said, pointing to the deserted area in the centre of the stone circle.
The man shrugged. ‘Not surprising in this fog… it makes everything seem surreal.’
‘No, I heard a scream. I definitely heard a scream.’
‘That was you.’ The man was grinning. ‘People think they see things here, fog or no fog – all part of the Stonehenge experience.’
‘Me? I screamed?’ Had she? She shook herself. The man’s attitude rankled. ‘You think I’m being hysterical, don’t you? Just a woman thing.’
‘I didn’t say that, but now you mention it…’ The man grinned again and despite herself she smiled back. Even in the eerie light she could see that this was a very attractive man – older than her, maybe late thirties, tall with a thin tanned face, shoulder-length dark hair and eyes that would probably be fierce if they weren’t smiling.
He turned to go. ‘Well, if you’re OK…’
‘I’m fine… thanks.’
‘No problem, Rhiannon.’
She stared after him, amazed. ‘Wait… you called me Rhiannon! How the hell do you know my name?’
The man looked non-plussed. ‘Did I? Um… not sure.’ He held his hand out. ‘By the way, I’m Michael. Michael Wolf.’
Not usually lost for words, she briefly clasped his outstretched hand, then watched as he turned away to join a small group nearby. She saw him murmur into the ear of the tall woman beside him, catching a glimpse of a proud beautiful face and the glitter of jewels, before the woman strode off into the murk, linking her arm possessively through Michael’s as she went. Rhiannon took one last look around the stone circle, now only partly visible as the fog grew denser. Nothing happened here, nothing at all, she told herself. But she was unable to control a shiver of unease. Time to go home.

Chapter 2 Visitors’ car park, Stonehenge

‘Can I come back?’ Michael asked Lily as they drew level with the car. Lily hesitated, her piercing blue eyes flitting quickly from Michael to the stooped older man with them.
‘No,’ she answered, turning away. Michael, shocked at her bluntness, was about to remonstrate, but he caught Gabe’s level gaze.
‘Bye then,’ he muttered moodily, then loped off towards his bike, a beat-up Ducati, red and black and dangerous-looking, which was propped at the edge of the visitors’ car park. He found himself searching for the girl called Rhiannon in the crowd making their way home.
‘You know you can’t.’ Gabe waited for Lily to start the car. He felt her bristle, the bracelets on her arm rattling ominously.
She started the engine and they eased out into the stream of cars making their way to the exit.
‘I’m not jealous, but you know Michael’s not for you.’ Gabe held his hands in front of him rubbing one against the other, like the scraping of parchment.
Lily wasn’t listening, she was watching Michael’s figure as he disappeared into the mist, using all her concentration to tune into his thoughts. For a moment there was nothing, then she saw her in her mind’s eye, as clear as if she were standing in front of her. The girl. The one Michael had been talking to at the Henge. It’s her, she thought. I knew it!
‘This is our last chance,’ Gabe was saying. ‘It’s too important to mess up.’
‘You think I don’t know that? Lily exploded beside him. ‘You really think I’d risk the same thing happening with Michael as happened with Jude? You should give me more credit after all these interminable lifetimes together.’ Her bracelets shook angrily.
‘I do,’ Gabe’s voice was weary, this was not a new argument. ‘But if Jude had not been in love with you, he’d never have done what he did and the world wouldn’t be in this mess.’
There was silence for a minute, while each of them replayed for the millionth time the long ago sequence of events which had led them to this place, this time, this life. Lily raised a hand to sweep her long dark hair from her face, and Gabe, glancing across, saw tears glinting in the light from the oncoming cars.
‘If Michael got involved…’ Gabe’s tone was apologetic.
‘Michael’s not Jude.’ Lily snapped, then her expression softened when she saw the anxiety on Gabe’s face.
‘I think we made a mistake bringing Michael here,’ she continued in a softer tone. ‘I thought it might trigger memories for him but it’s obviously too dangerous. And then the girl turning up…’
‘What girl?’ Gabe turned towards her.
‘Didn’t you see her? Rhiannon was there. They even spoke to each other.’
‘But that’s good, isn’t it?’
Lily shook her head impatiently.
‘Good that the seven of us are getting close again. But she’s not ready yet. And we may have put her in danger. If someone was watching…’
Gabe nodded slowly.
‘You think he’s back, don’t you?’
‘I’m sure of it. How else can you explain what’s happening to the world. These aren’t just natural disasters. There’s a pattern emerging, one we’ve seen before. It’s Atlantis all over again.’

Rhiannon sat motionless behind the wheel of her car. The car park had long since emptied, but she was upset and didn’t yet trust herself to face the road.
To calm herself, she began to set the sat nav on the dashboard. Practical tasks always calmed her. But she found nothing helped when she was woken, alone in her flat in the Archway, by the strange and unsettling visions that had haunted her sleep recently. At times she thought she must be going mad. This morning was another example - something she couldn’t explain, but which at the same time felt intensely familiar to her.
And what was she doing here anyway? She should have been well on the way to London by now but accidents and diversions caused by the fog had forced her off the main roads and the sat nav had led her closer and closer to Stonehenge. And then the thought had just popped into her mind Watch the sun rise on the summer solstice. It’s important.
But she hadn’t seen it after all. The weird weather had ruined the magical moment. So much for intuition.
She leaned forward and stared at her reflection in the rear view mirror. Her reflection stared solemnly back, her blue eyes huge in her pale finely boned face. As she looked, another face seemed to float across her reflection. The hair was long and loose, not her short, feathery cut, but the same shade of chestnut brown, and the girl’s features slid neatly to fit over Rhiannon’s, like a superimposed blueprint. Rhiannon started and looked around her, but the car was eerily silent. I am going mad, she thought, and quickly turned back to the sat nav. She set it 3 or 4 times for her friend Lauren’s flat in Peckham - she’d promised to pick Lauren up and take her into work on her way back - but the screen kept breaking up, crackling and fuzzing like a TV on the blink. She glanced out of the window and was suddenly aware of the howling of the wind. It had begun to pour with rain. She looked back at the half-shadowed circle of stones and shuddered.
‘Pull yourself together,’ she told herself firmly, hearing echoes of her tough Welsh foster-mother. She clicked on the CD player, turning it up full volume, forcing herself to sing along: ‘Love hurts, love scars…’
As she drew out of the car park, her mobile rang.
‘How’s it going? ’ her friend asked sleepily. ‘Just checking you’re picking me up later.’
‘Lauren… hi. God I’m glad to hear you.’
‘What’s up? You sound freaked.’
‘Nothing… just the sat nav’s kaput and there’s a storm brewing. It’s spooky here.’
‘Where are you?’
‘Stonehenge. I’m just…’
The phone suddenly crackled and went dead as an impressive bolt of lightning lit up the sky, accompanied a second later, directly overhead, by the menacing growl of thunder. Rhiannon hurled the useless mobile onto the seat next to her, and drove off in what she hoped was the right direction, suddenly desperate to be away from the shadow of the stones.