Tome is available now on Kindle - Buy it Now
Tome is the first of two books in the Resolver series - a fascinating near-future mystery of adventure and intrigue.
Marvel at the concept of invisible creatures residing in doorways, gifts of superhuman power and books that write themselves. How is this possible? What is behind it all? And more importantly... Why?
Nestled in the boundaries of what could have been any town, a busy main road rushed past a shopping centre, and just opposite that was a tiny park, big enough to be home to a pair of wooden benches, a children’s swing set and a little copse of beech trees. It was there that a heavily pregnant Amanda Yorke and her husband Ryan sat in the light flaking snow. Ryan was quite prepared for the weather, but Amanda went overboard with her efforts and looked like a pair of eyes lost in a woollen maze of jumpers, overcoats and her trusty hat and scarf. The flakes were collecting on her shoulders as she laughed at the sight of her husband’s snowman crafting abilities. He couldn’t find the traditional carrot nose and pipe ensemble, so it ended up with an old cucumber for a nose and a banana smile.
Before Ryan could gather a pair of stones to make Mr. Ice's eyes, Amanda cried out in excitement. It was time. With some semblance of panic, they found themselves on the way to the hospital.
Two full days later, Alistair Yorke was born.
As a newborn baby, Alistair was fascinated by his surroundings, continuously looking around as if living a fantastic dream. His parents thought this entirely normal. Everything was new to a baby, and all babies had eyes agape and filled with wonder. Ryan and Amanda were happy that their boy was a healthy and trouble-free addition to the household, but were blessed in that he was quiet and content. They felt as if he had a constant guardian watching him at all times.
Time went by like a rocket to the moon and before they knew it, Alistair was moving about and beginning to form the beginnings of words for himself. He’d crawl around the living room floor, chasing his toys from one end to the other, but Amanda noticed quite quickly that he never crawled into the kitchen. He never went through the other door either, into the hall. Even if his favourite toy cars or ball would get too far out of reach, he’d leave them as if they were not there. He’d cry for them or forget them, depending on his mood, and almost always retreated to the opposite side of the room. Naturally, Ryan and Amanda began to worry about this behaviour.
It continued to be that way as he learned to walk. He’d grip the coffee table, chair or wall confidently, take giant leaps forward, balance nicely and even sit without a great crash, but if faced with the prospect of leaving any room by himself, he couldn’t do it. He avoided the doorways as if they pushed him away somehow.
Amanda would sit in the hall, watching him play in the kitchen. She’d make sure to be completely visible to him, would call his name to get his attention. Alistair would smile immediately and look around. His gaze would turn straight to the direction of her voice, but he’d struggle to see her, would even look in other directions, even if she waved at him and called again.
This terrified her. Perhaps Alistair was partially blind. Maybe he had impaired vision or long-sightedness. But there was definitely something amiss. A trip to the doctor proved that Alistair had near-perfect 20-20 vision. A second opinion, from a different doctor, reinforced that diagnosis. His eyes were completely fine. This worried Amanda more. Ryan took some relief in the fact that his son was given the all clear. But Amanda knew that something was wrong with him.
They sat down over coffee the night after the second doctor’s appraisal and talked it over.
“I’m sure the doctor knows exactly what he’s doing. Both of them did. Alistair got a clean bill of health. His eyes are fine.” Ryan stirred his sugar into his cup and took his wife's hand in his.
“I know that. I know. But you’ve seen it. He’s fine when he’s close, but he can’t see us when we’re a bit further away.”
“But the doctor confirmed for us…” Ryan tried.
“I know!” Amanda shouted. Her impatience was choking her. “I know what the doctor said, but he’s my child, I know him. There’s something wrong with him, Ryan.”
Ryan calmly took a sip from his mug and smiled. “Then we’ll go to another doctor and another and another, if we have to. If you’re sure. We’ll figure it out.”
A few days later, before a trip out of town to go to a third doctor, they paid a visit to the small park by their house. Alistair was wrapped up much like his mother had been the day she’d gone into labour, but there was no snow, only a chilly wind. He received a gentle push on a swing and got a little light-headed. Enough excitement for one day, Amanda thought. She held him by the hand as he walked confidently by her side. He was getting better at keeping his balance for longer. His legs were getting stronger, day after day. He was developing just fine. The only concern was his eyes.
