Anthropologists argue over the significance of Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon remains and vast periods of pre-history remain to be filled satisfactorily. These hidden eras of the long-dead past are as open to speculation and mysterious adventure as the unguessed vistas of tomorrow. How many strange, undiscovered species of man have lived and died leaving no apparent record of their existence?
An avalanche on the Swiss-Italian border isolated Marian Sanderson and a frightening assortment of other guests in a peculiar old alpine chateau. Although no human rescue party was able to make the climb, something moved on the precipitous slopes around them.
As Marian gradually discovered the truth about her fellow guests she realised the avalanche had been no accident. Something of terrible potential lurked outside the isolated chateau...
Dark, supernatural forces were poised on the brink of Ultimate Fear...
Release date: December 17, 2015
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Print pages: 320
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Last Man on Earth
Softly by Moonlight
Somewhere Out There
The Macabre Ones
Writing as John E. Muller
A 1000 Years On
Beyond the Void
Mark of the Beast
Out of the Night
Spectre of Darkness
The Day the World Died
The Eye of Karnak
The Man From Beyond
The Man Who Conquered Time
The Mind Makers
The Negative Ones
The Return of Zeus
The Ultimate Man
The Venus Venture
Vengeance of Siva
Writing as Karl Zeigfried
Escape to Infinity
Gods of Darkness
No Way Back
The Girl from Tomorrow
The World That Never Was
Walk Through Tomorrow
World of the Future
World of Tomorrow
Zero Minus X
Writing as L. P. Kenton
Writing as Lee Barton
The Planet Seekers
The Shadow Man
Writing as Leo Brett
Face in the Night
From Realms Beyond
March of the Robots
The Alien Ones
The Faceless Planet
The Microscopic Ones
They Never Come Back
Writing as Lionel Roberts
Cyclops in the Sky
Dawn of the Mutants
The Face of X
The Last Valkyrie
The Synthetic Ones
Writing as Neil Thanet
Beyond the Veil
The Man Who Came Back
Writing as Pel Torro
Beyond the Barrier of Space (AKA Formula 29X)
Exiled in Space
Legion of the Lost
Man of Metal
Space No Barrier
The Face of Fear
The Last Astronaut
The Phantom Ones
The Strange Ones
The Timeless Ones
Through The Barrier
World of the Gods
Writing as R. L. Fanthorpe
Alien from the Stars
Hand of Doom
Out of the Darkness
The Golden Chalice
The Triple Man
The Waiting World
The Watching World
Writing as Thornton Bell
Writing as Trebor Thorpe
Five Faces of Fear
Writing as Victor La Salle
Menace from Mercury
MARION SANDERSON alighted from the taxi that had brought her from Chiavenna to the foot of the cable lift. The multi-thousand foot peak of Berina towered above her, a great snow-and-cloud-capped blue tooth biting at the azure succulence of heaven. She stood looking south across the Chiavenna valley towards the northern tip of Lake Como. In the distance she could just make out the valley of the Adda, running almost due west into the calm waters of the lake. The Italian border lay to the south and west, protruding like a finger into Switzerland. She breathed the clear, clean freshness of mountain air that she would have compared to champagne if she had not considered the metaphor overworked and inadequate. The air stimulated and refreshed. It seemed to Marion that you could taste the purity in it. Breathing up here wasn’t just a duty owed to the metabolism, it was a pleasure in its own right! Swift thoughts winged through her mind on snowflake wings. Eden, she thought, could have been like this!
A beautifully uniformed and immaculately dressed Swiss railway official, with a glorious moustache and bright Alpine eyes, smiled at her pleasantly. She showed passport and tickets.
“You have just come over from Italy, then, mademoiselle?”
“Welcome to our country, but I see it is not your first visit.”
“It’s the first time I’ve been to this part,” she said quietly.
“Ah, that one so young should be such an experienced traveller!”
His smile became wider, more gallant. He took her case and ushered her towards the cable car.
“There will be a delay of a few minutes, mademoiselle. We are waiting for a tourist party and their courier.”
She sat, strangely alone, in the cable car, which stood beside its platform like an impatient, slow-motion satellite waiting to be launched across the infinite chasm between the station and its destination on the other side of the great valley.
