Prologue: The World o’Tales

The wheelchair came to a halt in the middle of the room with a resounding squeak. It was the antiquated model he’d brought with him from the Reaches. All was quiet except for the incessant buzz of angry flies above the rotting remains of food upturned on the floor and the sound of his laboured breathing. Still at last, Tom looked up from the task of negotiating a path through the clothes scattered across the floor and the haphazard piles of books and papers. Before him across their oak table, smashed now in two parts, were the remains of Jenny’s fresco. He remembered the brightly coloured painting well: a magnificent picture of a wild and rich jungle full of promise. Now it was gouged with savage cuts crisscrossing its surface in large jagged gashes through which white plaster appeared like bared bones.

Tom rubbed his back that hurt after his long journey home. Home? Were these ruins of what had once been their apartment really his home? He had lost everything: he could no longer walk, Jenny the love of his life had left him and the place they’d built together was in ruins, not to mention he had no work and no source of income. So much for their dreams of a better world! His vision blurred as tears welled up in his eyes. The numbing filth and disorder of the place added to a profound ache of loss and despair threatened to overwhelm him. If he gave in to the feeling, he might never come back. With a great effort, he wheeled his chair round, turning his back on the ruins and headed for the door. A wise decision, a resounding voice rang out in his head startling him to a halt.

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