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Book Sample

Cause and Effect

Carl lifted his head up from the cold, hard surface. The room was pitch black. He could hear the sound of soft breathing, but nothing else. His mind began to race through the possibilities. If this was heaven it certainly wasn't how he had imagined it – that would have been fluffy white clouds, brilliant sunshine and gentle harp music in the background. But neither was it hell's fire and brimstone, although it did feel rather warm and clammy.

He was sure that he must be dead. He remembered quite clearly the truck coming at him head on and the sound of scraping metal as the bonnet of the car was sliced off by the truck's bumper, but that was the point at which it went blank. He was quite glad he didn't remember anything more, because playing that kind of thing over and over again in his head certainly would be hell. It hadn't been the best ever ending he'd had to a first date, that was for sure, and he didn't even want to consider what Kerry's fate might have been.

He pushed himself up to his feet and tentatively moved forwards a couple of steps. He needed to find a light and sort out where he was once and for all, but he had the unnerving feeling that he was somehow high up and that one false move would send him careering over a precipice – he had never been good with heights. He took one more step. Carl was wise to be wary as he could now feel an edge beneath his foot, but he was just about to take a step back when something completely unexpected happened. It was the whoosh he noticed first, just before a solid lump clunked into his head and his body began to fly through the air. And then everything stopped.

When Carl woke up again he was back where he had started. He was sure of it because of the shiny texture of the surface beneath him. That was odd. A little bit too Groundhog Day for his liking. But if he was really replaying the time over again his head wouldn't hurt. And his head did hurt. A lot. He wasn't sure what had hit him, but it was very hard and very deliberate. Someone, or some thing, didn't want him there – wherever there was.

He could still hear the sound of breathing, but there was also something decidedly more mechanical in the background, like the buzz of a small motor, and it was getting nearer. Carl decided it was best to remain completely still until he knew exactly what was happening – he really didn't want another missile to the head.

Although he thought that the sound was quite familiar, he couldn't quite place it. There was also the faint glow of light. Not white light, but multi-coloured flashing light. As it got closer he could just about make out the outline. It was one of those wind-up toy robots, except that these days they weren't wind up, they had the kind of chip in them that would have run the whole of the world's computers back when he was a kid. But the most alarming thing was that when it got up close it wasn't tiny, fit-in-your-hand size, it loomed over him like a B-movie science fiction monster.

It stopped. Right by his head. He held his breath.

"You're all right then?" said the robot, "We did wonder. That was quite some fall you took last night."

Carl just stared at the flashing lights. He couldn't quite comprehend the fact that this thing that stood before him was talking to him. He had to be dreaming, but did you dream when you were dead? Or was he actually still alive in some drug-induced coma?

"I'm Robbie," said the robot with a little chuckle, "Go on, I know you want to laugh. It's okay. Seems the powers that be do have a sense of humour, even if it is a bit warped."

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