“You are not travelling with a party, then, mademoiselle?”
She felt suddenly smugly superior, recognised the feeling, and tried to combat it. What was it one of Jung’s interpreters had said about introspection? ‘The process of observation concurrent with behaviour itself, is open to charges of prejudice and inaccuracy.’ And probably right, too! thought Marion. Yet, at the same time, an inefficient introspection was preferable to a vegetable mind. As Plato had written: ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’
The tourists arrived, and the feeling of smug superiority came back. It took intellect and initiative to select one’s own route, buy one’s own tickets, find a chateau too expensive or too inaccessible for camera swingers with eyes like organ stops and shallow, sight-washed minds—bludgeoned into a complete insensitivity by taking in the wonders of half a continent in time normally allocated to taking in the washing.
Marion was pleased with her simile. She tried to imagine the fat woman in the ill-fitting fur coat (that had probably come from a mail order firm, or which might even have been scrounged from the lady for whom she ‘did’) bending over a tub, scrubbing enthusiastically and dreaming of holidays abroad. The man with her, a gnome in a cloth cap, and with a large, bulbous, English nose, was smoking a cigar and trying to pretend the action was not unfamiliar. The unæsthetic nicotine stains on his pretentious little grey moustache and the front wisp of hair protruding from under the cap seemed, with the sepia-tinted brows, to indicate a close and prolonged association with something cheap and more actively carcinogenic than cigars.
The voice of the good shepherd could be heard, ushering his thirty-five-pounds-all-in flock gently but firmly.
“This way, Mr. MacDonald; that’s right Mrs. Jones. I assure you it’s absolutely safe, Mr. Wright. Nothing to worry about at all, Miss Greene!”
The voice went on. I am the Good Shepherd and know my own sheep by name, thought Marion. The good shepherd giveth his sanity for the sheep!
“That’s right, Mrs. Molyneaux. Are we all here? Good!” And the uniformed reiserleiter climbed aboard with just the faintest suggestion of a wink at the Swiss railway official. Marion watched closely, there was no sign of a returning wink, and the Swiss went up a little in her estimation. The courier smiled and nodded at her. He seemed surprised that there should be anyone in the cable car other than those under his guidance. His expression of surprised and puzzled thoughtfulness increased as the cable car started off. The Swiss railway official saluted them out of sight.
“You will pardon me, mademoiselle, but are you going to the Chateau Blanc?”
There was a puzzled silence.
Marion found herself enjoying his bewilderment.
“Perhaps I am very inquisitive—you must forgive me, but it is not usual to find a charming young lady travelling unaccompanied. You are meeting friends, perhaps?”
“I am going to the Chateau Tenebreuse.”
“The Chateau Tenebreuse?” He frowned. “It is not widely patronised.” He looked as though he might have been on the verge of saying more. “Please do not think I am speaking professionally,” he went on at last, “but I am a little concerned, mademoiselle. The Chateau of which you speak does not have——” he hesitated, “how shall I say——”
“Does not have reduced rates for block bookings, do you mean?”
He recoiled as though she had struck him in the face.
“I did not mean that at all! You do not appear to think very highly of travel agents.” His face was troubled, something had got below the veneer of the proficient organisation-man.
It was as though a war, or an earthquake, had hit him below the belt, had jolted him out of a rut. Mixed metaphors and unsuitable similes danced through Marion’s mind, but all of them were inadequate to describe the change that had come over the courier. Had she been asked to sum it up at that moment, she would have said that somewhere, nearer to the surface than she would have originally anticipated, lay a conscience. Conscience was struggling with hurt pride. He wanted to say something, but her rebuff had made it almost impossible.
“I’m sorry, I was very rude,” she said, and blushed a little. “You wanted to tell me something important, and I made a cheap imputation about money.” She turned and looked through the glass. Already they seemed to be floating in a great abyss. The cable car was a miniature world, moving through a universe of infinite space.
“I was going to say that the Chateau Tenebreuse has a reputation which is not enviable. It is a tragic place. It has never been——” he shrugged his shoulders, looking for a word that did not exist as far as he was concerned.