“Og!” he shouted suddenly.
“What’s that, mister?” Ryan asked.
“Dog!” he shouted, laughing. He pointed across the road to an elderly couple walking their beautiful brown Labrador. “Og!”
“Dog!” Amanda laughed and followed her son’s gaze. “That’s a big dog, isn’t it?”
“Big dog!” Alistair said and gathered up some pace. Ryan grabbed him under his arms and picked him up onto his shoulders. Alistair giggled and swayed a little with the new found height. The Yorkes crossed the road and rendezvoused with the couple and their canine companion. When Alistair was put back onto the ground, he looked up into the dog’s friendly face and laughed. “Ello, dog!” he shouted.
The Labrador, whose name turned out to be Benjamin, was so big that Alistair would have easily walked under him and only have to bend his head down slightly. He patted the furry fellow gently along his back who, in turn, licked his face appreciatively. It wasn’t long before Alistair was trying to climb onto Benjamin’s back, and the couple were beginning their goodbyes and see-you-laters.
“Come on, Alistair, it’s time to go,” Amanda said and took him in her arms. They walked back to the park and headed in the direction of home. They would be on the road in the next few minutes.
“Amanda,” Ryan said, stopping mid-step.
“What is it? You didn’t forget your keys did you?” she scorned.
“No. No,” he answered, and picked Alistair from his mother. “Hey, Alistair. Where’s the big doggie now? Where is the dog?” he asked.
Alistair looked around and pointed at the great hound and his owners as they turned a corner and disappeared out of view.
“He can see, Amanda. He can see just fine.”
“He saw that dog again!” she laughed. “How?”
“Alistair, do you see a big green tree?” Ryan asked.
“Tree!” the boy called out and pointed at the tallest tree nearby, much further away than the dog had been.
“Alistair!” his mother cried and took him back, hugging him tightly. “Alistair! You can see the big tree!”
The boy looked at her with a confused face. Of course I can, it said.
Naturally, the doctor’s appointment was cancelled. It was settled. Alistair could see. But a few hours later, it became apparent to both Ryan and Amanda that nothing had changed. Alistair still avoided the doors and would only go from one to the other if carried. If called, he still couldn’t see his mother or father in the other room, and looked as confused as ever when he heard either voice.
This worried them more.
“Big, big Dog!” he called out, pointing down the hall.
“No, sweetie, there’s no dog there now,” Amanda responded.
“Big, big, big dog!” he repeated, still pointing.
Ryan came down the stairs and walked along the hall towards them. As he came through the doorway and into the living room, Alistair twitched as if shaken by surprise and lost his balance. When he regained himself, he looked up at his father and then back down the empty hall. He pointed again and called out, “Dog!”
“Dog?” Ryan asked. “There isn’t any dog there, mister…” Ryan said sadly.
“He thinks there is one,” Amanda insisted.
“No, I’m sure he’s just still excited about meeting that Labrador today. “Maybe we should get a dog, I’d say he’d like that.”
Amanda didn’t answer, but merely kept watching the confused look on her son’s little face as he kept his finger held up, pointing down the hall. “Dog!” he tried one more time.
When another year or more passed and articulation started to assert itself, Alistair was talking as if he was racing his voice against the world. He no longer said anything about dogs down the hall, but there was something puzzling him, which he spoke up about one day.
“Do the men get hungry?” he asked Amanda.
“What men, Alistair?”
“The men in the house. The ones at the doors.”
“What men at the doors, sweetheart?”
“They don’t eat any breakfast or lunch. Do they eat when I’m asleep, Mommy?” he asked. “Everyone has to eat sometime.”
“There are no men in the house, Alistair.”
“Then why are they there?”
Amanda and Ryan found this a most unsettling thought. The long running mystery of the dogs that their boy would see in the house was now changed into the sight of men. Ryan struggled to think of which was worse, imaginary dogs prowling his hall or imaginary men watching his son.
Alistair still refused to walk through the doors of the house. He needed his mother or father to go with him from one room to the next. They had to take him to the bathroom every time, bring him to the garden or from the TV to the fridge. It seemed to be easier for them to give in to his strange fear of walking from room to room than to force him to do it by himself.
