Private investigator Hal Jones dreams he visits a world called Luxus where he has a magical eye in his forehead, finds a crashed spacecraft, and meets a long-dead Native American called Eagle Feather who tells him he has no courage or dignity. When Hal wakes, the last bit is still true – he is an alcoholic who lost his parents as a child, and his wife and daughter as a man. Whereas Eagle Feather is able to subtly influence events using dreams, Hal learns that he is the Dreamwalker, able to travel between different realities using a cosmic pathway known as the Dream-Tree. There’s one more problem, Hal is going blind. Set against the backdrop of the Uranium Industry, the novel combines Native American beliefs about dreams and hard-nosed science, to challenge our ideas about the universe.
Ruthless corporate Tilaxi Mining Inc. has discovered the means to exploit the Dream-Tree, opening the way to Luxus. In doing so they have attracted the attention of Idril, the last of an alien race devoted to protecting the magical tree from such abuse, even if it means destroying Earth itself. As Hal uncovers the truth, he experiences strange visions containing clues to a global conspiracy involving the servants of Idril. Whilst Hal’s powers grow stronger and Idril pursues his revenge, the boundaries between what is real and dreamed begin to fade.
The Power of Four
The novel is structured by the four visions of Hal as he learns who he really is, and is given clues to help him find the servants of Idril. The centre of the dream-map is the Danube Tower in Vienna, which is also where Earth is attached to the mystical Dream-Tree by an invisible stem that Eagle Feather calls a worldwalk. Idril intends to destroy the tower and all of the surrounding city, after which time will cease on Earth.
House of the Eagle concerns the awakening of Hal Jones as the Dreamwalker, whilst a plane carrying the CEO of Tilaxi is blown from the sky. Other threats continue, and a helicopter carrying scientists to a uranium plant in Norway is also brought down. Hal is taught about the Dream-Tree and experiences life in other forms as he uses his powers. A team is put together to combat what is thought to be eco-terrorism and Hal meets Angela Healy. There are frictions and a lack of trust, and Hal is viewed with suspicion.
House of the Puma is set in the uranium mine in Norway. Hal discovers that the plant is also a cover for one of Tilaxi’s devices, exploiting Alien technology to invade Luxus. There is an explosion in the secure unit storing uranium and plutonium samples and on investigation, all the material has been taken along with the scientists.
House of the Dolphin focuses on Guam, where further assassinations take place, but there are also unexplained events on a military base, including the loss of a Raptor jet fighter and other weapons. Hal begins to uncover the identity of his enemy, but needs more information than Eagle Feather is able to give him.
House of Maize shifts to Hong Kong, where the board of a biotech company owned by Tilaxi are killed during a video conference. The company is another centre where Alien technology is being developed. Hal is fed further clues and heads to Phoenix, where he will meet Professor Angela Healy. She will use big data analytics to finally identify the killers who are serving Idril.
The Dream-Tree is the conclusion of the novel. Months have passed by and Hal is completely blind. He has had no more visions and the investigation has been closed. He is living with Angela, but following a shocking vision insists that they travel to Vienna. He is convinced that the worldwalk is about to be destroyed, but Angela is taken by the Blackwaters and Hal must use his powers to find his way to the top of the tower, merging both worlds in order to do so. He manages to reach the top, but Paul and Rosa Blackwater are waiting and the device is on count-down. And he must still face Idril, who is prepared to die to save the Dream-tree.
Annie Messenger felt as if her soul was being tugged by a small, insistent hand, and at that moment knew that Marcie was alive. She was standing amidst the noise and bustle of Los Angeles airport, on her way to a meeting with the Tribal Council to oppose Tilaxi Mining’s application, but she was no longer thinking about uranium extraction. Her daughter’s abduction still felt like yesterday and every day for the last two years, a little part of her had seemed to die. Everyone persuading her to let go, everyone experts in grieving, but they got it wrong. Marcie was alive.