“I think I understand, and thank you.” Marion had regained her composure; she was no longer blushing; the embarrassment had passed.
The woman in the ill-fitting fur coat produced a box of chocolates, creamy and calorific. Marion took one, thanked her, and realised why the fur coat didn’t fit as well as it might have done.
The cable car had crossed the first chasm, the staff of the Chateau Blanc, and a number of guests came out to welcome the tourists. Marion felt strangely lonely after they had gone.
The reiserleiter paused for an instant on his way out of the car.
“Do be careful, young lady. Be on your guard in Tenebreuse.”
“Thank you,” she said again.
There were surprised faces on the platform when she didn’t alight at Blanc. The smug superiority welled up inside her once more, driving out the warning voice of the courier. Perhaps it was only a kind of jealousy, she thought, after all. Marion was aware of ambivalent feelings as she looked at the receding Chateau Blanc and the waving holidaymakers on the platform. She waved back, feeling strangely regal as the cable car hauled her away across a wider gulf. There was security in the Chateau Blanc and her gregarious instincts told her that it offered protection. But there were other things in life beside security she argued with herself. There was mystery; there was adventure; there was this sense of being one over infinity. But what was one over infinity?
The full impact of the philosophical, mathematical concept came to her like a douche of cold water. One over infinity was equal to zero. One over infinity was nothing. Then she knew what it was that she looked for. Marion Sanderson was searching for herself. She was pursuing the oldest rainbow in the history of questology. She was searching for a true sense of belonging, for a real concept of identity and integration. She was trying to find subjective and objective assurance of her own being. The Alps and the cable car, the vast majesty of the great slopes and valleys were all part of the search. This was why the innermost core of her being could never have been satisfied with the warm, jovial security of the tourist party. Marion had to work alone. It was compulsory, obsessive. Perhaps she half suspected that the truest identification can only take place in company. Can we only find ourselves in relation to others? But even if she half suspected it she was not prepared to accept it while there was anywhere else to look.
She stood up in the centre of the empty cable car, a few inches of wood and steel, she thought, between my feet and a plunge to death, and the answer to all questions. The door, whispered a voice deep in her mind. The door, Marion, you have only to open the door and jump! Jump, jump into infinity and find yourself, then you will know, said the voice. Out there you will know as you fall, as you fly, as you dive, you will know.
She took half a step towards the door, a primitive urge laid her fingers on the sturdy, powerfully sprung handle, and then, at a touch of the cold metal—a reminder of the coldness of death—she took a pace back and sat in the gently swaying, climbing car, breathing deeply and looking out at the superb scenery.
Somewhere above her lay the Chateau Tenebreuse with its strange, shadowy reputation, and curiosity overcame everything else.
MARION opened her bag, took out her compact and looked in the mirror. Ostensibly, rationalisingly, she tried to tell herself she was only checking her make-up before arriving. But a voice of more transparent honesty, the penetrating, probing voice of the real Marion—the real Marion that looked for proof, and for identity—knew that make-up was an excuse, a well-reasoned excuse, but an apology nevertheless. Marion was trying to find identity in the mirror, in the same way that she had tried to find identity in the Alpine scenery beyond. She saw a pair of intelligent grey eyes trying to look not at the mirror but through it. She saw a small, pert nose, slightly retroussé, but, even judging objectively, attractively so. She saw a face that was young, eager for life, pretty—she hoped—with a trace of what an old-fashioned novelist would have called vanity, and what a newer writer might have called self-confidence. There was already a trace of sophistication. The face in the mirror said, ‘I know my way around.’ And yet, over it all, was an aura of ‘the little girl lost.’
She put the compact away and looked down the great valley between the peaks. Like a slow, mechanical spider crawling along its length of gossamer, the cable car moved on. They were nearing the other peak. Marion thought of the cable car as a sort of companion, a square, solid reliable friend; its glass, transparent honesty; its cable, trust, its progress, the slow growth of friendship, the development of a dual relationship. There was something sturdy and reliable about the cable car; but where was the Chateau Tenebreuse?
Perhaps, she said to herself, it. . .
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