Any attempt they made to entice him to go through the doorways unattended met with disaster. The first time they felt the need to try, they bought him a present. He’d always wanted a Frisbee to throw in the park, and so Ryan bought him one, but kept it in the kitchen, on the table, far from the living room. When they told him that there was a Frisbee in there for him, he asked for it, begged and cried, but when they said that he would have to get it himself, he constantly shouted that he was afraid that the men would take him away if he went in alone. After a week of begging for the toy and continuous refusal to go into the room by himself, Ryan gave it to him because he felt that it was cruel otherwise.
The next attempt was worse. They had decided that they would stop taking him to the bathroom. He was big enough now to do that by himself, they’d said. He still insisted that the men in the house would take him away. Amanda and Ryan cursed themselves and thought long and hard as to how Alistair could have gotten that idea into his head. They certainly never put it there. He went hours without using the toilet and begged them once again, crying for them to take him to the bathroom so that he could go. They insisted that he was big enough now to do it by himself. And so he held on longer. He held on as long as he could, but he couldn’t do it forever.
Amanda and Ryan agreed that it was perhaps a little early for him and that he would be fine eventually.
They kept him from school until he was five years old. He finally started going through doorways, but jumped through them as if they were rings of fire. He did so every time, like as if passing through could be his last moment on earth. Sometimes he waited for over a minute at a time and leapt through as if it was the bravest thing in the world. He still talked about the men that stood in the doors, but their name had changed and they were now known as the monsters.
As a young teenager of thirteen, Alistair appeared normal. He walked about the house as if he never had an issue with the doors before. He’d gradually adapted to his fear and lived through it. School forced him to act normally. After a few years of bullying with uninspired names like Doorboy labelled to him, he began to shrug aside what he saw and learned that if everybody else could do it, so could he. If others could walk through a doorway and not feel as if they could be snatched away in an instant, then so could he.
Alistair slept with his door open, an unusual trait for a boy his age. Privacy was something he didn’t understand exactly. He always felt watched. For many years he’d stopped worrying his mother about the monsters around the house. He’d stopped telling her that they were everywhere he was. One day, with his father out of town with work training, he decided to have a talk with her.
“Mom,” he began, as he walked to the living room where she was watching the news.
“What is it, Alistair?” she asked.
“Can I talk to you?” he asked sheepishly and sat next to her on the sofa. He shuffled nervously and faced her.
Amanda flicked off the television and gave him her full attention. “Absolutely,” she smiled.
“Do you remember… When I was very small?” he started.
“Of course I do. You were adorable…”
“Mom,” he interrupted. “Do you remember the way I was always scared, always afraid of men in the house, watching us?”
Amanda’s head sunk a little, but she kept eye contact with him. “You grew out of it though, didn’t you? It was all in your head, son.” She smiled sadly.
“Well. I stopped being afraid of them. You know?”
“I think so, son. Yeah. You realised that they weren’t able to hurt you…”
“…because they weren’t really there.” She put her hand on his.
“No, that’s not what I meant.”
“No. Not exactly. I mean,” he struggled to bring the words to his lips. “Promise me that you’ll listen to what I have to say. You won’t stop me, or shush me or tell me that I’m silly.”
“I don’t think you’re silly, Alistair.”
“I know, Mom. I know. But it won’t sound normal. It’ll sound a bit strange.”
“What’s on your mind? Are you having any trouble in school or something?”
“No, it’s not that. Do you promise to listen to what I have to say?” he asked nervously.
“Okay, I promise.”
“Okay.” He sat there, trying to find the right words. “The men, the monsters… Whatever they are. I stopped telling you about them because you didn’t believe me. I know it sounds crazy, impossible even, but I still see them. They’re everywhere. They only seem to stand in the doorways between rooms. But they’re in every doorway I've ever seen.”
Amanda didn’t respond.
“I know that sounds a bit mad, Mother, but it’s true. I stopped telling you because I didn’t want you to worry. I knew you couldn’t understand and that it was impossible to believe me. But it’s true. I can’t see past the doorways in this room right now because they block my view. One of them is in every doorway.”
“Okay…” Amanda responded quizzically.