The previous night, Annie had been awakened by her daughter’s voice and it was not for the first time. Sometimes she would imagine a brilliant light shining around the door to Marcie’s room, jetting through the keyhole and the cracks between the wooden panels like some UFO movie. But Marcie’s bedroom remained empty, the small cold bed with its bare mattress unoccupied. Annie had lain awake through the long, slow hours until daybreak, going over the events endlessly and thinking of her many failings as a mother. Her other children, Lornie and little Col spoke about Marcie as if she was still there, and Annie had listened to Col deep in conversation with Marcie when he was supposed to be asleep. Annie herself could only hear a crushing and miserable silence. Standing in the airport waiting for her driver, her daughter seemed so very close and she felt so alone. Her eyes grew hot with tears.
“Where are you, Marcie? Tell me where you are. Tell me you’re okay.”
The private investigator believed her, but even he had been forced to give up eventually and she hadn’t seen him since. Hal Jones had been his name, a tall, dark-skinned man with strangely piercing amber eyes and swirling burn-scars down one cheek. He had been kind without sentimentality and she read had his report to the point where it had become a mantra of torment. Annie checked her watch. The blasted driver was late and she felt like screaming. She caught sight of a child in the crowd and experienced the familiar surges of hope and fear. The girl was taller than Marcie had been but she had the same mop of curls and her blue eyes were laughing the way Marcie’s used to. Annie’s mouth formed the name but could not speak. The girl was looking straight at her and the next moment a star of light seemed to explode from her face like sunlight from a mirror. Annie flinched and turned her head away and when she looked back, the girl had gone. How could it have been Marcie? It was too absurd. Just some kid playing with a laser torch, a brain tumour or something. She waited a while longer and finally spotted the driver.
He was tall, skinny and hairless. The goblin face tapered to a sharp chin, the nose a hooked blade. The hooded eyes were disturbingly vacant, as if painted on. He was holding up a large piece of cardboard with her name misspelled in green felt-tip and looked about as comforting as a window dummy, the thin-lipped mouth smiling too broadly. The sight of him made her want to go home more than ever and the image of the girl in the crowd would not leave her be, but she forced her way towards him using her confident smile. He took the luggage trolley from her with boney hands and pushed it towards the short-term cark park, creepy smile frozen in place and she realised it wasn’t aimed at her. She felt a stab of rage at his disinterest.
The driver vanished into the crowd. “Hey, wait a minute,” she shouted, running after him, “Wait a goddamn minute, will you?”
The driver stopped and it seemed as if Annie and this smiling man were the only inhabitants of the airport. Momentarily, she thought she could smell the fresh tang of pine forests, and the uncaring eyes she had thought pale blue were coal-black, locked onto her with unsettling candour. At that moment, she was certain the driver knew and her heart raced. He bared his too-perfect teeth in an approximation of a smile.
“Come now, you must be tired.”
The sounds of the airport crashed back and she breathed out, angry at herself for being so foolish. “Okay, fine, fine. Let’s get it over with, shall we?” Marcie. Take me to Marcie.
He paused, and she had the uncomfortable feeling he’d actually heard her thoughts. “My daughter,” she said, wondering why she’d tell him. “My daughter was – taken.” She watched for a sign.
He twitched an eyebrow but he didn’t seem surprised or sympathetic. “That’s a pretty name. I’m sure you miss her.”
She nodded, doubting she had mentioned the name. “Of course I do. I miss her every moment. Do you have children?”
He stared at her again as if he did not understand, and she had the sensation that things were out of kilter. “You will see her again.”
That was too personal and a little weird. She swallowed. “Let’s go.”
“Sure.” He shrugged and pushed the trolley. She followed him, each step harder to take. The trolley rattled and squeaked but the man remained silent. Annie was angry at herself, angry at him and yes, she was angry at little Marcie too. People didn’t disappear, not like that. Her daughter had run away through some crazy, stupid childish notion of adventure. She’d got into the street out front and someone pulled over, opened a car door. Maybe Mr Thin or some other monster offering sweets and a trip to hell. Annie closed her eyes and breathed deep whilst the pull of her children and her home slowly eased.
