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PART OF THE Illumination ISSUE

‘We carried the man out through the back garden […] into the waste of nature beyond’

Alan Warner has called Fallow his ‘book of the year’. A tense relationship between two brothers bound by a terrible crime lies at the heart of this debut thriller. The brothers hit the road but will their nomadic lifestyle lead to enlightenment and escape or will their violent past catch up with them?

Extract from Fallow
By Daniel Shand
Published by Sandstone Press

I waited in the trees for Mikey to get the job done. He was a fast worker. I counted as I watched the two heads’ shadows move between the lower windows of the house and I didn’t get far. I watched the heads move apart and then towards each other. It was hard to tell which was which but once they fell to the ground and only one returned a minute or so later I knew it must be Mikey.

He flashed the lights three times when it was all over and I crept across the road and around the back. I knocked on the door and Mikey answered.

‘Well?’ I asked.

He wouldn’t meet my eye. ‘Like you said.’

‘It’s self-preservation, Mikey. You’ll thank me one day.’

I needn’t have worried about the dog. It was locked up in a run outside. Mikey followed me into the garden to check it out. When the beast saw us approach it lowered itself onto the breezeblocks and cringed. The floor of the run was dotted in dried turds.

‘We’ll need to get this seen to as well,’ I said.

Mikey put his fingers through the wire and the dog ran its heavy pink tongue all over them. ‘Hello,’ he said.

‘No one else inside?’

He shook his head.

We left the dog where it was and went into the house to assess the damage. My brother had done a grand job. You went in through the kitchen, came to a hall with a living room joined onto it. A Ramsay ladder led to the upper floor, which I assumed was a bedroom. The man was on the floor of the living room. He’d been watching a porno film, the dirty old bastard. I couldn’t help but laugh. The girls were still moaning and slavering, and here he was. Lying on the floor.

We carried the man out through the back garden and over the fence into the waste of nature beyond. The land was wilder there than up in the meadow. You could sense the mountains in the distance but it was so dark you couldn’t make them out.

I got Mikey to run back to the house to fetch a shovel, leaving me alone with the man. I propped him up against a hump of earth.

‘You thought you could get the better of me?’ I said. ‘You won’t be making that mistake again, will you?’

I was chuckling and moving around him. I felt as though I took up the whole of the night. My mouth was the entire black sky.

I knelt down so we were face to face. ‘This is what happens. Are you pleased with yourself? Are you? You just couldn’t just let a couple of lads camp in peace, could you, you posh fuck?’ I might have shouted that last part because when I was finished my throat was scratched.

Mikey came back with a pair of spades little bigger than trowels. Even in the dark I could tell his eyes were pink. He handed me a trowel.

‘What do you call this?’

‘It’s all he had.’

‘You’re joking? These country folk, they’ve got all the fucken tools going.’

‘They’re all I could see.’

It took us quite some time to create a suitable hole. The earth was soft enough, it was just a matter of volume. We got him settled in the end but we were filthy when we made it back to the house. I sat in the kitchen and rolled myself a fag while Mikey heaved the sack of dog food out into the back garden. It was a nice place. The kitchen was done out all old fashioned, with one of them big ovens that’s always switched on. I lit my fag and had a nose in the fridge. He was well stocked. Plenty meat, plenty beers.

I went through to have a look in the living room, tipping my ash on the carpet as I went. The porno film was drawing to a conclusion and I pulled the telly out at the plug, all that nonsense being of no interest to me. I heard Mikey close the back door and he came into the living room to join me. We took an armchair each. There was a tumbler of whisky on the carpet by my armchair that I dropped my singed filter into.

I looked around and said, ‘How about this?’

Mikey was playing with his bottom lip. He nodded when I spoke.

‘Aw,’ I laughed. ‘Come on now! You can’t be serious.’

He shrugged, staring into the cream carpet.

‘This I cannot believe. Mikey Buchanan, suddenly developing a conscience.’

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

He said it in such a way that it made my blood kick in. ‘You know fine well what that’s supposed to mean.’

That shut him up right enough.

‘Listen,’ I went on. ‘All right, agreed. Maybe, perhaps, this is some good fortune we’ve come into through less than ideal circumstances. I’ll give you that, Michael. But come on mate. We’d be mad to pass it up. That’d be looking a gift horse right square in its gifty gob.’

‘I suppose.’

‘He supposes does he? Well very good. This is an opportunity. This is an opportunity to keep our heads down in relative comfort. Keep our heads down until it’s all over back home. Until those hacks fuck off back to Glasgow or wherever.’

‘I suppose.’

‘I don’t think I need to remind you of the reason why those fucken hacks are there in the first place, do I? I don’t need to remind you whose fault it is we’re even out here?’

Mikey gave me a look then. A look like he was going to say something to me. And I was ready. I had pure energy in my wrists, in my neck. I was waiting for him to say his piece. I wanted him to say his piece more than anything else.

But he didn’t. He nodded and agreed with me, which was for the best.


Fallow by Daniel Shand is published by Sandstone Press on 17 November (PB, £8.99)

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