“Do you understand?” he asked.
“No. Not really. I mean, I know what you’re saying, but son, I just don’t see how that’s possible. Why wouldn’t I see them?”
“I don’t know.”
“How could I walk through the door if there’s always someone standing there, blocking the way?”
“No, it’s not like that. You walk through them as you walk through the door.”
“Yeah, like as if they were ghosts.”
Amanda shivered uneasily. “Ghosts? You mean, you can see some ghosts in our house?”
“That’s not what I mean. You walk through them as if they’re ghosts. I can walk through them as well, but when I do, I can’t see anything while I’m passing through. That’s why I was always so scared as a child. That’s why I needed you to take me through the doors. I couldn’t see, because my eyes were inside… them, I can’t see through… them.”
“You promised you’d listen!” he nearly shouted and calmed himself quickly.
“Alright then, tell me more. Do they look like ghosts?”
“No. They don’t look like people, really.”
Alistair looked towards the hallway and then at the kitchen door. One of the invisible monsters stood in each. Both were looking straight at him. He looked at them as he always did, with morbid fascination tinged with a very natural fear. They were tall; as tall as the average doorway. They fit tightly under the doorframe with the tops of their heads almost touching the frame and were as wide so as to fill the doorway completely from side to side. They had long necks and large heads. They did not appear human. Their yellowish brown complexion was mixed with an off grey, creating a sort of pallid tone. Their arms were longer than a human’s and dangled still by their sides. Each hand had six fingers and each foot had six toes. They all wore the same clothes, as if it was a uniform. It was jet black and covered their entire torso and a little of their limbs. In the middle was a grey belt-like strap that wrapped around their waists and on the front of this was a symbol; a strange two-pronged fork with a warped handle that curved the wrong way halfway along. Their heads were bigger than those of a human, wider and slightly taller. They had completely black eyes without any form of pupil or iris, which reflected nothing and swallowed light entirely. They had only two tiny slits in their face for a nose and a mouth that never opened, so it was impossible to tell its size.
From what he could tell over the years he’d been surrounded by them, he gathered that they were unable to feel the passing through of people. They certainly never responded to anything. He tried throwing things at them, kicking at them, shining bright lights directly into their eyes and even pouring water onto them. The water just fell through them, so he took the opposite approach and tried to light them on fire. Nothing seemed to faze them.
When he described all of this to his mother, she sat and listened silently, waiting for him to finish.
“They stand in the doorways of all the buildings in the street, all the school rooms, all the gates to the gardens, all the entrances to parks and shopping centres. Every door has its own… monster.”
He sat quietly, waiting for a response. “I’m finished now,” he said.
His mother smiled at him awkwardly. “Son, I don’t know what to say. What can I say?”
“Probably that I’ve been watching too much television or reading too many books. But I’m serious, Mom. You know me. I won’t lie to you. I’ve been seeing… them… since I was born. They are there. They really are.”
“I believe you, son. Or rather, I want to. I believe that you see them. I really do. But I can’t see them myself.”
“Seeing is believing, I guess.”
“I suppose it is, Alistair.”
“I wish I could show you. I wish I could prove it to you.”
“If there’s any way you can, I promise you I’ll go through with it. But son, my mind knows that I’m right, just as much as yours knows that you are too. If there’s any way you can think to convince me, prove to me that there really is a monster, or a man, or an alien, or a ghost, or whatever… Convince me.”
“I can’t think of a way.”
“If you do.”
“I’ll let you know.” Alistair stood up and went to walk away. “Thanks for listening to me, Mom. I appreciate it.”
“Any time, son.”
“And Mom,” he added. “I understand if you think I should see a doctor. I know that it’s just as possible that there could be something wrong with me.”
Amanda smiled and wiped away a tear. “You’re such a bright kid, Alistair. Don’t worry. If this isn’t a problem for you, if you can go on normally, live your life, then there’s no need to go through that too.”
“You think so?
“Yeah. You haven’t been afraid of them for a long time, have you?”
“No. I’m used to them now.”
“Then maybe leave it like that for now. Ignore them if you can. If you still see them in a while and they start to scare you, then we’ll go to see a doctor about it. Deal?”