Once outside the terminal, light struck at her from the white concrete. She donned her sunglasses with shaking hands, aware she was sweating, desperate for a shower and sleep. The driver cast a giant shadow and moved like clockwork and each step was the same as the last His head scanned slowly from side to side, revealing a wrinkled neck reddened with sunburn. At last, he stopped by the entrance to one of the car parks.
“I’ll get the automobile. You wait here.”
Annie waited, fanning herself with an advert for cut-price parking someone left in her luggage trolley. A trickle of sweat made its way down her side, but she also felt a growing surge of excitement – the driver knew something. A short while later, a black jeep with tinted windows slowed and stopped beside her. The driver sprang out, surprisingly fast and agile for his height. He opened the hatch, flipping her suitcase into the trunk with little effort and the white shirt strained over his bony back was speckled with sweat. He held open the passenger door for her and Annie climbed in gratefully. The leather seats were blissfully cool, the air chill and she thought she smelled something acrid, like creosote.
She took off her sunglasses, checking her appearance in the vanity mirror. Mid-thirties, blond hair woven into a French plait, understanding grey eyes and a sensitive mouth. It was a face born with a hurt look, perfect weaponry for one of the country’s top environmental lawyers. Annie frowned as she noticed one of her earrings was missing, a silver fish inset with diamonds given by her ex, but she refused to be upset by the loss. The guy was a total shit. She noticed the driver’s green eyes flick at her for a moment as he drove off. Why had she thought they were black? There was an unpleasant gleam in them now, the hint of a secret. She could not tell if he was smiling or in pain. His skin was almost grey, a prison pallor.
“When did you last see your daughter?” he asked casually as he drove.
She froze. How dare he ask about her life, desecrate Marcie? “You-”
“Have you ever talked about Marcie with anyone recently? Isn’t it time you did?”
The words stole her breath and her rage seeped away. She knew he was right and it wasn’t the first time someone had said that to her. “I only talked to the police, and a private investigator I hired when they got nowhere.”
He nodded as if he understood all about it. “Did he find anything, the PI?”
“No, he did not.” Annie looked out the window. Jones found a mother racked by guilt, but nothing else. “But she’s still alive. I know it, I can feel it.”
“You should trust your feelings. Hal Jones has much light,” he replied sagely.
She was stunned. “You know his name, you know about Marcie. Stop the car right now and tell me what you want.” She realised she was shouting and her words tailed away. She looked out of window at the concrete world rushing by. “Please tell me.”
He gazed ahead, tapping long fingers on the wheel to an imaginary rhythm. “Sometimes, I know things.”
Just like that, the most stupid, outrageous – “What did you say?”
He shrugged. “You were thinking about him and I read your thoughts.”
Part of her believed him and her gut twisted.
The driver nodded wisely. “Uranium mining provides employment and economic benefits. Those people, they’ve got nothing else.”
His quaint speech reminded her of Lornie’s performance in the school play, battling with words she was unfamiliar with. Ec-on-omic. It crossed her mind that the driver was quoting something he’d read in the news and didn’t work for the Tribal Council at all, just some crazy axe-wielding lunatic and she froze. Panic was rising, unstoppable. She almost believed he would smell it on her.
“It won’t be easy to win this case,” she replied as casually as she could manage. “The opposition’s strong and the government only thinks about jobs. But people really care about the environment, even if the new president does not.” And she still did, passionately but she loved her daughter more.
His grip tightened, whitening his knuckles. “Your kind will be punished for what they are doing. Shadows cannot use the worldwalk.”
Saliva flecked the windscreen and he began to cough. Annie thought he sounded sick. She bit her lip and remained silent, frightened of provoking another disturbed outburst.
“It must have been upsetting, when your daughter was taken.”
Annie experienced a rush of anger. “How can you ask a question like that? How could you think it was upsetting? It destroyed me.”
He looked at her in the mirror and the hooded eyes betrayed surprise. “You do not appear destroyed. Maybe it was necessary, the taking of your daughter.”