The next night, Amanda told Ryan all about the seemingly spur-of-the-moment chat she’d had with Alistair about the invisible men in their house. Ryan was surprised to hear that Alistair still insisted that they were real, and suggested that they bring him to seek medical help. He subsequently listened to his wife that she promised to give Alistair a chance to deal with his situation by himself, and after some strong arguing, agreed by her terms to let him work it out.
Amanda and Ryan didn’t hear another word about it.
They assumed that it was just Alistair’s active mind wandering.
At the age of twenty-two, Alistair Yorke was reading an old novel in bed and glanced over at the creature that occupied his doorway. He no longer thought of them as monsters, men, aliens or ghosts. They were creatures. That seemed to be the most accurate description. His parents never could believe him, understand him or figure it all out. He didn’t blame them. After his attempt some years before to reach out to his mother had ended in little more than acceptance, he decided to learn as much about them as possible. Despite being watched by one at all times, he still knew next to nothing about them. He thought about his daily routine of waking up, walking through the creature in his bedroom doorway, through the creature in the bathroom doorway, into the shower and out, through the two creatures again to dress and then through countless more, one for every doorway along his travels. Nobody else in the world would have thought about life like that. Nobody.
He was so used to the sight of the creatures, particularly the one facing into his room, that the biggest shock of his life occurred when he put down his book and looked up to see that the familiar warped face of his creature roommate was gone. He shot up in bed as if he’d gotten an electric shock, hit his head against a shelf of books and knocked them down, one after the other. He stared out into the hallway. He could see the top of the stairs from his bed. He’d never been able to do that before. The creature was gone.
He got up and walked to the door, closed it and reopened it. The creature didn’t magically appear. The other usual creatures, such as Bertie and Reginald, as he nicknamed them, were still in their rightful places, by the bathroom and by his parents’ bedroom. He had named them secretly as a child and had never really thought about it until that moment, and found himself laugh aloud. He approached the stairs and looked back. His room’s creature, whom he’d called Adam, was still gone. After a quick check around the house, he saw that all of the regular faces, as identical as they all were to one another, were present and accounted for.
With nothing more to do than get his much needed sleep, Alistair decided to return to his room and get to bed. On his way up the stairs, he could see that Adam had returned. It was as if he’d never left.
“Where were you then?” he asked the creature. It had its back to him, as it always looked into his room. He passed through it and closed the door. It passed through the creature, who mostly fit into his room.
They can move, Alistair finally realised. He could feel his heart beating faster inside his chest. He turned off the light, but kept the curtains slightly open. The dim fade of the streetlights coaxed in and gave the room a somewhat yellowed sheen from wall to wall. Adam, his gargantuan monster, and unwanted houseguest, remained as still as he had for all of Alistair’s life. Well, almost all of his life anyway.
Alistair kept his eyes open all night, unable to sleep. Adam didn’t stir, just as always. For the first time in his entire life, Alistair felt very much alone.
A year after that, Alistair was walking through the neighbourhood with a backpack of groceries, ignoring the people that passed him by. The only two that grasped his attention where two guys a few years younger than him, who looked as if they’d seen a ghost. They had a stunned exhilaration, full of life, like adrenaline had gotten them through an experience not meant for their eyes to see. From what he could tell, they were talking about some book. He was wondering what new release he hadn’t read that could possibly have two teenage boys excited about reading. He made a note to visit the bookstore in the shopping centre the next day and check it out.
He was looking at the different creatures that stood sentry to every garden gateway along his route home. He was walking down Hinton Road and got to number 77, where he stopped and dropped his backpack. The creature that stood there, in line with all the others, was facing the wrong way. It was looking right out the front door. But, they never looked out…
Tome was written in the Summer and Autumn of 2014 as a book for adults of all ages. Inspired by the concept of superheroes and built on a foundation of mystery and supernatural intrigue, Tome was a novel that Brian Lelas had been itching to write for many years.
The book was originally born as a short story, written in 2003 called "Doorway," which featured in the collection "Dead Cartography" in 2010. As time went by, that story never left the forefront of Brian's creative thoughts.
Upon release on Kindle, Tome marks Brian's first digital-only publication. Resolver, the sequel, will be available at the end of 2017.