She frowned, trying to untangle the words. “Let’s keep this very simple, driver. It was sick and it was evil. It was way beyond wrong. Do you understand what I’m saying? Because if you don’t, then you need help.”
He steered lazily as if bored with driving. “What does ‘wrong’ mean?”
She believed he was playing with her. She tried to construct an answer and failed. “Wrong hurts others. Wrong is about being selfish. Wrong is about betrayal. Wrong is not doing the right thing.”
He seemed relieved at her answer. “So if I do my duty, it is not wrong. If I fulfil my purpose, it is not wrong.”
“I suppose,” she whispered, watching the tarmac blurring past.
“The Earth is not important, Annie. Do you know how many planets have life? Shall I tell you?”
The cold certainty of his words disturbed her more than the craziness of the question. She managed a strained laugh. “How can anyone know that?”
He continued staring at her and she saw no humanity in his face. “You’re a brave woman, taking on Tilaxi. Or maybe you are just foolish. It doesn’t matter either way. Nothing matters anymore, not here.”
He spoke with a strangely disturbing authority. What was a worldwalk, anyhow? She didn’t want to know. “Jesus. Just drive the damned car. This conversation is ended.”
The driver continued to stare at Annie whilst navigating around a truck, one hand on the wheel before turning back to gaze vacantly through the windscreen. He fiddled with the radio and the windscreen wipers, laughing as if he had never seen such things before. Should she tell him to stop to let her out? Should she call the police? That might tip him over the edge. She slipped her mobile from her handbag and made as if she was making a business call. She pressed 911 with shaking fingers, but all she got was a high-pitched scream ending in a staccato stutter. The phone cut out and she was left looking at a screen so black that it reminded her of a staring eye. Heavy cloud was forming when they finally left LA and she felt her skin prickle and her ears hurt, as the air pressure dropped.
“Looks like we’re in for a storm,” she said. “Is it much further? I need a washroom.”
The driver’s laugh was a creaking wheeze that freaked her out even more. “No storms or washrooms where we’re going, Annie.”
He began to sing. He was clutching the curious talisman that hung around his neck and nodding in time. The language sounded ugly to her and the talisman was an unpleasant, wrinkled thing that looked alive. The voice was almost frail, the sound of a delusional old man. Lightning began to dance along the horizon and the cloud seemed to be sinking under its own weight. The light began to fade to an unhealthy green.
As the jeep skimmed the highway, she found temporary respite in the legal brief until a sudden blast of wind buffeted the vehicle. Annie touched her brow and it was damp with sweat. The driver was looking out of the window at the passing highway, trucks nose to tail, sunlight exploding off chrome. He pointed ahead. “Here we go.”
“To find Marcie,” he replied.
She looked where he was pointing and panic rushed back because something was happening to the road ahead. The tarmacked surface seemed to distort, rearing upwards as if being sucked into a tornado.
“What have you done?” She could barely speak.
“Mahiksir an takra, behold the worldwalk. Close your eyes, Annie Messenger.”
The light faded until it was pitch-black and she closed her eyes. She waited, listening to her racing heartbeats as the air crackled and she felt her hair standing on end. Light exploded, so fierce that she had to put her hands over her closed eyes. Another bloom of light followed, and another and each seemed more powerful than the last. When it was gone, she risked a look between her fingers, and her confused thoughts were replaced by a numbing fear. Shadows flew past the windows and streaks of brilliance hummed and fizzed around the car, merging until the world outside became a dazzling violet.
The vehicle seemed to be trapped in some kind of vortex but there was no debris and no sound, only a spinning wall of light in which dark shapes floated. Annie felt she was dreaming and time seemed to stop. Her notes drifted into the air like a flock of birds and hung there before wafting onto the floor around her feet, but she barely noticed. The sensation of falling lessened and the furious energy outside the vehicle calmed until she could see what lay beyond. A scream rose up her throat because the city was gone, the highway and roadside hoardings were gone and the jeep was descending through wispy cloud. As it slowly dispersed, Annie looked out onto a new world.